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Daily Life During The Black Death

As the plague raged on, and all efforts to stop its spread or cure those infected failed, people began to lose faith in the institutions they had relied on previously while the social system of feudalism began to crumble due to the widespread death of the serfs, those who were most susceptible as their living conditions placed them in closer contact with each other on a daily basis than those of the upper classes.

Daily Life during the Black Death

The FlagellantsPieter van Laer (Public Domain)Since no one knew the cause of the plague, it was attributed to the supernatural (such as supposed Jewish sorcery) and, specifically, to God's fury over human sin. Those who died of the plague were suspect of some personal failing of faith and yet it was clear that the same clergy who condemned them died of the same disease in the same way. Scandals within the Church, and the extravagant lifestyle of many of the clergy, combined with the mounting deaths from the plague to generate widespread distrust of the Church's vision and authority.

The most famous motif was the Dance of Death (also known as Danse Macabre) an allegorical representation of death claiming people from all walks of life to come with him. As DesOrmeaux notes, post-plague art did not reference the plague directly but anyone viewing a piece would understand the symbolism. This is not to say there were no allusions to death before the plague, only that such became far more pronounced afterwards.

This thesis concerns the religious impact of the Black Death, the plague that devastated Europe during the middle of the fourteenth century. It explores the effect of the Black Death on the Catholic Church and the religious movements that emerged in response to it. The conclusions drawn here are based on the research of both primary and secondary sources. The Church played a significant role during the Middle Ages because religion was an important aspect of daily life for European Christians. When the Black Death struck Europe in 1347, the Church struggled to cope with the plague's damaging consequences and its reputation suffered as a result. This thesis concludes that the Black Death contributed to the decline in the confidence and faith of the Christian laity towards the institution of the Church and its leadership. The scope of this paper focuses on the plague's impact on the clergy, the rise of the flagellant movement, and the widespread Jewish persecutions that ensued in the wake of the plague. The Black Death was a significant event in the history of Western society with profound cultural and demographic consequences, and its impact on the Church and religion in medieval society justifies the study of this topic.

'The pestilence arrived in London at about the feast of All Saints [1st Nov] and daily deprived many of life. It grew so powerful that between Candlemass and Easter [2nd Feb-12th April] more than 200 corpses were buried almost every day in the new burial ground made next to Smithfield, and this was in addition to the bodies buried in other graveyards in the city.'

'We see death coming into our midst like black smoke, a plague which cuts off the young, a rootless phantom which has no mercy or fair countenance. Woe is me of the shilling in the arm-pit; it is seething, terrible, wherever it may come, a head that gives pain and causes a loud cry, a burden carried under the arms, a painful angry knob, a white lump. It is of the form of an apple, like the head of an onion, a small boil that spares no-one. Great is its seething, like a burning cinder, a grievous thing of an ashy colour. It is an ugly eruption that comes with unseemly haste. It is a grievous ornament that breaks out in a rash. The early ornaments of black death.' 041b061a72


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