Mechanisms for unity

Plagues and saints

Authored by: Samuel K. Cohn

The Routledge History of the Renaissance

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138898851
eBook ISBN: 9781315226217
Adobe ISBN: 9781351849463


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The Black Death of 1347–51 has cast a long shadow over our expectations on how big epidemics have conditioned social and psychological reactions, not only for plague and the Renaissance, but for epidemics across time and place. This is especially true when epidemics were new and mysterious, leaving priests, medical professionals, and the state helpless in controlling, preventing, or curing them. 1 To be sure, the Black Death unleashed waves of persecution against beggars and priests in regions such as Narbonne in Spain, 2 Carcassonne and Grasse in Southern France, 3 against pilgrims in Catalonia, Catalans in Sicily, and most viciously against Jews across German-speaking regions of Central Europe, the Rhineland and in Spain, France, and the Low Countries. From the volumes of the Germania Judaica, painstakingly amassed from German archives, mass persecution and annihilation of Jewish communities can be estimated in at least 235 places during the Black Death. 4

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