Medicine in Early Middle Age


Medicina nel Medioevo

Life in Early Middle Age was so hard that people died for worthless reasons and was said to be “dangerous, brutal and short”; there were infact a lot of diseases that doctors ignored. In the Middle Age children died for basic infections, women died in childbirth and men died fighting in wars: surely only rich people afforded a doctor.

Doctors in Early Middle Age were afraid of sick people: many of them thought that excrements smell could cure a lot of diseases. Medicine in Early Middle Age was often pointless because people thought that doctors would meddle in God plans, because superstition was the real evil.

After Hippocrates and Galen, medicine collapsed because there were Barbarian Invasion and Christianity. Romans’ theory about medicine was cancelled and people began to trust illnesses were devil’s plans. In this contest, medicine was worthless and the cure was a simple act of compassion, a way to show devotion. Medicine in Early Middle Age advanced so slowly because taking care of a soul was more important than taking care of a body. However, doctors took care of injuries, fractures, pox, skin diseases and amputations and practiced phlebotomy.

Hygienic conditions caused a lot of diseases, but people didn’t take care of health. Praying was very important and people by prays would reject fear of illness. However, in the Middle Age a doctor became a professional. Monks were more experts than doctors because they studied ancient text about medicine, so every monastery had an infirmary to take care of people, poor people, especially. Death didn’t scare except for epidemic diseases. Illness was linked to supernatural so it was cured by a mix of magic and Medicine.

Due to spread of illness, people thought it was a part of God’s plan, a punishment for the Original Sin. Epidemic Diseases were the way God punished humans, so they were accepted by the population. People were cured by herbs as sage, dill, thyme, rosemary and lavender. Plague was cured by concoctions of animal parts, herbs and minerals: to fight epidemic diseases, doctors recommended to wash the floors with herbs and vinegar.

People who had contacts with a patient had to disinfect their mouth with pepper, cinnamon and ginger. They feared Herpes Zoster as one of the most painful illness and feared pain more than death. Diagnosis was influenced by astrology: the flagellant in time of plague whipped themselves to show their love of God.

Surgeons were often Monks who had access to medical literature. They had a poor knowledge of anatomy so surgery was cruel and painful. There was no anesthetic to relieve the pain caused by cuts: they used some potions, as dwale, so strong that patients could die because of it. The eye cataract surgery, for example, was one of the rare surgeries that saved people and sometimes people’s sight. In the Middle Age, everybody thought that illnesses were caused by excess blood, so doctors had to remove it by venesection.

A lot of women died in childbirth and monks often confessed their sins after childbirth in case of death. There were no antibiotics and it was impossible to cure infections without them. Doctors learned to practice broken bones because of the many wars of the time. The real plague of the Middle Age was that only rich could afford a doctor to relieve. Poor People was scared and believed in Christian charity or in magic, so they went to see a local wise woman who prescribed them herbal treatments.

A lot of medical medieval treatment were a little bit bizarre. Clysters was a long metal tube which was entered into the ano and filled by boar’s bile. Urine was used as antiseptic. A hot iron was the solution for hemorrhoids. To cure epilepsy or migraines, doctors practiced a small hole into the skull. This would have been fatal for many people.

Christianity influenced the concept of medicine because people thought that illness was normal and that pain was good to simulate Jesus Life. It was really more important to pray that take care of his own health. People started to reply superstition with faith, but result didn’t change. Medicine collapsed with prayers didn’t give importance to objective aspects of this discipline. Diagnosis were superficial and people continued to die with cruel surgery.

Medicine in the Early Middle Age wasn’t a really medicine because without civilization there’s no chance to cure properly other people, but only the fact to inflict them other sufferings. Nowadays, people can fight disease but in the middle age when death was on the agenda, people couldn’t think otherwise. People had to appeal to a superior force, a supernatural force, a force able to  give relief and peace. People found a mental reason to illness and the only possible reason, in the Middle Age, was a God plan, a cruel God plan in which humans had to suffer, to contract diseases and to die in cruel ways. It was all a matter of luck. If you didn’t have luck, you didn’t have chances to survive.

A few people survived and sometimes a survivor in a contest of death could be the most painful of punishments. However, a very interesting development of medicine in the Early Middle Age was in plastic surgery, with the restoration of nose, mutilated lips and ears. Surgery and medicine in The Early Middle Age were scaring. They were real and cruel experiments on human and animal body which could be lethal for the patient.

Pain, Death, Blood, Dirty. A lot of words that define the few of civilization in the Middle Age and the anxiety that this historical age produced in his poor populations. A dark, savage, cruel, pessimistic, scaring, pestilent, unfair, resigned and regressive historical age, the most regressive of the history, maybe.


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Hi, I am the technical leader of game Medieval Europe. I love cats, coding, crypto and Trance Music.

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