chapter  35
The Origin and Future of Transplant Surgery
Pages 2

Throughout history, art has been an expression of society’s thinking during each era of time. This is the case in Ambrosius Francken the Elder’s portrayal of the first legendary transplantation, performed by Cosmas and Damian, the patron saints of surgery. St. Cosmas and St. Damian were twin brothers who were born in Arabia, medically trained in Syria, and practiced medicine and surgery in Cilicia and through­ out Asia Minor. Throughout their lives they were dedicated to healing people and to the Christian faith. The brothers, through their seemingly miraculous surgical skills and their humble way of life, gained widespread trust and admiration, and thus inspired many people to embrace Christianity. Christianity at this time was seen as a threat to the Roman Empire. Consequendy, Emperors Diocletian and Maximo sought to suppress the influence of the two brothers and attempted to convert them away from Christianity. Following the failure of this, they attempted to drown, burn, and stone the brothers to death, yet according to legend each attempt was thwarted by divine intervention. Eventually the brothers were decapitated in 287 A.D. and buried in a tomb in Giro. Following their death, people still came to their grave to pray and ask for healing of their ailments. One of the individuals said to be healed was Emperor Giustuniano. In appreciation for what they did, he decreed that a magnificent basilica be constructed at their grave. At this basilica, it became cus­ tomary for people to pray to Cosmas and Damian for healing of their ailments, and then sleep in the basilica in hopes that the saints would intercede with God and heal them while they slept. One evening, around 348 A.D., the sacristan of the church, who was suffering from a severely gangrenous leg, performed this custom, called “incubation.” It is said that during the night, Cosmas and Damian appeared and amputated his leg. They then surgically replaced it with the leg of another person who had died that same day. Upon waking, the sacristan stood up and felt that his leg was feeling much better. Fie looked down at it and saw that it was not his, but that of another person-someone with dark skin. He went out and proclaimed to the people the miracle that had happened to him, and upon seeing his amputated leg lying beside the body of an Ethiopian Moor, all believed what had occurred.