[Thesis defense] 8/12/23: Claire CLÉMENT: "Medicine and the medical environment at the papal court of Avignon (1305-1414)" (CIHAM)

Research news 27 November 2023

Title of the thesis

"Medicine and the medical environment at the papal court of Avignon (1305-1414)

Date and place

8 December 2023, 2pm
Avignon University, Hannah Arendt campus, thesis room






  • Marilyn Nicoud

Composition of the jury

  • Ms Isabelle Heullant-Donat, HDR, URCA, Rapporteur
  • Mr Étienne Anheim, HDR, EHESS Rapporteur
  • Mr Guido Castelnuovo, HDR, Avignon University Examiner
  • Mr Armand Jamme, HDR, CNRS, Examiner
  • Mr Joël Chandelier, University of Paris 8, Examiner
  • Ms Marilyn Nicoud, HDR, Avignon University, Thesis supervisor

Summary of the thesis

How can we characterise the medical milieu that developed in Avignon when the popes settled there? This is the question that underpins this thesis, which seeks to get as close as possible to those involved in this medical socialisation. Barbers, surgeons, apothecaries and, of course, doctors were the main protagonists. By drawing up a prosopography of 324 health professionals in Avignon, the aim here is to put these individuals into context. A micro-historical study of some of these trajectories reveals how these practitioners came to form a profession. By cross-referencing sources of practice and intellectual production, we are able to relate learned medicine - that of treatises and regimes - to the reality of the Avignon medical market. The social demand for medical care was primarily that of pontiffs and cardinals. Attracting the services of renowned university practitioners became a symbol of prestige. The presence of these medical practitioners at court also fuelled the political authorities' interest in the public good. Here, we attempt to understand the movement between town doctors and court doctors. Often opposed to each other, these two types of practitioner were in fact to be found in more than one field. So many elements that point to the penetration of the medical field into society, and that can be described as the first form of 'medicalisation'. Once its practices have been understood and characterised, Avignon's medical community can be observed in the light of events. The 14th century saw the Great Plague and its outbreaks, which enabled medical practitioners to extend their reach into the city. In this respect, they were formidable accelerators of the professionalisation of medical practice. In the aftermath of the plague, collaboration between healthcare professionals and the authorities was strengthened. The medical practitioner became a figure of authority, whose expertise extended beyond epidemics. Medicine provided an opportunity to become part of the court and domesticity of the prelates and the pope. This was the social elevation sought by those who wanted to practise their art at the highest level, and reap the rewards.

Mots clés associés
thesis defence