At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Gaspare Tagliacozzi - surgeon

Professor invented rhinoplasty procedure


Gaspare Tagliacozzi perfected a way of forming a new nose using skin from the arm
Gaspare Tagliacozzi perfected a way of
forming a new nose using skin from the arm
Pioneering plastic surgeon Gaspare Tagliacozzi died on this day in 1599 in Bologna.

During his career, Tagliacozzi had developed what became known as ‘the Italian method’ for nasal reconstruction.

He improved on the procedure that had been carried out by the 15th century Sicilian surgeons, Gustavo Branca, and his son, Antonio.

Tagliacozzi wrote a book, De Curtorum Chirugia per Insitionem - On the Surgery of Mutilation by Grafting - which described in great detail the procedures carried out in the past to repair noses amputated during battle.

Surgeons who came after him credit him with single-handedly revolutionising the procedure and inventing what is today referred to as a rhinoplasty procedure.

Tagliacozzi was born in Bologna in 1545. He studied medicine, natural sciences and anatomy at the University of Bologna, gaining a degree in philosophy and medicine by the age of 24.

After he was appointed professor of surgery and professor of anatomy at the University he taught at the Archiginnasio, famous for its anatomical theatre, where he procured the bodies of executed prisoners to use in dissections.

An illustration of a patient with arm strapped in place across the nose
An illustration of a patient with arm
strapped in place across the nose
The operation for nasal reconstruction had been developed in Italy as early as the 15th century because of injuries sustained in battle, or when duelling using rapiers.

Tagliacozzi improved the reconstructive surgery method by taking skin from the arm using specially designed instruments to make the correct shape.

The flap of skin from the arm was attached to the nose and the patient’s arm was bandaged in the raised position for about 20 days, or until the skin of the arm had attached itself to the nose. The pedicle was then severed from the arm and after 14 days the attached skin was shaped so that it resembled a nose.

In his book explaining the procedure he writes: ‘We restore, rebuild and make whole those parts which nature hath given, but which fortune has taken away. Not so much that it may delight the eye, but that it might buoy up the spirit, and help the mind of the afflicted.’

Tagliacozzi died in Bologna on 7 November 1599 and was buried in the church of San Giovanni Battista de’ Celestini, as he had stipulated in his will. A solemn mass attended by doctors and colleagues was held in his honour later that month in the same church.

However, his body was later exhumed on the orders of the Catholic Church and reburied on unconsecrated ground, the church hierarchy having deemed that his surgery interfered with the handiwork of God.

After Tagliacozzi’s death, ‘the Italian method’ was not used again until the 19th century when a German plastic surgeon performed the procedure again.

Tagliacozzi also wrote a book about reconstructive surgery procedures for lips and ears.

The statue of Tagliacozzi in the anatomical theatre of the Archiginnasio
The statue of Tagliacozzi in the
anatomical theatre of the Archiginnasio
Travel tip:

The world’s first university was established in Bologna in 1088 and attracted popes and kings as well as students of the calibre of Dante, Copernicus and Boccaccio. You can visit the university’s former anatomy theatre, where Tagliacozzi worked, in the oldest university building, the Archiginnasio, which is open to the public Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, admission free. There is a wooden statue of Tagliacozzi holding a nose in his right hand, set in a niche in the wall of the anatomy theatre.

The church of San Giovanni Battista de' Celestina in the centre of Bologna
The church of San Giovanni Battista de'
Celestina in the centre of Bologna


Travel tip:

The church of San Giovanni Battista de’ Celestini in Bologna is a Renaissance-style Roman Catholic church located on Via D'Azeglio, where the Celestine order had built a monastery and church in the 14th century. In 1482, the church had become the home of the parish.It was rebuilt in 1535 on the site of a 13th century building in Piazza de’ Celestini.

More reading:

The 17th century anatomist whose work still benefits astronauts today

How Gabriele Falloppio made key discoveries about human reproduction

Italy's 18th century cataract surgeon

Also on this day:

The feast day of Ercolano, patron saint of Perugia

1512: Niccolò Machiavelli dismissed from office

1944: The birth of football legend Luigi Riva


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