IMR Press / RCM / Volume 23 / Issue 6 / DOI: 10.31083/j.rcm2306217
Open Access Original Research
The Galenic Heart in the Gothic Cathedral and the Adjournment in Discovery of Circulation
Show Less
1 Paediatric Cardiac Surgery, Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, National University Hospital Singapore, 119228 Singapore, Singapore
2 Department of Surgery, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 119228 Singapore, Singapore
3 Department of Public Health, Semmelweis University, H-1086 Budapest, Hungary
4 Centre for Neuroimaging Research at NTU, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Imperial College – Nanyang Technological University, 636921 Singapore, Singapore
5 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychiatry Section, Karolinska Institute, S-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden
*Correspondence:; (Laszlo Kiraly)
Academic Editor: Donato Mele
Rev. Cardiovasc. Med. 2022, 23(6), 217;
Submitted: 30 March 2022 | Revised: 17 May 2022 | Accepted: 17 May 2022 | Published: 16 June 2022
(This article belongs to the Section Cardiovascular Imaging)
Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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.

Gothic architecture
Fig. 1.
Back to top