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The Hospital of Saint John: Exploring Charitable Distribution in High Medieval Brussels

Keywords: Hospital of Saint John , charity , health care , Middle Ages , Brussels , Hospitallers , Brabant , Duke Henry I , Guillaume of Ledebergh

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Abstract:

Hospitals and hospital-like institutions, although not a creation of the Middle Ages, saw considerable growth in the high medieval period. Tied largely to spiritual movements, such as the Peace of God and the vita apostolica activa, as well as to military-spiritual quests, such as the Christian crusades, hospitals became the places of care for travelers and the sick alike. These new institutions were staffed by hospital brothers but largely founded by local nobility and clergy. In medieval Brussels, though, the hospital movement took a different turn. Mid-thirteenth century, mid-level nobles, women, lesser clergy, and townsmen all contributed to the growth and care of one hospital: the hospital of Saint John. Increased charity on the behalf of the common person thereby suggests that in Brussels ‘heath care’ and charitable distribution were concerns of not only the upper echelons of society but also the common people as well.

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