Gheel - Encyclopedia




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GHEEL, or Geel, a town of Belgium, about 30 m. E. of Antwerp and in the same province. Pop. (1904) 14,087. It is remarkable on account of the colony of insane persons which has existed there for many centuries. The legend reads that in the year 600 Dymphna, an Irish princess, was executed here by her father, and in consequence of certain miracles she had effected she was canonized and made the patron saint of the insane. The old Gothic church is dedicated to her, and in the choir is a shrine, enclosing her relics, with fine panel paintings representing incidents in her life by, probably, a contemporary of Memling. The colony of the insane is established in the farms and houses round the little place within a circumference of 30 m. and is said to have existed since the 13th century. This area is divided into four sections, each having a doctor and a superintendent attached to it. The Gheel system is regarded as the most humane method of dealing with the insane who have no homicidal tendencies, as it keeps up as long as possible their interest in life.

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