Before the beginning of the sixteenth century, that is, before the religious revolt in Germany, which has been dignified by the name of reformation, altogether some twenty medical schools were founded in various parts of Europe. Of these, the best known in the order of their foundation were Salerno, Bologna, Naples, Montpelier, Paris, Padua and Pisa. Excellent schools, however, were established also at Oxford, Rome, Salamanca, Orleans and Coimbra. Even early in the fourteenth century such unimportant towns as Perugia, Cahors and Lerida had medical schools. These schools were usually established in connection with the universities. It was realized that this would make the teaching of medicine more serious and keep the practical side of medicine from obscuring too much the scientific and cultural aspects of the medical training. In modern times in America we made the mistake of having our medical schools independent of universities, but with the advance in education and culture we have come to imitate the custom of the thirteenth and the fourteenth century in this regard.
The universities, as is well known, were the outgrowth of cathedral schools. Practically all those in authority in them, by far the greater number of teachers and most of the pupils, were of the clerical order, that is, had assumed some ecclesiastical obligations and were considered to be churchmen. At these universities, if we can trust the example of England as applicable to the Continent also, there were, according to trustworthy, conservative statistics, more students in attendance in proportion to the population than there has been at any period since, or than there are even at the present time in the twentieth century in any country of the civilized world. From this we can readily appreciate the enthusiastic ardor of those seeking education. Of these large numbers, the medical schools had their due proportion.
James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)