While the Papal Medical School at Rome, attached to the university of the city and directly under the control of the Papal Curia, more especially deserves the name thus given it, it must not be forgotten that there was in the Papal States a series of medical schools in various cities. One of these, at Perugia, founded by a bull of Pope John XXII., has come under consideration in the chapter on A Papal Patron of Medical Education. Another medical school, that of Ferrara, which also was in the Papal States, had considerable prestige. Some distinguished professors taught there before going to Padua or Bologna. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Bologna, after having been during the preceding three centuries under the domination of one powerful family or another, from the Pepoli to the Bentivogli, and then to the Visconti and back again to the Bentivogli, was incorporated in the Papal States under Pope Julius II. At this time the Medical School of Bologna was at the height of its reputation and was one of the two greatest medical schools in Italy. Padua was its only rival. Shortly after this Rome became a serious competitor in medical education. Practically, then, this was a second Papal medical school, almost as directly under the control of the Popes as the Roman Medical School. Far from there being any diminution in the glory or the efficiency of the Bolognese Medical School, its reputation even became enhanced after the city came under the control of the Popes.

This is all the more surprising because, as we have shown, just about this time the Popes began the work of making their Medical School at Rome the most important center for medical education, especially in the scientific phases of medicine–anatomy, physiology, and comparative anatomy–that there was at that time in the world. In spite of this rivalry, however, nothing was done directly to hurt the prestige of the school of Bologna, and indeed the rivalry seems to have been more of an encouraging competition than in any sense a destructive struggle for existence.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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