Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Anatomical Theater at the Archiginnasio in Bologna

Built in 1637 by the Bolognese architect Antonio Paolucci, detto Levanti, the theater is constructed of fir and was designed to provide a space for the study of the anatomy of the human body. A cello-shaped marble slab in the center of the room would have supported the specimen, while benches rising in three rows around the room allowed medical students to view the procedure. 
The professor lectured students from a baldaquin supported by slightly disturbing flayed telamons at the rear of the room while an assistant performed the operation. The theater is surrounded by sculptures of great physicians from history including Galan, Hippocrates and the Bolognese Gaspare Tagliacozzi depicted holding a human nose (in the corner by the window below).

Medicine in the 17th century revolved around the belief that the body was composed of a harmony of separate humours. If these humours became imbalanced, the body, like a musical instrument, would fall out of tune.
Medicine was seen as a retuning of the harmony of the body, depending not only on the conditions of the case, such as air, water and specific circumstances, but on the celestial music of the heavens. Thus, the complex astrological information surrounding a patient's birth could directly influence his cure. The astrological signs are depicted above the theater in the coffers of the ceiling surrounding Apollo the god of healing.