Montpellier is home to the oldest practicing medical school in the world. The Faculty of Medicine was created in the 12th century and sees around 5,000 students pass though its halls. Here is a brief history of one of Montpellier’s finest legacies.
Medical education in Montpellier was born out of practice at the beginning of the 12th century. From around 1122, it only took under a century for its humble medical landscape of traders and doctors from the Arab and Jewish worlds to evolve into an acknowledged medical school Universitas medicorum.
The Faculty of Medicine lies in a former Benedictine monastery, consisting of an abbey chapel with four towers (now Montpellier’s Cathédrale Saint-Pierre) and three buildings overlooking an inner courtyard surrounded by a cloister. In 1795, The Faculty of Medicine officially took residence in this historic building. Since then, of course, there have been additions and adaptations, such as an extensive library, administrative departments and so on.
At the entrance to the medical school, there are two dominating statues, one placed either side of the large arched doorway. These are two of the school’s most famous professors. Francois de la Peyronie (1678-1747) sits on the left. In 1736, La Peyronie became first surgeon to King Louis XV and as such, managed to negotiate certain facilities at the school in Montpellier, much to the jealously of other medical schools. On the right is the famed vitalist, Paul Joseph Barthez.
‘On location’, if you like, is the Musée d’Anatomie. This museum is part of the Faculty of Medicine and showcases over 5,600 pieces linked to the study of human anatomy. Guided tours can be arranged by the Tourist Office and it is a must-see if you are interested in Montpellier’s medical past and present.
Jardin des Plantes
Montpellier’s Botanical Garden was created in 1593 to help students of Montpellier’s Medical School to familiarise themselves with medicinal plants. It is a stone’s throw away from the school and on top of that use, today, it is a gorgeous green hideaway for visitors and locals alike.