Urbi et orbi salus.

"Urbi et orbi salus" (Health to the City and the World) is the device for the Paris Faculty of Medicine.

I had the opportunity to visit the “Ecole de Médecine” accompanied by a retired medical doctor and a chief librarian. I could listen to a lot of medical history and thought I should try to relate a bit of what I remember.

When universities started to appear in Europe during the 11th and 12th centuries, Medicine was one of the sciences, under control by the Church. It was however only during the latter part of the 15th century that a special school building was created in Paris, Rue de la Bûcherie, on the corner of what then was called the Rue des Rats. (Yes, rats were frequent here, the Seine river flooded…).  This place was an obvious choice, as it was in the immediate neighbourhood of the hospital “Hôtel Dieu”, with 7th century origins and which occupied space in front of Notre Dame and later also on the opposite side of the Seine branch, linked by a bridge (Pont au Double). These hospital buildings disappeared during the latter part of the 19th century and the present hospital “Hôtel Dieu” was built, again close to the Notre Dame.

The school building is still there, of course not quite in its original shape – today occupied by some Paris City administration. One can especially notice the amphitheatre from 1745.

These premises were however abandoned a few decades later… and the Medical sciences were spread out to different places until they moved to what now is called the Rue de l’Ecole du Médecine.

I made a comparison between a 1790 city plan and “Google Earth”, which hopefully explains where the buildings are or were. …
                             Schools                                                                      Hôtel Dieu   

… and this illustration should help to find the places referred to below.

It’s maybe necessary to say a few words about what used to be the difference between “medicine” and “surgery”.  Medical Doctors were since the 13th century on dictate by the Church not allowed to intervene physically on patients, to let blood flow… This job was left to “barber-surgeons” who executed on their own or were directed by the Medical Doctors. This was also the separation during anatomy lessons. However, surgery slowly became accepted as a proper and important discipline – thanks to fortunate surgery interventions on some royals.

On Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine you can still (at no. 5) find an amphitheatre, constructed for the surgeons, 1691-94, with special concern about the light. (Later it became an art school and today you learn English here.)

The surgical activities moved in 1775 to a “Ecole de Chirurgie” (Surgery School) on the opposite side of the street (no. 12), built 1669-74, in an antique Greek style. The building became an “Ecole de Médecine” in 1795 when surgery also became a medical discipline.

The original building is now the central part of a much larger complex, where additional buildings were added 1878-1905 with a long façade towards Boulevard Saint Germain.

Some photos from the inside:
First the amphitheatre, part of the central original building. Different from the previous amphitheatres, this is only a half circle. It originally had a roof hole open to rain – now covered. Light was important.

The part of the complex which was later added offers some fantastic halls and staircases. On a wall I could find the original large painting representing Doctor Charcot (see previous post about the hospital Salpêtrière).

The walls of the large directorate room are decorated by tapestries from Louis XIV’s bedroom at Versailles!!

The large library offers some 400 thousand books and works from the 14th century and later, some 500 thousand medical theses…  , but the students all sit in front of a PC screen.

Since the 1950’s there are hardly any lectures given in these buildings, which, except for the library, are rather related to the administration of the Faculty René Descartes. 

This is also the case with the Ecole de Médecine buildings on the opposite side of the street which house the administration of the Faculty Pierre and Marie Curie. Until the Revolution you found here a Franciscan monastery, the “Couvent des Cordeliers”. During the revolutionary years it became the meeting place for the “Club des Cordeliers” (Danton, Marat, Desmoulins…). Later, almost all has been rebuilt, partly designed to refer to the old convent style, some green space, a lot of statues… 

Of the old buildings remains only the old refectory where I could not enter as there was a “fashion week” event. I could however climb the steps of the old tower stairs.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for all your posts, I look in every day. Lucy

Maria said...

Beautiful pictures and very good information.

Thérèse said...

Quelle belle devise!
Incroyable les tapisseries dans la salle du Conseil!

Olivier said...

encore une superbe ecole-musée.

Cezar and Léia said...

Wonderful article dear Peter!Well done!
I like a lot the staircase compositions!

Elizabeth at Eiffel Tells said...

A fascinating post. Thank you

Alain said...

Des professions dont on aimerait bien pouvoir se passer.

claude said...

A nouveau, ce matin, je parfais mes connaissances sur ma ville. Merci pour les infos et les belles photos.

Adam said...

Great behind the scenes views Peter, but again - like a lot of Paris - it looks more like a museum than a working institution!

Studio at the Farm said...

Thank you, Peter. This was a most interesting and well-researched post.

Virginia said...

Interesting post and photos as always Peter. I'm so glad you are invited along to such places so you can share with all of us. Those worn steps reminded me of our trek to the dome of the Sacre Coeur. I"m still tired! :)

Synne said...

I wonder how you know all these places and stories, Peter... This post was very interesting! I love the atmosphere in old teaching quarters!
By the way, I don't have internet at home yet, so I'm lagging behind with ..you know, everything. I am looking forward to popping in more frequently when I don't have to buy coffee to surf. Otherwise, Paris really agrees with me so far. Hope you're well!

Cergie said...

De nombreuses histoires de carabin ? Tu n'en as pas au moins une bonne à raconter que tu aurais retenue ? Ou une chanson à chanter ?

Starman said...

Great photos and great narrative. We learn so much from you!

Parisbreakfasts said...

I go here all the time but never inside. Lucky you!
There's a good copy shop in the corner and a nice viennoise cafe around the corner..