Medical College

Montpellier was only two centuries old in 1181, when its Lord Guilhem VIII signed a surprising and far-reaching edict. He declared that anyone, regardless of religion or background, could teach medicine in Montpellier... And thus was born, at the end of the 12th century, what is today's oldest operating medical school in the occidental world. The Faculté de Médecine is located in the ancient halls of a medieval monastery and Episcopal palace, now open to visitors. (Subject matter of guided tours organised by the Tourist Office.)
Faculté de Médecine © Céline Escolano
 
The oldest College of medicine in France
Forty years later, in 1220, the College of Medicine was made official in Montpellier.

 

A new future for the city
This new body was to change the city's future and give it unprecedented international influence.
The College did not have buildings of its own until the early 14th Century. Lectures were given in the Regent's residence, while consultations were held in Saint Firmin church. Contemporary engravings in the College's anatomy museum show the realities of this teaching, with scenes of dissection being carried out in front of the students.

In 1340, the University founded an anatomy course, which soon made its reputation, attracting students from all over Europe.

 

Some highly prestigious practitioners

Large numbers of doctors came to train in Montpellier, some of whose names have been passed down through History.
In 1556, the College was the first in France to construct a lecture theatre dedicated to the examination of corpses. In 1593, the first botanical gardens were completed. These were created by Richer de Belleval, a doctor holding the chair of anatomy and botany, and were entirely dedicated to medicinal plants. They still exist today.

 

Among the great practitioners who taught at the College and the famous personalities who came to study there, the most notable are Arnaud de Villeneuve, Gui de Chauliac, Nostradamus, Jean d'Alais and Petrus Hispanus, the future Pope Jean XXI. There was also Guillaume Rondelet, François Rabelais, who obtained his doctorate of medicine here, François de Lapeyronie, the King's surgeon, who treated the sovereigns of Europe and founded the Academy of Surgery, and, later, Paul-Joseph Barthez, personal doctor to Louis XVI and Bonaparte, founder of biology...

 

In 1795, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, professor of chemistry, established a decree attributing to the university a former monastery adjoining the Saint-Pierre cathedral. This is the current College, which houses, amongst other treasures, a library of 900 manuscript volumes, 300 works dating from the early days of printing (incunabula), 100,000 volumes printed before 1800 and all the theses from the College of Montpellier and Paris since the 17th Century.

 

The great lecture hall, the Henri IV building, the anatomy building and the Institute of Biology were added in the 19th Century.

In the XIIth century and throughout the Middle Ages, medical students did not go to a specific place to attend lectures, but to their masters' homes.
However, by the end of the XVth century Montpellier had become so renowned that this disparate style of teaching was replaced with one main university building. The medical faculty was originally located in what is now the rue école de pharmacie.
Then, after the revolution it moved to new premises...and what amazing new premises they were; the site of the former St Benoît and St Germain monasteries which the Convention had confiscated from the diocese. It is exclusively with the Tourist Office that you can visit this incredible place and learn more about its history.
 
 

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Montpellier Tourist Office - 30, allée Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
34000 Montpellier - France
Tel. +33 (0)4 67 60 60 60 - Fax +33 (0)4 67 60 60 61
contact@ot-montpellier.fr

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