Conference Agenda

8C: Hospitals, Medical Practices and the Church
Thursday, 09/Sept/2021:
3:15pm - 4:30pm

Session Chair: Prof. Javier Moscoso, CSIC


The Church’s move into a secular field: the fight by the Minim Congregation of Poor Brothers for control of Todos os Santos Hospital, Lisbon (1594–1632)

Abreu, Laurinda

U of Évora, Portugal, Portugal

Hospitals in Portugal had, since the Middle Ages, been administered by civil society, except for a few established by the religious orders for their own use and the military hospitals founded in the seventeenth century which were run by the Order of Saint John of God. After a national reform of hospitals, the Portuguese crown began in the early sixteenth century to transfer them to the misericórdias, lay confraternities enjoying royal protection, a process almost completed by the time of the Iberian Union under the Habsburg crown in 1580. In that same decade, Castille started its own hospital reform, in which a prominent part was played by Bernardino Obregón, the founder of the Minim Congregation of Poor Brothers, better known in Portugal as the Obregões. In 1594, Philip II of Spain (I of Portugal) sent the Obregões into Portugal’s principal hospital, Todos os Santos – managed since 1564 by the powerful Lisbon Misericórdia –with the task of reorganising it and then doing the same in city hospitals around the country. However, the project was stalled by the Misericórdia, which entangled the Obregões in a web of intrigue and eventually had them expelled from Todos os Santos. The full extent of this protracted conflict between secular and religious powers is yet to be researched. This communication examines these issues by comparing Bernardino Obregón’s biographies with documents from the hospital and also scrutinising the effects of the struggle on the hospital’s operations.

“Persuasive Rhetoric and the Orientation of Responses to Medical Practices: the Role of the Established Church in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England”

Baseotto, Paola

Insubria University, Italy

Widely circulated medical books like Thomas Cogan’s 1636 Haven of Health often remind people that “the Lord hath created medicines, and he that is wise will not abhorre them” and reiterate the view that: “it is lawful for Christians to use physicke as the gift of God in all diseases”. Queen Elizabeth’s and King James’s public orders warned: “if there be any person that shall hold and publish any opinion that it is a vain thing to take medicaments pretending that no person shall die but at their time prefixed, such persons if they bee Ecclesiasticall shall be forbidden to preach, and being lay, shall not utter such dangerous opinions upon pain of imprisonment”

Documents such as these point to tensions in the experience of disease in early modern England. Prominent religious guides often endorsed competing discourses regarding illness and medicine. Especially on the occasion of major epidemics, influential preachers belonging to nonconformist communities promoted resistance to medical treatments and public orders, while the Church of England endorsed Privy Council’s measures of crowd control and quarantine of the diseased, and encouraged acceptance of medical remedies. My analysis of devotional writings, sermons and Church orders documents the role of the national Church in promoting compliance with medical and government strategies of containment of epidemics.

Icons of Charity: Saints and Hospital Care in Medieval Central Europe

Barnhouse, Lucy Christine

Arkansas State University, United States of America

The spread of hospitals in medieval Europe occurred at the same time as the rise of a number of saints’ cults for men and women, recently deceased, often laypersons, whose service of the sick was a key signifier of their holiness. Recent scholarship has called for more critical examination of how the examples of saints pursuing hospital work might have inspired staff and donors alike. This paper examines how images of saints, dedications to them, and the circulation of texts about their lives, constituted part of the landscape of charity in late medieval Central Europe. Mainz, a hub of both religious power and economic exchange, developed a religious and civic topography with the care of the sick-poor at its heart. Donations to Mainz’s hospitals designated for Martin’s feast day indicate that charity for those whom the hospital served was seen as central to the saint’s veneration. Elizabeth of Hungary is the saint whose service of the sick-poor is most widely commemorated in the regions under study. In accounts of her life, both her work in the hospital she founded, and the care which she offered to the injured and impaired, are consistently highlighted. Like Elizabeth’s, Hedwig of Silesia’s life spanned multiple regions of Central Europe; and like Elizabeth, Hedwig was commemorated after death for her works of charity and self-denial. The proliferation of art and text extolling such work — often with surprising realism — offers insight into how late medieval hospital care was conceptualized and performed.