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October 2021

Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 1998 Dec; 118(30): 4671-5.

[Who were the healers in medieval Trondheim?]

Pape K, Westin S.

Institutt for samfunnsmedisinske fag Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet, Trondheim.

When Trondheim celebrated its millenium in 1997, this also marked a 1000 year-old medical tradition. In medieval times, sick and disabled people made their pilgrimage to the Nidaros cathedral and the grave of Saint Olav (995-1030). Working from the assumption that every organized society develops rituals and rules to deal with disease and death, we have looked for evidence of what kind of healers one would expect there were in medieval Trondheim up to the reformation in 1537. Sources include reports from archaeological excavations, written material of both medieval and more recent origin, buildings and objects, and living traditions. Three kinds of healer traditions can be identified: The popular and "wise" folk healers were based on traditional pre-Christian mythology and belief in natural forces. The charitable clerics emerged with Christianity. The "professional" wound healers evolved from the needs of the military, later to merge with the early barber surgeons. Traces of scientific traditions, the Salerno school and early European university medicine can be found in local texts, but there is no evidence of any university educated doctor practising in Trondheim before the 17th century.

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