THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF OUR FAITH: STRATA #6
Dr. Nicolaas Bidloo
How would you like to be the personal physician to Russian Czar? Not just any Czar but Peter the Great? Peter the Great lived in Amsterdam for a year and a half when he was 26 years old. During that time a Mennonite doctor, Nicolaas Bidloo became his personal physician. When the Czar returned to Moscow in 1703, Dr. Bidloo accompanied him and continued to live there for the rest of his life.
In the Netherlands, the Bidloo family was well known for their medical advancements. Nicolaas’s father Lambert, also a physician and professor, authored, in Latin, a text on botany. Nicolaas’s uncle, Govert taught medicine in Leiden and wrote, in Latin, a classic text on human anatomy. Govert was also the personal physician to William of Orange who became the King of England following the Glorious Revolution.
In addition to being a physician, Nicolaas was an accomplished painter, musician (violin), horticulturist, linguist, educator and architect. He designed and built the first hospital and medical school in Russia and became its educational director. That medical school would later become the University of Moscow and hence the sculpture honoring Peter the Great and Bidloo as its founders. Dr. Bidloo wrote, in Latin, a 1,000 page treatise on medicine and surgery which was quickly translated into Russian and became a standard medical text across Europe until the late 1800s.
The historian O. Peter Grell credits the Bidloo family of physicians for demonstrating the compatibility between science and religion. Their work, he claims, set the stage for an integration of religion and science during the Dutch Enlightenment. Dr. Bidloo also designed and built a model Dutch village on his large estate outside of Moscow. There he planted medicinal herbs and experimented with vegetables that could grow in the Russian climate. During summer weekends, Bidloo frequently conducted outdoor orchestra concerts on the front lawn of his home. Peter the Great, his entourage and visiting royalty were often in attendance.
This village fell in disrepair during the Soviet Era (1917-1991) but has now been completely restored. The extended Bidloo families were very active in the Flemish Mennonite Church in the Netherlands and Nicolaas maintained his ties via financial contributions and occasional visits back to his home congregation.
Surely the Lord would say of Nicolaas Bidloo, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
 Medicine and Religion in Enlightenment Europe (London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2007) p123f.
The Living Mirror: Archaeology of Our Faith