Black Death

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The Black Death, also known as the Black Plague, or the Bubonic Plague killed one third of the population of Europe during its reign in the 13th and 14th centuries. The arrival of this plague set the scene for years of strife and heroism. Leaving the social and Economic aspect in a standstill. The phantom of death became a subject of art, music and folklore and it influenced the consciousness of the people. The impact of this mass killer caused enormous chaos and havoc to the medieval society because of its unknown origin, the unknown causes and preventions, its deathly symptoms and its breakdown of orderly life, therefore religion was greatly affected and changed. In 1347, a Tartar army under Kipchak khan Janibeg had been besieging the Genoese cathedral city and trading ports of Caffa on the Black Sea for a year. A deadly, ruthless plague hit the besieging army and was killing off soldiers at an unstoppable rate. It was plain to Janibeg Khan that he must call off the siege. But before he decided to retreat, he wanted to give the defenders a taste of what his army was suffering. So Janibeg used giant catapults to hurl the rotting corpses of the plagued victims over the walls of the town. By this means the infection spread among the Genoese defenders. Before long the Genoese were dying from the plague as fast as the Tartars on the outside. A few who thought themselves free of plague took to their ships and headed for the Mediterranean. The deathly disease was unleashed at every port the ship and its crew set foot on. The trading routes contributed to the spread of the disease throughout the continent. In October of 1347, several Italian merchant ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea. These ships carried a cargo of flea infested rats, which had guts full of the bacillus Yersinia pestis (the bacteria which causes the plague). Inspectors attempted to quarantine the fleet, but it was too late. Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, the people quickly drove the Italians from their city. But the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. (The Black Death) One eyewitness account said this “"The mortality in Siena began in May. It was a cruel and horrible thing. . . . It seemed that almost everyone became stupefied seeing the pain. It is impossible for the human tongue to recount the awful truth. Indeed, on... ... middle of paper ... ...well, which is how the disease got its name. The swelling then becomes tender, and perhaps as large as an egg. The heart begins to flutter rapidly as it tries to pump blood through swollen, suffocating tissues. Subcutaneous hemorrhaging occurs, causing purplish blotches on the skin. The victim's nervous system began to collapse, causing dreadful pain and bizarre neurological disorders. By the fourth day, wild anxiety and terror overtake the sufferer and then the sense of resignation, as the skin blackens and the rictus of death settles on the body. (Blue). With the start of the plague Europeans looked desperately for help to answer their many questions, on why God would allow such a thing to occur. People throughout Christendom had prayed devoutly for deliverance from the plague and when their prayers weren't answered they began to change their methods of administering the traditions which were attached to the church. They were left alone to live life without the powerful God which left awe and fear in all, during a very difficult era. Religion affected every aspect of everyday life and without it a new period of philosophical questioning lay ahead.

In this essay, the author

  • Describes how the tartar army under kipchak khan janibeg had been besieging the genoese cathedral city and trading ports of caffa for a year.
  • Explains that the death in siena began in may, and the absence of an identifiable earthly cause gave the plague supernatural and sinister quality.
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