Thesis ID: CBB898121101

Visualizing Medicine in the Twelfth Century: Bodily Disease, Spiritual Cure, and Christian Salvation (2022)


Cohen, Adam S. (Advisor)
Golding, Rebecca Lampert (Author)

Cohen, Adam S.
University of Toronto
Publication date: 2022
Language: English

Publication Date: 2022
Physical Details: 335

This study reevaluates the meaning and function of some of the earliest extant Western medical illustrations by interpreting them within the context of their manuscripts and the monastic culture that produced them. It is based on cases studies of three northern European books from the twelfth century and the illustrations of surgery, anatomy, and medical authorities contained therein (Durham, Cathedral Library, Hunter 100; London, BL, Harley MS 1585; Munich, BSB, Clm. 13002). Previous scholarship separated such images from their manuscript contexts and focused almost exclusively on their medical meaning and function. This study reinterprets the medical images in situ and finds other connotations and uses that relate to the theological, intellectual, and institutional concerns of the monasteries in which they were created. An iconological assessment of the imagery in these manuscripts reveals that portrayals of diseased bodies also reflect degrees of sin; peculiar features of surgical procedures represent divine intervention; and certain images of disease, suffering, and cure are associated with the rigor of monastic discipline and its goal of salvation. Furthermore, a consideration of the use and placement of the medical illustrations within the manuscripts highlights the complex visual and codicological strategies used to create additional layers of meaning. Juxtapositions of different kinds of illustrations, recurring textual themes, the structural practice of bookending, and repetition of colour and specific imagery create relationships that contribute to the monastic authors’ larger intellectual and ideological programs. Moreover, these relationships, viewed within the spiritual and educational practice of monastic meditatio, broaden the conceptions of the body, sickness, cure, and health such that medical illustrations could expound a sophisticated Christology while at the same time support the reform or reinvigoration of “unhealthy" institutional “bodies." In the monastic milieu of the twelfth-century, images of the human body and medical procedures did not necessarily serve the same purposes they would in the later setting of the university. As the three manuscripts treated here demonstrate, they could also serve to communicate profound theological insight; substantiate a monastery’s intellectual and institutional needs; and visualize an ideal “body" intended as a model for salvation.

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Authors & Contributors
Bhayro, Siam
Burnett, Charles
Cormack, Margaret
Crisciani, Chiara
Davis, Adam J.
Heinrich, Larissa Nausicaa
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Journal of the History of Sexuality
Medical History
Medicina nei Secoli - Arte e Scienza
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Amsterdam University Press
Arcadian Library
Cornell University Press
Duke University Press
University of Chicago Press
Medicine and religion
Human body
Visual representation; visual communication
Scientific illustration
Descartes, René
Francis of Assisi
Macrobius, Ambrosius Theodosius
Time Periods
12th century
17th century
18th century
13th century
16th century

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