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6th International Conference of Neo-Latin Cultures: Saints, sorceresses and herbalists

This year’s conference Saints, sorceresses and herbalists: the paths of healing between faith, science and popular traditions, aims to explore the multifaceted concept of healing and care as depicted in Romance literature and through the multiple lenses of the related disciplines: that is, how the system of care, understood in a biomedical, physical, psychological, social and spiritual sense, has been represented and transposed in literary works, offering scope for an interdisciplinary analysis.

Call for papers for the 6th International Conference of Neo-Latin Cultures:

Saints, sorceresses and herbalists: the paths of healing through faith, science and popular traditions

Date: 17-18/06/2024

Venue: Institute of Ethnography and Archaeology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Wrocław
Organisers: Gianluca Olcese, Sonia Maura Barillari, Błażej Stanisławski

We cordially invite scholars and researchers to participate in the 6th International Conference on Neo-Latin Cultures, to be held on 17 and 18 June 2024 in Wroclaw, patronised by the Italian Institute of Culture in Krakow. This event is the result of a collaboration between the Dante Alighieri Society of Wroclaw, the University of Genoa, the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Wroclaw, the University of Wrocław: Institute of Classical, Mediterranean and Oriental Studies and the Centre for the Study of the Ancient Middle East and Biblical Tradition and the patronage of the University Association Jesteśmy Uniwersytetem.

The ‘narrative cure’ finds its special application in the Decameron, in which storytelling contributes to the health of the narrating ‘I’, including that of the author himself. Right from the very incipit: «It is a matter of humanity to show compassion for those who suffer», so much so that narrative, as a practice, was included among the recommendations of doctors to combat illness and, above all, the emotional horror of mass death in survivors. The ten in the Decameron see the experience as an interval to recover, so they eventually decide to return to Florence despite risking death from the plague. Leisure and psychological recreation are a significant component of the preventive recommendations in the medical treatises composed during the early years of the plague epidemic between 1348 and 1350. In the treatises, doctors propose that happiness lifts the spirits and strengthens people’s minds and bodies so that they do not succumb to the contagion.

Boccaccio’s descriptions in the Decameron of the activities of the Florentines during the plague of 1348 are confirmed by the medical advice in the treatises or consilia of Gentile da Foligno and Giovanni della Penna, written during the epidemic.

In the Middle Ages, the connections between the religious and medical spheres, i.e. between health in time and salvation in eternity, are evident from the use of a single Latin word salus. It was said that from the thaumaturgic powers of the saints, beyond earthly life, portentous, perfumed and healing liquids flowed from the bodies of God’s virgins, saints and martyrs.

Traditional Western medicine is still imbued with the curative power of ‘signatures’, identified and ordered by Paracelsus in the 16th century, according to the principle of ‘Similia similibus curantur’, as opposed to ‘Contraria contrariis curantur’, which refers to the tradition of Hippocrates and Galen.

The healing power of herbs, plants and natural substances, studied by herbalists and healers, is still today the basis of modern biomedicine and part of the research programme on traditional medicines of the World Health Organization.

The continuity with the ancient times in today’s policies that promote medicalisation finds correspondence with the demand for health and recourse to the doctor and the medication, the more it increases when health becomes an ethical norm and is transformed into a promise of immanent salvation.


We propose some thematic indications that are neither binding nor exhaustive:


  • Care and society: how literature reflects and influences conceptions of illness and care in communities.
  • Psychology and trauma: analysis of narratives reporting inner healing processes and trauma overcoming.
  • Ethics and morality: the role of healing in ethical and moral issues addressed by literature and philosophy.
  • Spaces and places of treatment: descriptions of the areas dedicated to the treatment of diseases and how they are organised to accommodate the sick, including environmental reclamation of the marshes, for the elimination of pathogenic conditions, and hygienic improvement practices in inhabited areas.
  • Literature and medicine: medical treatises, literary and artistic representations of healing practices.
  • Between superstition and faith: prayers, invocations, spells, potions and healing songs.
  • Health and environment: texts on hygiene practices and conditions, cultivation of medicinal plants and environmental organisation to promote health.
  • Thaumaturge saints: how devotion to saints manifests itself in the search for cures and healing from illness.



The conference will be held in presence, with papers in Italian and other Romance languages, English and Polish. Proposals for communication must be submitted by 2 May 2024, for evaluation by the Scientific Committee. Decisions will be communicated by 7 May 2024.


For further information and registration, please contact


The registration fee is 30 euros.

Proposals should be received in WORD format and include the following data:

first and last name:

university/affiliate research centre:

postal address:

email address:

telephone number:

proposed title:

abstract (max. 300 words):