When we look at the Portuguese monumental heritage, it is interesting to see how monasteries/convents/abbeys stand out from the landscape, both rural and urban: Stª Maria das Júnias, S. Cristóvão de Lafões, Stª Maria de Alcobaça, São João de Tarouca, Convento de Cristo, Jerónimos…
It is still amazing that those who wanted to hide from the world have built the most imposing architectural complexes of the Middle Ages.
This paradox derives precisely from the way monastic life has been structured over time, which reflects on the architectural design of the convent, adjusted to meet the needs of a community that strived for self-sufficiency.
Organised around the church and the cloisters, the architectural plan has undergone several adjustments until a final model was reached. The location of the rooms reconciles the need for silence with the inevitability of noise. Room distribution obeys a spatial hierarchy logic according to function, use and connectivity. Rooted on the Rules and Statutes of religious orders, monastic architecture is the expression of a true ideal of life based on the original motto pray and work.
The infirmary and the apothecary's earn their own place. With specific functions, they are equipped with all sort of furnishings and raw-materials. Almost every monastery has a garden of medicinal plants that were used as galenic antidotes to cure all kinds of ailments.
It is interesting to compare architectural plans of mediaeval convents, except for those of Carthusians (St. Bruno), and observe how the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Gall has served as a model for other convents or monasteries.
In this model, the infirmary building occupied a significant area to the northeast of the main Chapel. It is a real complex that includes the infirmary with cloister, the doctors' quarters, the bloodletting room, a heated room, the dormer, a room for gravely ill patients, a bathhouse, the infirmary's kitchen, the refectory, a chapel and, of course, the herbal garden.
Adopted by the Cluniac order, this model spreads, but it was above all from Citeaux and Clairvaux, following the rebellion of the white monks (which has given rise to the Cistercians and Templars) that it would be adopted throughout Europe till the 17th century, due to its effectiveness and functionality.
While featuring some innovations, the apothecary's and the infirmary of the Convent of Mafra (18th century) still maintain many of the functional characteristics that have proved effective over time.
Prayer to Saints Cosmas and Damian
Remedy to take full advantage of medicines and relieve pain of which Saints Cosmas and Damian are patrons
God, Almighty Lord, who have healed with the antidote of your blood your servants Saints Cosmas and Damian, freeing them from the disease of sin: grant us the grace that by their merits we may be delivered from all evil, and that comforted and fed with the medicine of your precious blood come to achieve real life in your presence. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer to St. Blaise
Effective remedy for the dangers of the throat, and protection from afflictions, of which St. Blaise is the patron saint.
God, and Lord, who rejoices us with the annual celebration of your blessed Martyr and Pontiff St. Blaise, may you grant us that, by your intercession and protection from afflictions, we may be delivered from every evil of body and soul and that, free and relieved, we will praise the glory of your grace forever. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.