History reveals the mid-14th century as a very unfortunate time for Europe. It was during this period when the continent became afflicted by a terrible plague. The source of the pathogen is known today as bubonic but was colloquially known as “The Black Death” to Europeans of the day. The plague caused a tremendous number of deaths and was a catalyst of change, severely impacting Europe’s cultural, political and religious institutions.
Not unlike many of today’s flu outbreaks, bubonic is thought to have also originated in China. As early as 1346, rumors surfaced in Europe of a terrible plague which had ravaged Central Asia, India, Asia Minor, the Middle East and Mesopotamia. These rumors told of a disease that left entire territories littered in bodies, as no survivors were left to bury their dead. Another rumor reported the entire Indian subcontinent totally depopulated by this disease. Despite what this information may have portended for Europe, Europeans of the day remained largely unalarmed by this news as they calmly went about daily life. Years later, it was reported by Pope Clement VI that the total number of dead in these regions was calculated to be almost 24 million. (683)
In October of 1347, a ship of dying sailors entered the port of Messina on the Mediterranean island of Sicily. These men were infected with the plague and died within a few days. Within 3 months of their landing, the plague had penetrated the interior of France and North Africa. Through the seaports and rivers, the plague wound its way west and north via established shipping routes. Before summer in 1348 this deadly malady has reached both Italy and the deepest interior regions of France. By the fall it had invaded Hungary via the Alps and crossed the English Channel to infect Southern England. After a brief period of winter dormancy, the plague resumed in Paris the following spring and quickly spread. Ireland