Page:The parochial history of Cornwall.djvu/131

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89
BODMIN.

self of the office of chief deacon, which he then held, to dispose of the whole, and to distribute the wealth thus acquired among the indigent of his spiritual brethren. This having been made known to the Prefect of Rome, a man devoted to the worship of false gods, but more, as the biographer observes, to the adoration of silver and gold, he demanded from St. Laurence the riches of the church, who promised in three days to produce them; and on the third day he returned with the poor persons among whom their value had been divided. When the Prefect, transported with rage, is said to have ordered his destruction by the most cruel death. The legend reports him to have been fastened on an iron bed, and consumed by fire placed under it. Hence the familiar emblem attributed to this martyr, of a gridiron. The event is referred to the 10th of Aug. 261.

In this parish the town, or rather village of St. Laurence, is situated between two hills, and with a pleasant river running through its street, about a mile and a half west from Bodmin. In it stands a lawres hospital, that is to say, a hospital for lepers (loure, or lower, in British is a leper), which hath good endowment of lands and revenues appertaining thereto, founded by the piety and chanty of the well-disposed people of this county in former ages, for the relief, support, and maintenance of all such people as should be visited with that sickness called elphantiasy, in Latin lepra or elphantia, in English leprosy, in British lowerery; being a white infectious scurf running all over the bodies of such persons as are tainted therewith. Which disease heretofore in many families was hereditary, and infected the blood for generations.

This disease, though common in Asia, was thought to have been first brought into England from Egypt by seamen and traders, so that generally it spread itself over this kingdom about the year 1100. Soon after