Life Is Short, Art Long
The Art of Healing in Byzantium
11 February – 26 April 2015
Pera Museum, Istanbul
This exhibition takes its name from the famous aphorism by Hippocrates and examines the art and practice of healing in Byzantium from Roman times to the late Byzantine period.
Curated by Dr. Brigitte Pitarakis, Life Is Short, Art Long examines faith, magic, and rational medicine as methods of healing. It traces the “art of healing” from the foundations laid by Apollo and Asklepios, healers of antiquity, and Hippocrates and Dioscorides, the founders of rational medicine and also examines the roles of the physician saints. Among the other topics covered and objects on display are icons, reliquaries, and amulets, marble carvings, medical equipment, plants and herbs, medical and botanical manuscripts, and the centers of healing and miracle in Istanbul.
The exhibition reveals that the belief that illnesses were primarily caused by demons co-existed alongside a rational understanding of health and medicine based on the teachings of Hippocrates. The “art of healing” was practiced by physicians, saints, and magicians and involved practices ranging from surgery to daily cleansing of the body and the spirit to exorcism and the veneration of saints.
The works offering insight into Istanbul’s Byzantine past have been loaned from the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, the library of the Holy Trinity Monastery of Halki (Heybeliada), the Foundation of the Yeniköy Greek Orthodox Church of Panayia and School, the Rezan Has Museum, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, Oxford University Herbaria, the Benaki Museum in Athens, the Kastoria Byzantine Museum, and private collections.