Studenica – cradle of Serbian health

Historical facts indicate the first serbian hospital called “The Holy Spirit” in Studenica was founded by St. Sava in 1207. Upon his return from Hilandar St. Sava and a group of monks had started to pay much attention to the feeble monks and inhabitants of nearby villages, who were sick, in one of the monastery buildings. At first, the treatment prescribed was in the form of repose and pray. But St. Sava realized the difference between the sickness of the body and soul. So, persons with leprosy were placed separately and every starving person was fed.

The birth and development of serbian medieval medicine is thanks to Rastko Nemanich – St. Sava. He also founded the first hospitals in Hilandar Monastery in 1191 and in Studenica Monastery in 1208.

In the time of his life people called him “A living Saint”. His achievements are great in different areas. St. Sava is considered an initiator of  the scientific medicine and pharmacology, a creator of the first scientific works, and an author of the first Set of laws in Serbia. On his travels he was collecting traditional herbs and medicinal plants, taking notes, writing books. As a direct result of this, the Serbs had the most advanced treatment based in Byzantine, Italian and French medicine.

Already then the most popular medicine books were translated from Latin.

In the 12th century the Serbs already knew the writings of Hippocrates and Dioskorid. That period has marked the start of the development in the area of medicine  and pharmacology. St. Sava with his father Stefan Nemanja, who had refused the Throne and became a monk, founded the first hospital in Hilandar. One year later he created “The Hilandar Charter”, the first written Chart of the monastery life. This Charter obliged monks to care of patients.

Upon his return from the Holy Mountain in 1208 he opened the first hospital in Serbia in Studenica Monastery. The hospital was called “The Holly Spirit”. There was the first mental illnesses ward in this hospital. Such patients were placed separately. In 1215 St. Sava wrote another Charter of Studenica Monastery,  which contains some guidelines of the nursing. Monks took care of the sick and wounded by medicines and prayer.

Principles of treatment in these hospitals were the same as guidelines in first European hospitals. In addition, there were hospices for patients with incurable diseases and for the people, who have no families. The hospital in Studenica was the real medical institution and has its place in the history of European Medicine.

The article “St. Sava’s Hospital in Studenica Monastery” by Relja Katich says that the Serbs with Hilandar Hospital and their medical works from the 12th and 13th century became part of the history of European medicine.

Serbian Medicine of that period was familiar with the works of ancient authors such as Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen. As well as authors of well-known Alexandrian school, early Byzantine school, medicine school in Montpellier etc.

And on top of all they have a handwritten copy of the oldest serbian compendium, original of which was lost at the end of 13th or the beginning of 14th century.

That fact had been proved by activity of St. Sava, who examined thoroughly the structure of Byzantine hospitals and specific medicines of that days.

As described in “The St. Sava’s life” he visited Sultan of Alexandria on his way back from Jerusalem. Sultan gave him a lot of arab medicine for treatment of wounds, increase of immunity and etc. Now we also recognize the effectiveness of Arab medicine.

All these facts prove that Serbian medicine is based on substantive knowledge of ancient and Byzantine physicians, not in “Ignorant empiricism”.

It’s obviously, Western medicine also had an impact on the development of Serbian medieval medicine.

Studenica Monastery has now only one of medicine manuscripts. The rest were lost before. This manuscript is handwritten copy of John Damascene’s work about a human and what it means to be human. Today this manuscript is situated in the library of the University of Bologna. The first hospital in the territory of Serbia is one of the most important monuments of Serbian medicine and Serbian culture at all.  As well as the hospital in Studenica Monastery.

St. Sava propagated moderation in everything, a harmonious and balanced life, consistency in faith and the power of prayer as something that helps achieving healthier and longer life.

St. Sava passed away on 12 January 1235 in Bulgaria due to illness, coming back from Jerusalem. His body was moved to Milesheva, that has become a place of pilgrimage. Relics of St. Sava are inexhaustible source of inspiration and energy, a cure for disease and a support in difficulties.

The progress of medieval medicine has been stopped as a result of the attack of the Turks. They burned St. Sava’s relics and scattered the ashes. Turks wanted to punish Serb people for insubordination. So St. Sava’s spirit became immortal permanently.

Today the testament of the founder of Serbian medicine is stored in Health Center in Studenica.