Tag Archives: Black Death

Faith and patron saints during the Black Death

Mariella Scerri Mellieha, Malta   Saint Roch. 1502. Francesco Francia.  Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public Domain.  The Black Death of 1348 was the greatest biomedical disaster in European history. Although it was not the first plague epidemic, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing millions indiscriminately and affecting society like no other natural calamity.1 Attempts to understand the […]

Epidemic encephalitis lethargica

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Table 1. QUARANTINABLE DISEASES Cholera Diphtheria Infectious tuberculosis Plague Smallpox Yellow fever Viral hemorrhagic fevers Severe acute respiratory syndromes Influenza pandemic From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Legal authorities for isolation and quarantine. Source The pandemic Covid-19 infection, first reported from China in December 2019, reminds us […]

Science versus religion: the medieval disenchantment

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. An engraving showing a monopod or sclapod, a female Cyclops, conjoined twins, a blemmye, and a cynocephali. By Sebastian Münster 1544. Source History is a novel whose author is the people. -Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863)   In medieval times, knowledge, beliefs, and faith were largely centered upon a […]

The bubonic plague in Eyam

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   William Mompesson In medicine most instances of outstanding acts of heroic human courage relate to individual patients or to their attendant doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Here is a unique example of the collective self-sacrifice of a tiny rural community, which probably saved the lives of thousands. The year […]

Blood and bandages

Patricia A. Unsworth Bolton, England, United Kingdom   Photograph by the author. The notorious Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, is possibly the first thought that comes to mind at the mention of barber surgeons, but how far from reality was this character of Victorian fiction? Perhaps not so far removed as one […]

Fleas in art and medicine

Fleas cause itching and red bite marks on their hosts but are nowadays mainly a nuisance. This was not always so. In the Middle Ages they spread bubonic plague from rats to man, causing the Black Death epidemics that killed 25 million people—up to 50% of the Europe’s population. They also transmit the agents causing […]

Santa Maria Nuova: curing and caring

Michael Mortellaro Florida, USA   Replica of “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.” Originally by Rembrandt. Re-painted by Navid Eghbalieh, MD. The concept of a hospital for sick people first emerged in the western world in late medieval Italy. A prime example of this was the Florentine hospital Santa Maria Nuova, which the humanist […]

Doctors and illness in Boccaccio’s Decameron

Maria Sgouridou Greece   Introduction Giovanni Boccaccio was born in Tuscany in 1313, the illegitimate son of a merchant of Certaldo, who launched him on a commercial career hoping he would follow in his steps. Sent to Naples for that reason, he soon abandoned commerce and the study of canon law, and began instead to […]