Christian remedies: relics and dream faces

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Christian remedies: relics and dream faces
Christian remedies: relics and dream faces

Christus medicus

When all medical art had failed, the Christian trusted in God and the saints. But such grace required godly works and an enabling environment.

Bishop Gregory of Tours (538/539–594), historian, author of biographies of important saints and venerated as a saint himself, reported a dream he had when he was about eight years old. In it, an unknown person told him how his father's severe gout could be cured. The boy told his mother, and she told him to follow the instructions. Gregory made a stick and wrote "Joshua" on it in ink, according to the Old Testament this was the commander of Moses and his successor. The wood was placed under the father's pillow and healing was instantaneous.

Of course, God Himself had revealed therapy to the boy. In the early Middle Ages, the Christian faith apparently did not exclude magical practices, the form of which sometimes suggests an origin from pagan times. A later dream of Gregor's about the same clinical picture underlined this, since the renewed attack of gout was now being fought with smoke from burning fish innards. This was a reference to the biblical Book of Tobit. Namely was blinded and was cured by fish bile that his son put in his eyes after breathing on his father.

In the further course of the Middle Ages, dealing with illness remained a mixture of magical, partly Christian actions with ancient ideas and the empirical knowledge of monastic medicine. Given the stereotypes of an ecclesiastical patronage of the Middle Ages, and in particular the ubiquitous theme of sin, the sources surprisingly seldom provide strict recommendations that sickness is a punishment or test from God that only God can heal, albeit first appeased by prayer and penance…

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