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Judgement in Notre Dame

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  • Author: Heitor Rosa
  • Status: Public
  • Number of pages: 240
  • Size: 150x210
  • Inside: Black and white
  • Binding: Perfect bound
  • Cover finish: Brillo
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France, 14th century. Felicie, educated by her uncle doctor – opposing the severe rules of a society which denied women the practice of medicine – assists the ill of Troyes, moved not only by her intense compassion towards human condition, but also for her eager search for rational answers that would help her understand the disease which then afflicted the population: Saint Anthony’s Fire or the Burning Disease. The inevitable confrontation with the holders of knowledge – the Church clergy, embodied in her uncle’s archenemy, the archdeacon of the University of Paris – will have a historically plausible end, but will certainly keep the reader enraptured until the last line of the debate between this brave woman, the symbol of a changing world, with the learned members of the Church, icons of a world which silently began to collapse.

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How would the Church and the French population react to an extremely erudite doctor who, in addition to being young and attractive, is able to perform astounding cures?The question would bear no raison d’être were it not for its reference to the still medieval society of the 14th century, when medicine was forbidden to women, who were destined to a life in the home, childbearing or servitude to God in convents. When writer Heitor Rosa, a doctor himself, thought of seeking answers to such a disturbing question, he had no idea that the detailed research he usually does for his novels would take him on a fantastic trip to France and Italy and to astonishing findings.  He spent four years scrutinizing the meanders of the end of the European Middle Ages. Since one cannot think of the Middle Ages without configuring the immense and frightening statute of the Catholic Church of the time, involved in all interstices of social relations, Rosa spent some time in Tournay, in the south of France, lodged by friars of a Benedictine monastery, in order to follow from close and observe the monasterial practice so he composed the scenery of his heroin Felicie, a 14th century young woman raised and educated by an uncle doctor, of whom she became an assistant and then a devoted substitute in the care of the ill. From Tournay, Rosa went to Bologna, lodging at the Convent of San Domenico, the wonderful library of which was made available for him and where such treasures as the originals by Thomas of Aquin and Aristotle are kept. Increasingly more trapped by the plot he was building, it was in this Italian city, which is home to the world’s most ancient medicine school, that he saw the parchments about the medicine courses and the curricula of the time in which his character would live. But, in the words of Rosa, the most realistic and most well done part of his book is that which describes the episcopal visit to the monastery of San Martin. “It took me six months to discover a document that precisely described the practice of a visit by a bishop to a monastery”, he reveals.In Paris, he investigated the outline of the city on old maps of the 14th and 15th centuries and observed the details of Notre Dame and Sorbonne, dialoguing with the past in the search of the stage on which the crucial part of his novel would take place, the confrontation between Felicie and an ecclesiastical tribunal.The historical truth, so well documented, resulted in the delicious historical fiction Judgment in Notre Dame – The saga of a doctor in the 14th century. Its plot fascinates for both the author’s usual style – which sweeps the reader into the everyday living of characters of centuries ago – and the deep reflection upon a woman who was “against the current” of her times, daring not only to be happy beside the man she fell in love with but also to fight the entire body of knowledge strictly kept in the convents libraries.  

About the authorHeitor Rosa (1940) is a Brazilian writer, doctor and lecturer at the School of Medicine of the Federal University of Goiás, Brazil. During his studies in France and England, he was seduced by the medicine of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Having traveled across several regions of France and Italy, he was able to conceive the unfolding of his novels, taking into account the different aspects of life and customs of his characters. The result of these study trips is this novel of historical fiction: Judgment in Notre-Dame (published in English). Rosa has in addition written short stories and chronicles. He believes credibility is the most important element in his fictions.
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