Page images
PDF
EPUB

top joint of the thumb is dedicated to God, the second joint to the Virgin; the top joint of the fore finger to St. Barnabas, the second joint to St. John, the third to St. Paul; the top joint of the second finger to Simon Cleophas, the second joint to Tathideo, the third to Joseph :” and in like manner every remaining joint of the right hand, and also of the left, is assigned to the care of some such guardian power. He also gives a list of 38 particular and special diseases of all parts, external and internal, both of the body and its members, each appropriated to its respective saint.

Enough has been quoted to prove that the priests did not assign to others, as long as they themselves could safely retain, any parts or any diseases of the human frame. The gross ignorance of these times sufficiently accounts for the widespread influence of such practices over the nations of Europe subjected to their sway; but henceforward, with the first dawn of light, those subterfuges were resorted to, which caused the first great compulsory division in medicine.

Throughout the five centuries emphatically called the dark-in contradistinction to the three or four succeeding ones, more truly termed mediæval—when reason and experience were wholly discarded, and when the use of ordinary means was completely eclipsed by the miraculous powers of tombs and relics, of saints and martyrs, by holy water, charms, and amulets, we are not surprised to find that each

and every portion of the human frame-however diseased or afflicted—was assigned to the guardianship of different Romish saints. This was, indeed, the first great corruption and degradation of medicine -in its entirety-since its foundation by Hippocrates; but such a state could only continue whilst gross ignorance on the one hand gave full scope to lying imposture on the other.

How then do we find an interruption given to this most profitable and exclusive practice of the priests and monks of the dark ages; who not only adopted a similar “modus operandi,” but assumed the same merit in case of success—or excuse in case of failure as the priests of Æsculapius of old ? If successful, the recoveries were ascribed to the miraculous power of the priest; if otherwise, the continuance of the disease, or death, was alike due to the sin of the sufferer, and designed either for his correction or punishment, as the issue of the case might determine.

We might easily conjecture (had not history preserved to us) the means whereby such a system would be gradually dispelled, and the class of cases that would first be renounced by such practitioners. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the various streams of light and truth that had penetrated the dark regions of superstition concentrated their power in the laws of Roger, and Frederick the Second, of Germany. To these enactments, encouraging the culture of all parts of medicine,* we find as it were a cotemporaneous response in the synods and councils of the Romish Church, between the years 1131 and 1298.+

Having failed to confine their practice within the walls of their respective monasteries, as enjoined by the commands of Pope Benedict the Ninth, and Urban the Second, in the eleventh century,$ these reiterated decrees were promulgated, which forbade the prelates, archdeacons, and other superior clergy to engage in the practice of any part of medicine; but to the lower clergy, whose ignorance and vice were at this time especially notorious, was reserved the right to practise medicine, and to engage in mundane sciences generally, only excepting all surgical operations, and especially the use of the cautery or the knife.

Thus it is made evident, that up to the twelfth century of the Christian era, the “ Ars Medendi” was one ; § it was not in the Grecian, Roman, or Arabic Schools ; in those of Athens or Alexandria; of Bagdad or Cordova; neither was it among the

* Antè, p. 27.
+ Synod of Rheims

1131
Council of Montpellier 1162
Tours

1163 Paris

1212 Lateran

1139 and 1215. Others in severer terms, in 1220, 1247, and 1298. Sprengel, tom. ii, know"

p. 351.

* Ibid., p.

351. § Usque ad eum (Avicennam) omnes inveniuntur fuisse physici simul et chirurgi.---GUIDO DE CAULIACO, Chir. Mag., cap. sing.

priest-physicians themselves during the dark ages preceding this time, that the first great compulsory division in medicine took place, by which the profession and the public have been taught that all those parts of the human frame which exhibit their disease or their integrity to the sight or touch, are to be discarded from the care of the pure physician. No, it was reserved for the struggle between light and darkness, to sift and separate from that office such cases and such means of cure as Hippocrates had taught : “It is the business of the physician to

“ things similar and things dissimilar; those connected with things most important, most easily known, and in anywise known; which are to be seen, touched, and heard; which are to be perceived in the sight and the touch, and the hearing, and the nose, and the tongue, and the understanding; which are to be known by all the means we know other

That branch of medicine which Celsus had affirmed was “most evident in its effects ; those cases in which the physician makes a wound where he does not find one; and those wounds and ulcers, in which he believed manual operation to be more useful than medicines; lastly, whatever relates to the bones.”+ These were the cases that, in obedience to the Church's command, were gradually separated, together with all external wounds, injuries and

things.”*

* Adams'. Hippocrates,' vol. ii, p. 474. + Celsus, De Re Medica,' Book 7, Preface.

diseases, from the " pure” physician's office; and by the same authority were consigned to THE BARBER, THE SMITH, AND THE MOUNTEBANK ! And thus a second great corruption, and a first compulsory division of that office, were effected. We cannot be surprised if during this contest, and as long as the Church exercised any control over medicine, that the priestphysician, whose “intplov” consisted of tombs and relics of saints and martyrs, whose “armamentarium chirurgicum” was dead men's bones, crosses, and incantations, should shun for the exercise of his MIRACULOUS POWERS all the cases above referred to. The gross darkness which had so long covered Europe was, even now, anticipating the full revival of letters; and just in an equal proportion as these narrow streams of light penetrated the darkness, so were all such cases as by the exercise of the senses could alone test the truth of their MIRACULOUS POWER, one by one discarded from the merciful care of these wouldbe "pure” physicians, and their functions wisely reduced to that standard transferred from the hands of the Church in the sixteenth century.

It may, however, even now be said by some, as it was then affirmed by the priests themselves, that they held their commission from a higher source than Hippocrates, Celsus, Galen, or Avicenna, that

Miracles are appeals to our senses.” See 'Horne on the Scriptures,' vol. I, p. 239.

+ See Chart.

« PreviousContinue »