Abella, often known as Abella of Salerno or Abella of Castellomata, was a physician in the mid fourteenth century.[1] Abella studied and taught at the Salerno School of Medicine.[1] Abella is believed to have been born around 1380, but the exact time of her birth and death is unclear.[2] Abella lectured on standard medical practices, bile, and women's health and nature at the medical school in Salerno.[1] Abella, along with Rebecca de Guarna, specialized in the area of embryology.[3] She published two treatises: De atrabile (On Black Bile) and De natura seminis humani (on the Nature of the Seminal Fluid), neither of which survive today.[4] In Salvatore De Renzi's nineteenth-century study of the Salerno School of Medicine, Abella is one of four women (along with Rebecca de Guarna, Mercuriade, and Constance Calenda) mentioned who were known to practice medicine, lecture on medicine, and wrote treatises.[4] These attributes placed Abella into a group of women known as the Mulieres Salernitanae, or women of Salerno.[5]


Abella is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's installation piece, The Dinner Party.[6] Abella is represented as one of the nine hundred and ninety-nine names included in the Heritage Floor.[6] The Heritage Floor is a supporting piece to Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party.[7] It is meant to represent the number of women who struggled into prominence to essentially have their names erased and/or forgotten.[7] She is one of the "ladies of Salerno" who attended and taught at the Salerno School of Medicine featured in the Heritage Floor, along with Rebecca de Guarna, Francesca of Salerno, and Mercuriade.[2]

Mulieres SalernitanaeEdit

The Salerno School of Medicine was the first university to allow women to enter.[8] This resulted in a group of women known as Mulieres Salernitanae [it], meaning women of Salerno or Salernitan wives.[8][6] These women were known for their great learning.[6] This group of women consisted of Abella, Trota of Salerno, Mercuriade, Rebecca de Guarna, Maria Incarnata, and Constance Calenda.[6] The women of Salerno not only practiced medicine, but also taught medicine at the Salerno School of Medicine and wrote texts.[6] This group of women worked against the common view and roles of women at the time, and are considered a pride of medieval Salerno and a symbol of beneficence.[6]

Family of CastellomataEdit

The family of Castellomata was an extremely influential family in Salerno, one in which Abella is believed to belong to.[9] The heavy influence of the family helped confirm the vital ties between the papal court and the Salerno School of Medicine.[10] A significant member of this family was Giovanni of Castellomata, who held the title of medicus papae, or “doctor of the pope” to Pope Innocent III.[11] The relationship between Abella and Giovanni of Castellomata is unclear.


  1. ^ a b c Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey; Harvey, Joy Dorothy (July 2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives From Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century. Taylor & Francis US. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-415-92038-4.
  2. ^ a b Proffitt, Pamela (1999). Notable Women Scientists. Detroit: Gale Group. p. 1. ISBN 978-0787639006.
  3. ^ Herbermann, Charles George (1912). The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church. New York: Robert Appleton Company. ISBN 9780243487400.
  4. ^ a b Green, Monica (1989). "Women's Medical Practice and Health Care in Medieval Europe". Signs. 14 (2): 434–473. doi:10.1086/494516. ISSN 0097-9740. JSTOR 3174557. PMID 11618104.
  5. ^ Della Monica, Matteo; Mauri, Roberto; Scarano, Francesca; Lonardo, Fortunato; Scarano, Gioacchino (2013). "The Salernitan school of medicine: Women, men, and children. A syndromological review of the oldest medical school in the western world". American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A. 161 (4): 809–816. doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.35742. ISSN 1552-4833. PMID 23444346.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Brooklyn Museum: Abella of Salerno". brooklynmuseum.org.
  7. ^ a b "Brooklyn Museum: Heritage Floor". brooklynmuseum.org.
  8. ^ a b Oakes, Elizabeth H (2007). Encyclopedia of World Scientists. New York: Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8160-6158-7.
  9. ^ Paravicini-Bagliani, Agostino. (2000). The Pope's Body. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226034379. OCLC 41592982.
  10. ^ Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino. The Pope's body. Peterson, David Spencer, 1951-, Translation of (work): Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino. Chicago. ISBN 978-0-226-03437-9 p. 186
  11. ^ Williams, Steven James (2003). The Secret of Secrets: The Scholarly Career of a Pseudo-Aristotelian Text in the Latin Middle Ages. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472113088.
  • Chicago, Judy (2007). The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation. Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art., Brooklyn Museum. London: Merrell. ISBN 9781858943701. OCLC 76365461.
  • Rosser, Sue Vilhauer., ed. (2008). Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781598840964. OCLC 269387282.
  • Banerjee, D.D. (2008). Glimpses Of History Of Medicine. B. Jain Regular. ISBN 9788131903506.