Academic Editor: Donato Mele
Background: Aristotle’s tripartite concept of man—body, soul and spirit—formed the basis of the Galenic system that distinguished nurturing, vitalizing and animating tributary domains, governed by the liver, heart and brain, respectively. The Gothic cathedral structures into similar tripartite arrangements of nave, choir and sanctuary. We studied whether consistent parallels can be found between the Galenic concept of man, the Galenic heart itself and the structuring of the Gothic cathedral. Methods: Galenic literature along with scholastic texts were reviewed. Examples of Gothic cathedrals were visited and studied in locations. We used medieval analytical tools to compare characteristics of cathedral architecture and contemporary concepts on man and the heart. Results: Consistent parallels were found between the Galenic system and the structural parts of the Gothic cathedral. The principle of homology, intrinsic to both the Galenic system and Gothic architecture, identified the same tripartite organization in the Galenic heart itself and the segments could be projected onto the cathedral structure. Thus, the physical/nurturing domain was identified with the right ventricle inlet and the nave; the psychological/vitalizing domain corresponded with the right ventricle outlet/interventricular septum and the cathedral’s choir; the animating/spiritual domain paralleled with the left ventricle/aortic valve and the sanctuary in the cathedral. Conclusions: The Aristotelian/Galenic tripartite concept appears consistent with Gothic architecture and both provided a comprehensive view of the world; their relationship stems in a common philosophical and symbolic foundation. The tripartite interpretation was so coherent that it effectively delayed recognition of circulation and the heart’s role in it.