The 14th century was an era of catastrophes. One such catastrophe was a pandemic which threw medieval Europe into turmoil: The Black Death. In 1347, The Black Death began spreading throughout Western Europe.
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Over the time of four years, the plague killed one third of the population in Europe with an estimated 25 million people dead. The Black Death killed more Europeans than any other endemic or war up to that time, greatly impacting the Church, family life, and the economy. These three social pillars were changed forever. The Black Death demonstrated in dramatic fashion the existence of new vulnerabilities in Western European society. It subjected the population of medieval Europe to tremendous strains, leading many people to challenge old institutions and doubt traditional values, and, by so doing, these calamities altered the path of European development in many areas. One of the effects of the black plague was the devastating effect it had on the Church. Before the Black Death hit Europe, almost all things, especially elements of daily life, were under the influence of the church. The Church throughout Europe had nearly absolute power. However, once the plague hit, people believed it to be a punishment of God. They turned to the Church for help. But since the priests and bishops could not actually offer a cure or even an explanation, the Church lost a lot of its influence and for many people, their view of the world changed drastically.
The plague shook people’s confidence in conventional beliefs and authority (Zahler 33). The people blamed God for the occurrence of the plague and they thought it was a punishment of their sins. Quickly, the Church began to suffer. Before the plague, the Church had thousands of followers. When tragedy struck, the people strayed from the Church and blamed them for the plague. The Church had no explanation for the outrage, so the people were infuriated. The people thought of the Church as omniscient, so when the priests and bishops could not give them the answers they wanted, the Church began losing spiritual authority over its people. As the Church lost spiritual authority, the clergy of the Church began leaving. About sixty percent of the clergy abandoned their Christian duties and fled. The monasteries and the clergy suffered the greatest loss (Zahler 215). Many of the Churches finest leaders were quitting and some even moved far away to avoid the problems they were facing. Since many head officials were parting, the Church panicked and began aggressively recruiting others to fill the ranks. As the Monks, Nuns, and Friars continued to disappear, the standards for their replacements lowered. This caused the monasteries to be run by less educated people, leading to a decline of vernacular. As the Church weakened, the people’s hope declined. The commoners prayers were not working and the Church had lost almost all its respect and authority over its’
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