Vintage: Fontilles Sanatorium

1920 Fontilles

The village of Fontilles, in the picturesque Val de Laguar, is both a historical site and a nice place for excursions. The Fontilles Leprosarium played a key role in eliminating leprosy in Spain.

“Fontilles was founded in 1902 by a lawyer Don Joaquín Ballester and a Jesuit priest, Father Carlos Ferris, in order to offer an improved quality of life and treatment to a great number of leprosy patients in the Alicante and Valencia region. A hospital, the Fontilles Colony Sanatorium – San Francisco de Borja, on the border of the Alicante and Valencia provinces, was opened in 1909, with the aim of performing a triple function: medical treatment, research and teaching. Since then adjusting to new needs in the fight against leprosy has been a first priority. This includes running annual courses for doctors, nurses and personnel working on anti-leprosy projects, and producing the only scientific leprosy journal in Spanish – Revista de Leprología Fontilles. Fontilles has also been supporting or running an increasing number of international projects. Fontilles became a Member of ILEP in 1969.” from ILEP (The International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations).

ILEP: 100th anniversary of the sanatorium


1902  The Jesuit Father, Carlos Ferris, and the lawyer, Don Joaquin Ballester, joined efforts to care for those with leprosy, who were suffering alone without any comfort or help, isolated by fearful people.

17th January 1909 After seven years of struggle and endeavour the Sanatorium San Francisco de Borja opened its doors.

Patients were attended, as nowadays, by volunteers, Sisters Franciscanas de la Inmaculada, Jesuits and doctors.

1924 Patients were dedicated to occupational activities and the Sanatorium became a village with its own facilities: bakery, carpenters, smith’s shop, printing office, bindery, shoemaker, hairdresser, gardener, …

1947 International Leprosy Courses for doctors and health workers began in the Sanatorium.

1966 An out-patient system was initiated. The patients under treatment lived in their homes and attended the Sanatorium for check-ups.

1969 Fontilles joins ILEP, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations. ILEP, founded in 1966, is made up of 14 autonomous non-governmental organisations from 10 countries that are working together for the common goal of a world without leprosy.

1989 Fontilles begins to work abroad. The first dispensaries were set up and help was given to chronically affected zones in India.

90s Work abroad increased. Fontilles began to work in Araguaia, Brazil, with doctors and other general medical assistance.

Fontilles today

Fontilles is now working on projects in Asia, Africa and America. The objective, as was that of its founders, is “to take care of people affected by leprosy, providing cure, physical and social rehabilitation, and assistance to other diseases that provoke social exclusion”.

All of the work of Fontilles has been possible thanks to its donors, friends and volunteers, who have always shown solidarity for the activities of Fontilles and who have continued to want to bring justice into the lives of people affected by leprosy.

Fontilles relies not only on its expertise and experience, but also fully acknowledges that it is dependent on the support of its donors, partners and friends – otherwise, it would not be able to reach leprosy patients, cure them and help them to overcome their handicaps so they can benefit from socio-economic rehabilitation.”

Fontilles Sanatorium web site (in Spanish)


Photos courtesy of Josep Crespo Chimpum, Facebook