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Llívia, Spain

Esteve Pharmacy

This 15th century pharmacy displays a beautiful collection of ancient medicine jars. 

The pharmacy of today is sterile, modest and efficient. Each bright orange medicine bottle is the same, and patients make their way in and out without lingering. However, 500 years ago, the local pharmacy was less science and more art, and the Esteve Pharmacy Museum in Llívia, Spain captures this ideal in the vibrant colors and luxury of a medieval European apothecary.

Established in the 15th century, the Esteve Pharmacy is one of the oldest in Europe. Since 1965 it has only housed the museum, but in its heyday, it attracted patients from across the region for medical treatment and drugs. Before the days of the child-locked pill container, remedies were kept in albarellos, a type of painted pottery that was sealed with parchment or leather.

Today, the museum has a large collection of the albarellos, including 87 rare blue albarellos that were modernized and include painted labels of the drugs they contained. Along with the beautiful storage jars, the museum also features a gaudy baroque cupboard that looks more fitting for a king’s kitchen than a medieval clinic. The contrasts between the museum and modern pharmacies are striking, and the Esteve Pharmacy is a fascinating look into the artful world of medieval medicine.

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