Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Saint Peter and Hansen’s disease?

Saint Peter holding the keys of heaven Saint Peter Blessing with Donor
Saint Peter holding the keys of heaven, circa 1295
Attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio
Vatican City, Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter Blessing with Donor, circa 1505
Bartolomeo Montagna Venice, Accademia


Did Saint Peter have leprosy, or perhaps some other cause of injury to the ulnar nerve? It would seem so, according to Dr. Bennett Futterman, professor of anatomy in New York. In a recent book he points out that the traditional blessing of the Pope—ring and little finger bent inward as in the clawhand deformity produced by ulnar nerve damage—is also displayed in some of the earlier paintings of St. Peter by Medieval and Renaissance masters.



Futterman, B. Analysis of the Papal Benediction Sign, Clinical Anatomy, June 28, 2015.



GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief


Fall 2015   |  Sections  |  Art Flashes

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