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A Journal on Surgery

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Minerva Chirurgica 1999 December;54(12):917-26

language: Italian

The history of surgery in Preci, better known as the surgeons from Norcia

Guiggi F., Giustozzi G. M.


This paper makes a small contribution to a more detailed knowledge of the history of Italian surgery. Few know that Italy can boast a category of surgeons who should be regarded as the world forebears of modern surgery. These skilled individuals are better known as ''Norcini'', a term which is often regarded as negative and contemptible. However, in practice, they came from Preci and were only called ''Norcini'' because their village formed part of the ''contado'' of Norcia. Preci still possesses a large collection of surgical instruments and other items which testify how the art of surgery developed from this small centre. Extensive research has led to the reconstruction of a general picture of this phenomenon and its influence in Italy and throughout the world. These surgeons were the only ones capable of operating gallstones, cataracts and inguinal hernia. They developed specific instruments and were the first to introduce cauterisation and narcosis. The latter enabled them to overcome almost all the factors which limited surgery at the time, namely infection, pain and hemorrhage. This study attempts to explain how and why such skilful surgeons were to be found in such a small and isolated area of Umbria.

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