In this essay I will be looking at the different aspects of medicine in the Middle Ages and accessing how the church helped or hindered their development. As there was a lot of unrest at the start of the middle Ages the church is important because it preserved a lot of things. It also provided a way of life, so it was very influential. The Church did not encourage the development of new medical ideas, it was not in their interest.
When Roger Bacon (a thirteenth century priest) he suggested that a new approach to medicine was needed he said that doctors should their own original research instead of learning from the books of ancient writers such as Galen. Church leaders put him in prison for heresy there is an engraving showing him smuggling his work out of prison. The church banned dissection for a time, however from 1492 the pope allowed dissection as long as the body was that of a criminal. The first medical school was set up in Salerno in 900 AD by the church.
By the Montpellier in France was the most famous but there was a number of others at these school students listened to lectures where the teachers read out passages from the work of Galen and other ancient writers. The church did provide some training for doctors as they gave money to the universities. Without this money, the universities would not have been able to survive. Students would be able to listen to a lecturer talk about the work of Galen. In France, the church allowed the students to dissect one body a year for research.
However, the doctor would only watch as the dissection was done. The church taught that Galen’s ideas were correct so that idea that dissection could be used to check his ideas did not cross anyone’s mind. Dissection was used to illustrate Galen’s ideas about the body. The church had taught different types of cure for illness. Thousands of people flocked to Canterbury because it was said that Becket’s blood could cure blindness, leprosy and deafness. The church taught that prayer could cure illness. Holy oil and water were used to treat people.
Many people carried parchments from the bible to warn off disease. The church paid for hospitals to be built. It taught that it was your Christian duty to look after the sick. In the 13th century over 160 hospitals were built. The monasteries had libraries. However, only monks had access to the books. The church could ban books that it did not like. The monks would teach children to read. Some religious houses had very strict rules because the most seriously ill people would need a lot of looking after.
“No lepers or lunatics, or person having the falling sickness or contagious disease. No pregnant women, or suckling infants, no intolerable persons even if they are infirm should be allowed in the house. ” From the rules of a religious hospital in 1219. A cure for toothache in the 1300’s recommended by John of Gaddesden a leading English doctor “Write these words on the jaw of the patient. “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen. ” The pain will then cease at once. Monasteries were used to care for the sick.
Many had running water and provided fresh food and rest to the poorest people. “Care for the sick stands before you all. You must help them as Christ would. Let it be the chief concern of the Abbot that the care of the sick be his main concern. “From the rules of Benedictine monasteries. The monks were not trained doctors and were more likely to pray for you than give you effective treatment. The church had also taught that kings had a link to God that gave them the power to heal. Alms-houses gave shelter to the poor, the elderly, widows, young children and pregnant women.
They were run by priests but no real medical help was given. Many monasteries had herb gardens. The monks used their knowledge of medicine from the books in their libraries to make herbal remedies. However, there is little evidence of them being able to make new cures for disease. Because of the church, doctors had to have a licence to practice medicine. This is the beginning of qualifications for doctors. After the 13th century it was illegal for a person to call themselves a doctor without having formal training.