Years -1600
1700 (to come)
2000+ (to come)



The need for medicine and doctors go way back. But since Christianity, Christians have contributed the most to society in areas of Medicine. The church is the largest single provider of healthcare in the world, some in the poorest countries where there is no other care. There is no close second provider. 

We will see inspiring stories of doctors who worked alongside God to bring care to those in need.



"I was sick, and you visited me," says the Lord at the final judgment, and when the righteous reply, "But Lord, we never saw you sick," the answer comes, "Whatsoever you do to the least of these my brothers, the same have you done unto me."  Christians are commanded to see in the face of every human being the face of Christ.  
Medieval hospitals were built to be beautiful. The architects and builders believed that the sick or dying should be comforted with beauty.  

They built hospitals outside of town for fresh air, and they decorated the insides of the hospitals with beautiful frescoes, beautiful works of art. They knew patients would spend their time looking at these works of art to occupy their mind rather than look at sterile and bare walls of today. Today, we look up and count the holes in the ceiling tiles, a far cry from Medieval times. 

Paintings that patients would see, lying in their sick or death bed would be Clemente de Torres 's painting of "The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine",  the young saint who had suffered so much in her body as she prayed and labored for the welfare of the Church. Knowing about this saint and her sufferings would bring new meaning to the souls of the suffering as they gaze upon this painting.










Or perhaps they would have seen Hans Memmling's "Return of the Prodigal Son", with the old father embracing the poor bedraggled lad, while a small white dog, tail held high, leaps up to greet him."









While gazing upon the "Return of the Prodigal Son" one can only imagine the comfort the sick and the weary soul would receive from looking upon God's love and forgiveness, as well as the joy of coming home perceived by the little family pet dog.

The first "Christians who built these hospitals never forgot that man has a soul as well as a body, and that he longs to leave his bed of illness to return to one home, or to another." [1]

Early Middle Ages hospitals were a part of monasteries where monks would minister to the sick and dying. Health care was always provided free to the poor.

"Every possible effort was made to take care of the patients' spiritual needs.  Upon entering the hospital, the patient, when a Catholic, went to confession and received Holy Communion, as the first steps in the healing process.  This provided spiritual peace of mind that often had its repercussion in the physical health of the body." [2]

Once admitted, the patient was seen as another Christ.  ...Every need was taken care of as if Christ himself were being served." [2]

Cleanliness, ventilation, linen sheets and fleecy blankets for warmth and comfort were always provided & important to these early hospitals. 

"Mindful of how God especially hears the prayers of the suffering, the patients, when Catholic, were enjoined to intercede for their benefactors, the authorities and all in distress.  To the extent that they could, theirs was the duty of prayer, Mass attendance and reception of the sacraments.  At night-fall, the wards might end the day with litanies where the "sick lords" of the house would pray for those in need of prayers.  In this way, the sick gave their BEST to reciprocate for the enormous charity extended to them.  Above all, this offering gave meaning and purpose to their suffering." [2]

"This impressive system was largely destroyed by the upheavals of the sixteenth century when the Church and her hospitals were despoiled and plundered.  The infamous suppression of the monasteries by England's Henry VIII in 1540 also suppressed the English healthcare system, leaving the poor in misery and putting an end to hospital building in that country for some 200 years." [2]

  Modern hospitals of today have all the advantages of the latest technology and cleanliness. But the sterility 

  pushed out the beauty that once was; the beginnings of the hospital.

[1] Magnificat Anthony Esolen. "How the Church Has Changed the World: The Church has always built hospitals." Magnificat (June, 2014): 217-221. 
[2] Horvat John Horvat II.  "Rediscovering the Ideal Healthcare Plan." Crisis Magazine (June 8, 2016).


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                        And Conscience 

The Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the Western World and the originator of “hospitals” for the common man. The hospitals put into practice the words of Christ:

“I was sick and you visited me”; “Whatever you have done to the least of my brethren, you have done unto me”;  and Jesus’ parable in Luke 10:25-37: “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'”







Saint Luke the Evangelist, one of the four writers of the Gospels, was said to be a physician.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world.[1] It has around 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, and 5,500 hospitals, with 65 percent of them located in developing countries.[2] In 2010, the Church's Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers said that the Church manages 26% of the world's health care facilities.[3] The Church's involvement in health care has ancient origins.



Several early Christian healers are honoured as Saints in the Catholic tradition:

Cosmas and Damian, brothers from Cilicia in Asia Minor, supplanted the pagan Asclepius as the patron saints of medicine and were celebrated for their healing powers.[12] Said to have lived in the late Third Century AD and to have performed a miraculous first leg transplant on a patient, and later martyred under the Emperor Diocletian, Cosmos and Damian appear in the heraldry of barber-surgeon companies.[12] 

Notable contributors to the medical sciences include: Tertullian (born A.D. 160), Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius and the learned St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636). St. Benedict of Nursia (480) emphasised medicine as an aid to the provision of hospitality.[13] 

The martyr Saint Pantaleon was said to be physician to the Emperor Maximinianus, who sentenced him to death for his Christianity. Since the Middle Ages, Pantaleon has been considered a patron saint of physicians and midwives.[14]

300's A.D.: St. Basil built a famous hospital at Cæsarea in Cappadocia which "had the dimensions of a city".[5] the first hospital.







St. Basil
400 A.D.: Saint Fabiola founded a hospital at Rome.  Saint Jerome wrote that Fabiola founded a hospital and :"assembled all the sick from the streets and highways" and "personally tended the unhappy and impoverished victims of hunger and disease... washed the pus from sores that others could not even behold".[8] 








Saint Fabiola                       Panorama of Siena's Santa Maria della Scala Hospital, one of Europe's oldest hospitals.


400 A.D. :  The Council of Nicea directed that every city having a cathedral should also have a hospital, as people traveling on pilgrimages would often arrive ill. 

The word “hosp” is Latin for “traveler,” the root word of hospital, hospitality, host, hostel and hotel.


660 A.D.:  One of the oldest hospitals in Europe was the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris, founded in 660 A.D.

1000-1100's: St Hildegard of Bingen is recognised as a doctor of the church, and was among the most distinguished of Medieval Catholic women scientists.

1206–1280:  Saint Albert the Great was a pioneer of biological field research; 

1276: John XXI was a medieval pope and physician who wrote popular medical texts.

1300’s: The Bubonic Plague, Black Death, ravaged Europe killing 75 million people. Crops were left standing in fields as there was no one to harvest them. With often no one to bury the dead, an order of Catholic men called “Alexian Brothers” collected the bodies and gave them a Christian burial. They also ministered to the dying who were banished from the cities. *









“Medieval Hospital” by Robert Alan Thom

1466-1536: Desiderius Erasmus helped revive knowledge of ancient Greek medicine, Renaissance popes were often patrons of the study of anatomy, and Catholic artists such as Michelangelo advanced knowledge of the field through sketching cadavers. 

1602 – 1680: The Jesuit Athanasius Kircher first proposed that living beings enter and exist in the blood (a precursor of germ theory). 

1633: The Sisters of Charity worked at the Hotel-Dieu of Paris. 

Saint Jeanne Jugan


1792-1879: The French Saint Jeanne Jugan founded the Little Sisters of the Poor who specialise in care for the aged.

1789: 6,000 Sisters of Charity ran 426 hospitals in France, as well as Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Silesia. *

During the atheistic French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Authorities demanded the Sisters of Charity deny their faith and submit to the new government. They chose to keep their faith, they were  rounded up and shot in front of firing squads or beheaded with the guillotine. *

(Georgetown Hospital was founded in 1898 as part of Georgetown University. Georgetown University was named for George Washington. Georgetown University was founded Jan. 23, 1789, by John Carroll, America’s first Catholic Bishop.) *

1790: Bishop John Carroll: “The Catholic faith had penetrated two provinces only, Maryland and Pennsylvania. In all the others the laws against Catholics were in force. Any priest coming from foreign parts, was subject to the penalty of death; all who professed the Catholic faith, were not merely excluded from offices of government, but hardly could be tolerated in a private capacity. … By the "Declaration of Independence", every difficulty was removed: the Catholics were placed on a level with their fellow-Christians, and every political disqualification was done away.” *

John Carroll was the cousin of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic to sign the "Declaration of Independence", the longest living of the signers, and the wealthiest man in America. John’s brother, Daniel Carroll, was one of two Catholics to sign the "U.S. Constitution", who provided the land where the Capitol is built and was elected a Congressman. John’s nephew, Robert Brent was the first mayor of Washington D.C., being reappointed by Jefferson and Madison. *

Bishop John Carroll wrote of Catholics who fought in the Revolution: “Their blood flowed as freely (in proportion to their numbers) to cement the fabric of independence as that of any of their fellow-citizens. They concurred with perhaps greater unanimity than any other body of men, in recommending and promoting that government, from whose influence America anticipates all the blessings of justice, peace, plenty, good order and civil and religious liberty.” *







Marianne Cope and other Sisters of St Francis                                                        St Damien of Molokai famously established a mission

with the daughters of leper patients,                                                                       among the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii.

at the Kakaʻako Branch Hospital, Hawaii.


The Catholic Church established many of the world's modern hospitals. 1880's. 

1822-1884: The Augustinian Gregor Mendel developed theories on genetics for the first time. As Catholicism became a global religion, the Catholic orders and religious and lay people established health care centres around the world. 

Women's religious institutes such as the Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of St Francis opened and operated some of the first modern general hospitals. And more Catholic religious orders were formed:
1633:  Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul 
1650:  Sisters of St. Joseph 
1809:  Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton brought the Sisters of Charity to the United States. Beginning in 1829, Sisters who immigrated largely from France and Ireland founded 299 hospitals in America in the 19th century, including:  Mayo Clinic, St. Vincent’s, Baltimore Infirmary *

1827:  Sisters of Mercy 
1830: Sisters of Charity established the first hospital west of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. 

1839:  Little Sisters of the Poor  
1843:  Sisters of Providence  
1851:  Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine 
1853-1856: Nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, who cared for the British troops during the Crimean War said: “What training is there to compare with that of a Catholic nun.” *

The nuns’ habit was the inspiration for the nurses' cap. *

"Catholic healthcare began with the focus of preparing a person’s soul for death and meeting God in “the hereafter,” Protestant healthcare [Protestant healthcare began in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution] focused more on “the here and now,” being motivated to clean up the slums in crowded cities and send medical missionaries to undeveloped countries."*

1864:  Fr. Damien’s colony for lepers in Hawaii 
1865-: At the request of President Lincoln, over 200 Sisters of Charity served during the  on battlefields and in military hospitals.*


A monument was erected in Washington, D.C., to the  “Nursing Nuns of the Battlefield,” with the inscription: “They comforted the dying, nursed the wounded, carried hope to the imprisoned, gave in His Name a drink of water to the thirsty. To the memory and in honor of the various orders of sisters who gave their services as nurses on battlefields and in hospitals during the Civil War. Erected by the ladies Auxiliary to the Ancient Order of Hibernians of America. A.D. 1924. By Authority of the Congress of the United States.”*

During the Civil War, U.S. Surgeon General Hammond reported to President Lincoln that volunteer nurses  “cannot compare in efficiency and faithfulness with the Sisters of Charity.”*

1872:  Sisters of St. Mary 
1877:  Sisters of the Little Company of Mary 
1883:  Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother 
1898:  Over 250 Sisters of Charity served during the Spanish-American War of where diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever and malaria killed more soldiers than combat.*

1950-1997: Mother Teresa said of the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity they are dedicated to: “Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor.”*

They began by gathering the sick from the gutters in India, and bathing them, clothing them, and ministering to their needs. Mother Teresa : “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”*


2010:  The government takeover of healthcare in America forces religiously motivated providers to abandon spiritual convictions. *

2010-2013: Cardinal Dolan, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “President Obama announced … the choking mandates from HHS would remain – a shock to me, since he had personally assured me that he would do nothing to impede the good work of the Church … that he considered the protection of conscience a sacred duty. … There was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon … Catholic charitable agencies … just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception.”*

2011 "Religious congregations like the Little Sisters of the Poor are flooded with youthful and cheerful young women who minister to the elderly poor in the medieval tradition.  Ironically, these same sisters were prosecuted by the government for failure to comply with government healthcare mandates that would make them complicit in distributing abortion-causing drugs to their employees." **

2012, May 21:  The Archdiocese of New York filed a historic federal lawsuit against the HHS mandate: “In order to protect our religious liberties from unwarranted and unprecedented government intrusion, the Archdiocese of New York has filed suit in federal court today seeking to block the recent Health and Human Services mandate that unconstitutionally attempts to define the nature of the Church’s religious ministry and would force religious employers to violate their consciences.”*

2012, Oct. 12: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops : “Last night, the … statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees. … That exemption … does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital’ … or any other religious charity.”*

2018, Jan. 22, : National Sanctity of Human Life Day : “Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children...Medical advances give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn. Today, citizens throughout our great country are working for the cause of life and fighting for the unborn, driven by love and supported by both science and philosophy. These compassionate Americans are volunteers who assist women through difficult pregnancies, facilitate adoptions, and offer hope to those considering or recovering from abortions. They are medical providers who, often at the risk of their livelihood, conscientiously refuse to participate in abortions. … Thankfully, the number of abortions, which has been in steady decline since 1980, is now at a historic low.” - President Donald Trump *

[ -  Bill Federer, traces historical importance of freedom of conscience] 


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MEDICAL-Christianity and Your Well-Being

The Gospel is not to be preached to people with the promise that it will bring health, wealth and happiness.  The cross of Christ is something we carry.  

We are called to give our lives sacrificially in obedience to Jesus, blessing others and overcoming evil with good.  That can be painful.

However, it does seem that as a side-effect that we are blessed with the fruits of the Holy Spirit which include joy, love and peace.

Recent research has backed up the fact that faith can add to your well-being:


• Study by the London School of Economics and Political Science, in 2015 a study of 9000 adults found that attending a religious service was better for your mental health than sports, charity work, political activity and even furthering your education.  Full report here:

• Godliness is the key to healthiness?  Does religion boost mental health?

• In 2006, the American Society of Hypertension established that church-goers have lower blood pressure than the non-faithful.

• Likewise, in 2004, scholars at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggested that college students involved in religious activities are more likely to have better mental and emotional health than those who do not.


• Meanwhile, in 2006, population researchers at the University of Texas discovered that the more often you go to church, the longer you live.

• The American Journal of Public Health, which studied nearly 2,000 older Californians for five years. Those who attended religious services were 36 per cent less likely to die during this half-decade than those who didn’t.

• In 1990, the American Journal of Psychiatry discovered believers with broken hips were less depressed, had shorter hospital stays and could even walk further when they were discharged compared to their similarly broken-hipped and hospitalised, but comparatively heathen peers.

• In 1998, the American Journal of Public Health found that depressed patients with a strong ‘intrinsic faith’ (a deep personal belief, not just a social inclination to go to a place of worship) recovered 70 per cent faster than those who did not have strong faith. 

• In 2008, Professor Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics and Doctor Orsolya Lelkes of the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research conducted a vast survey of Europeans. They found that religious believers, compared to non-believers, record less stress, are better able to cope with losing jobs and divorce, are less prone to suicide, report higher levels of self-esteem, enjoy greater ‘life purpose’ and report being more happy overall.

• 'People who attend church regularly seem to be happier than people who are not religious,' Prof Headey said.




Saint Basil of Caesarea










Icon of St. Basil the Great from the
St. Sophia Cathedral of Kiev



Saint Basil the Great  329 or 330-37

The history of hospitals has stretched over 2500 years, starting with precursors in the Ascelpian temples in ancient Greece and then the military hospitals in ancient Rome, though no civilian hospital existed in the Roman empire until the Christian period.[1]


Towards the end of the 4th century, the "second medical revolution"[2] took place with the founding of the first Christian hospital in the eastern Byzantine Empire by Basil of Caesarea, and within a few decades, such hospitals had become ubiquitous in Byzantine society.[3] 


Basil would gather victims: men, women, children, infants, all who were in distress from the famine in the land. He collected contributions of food and set before the starving people basins of soup and meat. 

Basil acquired land outside of Caesarea, and began to build.

Basil called his new building the House for Care of the Poor, but others soon called it the Basiliad, or simply the New City," in which became the first hospital. 

There were separate buildings for those who were afflicted by the plague, for those who were recovering, for lepers, for women in childbirth, and for people nearly starved from famine.  

There were schools to train the young to learn a trade, to be a mason, tanner, potter, or carpenter, gardener, or farmer. 


The first hospital, in the Medieval Times, out surpasses today's hospitals in that it clearly cared for the sick, in body, soul, and spirit, and with full charity, no monetary burden.  

MT 25:40 And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Old St. John's Hospital



The Hospital of St. John (Oud Sint-Janshospitaal) was a medieval hospital in Bruges. It was founded in the mid-12th century.

Located next to the Church of Our Lady, the premises contain some of Europe's oldest surviving hospital buildings.[1] The hospital grew during the Middle Ages and was a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for. The site was later expanded with the building of a monastery and convent. In the 19th century, further construction led to a hospital with eight wards around a central building.

Today part of the hospital complex holds the popular Hans Memling museum, named for the German-born Early Netherlandish painter, where a number of works, such as triptychs are displayed,[2] as well as hospital records, medical instruments and other works of art.[3]



Red Cross

St Camillus De Lellis

(May 25, 1550 - July 14, 1614)


Founder of the Red Cross

When we minister to the sick, we minister to Christ. (Mt 25: 40)

Camillus De Lellis was a very interesting man, and a bit of a rough character who gambled away all his possessions; and then found his calling after his conversion to God. He then dedicated his life to helping the sick and had a great success. Many owed their lives to his great work.

De Lellis established the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm (abbreviated as M.I.), better known as the Camillians.


His experience in wars led him to establish a group of health care workers who would assist soldiers on the battlefield. The large, RED CROSS on their cassock remains a symbol of the Congregation today. Camillians today continue to identify themselves with this emblem on their habits, a symbol universally recognized today as the sign of charity and service.


This was the original Red Cross, hundreds of years before the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was formed.

During the Battle of Canizza in 1601, while Camillians were helping with the wounded, the tent in which they were tending to the sick and in which they had all of their equipment and supplies was completely destroyed and burned to the ground. Everything in the tent was destroyed except the red cross of a religious habit belonging to one of the Camillians who was ministering to the wounded on the battlefield. This event was taken by the Camillans to manifest divine approval of the Red Cross of St. Camillus.

Members of the Order also devoted themselves to victims of Bubonic plague. It was due to the efforts of the brothers and supernatural healings by De Lellis that the people of Rome credited De Lellis with ridding the city of a great plague and the subsequent famine. For a time, he became known as the "Saint of Rome".

De Lellis' concern for the proper treatment of the sick extended to the end of their lives. He had come to be aware of the many cases of people being buried alive, due to haste, and ordered that the Brothers of his Order wait fifteen minutes past the moment when the patient seemed to have drawn his last breath, in order to avoid this.

The Red Cross was formed from this one man's passion for the sick and has spread worldwide to this day, centuries later.