Jesus Christ taught his disciples, ‘Heal the sick’. This was understood by the Early Church to mean that God would miraculously heal people in answer to prayer, but that also the medical practice should be an important part of the church’s ministry. Clearly the apostle Paul understood this as he took along Luke the medical doctor on his mission trips.
The earliest proper hospital founded by the church was through Basil the Great in Cappadocia in AD 370. In Scotland the first Celtic monks, following the inspiration of these early pioneers, offered both prayer and medical help for the sick, and their centres became the basis of our hospitals today. They encouraged research into natural herbal remedies and means of medically healing the sick.
Outside Edinburgh, just off the A 68 near Fala, is Soutra Aisle. Although there is only a tiny part left today, there used to be a hospital called ‘The House of the Holy Trinity’, measuring about 700 square metres, which was the largest hospital in Scotland in the Middle Ages. This was run by the Augustinian monks and nobody was turned away who needed treatment.
It was also used as an almshouse for the poor and needy and as a place of hospitality for the weary traveller. Originally founded during the reign of Malcolm IV in 1164, it continued until the 1460s, when the work was transferred to Edinburgh to a spot just below Calton Hill, overlooking the Royal Mile. It became known as Trinity College Hospital. The church pioneered medical care in Scotland and although this hospital no longer exists today, Edinburgh eventually became a world-famous centre for medicine.