We often speak of the "Dark Middle Ages", yet, in many European countries, a number of preserved buildings testify to active charity.
"Hospital of the Holy Spirit" of 1286 in Lübeck
The first of these hospices or hospitals for travellers and sick people were created during the pre-Carolingian period. They often carried the "Holy Spirit" in their names. During the High Middle Ages, their tasks were divided.
Separate from the pilgrim hostels, the sick, poor and orphans were cared for in hospitals. The initial single cells became large halls, which enabled better supervision and a closer connection to the altar and worship.
Caring for patients with leprosy and the plague, who were cared for in special, remote hospitals – if at all – was a particularly difficult challenge.
There were Orders, such as that of St. John, which were specialized in these tasks.
"The Great Holy Cross" in Goslar
A number of these medieval buildings have been preserved. In addition to the hospital in Lübeck, the "Holy Spirit Hospital" in Wismar is particularly interesting. It was founded around 1250 as a poorhouse and a hospital. The "Great Holy Cross" in Goslar was built in 1254 as a hospice and offered a night camp and food for the needy, infirm and orphans, but also for pilgrims and other travellers.
Some of these old hospices still offer comfort and help to the dying.