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History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White

Part 11 out of 19

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presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of it was especially
claimed, and yet its members, with all their spiritual as well as
material advantages for knowing what had been going on in the
Church during the previous thirty years, and with Xavier's own
friend and colleague, Laynez, present to inform them, show not
the slightest sign of any suspicion of Xavier's miracles. We
have the letters of Julius Gabriel to the foremost of these
fathers assembled at Trent, from 1557 onward for a considerable
time, and we have also a multitude of letters written from the
Council by bishops, cardinals, and even by the Pope himself,
discussing all sorts of Church affairs, and in not one of these
is there evidence of the remotest suspicion that any of these
reports, which they must have heard, regarding Xavier's miracles,
were worthy of mention.

Here, too, comes additional supplementary testimony of much
significance. With these orations and letters, Eugubinus gives a
Latin translation of a letter, "on religious affairs in the
Indies," written by a Jesuit father twenty years after Xavier's
death. Though the letter came from a field very distant from
that in which Xavier laboured, it was sure, among the general
tokens of Divine favour to the Church and to the order, on which
it dwelt, to have alluded to miracles wrought by Xavier had there
been the slightest ground for believing in them; but no such
allusion appears.[292]

[292] For the work referred to, see Julii Gabrielii Eugubini
orationum et epistolarum, etc., libri duo [et] Epitola de rebus
Indicis a quodam Societatis Jesu presbytero, etc., Venetiis,
1569. The Epistola begins at fol. 44.

So, too, when in 1588, thirty-six years after Xavier's death, the
Jesuit father Maffei, who had been especially conversant with
Xavier's career in the East, published his History of India,
though he gave a biography of Xavier which shows fervent
admiration for his subject, he dwelt very lightly on the alleged
miracles. But the evolution of miraculous legends still went on.
Six years later, in 1594, Father Tursellinus published his Life
of Xavier, and in this appears to have made the first large use
of the information collected by the Portuguese viceroy and the
more zealous brethren. This work shows a vast increase in the
number of miracles over those given by all sources together up to
that time. Xavier is represented as not only curing the sick,
but casting out devils, stilling the tempest, raising the dead,
and performing miracles of every sort.

In 1622 came the canonization proceedings at Rome. Among the
speeches made in the presence of Pope Gregory XV, supporting the
claims of Xavier to saintship, the most important was by Cardinal
Monte. In this the orator selects out ten great miracles from
those performed by Xavier during his lifetime and describes them
minutely. He insists that on a certain occasion Xavier, by the
sign of the cross, made sea-water fresh, so that his
fellow-passengers and the crew could drink it; that he healed
the sick and raised the dead in various places; brought back a
lost boat to his ship; was on one occasion lifted from the earth
bodily and transfigured before the bystanders; and that, to
punish a blaspheming town, he caused an earthquake and buried the
offenders in cinders from a volcano: this was afterward still
more highly developed, and the saint was represented in
engravings as calling down fire from heaven and thus destroying
the town.

The most curious miracle of all is the eighth on the cardinal's
list. Regarding this he states that, Xavier having during one of
his voyages lost overboard a crucifix, it was restored to him
after he had reached the shore by a crab.

The cardinal also dwelt on miracles performed by Xavier's relics
after his death, the most original being that sundry lamps placed
before the image of the saint and filled with holy water burned
as if filled with oil.

This latter account appears to have deeply impressed the Pope,
for in the Bull of Canonization issued by virtue of his power of
teaching the universal Church infallibly in all matters
pertaining to faith and morals, His Holiness dwells especially
upon the miracle of the lamp filled with holy water and burning
before Xavier's image.

Xavier having been made a saint, many other Lives of him
appeared, and, as a rule, each surpassed its predecessor in the
multitude of miracles. In 1622 appeared that compiled and
published under the sanction of Father Vitelleschi, and in it not
only are new miracles increased, but some old ones are greatly
improved. One example will suffice to show the process. In his
edition of 1596, Tursellinus had told how, Xavier one day needing
money, and having asked Vellio, one of his friends, to let him
have some, Vellio gave him the key of a safe containing thirty
thousand gold pieces. Xavier took three hundred and returned the
key to Vellio; whereupon Vellio, finding only three hundred
pieces gone, reproached Xavier for not taking more, saying that
he had expected to give him half of all that the strong box
contained. Xavier, touched by this generosity, told Vellio that
the time of his death should be made known to him, that he might
have opportunity to repent of his sins and prepare for eternity.
But twenty-six years later the Life of Xavier published under
the sanction of Vitelleschi, giving the story, says that Vellio
on opening the safe found that ALL HIS MONEY remained as he had
left it, and that NONE AT ALL had disappeared; in fact, that
there had been a miraculous restitution. On his blaming Xavier
for not taking the money, Xavier declares to Vellio that not only
shall he be apprised of the moment of his death, but that the box
shall always be full of money. Still later biographers improved
the account further, declaring that Xavier promised Vellio that
the strong box should always contain money sufficient for all his
needs. In that warm and uncritical atmosphere this and other
legends grew rapidly, obedient to much the same laws which govern
the evolution of fairy tales.[293]

[293] The writer in the Catholic World, already mentioned, rather
rashly asserts that there is no such Life of Xavier as that I
have above quoted. The reverend Jesuit father has evidently
glanced over the bibliographies of Carayon and De Backer, and,
not finding it there under the name of Vitelleschi, has spared
himself further trouble. It is sufficient to say that the book
may be seen by him in the library of Cornell University. Its
full title is as follows: Compendio della Vita del s. p.
Francesco Xaviero dell Campagnia di Giesu, Canonizato con s.
Ignatio Fondatore dell' istessa Religione dalla Santita di N. S.
Gregorio XV. Composto, e dato in luce per ordine del Reverendiss.
P Mutio Vitelleschi Preposito Generale della Comp. di Giesu. In
Venetia, MDCXXII, Appresso Antonio Pinelli. Con Licenza de'
Superiori. My critic hazards a guess that the book may be a
later edition of Torsellino (Tursellinus), but here again he is
wrong. It is entirely a different book, giving in its preface a
list of sources comprising eleven authorities besides Torsellino.

In 1682, one hundred and thirty years after Xavier's death,
appeared his biography by Father Bouhours; and this became a
classic. In it the old miracles of all kinds were enormously
multiplied, and many new ones given. Miracles few and small in
Tursellinus became many and great in Bouhours. In Tursellinus,
Xavier during his life saves one person from drowning, in
Bouhours he saves during his life three; in Tursellinus, Xavier
during his life raises four persons from the dead, in Bouhours
fourteen; in Tursellinus there is one miraculous supply of
water, in Bouhours three; in Tursellinus there is no miraculous
draught of fishes, in Bouhours there is one; in Tursellinus,
Xavier is transfigured twice, in Bouhours five times: and so
through a long series of miracles which, in the earlier lives
appearing either not at all or in very moderate form, are greatly
increased and enlarged by Tursellinus, and finally enormously
amplified and multiplied by Father Bouhours.

And here it must be borne in mind that Bouhours, writing ninety
years after Tursellinus, could not have had access to any new
sources. Xavier had been dead one hundred and thirty years, and
of course all the natives upon whom he had wrought his miracles,
and their children and grandchildren, were gone. It can not then
be claimed that Bouhours had the advantage of any new witnesses,
nor could he have had anything new in the way of contemporary
writings; for, as we have seen, the missionaries of Xavier's
time wrote nothing regarding his miracles, and certainly the
ignorant natives of India and Japan did not commit any account of
his miracles to writing. Nevertheless, the miracles of healing
given in Bouhours were more numerous and brilliant than ever.
But there was far more than this. Although during the lifetime
of Xavier there is neither in his own writings nor in any
contemporary account any assertion of a resurrection from the
dead wrought by him, we find that shortly after his death stories
of such resurrections began to appear. A simple statement of the
growth of these may throw some light on the evolution of
miraculous accounts generally. At first it was affirmed that
some people at Cape Comorin said that he had raised one person;
then it was said that there were two persons; then in various
authors--Emanuel Acosta, in his commentaries written as an
afterthought nearly twenty years after Xavier's death, De
Quadros, and others--the story wavers between one and two cases;
finally, in the time of Tursellinus, four cases had been
developed. In 1622, at the canonization proceedings, three were
mentioned; but by the time of Father Bouhours there were
fourteen--all raised from the dead by Xavier himself during his
lifetime--and the name, place, and circumstances are given with
much detail in each case.[294]

[294] The writer in the Catholic World, already referred to, has
based an attack here upon a misconception--I will not call it a
deliberate misrepresentation--of his own by stating that these
resurrections occurred after Xavier's death, and were due to his
intercession or the use of his relics. The statement of the
Jesuit father is utterly without foundation, as a simple
reference to Bouhours will show. I take the liberty of
commending to his attention The Life of St. Francis Xavier, by
Father Dominic Bouhours, translated by James Dryden, Dublin,
1838. For examples of raising the dead by the saint DURING HIS
LIFETIME, see pp. 69, 82, 93, 111, 218, 307, 316, 321--fourteen
cases in all.

It seems to have been felt as somewhat strange at first that
Xavier had never alluded to any of these wonderful miracles; but
ere long a subsidiary legend was developed, to the effect that
one of the brethren asked him one day if he had raised the dead,
whereat he blushed deeply and cried out against the idea, saying:
"And so I am said to have raised the dead! What a misleading man
I am! Some men brought a youth to me just as if he were dead,
who, when I commanded him to arise in the name of Christ,
straightway arose."

Noteworthy is the evolution of other miracles. Tursellinus,
writing in 1594, tells us that on the voyage from Goa to Malacca,
Xavier having left the ship and gone upon an island, was
afterward found by the persons sent in search of him so deeply
absorbed in prayer as to be unmindful of all things about him.
But in the next century Father Bouhours develops the story as
follows: "The servants found the man of God raised from the
ground into the air, his eyes fixed upon heaven, and rays of
light about his countenance."

Instructive, also, is a comparison between the successive
accounts of his noted miracle among the Badages at Travancore, in
1544 Xavier in his letters makes no reference to anything
extraordinary; and Emanuel Acosta, in 1571, declares simply that
"Xavier threw himself into the midst of the Christians, that
reverencing him they might spare the rest." The inevitable
evolution of the miraculous goes on; and twenty years later
Tursellinus tells us that, at the onslaught of the Badages, "they
could not endure the majesty of his countenance and the splendour
and rays which issued from his eyes, and out of reverence for him
they spared the others." The process of incubation still goes on
during ninety years more, and then comes Father Bouhours's
account. Having given Xavier's prayer on the battlefield,
Bouhours goes on to say that the saint, crucifix in hand, rushed
at the head of the people toward the plain where the enemy was
marching, and "said to them in a threatening voice, `I forbid you
in the name of the living God to advance farther, and on His part
command you to return in the way you came.' These few words cast
a terror into the minds of those soldiers who were at the head of
the army; they remained confounded and without motion. They who
marched afterward, seeing that the foremost did not advance,
asked the reason of it. The answer was returned from the front
ranks that they had before their eyes an unknown person habited
in black, of more than human stature, of terrible aspect, and
darting fire from his eyes....They were seized with amazement
at the sight, and all of them fled in precipitate confusion."

Curious, too, is the after-growth of the miracle of the crab
restoring the crucifix. In its first form Xavier lost the
crucifix in the sea, and the earlier biographers dwell on the
sorrow which he showed in consequence; but the later historians
declare that the saint threw the crucifix into the sea in order
to still a tempest, and that, after his safe getting to land, a
crab brought it to him on the shore. In this form we find it
among illustrations of books of devotion in the next century.

But perhaps the best illustration of this evolution of Xavier's
miracles is to be found in the growth of another legend; and it
is especially instructive because it grew luxuriantly despite the
fact that it was utterly contradicted in all parts of Xavier's
writings as well as in the letters of his associates and in the
work of the Jesuit father, Joseph Acosta.

Throughout his letters, from first to last, Xavier constantly
dwells upon his difficulties with the various languages of the
different tribes among whom he went. He tells us how he
surmounted these difficulties: sometimes by learning just enough
of a language to translate into it some of the main Church
formulas; sometimes by getting the help of others to patch
together some pious teachings to be learned by rote; sometimes
by employing interpreters; and sometimes by a mixture of various
dialects, and even by signs. On one occasion he tells us that a
very serious difficulty arose, and that his voyage to China was
delayed because, among other things, the interpreter he had
engaged had failed to meet him.

In various Lives which appeared between the time of his death
and his canonization this difficulty is much dwelt upon; but
during the canonization proceedings at Rome, in the speeches then
made, and finally in the papal bull, great stress was laid upon
the fact that Xavier possessed THE GIFT OF TONGUES. It was
declared that he spoke to the various tribes with ease in their
own languages. This legend of Xavier's miraculous gift of
tongues was especially mentioned in the papal bull, and was
solemnly given forth by the pontiff as an infallible statement to
be believed by the universal Church. Gregory XV having been
prevented by death from issuing the Bull of Canonization, it was
finally issued by Urban VIII; and there is much food for
reflection in the fact that the same Pope who punished Galileo,
and was determined that the Inquisition should not allow the
world to believe that the earth revolves about the sun, thus
solemnly ordered the world, under pain of damnation, to believe
in Xavier's miracles, including his "gift of tongues," and the
return of the crucifix by the pious crab. But the legend was
developed still further: Father Bouhours tells us, "The holy man
spoke very well the language of those barbarians without having
learned it, and had no need of an interpreter when he
instructed." And, finally, in our own time, the Rev. Father
Coleridge, speaking of the saint among the natives, says, "He
could speak the language excellently, though he had never learned

In the early biography, Tursellinus writes. "Nothing was a
greater impediment to him than his ignorance of the Japanese
tongues; for, ever and anon, when some uncouth expression
offended their fastidious and delicate ears, the awkward speech
of Francis was a cause of laughter." But Father Bouhours, a
century later, writing of Xavier at the same period, says, "He
preached in the afternoon to the Japanese in their language, but
so naturally and with so much ease that he could not be taken for
a foreigner."

And finally, in 1872, Father Coleridge, of the Society of Jesus,
speaking of Xavier at this time, says, "He spoke freely,
flowingly, elegantly, as if he had lived in Japan all his life."

Nor was even this sufficient: to make the legend complete, it
was finally declared that, when Xavier addressed the natives of
various tribes, each heard the sermon in his own language in
which he was born.

All this, as we have seen, directly contradicts not only the
plain statements of Xavier himself, and various incidental
testimonies in the letters of his associates, but the explicit
declaration of Father Joseph Acosta. The latter historian dwells
especially on the labour which Xavier was obliged to bestow on
the study of the Japanese and other languages, and says, "Even if
he had been endowed with the apostolic gift of tongues, he could
not have spread more widely the glory of Christ."[295]

[295] For the evolution of the miracles of Xavier, see his
Letters, with Life, published by Leon Pages, Paris, 1855; also
Maffei, Historiarum Indicarum libri xvi, Venice, 1589; also the
lives by Tursellinus, various editions, beginning with that of
1594; Vitelleschi, 1622; Bouhours, 1683; Massei, second edition,
1682 (Rome), and others; Bartoli, Baltimore, 1868; Coleridge,
1872. In addition to these, I have compared, for a more extended
discussion of this subject hereafter, a very great number of
editions of these and other biographies of the saint, with
speeches at the canonization, the bull of Gregory XV, various
books of devotion, and a multitude of special writings, some of
them in manuscript, upon the glories of the saint, including a
large mass of material at the Royal Library in Munich and in the
British Museum. I have relied entirely upon Catholic authors,
and have not thought it worth while to consult any Protestant
author. The illustration of the miracle of the crucifix and the
crab in its final form is given in La Devotion de Dix Vendredis a
l'Honneur de St. Francois Xavier, Bruxelles, 1699, Fig. 24: the
pious crab is represented as presenting the crucifix by which a
journey of forty leagues he has brought from the depths of the
ocean to Xavier, who walks upon the shore. The book is in the
Cornell University Library. For the letter of King John to
Barreto, see Leon Pages's Lettres de Francois Xavier, Paris,
1855, vol. ii, p. 465. For the miracle among the Badages,
compare Tursellinus, lib. ii, c. x, p. 16, with Bouhours,
Dryden's translation, pp. 146, 147. For the miracle of the gift
of tongues, in its higher development, see Bouhours, p. 235, and
Coleridge, vo. i, pp. 151, 154, and vol. ii, p. 551

It is hardly necessary to attribute to the orators and
biographers generally a conscious attempt to deceive. The simple
fact is, that as a rule they thought, spoke, and wrote in
obedience to the natural laws which govern the luxuriant growth
of myth and legend in the warm atmosphere of love and devotion
which constantly arises about great religious leaders in times
when men have little or no knowledge of natural law, when there
is little care for scientific evidence, and when he who believes
most is thought most meritorious.[296]

[296] Instances can be given of the same evolution of miraculous
legend in our own time. To say nothing of the sacred fountain at
La Salette, which preserves its healing powers in spite of the
fact that the miracle that gave rise to them has twice been
pronounced fraudulent by the French courts, and to pass without
notice a multitude of others, not only in Catholic but in
Protestant countries, the present writer may allude to one which
in the year 1893 came under his own observation. On arriving in
St. Petersburg to begin an official residence there, his
attention was arrested by various portraits of a priest of the
Russo-Greek Church; they were displayed in shop windows and held
an honoured place in many private dwellings. These portraits
ranged from lifelike photographs, which showed a plain, shrewd,
kindly face, to those which were idealized until they bore a
strong resemblance to the conventional representations of Jesus
of Nazareth. On making inquiries, the writer found that these
portraits represented Father Ivan, of Cronstadt, a priest noted
for his good works, and very widely believed to be endowed with
the power of working miracles.

One day, in one of the most brilliant reception rooms of the
northern capital, the subject of Father Ivan's miracles having
been introduced, a gentleman in very high social position and
entirely trustworthy spoke as follows: "There is something very
surprising about these miracles. I am slow to believe in them,
but I know the following to be a fact: The late Metropolitan
Archbishop of St. Petersburg loved quiet, and was very adverse to
anything which could possibly cause scandal. Hearing of Father
Ivan's miracles, he summoned him to his presence and solemnly
commanded him to abstain from all of the things which had given
rise to his reported miracles, and with this injunction,
dismissed him. Hardly had the priest left the room when the
archbishop was struck with blindness and remained in this
condition until the priest returned and removed his blindness by
intercessory prayers." When the present writer asked the person
giving this account if he directly knew these facts, he replied
that he was, of course, not present when the miracle was wrought,
but that he had the facts immediately from persons who knew all
the parties concerned and were cognizant directly of the
circumstances of the case.

Some time afterward, the present writer being at an afternoon
reception at one of the greater embassies, the same subject was
touched upon, when an eminent general spoke as follows: "I am not
inclined to believe in miracles, in fact am rather sceptical, but
the proofs of those wrought by Father Ivan are overwhelming." He
then went on to say that the late Metropolitan Archbishop was a
man who loved quiet and disliked scandal; and that on this
account he had summoned Father Ivan to his palace and ordered him
to put an end to the conduct which had caused the reports
concerning his miraculous powers, and then, with a wave of the
arm, had dismissed him. The priest left the room, and from that
moment the archbishop's arm was paralyzed, and it remained so
until the penitent prelate summoned the priest again, by whose
prayers the arm was restored to its former usefulness. There was
present at the time another person besides the writer who had
heard the previous statement as to the blindness of the
archbishop, and on their both questioning the general if he were
sure that the archbishop's arm was paralyzed, as stated, he
declared that he could not doubt it, as he had it directly from
persons entirely trustworthy, who were cognizant of all the

Some time later, the present writer, having an interview with the
most eminent lay authority in the Greek Church, a functionary
whose duties had brought him into almost daily contact with the
late archbishop, asked him which of these stories was correct.
This gentleman answered immediately: "Neither; I saw the
archbishop constantly, and no such event occurred; he was never
paralyzed and never blind."

The same gentleman went on to say that, in his belief, Father
Ivan had shown remarkable powers in healing the sick, and the
greatest charity in relieving the distressed. It was made
clearly evident that Father Ivan is a saintlike man, devoted to
the needy and distressed and exercising an enormous influence
over them--an influence so great that crowds await him whenever
he visits the capital. In the atmosphere of Russian devotion
myths and legends grow luxuriantly about him, nor is belief in
him confined to the peasant class. In the autumn of 1894 he was
summoned to the bedside of the Emperor Alexander III.
Unfortunately for the peace of Europe, his intercession at that
time proved unavailing.

These examples will serve to illustrate the process which in
thousands of cases has gone on from the earliest days of the
Church until a very recent period. Everywhere miraculous cures
became the rule rather than the exception throughout Christendom.


So it was that, throughout antiquity, during the early history of
the Church, throughout the Middle Ages, and indeed down to a
comparatively recent period, testimony to miraculous
interpositions which would now be laughed at by a schoolboy was
accepted by the leaders of thought. St. Augustine was certainly
one of the strongest minds in the early Church, and yet we find
him mentioning, with much seriousness, a story that sundry
innkeepers of his time put a drug into cheese which metamorphosed
travellers into domestic animals, and asserting that the peacock
is so favoured by the Almighty that its flesh will not decay, and
that he has tested it and knows this to be a fact. With such a
disposition regarding the wildest stories, it is not surprising
that the assertion of St. Gregory of Nazianzen, during the
second century, as to the cures wrought by the martyrs Cosmo and
Damian, was echoed from all parts of Europe until every hamlet
had its miracle-working saint or relic.

The literature of these miracles is simply endless. To take our
own ancestors alone, no one can read the Ecclesiastical History
of Bede, or Abbot Samson's Miracles of St. Edmund, or the
accounts given by Eadmer and Osbern of the miracles of St.
Dunstan, or the long lists of those wrought by Thomas a Becket,
or by any other in the army of English saints, without seeing the
perfect naturalness of this growth. This evolution of miracle in
all parts of Europe came out of a vast preceding series of
beliefs, extending not merely through the early Church but far
back into paganism. Just as formerly patients were cured in the
temples of Aesculapius, so they were cured in the Middle Ages,
and so they are cured now at the shrines of saints. Just as the
ancient miracles were solemnly attested by votive tablets, giving
names, dates, and details, and these tablets hung before the
images of the gods, so the medieval miracles were attested by
similar tablets hung before the images of the saints; and so
they are attested to-day by similar tablets hung before the
images of Our Lady of La Salette or of Lourdes. Just as faith in
such miracles persisted, in spite of the small percentage of
cures at those ancient places of healing, so faith persists
to-day, despite the fact that in at least ninety per cent of the
cases at Lourdes prayers prove unavailing. As a rule, the
miracles of the sacred books were taken as models, and each of
those given by the sacred chroniclers was repeated during the
early ages of the Church and through the medieval period with
endless variations of circumstance, but still with curious
fidelity to the original type.

It should be especially kept in mind that, while the vast
majority of these were doubtless due to the myth-making faculty
and to that development of legends which always goes on in ages
ignorant of the relation between physical causes and effects,
some of the miracles of healing had undoubtedly some basis in
fact. We in modern times have seen too many cures performed
through influences exercised upon the imagination, such as those
of the Jansenists at the Cemetery of St. Medard, of the
Ultramontanes at La Salette and Lourdes, of the Russian Father
Ivan at St. Petersburg, and of various Protestant sects at Old
Orchard and elsewhere, as well as at sundry camp meetings, to
doubt that some cures, more or less permanent, were wrought by
sainted personages in the early Church and throughout the Middle

[297] For the story of travellers converted into domestic
animals, see St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei, liber xviii, chaps.
xvii, xviii, in Migne, tom. xli, p.574. For Gregory of Nazianen
and the similarity of these Christian cures in general character
to those wrought in the temples of Aesculapius, see Sprengel,
vol. ii, pp. 145, 146. For the miracles wrought at the shrine of
St. Edmund, see Samsonis Abbatis Opus de Miraculis Sancti
Aedmundi, in the Master of the Rolls' series, passim, but
especially chaps. xiv and xix for miracles of healing wrought on
those who drank out of the saint's cup. For the mighty works of
St. Dunstan, see the Mirac. Sancti Dunstani, auctore Eadmero and
auctore Osberno, in the Master of the Rolls' series. As to
Becket, see the Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, in
the same series, and especially the lists of miracles--the mere
index of them in the first volume requires thirteen octavo pages.
For St. Martin of Tours, see the Guizot collection of French
Chronicles. For miracle and shrine cures chronicled by Bede, see
his Ecclesiastical History, passim, but especially from page 110
to page 267. For similarity between the ancient custom of
allowing invalids to sleep in the temples of Serapis and the
mediaeval custom of having them sleep in the church of St.
Anthony of Padua and other churches, see Meyer, Aberglaube des
Mittelalters, Basel, 1884, chap. iv. For the effect of "the
vivid belief in supernatural action which attaches itself to the
tombs of the saints," etc., as "a psychic agent of great value,"
see Littre, Medecine et Medecins, p. 131. For the Jansenist
miracles at Paris, see La Verite des Miracles operes par
l'Intercession de M. de Paris, par Montgeron, Utrecht, 1737, and
especially the cases of Mary Anne Couronneau, Philippe Sargent,
and Gautier de Pezenas. For some very thoughtful remarks as to
the worthlessness of the testimony to miracles presented during
the canonization proceedings at Rome, see Maury, Legendes
Pieuses, pp. 4-7.

There are undoubtedly serious lesions which yield to profound
emotion and vigorous exertion born of persuasion, confidence, or
excitement. The wonderful power of the mind over the body is
known to every observant student. Mr. Herbert Spencer dwells
upon the fact that intense feeling or passion may bring out great
muscular force. Dr. Berdoe reminds us that "a gouty man who has
long hobbled about on his crutch, finds his legs and power to run
with them if pursued by a wild bull"; and that "the feeblest
invalid, under the influence of delirium or other strong
excitement, will astonish her nurse by the sudden accession of

[298] For the citation in the text, as well as for a brief but
remarkably valuable discussion of the power of the mind over the
body in disease, see Dr. Berdoe's Medical View of the Miracles at
Lourdes, in The Nineteenth Century for October, 1895.

But miraculous cures were not ascribed to persons merely.
Another growth, developed by the early Church mainly from germs
in our sacred books, took shape in miracles wrought by streams,
by pools of water, and especially by relics. Here, too, the old
types persisted, and just as we find holy and healing wells,
pools, and streams in all other ancient religions, so we find in
the evolution of our own such examples as Naaman the Syrian cured
of leprosy by bathing in the river Jordan, the blind man restored
to sight by washing in the pool of Siloam, and the healing of
those who touched the bones of Elisha, the shadow of St. Peter,
or the handkerchief of St. Paul.

St. Cyril, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and other great fathers
of the early Church, sanctioned the belief that similar efficacy
was to be found in the relics of the saints of their time; hence,
St. Ambrose declared that "the precepts of medicine are contrary
to celestial science, watching, and prayer," and we find this
statement reiterated from time to time throughout the Middle
Ages. From this idea was evolved that fetichism which we shall
see for ages standing in the way of medical science.

Theology, developed in accordance with this idea, threw about all
cures, even those which resulted from scientific effort, an
atmosphere of supernaturalism. The vividness with which the
accounts of miracles in the sacred books were realized in the
early Church continued the idea of miraculous intervention
throughout the Middle Ages. The testimony of the great fathers
of the Church to the continuance of miracles is overwhelming; but
everything shows that they so fully expected miracles on the
slightest occasion as to require nothing which in these days
would be regarded as adequate evidence.

In this atmosphere of theologic thought medical science was at
once checked. The School of Alexandria, under the influence
first of Jews and later of Christians, both permeated with
Oriental ideas, and taking into their theory of medicine demons
and miracles, soon enveloped everything in mysticism. In the
Byzantine Empire of the East the same cause produced the same
effect; the evolution of ascertained truth in medicine, begun by
Hippocrates and continued by Herophilus, seemed lost forever.
Medical science, trying to advance, was like a ship becalmed in
the Sargasso Sea: both the atmosphere about it and the medium
through which it must move resisted all progress. Instead of
reliance upon observation, experience, experiment, and thought,
attention was turned toward supernatural agencies.[299]

[299] For the mysticism which gradually enveloped the School of
Alexandria, see Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, De l'Ecole
d'Alexandrie, Paris, 1845, vol. vi, p. 161. For the effect of
the new doctrines on the Empire of the East, see Sprengel, vol.
ii, p. 240. As to the more common miracles of healing and the
acknowledgment of non-Christian miracles of healing by Christian
fathers, see Fort, p. 84.


Especially prejudicial to a true development of medical science
among the first Christians was their attribution of disease to
diabolic influence. As we have seen, this idea had come from
far, and, having prevailed in Chaldea, Egypt, and Persia, had
naturally entered into the sacred books of the Hebrews.
Moreover, St. Paul had distinctly declared that the gods of the
heathen were devils; and everywhere the early Christians saw in
disease the malignant work of these dethroned powers of evil.
The Gnostic and Manichaean struggles had ripened the theologic
idea that, although at times diseases are punishments by the
Almighty, the main agency in them is Satanic. The great fathers
and renowned leaders of the early Church accepted and
strengthened this idea. Origen said: "It is demons which produce
famine, unfruitfulness, corruptions of the air, pestilences; they
hover concealed in clouds in the lower atmosphere, and are
attracted by the blood and incense which the heathen offer to
them as gods." St. Augustine said: "All diseases of Christians
are to be ascribed to these demons; chiefly do they torment
fresh-baptized Christians, yea, even the guiltless, newborn
infants." Tertullian insisted that a malevolent angel is in
constant attendance upon every person. Gregory of Nazianzus
declared that bodily pains are provoked by demons, and that
medicines are useless, but that they are often cured by the
laying on of consecrated hands. St. Nilus and St. Gregory of
Tours, echoing St. Ambrose, gave examples to show the sinfulness
of resorting to medicine instead of trusting to the intercession
of saints. St. Bernard, in a letter to certain monks, warned
them that to seek relief from disease in medicine was in harmony
neither with their religion nor with the honour and purity of
their order. This view even found its way into the canon law,
which declared the precepts of medicine contrary to Divine
knowledge. As a rule, the leaders of the Church discouraged the
theory that diseases are due to natural causes, and most of them
deprecated a resort to surgeons and physicians rather than to
supernatural means.[300]

[300] For Chaldean, Egyptian, and Persian ideas as to the
diabolic origin of disease, see authorities already cited,
especially Maspero and Sayce. For Origen, see the Contra Celsum,
lib. viii, chap. xxxi. For Augustine, see De Divinatione
Daemonum, chap. iii (p.585 of Migne, vol. xl). For Turtullian
and Gregory of Nazianzus, see citations in Sprengel and in Fort,
p. 6. For St. Nilus, see his life, in the Bollandise Acta
Sanctorum. For Gregory of Tours, see his Historia Francorum,
lib. v, cap. 6, and his De Mirac. S. Martini, lib. ii, cap. 60.
I owe these citations to Mr. Lea (History of the Inquisition of
the Middle Ages, vol. iii, p. 410, note). For the letter of St.
Bernard to the monks of St. Anastasius, see his Epistola in
Migne, tom. 182, pp. 550, 551. For the canon law, see under De
Consecratione, dist. v, c. xxi, "Contraria sunt divinae
cognitioni praecepta medicinae: a jejunio revocant, lucubrare non
sinunt, ab omni intentione meditiationis abducunt." For the
turning of the Greek mythology into a demonology as largely due
to St. Paul, see I Corinthians x, 20: "The things which the
Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God."

Out of these and similar considerations was developed the vast
system of "pastoral medicine," so powerful not only through the
Middle Ages, but even in modern times, both among Catholics and
Protestants. As to its results, we must bear in mind that, while
there is no need to attribute the mass of stories regarding
miraculous cures to conscious fraud, there was without doubt, at
a later period, no small admixture of belief biased by
self-interest, with much pious invention and suppression of
facts. Enormous revenues flowed into various monasteries and
churches in all parts of Europe from relics noted for their
healing powers. Every cathedral, every great abbey, and nearly
every parish church claimed possession of healing relics. While,
undoubtedly, a childlike faith was at the bottom of this belief,
there came out of it unquestionably a great development of the
mercantile spirit. The commercial value of sundry relics was
often very high. In the year 1056 a French ruler pledged
securities to the amount of ten thousand solidi for the
production of the relics of St. Just and St. Pastor, pending a
legal decision regarding the ownership between him and the
Archbishop of Narbonne. The Emperor of Germany on one occasion
demanded, as a sufficient pledge for the establishment of a city
market, the arm of St. George. The body of St. Sebastian
brought enormous wealth to the Abbey of Soissons; Rome,
Canterbury, Treves, Marburg, every great city, drew large
revenues from similar sources, and the Venetian Republic ventured
very considerable sums in the purchase of relics.

Naturally, then, corporations, whether lay or ecclesiastical,
which drew large revenue from relics looked with little favour on
a science which tended to discredit their investments.

Nowhere, perhaps, in Europe can the philosophy of this
development of fetichism be better studied to-day than at
Cologne. At the cathedral, preserved in a magnificent shrine
since about the twelfth century, are the skulls of the Three
Kings, or Wise Men of the East, who, guided by the star of
Bethlehem, brought gifts to the Saviour. These relics were an
enormous source of wealth to the cathedral chapter during many
centuries. But other ecclesiastical bodies in that city were
both pious and shrewd, and so we find that not far off, at the
church of St. Gereon, a cemetery has been dug up, and the bones
distributed over the walls as the relics of St. Gereon and his
Theban band of martyrs! Again, at the neighbouring church of St.
Ursula, we have the later spoils of another cemetery, covering
the interior walls of the church as the bones of St. Ursula and
her eleven thousand virgin martyrs: the fact that many of them,
as anatomists now declare, are the bones of MEN does not appear
in the Middle Ages to have diminished their power of competing
with the relics at the other shrines in healing efficiency.

No error in the choice of these healing means seems to have
diminished their efficacy. When Prof. Buckland, the eminent
osteologist and geologist, discovered that the relics of St.
Rosalia at Palermo, which had for ages cured diseases and warded
off epidemics, were the bones of a goat, this fact caused not the
slightest diminution in their miraculous power.

Other developments of fetich cure were no less discouraging to
the evolution of medical science. Very important among these was
the Agnus Dei, or piece of wax from the Paschal candles, stamped
with the figure of a lamb and consecrated by the Pope. In 1471
Pope Paul II expatiated to the Church on the efficacy of this
fetich in preserving men from fire, shipwreck, tempest,
lightning, and hail, as well as in assisting women in childbirth;
and he reserved to himself and his successors the manufacture of
it. Even as late as 1517 Pope Leo X issued, for a consideration,
tickets bearing a cross and the following inscription: "This
cross measured forty times makes the height of Christ in his
humanity. He who kisses it is preserved for seven days from
falling-sickness, apoplexy, and sudden death."

Naturally, the belief thus sanctioned by successive heads of the
Church, infallible in all teaching regarding faith and morals,
created a demand for amulets and charms of all kinds; and under
this influence we find a reversion to old pagan fetiches.
Nothing, on the whole, stood more constantly in the way of any
proper development of medical science than these fetich cures,
whose efficacy was based on theological reasoning and sanctioned
by ecclesiastical policy. It would be expecting too much from
human nature to imagine that pontiffs who derived large revenues
from the sale of the Agnus Dei, or priests who derived both
wealth and honours from cures wrought at shrines under their
care, or lay dignitaries who had invested heavily in relics,
should favour the development of any science which undermined
their interests.[301]

[301] See Fort's Medical Economy during the Middle Ages, pp. 211-
213; also the Handbooks of Murray and Baedeker for North Germany,
and various histories of medicine passim; also Collin de Plancy
and scores of others. For the discovery that the relics of St.
Rosaria at Palermo are simply the bones of a goat, see Gordon,
Life of Buckland, pp. 94-96. For an account of the Agnes Dei,
see Rydberg, pp. 62, 63; and for "Conception Billets," pp. 64 and
65. For Leo X's tickets, see Hausser (professor at Heidelberg),
Period of Reformation, English translation, p. 17.


Yet a more serious stumbling-block, hindering the beginnings of
modern medicine and surgery, was a theory regarding the
unlawfulness of meddling with the bodies of the dead. This
theory, like so many others which the Church cherished as
peculiarly its own, had really been inherited from the old pagan
civilizations. So strong was it in Egypt that the embalmer was
regarded as accursed; traces of it appear in Greco-Roman life,
and hence it came into the early Church, where it was greatly
strengthened by the addition of perhaps the most noble of mystic
ideas--the recognition of the human body as the temple of the
Holy Spirit. Hence Tertullian denounced the anatomist Herophilus
as a butcher, and St. Augustine spoke of anatomists generally in
similar terms.

But this nobler conception was alloyed with a medieval
superstition even more effective, when the formula known as the
Apostles' Creed had, in its teachings regarding the resurrection
of the body, supplanted the doctrine laid down by St. Paul.
Thence came a dread of mutilating the body in such a way that
some injury might result to its final resurrection at the Last
Day, and additional reasons for hindering dissections in the
study of anatomy.

To these arguments against dissection was now added another--one
which may well fill us with amazement. It is the remark of the
foremost of recent English philosophical historians, that of all
organizations in human history the Church of Rome has caused the
greatest spilling of innocent blood. No one conversant with
history, even though he admit all possible extenuating
circumstances, and honour the older Church for the great services
which can undoubtedly be claimed for her, can deny this
statement. Strange is it, then, to note that one of the main
objections developed in the Middle Ages against anatomical
studies was the maxim that "the Church abhors the shedding of

On this ground, in 1248, the Council of Le Mans forbade surgery
to monks. Many other councils did the same, and at the end of
the thirteenth century came the most serious blow of all; for
then it was that Pope Boniface VIII, without any of that
foresight of consequences which might well have been expected in
an infallible teacher, issued a decretal forbidding a practice
which had come into use during the Crusades, namely, the
separation of the flesh from the bones of the dead whose remains
it was desired to carry back to their own country.

The idea lying at the bottom of this interdiction was in all
probability that which had inspired Tertullian to make his bitter
utterance against Herophilus; but, be that as it may, it soon
came to be considered as extending to all dissection, and thereby
surgery and medicine were crippled for more than two centuries;
it was the worst blow they ever received, for it impressed upon
the mind of the Church the belief that all dissection is
sacrilege, and led to ecclesiastical mandates withdrawing from
the healing art the most thoughtful and cultivated men of the
Middle Ages and giving up surgery to the lowest class of nomadic

So deeply was this idea rooted in the mind of the universal
Church that for over a thousand years surgery was considered
dishonourable: the greatest monarchs were often unable to secure
an ordinary surgical operation; and it was only in 1406 that a
better beginning was made, when the Emperor Wenzel of Germany
ordered that dishonour should no longer attach to the surgical

[302] As to religious scruples against dissection, and abhorrence
of the Paraschites, or embalmer, see Maspero and Sayce, The Dawn
of Civilization, p. 216. For denunciation of surgery by the
Church authorities, see Sprengel, vol. ii, pp. 432-435; also
Fort, pp. 452 et seq.; and for the reasoning which led the Church
to forbid surgery to priests, see especially Fredault, Histoire
de la Medecine, p. 200. As to the decretal of Boniface VIII, the
usual statement is that he forbade all dissections. While it was
undoubtedly construed universally to prohibit dissections for
anatomical purposes, its declared intent was as stated in the
text; that it was constantly construed against anatomical
investigations can not for a moment be denied. This construction
is taken for granted in the great Histoire Litteraire de la
France, founded by the Benedictines, certainly a very high
authority as to the main current of opinion in the Church. For
the decretal of Boniface VIII, see the Corpus Juris Canonici. I
have also used the edition of Paris, 1618, where it may be found
on pp. 866, 867. See also, in spite of the special pleading of
Giraldi, the Benedictine Hist. Lit. de la France, tome xvi, p.


In spite of all these opposing forces, the evolution of medical
science continued, though but slowly. In the second century of
the Christian era Galen had made himself a great authority at
Rome, and from Rome had swayed the medical science of the world:
his genius triumphed over the defects of his method; but, though
he gave a powerful impulse to medicine, his dogmatism stood in
its way long afterward.

The places where medicine, such as it thus became, could be
applied, were at first mainly the infirmaries of various
monasteries, especially the larger ones of the Benedictine order:
these were frequently developed into hospitals. Many monks
devoted themselves to such medical studies as were permitted, and
sundry churchmen and laymen did much to secure and preserve
copies of ancient medical treatises. So, too, in the cathedral
schools established by Charlemagne and others, provision was
generally made for medical teaching; but all this instruction,
whether in convents or schools, was wretchedly poor. It
consisted not in developing by individual thought and experiment
the gifts of Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen, but almost
entirely in the parrot-like repetition of their writings.

But, while the inherited ideas of Church leaders were thus
unfavourable to any proper development of medical science, there
were two bodies of men outside the Church who, though largely
fettered by superstition, were far less so than the monks and
students of ecclesiastical schools: these were the Jews and
Mohammedans. The first of these especially had inherited many
useful sanitary and hygienic ideas, which had probably been first
evolved by the Egyptians, and from them transmitted to the modern
world mainly through the sacred books attributed to Moses.

The Jewish scholars became especially devoted to medical science.
To them is largely due the building up of the School of Salerno,
which we find flourishing in the tenth century. Judged by our
present standards its work was poor indeed, but compared with
other medical instruction of the time it was vastly superior: it
developed hygienic principles especially, and brought medicine
upon a higher plane.

Still more important is the rise of the School of Montpellier;
this was due almost entirely to Jewish physicians, and it
developed medical studies to a yet higher point, doing much to
create a medical profession worthy of the name throughout
southern Europe.

As to the Arabians, we find them from the tenth to the fourteenth
century, especially in Spain, giving much thought to medicine,
and to chemistry as subsidiary to it. About the beginning of the
ninth century, when the greater Christian writers were supporting
fetich by theology, Almamon, the Moslem, declared, "They are the
elect of God, his best and most useful servants, whose lives are
devoted to the improvement of their rational faculties." The
influence of Avicenna, the translator of the works of Aristotle,
extended throughout all Europe during the eleventh century. The
Arabians were indeed much fettered by tradition in medical
science, but their translations of Hippocrates and Galen
preserved to the world the best thus far developed in medicine,
and still better were their contributions to pharmacy: these
remain of value to the present hour.[303]

[303] For the great services rendered to the development of
medicine by the Jews, see Monteil, Medecine en France, p. 58;
also the historians of medicine generally. For the quotation
from Almamon, see Gibbon, vol. x, p. 42. For the services of
both Jews and Arabians, see Bedarride, Histoire des Juifs, p.
115; also Sismondi, Histoire des Francais, tome i, p. 191. For
the Arabians, especially, see Rosseeuw Saint-Hilaire, Histoire
d'Espagne, Paris, 1844, vol. iii, pp. 191 et seq. For the
tendency of the Mosaic books to insist on hygienic rather than
therapeutical treatment, and its consequences among Jewish
physicians, see Sprengel, but especially Fredault, p.14.

Various Christian laymen also rose above the prevailing theologic
atmosphere far enough to see the importance of promoting
scientific development. First among these we may name the
Emperor Charlemagne; he and his great minister, Alcuin, not only
promoted medical studies in the schools they founded, but also
made provision for the establishment of botanic gardens in which
those herbs were especially cultivated which were supposed to
have healing virtues. So, too, in the thirteenth century, the
Emperor Frederick II, though under the ban of the Pope, brought
together in his various journeys, and especially in his crusading
expeditions, many Greek and Arabic manuscripts, and took special
pains to have those which concerned medicine preserved and
studied; he also promoted better ideas of medicine and embodied
them in laws.

Men of science also rose, in the stricter sense of the word, even
in the centuries under the most complete sway of theological
thought and ecclesiastical power; a science, indeed, alloyed
with theology, but still infolding precious germs. Of these were
men like Arnold of Villanova, Bertrand de Gordon, Albert of
Bollstadt, Basil Valentine, Raymond Lully, and, above all, Roger
Bacon; all of whom cultivated sciences subsidiary to medicine,
and in spite of charges of sorcery, with possibilities of
imprisonment and death, kept the torch of knowledge burning, and
passed it on to future generations.[304]

[304] For the progress of sciences subsidiary to medicine even in
the darkest ages, see Fort, pp. 374, 375; also Isensee,
Geschichte der Medicin, pp. 225 et seq.; also Monteil, p. 89;
Heller, Geschichte der Physik, vol. i, bk. 3; also Kopp,
Geschichte der Chemie. For Frederick II and his
Medicinal-Gesetz, see Baas, p. 221, but especially Von Raumer,
Geschichte der Hohenstaufen, Leipsic, 1872, vol. iii, p. 259.

From the Church itself, even when the theological atmosphere was
most dense, rose here and there men who persisted in something
like scientific effort. As early as the ninth century,
Bertharius, a monk of Monte Cassino, prepared two manuscript
volumes of prescriptions selected from ancient writers; other
monks studied them somewhat, and, during succeeding ages,
scholars like Hugo, Abbot of St. Denis,--Notker, monk of St.
Gall,--Hildegard, Abbess of Rupertsberg,--Milo, Archbishop of
Beneventum,--and John of St. Amand, Canon of Tournay, did
something for medicine as they understood it. Unfortunately,
they generally understood its theory as a mixture of deductions
from Scripture with dogmas from Galen, and its practice as a
mixture of incantations with fetiches. Even Pope Honorius III
did something for the establishment of medical schools; but he
did so much more to place ecclesiastical and theological fetters
upon teachers and taught, that the value of his gifts may well be
doubted. All germs of a higher evolution of medicine were for
ages well kept under by the theological spirit. As far back as
the sixth century so great a man as Pope Gregory I showed himself
hostile to the development of this science. In the beginning of
the twelfth century the Council of Rheims interdicted the study
of law and physic to monks, and a multitude of other councils
enforced this decree. About the middle of the same century St.
Bernard still complained that monks had too much to do with
medicine; and a few years later we have decretals like those of
Pope Alexander III forbidding monks to study or practise it. For
many generations there appear evidences of a desire among the
more broad-minded churchmen to allow the cultivation of medical
science among ecclesiastics: Popes like Clement III and
Sylvester II seem to have favoured this, and we even hear of an
Archbishop of Canterbury skilled in medicine; but in the
beginning of the thirteenth century the Fourth Council of the
Lateran forbade surgical operations to be practised by priests,
deacons, and subdeacons; and some years later Honorius III
reiterated this decree and extended it. In 1243 the Dominican
order forbade medical treatises to be brought into their
monasteries, and finally all participation of ecclesiastics in
the science and art of medicine was effectually prevented.[305]

[305] For statements as to these decrees of the highest Church
and monastic authorities against medicine and surgery, see
Sprengel, Baas, Geschichte der Medicin, p. 204, and elsewhere;
also Buckle, Posthumous Works, vol. ii, p. 567. For a long list
of Church dignitaries who practised a semi-theological medicine
in the Middle Ages, see Baas, pp. 204, 205. For Bertharius,
Hildegard, and others mentioned, see also Sprengel and other
historians of medicine. For clandestine study and practice of
medicine by sundry ecclesiastics in spite of the prohibition by
the Church, see Von Raumer, Hohenstaufen, vol. vi, p. 438. For
some remarks on this subject by an eminent and learned
ecclesiastic, see Ricker, O. S. B., professor in the University
of Vienna, Pastoral-Psychiatrie, 1894, pp. 12,13.


While various churchmen, building better than they knew, thus did
something to lay foundations for medical study, the Church
authorities, as a rule, did even more to thwart it among the very
men who, had they been allowed liberty, would have cultivated it
to the highest advantage.

Then, too, we find cropping out every where the feeling that,
since supernatural means are so abundant, there is something
irreligious in seeking cure by natural means: ever and anon we
have appeals to Scripture, and especially to the case of King
Asa, who trusted to physicians rather than to the priests of
Jahveh, and so died. Hence it was that St. Bernard declared
that monks who took medicine were guilty of conduct unbecoming to
religion. Even the School of Salerno was held in aversion by
multitudes of strict churchmen, since it prescribed rules for
diet, thereby indicating a belief that diseases arise from
natural causes and not from the malice of the devil: moreover,
in the medical schools Hippocrates was studied, and he had
especially declared that demoniacal possession is "nowise more
divine, nowise more infernal, than any other disease." Hence it
was, doubtless, that the Lateran Council, about the beginning of
the thirteenth century, forbade physicians, under pain of
exclusion from the Church, to undertake medical treatment without
calling in ecclesiastical advice.

This view was long cherished in the Church, and nearly two
hundred and fifty years later Pope Pius V revived it by renewing
the command of Pope Innocent and enforcing it with penalties.
Not only did Pope Pius order that all physicians before
administering treatment should call in "a physician of the soul,"
on the ground, as he declares, that "bodily infirmity frequently
arises from sin," but he ordered that, if at the end of three
days the patient had not made confession to a priest, the medical
man should cease his treatment, under pain of being deprived of
his right to practise, and of expulsion from the faculty if he
were a professor, and that every physician and professor of
medicine should make oath that he was strictly fulfilling these

Out of this feeling had grown up another practice, which made the
development of medicine still more difficult--the classing of
scientific men generally with sorcerers and magic-mongers: from
this largely rose the charge of atheism against physicians, which
ripened into a proverb, "Where there are three physicians there
are two atheists."[306]

[306] "Ubi sunt tres medici ibi sunt duo athei." For the bull of
Pius V, see the Bullarium Romanum, ed. Gaude, Naples, 1882, tom.
vii, pp. 430, 431.

Magic was so common a charge that many physicians seemed to
believe it themselves. In the tenth century Gerbert, afterward
known as Pope Sylvester II, was at once suspected of sorcery when
he showed a disposition to adopt scientific methods; in the
eleventh century this charge nearly cost the life of Constantine
Africanus when he broke from the beaten path of medicine; in the
thirteenth, it gave Roger Bacon, one of the greatest benefactors
of mankind, many years of imprisonment, and nearly brought him to
the stake: these cases are typical of very many.

Still another charge against physicians who showed a talent for
investigation was that of Mohammedanism and Averroism; and
Petrarch stigmatized Averroists as "men who deny Genesis and bark
at Christ."[307]

[307] For Averroes, see Renan, Averroes et l'Averroisme, Paris,
1861, pp. 327-335. For a perfectly just statement of the only
circumstances which can justify a charge of atheism, see Rev. Dr.
Deems, in Popular Science Monthly, February, 1876.

The effect of this widespread ecclesiastical opposition was, that
for many centuries the study of medicine was relegated mainly to
the lowest order of practitioners. There was, indeed, one
orthodox line of medical evolution during the later Middle Ages:
St. Thomas Aquinas insisted that the forces of the body are
independent of its physical organization, and that therefore
these forces are to be studied by the scholastic philosophy and
the theological method, instead of by researches into the
structure of the body; as a result of this, mingled with
survivals of various pagan superstitions, we have in anatomy and
physiology such doctrines as the increase and decrease of the
brain with the phases of the moon, the ebb and flow of human
vitality with the tides of the ocean, the use of the lungs to fan
the heart, the function of the liver as the seat of love, and
that of the spleen as the centre of wit.

Closely connected with these methods of thought was the doctrine
of signatures. It was reasoned that the Almighty must have set
his sign upon the various means of curing disease which he has
provided: hence it was held that bloodroot, on account of its
red juice, is good for the blood; liverwort, having a leaf like
the liver, cures diseases of the liver; eyebright, being marked
with a spot like an eye, cures diseases of the eyes; celandine,
having a yellow juice, cures jaundice; bugloss, resembling a
snake's head, cures snakebite; red flannel, looking like blood,
cures blood-taints, and therefore rheumatism; bear's grease,
being taken from an animal thickly covered with hair, is
recommended to persons fearing baldness.[308]

[308] For a summary of the superstitions which arose under the
theological doctrine of signatures, see Dr. Eccles's admirable
little tract on the Evolution of Medical Science, p. 140; see
also Scoffern, Science and Folk Lore, p. 76.

Still another method evolved by this theological pseudoscience
was that of disgusting the demon with the body which he
tormented--hence the patient was made to swallow or apply to
himself various unspeakable ordures, with such medicines as the
livers of toads, the blood of frogs and rats, fibres of the
hangman's rope, and ointment made from the body of gibbeted
criminals. Many of these were survivals of heathen
superstitions, but theologic reasoning wrought into them an
orthodox significance. As an example of this mixture of heathen
with Christian magic, we may cite the following from a medieval
medical book as a salve against "nocturnal goblin visitors":
"Take hop plant, wormwood, bishopwort, lupine, ash-throat,
henbane, harewort, viper's bugloss, heathberry plant, cropleek,
garlic, grains of hedgerife, githrife, and fennel. Put these
worts into a vessel, set them under the altar, sing over them
nine masses, boil them in butter and sheep's grease, add much
holy salt, strain through a cloth, throw the worts into running
water. If any ill tempting occur to a man, or an elf or goblin
night visitors come, smear his body with this salve, and put it
on his eyes, and cense him with incense, and sign him frequently
with the sign of the cross. His condition will soon be

[309] For a list of unmentionable ordures used in Germany near
the end of the seventeenth century, see Lammert, Volksmedizin und
medizinischer Aberglaube in Bayern, Wurzburg, 1869, p. 34, note.
For the English prescription given, see Cockayne, Leechdoms,
Wort-cunning, and Star-craft of Early England, in the Master of
the Rolls' series, London, 1865, vol. ii, pp. 345 and following.
Still another of these prescriptions given by Cockayne covers
three or four octavo pages. For very full details of this sort
of sacred pseudo-science in Germany, with accounts of survivals
of it at the present time, see Wuttke, Prof. der Theologie in
Halle, Der Deutsche Volksaberglaube der Gegenwart, Berlin, 1869,
passim. For France, see Rambaud, Histoire de la Civilisation
francaise, pp. 371 et seq.

As to surgery, this same amalgamation of theology with survivals
of pagan beliefs continued to check the evolution of medical
science down to the modern epoch. The nominal hostility of the
Church to the shedding of blood withdrew, as we have seen, from
surgical practice the great body of her educated men; hence
surgery remained down to the fifteenth century a despised
profession, its practice continued largely in the hands of
charlatans, and down to a very recent period the name
"barber-surgeon" was a survival of this. In such surgery, the
application of various ordures relieved fractures; the touch of
the hangman cured sprains; the breath of a donkey expelled
poison; friction with a dead man's tooth cured toothache.[310]

[310] On the low estate of surgery during the Middle Ages, see
the histories of medicine already cited, and especially
Kotelmann, Gesundheitspflege im Mittelalter, Hamburg, 1890, pp.
216 et seq.

The enormous development of miracle and fetich cures in the
Church continued during century after century, and here probably
lay the main causes of hostility between the Church on the one
hand and the better sort of physicians on the other; namely, in
the fact that the Church supposed herself in possession of
something far better than scientific methods in medicine. Under
the sway of this belief a natural and laudable veneration for the
relics of Christian martyrs was developed more and more into pure

Thus the water in which a single hair of a saint had been dipped
was used as a purgative; water in which St. Remy's ring had been
dipped cured fevers; wine in which the bones of a saint had been
dipped cured lunacy; oil from a lamp burning before the tomb of
St. Gall cured tumours; St. Valentine cured epilepsy; St.
Christopher, throat diseases; St. Eutropius, dropsy; St. Ovid,
deafness; St. Gervase, rheumatism; St. Apollonia, toothache;
St. Vitus, St. Anthony, and a multitude of other saints, the
maladies which bear their names. Even as late as 1784 we find
certain authorities in Bavaria ordering that any one bitten by a
mad dog shall at once put up prayers at the shrine of St. Hubert,
and not waste his time in any attempts at medical or surgical
cure.[311] In the twelfth century we find a noted cure attempted
by causing the invalid to drink water in which St. Bernard had
washed his hands. Flowers which had rested on the tomb of a
saint, when steeped in water, were supposed to be especially
efficacious in various diseases. The pulpit everywhere dwelt
with unction on the reality of fetich cures, and among the choice
stories collected by Archbishop Jacques de Vitry for the use of
preachers was one which, judging from its frequent recurrence in
monkish literature, must have sunk deep into the popular mind:
"Two lazy beggars, one blind, the other lame, try to avoid the
relics of St. Martin, borne about in procession, so that they may
not be healed and lose their claim to alms. The blind man takes
the lame man on his shoulders to guide him, but they are caught
in the crowd and healed against their will."[312]

[311] See Baas, p. 614; aslo Biedermann.

[312] For the efficacy of flowers, see the Bollandist Lives of
the Saints, cited in Fort, p. 279; also pp. 457, 458. For the
story of those unwillingly cured, see the Exempla of Jacques de
Vitry, edited by Prof. T. F. Crane, of Cornell University,
London, 1890, pp. 52, 182.

Very important also throughout the Middle Ages were the medical
virtues attributed to saliva. The use of this remedy had early
Oriental sanction. It is clearly found in Egypt. Pliny devotes
a considerable part of one of his chapters to it; Galen approved
it; Vespasian, when he visited Alexandria, is said to have cured
a blind man by applying saliva to his eves; but the great
example impressed most forcibly upon the medieval mind was the
use of it ascribed in the fourth Gospel to Jesus himself: thence
it came not only into Church ceremonial, but largely into medical

[313] As to the use of saliva in medicine, see Story, Castle of
St. Angelo, and Other Essays, London, 1877, pp. 208 and
elsewhere. For Pliny, Galen, and others, see the same, p. 211;
see also the book of Tobit, chap. xi, 2-13. For the case of
Vespasian, see Suetonius, Life of Vespasian; also Tacitus,
Historiae, lib. iv, c. 81. For its use by St. Francis Xavier,
see Coleridge, Life and Letters of St. Francis Xavier, London,

As the theological atmosphere thickened, nearly every country had
its long list of saints, each with a special power over some one
organ or disease. The clergy, having great influence over the
medical schools, conscientiously mixed this fetich medicine with
the beginnings of science. In the tenth century, even at the
School of Salerno, we find that the sick were cured not only by
medicine, but by the relics of St. Matthew and others.

Human nature, too, asserted itself, then as now, by making
various pious cures fashionable for a time and then allowing them
to become unfashionable. Just as we see the relics of St. Cosmo
and St. Damian in great vogue during the early Middle Ages, but
out of fashion and without efficacy afterward, so we find in the
thirteenth century that the bones of St. Louis, having come into
fashion, wrought multitudes of cures, while in the fourteenth,
having become unfashionable, they ceased to act, and gave place
for a time to the relics of St. Roch of Montpellier and St.
Catherine of Sienna, which in their turn wrought many cures until
they too became out of date and yielded to other saints. Just so
in modern times the healing miracles of La Salette have lost
prestige in some measure, and those of Lourdes have come into

[314] For one of these lists of saints curing diseaes, see
Pettigrew, On Superstitions connected with Medicine; for another,
see Jacob, Superstitions Populaires, pp. 96-100; also Rydberg, p.
69; also Maury, Rambaud, and others. For a comparison of
fashions in miracles with fashions in modern healing agents, see
Littre, Medecine et Medecins, pp. 118, 136 and elsewhere; also
Sprengel, vol. ii, p. 143.

Even such serious matters as fractures, calculi, and difficult
parturition, in which modern science has achieved some of its
greatest triumphs, were then dealt with by relics; and to this
hour the ex votos hanging at such shrines as those of St.
Genevieve at Paris, of St. Antony at Padua, of the Druid image at
Chartres, of the Virgin at Einsiedeln and Lourdes, of the
fountain at La Salette, are survivals of this same conception of
disease and its cure.

So, too, with a multitude of sacred pools, streams, and spots of
earth. In Ireland, hardly a parish has not had one such sacred
centre; in England and Scotland there have been many; and as
late as 1805 the eminent Dr. Milner, of the Roman Catholic
Church, gave a careful and earnest account of a miraculous cure
wrought at a sacred well in Flintshire. In all parts of Europe
the pious resort to wells and springs continued long after the
close of the Middle Ages, and has not entirely ceased to-day.
It is not at all necessary to suppose intentional deception in
the origin and maintenance of all fetich cures. Although two
different judicial investigations of the modern miracles at La
Salette have shown their origin tainted with fraud, and though
the recent restoration of the Cathedral of Trondhjem has revealed
the fact that the healing powers of the sacred spring which once
brought such great revenues to that shrine were assisted by
angelic voices spoken through a tube in the walls, not unlike the
pious machinery discovered in the Temple of Isis at Pompeii,
there is little doubt that the great majority of fountain and
even shrine cures, such as they have been, have resulted from a
natural law, and that belief in them was based on honest argument
from Scripture. For the theological argument which thus stood in
the way of science was simply this: if the Almighty saw fit to
raise the dead man who touched the bones of Elisha, why should he
not restore to life the patient who touches at Cologne the bones
of the Wise Men of the East who followed the star of the
Nativity? If Naaman was cured by dipping himself in the waters
of the Jordan, and so many others by going down into the Pool of
Siloam, why should not men still be cured by bathing in pools
which men equally holy with Elisha have consecrated? If one
sick man was restored by touching the garments of St. Paul, why
should not another sick man be restored by touching the seamless
coat of Christ at Treves, or the winding-sheet of Christ at
Besancon? And out of all these inquiries came inevitably that
question whose logical answer was especially injurious to the
development of medical science: Why should men seek to build up
scientific medicine and surgery, when relics, pilgrimages, and
sacred observances, according to an overwhelming mass of
concurrent testimony, have cured and are curing hosts of sick
folk in all parts of Europe? [315]

[315] For sacred fountains in modern times, see Pettigrew, as
above, p. 42; also Dalyell, Darker Superstitions of Scotland, pp.
82 and following; also Montalembert, Les Moines d'Occident, tome
iii, p. 323, note. For those in Ireland, with many curious
details, see S. C. Hall, Ireland, its Scenery and Character,
London, 1841, vol. i, p. 282, and passim. For the case in
Flintshire, see Authentic Documents relative to the Miraculous
Cure of Winifred White, of the Town of Wolverhampton, at
Holywell, Flintshire, on the 28th of June, 1805, by John Milner,
D. D., Vicar Apostolic, etc., London, 1805. For sacred wells in
France, see Chevart, Histoire de Chartres, vol. i, pp. 84-89, and
French local histories generally. For superstitions attaching to
springs in Germany, see Wuttke, Volksaberglaube, Sections 12 and
356. For one of the most exquisitely wrought works of modern
fiction, showing perfectly the recent evolution of miraculous
powers at a fashionable spring in France, see Gustave Droz,
Autour d'une Source. The reference to the old pious machinery at
Trondhjem is based upon personal observation by the present
writer in August, 1893.

Still another development of the theological spirit, mixed with
professional exclusiveness and mob prejudice, wrought untold
injury. Even to those who had become so far emancipated from
allegiance to fetich cures as to consult physicians, it was
forbidden to consult those who, as a rule, were the best. From a
very early period of European history the Jews had taken the lead
in medicine; their share in founding the great schools of
Salerno and Montpellier we have already noted, and in all parts
of Europe we find them acknowledged leaders in the healing art.
The Church authorities, enforcing the spirit of the time, were
especially severe against these benefactors: that men who openly
rejected the means of salvation, and whose souls were undeniably
lost, should heal the elect seemed an insult to Providence;
preaching friars denounced them from the pulpit, and the rulers
in state and church, while frequently secretly consulting them,
openly proscribed them.

Gregory of Tours tells us of an archdeacon who, having been
partially cured of disease of the eyes by St. Martin, sought
further aid from a Jewish physician, with the result that neither
the saint nor the Jew could help him afterward. Popes Eugene IV,
Nicholas V, and Calixtus III especially forbade Christians to
employ them. The Trullanean Council in the eighth century, the
Councils of Beziers and Alby in the thirteenth, the Councils of
Avignon and Salamanca in the fourteenth, the Synod of Bamberg and
the Bishop of Passau in the fifteenth, the Council of Avignon in
the sixteenth, with many others, expressly forbade the faithful
to call Jewish physicians or surgeons; such great preachers as
John Geiler and John Herolt thundered from the pulpit against
them and all who consulted them. As late as the middle of the
seventeenth century, when the City Council of Hall, in
Wurtemberg, gave some privileges to a Jewish physician "on
account of his admirable experience and skill," the clergy of the
city joined in a protest, declaring that "it were better to die
with Christ than to be cured by a Jew doctor aided by the devil."
Still, in their extremity, bishops, cardinals, kings, and even
popes, insisted on calling in physicians of the hated race.[316]

[316] For the general subject of the influence of theological
idea upon medicine, see Fort, History of Medical Economy during
the Middle Ages, New York, 1883, chaps. xiii and xviii; also
Colin de Plancy, Dictionnaire des Reliques, passim; also Rambaud,
Histoire de la Civilisation francaise, Paris, 1885, vol. i, chap.
xviii; also Sprengel, vol. ii, p. 345, and elsewhere; also Baas
and others. For proofs that the School of Salerno was not
founded by the monks, Benedictine or other, but by laymen, who
left out a faculty of theology from their organization, see
Haeser, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Medicin, vol. i, p. 646; also
Baas. For a very strong statement that married professors,
women, and Jews were admitted to professional chairs, see Baas,
pp. 208 et seq.; also summary by Dr. Payne, article in the Encyc.
Brit. Sprengel's old theory that the school was founded by
Benedictines seems now entirely given up; see Haeser and Bass on
the subject; also Daremberg, La Medecine, p. 133. For the
citation from Gregory of Tours, see his Hist. Francorum, lib. vi.
For the eminence of Jewish physicians and proscription of them,
see Beugnot, Les Juifs d'Occident, Paris, 1824, pp. 76-94; also
Bedarride, Les Juifs en France, en Italie, et en Espagne, chaps.
v, viii, x, and xiii; also Renouard, Histoire de la Medecine,
Paris, 1846, tome i, p. 439; also especially Lammert,
Volksmedizin, etc., in Bayern, p. 6, note. For Church decrees
against them, see the Acta Conciliorum, ed. Hardouin, vol. x, pp.
1634, 1700, 1870, 1873, etc. For denunciations of them by Geiler
and others, see Kotelmann, Gesundheitspflege im Mittelalter, pp.
194, 195. For a list of kings and popes who persisted in having
Jewish physicians and for other curious information of the sort,
see Prof. Levi of Vercelli, Cristiani ed Ebrei nel Medio Evo, pp.
200-207; and for a very valuable summary, see Lecky, History of
Rationalism in Europe, vol. ii, pp. 265-271.


The Reformation made no sudden change in the sacred theory of
medicine. Luther, as is well known, again and again ascribed his
own diseases to "devils' spells," declaring that "Satan produces
all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is the prince of
death," and that "he poisons the air"; but that "no malady comes
from God." From that day down to the faith cures of Boston, Old
Orchard, and among the sect of "Peculiar People" in our own time,
we see the results among Protestants of seeking the cause of
disease in Satanic influence and its cure in fetichism.

Yet Luther, with his sturdy common sense, broke away from one
belief which has interfered with the evolution of medicine from
the dawn of Christianity until now. When that troublesome
declaimer, Carlstadt, declared that "whoso falls sick shall use
no physic, but commit his case to God, praying that His will be
done," Luther asked, "Do you eat when you are hungry?" and the
answer being in the affirmative, he continued, "Even so you may
use physic, which is God's gift just as meat and drink is, or
whatever else we use for the preservation of life." Hence it
was, doubtless, that the Protestant cities of Germany were more
ready than others to admit anatomical investigation by proper

[317] For Luther's belief and his answer to Carlstadt, see his
Table Talk, especially in Hazlitt's edition, pp. 250-257; also
his letters passim. For recent "faith cures," see Dr. Buckley's
articles on Faith Healing and Kindred Phenomena, in The Century,
1886. For the greater readiness of Protestant cities to
facilitate dissections, see Toth, Andreas Vesalius, p. 33.

Perhaps the best-known development of a theological view in the
Protestant Church was that mainly evolved in England out of a
French germ of theological thought--a belief in the efficacy of
the royal touch in sundry diseases, especially epilepsy and
scrofula, the latter being consequently known as the king's evil.
This mode of cure began, so far as history throws light upon it,
with Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, and came down
from reign to reign, passing from the Catholic saint to
Protestant debauchees upon the English throne, with
ever-increasing miraculous efficacy.

Testimony to the reality of these cures is overwhelming. As a
simple matter of fact, there are no miracles of healing in the
history of the human race more thoroughly attested than those
wrought by the touch of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, the Stuarts, and
especially of that chosen vessel, Charles II. Though Elizabeth
could not bring herself fully to believe in the reality of these
cures, Dr. Tooker, the Queen's chaplain, afterward Dean of
Lichfield, testifies fully of his own knowledge to the cures
wrought by her, as also does William Clowes, the Queen's surgeon.
Fuller, in his Church History, gives an account of a Roman
Catholic who was thus cured by the Queen's touch and converted to
Protestantism. Similar testimony exists as to cures wrought by
James I. Charles I also enjoyed the same power, in spite of the
public declaration against its reality by Parliament. In one
case the King saw a patient in the crowd, too far off to be
touched, and simply said, "God bless thee and grant thee thy
desire"; whereupon, it is asserted, the blotches and humours
disappeared from the patient's body and appeared in the bottle of
medicine which he held in his hand; at least so says Dr. John
Nicholas, Warden of Winchester College, who declares this of his
own knowledge to be every word of it true.

But the most incontrovertible evidence of this miraculous gift is
found in the case of Charles II, the most thoroughly cynical
debauchee who ever sat on the English throne before the advent of
George IV. He touched nearly one hundred thousand persons, and
the outlay for gold medals issued to the afflicted on these
occasions rose in some years as high as ten thousand pounds.
John Brown, surgeon in ordinary to his Majesty and to St.
Thomas's Hospital, and author of many learned works on surgery
and anatomy, published accounts of sixty cures due to the touch
of this monarch; and Sergeant-Surgeon Wiseman devotes an entire
book to proving the reality of these cures, saying, "I myself
have been frequent witness to many hundreds of cures performed by
his Majesty's touch alone without any assistance of chirurgery,
and these many of them had tyred out the endeavours of able
chirurgeons before they came thither." Yet it is especially
instructive to note that, while in no other reign were so many
people touched for scrofula, and in none were so many cures
vouched for, in no other reign did so many people die of that
disease: the bills of mortality show this clearly, and the
reason doubtless is the general substitution of supernatural for
scientific means of cure. This is but one out of many examples
showing the havoc which a scientific test always makes among
miracles if men allow it to be applied.

To James II the same power continued; and if it be said, in the
words of Lord Bacon, that "imagination is next of kin to
miracle--a working faith," something else seems required to
account for the testimony of Dr. Heylin to cures wrought by the
royal touch upon babes in their mothers' arms. Myth-making and
marvel-mongering were evidently at work here as in so many other
places, and so great was the fame of these cures that we find, in
the year before James was dethroned, a pauper at Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, petitioning the General Assembly to enable him to make
the voyage to England in order that he may be healed by the royal

The change in the royal succession does not seem to have
interfered with the miracle; for, though William III evidently
regarded the whole thing as a superstition, and on one occasion
is said to have touched a patient, saying to him, "God give you
better health and more sense," Whiston assures us that this
person was healed, notwithstanding William's incredulity.

As to Queen Anne, Dr. Daniel Turner, in his Art of Surgery,
relates that several cases of scrofula which had been
unsuccessfully treated by himself and Dr. Charles Bernard,
sergeant-surgeon to her Majesty, yielded afterward to the
efficacy of the Queen's touch. Naturally does Collier, in his
Ecclesiastical History, say regarding these cases that to
dispute them "is to come to the extreme of scepticism, to deny
our senses and be incredulous even to ridiculousness." Testimony
to the reality of these cures is indeed overwhelming, and a
multitude of most sober scholars, divines, and doctors of
medicine declared the evidence absolutely convincing. That the
Church of England accepted the doctrine of the royal touch is
witnessed by the special service provided in the Prayer-Book of
that period for occasions when the King exercised this gift. The
ceremony was conducted with great solemnity and pomp: during the
reading of the service and the laying on of the King's hands, the
attendant bishop or priest recited the words, "They shall lay
their hands on the sick, and they shall recover"; afterward came
special prayers, the Epistle and Gospel, with the blessing, and
finally his Majesty washed his royal hands in golden vessels
which high noblemen held for him.

In France, too, the royal touch continued, with similar testimony
to its efficacy. On a certain Easter Sunday, that pious king,
Louis XIV, touched about sixteen hundred persons at Versailles.

This curative power was, then, acknowledged far and wide, by
Catholics and Protestants alike, upon the Continent, in Great
Britain, and in America; and it descended not only in spite of
the transition of the English kings from Catholicism to
Protestantism, but in spite of the transition from the legitimate
sovereignty of the Stuarts to the illegitimate succession of the
House of Orange. And yet, within a few years after the whole
world held this belief, it was dead; it had shrivelled away in
the growing scientific light at the dawn of the eighteenth

[318] For the royal touch, see Becket, Free and Impartial Inquiry
into the Antiquity and Efficacy of Touching for the King's Evil,
1772, cited in Pettigrew, p. 128, and elsewhere; also Scoffern,
Science and Folk Lore, London, 1870, pp. 413 and following; also
Adams, The Healing Art, London, 1887, vol. i, pp. 53-60; and
especially Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. i, chapter on
The Conversion of Rome; also his History of England in the
Eighteenth Century, vol. i, chap. i. For curious details
regarding the mode of conducting the ceremony, see Evelyn's
Diary; also Lecky, as above. For the royal touch in France, and
for a claim to its possession in feudal times by certain noble
families, see Rambaud, Hist. de la Civ. francaise, p. 375.


We may now take up the evolution of medical science out of the
medieval view and its modern survivals. All through the Middle
Ages, as we have seen, some few laymen and ecclesiastics here and
there, braving the edicts of the Church and popular superstition,
persisted in medical study and practice: this was especially
seen at the greater universities, which had become somewhat
emancipated from ecclesiastical control. In the thirteenth
century the University of Paris gave a strong impulse to the
teaching of medicine, and in that and the following century we
begin to find the first intelligible reports of medical cases
since the coming in of Christianity.

In the thirteenth century also the arch-enemy of the papacy, the
Emperor Frederick II, showed his free-thinking tendencies by
granting, from time to time, permissions to dissect the human
subject. In the centuries following, sundry other monarchs
timidly followed his example: thus John of Aragon, in 1391, gave
to the University of Lerida the privilege of dissecting one dead
criminal every three years.[319]

[319] For the promotion of medical science and practice,
especially in the thirteenth century, by the universities, see
Baas, pp. 222-224.

During the fifteenth century and the earlier years of the
sixteenth the revival of learning, the invention of printing, and
the great voyages of discovery gave a new impulse to thought, and
in this medical science shared: the old theological way of
thinking was greatly questioned, and gave place in many quarters
to a different way of looking at the universe.

In the sixteenth century Paracelsus appears--a great genius,
doing much to develop medicine beyond the reach of sacred and
scholastic tradition, though still fettered by many
superstitions. More and more, in spite of theological dogmas,
came a renewal of anatomical studies by dissection of the human
subject. The practice of the old Alexandrian School was thus
resumed. Mundinus, Professor of Medicine at Bologna early in the
fourteenth century, dared use the human subject occasionally in
his lectures; but finally came a far greater champion of
scientific truth, Andreas Vesalius, founder of the modern science
of anatomy. The battle waged by this man is one of the glories
of our race.

From the outset Vesalius proved himself a master. In the search
for real knowledge he risked the most terrible dangers, and
especially the charge of sacrilege, founded upon the teachings of
the Church for ages. As we have seen, even such men in the early
Church as Tertullian and St. Augustine held anatomy in
abhorrence, and the decretal of Pope Boniface VIII was
universally construed as forbidding all dissection, and as
threatening excommunication against those practising it. Through
this sacred conventionalism Vesalius broke without fear; despite
ecclesiastical censure, great opposition in his own profession,
and popular fury, he studied his science by the only method that
could give useful results. No peril daunted him. To secure
material for his investigations, he haunted gibbets and
charnel-houses, braving the fires of the Inquisition and the
virus of the plague. First of all men he began to place the
science of human anatomy on its solid modern foundations--on
careful examination and observation of the human body: this was
his first great sin, and it was soon aggravated by one considered
even greater.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing that has ever been done for
Christianity is the tying it to forms of science which are doomed
and gradually sinking. Just as, in the time of Roger Bacon,
excellent men devoted all their energies to binding Christianity
to Aristotle; just as, in the time of Reuchlin and Erasmus, they
insisted on binding Christianity to Thomas Aquinas; so, in the
time of Vesalius, such men made every effort to link Christianity
to Galen. The cry has been the same in all ages; it is the same
which we hear in this age for curbing scientific studies: the
cry for what is called "sound learning." Whether standing for
Aristotle against Bacon, or for Aquinas against Erasmus, or for
Galen against Vesalius, the cry is always for "sound learning":
the idea always has been that the older studies are "SAFE."

At twenty-eight years of age Vesalius gave to the world his great
work on human anatomy. With it ended the old and began the new;
its researches, by their thoroughness, were a triumph of science;
its illustrations, by their fidelity, were a triumph of art.

To shield himself, as far as possible, in the battle which he
foresaw must come, Vesalius dedicated the work to the Emperor
Charles V, and in his preface he argues for his method, and
against the parrot repetitions of the mediaeval text-books; he
also condemns the wretched anatomical preparations and specimens
made by physicians who utterly refused to advance beyond the
ancient master. The parrot-like repeaters of Galen gave battle
at once. After the manner of their time their first missiles
were epithets; and, the vast arsenal of these having been
exhausted, they began to use sharper weapons--weapons theologic.

In this case there were especial reasons why the theological
authorities felt called upon to intervene. First, there was the
old idea prevailing in the Church that the dissection of the
human body is forbidden to Christians: this was used with great
force against Vesalius, but he at first gained a temporary
victory; for, a conference of divines having been asked to
decide whether dissection of the human body is sacrilege, gave a
decision in the negative.

The reason was simple: the great Emperor Charles V had made
Vesalius his physician and could not spare him; but, on the
accession of Philip II to the throne of Spain and the
Netherlands, the whole scene changed. Vesalius now complained
that in Spain he could not obtain even a human skull for his
anatomical investigations: the medical and theological
reactionists had their way, and to all appearance they have, as a
rule, had it in Spain ever since. As late as the last years of
the eighteenth century an observant English traveller found that
there were no dissections before medical classes in the Spanish
universities, and that the doctrine of the circulation of the
blood was still denied, more than a century and a half after
Sarpi and Harvey had proved it.

Another theological idea barred the path of Vesalius. Throughout
the Middle Ages it was believed that there exists in man a bone
imponderable, incorruptible, incombustible--the necessary nucleus
of the resurrection body. Belief in a resurrection of the
physical body, despite St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians,
had been incorporated into the formula evolved during the early
Christian centuries and known as the Apostles' Creed, and was
held throughout Christendom, "always, everywhere, and by all."
This hypothetical bone was therefore held in great veneration,
and many anatomists sought to discover it; but Vesalius,
revealing so much else, did not find it. He contented himself
with saying that he left the question regarding the existence of
such a bone to the theologians. He could not lie; he did not
wish to fight the Inquisition; and thus he fell under suspicion.

The strength of this theological point may be judged from the
fact that no less eminent a surgeon than Riolan consulted the
executioner to find out whether, when he burned a criminal, all
the parts were consumed; and only then was the answer received
which fatally undermined this superstition. Yet, in 1689 we find
it still lingering in France, stimulating opposition in the
Church to dissection. Even as late as the eighteenth century,
Bernouilli having shown that the living human body constantly
undergoes a series of changes, so that all its particles are
renewed in a given number of years, so much ill feeling was drawn
upon him, from theologians, who saw in this statement danger to
the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, that for the sake
of peace he struck out his argument on this subject from his
collected works.[320]

[320] For permissions to dissect the human subject, given here
and there during the Middle Ages, see Roth's Andreas Vesalius,
Berlin, 1892, pp. 3, 13 et seq. For religious antipathies as a
factor in the persecution of Vesalius, see the biographies by
Boerhaave and Albinos, 1725; Burggraeve's Etudes, 1841; also
Haeser, Kingsley, and the latest and most thorough of all, Roth,
as above. Even Goethals, despite the timidity natural to a city
librarian in a town like Brussels, in which clerical power is
strong and relentless, feels obliged to confess that there was a
certain admixture of religious hatred in the treatment of
Vesalius. See his Notice Biographique sur Andre Vesale. For the
resurrection bones, see Roth, as above, pp. 154, 155, and notes.
For Vesalius, see especially Portal, Hist. de l'Anatomie et de la
Chirurgie, Paris, 1770, tome i, p. 407. For neglect of
dissection and opposition to Harvey's discovery in Spain, see
Townsend's Travels, edition of 1792, cited in Buckle, History of
Civilization in England, vol. ii, pp. 74, 75. Also Henry Morley,
in his Clement Marot, and Other Essays. For Bernouilli and his
trouble with the theologians, see Wolf, Biographien zur
Culturgeschichte der Schweiz, vol. ii, p. 95. How different
Mundinus's practice of dissection was from that of Vesalius may
be seen by Cuvier's careful statement that the entire number of
dissections by the former was three; the usual statement is that
there were but two. See Cuvier, Hist. des Sci. Nat., tome ii, p.
7; also Sprengel, Fredault, Hallam, and Littre. Also Whewell,
Hist. of the Inductive Sciences, vol. iii, p. 328; also, for a
very full statement regarding the agency of Mundinus in the
progress of Anatomy, see Portal, vol. i, pp. 209-216.

Still other encroachments upon the theological view were made by
the new school of anatomists, and especially by Vesalius. During
the Middle Ages there had been developed various theological
doctrines regarding the human body; these were based upon
arguments showing what the body OUGHT TO BE, and naturally,
when anatomical science showed what it IS, these doctrines fell.
An example of such popular theological reasoning is seen in a
widespread belief of the twelfth century, that, during the year
in which the cross of Christ was captured by Saladin, children,
instead of having thirty or thirty-two teeth as before, had
twenty or twenty-two. So, too, in Vesalius's time another
doctrine of this sort was dominant: it had long been held that
Eve, having been made by the Almighty from a rib taken out of
Adam's side, there must be one rib fewer on one side of every man
than on the other. This creation of Eve was a favourite subject
with sculptors and painters, from Giotto, who carved it upon his
beautiful Campanile at Florence, to the illuminators of missals,
and even to those who illustrated Bibles and religious books in
the first years after the invention of printing; but Vesalius
and the anatomists who followed him put an end among thoughtful
men to this belief in the missing rib, and in doing this dealt a
blow at much else in the sacred theory. Naturally, all these
considerations brought the forces of ecclesiasticism against the
innovators in anatomy.[321]

[321] As to the supposed change in the number of teeth, see the
Gesta Philippi Augusti Francorum Regis, . . . descripta a
magistro Rigardo, 1219, edited by Father Francois Duchesne, in
Histories Francorum Scriptores, tom. v, Paris, 1649, p. 24. For
representations of Adam created by the Almighty out of a pile of
dust, and of Eve created from a rib of Adam, see the earlier
illustrations in the Nuremberg Chronicle. As to the relation of
anatomy to theology as regards to Adam's rib, see Roth, pp. 154,

A new weapon was now forged: Vesalius was charged with
dissecting a living man, and, either from direct persecution, as
the great majority of authors assert, or from indirect
influences, as the recent apologists for Philip II admit, he
became a wanderer: on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, apparently
undertaken to atone for his sin, he was shipwrecked, and in the
prime of his life and strength he was lost to the world.

And yet not lost. In this century a great painter has again
given him to us. By the magic of Hamann's pencil Vesalius again
stands on earth, and we look once more into his cell. Its
windows and doors, bolted and barred within, betoken the storm of
bigotry which rages without; the crucifix, toward which he turns
his eyes, symbolizes the spirit in which he labours; the corpse
of the plague-stricken beneath his hand ceases to be repulsive;
his very soul seems to send forth rays from the canvas, which
strengthen us for the good fight in this age.[322]

[322] The original painting of Vesalius at work in his cell, by
Hamann, is now at Cornell University.

His death was hastened, if not caused, by men who conscientiously
supposed that he was injuring religion: his poor, blind foes
aided in destroying one of religion's greatest apostles. What
was his influence on religion? He substituted, for the
repetition of worn-out theories, a conscientious and reverent
search into the works of the great Power giving life to the
universe; he substituted, for representations of the human
structure pitiful and unreal, representations revealing truths
most helpful to the whole human race.

The death of this champion seems to have virtually ended the
contest. Licenses to dissect soon began to be given by sundry
popes to universities, and were renewed at intervals of from
three to four years, until the Reformation set in motion trains
of thought which did much to release science from this

[323] For a curious example of weapons drawn from Galen and used
against Vesalius, see Lewes, Life of Goethe, p. 343, note. For
proofs that I have not overestimated Vesalius, see Portal, ubi
supra. Portal speaks of him as "le genie le plus droit qu'eut
l'Europe"; and again, "Vesale me parait un des plus grands hommes
qui ait existe." For the charge that anatomists dissected living
men--against men of science before Vesalius's time--see Littre's
chapter on Anatomy. For the increased liberty given anatomy by
the Reformation, see Roth's Vesalius, p. 33.


I hasten now to one of the most singular struggles of medical
science during modern times. Early in the last century Boyer
presented inoculation as a preventive of smallpox in France, and
thoughtful physicians in England, inspired by Lady Montagu and
Maitland, followed his example. Ultra-conservatives in medicine
took fright at once on both sides of the Channel, and theology
was soon finding profound reasons against the new practice. The
French theologians of the Sorbonne solemnly condemned it; the
English theologians were most loudly represented by the Rev.
Edward Massey, who in 1772 preached and published a sermon
entitled The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation. In
this he declared that Job's distemper was probably confluent
smallpox; that he had been inoculated doubtless by the devil;
that diseases are sent by Providence for the punishment of sin;
and that the proposed attempt to prevent them is "a diabolical
operation." Not less vigorous was the sermon of the Rev. Mr.
Delafaye, entitled Inoculation an Indefensible Practice. This
struggle went on for thirty years. It is a pleasure to note some
churchmen--and among them Madox, Bishop of Worcester--giving
battle on the side of right reason; but as late as 1753 we have
a noted rector at Canterbury denouncing inoculation from his
pulpit in the primatial city, and many of his brethren following
his example.

The same opposition was vigorous in Protestant Scotland. A large
body of ministers joined in denouncing the new practice as
"flying in the face of Providence," and "endeavouring to baffle a
Divine judgment."

On our own side of the ocean, also, this question had to be
fought out. About the year 1721 Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, a
physician in Boston, made an experiment in inoculation, one of
his first subjects being his own son. He at once encountered
bitter hostility, so that the selectmen of the city forbade him
to repeat the experiment. Foremost among his opponents was Dr.
Douglas, a Scotch physician, supported by the medical profession
and the newspapers. The violence of the opposing party knew no
bounds; they insisted that inoculation was "poisoning," and they
urged the authorities to try Dr. Boylston for murder. Having
thus settled his case for this world, they proceeded to settle it
for the next, insisting that "for a man to infect a family in the
morning with smallpox and to pray to God in the evening against
the disease is blasphemy"; that the smallpox is "a judgment of
God on the sins of the people," and that "to avert it is but to
provoke him more"; that inoculation is "an encroachment on the
prerogatives of Jehovah, whose right it is to wound and smite."
Among the mass of scriptural texts most remote from any possible
bearing on the subject one was employed which was equally cogent
against any use of healing means in any disease--the words of
Hosea: "He hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and
he will bind us up."

So bitter was this opposition that Dr. Boylston's life was in
danger; it was considered unsafe for him to be out of his house
in the evening; a lighted grenade was even thrown into the house
of Cotton Mather, who had favoured the new practice, and had
sheltered another clergyman who had submitted himself to it.

To the honour of the Puritan clergy of New England, it should be
said that many of them were Boylston's strongest supporters.
Increase and Cotton Mather had been among the first to move in
favour of inoculation, the latter having called Boylston's
attention to it; and at the very crisis of affairs six of the
leading clergymen of Boston threw their influence on Boylston's
side and shared the obloquy brought upon him. Although the
gainsayers were not slow to fling into the faces of the Mathers
their action regarding witchcraft, urging that their credulity in
that matter argued credulity in this, they persevered, and among
the many services rendered by the clergymen of New England to
their country this ought certainly to be remembered; for these
men had to withstand, shoulder to shoulder with Boylston and
Benjamin Franklin, the same weapons which were hurled at the
supporters of inoculation in Europe--charges of "unfaithfulness
to the revealed law of God."

The facts were soon very strong against the gainsayers: within a
year or two after the first experiment nearly three hundred
persons had been inoculated by Boylston in Boston and
neighbouring towns, and out of these only six had died; whereas,
during the same period, out of nearly six thousand persons who
had taken smallpox naturally, and had received only the usual
medical treatment, nearly one thousand had died. Yet even here
the gainsayers did not despair, and, when obliged to confess the
success of inoculation, they simply fell back upon a new
argument, and answered: "It was good that Satan should be
dispossessed of his habitation which he had taken up in men in
our Lord's day, but it was not lawful that the children of the
Pharisees should cast him out by the help of Beelzebub. We must
always have an eye to the matter of what we do as well as the
result, if we intend to keep a good conscience toward God." But
the facts were too strong; the new practice made its way in the
New World as in the Old, though bitter opposition continued, and
in no small degree on vague scriptural grounds, for more than
twenty years longer.[324]

[324] For the general subject, see Sprengel, Histoire de la
Medecine, vol. vi, pp. 39-80. For the opposition of the Paris
faculty of Theology to inoculation, see the Journal de Barbier,
vol. vi, p. 294; also the Correspondance de Grimm et Diderot,
vol. iii, pp. 259 et seq. For bitter denunciations of inoculation
by the English clergy, and for the noble stand against them by
Madox, see Baron, Life of Jenner, vol. i, pp. 231, 232, and vol.
ii, pp. 39, 40. For the strenuous opposition of the same clergy,
see Weld, History of the Royal Society, vol. i, p. 464, note;
also, for its comical side, see Nichol's Literary Illustrations,
vol. v, p. 800. For the same matter in Scotland, see Lecky's
History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. ii, p. 83. For New
England, see Green, History of Medicine in Massachusetts, Boston,

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