// medical theory
According to this medical belief, it is said that the environment of a pregnant woman can directly affect the infant; through visual influences, fear, or specific personal experiences that would have had a strong impact on the mother, because it was thought that the mother’s soul was linked to the soul of her foetus. Even the desire for a particular type of food could influence the child’s skin. Or if a woman had been frightened by something while simultaneously touching a part of her body, the baby would have a birthmark exactly in that place. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, many renowned medical scientists and biologists embraced the maternal impression theory. One of them was Ambroise Paré, who referred to this theory to explain one of the nine causes for “monstrous births”.

//Example of an medical illustration in the 14th century with watercolour.
//A Surgeon is operating on the herina. Illustrated by Frugardo Ruggero.
//Ecole de Medicine 89, Montpellier

//Surgeons cut under tongue for podagra (top left); hemorrhoids (bottom right),
//12th Centruy (third quater),
//British Museum, London


// illustrated story // the bear baby of 14th century Rome
We are in 14th century Rome, where people still practice the medical theories of Hippocrates and Gallen. For centuries, sincethe days of Gallenn’s practice in the 2nd century, the Church forbade the opening and viewing of the interior of human bodies because it was considered against God’s will. Therefore, people believed in theories that were founded on speculation and on the dissection of animals. One night, during the first year of Pope Martin IV’s pontificate, a woman who belonged to the noble family of Ursini gave birth to an awful creature: a baby full of hair and with claws like a bear. Learned scholars attributed this birth defect to a painting of a bear, which the woman had in her bedchamber. They believed that her looking at that painting directly affected the baby’s appearance. When the Pope heard of the event, he ordered (somewhat irrationally), that all pictures and statues of bears in Rome were to be destroyed.

//// pictures by Luis Espinheira