Medieval Berlin 3- The Marian Kirche and the Dance of Death


In 1250 permission was granted to build a parish church not far from Kloster Straße. It eventually began with the building of a Fieldstone Foundation but the Builders watched the brick Cloister being built nearby, saw the advantages of the brick, and changed to the same Brick Gothic style. The Chronicles make first mention of the church in 1292. Forty five years later the Plague hit Europe.

It began in Asia around 1330 and slowly gathered strength. It travelled along the Silk Road amd came to Europe via Genovese Traders.The Mongol Army attacked their outpost in Crimea. The Mongols catapulted the dead bodies of Plague Victims over the Kaffa City Walls. The Genoese escaped but not for long. Their 12 Boats landed in Messina in 1347. People were shocked to find everyone on the boats either dead or dying. The Sicilians realized too late what had happened and sent the boats back out to Sea, but it was too late. The Plague had landed


By mid 1348 half of the population was affected, Not only did it spread quickly, it killed quickly. A person could notice a pustule starting to develop, go to bed and be dead by morning. No one was there to treat the sick or bury the dead. Mass graves were dug and bodies of the dead or even the dying were thrown in. Rag tag groups of Penitents went from town to town believing the sickness was a punishment from God for sin. They whipped themselves and chanted prayers asking for forgiveness, but this just helped spread the disease. Plague Doctors were hired by the towns to treat the victims. They generally had no medical training but just a willingness to risk the danger. The treatment was generally bloodletting or putting frogs or leeches on the “Buboes” (the Pustules). They generally carried a cane to avoid touching their patients. One of their most important jobs was to record deaths. This occupation continued into the 19th century. Even when the worst was over in the 14th Century there were outbreaks, with slightly different patterns. Nostradamus was a Plague Doctor in the 1550s. He advised against böoodletting. In the 1600s Doctors began wearing the masks with the beaks. It was then thought the plague was caused be putrid air, so the beak was filled with aromatic herbs and the eyes were protected by glass.


An estimated 40% to 60% of the population of Europe died between 1348 and 1351

Liz Magno