At the end of the 12th century: the spread of leprosy and the terror that it aroused led Guillaume, the 55th bishop of Auxerre and lord of Varzy, to endow his castellany with a sickhouse, annexed to the Hôtel-Dieu which provided accommodation for the poor. Varzy, which welcomed many pilgrims who came to venerate the relics of the collegiate church of Sainte-Eugénie, was favourable to the spread of leprosy. They stopped off in Varzy before returning to Nevers or La Charité.
From 1219 onwards, the management of this charitable establishment and in particular the care given to the sick, was the responsibility of the monks of the abbey of Montjou in the Alps4 whose precious collaboration was ensured by Bishop Guillaume de Seignelay, 58th bishop of Auxerre.
Located about 3 km south of the town, the site was reached by the Chemin des Ladres. Lepers were housed in modest wooden buildings. The Christian charity of the time led the lord-bishops, canons, burghers and inhabitants of Varzy to offer the sickhouse legacies, donations, inheritances, grain and money rents
the tongues of the oxen and cows slaughtered by the butchers in Varzy were offered to the lepers who received the amount. In return, each year at the beginning of Lent, the lepers celebrated a mass for the deceased butchers. This right of "langeyage" remained until the 18th century
The "maladrerie" owned about 30 days of land and meadows and 50 acres of forest. Its occupants ensured their subsistence by going, according to the seasons, to agrarian, pastoral or forestry activities
As the years went by, the hospital became structured and an authentic community took shape with its houses, its hall, its place of worship, its spring and its cemetery located on the eastern side of the hill where some modest stone crosses have been exhumed.
The construction towards the end of the 12th century of a place of worship dedicated to Saint-Lazare, patron saint of the sick, attests to the importance of the establishment which welcomed the sick from Varzy, Oudan and La Chapelle-St-André.
At the end of the 15th century, leprosy had disappeared and the site welcomed the poor. The income was allocated to a clergyman of the diocese, responsible for the upkeep of the place, the maintenance of the chapel and the continuity of the service which took place every Friday. In 1672, a royal edict confiscated the property of the sickhouses, which had been assigned to the Orders of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem and Pont Carmel, which took in former soldiers.
This measure was cancelled in 1696, to the benefit of the Hôtel-Dieu de Varzy, which once again became the owner of the chapel, the woods and the land. It maintained the chapel as best it could until 1940, when worship was discontinued. From then on, the chapel was totally abandoned.
Saved from destruction by the People's Society of Varzy, the chapel was deprived of its bell, melted down in 1794 to be converted into small change, like all places of worship.
In 1833, Abbot Charton, parish priest of Varzy, sent a letter to the town council stating that "the general wish of the inhabitants of Varzy is to obtain the most urgent repairs to the Chapel of Saint Lazarus which is in danger of falling down soon". He also specified that it daily attracts the veneration of the faithful who are unanimous in wishing for its preservation.
In 1863, the bell tower got a new bell acquired by subscription. To avoid its theft, following the breaking of the bell tower door, it was preserved and presented to the Museum of Varzy.
Since 1931, the site has been listed as a historical monument.
On 11 May 1972, the prefect Jacques Gandouin, on his first visit to the Camosine, discovered a building with a partly open roof, broken walls, a crumbling canopy, a nave and a choir that had fallen victim to the salvagers:
? 2 unsealed sculptures including a beautifully crafted abbess' head on top of the side portal
? the mouldings of the porch
? elements of the paving
A polychrome wooden Virgin and a piece of the Calvary were preserved from theft by Rex Barrat, curator of the museum. But the element of the calvary was stolen from the Museum.
In 1976, the chapel and the surrounding forest were sold by the hospice to the Office National des Eaux et Forêts, which agreed, in exchange, to give the town the building and 8,000 metres of land, which was made available to the Friends of Vieux Varzy in January 1979.
It was finally restored between 1977 and 1982 thanks to an investment of 77 000 €.