The 14th Century Women of Schola Medica Salernitana: Rebecca de Guarna, Abella, and Mercuriade
Art by Tiny Tarakeet (tumblr)
Schola Medica Salernitana was the most important medical school in medieval Europe. Located in the southern Italian city of Salerno, the school served as a cultural crossroads, integrating Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Arabic teachings. Professors at Schola Medica Salernitana produced translations, treatises, and reference books that influenced physicians and medical schools across Europe for centuries.
Many women are known to have studied or taught at Schola Medica Salernitana between 1000 and 1500 CE. The most famous is the 12th century physician Trota. The archives of Naples include numerous medical licenses granted to women without any apparent restrictions, although some mention that women are particularly suited to gynecology and obstetrics. The entire department of women’s diseases at Schola Medica Salernitana was run by female physicians.
Pictured above are three 14th century female physicians associated with Schola Medica Salernitana: Rebecca de Guarna, Abella and Mercuriade. Rebecca de Guarna was a physician and surgeon native to Salerno who wrote treatises on fevers, urine, and embryology. Abella (also known as Abella of Castellomata or Abella of Salerno) was a Roman physician who taught at Schola Medica Salernitana. She produced academic works on black bile and seminal fluid Mercuriade was a physician and surgeon who taught at Schola Medica Salernitana. She also published treatises on fevers and wounds.
By the end of the 14th century the medical school at Salerno had fallen from favor as schools in Naples, Bologna, and Montpelier rose in prominence. Today, Schola Medica Salernitana is a museum.