Before UMCU existed, there was…

Being ill in the Middle Ages was no fun, was it?

In 1529, the Johannites had turned the Catharijneconvent into a hospital. The Order of the Johannites was a centuries-old, Dutch order of knights who took care of the sick. The first Johanniter hospitals focused on caring for sick pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, Palestine. According to the Johannite rules, drawn up in 1182, trained doctors always had to be present, in order to recognise the various diseases and prepare medicines. With time, the hospitals also became accessible to the local population. As you can see, this 19th century painting depicts the sick quarters. You can see the ill lying in box beds down both sides of the hall. On occasion, you also see two people in one box bed. You can also see the surgeons walking around. Their surgical methods were often painful and not very effective!

Being ill in the Middle Ages was no fun, was it?

The Johannite hospitals were way ahead of their time. In the Middle East, the Johannites were introduced to Islamic medicine which was way ahead in matters of hygiene. Each patient had their own mattress and two clean sheets at their disposal. There were even special cots for babies.

UMCU’s predecessor

You are standing in front of the entrance to the UMC Utrecht's forerunner. Opposite the main entrance is a little gate with the inscription: Nosocomium Reip(ublicae) Traject(inae), or Hospital of the States of Utrecht. In 1636, the Catharijne hospice was the first City and Academic Hospital of Utrecht. In those days it was known as the Nosocomium. The man on the illustration was in charge of the hospital, his name was Willem van der Straaten. He was known for being stingy. He thought a carriage was far too expensive. So, he did all his house calls on foot, which was highly unusual.

Van der Straaten, ‘that bloody good nitwit’

Van der Straaten held old-fashioned ideas on medicine. He clung on to ancient Roman medicine. He believed the human body consisted of four bodily fluids. Too much or a lack of any of these fluids would disrupt someone's mental or physical health and cause disease. The British doctor, William Harvey, had discovered blood circulation in 1628, but Van Der Straaten held on to his old ideas about the tidal movements of blood. When Van Der Straaten passed away, his close friend Constantijn Huygens wrote 16 poems about him 'The blood circulation never went to Van der Straaten's head, the bloody good nitwit.' Huygens couldn't stop talking about it: 'Citizens of The Hague, you have always seen me do my house calls on foot, without moaning, through thick and thin, through rain and mud. But tell me, have you ever seen so much doctor's blood flow, on and on?'

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