A Bridge Between Two Worlds: the Importance of the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia in the Transmission of Late Antique Medical Ideals in the Carolingian Empire
Keywords:history of medicine, Carolingian empire, lorsch abbey, lorsch pharmacopoeia, medical manuscripts, early medieval medicine
This article proposes to explore the value of early medieval medical writings, particularly those produced during the Carolingian Empire. While the value of early medieval medicine is largely disregarded in favor of foundational Greco-Roman medicine or the later renaissances of the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, it is nevertheless essential to the history of medicine as a bridge between those two eras. Further, though typically perceived of as a stagnant era due to a relative lack of scientific discourse and innovation when compared to the preceding and proceeding eras, manuscripts such as the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia, produced in the year 800 at the Abbey of Lorsch, with its peculiar preface, allows us a rare insight into the attitudes towards rational medicine commonly thought to be held throughout the Carolingian Empire. Though there is little evidence for standardized education at the time, and none whatsoever regarding medical education specifically, this article will consider the value of monasteries and their scriptorium in the preservation and spread of ancient medicines through both preaching and manuscript production. Thus, we can determine the scope and potential audience of the Lorsch Pharmacopeia and subsequently the necessity of such manuscripts to medical history as a whole.
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