Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 (HSV-1) infection of the tongue commonly accompanies acute primary herpetic gingivostomatitis. However, recurrent infection of the tongue is exceptional and is restricted to immunocompromised individuals. A 57-year-old man with corticosteroid-dependent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sciatica presented with a chronic median glossitis due to HSV-1. The main clinical and histological feature was massive necrosis of the entire mucosa. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated a considerable amount of HSV gB, gC and gD envelope glycoproteins dispersed in the chorion. In contrast, HSV-1 DNA was detected only in a limited number of epithelial cells using in situ hybridization. The extent of necrosis and the pattern of viral DNA and envelope protein distribution represent unique features of median herpetic glossitis, which are not found in more common types of HSV infection.