Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Catholic

  • Rembrandt: Tobias Healing His Father’s Blindness

    James L. FranklinChicago, Illinois, United States Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn’s Tobias Healing his Father’s Blindness, painted in 1636, depicts the climactic moment in the Book of Tobit when Tobias returns to his father’s home and instills the gall (bile) he had taken from a giant fish into his blind father’s eyes, thereby restoring his sight.1…

  • Last rites x2

    Hugh Tunstall-PedoeDundee, Scotland, United Kingdom In the late 1960s, I was non-resident neurology house physician in a hospital in central London when we admitted a prominent citizen as a private patient. He was suffering from a catastrophic cerebral hemorrhage—he was moribund, but the decision was taken to perform cerebral angiography (it was before the days…

  • The Madonna of Impruneta: Icons and processions

    The Madonna of Impruneta is an icon showing the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. Its origins can be traced to the year 1060, when some woodcutters found it in the woods of Tuscany and brought it to the church at Impruneta. According to an alternative version, a man named Biagio coming back from Rome…

  • Can headless martyrs really walk? The belief in cephalophores in the Middle Ages

    Andrew Wodrich Washington, DC   Saint Denis of Paris holding his severed head. Mid-15th century depiction from an illuminated prayer book (Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 5, fol. 35v, 84.ML.723.35v). The halos surrounding his decapitated head as well as the stump of his neck suggest that the soul and saintliness of St. Denis remain in…

  • St. Fabiola and her hospital

    In about AD 380, a wealthy patrician matron gave money for a hospital to be built in Portus, the ancient port of Rome. This hospital was one of the first of its kind in the western part of the Roman empire, designed to provide care for the multitude of poor people living in the capital.…

  • The ordeal of Evelyn Waugh

    Stephen McWilliamsDublin, Ireland In Evelyn Waugh’s second-last novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1957), the eponymous character experiences some singular and troubling symptoms. Mr. Pinfold is a successful writer, not unlike Waugh himself, who embarks on a sea voyage in an effort to cure the chronic insomnia and fatigue he suffers from consuming too much…

  • Professor Bernhardi, a play by Arthur Schnitzler, M.D.

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “A spiteful something has been fabricated out of an innocent nothing.”— Dr. Löwenstein in Professor Bernhardi       Professor Bernhardi: A Comedy in Five Acts (1912) is one of seventeen plays written by Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), a Viennese physician who also published two novels and twelve short stories or novellas. He…

  • Ada English: the forgotten fighter

    Laura King Atlanta, GA, United States   Photograph of Irish Politician Ada English. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0. A reformer of psychiatric care, a fighter for Irish independence, and a forgotten figure in Irish history—that was Dr. Adeline (Ada) English. As a female physician working in Ireland from the beginning to the middle of the…

  • Notes on a first abortion

    Henry Bair Stanford, California, United States The first time I saw a late-term abortion by dilation and evacuation, I was surprised that it was a fairly minor procedure. I was to observe the termination at twenty-three weeks of gestation as part of my obstetrics-gynecology rotation, and while the procedure can be performed in a clinic rather…

  • Heinrich Heine and the mattress tomb

    Nicolás Roberto Robles Badajoz, Spain Harry Heine was born in Bolkerstrasse, Düsseldorf, Germany. He jokingly described himself as the “first man of the century,” claiming that he had been born on New Year’s Eve 1800. Researchers have discovered, however, that December 13, 1797, is most likely the date of his birth. The oldest of four children,…