It is the Dark Ages, and the Church is fighting against ‘black magic’. The medical knowledge of Greek physicians like Hippocrates and Galen had been lost to the medicine of medieval Europe (until taught later in schools such as the School of Salerno after the Arabic-Latin translation movement of the 12th century). In 11th-century England, travelling barber surgeons attempted to supply medical care to the ordinary population, often at the risk of the Church persecuting them for witchcraft.
Robert Cole has an extraordinary gift, where he can sense when someone left untreated has a terminal illness. He notices this for the first time when he feels it as a little boy when his sick mother is dying of appendicitis, a disease he was unaware of. The young orphan joins an itinerant barber-surgeon who calls himself Barber. Barber teaches him the basics of medieval medicine, with services such as cupping therapy, bloodletting, and dental extraction. Even as an apprentice Rob recognizes the limitations of these simple practices. When Barber suffers from a cataract, Rob consults a real Medicus for him. This Jewish doctor heals Barber completely. He learns a little bit of Jewish culture. He speaks with two children, Jesse and Benjamin. There, Rob sees for the first time a world map, and learns of the famous Ibn Sina, who teaches medicine in distant Persia. So he decides to train there to become a physician. During the Islamic Golden Age, the medicine in the medieval Islamic world (evolved from a symbiosis of Gondishapur Iranian medicine and Nestorian Byzantine medicine in Baghdad’s House of Wisdom) is far more advanced than in Europe. The doctor, scientist and philosopher Ibn Sina teaches in Isfahan, the most important school for aspiring practitioners in the world at that time.