From diagnosis by monks and treatment by prayer to complex surgery and therapies provided by highly trained professional heath workers, hospitals have changed beyond recognition since medieval times. How and why did hospitals change? It is best to explore this question by breaking it into four broad time periods.
It is not without reason that the medieval period is often referred to as a time when medicine stood still. The majority of physicians were members of the Catholic Church, an institution that was typically unreceptive to new ideas and innovation. Few people outside the clergy could read and books were expensive, giving the church a monopoly on the dissemination of knowledge. As such, medics continued to rely on knowledge and techniques first used more than 1,000 years earlier by Ancient Greek and Roman thinkers like Hippocrates and Galen.
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