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Jaume Roig

Visat núm. 6
(octubre 2008)
by Antònia Carré
(Valencia, circa 1400 – 1478). A doctor of high social and professional status in the Valencia of his time, Jaume Roig is the author of one of the most iconic works of medieval Catalan literature, which he named Espill. His family origins link him to Catalonia and to the municipal bodies of power in the city of Túria. His great-grandfather, born in Mataró, moved to Valencia at the beginning of the 14th century where he worked as the city’s juror. His grandfather, Pere Roig, a notary by profession, was the Ombudsman of Valencia and administrator of the Hospital of Sant Llatzer in Terrassa. His father, Jaume Roig ‘the elder’ as he is referred to in documents, was a doctor, city councillor and a medical examiner.

Jaume Roig ‘the younger’ is believed to have been born in Valencia at the beginning of the 15th century. A teacher of medicine, there is no record of where he studied though it is likely to have been at the University of Lleida, founded in 1300 by King Jaume II. His high social ranking — inherited from his family — and his professional skills — won through practising medicine — led him to be a doctor for the city, the monarchy, and religious bodies in his hometown. He is recorded as acting as a medical examiner in the years 1435, 1437, 1441, 1451, 1461, 1464, 1467, 1469, 1475, 1477 and 1478. In 1436, along with Manuel Díez, he formed part of the commission created to examine and select veterinarians who wished to practice in the city. It is known that he was an administrator and visiting doctor at the Hospital d’en Clapers from 1450 until his death, a doctor at the Hospital d’en Bou from 1466 and a doctor, administrator and governor of the Hospital dels Inocents from 1452 to 1478, where he was in charge of the care of mentally ill patients. In 1456 and 1457 he was councillor of Valencia. Documentation shows his professional links to the Crown of Aragon: From 1446 he was doctor to Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon and wife of King Alfons V the Magnanimous, and certified her death in 1458. In 1469 his services were also linked with Joan II and there are records of his consistent relationship with convents and churches in Valencia.

Hence, it is known he was in charge of the ledger of the parish of Sant Nicolau from 1454, that he was a benefactor of the convent of the Trinity and that he intervened in its construction works in the name of Maria of Castile (1445 – 59) and those which the Abbess Sister Isabel de Villena later took up. In 1448 he is recorded as doctor at the Royal Convent, Reial Convent de Predicadors, and also at Valencia’s Royal Monestary of the Holy Trinity.

By 1441 Jaume Roig was married to Isabel Pellicer with whom he had children, of which three boys and three girls survived. Half of these went on to take the cloth: Jaume Honorat was the canon and perpetual curate of Terol and canon and vicar-general of Valencia; Joana and Violant were nuns in Valencia. His wife died in 1459 and in Espill he refers to her as deceased. Jaume Roig amassed a sizeable estate: four houses in the city of Valencia, land nearby and other properties amongst which his library is extremely noteworthy. With 59 volumes, the majority of which are of medicine, they are a testament to his University training.

The professional value of Jaume Roig as a doctor, of his social and economic success, are an example of the success of new scholastic medicine. Introduced all over Western Europe from the 13th century, it was a triumph at all levels of society — from Royalty and the nobility to the new urban bourgeoisie. It was a practice of medicine based on the theoretical and practical body of Galenism and Aristotelian natural philosophy which knew how to transmit to a medieval society an interest in health problems and illnesses seen as natural phenomena upon which it was possible to have an effect. This is how the practice won the constant and unambiguous support of kings, princes, noblemen and townspeople. Through the 14th and 15th centuries many medical professionals ascended socially thanks to their profession: Berenguer Sarriera, the main surgeon of Jaume II who translated El Regiment de sanitat by Arnau de Vilanova at the request of Queen Blanca; Antoni Ricart, the Barcelonan who was doctor to the reigning monarchs from 1395 to 1422 and author of notable scientific works; Pierleone da Spoleto, doctor and astronomer to Lorenzo Il Magnifico who died of suffocation in 1492, shortly after the death of his protector; Girolamo Manfredi, circa 1430 – 1493, doctor and astrologer who won fame and fortune in his native Bologna; and finally Jaume Roig, doctor of Valencia, who has become part of Catalan literary history with his Espill.

Translated by Katherine Reynolds
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L’Espill (~ 1460)
by Antònia Carré
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