February 12, 2009

"Heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold "

In the fourteenth century, the Black Death, the bubonic plague killed 30-60% of the population of Europe. 

 The Plague, 1898

How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold and covered with a little earth.

Boccaccio

Nobody knew what caused it or what to do.  It is unimaginable today the horror of so  many dying so quickly.  It must have seemed like the end of the world. 

Now that new technology now allows the plague to be identified even in ancient human remains, we learn how medieval nuns sacrificed their own lives to provide medical care for the poor victims in Renaissance France.

Posted by Jill Fallon at February 12, 2009 9:28 AM | Permalink