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  • Writer's pictureMarios Kyriazis

A short tour

The traditional ‘iliakos’(main entrance hall) contains framed photographs and depictions of the practice of medicine through the ages, with amputations, physiotherapy practices by ancient Greek doctors, medieval medicine and Renaissance treatments. The bottom end of the ‘iliakos’ leads, through a stone arched exit, to a small courtyard which is now open for outdoors lectures and events. True to the architectural tradition of most town houses, on either side of the ‘iliakos’ there are at total of four rooms, originally used as bedrooms and sitting rooms, but now contain the bulk of the exhibits. The elegant neoclassic-type façade with blue window shutters, high ceilings, wooden floors in the rooms, and the obligatory decorated ceramic pattern in the ‘iliakos’ floor complete the picture.

Highlights of the exhibits include the gynaecological/surgical table of an old doctor from Larnaca, on which many thousands of people gave birth or were operated upon. Some doctors estimate that perhaps half of all original residents of Larnaca were treated on it. An amputation table with original surgical instruments is another highlight and the mock amputations and other recreations appeal to young students.

A section is dedicated to old Cypriot poems and curses with medical content, aiming to remind Cypriots of their medical and linguistic heritage. Many virtually forgotten sayings and poems with medical slant of Byzantian, Frankish, Venetian or Ottoman origins are exhibited and an attempt is made to explain the mentality of the author, which was shaped by a climate of continual suffering, lack of medical facilities, inadequate treatments and absence of health prevention. Younger visitors learn about medically-related matters and how to apply this knowledge upon modern health problems.

Some of the display units are, in fact, old pharmacist’s cupboards and storage cases which were abandoned for many decades in a crumbling chemist and druggist’s shop in the same street as the Museum. Before the final collapse of the building, some of the rotting furniture were rescued, restored and are now exhibited together with the original bottles, tablets, injections, doctor’s prescriptions etc., collected from a skip outside the abandoned building or from the road where the wind had blown them.

Inspired by this, several doctors, pharmacists or members of the public have donated small or large items in an attempt to prevent their certain destruction.

A research section of the Museum is dedicated to the study of traditional Cypriot medical practices such as quack medicine, black and white magic, barber-surgeon treatments, religious therapies, healing prayers, superstitions and incantations. The aim is to safeguard these for future generations of medical scientists and to identify facts of sociological, scientific, medical or literary interest.

The Museum has a ‘hands-on’ philosophy, and any member of the public can have unrestricted access to any of the exhibits. The items can be handled, examined and used irrespective of their age or rarity, in an attempt to teach the visitor not only about the use of the item but also to re-create the physical and emotional framework where the item had been used. The intention is to teach and inform rather than to merely collect and exhibit.

The Kyriazis Medical Museum is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 0900-1230. Other days by arrangement.

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