Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 5: Milan, Part 5

March 1, 2021


The Medusa Statue of Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle is the largest palace in the Renaissance period.

In the 15th century, Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan, built it on the ruins of the former Visconti family's castle.

Leonardo da Vinci also contributed to its construction.

Before the invasion of Napoleon in the 18th century, it became a formidable fortress.

Its main facade is called the Filarete Gate, and the green courtyard was once a training ground.

Inside, there are rooms adorned with luxurious frescoes.

Among them, there is a relief of the monster "Medusa".

Medusa is one of the three sisters of the Gorgon monster that appears in Greek mythology.

Medusa, who was naturally a beautiful woman, is said to have become a hideous monster after having relations with the sea god Poseidon, which aroused the jealousy of the war goddess Athena.

Each strand of her beautiful hair turned into the form of a poisonous snake, wriggling and moving.

She was transformed with boar tusks, bronze hands, and even wings were attached.

Furthermore, her eyes gleamed fiercely, possessing the magical power to turn anyone who saw her into stone.


In conditions such as portal hypertension, like liver cirrhosis, blood that should flow through the portal vein flows into the umbilical vein and then into the inferior vena cava.

This is called a collateral circulation, and when the blood volume flowing through here increases, the subcutaneous veins of the abdominal wall become markedly swollen in a radial pattern.

This appearance resembles a writhing snake, hence it is called "Medusa's head" or “Caput Medusae.”


It is described in textbooks of internal medicine and is frequently tested in medical licensing examinations in Japan.