If the sick and the infirm were dear to God, there was yet another class of men for whom our Lord demanded succour in the parable of the Good Samaritan. These were travellers, especially pilgrims, who journeyed in search of Christ, and for whose benefit several congregations were founded. In Italy, the Hospitallers of Altoparcio guided travellers through the dangerous marshes around Lucca; in Spain, the Knight of St James protected pilgrims on the road to Compostella; and a like duty was performed by the Templars in Palestine. In the Alps, where the passes were especially difficult in winter, hospices were established by St Bernard of Menthon (996-1081), a young nobleman from the Val d’Aosta…In the thirteenth century, when a new road was opened from Central Switzerland towards Italy, the monks of Disentis built a hospice and named it St Gothard in memory of the holy bishop whose charity had shed light on Hildesheim.

So hospices sprang up on all the highways of Christendom, centres of Christian welcome where travellers and pilgrims found food and lodging, where they could mend their clothes and shoes, get a shave and a haircut, and confess their sins.

Henri Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade: Studies of the Medieval Church (1050-1350) 


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