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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 amount 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.[8]

Mulieres Salernitanae[edit]

The Salerno School of Medicine was the first university to allow women to enter.[9] This resulted in a group of women known as [1] Mulieres Salernitanae, meaning women of Salerno or Salernitan wives.[9][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 Castellomata[edit]

The family of Castellomata was an extremely influential family in Salerno, one in which Abella is believed to belong to.[10] 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 Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie. 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. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  2. ^ Proffitt, Pamela (1999). Notable Women Scientists. Detroit: Gale Group. p. 1. ISBN 0787639001.
  3. ^ Herbermann, Charles George. The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. https://books.google.com/books?id=800fAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
  4. ^ a b Monica Green, Women's Medical Practice and Health Care in Medieval Europe, Signs, Vol. 14, No. 2, Working Together in the Middle Ages: Perspectives on Women's Communities (Winter, 1989), p. 453
  5. ^ Monica, Matteo Della, Roberto Mauri, Francesca Scarano, Fortunato Lonardo, and Gioacchino Scarano. "The Salernitan School of Medicine: Women, Men, and Children. A Syndromological Review of the Oldest Medical School in the Western World." Wiley Online Library. October 3, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1002/ajmg.a.35742/asset/35742_ftp.pdf?v=1&t=j8luuj1c&s=0be8234ef88b0983aaaac8e5979a2585bab63f0a
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Abella of Salerno". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Abella of Salerno. Brooklyn Museum. 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b “Heritage Floor.” Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/
  8. ^ Proffitt, Pamela (1999). Notable Women Scientists. Detroit: Gale Group. p. 1. ISBN 0787639001.
  9. ^ a b Oakes, Elizabeth H. Encyclopedia of World Scientists. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2007. https://books.google.com/books?id=uPRB-OED1bcC&pg=PA728&lpg=PA728&dq= group+of+women+in+Salerno+school+of+medicine&source=bl&ots=8YaBW_duPz&sig=zEONwTs3TjqRzvNgDhgxIqe6z3I&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjlh7SYsubWAhVE64MKHdyhCpUQ6AEIWDAN#v=onepage&q=salerno&f=false.
  10. ^ a b Paravicini-Bagliani, Agostino. The Pope’s Body. Chicago: University of Chicago press, 2000. https://books.google.com/books?id=YrmHbBoO-a0C&pg=PA186&lpg=PA186&dq=family+of+castellomata&source=bl&ots=j4gemLzfwp&sig=FDq6_mjQGnpZkQMasjjCh5uir9Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjexImBxOvWAhWpgFQKHftBBBo Q6AEIKzAB#v=onepage&q=castellomata&f=false
  11. ^ William, Steven J. The Secret of Secrets. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2003. https://books.google.com/books?id=lLIN6eujdlQC&pg=PA128&lpg=PA128&dq=family+of+castellomata&source=bl&ots=7x95OsHAsS&sig=iFm3XHb8RLkuMou37Wcpaf0gmM4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8_p3lo-bWAhXC5YMKHU7bCBQQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=castellomata&f=false.
  • Chicago, Judy. The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation. London: Merrell (2007). ISBN 1-85894-370-1
  • Rosser, Sue V. Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present. N.p.: ABC CLIO, n.d.
  • Banerjee, D.D. History of Medicine. N.p.: B. Jain, n.d. Print.