Johannes Gottfried Mayer

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Johannes Gottfried Mayer in Bronnbach Monastery (August 2014).

Johannes Gottfried Mayer (born November 19, 1953 in Nuremberg ; † March 27, 2019 in Würzburg ) was a German medical historian , pharmacy historian and literary scholar . He is best known for his numerous media appearances and publications on the history of medicinal plants in Europe and the epoch of monastic medicine .


Johannes Gottfried Mayer had five younger siblings, his father was a teacher of history and Latin. In Würzburg Mayer studied German, history, social studies, philosophy and received his doctorate in 1990 in Eichstätt on the "Vulgate" version of Johannes Tauler's sermons in German and history.

From 1981 to 1984 Johannes Mayer was a member of the Würzburg research group Specialized Prose of the Middle Ages, from 1984 research assistant at the universities of Würzburg and Eichstätt ( German Research Foundation , Collaborative Research Center 226), where he began to deal with monastery medicine . In June 1995 he became the coordinator of the Wullstein Research Center at the University of Würzburg for medical prose from the Middle Ages and ethics in medicine with a focus on the history of medicinal plants . In 1998 he took part in the study of medical education in the Middle Ages at the King's College of Cambridge University .

Since 1999, Mayer has mainly worked for the Research Group on Monastery Medicine, where he also supervised doctoral theses in the fields of medicine and pharmacy. He was a founding member of the study group on the history of the development of medicinal plants, a committee which, among other things , elects the medicinal plant of the year . Together with Franz-Christian Czygan , he wrote several cultural-historical essays on medicinal plants for the journal for phytotherapy .

Elisabeth Mayer (not related to him) shot a documentary about his career for the series Lebenslinien , which was first broadcast in March 2010. He was a studio guest at Planet Wissen several times . In 2013 he was seen in a show in the series Nachtlinie in conversation with Andreas Bönte .

Johannes Gottfried Mayer lived in Würzburg and Bad Windsheim . In his spare time he played the electric bass in several music projects, including in the formations J-Pack and SIXT'ES. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 65.

Research group for monastery medicine

Johannes Gottfried Mayer with sister Leandra Ulsamer in their garden in Oberzell Abbey (July 2014).

The monastery medicine research group was created in the summer of 1999 from a cooperation between the Institute for the History of Medicine at the University of Würzburg and the drug manufacturer Abtei . The aim was to analyze medieval writings with financial help from the pharmaceutical industry and to gain knowledge from them for modern medicine. One would like to "act as a mediator between empirical medicine and today's therapy requirements [...] decisively counteract the unreflected adoption of old knowledge in supposedly alternative healing methods". For this purpose, historical records have been compiled, translated and researched over the years (partly also in the form of dissertations) and then transferred to a database with now several hundred medicinal plants . After the takeover of Abtei by Omega Pharma (and a little later Perrigo ) and the associated withdrawal of the industrial partner, the research group was continued independently. Initially active as the scientific coordinator of the research group, Mayer also acted as its managing director since 2009.

As part of his work for the research group, Mayer appeared regularly in the media as an expert on medical and pharmaceutical history as well as herbal medicine (including dpa , various broadcasters of the ARD , in particular the Bavarian broadcasting company , but also the ZDF , Der Spiegel and the Main-Post ) . Mayer was significantly involved in the research group's most successful book, the Handbuch der Klosterheilkunde , which appeared in 2002 and had a total print run of 200,000 copies by 2009. After translations into Hungarian, Polish and Czech, a complete revision as The Great Book of Monastic Medicine followed in January 2013 .

Mayer undertook numerous research trips (Iran, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Morocco), which were subsequently processed in the form of books and film documentaries. So he started a book project with the cook Alfons Schuhbeck , "which deals with the cultural history, the culinary arts and in particular with the medicinal healing power of spices [in] domestic and international cuisine".

In addition, Mayer was a lecturer for medical history lectures in great demand throughout Germany and, in addition to phytotherapy, taught medical ethics and the history of natural sciences at the University of Erlangen at the University of Würzburg .

Television (selection)

  • Monastery medicine: healing powers from nature. ( nano , November 27, 2000)
  • The doctors of the caliphs. ( Terra X . ZDF 2003)
  • Planet knowledge . (Broadcasts from January 21, 2005, February 1, 2011 and May 25, 2012)
  • sternTV (broadcast on May 26, 2010)
  • Quarks & Co . (Broadcast on November 16, 2010)
  • The Germans . (Second season, episode Hildegard von Bingen and the power of women. 2010)
  • Dark times - wise women. (Sat.1 documentary accompanying Die Säulen der Erde . 2010)
  • More than the salt in the soup: the cultural history of spices. ( Between Spessart and Karwendel from July 23, 2011, BR)
  • Healing like in the Middle Ages - The secrets of monastery medicine. ( Fascination Knowledge of December 11, 2011, BR)
  • Monastery medicine rediscovered. ( Church in Bavaria , July 14, 2013)
  • Out and about with Johannes Gottfried Mayer. ( Night line from February 25, 2013, BR)
  • Terra X : Drugs - a world story. (2018)



  • as editors with Konrad Kunze and Bernhard Schnell : Editions of tradition and studies on German literature in the Middle Ages. Festschrift Kurt Ruh . Tübingen 1989 (= texts and text history. Würzburg research. Volume 31).
  • The "Vulgate" version of Johannes Tauler's sermons. Königshausen & Neumann, 1999, ISBN 3-8260-1661-0 . (Dissertation from 1990).
  • with Gundolf Keil and Christian Naser: "Make a teutsch bad luck". Studies on the communication of medical knowledge in the local language (= Ortolf studies, 1). , Wiesbaden 1993 (= knowledge literature in the Middle Ages , 11).
  • with Konrad Goehl : Highlights of monastery medicine: The “Macer floridus” and the herbarium of Vitus Auslasser. Edited with an introduction and German translation. Reprint-Verlag Leipzig, Holzminden 2001, ISBN 3-8262-1120-0 (with facsimile of pages 28 to 123 of Choulant's 1832 edition and five detailed registers).
  • Monastery medicine: the herb gardens in the former monastery complexes of Lorsch and Seligenstadt. Verlag Schnell and Steiner, 2002, ISBN 3-7954-1429-6 .
  • with Bernhard Uehleke , Kilian Saum : Handbuch der Klosterheilkunde. ZS-Verlag Zabert Sandmann, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-89883-226-0 .
  • as ed. with Konrad Goehl: Herbal Book of Monastery Medicine: The “Macer floridus”. Medieval medicine. Reprint-Verlag Leipzig, Holzminden 2003, ISBN 978-3-8262-1130-0 (revised version of the German translation).
  • with Bernhard Uehleke, Kilian Saum: Fasting according to monastic medicine. ZS-Verlag Zabert Sandmann, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-89883-087-X .
  • with Bernhard Uehleke, Kilian Saum: The small monastery pharmacy. ZS-Verlag Zabert Sandmann Munich 2005, ISBN 3-89883-118-3 .
  • with Katharina Englert: clay healing earth. Terra Armena. The rediscovery of an ancient means of internal cleansing. Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag, Kreuzlingen and Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-7205-5010-9 .
  • The secret healing knowledge of the nuns. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag (rororo), 2008, ISBN 978-3-499-62373-8 .
  • with Franz-Christian Czygan , Ulrike Bausewein (ed.): Würzburg - Herbipolis, city of gardens, plants and wine. Schnell und Steiner publishing house, Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7954-2139-7 .
  • with Anselm Grün , Katharina Englert: Seven herbs for the soul: feel-good teas from the monastery. Vier-Türme-Verlag, Münsterschwarzach 2009, ISBN 978-3-89680-406-8 .
  • as ed. with Konrad Goehl and Katharina Englert: The plants of monastery medicine in presentation and application. With pictures of plants by the Benedictine Vitus Auslasser (15th century) from Clm 5905 of the Bavarian State Library in Munich (= DWV writings on the history of medicine. Vol. 5). Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag, Baden-Baden 2009, ISBN 978-3-86888-007-6 .
  • with Konrad Goehl: Gottfried von Franken: The oldest wine book in Germany. Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag, Baden-Baden 2009, ISBN 978-3-86888-014-4 .
  • with Alfons Schuhbeck , Jakob Strobel y Serra : My journey into the world of spices. ZS-Verlag Zabert Sandmann, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-89883-297-7 .
  • with Bernhard Uehleke, Kilian Saum: The great book of monastic medicine. ZS-Verlag Zabert Sandmann, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-89883-343-1 .

Selected essays

  • On the tradition of the 'Alsatian Pharmacopoeia'. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 6, 1988, pp. 225-236.
  • The blood show in late medieval German diagnostics. Supplements to Friedrich Lenhardt from the handwritten tradition of the 'Pharmacopoeia' Ortolf von Baierland. In: Sudhoff's archive. Volume 72, 1988, pp. 225-233.
  • On the delivery of the blood show catalog A. In: Gundolf Keil u. a. (Ed.): "Make a teutsch bad luck". Investigations into the local language teaching of medical knowledge. (= Ortolf studies. Volume 1), Reichert, Wiesbaden 1993 (= Knowledge literature in the Middle Ages. Volume 11), ISBN 3-88226-539-6 , pp. 166–171.
  • Tauler in the library of the lay brothers von Rebdorf. In: Konrad Kunze , Johannes Gottfried Mayer, Bernhard Schnell (Hrsg.): Editions of tradition and studies on German literature in the Middle Ages. Kurt Ruh on his 75th birthday. Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 1989, ISBN 3-484-36031-3 .
  • Ortolf von Baierland's 'Pharmacopoeia' in medical compendia of the 15th century. Observations and reflections on the typology of medical compendia and compilations. In: Johannes Gottfried Mayer, Gundolf Keil, Christian Naser (eds.): “Making a teutsch bad luck.” Investigations into the communication of medical knowledge in the local language. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 1993, pp. 39-61.
  • Observations on the vernacular reception of the medical and scientific worldview in the Middle Ages from Ortolf von Baierland to Paracelsus. In: Benedikt Konrad Vollmann (Ed.): Spiritual aspects of medieval nature: Symposium, November 30th to December 2nd, 1990. Wiesbaden 1993 (= knowledge literature in the Middle Ages. Volume 15), pp. 99–111.
  • Konrad von Megenberg and Paracelsus. Observations on a change in the vernacular scientific literature of the late Middle Ages. In: Würzburg specialist prose studies. Contributions to medieval medicine, pharmacy and class history from the Würzburg Medical History Institute. Würzburg 1995, pp. 322–336 (continuation and addition to the previous article).
  • The first printed herbal books and the Angelika water of the Donaueschingen Tauler manuscript. In: Würzburg specialist prose studies, contributions to medieval medicine, pharmacy and class history from the Würzburg Medical History Institute. Festschrift for Michael Holler's 60th birthday. Edited by Gundolf Keil and edited by Johannes G. Mayer and Christian Naser, Würzburg 1995 (= Würzburg medical-historical research. Volume 38), pp. 156–177.
  • 'Würzburger Wundarznei'. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 14, 1996, pp. 147-151.
  • Sign and time of death. A medical-historical foray through the relevant literature. In: Günter U. Höglinger, Stefan Kleinert (ed.): Brain death and organ transplantation. Walter de Gruyter, 1998, ISBN 3-11-016203-2 .
  • Integrity of the body. For the body-soul conception in late antiquity and the Middle Ages. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 18, 1999, pp. 75-85.
  • The ›Leipzig Drug Compendium‹ (Leipzig, University Library, Cod. 1224) and its sources ›Circa instans‹, ›Aggregator‹ (Pseudo-Serapion), ›Macer floridus‹ (or ›Older German Macer‹), ›Liber graduum‹ ( Constantin) and ›Liber iste‹. In: Konrad Goehl, Johannes Gottfried Mayer (Hrsg.): Editions and studies on Latin and German specialist prose of the Middle Ages. Festival ceremony for Gundolf Keil. Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 2000. ISBN 3-8260-1851-6 , pp. 207-263.
  • History, theory and ethics in the revision course for the second state examination for medical students. In: Schaps, Kessler and Fetzner (eds.): GK2 The second - compact. Volume: cross-sectional areas. Springer Medizin Verlag, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-46357-3 , pp. 22-58.
  • The Truth About the Garden of Health (1485) and its survival in the herbal books of the early modern period. In: Sabine Anagnostou , Florike Egmond, Christoph Friedrich (Eds.): A passion for plants: materia medica and botany in scientific networks from the 16th to 18th centuries (= sources and studies on the history of pharmacy, vol. 95). Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-8047-3016-8 , pp. 119-128.
  • Monastery gardens - God's pharmacy. In: Rudolf Walter (Ed.): Health from monasteries. Herder Verlag, Freiburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-451-00546-6 , pp. 8-11.
  • with Tobias Niedenthal: Demon, useful and medicinal plant: On the history of cannabis with the latest developments. In: Journal of Phytotherapy , 2015; 36 (05): 207-211.
  • with Tobias Niedenthal, Christina Lee, Alvaro Acosta-Serrano: A 1000 year old recipe against multi-resistant germs. In: Journal of Phytotherapy , 2016; 37 (05): 194-196.
  • Specialist terminology and translation style in the Leipzig drug compendium and in the Gart der Gesundheit, the largest German-language herbal books of the 15th century. In: Jörg Riecke (Ed.): History of language and history of medicine: Texts - terms - interpretations. De Gruyter, 2017.
  • with Tankred Wegener et al .: The importance of hawthorn extract in general practitioners' practice - a current assessment. MMW Advances in Medicine 2018; 160 (S4): 1-7

Web links

Commons : Johannes Gottfried Mayer  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. Monastery Medicine Discussion Forum, November 2009 ( Memento from August 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.0 MB).
  2. Why Hildegard Cookies make you happy, Main-Post October 13, 2010
  3. Monastic cultural landscape research. Workshop October 30, 2006 ( Memento from January 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Ivy is Medicinal Plant of the Year 2010, University of Würzburg ( Memento from January 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Lifelines: The Teacher's Son, BR online ( Memento of the original from January 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ Homepage of j-pack
  7. homepage SIXT'ES
  8. April 2, 2019
  9. Wound ointment from sheep dung, Der Spiegel 38/2000
  10. ^ The research group for monastery medicine.
  11. Monastery medicine: Researching ancient healing knowledge at the University of Würzburg, medical aspects, October 2009 ( Memento from December 14, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  12. Kolostori gyógyászat in the German National Library
  13. Zioła Ojców Benedyktynów in the German National Library
  14. Bylinky for klášterní lékárny in the German National Library
  15. Research trip to Iran, Abbey
  16. Research trip to Armenia, World Heritage Monastery Medicine
  17. ^ Research trip to Armenia, abbey
  18. ^ Research trip to Uzbekistan, World Heritage Monastery Medicine
  19. More than the salt in the soup: The cultural history of spices. BR online
  20. Johannes Gottfried Mayer on the website of the University of Erlangen.
  21. ^ Monastery medicine: Healing forces from nature, 3sat
  22. Under the spell of the green gods: The doctors of the caliphs. ZDF ( Memento from December 14, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  23. ^ Monastery medicine - healing art of the monks, SWR / WDR
  24. Cabbage and Cabbage - A vegetable conquers the world, SWR / WDR ( Memento from December 13, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  25. Medicinal and wild herbs - old knowledge rediscovered. SWR / WDR ( Memento from December 13, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  26. Media reports, World Heritage Monastery Medicine
  27. "Self-Urine Therapy" puzzle, WDR
  28. Hildegard von Bingen and the power of women, ZDF
  29. ↑ The fascination of knowledge: healing like in the Middle Ages - The secrets of monastery medicine ( Memento from November 26, 2016 in the web archive )
  30. ^ Monastery medicine rediscovered. ( Memento from July 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  31. ^ Night line: On the way with Johannes Gottfried Mayer. ( Memento from December 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive )