Health, Sickness, Medicine and the Friars in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Health, Sickness, Medicine and the Friars in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

1st Edition

By Angela Montford


318 pages

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Health, Sickness, Medicine and the Friars in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries explores the attitudes and responses of the mendicant orders to illness, their contribution to medical history, the influence of health and sickness as a factor in the orders' decision making, the extent of their participation in treatments, their relationship with physicians or their own involvement in medical practice, and the problems which occurred as a result of these matters. Apart from brief details of the last illness noted in some convent obituaries, the sick friar is usually conspicuous by his absence from the records. This book addresses this absence. By focusing on these neglected aspects of the mendicant orders it is possible to begin to reconstruct their attitudes and practices towards sickness, health and medical treatment. In so doing, a picture begins to emerge which provides a much fuller understanding of both mendicant and wider medical history. Through such an approach, the book demonstrates how preserving health as well as treating illness were matters of interrelated and vital concern to the friars, a concern that coincided with a rising interest in health matters in wider society during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.


'… a thorough piece of research that carefully deploys the available evidence to paint a new picture of the medical practices to be found in the convents of the medieval friars.' Medical History '… a worthwhile addition to collections on medieval medicine or on the mendicant orders.' Parergon 'Angela Montford has written a lucid, well focused and original study of medical practice by mendicants inside and outside their convents, their resort to secular physicians, surgeons and apothecaries and the medicinal remedies given to their sick brethren in this changing environment.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History ’One of the great merits of the book is its wide focus - taking in conventual buildings, including the infirmary, the offices of infirmarer and frater medicus, the importance of health and strength to the mendicants' religious mission, their response to the challenge of plague, and the practice of diet, medicine, and surgery on the brothers as patients. [Angela Montford] has been able to bring all these topics together in a coherent way because her work is built on the foundation of detailed archival research into the Dominican and Franciscan houses of Bologna… an extremely valuable contribution to a hitherto neglected subject.’ Speculum

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Fit to preach and pray: health, sickness and the friars' vocation; Pro salute: the convent and infirmary environment; In operibus pietatis: the infirmarers, their duties and equipment; Omnia computare: the patients, standards of care and finance; Dangers and disorders: the decline of the frater medicus; Let us honour the physicians: secular medical practitioners; Quod curabit?: the plague outbreaks; Strengthening nature: food for the healthy and the sick; The hand of Christ: drugs for the sick friar; Cures of other ills: surgical and ancillary treatments; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General