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Black Death: A Test of Faith

Disclaimer: The events, characters and names depicted in this blog post are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No animals, plants or furniture were harmed in the making of this video. If you experience nausea, heartburn, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, loss of sight, diarrhoea, or even black death, contact your doctor because this blog post may not be right for you. Batteries are not included. Viewer discretion is advised.


The Black Death was a period when many Europeans endured extreme hardship and turmoil. Many Christians struggled to place their faith in God, as they sought out explanations for the horrors and tragedies they were experiencing. Follow Chloe on her journey as Gordon explains to her more about the Black Death and the Church’s role during that time.


People began to doubt the capabilities of the Institution due to organisational problems within the clergy. Along with the Black Death that spread to Europe in 1347, a disease so deadly that nearly a third of Europe’s population died from it, it gradually led to the decline of the Church (Gottfried, 1983, p.88). This loss of confidence led Europeans to search for potential solutions to end the plague through other means. The Black Death in Medieval Europe revealed weaknesses within the church and diminished the Church’s influence over people through several methods, setting the stage for the Renaissance.

The Decline of the Clergy


The Black Death radically changed the medieval Europe (Bovey, 2015) by challenging the foundation of the church, which provided families in Europe with strength and direction. The influence of church also starkly declined as the clerical population reduced in Europe, combined with the poor provision of clerical services and changes made to customary rituals.


As the epidemic struck, the Church disappointed the general populace with their failure in providing sufficient leadership through this trial. While this did not mean the Europeans lost faith in God, it did result in a decrease in their trust in the capabilities of the church and motivated many of them to source for different solutions to grant them the solace they require.

Rise of Flagellation


Europeans questioned the ability of the clergy to lead them through the Black Death. With that, Flagellation, the practice of wounding one’s body as a form of religious penance, rose to popularity. As European society felt like humanity was being punished by God for their sins through the plague, they turned to this viable solution (Hays, 1998, p.42).



During the Black Death, flagellants took on the importance of the various clergy (Herlihy, 1997, p.68). Joining these flagellants granted Europeans a chance to express their fear of God’s wrath (Beard, 2013, p.3). This served as a reminder to Europeans that the Church was unable to provide sufficient direction through the lawless realm created by the Black Death.

Persecution of Jews


Europeans believed that the Black Death is a pandemic sent as a punishment for humanity’s sins. Jews were always viewed as outsiders due to differences in religious beliefs and some Europeans blamed them for this occurrence (Cohen, 2002, p.298). This led to plots against Jews in an attempt to appease God’s wrath, making Jews the targets for mass genocides and accused of ludicrous conspiracies against Christians (Cohn, 2007).



The plague was significant because of both the consequences on European society and the mass destruction it caused (Horrox, 1994, p.3). The violence directed towards Jews exposed the lack of control the Church had on Christians (Cohn, 2007) . The massacres of the Jewish point towards the chaos that struck at the heart of European society during the Black Death.



People were devastated and lives were lost, leading to multiple disruptions in people’s lives as the Black Death hit Europe. This led to the beginning of a new era, the rise of the Renaissance. People began to have a newfound appreciation for art and literature as an important part of society.


The massive population reduction caused by the Black Death led to a major economic depression. Merchants and farmers made huge losses as there were too few people requiring goods and services. However, those that survived this epidemic saw opportunities for jobs and personal growth (Perry, 2015, p.191-192). Many came together to create a variety of new occupations (Perry, 2015, p.192). Ships were often used as a form of transport between countries for both goods and people. The lack of competition for jobs and the tiny market are flipped sides of the same coin of the unprecedentedly small population. It also allowed for people to “demand for high wages and increase product prices” (Magno, 2009).  In addition, despite the usage of Gothic Architecture and Art in Medieval Europe since 1150 CE, the Black Death drawing to a close led to the rise of the renaissance, a new time of unparalleled beauty and art.

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Credits for media given to:

Macleod, K (2013). Water Prelude

Macleod, K (2016). Intrepid

Ajvaughan3. (2016). The Plague.