➊ The Role Of The Black Death In Medieval Religion

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The Role Of The Black Death In Medieval Religion



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How did Medieval People respond to the Black Death?

The Black Death was one of the worst pandemics in human history. In the 14th century, at least 75 million people on three continents perished due to the painful, highly contagious disease. The plague devastated towns, rural communities, families, and religious institutions. To harm the citizens during a siege in , Mongol armies may have thrown infected corpses over the city wall of Caffa, on the Crimean peninsula of the Black Sea. Italian traders from Genoa were also infected and returned home in , introducing the Black Death into Europe.

The three plagues associated with the Black Death are now known to be caused by bacteria called Yersinia Pestis, which is carried and spread by fleas on rats. When the rat died after continual bites and replication of the bacteria, the flea survived and moved to other animals or humans. Although some scientists believe that the Black Death was caused by other diseases like anthrax or the Ebola virus, recent research which extracted DNA from the skeletons of victims suggests that Yersinia Pestis was the microscopic culprit of this global pandemic. The first half of the 14th century was marred by war and famine. Global temperatures dropped slightly, decreasing agricultural production and causing food shortages, hunger, malnutrition, and weakened immune systems.

The human body became very vulnerable to the Black Death, which was caused by three forms of the plague. Bubonic plague, caused by flea bites, was the most common form. The infected would suffer from fever, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Swelling called buboes and dark rashes appeared on the groin, legs, armpits, and neck. The pneumonic plague, which affected the lungs, spread through the air by coughs and sneezes. The most severe form of the plague was the septicemic plague. The bacteria entered the bloodstream and killed every person affected within hours. All three forms of the plague spread quickly due to overpopulated, unsanitary cities. Proper treatment was unknown, so most people died within a week after infection with the Black Death.

Due to poor or non-existent record-keeping, it has been difficult for historians and scientists to determine the true number of people that died of the Black Death. The populations of Paris, London, Florence, and other great European cities were shattered. The Black Death finally lapsed in approximately , and profound economic changes took place. Worldwide trade declined, and wars in Europe paused during the Black Death. People had abandoned farms and villages during the plague. Serfs were no longer tied to their previous plot of land. Due to a severe labor shortage, serf survivors were able to demand higher wages and better working conditions from their new landlords. This may have contributed to the rise of capitalism.

Many serfs moved to cities and contributed to the rise in urbanization and industrialization. Three-quarters of Florence's residents were buried in makeshift graves in just one macabre year. One third of China evaporated before the rest of the world knew what was coming. By the time the tornado-like destruction of the 14th-century bubonic plague finally dissipated, nearly half the people in each of the regions it touched had succumbed to a gruesome, painful death.

The Black Death — as it is commonly called — especially ravaged Europe, which was halfway through a century already marked by war, famine and scandal in the church, which had moved its headquarters from Rome to Avignon, France, to escape infighting among the cardinals. In the end, some 75 million people succumbed, it is estimated. It took several centuries for the world's population to recover from the devastation of the plague, but some social changes, borne by watching corpses pile up in the streets, were permanent. The disease existed in two varieties, one contracted by insect bite and another airborne. In both cases, victims rarely lasted more than three to four days between initial infection and death, a period of intense fever and vomiting during which their lymph nodes swelled uncontrollably and finally burst.

The plague bacteria had lain dormant for hundreds of years before incubating again in the s in the Gobi Desert of Asia, from which it spread quickly in all directions in the blood of fleas that traveled with rodent hosts. Following very precisely the medieval trade routes from China, through Central Asia and Turkey, the plague finally reached Italy in aboard a merchant ship whose crew had all already died or been infected by the time it reached port. Densely populated Europe, which had seen a recent growth in the population of its cities, was a tinderbox for the disease. The Black Death ravaged the continent for three years before it continued on into Russia, killing one-third to one-half of the entire population in ghastly fashion.

The plague killed indiscriminately — young and old, rich and poor — but especially in the cities and among groups who had close contact with the sick. Entire monasteries filled with friars were wiped out and Europe lost most of its doctors. In the countryside, whole villages were abandoned.

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