Monkish Medicine


It would be almost certain that the monks of Revesby Abbey would be the acknowledged physicians for the treatment of the many ailments suffered by the Medieval populace. However, the likely painful treatment would more often make the patient’s condition worse. 

Monks with very limited experience, apart from castrating animals and having access to a few medical books, performed surgery on human beings. Medicine was almost certainly derived from plants or a form of crude concoction made from a mysterious recipe. The terrible illness that plagued those times was complex. Ultimately, this led to the creation of some very excruciating medical treatment, it was not a very pleasant period to be a medical patient. The common way to relieve pain amongst sick people was to inflict more pain upon them by some very excruciating medical treatments.

Here are a few examples of interesting treatments.

Eye Surgery

A painful process called “Needling” to perform cataract surgery. It involved a thick flat needle, which the “Administrator” would push directly into the edge of a person’s cornea, with no anaesthetics, except for maybe a cup of bitter red wine. The idea behind this technique was to push the opaque lens back into the lowest part of the eye, which would result in a clear pupil. However, the ailing patient was typically left with an unfocused eye, sort of like a camera with no lens. The amount of vision would not be enough to read the Bible, but enough to plough a field.

Blood Letting

Regardless of your illness, you would probably have been prescribed the classic bloodletting treatment.  A “physician” would open a vein with a lancet, the resulting blood flow would evidently carry bad humours out of the body.


St. Fiacre is known as the “patron of haemorrhoids.”  The tale says that St. Fiacre, a seventh century Irish monk who suffered from the disease, sat on a hard rock and was miraculously cured of his illness. Some medieval monks who believed in the tale would send their patients to sit on a rock for a few hours to cure themselves of the disease. As a useless treatment, however, it was not nearly as painful as what other less superstitious monks prescribed their patients. The more scientific monks would insert a red-hot iron tube up the person’s rectum and then call it a day.


Trepanning is a surgical procedure that involves the drilling or boring of a hole into the human skull. This painful hole exposes the dura mater, an outer membrane of the brain and used to treat an array of different health problems. Monks may have used this practice in the Middle Ages to treat illnesses like epilepsy, migraines and a variety of mental disorders. If you were suffering from depression, a little hole to the head was in order. Unfortunately, the hole to the head commonly exposed the brain to airborne germs, and it often proved fatal for patients.

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