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Sept 25, 1967

SS. Cosmas and Damian: The Patron Saints of Medicine in Art

Author Affiliations

From the Scientific Publications Division. American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1967;201(13):1021-1025. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130130047012

The ideologic and philosophical approach to disease and cure underwent a tremendous change in the early centuries after the birth of Christ. The mythological figures were replaced by new ones; the priests and priestesses of the Aesculaepial cult were forgotten, and in their place came priests of the new religion. With the spread of Christianity, the practice of healing coincided with the ministry of the church. Deacons and priests were held in esteem, and the combined professions attracted some of the best intellects of that time. However, scientific medicine was centuries away, and experimental inquiry into the causes of disease seemed a useless and culpable undertaking. In curing diseases, one relied primarily on God's help.

The influence of monotheism in medicine became evident in the teachings of Galen, who was not influenced by Christianity but by the then popular Judaic monotheism. He combined Judaism with Aristotle's philosophy and applied teleologic