Up in the mountains behind Orba, in the province of Alicante, is a very special environment. For over a century it has been a sacred place. 

* Report by Arts Historian and Educator , Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (SpainLifestyle.com)
* Copyright Karla Darocas 2018* (no part of this text or photos may be replicated)
Around the Sanitorium of Fontilles is 73 hectares of tranquility full of pretty picnic spots. An easy stroll around the multi-building complex will unveil serenity statues, fresh water grottos, and majestic tree filled nature scenes that are not seen in the coastal areas. 

The history of this sanctuary and Fontilles is a marvelous and heartfelt account of enlightened humanism.
1927  statue of Father Ferris who had died in 1924 in Gandía
and whose remains were transferred to Fontilles in 1930.
It was founded in 1902 by a Jesuit priest called Carlos Ferrís and his lawyer friend Don Joaquín Ballester Lloret as a sacred place for people suffering from Leprosy, which is an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage, but is now eradicated in Europe. 


Carlos Ferrís was visiting his friend Joaquín Ballester in the village of Tormos (Alicante) and he heard a sad and horrifying wailing cry coming from a nearby abandoned house.

Joaquín Ballester explained that it was the cry of a leprosy patient. The priest was soon to discover that the region had reported an abundance of sufferers. In fact, since 1849 the village of Parcent reported that out of its 800 neighbors, 60 had leprosy. And in 1879, the acting physician of Pedreguer reported on “the terrible illness in the town” where he reported records of which families were the most affected and the number of deaths (57 cases) from 1810 to 1879, as well as those “infected,” both dead and living, with a total of 74 cases (41 men and 33 women).
1st class - Ferris Hospital of Fontilles
The the first "statistics" were recorded in 1851 with a total of 286 cases, and by 1878 the number of patients had increased to 521. In 1887, the Government of Alicante suggested the construction of a 100-bed hospital in Parcent, one of the most endemic areas, and called a meeting of the mayors of Pego, Denia, Cocentaina, and Calosa d’Ensarrià in Pedreguer.

The priest was also made aware that people with leprosy were shamefully marginalised and stripped of every human right and dignity, forced to live in rags on dusty roads or under gates and walls. Many were abandoned in caves only to be united with their relatives in order to receive a bowl of water and food. 

As chance would have it, the priest also suffered a mild case of leprosy and this elevated his commitment to do something positive for these victims.

He and his lawyer friend set about a complicated campaign to build a sanctuary for sufferers and then commit to collecting and caring for these patients. Also they were put to the task of building a wall around the compound that in total is three miles long, three meters high and a half meter thick.

Due to the hostility of certain politicians against this altruistic project, it took until January 17, 1909, for the first eight inmates to enter the San Francisco de Borja Sanatorium Colony of Fontilles. 

In 1931, with the arrival of the Republic and its anticlericalism, the Society of Jesus (members are called Jesuits) was expelled. Fontilles was seized by the state with ownership passing to the National Health Board by Decree on June 23, 1932, being renamed the National Sanatorium-Leprosarium. In this period important reforms were begun, the medical team was enlarged with various specialties and the laboratory improved.

During the Civil War 1936-1939), the outlook for leprosy in Spain naturally deteriorated and at the end of the conflict there was an increase in cases caused by the displacement of the population, the lack of hygiene and food, and the arrival of troops from other countries, some from endemic areas. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the National Health Board returned Fontilles to the Board of Trustees in 1941 and its administration to the Society of Jesus.

In 1947, Leprology courses for doctors and health auxiliaries of Spain and abroad begin in the Sanatorium. 
Hospital Ferris
In 1968. and outpatient programme began for patients in treatment who live in their homes but would travel to the Sanatorium for their treatments. 

In the 1990s , Fontilles decided to use its resources and experience to continue working in the fight against leprosy in the countries most affected. Thus, Fontilles develops projects of cooperation in countries of America , Asia and Africa  focusing on three areas: Health, Solidarity and Information.

In 2002 Fontilles was already working on projects in China , India , Equatorial Guinea , Brazil , Costa Rica , Colombia and Nicaragua.

In 2005 Fontilles already has an important recognition of its work at international level, with active participation in international conferences and forums. In recent years they have focused on an increase in international cooperation and research and training both inside and outside Spain .

At present, Fontilles is the best sanatorium in the world for medical courses about leprosy, which are attended by more than 70 doctors, ATS , missionaries, social workers ... who are fighting leprosy all over the world.

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