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The Impact of the Black Death on the Christian Faith

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Introduction The time just before the Black Death had already been a time of struggle and calamity, especially for the Christian Church. The French had begun to attack and conquer the coastal settlements along the English Channel, signaling the beginning of the Hundred Year War. It would be one of the many contributions to the devastation that medieval Europe would endure within the next century, including the Black Death and the Little Ice Age. The Hundred Year War was caused by political and economical problems. English sheep farmers had traded their long fine wool with weavers in Flanders, across the English Channel. In 1336, French King Philip VI arrested all English merchants in Flanders and took the privileges of the Flemish towns and craft guilds away. The Flemish revolted against the French government and made an alliance with the English. War broke out and lasted through five English and French kings, with a few interruptions in between. The political reason for the war was that the English kings, descendents of William the Conqueror who still spoke French, wanted to rule over France. (Media, 2003) Even before the Hundred Year War had begun, Europe was already undergoing a 'little ice age', where the economies of the European countries were naturally slowing down due to the undependable warm weather that fluctuated between hot and cold alternatively. This sort of abrupt weather change had been damaging to crops and livestock, and subsequently affecting the economic situation of the European people. There already existed exceptionally grim reports of mass deaths even before the Black Death struck Europe. Population counts were decreasing due to the generally weakened health of the people in the years of poor crop yield. This decline that had been attributed to the low food levels had begun 40 years before the Black Death had arrived. (Tkachuck, 1983) As you can see by the mentioned events, the Church was already in troubled times. ...read more.


Social Problems by the Black Death The overall social effect of the Black Death was tremendously disastrous. The plague was not of the type of disasters that caused people to band together and fight the way wars usually and naturally would, most probably because the people could not protect themselves from it. The scale of its fatalities was such that it did not herd people together, instead it drove people apart. The Church's teachings had constantly involved references to quotes such as "love thy neighbor" and "united we stand, divided we fall". It would have been natural to assume that the natural reaction for people to huddle together in the face of such a calamity as the Black Death. However, the opposite occurred. People ran from people. Social order collapsed. One citizen avoided another, family members hardly, if ever, visited each other. Such fear was struck into the hearts of the people that they neglected their fellow man. Brother abandoned brother. Even parents left their children unattended. Multitudes of sick and dying men and women were left alone to fend for themselves. Care was unavailable from others, not even servants, even when offered high wages. Most of those who did take up the job of caring the sick and dying did little more than bring the afflicted what they asked for and watch over them as they slowly lost consciousness to the world forever. Also, since the sick were abandoned by family and servants were few, a habit sprung up among them that had never been heard of before. According to the Church, no private part of one's body was to be shown to anyone other than one's husband or wife. However, during the time of the plague, beautiful and noble women, especially, when they fell sick, took to taking a young or old man-servant and exposing every part of their bodies to these men as if the men were of the same gender. ...read more.


The Church had not been able to do much, seeing that their representatives too had succumbed to the plague. In its wake, the Black Death left death and maybe even more possibilities for infection by other diseases because of the dank smell of death on the air and the piles of corpses in the streets of the towns in Europe. The social effects of the Black Death were amendable as the disease seemed to die out, the people started to return to their homes and the brotherhood that they had shared before the calamity began to reform itself. However, the economic effects of the Black Death stood to the fore. One third of Europe's population, equivalent to approximately 20 million people, had died of the disease and had therefore, lessened the quantity of manpower that was available to resume farming and increase the food output once more to be able to sustain a smaller yet still large European population. Though the attempts to remove oneself from the wrath of the Black Death was quite remarkable, it seemed that very few of the peoples of Europe actually turned away from God. In fact, in the face of death, the people turned even more strongly towards the Church's guidance. Not once, in all the examples of challenges faced by the European peoples had they turned away from their religious ways, the farthest example of the people having turned away been their living in moderation between the religious actions and those considered morally bad. With the Black Death now metaphorically like a dust ball in the corner of civilization, the peoples of Europe began to band together to rebuild the foundations that had collapsed in the wake of the plague. Perhaps God's mercy had finally rained down upon Europe after the long years of the plague's pestilence, perhaps God had decided that enough punishment had been dealt to His people. Nevertheless, the Black Death never fully went away. It is still around in very remote areas of the world. ...read more.

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