The Church and the Black Death

The Black Death is an important part of the European history since it brought about a huge change in the social, economic, and religious views.

The Black Death was the outbreak of a plague that struck the European population during the Middle Ages.

The devastating plague lasted from 1347 to 1352 CE and killed almost 75 to 200 million people. It was a real deathblow, the worst demographic disaster.

Thus, the Black Death considered as the most significant bubonic plague in the Western civilization.

This disaster was actually caused by a bacillus called Yersinia pestis. It usually infects rats and fleas but when it infects humans, it reaches epidemic levels because humans do not have resistance to this disease.

As a result, the plaque hit the human population with great speed and violence, leaving them terrorized. The affected individuals mostly died within five days after the initial symptoms showed up.

Amidst all this havoc, the people were clueless about the cause of the disease and its cure.

Thus, they looked to the Church for help and guidance, but to no avail. The Church itself was clueless regarding the explanation and cure for the epidemic.

Prior to the plague, people had always sought help from the Church for general matters as well as disasters like crop failure, bad weather, battle, etc. It had told the people about the right and wrong of things.

Now, the religious leaders, although accepting the Black Death as God’s punishment, did not have much to offer to the people.

In fact, they did not even perform the funerals and burials with the proper last rites due to the fear of contamination.

In addition, most priests, even the ones with good reputation only added to the confusion in the situation and eventually vacated their posts.

Furthermore, some members of the clergy flatly refused visits to the sick and dying but still went to see the rich who paid them highly.

Nevertheless, there were a few revered priests and nuns, too, who served the patients to their last breath, even with the risk of contacting the infection themselves.

However, as most priests and bishops also contracted the disease, there was a shortage of clergy. Therefore, new priests were appointed but they were inexperienced and less educated.

Plus, the Church started charging money for the services to gain wealth. So, the overall reputation of the Church deteriorated in the eyes of the people.

To get a deeper insight into the history of Black Death and its social and religious impact, you can visit this page .

Furthermore, when people saw that the priests were also contracting the disease and dying, people even started suspecting that the Church officials were responsible for the spread of the plague. Thus, the seeds of the Reformation were sown.

Moreover, the Black Death caused numerous deaths and hence, there were way too many bodies to be disposed. Consequently, mass graves were dug and the bodies were simply dumped in these extensions of graveyards.

This was obviously against their religious teachings and beliefs. In the later years, mass cremations were also adopted.

The process of cremation is considered a pagan practice as per Catholicism. To read more about Catholic beliefs about cremation, you can read this article .

Besides, a group of individuals called flagellants emerged who carried scourges and leather whips with sharp iron spikes. They used to travel from town to town.

At the center of each town or village, they used to whip themselves with their scourges in an attempt to absorb God’s wrath and shorten the duration of time of suffering for others.

However, as they traveled to different town, they themselves became affected by the plague. Thus, by traveling from one town to another, they actually contributed in spreading the plague instead of curing it.

Ultimately, Pope Clement VI declared the flagellants to be heretics and along with other secular authorities, made attempts to repress them.

Due to the disaster, people also starting blaming the Jews for the plague. They even proposed that the Jews had contaminated drinking water wells with poison because they were anti-Christ.

On this pretext, they started exiling and murdering the Jews frantically. The only way for them to escape their fury was to get converted into Christians.

The Church, however, was pro-Jewish in this matter. The Pope even issued a bill denouncing this accusation. You can read more about the massacre of the Jews at .

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