medicine advanced very little in Europe during the Middle
Ages. Scholarship fell into the religious sphere, and clerics
were more interested in curing the soul than the body. Many
theologians considered disease and injury to be the result
of supernatural intervention and insisted that cures were
only possible through prayer. No new medical research was
conducted, and no new practices were created. Physicians simply
perpetuated the church-approved classical techniques developed
by Galen and others that were preserved in ornately decorated,
hand-copied texts produced by monks. Christian concern for
the ill and injured, as well as contact with the Arab world
during the crusades, did, however, lead to the creation of
many large hospitals built and run by monastic orders. Although
little was done to cure the patients, they were usually well
fed and comforted by a religious nursing staff.
medicine and surgery were related, medieval practitioners
drew a distinct line between them. Generally, physicians treated
problems inside the body, and surgeons dealt with wounds,
fractures, dislocations, urinary problems, amputations, skin
diseases, and syphilis. They also bled patients when directed
by physicians. Many of today's surgeons can trace the origins
of their specialties to the teeth-pullers, bone-setters, oculists,
and midwives of the middle ages.
this period, medicine began to be recognized as a profession
based upon formal education, standardized curriculum, and
legal regulation. In some regions, physicians were required
to pass examinations before beginning practice. Untrained
physicians were subject to prosecution and fines, and state
licensing became common. Still, not all healers were priests
or scholars. Women practitioners commonly treated female patients,
and although scorned by the educated physicians, uneducated
surgeons and self-taught lay doctors, or "leeches",
were permitted to work on both men and livestock.
As the populations of medieval towns and cities increased,
hygienic conditions worsened, leading to a vast array of health
problems. Medical knowledge was limited and, despite the efforts
of medical practitioners and public and religious institutions
to institute regulations, medieval Europe did not have an
adequate health care system. Antibiotics weren't invented
until the 1800s and it was almost impossible to cure diseases
There were many myths and superstitions about health and hygiene
as there still are today. People believed, for example, that
disease was spread by bad odors. It was also assumed that
diseases of the body resulted from sins of the soul. Many
people sought relief from their ills through meditation, prayer,
pilgrimages, and other nonmedical methods.
history of medicine, perhaps more than that of any other discipline
or skilled occupation, illuminates broad social and cultural
patterns of the period.
a medieval mind, the distinction between natural and supernatural
was not always very clear. This shows in the perception of
the causes of ailments, and the obscure treatments thought
to help sick patients. The Catholic Church played a large
role in development as well as management of medieval medicine.
It contained it within bounds of one religion, disallowing
most pagan healing practices.
underlying principle of medieval medicine were four humors
- black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. The balance
of these four allowed for the well-being of a person.
in itself developed. Based on some Greek and Near Eastern
principles and embellished with the discoveries of the Middle
Ages, it set the foundation for contemporary medicine.
medicine, for most part, was very forgiving about who practiced
and who healed. Clergy and laymen, men and women, were allowed
to practice medicine. The extent of this practice was not
limited all throughout the Middle Ages. The final unification
came with the Black Death, when the need for doctors to heal
the sick was stronger than any prejudice against their origin.
education system has developed in order to teach law and medicine
to the willing. Guilds were created to allow crafts to prosper.
The middle class of the society was in the making.