Medical competence, anatomy and the polity in seventeenth-century Rome

De Renzi, Silvia (2007). Medical competence, anatomy and the polity in seventeenth-century Rome. Renaissance Studies, 21(4) pp. 551–567.



At the centre of this article are two physicians active in Rome between 1600 and 1630 who combined medical practice with broader involvement in the dynamic cultural, economic and political scene of the centre of the Catholic world. The city's distinctive and very influential social landscape magnified issues of career-building and allows us to recapture physicians’ different strategies of self-fashioning at a time of major social and religious reorganization. At one level, reconstructing Johannes Faber and Giulio Mancini's medical education, arrival in Rome and overlapping but different career trajectories contributes to research on physicians’ identity in early modern Italian states. Most remarkable are their access to different segments of Roman society, including a dynamic art market, and their diplomatic and political role, claimed as well as real. But following these physicians from hospitals to courts, including that of the Pope, and from tribunals to the university and analysing the wide range of their writing – from medico-legal consilia to political essays and reports of anatomical investigations – also enriches our view of medical practice, which included, but went beyond, the bedside. Furthermore, their activities demand that we reassess the complex place of anatomical investigations in a courtly society, and start recovering the fundamental role played by hospitals – those quintessential Catholic institutions – as sites of routine dissections for both medical teaching and research.

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