INNOCENT III AND THE EVOLUTION OF ANATOMY
O’NEILL, YNEZ VIOLS
Medical History, Vo.20:4 (1976)
The first recorded instance of an autopsy in Western Europe is generally believed to be the one found in the chronicle of Fra Salimbene, the peripatetic Franciscan, who described the malady that swept through the cities of Northern Italy during the sad, bleak winter of 1286 in the following passage:
For in Cremona, Parma, Reggio, and in many other cities and dioceses of Italy, there were many deaths among men and hens in a short period of time. And a certain physician had some of these opened up,and he found an abscess in the heart of each hen. There was at the point of the heart of each of the hens,a small vesicle.He also had a dead man opened, and he found the same.’ The purpose of the dissection performed by the unnamed Cremonese physician as described by Salimbene was to determine morphologically the origin of epidemic death.