Another of the Popes of the Avignon period, Pope John XXII., who is said by President White to have been most bitter in opposition to every form of science, actually helped in the foundation of two medical schools. One of these was at Cahors, his birthplace, and the other was at Perugia, at that time in the Papal States. In founding the medical school at Perugia, Pope John insisted that its standards must be as high as those of Paris and Bologna, and required that the first teachers there should be graduates from Paris or Bologna, where were the two greatest medical schools of the time. Seven years of study, three in the undergraduate department and four in the graduate schools, were to be required, according to this bull of foundation (given in full in the appendix), before the degree of Doctor of Medicine could be conferred. If it is recalled that this standard of three years of undergraduate work and four in the graduate school, or at least of seven years of University work, is the ideal toward which our universities are struggling, and, it must be said, not with the entire success we would like, at the beginning of the twentieth century, then, it is surprising to think that the president of a modern university, deeply interested in education in all its features and himself a professor of history, should know so little of, and be so lacking in sympathy with these men who laid the deep foundations of our modern education.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the relation of the Popes to medicine remains to be mentioned. If they really were the bitter opponents of things medical that Dr. White would have us believe, then we should expect that either there were no such officials as Papal physicians, or else that the men who occupied these posts were the veriest charlatans, who knew very little of medicine, and certainly did nothing to develop the science. As a matter of fact, there is no list of physicians connected by any common bond in history who are so gloriously representative of scientific progress in medicine as the Papal physicians. The faculty of no medical school presents such a list of great names as those of the men who were chosen to be the official medical attendants of the Popes, and who were thus given a position of prominence where their discoveries in medicine had a vogue they otherwise could not have attained. The list of the Royal physicians of any reigning house of Europe for the last seven centuries looks trivial beside the roll of Papal physicians. Could the Popes possibly have done anything more than this for medicine, or shown their interest in its progress, or made people realize better, that while prayer might be of service, every possible human means must be taken to secure, maintain and recover health.

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


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