After Salerno the next great medical school was that of Montpellier in the South of France. The conditions which brought about its original establishment are very like those which occasioned the foundation of Salerno. Montpellier, situated not far from the Mediterranean, came to be a health resort. Patients flocked to it from many countries of the West of Europe; physicians settled there because patients were numerous, and medical instruction came to be offered to students. Fame came to the school. The fundamental reason for this striking development of the intellectual life seems to have been that Montpellier was not far from Marseilles, which had been a Greek colony originally and continued to be under Greek influence for many centuries. As a consequence of this the artistic and intellectual life of the southern part of France was higher during the earlier Middle Ages than that of any other part of Europe, except certain portions of South Italy. The remains of the magnificent architecture of the 61 Roman period are well known, and Provence has always been famous for its intellectual and literary life. Among a people who were in this environment, we might well look for an early renaissance of education.
It is not surprising, then, that one of the earliest of4 the medical schools of modern history around which there gradually developed a university should have come into existence in this part of the world. What is even more interesting perhaps for us, is that this medical school has persisted down to our own day, and has always been, for nenrly ten centuries now, a centre of excellent medical education.
There gathered around the story of its origin such legends as were noted with regard to the history of Salerno, and there is no doubt that Jewish and Moorish physicians who became professors there contributed not a little to the prestige of the school and the reputation that it acquired throughout Europe. The attempt to attribute all of the stimulus for the intellectual life at Montpellier to these foreign elements is, however, simply due to that paradoxical state of mind which has so often tried to minimize the value of Christian contributions to science and the intellectual life, even by the exaggeration of the significance of what came from foreign and un-Christian sources.
Proper recognition must be accorded to both Jewish and Moorish factors at Montpellier, but the one important element is that these foreign professors brought with them, even though always in rather far-fetched translations, the ideas of the great Greek masters of medicine to which the region and the people around Montpellier were particularly sensitive, because of the Greek elements in the population, and hence the development of a significant centre of education here.
The date of the rise of the medical school at Montpellier is, as suggested by Puschmann, veiled in the obscurity of tradition. There seems to be no doubt that it goes back to as early as the tenth century, it was already famous in the eleventh, and it attracted students from all over Europe during the twelfth century. When Bishop Adalbert of Mainz came thither in 1137, the school possessed buildings of its own, as we learn from the words of a contemporary, Bishop Anselm of Havelberg. St. Bernard in a letter written in 1153 tells that the Archbishop of Lyons, being ill, repaired to Montpellier to be under the treatment of thè physicians there. Perhaps the most interesting feature of this letter is the fact that the good Archbishop not only spent what money he had with him on physicians, but ran into debt.
The two schools, Salerno and Montpellier, came to be mentioned by writers of the period as representing the twins of medical learning of the time. John of Salisbury, a writer of the early thirteenth century, declares that those who wished to devote themselves to medicine at this time went either to Salerno or Montpellier. iEgidius or Gilles de Corbeil, the well-known physician, and Hartmann von der Aue, the Meistersinger, both mention Salerno and Montpellier, usually in association, in their writings, and make it very clear that in the West at least the two names had come to be almost invariably connected as representing rival medical schools of about equal prominence.
The reputation of Montpellier spread in Italy also, however, and we have the best evidence for this from an incident that took place in Rome at the beginning of the thirteenth century, which is more fully dwelt on in the chapter on Medieval Hospitals. Pope Innocent III. wanted to create a model hospital at Rome, and made inquiries as to who would be best fitted to organize such an institution. He was told of the work of Guy or Guido of Montpellier, who was a member of the Order of the Holy Ghost and had made a great hospital at Montpellier. Accordingly Guy was summoned to Rome, and the establishment of the Santo Spirito Hospital was entrusted to him. It was on the model of this that a great many hospitals were founded throughout the world, for Pope Innocent insisted that every diocese in Christianity should have a hospital, and Bishops who came on formal visits to the Holy See were asked to inspect the Santo Spirito for guidance in their own diocesan hospital establishments. Many of the hospitals throughout the world came as a result to be hospitals of the Holy Ghost and this contribution alone of Montpellier to the medical world of the time was of great significance and must have added much to her prestige.
Hoi,Y Ghost Hospital (Lübeck).
From " The Thirteenth : Greatest of Centuries" by J. J. Walsh.
Montpellier, like Salerno, seems to have attracted students to its medical school from all over the world. There were undoubtedly many English there, and probably also Irish and Scotch, though the journey must have been much longer and more difficult to make than is that from America to Europe at the present time. Of course there came many from Spain and from North France and the Netherlands. The fact that a number of Italians went there before the close of the Middle Ages shows how deeply interested were the men of this time in knowledge for its own sake, and indicates that something of that internationality of culture which we are priding ourselves on at the present time, because our students from all countries go far afield, for postgraduate work and there is an interchange of professors, existed at this period.