The Black Death(1347-1352) was the Medieval black plague that ravaged Europe and killed athird of its population. It was due to the plague which is caused by abacterium (Yersinia pestis)transmitted to humans from infected rats by the oriental rat flea (MedicineNet,2018). There are three main forms of plague in humans: bubonic plague (thecommonest form of plague in humans, characterized by fever, delirium, and theformation of buboes), septicemic plague (an especially dangerous form of plaguein which the infecting organisms invade the bloodstream), and pneumonic plague (asevere lung infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis). There are a fewfactors in explaining plague in the Middle Ages: religion, medieval medicine,and modern science. However, I think the most important factor in explainingmedieval plague is religion.An example ofhow important religion was in the Middle Ages would be The Flagellants inEngland (Avesbury, 1359).
The Flagellants were men who punished themselves bywhipping each other to get rid of their sins. The Flagellants that came toEngland from Flanders went barefoot in procession in front of other ordinarypeople usually twice a day. All they wore was a linen cloth that reached fromthe loins to the ankles, including a hood painted with a red cross at the frontand the back. They, too, carried their whips with them in their right hands.The flagellants would whip themselves and others as they chanted and sang (somein their own languages) and prayed. Three times during every procession theywould lie face down on the ground, forming the shape of a cross. The rest of themen would walk over their backs and continuously whip them. They believed thatall this would bring them closer to God.
That is because; they believed that bysuffering themselves, they would be brought closer to Jesus and his fate of hiscrucifixion. People were so devoted to religion at that time that theyperformed acts like this to show how faithful they were to the Trinity.Another exampleof how important religion was in the Middle Ages is how people not onlyworshipped the Trinity but prayed to Virgin Mary and the Saints, too. At thetime, people usually prayed to more than one person; due to the fact that itgave them more safety and defence. People also worshipped those persons becauseit gave them something to take their mind off disease with.
For people in the MiddleAges, Virgin Mary was worshipped for hope and people also prayed to the Saintsfor help and protection (since there were so many for various issues andproblems). There were many frescos of Saints, the Trinity and Virgin Mary onchurch walls during those times. Such examples include the “Mother of Mary” fresco in Assisi and the “Saint Sebastian” fresco in Poggio Mirteto. The “Mother of Mary” fresco shows VirginMary covering the Christian peasants that are suffering from plague with hershawl robe. She is wearing a halo and is many times larger than the peoplecovered by her shawl robe. This fresco demonstrates how caring Virgin Mary wasto Christians that prayed to her. She played the motherly role in religiouspeople’s lives at that time, which is why most people relied on their prayersfor her to give them hope.
The “SaintSebastian” fresco portrays St. Sebastian (the saint of plague) as verycourageous and brave. The reason is that St. Sebastian is shown to be tied to apole with arrows in him, bleeding.
However, St. Sebastian doesn’t look likehe’s in pain at all as he has an expressionless face. This would encouragepeople and take their minds off of their diseases because they believe that ifthey pray to St. Sebastian he will help them get through the plague.The final reasonof how important religion was is charity. People thought that if you were acharitable person, then it was counted as a “keyto heaven”.
The fact that, both, the giver and receiver were granted waseven better. The receiver, of course, got whatever the giver donated, whereasthe giver would’ve been given a ‘guarantee’ to go to heaven in the afterlife.This meant that most people were very giving to each other and performed manygood deeds. This was very helpful, but that is because religion was soimportant to the people in the Middle Ages that they were prepared to do almostanything to be brought closer to God. This clearly shows us how importantreligion was at the time.In conclusion, Itruly believe that religion was, not only an incredible but, the most importantfactor in explaining medieval plague. This is due to the fact that people wereso dependent on religion that they would’ve suffered greatly, just to bebrought closer to the Trinity. People strongly believed that religion wouldsave them from (or at least take their minds off of) their diseases, therefore,they prayed to all sorts of Saints as well as the Virgin Mary and the Trinity.
Religion helped people perform good charitable deeds too. In addition, whilstmany people suffered from the plague, religion was the one thing that kept theagonized people hopeful and optimistic. This, therefore, shows us how importantand meaningful religion was to those who had the plague in the Middle Ages.Referencelist:Avesbury, R,1359, The Black Death, 1994.
Manchester: Manchester University Press.MedicineNet. (2018). Definitionof Black Death. online Available at: com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2470>Accessed 7 Jan. 2018.
com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2470>Accessed 7 Jan. 2018.