Medical practice at Swedish Cistercian monasteries

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragAnnan


Definitions and understandings of disease are to a large extent culturally dependent, even if there are also biological components to this. While many medieval religious orders nursed an interest for science and knowledge in general, their approach to medicine was complicated by the complex attitude towards illness and the tending of the body within Christendom. Archaeological artifacts from Cistercian monasteries in Sweden reveal that specialized equipment was used for medical care. We find hygienic device and instruments for the treatment of minor wounds as well as medical vessels. Traces of surgical activity are rarer.
There are, however, clear differences between male and female institutions. The differences cannot be explained by excavation methods for retrieving finds, by the size of the institutions or socioeconomic backgrounds of their inhabitants. Much as the comprehension of the underlying causes of disease has shifted, so too have the ideas of which kinds of ailments actually need or ought to be cured, and which do not. I suggest that gendered attitudes in religious practice may have affected what kind of surgical, medical and hygienic treatments were expected by, and provided for men and women in monastic institutions. I examine this by looking at medieval monastic material culture in the form of archaeological findings from a number of Swedish Cistercian institutions.
An analysis of the material culture from these institutions also reveals clear differences between the (male) monastic institutions and the surrounding society. The specialized equipment found at monastic sites are rarely found outside these milieus (only occasionally in ecclesiastical or aristocratic contexts). This provides cause to question the importance of monastic medical knowledge and practice to the surrounding society. A suggested reason for the assumed limited effect outside the institutions are fundamental differences between indigenous and monastic apprehensions of the body and its ailments.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Arkeologi


  • Medieval, cistercian, medicine
StatusUnpublished - 2016 jun 3
Peer review utfördJa
EvenemangTravelling Wisdom: Science in the Medieval Religious Orders - University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Danmark
Varaktighet: 2016 jun 22020 jun 3
Konferensnummer: 2


KonferensTravelling Wisdom

Relaterad forskningsoutput

Johanna Bergqvist Rydén & Maria Larsson, 2018, Om samverkan, mångfald och mellanmänskliga möten: proceedings från Lunds Universitets Pedagogiska Utvecklingskonferens 2017. Bergqvist Rydén, J. & Larsson, M. (red.). Lund: Lunds universitet, s. 6-11 6 s.

Forskningsoutput: Kapitel i bok/rapport/Conference proceedingKonferenspaper i proceeding

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