Petrus Hispanus (circa 1215-1277) and ‘The Treasury of the Poor’

Pope John XXI (Petrus Hispanus)
Pope John XXI (Petrus Hispanus)
Pope John XXI (Petrus Hispanus)

Petrus Hispanus (circa 1215-1277) and ‘The Treasury of the Poor’

Renzo Console and Christopher Duffin

Pharmaceutical Historian: Vol. 42, No. 4, December (2012)


The medical Pope

The identity of Petrus Hispanus is a matter of some controversy. Part of the problem is centred on the fact that ‘Hispanus’ covers the general region of the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in medieval times as ‘las Españas’ (the Spains), incorporating both present day Spain and Portgual. It is eminently conceivable that more than one Peter from this area was active at the same time. The interpretation that the name Petrus Hispanus referred to a single scholar has recently been challenged with the suggestion that three contemporary individuals might fall under this titular umbrella, one becoming Pope, a second (Petrus Hispanus Portugalensis) writing about the soul, and the third (Petrus Hispanus medics) being primarily physician.

The traditional stance is that Pedro Julião was born in Lisbon sometime between 1210 and 1215. Following his early education at the cathedral school in Lisbon, he went on to study at the University of Paris. Here, he attended the lectures of Albertus Magnus (1193 or 1202-1280) the German Dominican Friar. Following a distinguished teaching career at Cologne, Regensburg, Freiburg, Strasbourg and Hildesheim, Magnus arrived in Paris in 1245. Here, he completed his doctorate and taught as an influential master of theology on dialectics and logic and the Aristotelian physics and metaphysics. In addition to Petrus Hispanus, who studied medicine and completed his degree in 1247, Magnus counted Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) the Italian Dominican priest, among his students.

Click here to read this article from Pharmaceutical Historian

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!