Another very interesting development of care for the mentally afflicted was the organization of institutions like the village of Gheel in Belgium, in which particularly children who were of low-grade mentality were cared for. This was pratically the origin of what has come in our time to be called the colony system of caring for defectives. We now have colonies for imbeciles of various grades, and village systems of caring for them. At Gheel the system developed, it might be said, more or less accidentally, but really quite naturally. St. Dympna was an Irish girl-martyr whose shrine, said to be .on the site of her martyrdom, existed in the village of Gheel. Her intercession was said to be very valuable in helping children of low-grade mentality. These were brought to the shrine, sometimes from a long distance, and when the prayers of relatives were not answered immediately the children were often left near the shrine in the care of some of the villagers, to have the benefit of the martyr's intercession for a prolonged period. As a consequence of this custom, many of the houses of the village came to harbour one or more of these mentally defectives, who were cared for by the family as members of it.
The religious feelings, and particularly the impression that the defectives were under the special patronage of the patron saint of the village, not only kept them from being abused or taken advantage of in any way, but made them an object of special care. They were given various simple tasks to perform, and the public spirit of the community cared for them. It was only with the development of modern sophistication that the tendency to take advantage of social defectives came and special government regulations had to be made and inspectors appointed. This system of caring for these defective children, however, was eminently satisfactory. Other villages took up the work, especially in the Low. Countries and in France. The village and colony system of caring for the insane, which we are now developing with so much satisfaction, was entirely anticipated under the most favourable circumstances, and with religious sanctions, during the Middle Ages. Not a few of the defectives, when they grew up, came to be attached in various humble occupations to monastic establishments. Here they were out of the current of the busy life around them, and were cared for particularly. They were not overworked but asked to do what they could, and given their board and clothes and the sympathetic attention of the religious. There are many more of such cases at the present time than are at all appreciated. They emphasize how much of this fraternal care there must have been in the Middle Ages.
Between the village system of caring for defectives, and the germ of the colony idea in their recognition of the value of the country or small town as a dwelling-place for those suffering from backwardness of mind or chronic bodily ills that disturb mentality, and the " open-door system " for the insane, as practised at Bedlam and other places, the Middle Ages anticipated some of the best features of what is most modern in our care for mental patients. Their use of severe pain as a corrective for the psychoneuroses, even when they thought of them in connection with diabolic possession, is another striking instance of their very practical way of dealing with these patients in a manner likely to do them most good. We have had to make our own developments in these matters, however, before we could appreciate the true value of what they were doing in the Middle Ages.