According to Wallis The Galenic view held that there were two forms of diseases: (1) fevers; and (2) apostemes. Fevers involved corrupt humours going inward and attaching the body's substance while apostemes were swellings involving the corrupt humors being thrown off to the surface of the body in its effort to rid itself of them. From this view, the sick corrupted the air around them via their skin, breath, and eyes. Vaugh ( ) notes that classical medical thought had been witnessed to meld with "folk or empiric practices and traditional beliefs." (p.55)

Jacme did connect the link between airborne germs and human sickness and his notions of waters that were tainted and human sickness were such that revealed knowledge in this area. Also, Jacme was knowledgeable about how when heat penetrated standing water rather than running water that human beings would become sick after contact with that water. Specifically stated by Jacme is

"Pestilence particular to one town may occur because the locality may be surrounded by pools, irrigation ditches, and basins full of water which does not drain off as in Tortosa and Oristaynn." (Reynals and Winslow, 1949, p.68)

It is now understood by modern science that standing water is a breeding pool for mosquitoes, which transmit disease from animals to humans and between human beings.

In another observation stated by Jacme which is somewhat humorous in light of the knowledge of today's science that Jacme believed that the "…presence of many trees, especially high ones such as poplars" cause ill health. The reality is that while Jacme believed that these trees "hinder the ventilation of the air" when in fact, it is known that trees give off the particular substance most needed by the human being and that being oxygen. (Reynals and Winslow, 1949, p.68) Jacme was correct when he notes that local pestilence is caused by filth and that to avoid such pestilence that the town "must take vigorous steps to avoid the throwing out of entrails and refuse of beasts or dead beasts near the town." (p.69) The Bubonic plague was "transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected flea" and was in fact a rodent disease as reported by Vaugh (, p.189) The crowding of a population in a city which results in a great deal of trash also results in a large population of rodents. When these rodents become infected and fleas bite the rodents and then bite humans, transfer of diseases such as the Bubonic plague also result.

Summary and Conclusion

The observations made by Jacme were those that science had not yet informed and were observations made in the light of folk beliefs regarding what causes sickness, pestilence, and the plague. The thoughts of Jacme on sickness were further influenced by religiosity and biblical principles of God punishing human beings for their sins although Jacme appears somewhat indifferent about this cause of sickness and it can be seen in his statements that this cause of sickness is used only when Jacme is unable to state other causes as the source of sickness or pestilence. While today's science demands empirical evidence-based proof and treatment, this was simply not the case in the day of Jacme when science, religiosity, and folk belief all intermingled in the practice of medicine.


Wallis, Faith (2010) Two Case Studies in Medieval Medicalization: Leprosy and Plague. Health and the Healer in Western History. Medicine and Medieval Science.

Duran-Reynals, ML and Winslow, CE (1949) Regiment de preservacio an epidimia o pestilencis e mortaldats. Epistole de Maestre Jacme d'Agramont als honrats e discrets seynnors pahers e conseyll de la Ciutat le leyda 1348. Regimen of Protections against Epidemics or Pestilence and Mortality."…