In the summer of 1348 the medieval world was changed forever by a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. Never before or since has humanity experienced anything like the events that unfolded as the Black Death swept through Northern Europe. Within a year, between 30 and 50% of the population had died. As the plague advanced across Europe, panic and terror gripped the population.

Death

In Kilkenny, a Franciscan friar named John Clyn chronicled events as he waited for the plague to reach his hometown. Hear his account below. (St. Moling’s well, mentioned in the recording, can still be seen in the town of St. Mullins, Co. Carlow.)

John Clyn

John Clyn

Wherever the plague hit, chaos followed. Indeed, the worst fears of the Kilkenny friar we heard from above materialised. In this clip, we hear the words of Agnolo Di Tura, a chronicler in Siena, Italy, who painted a truly terrifying picture of his hometown during the plague.

Agnolo di Tura

Agnolo di Tura

For the lucky ones who survived this horrific ordeal, life didn’t necessarily improve in the aftermath of the Black Death. This is an account of Jean de Venette, a chronicler in France, describing life in the 1350s.

Jean de Venette

Jean de Venette

Richard FitzRalph, the Archbishop of Armagh, also chronicled the chaos of the times. In 1349, FitzRalph relayed a vision of Ireland struggling amid widespread violence. He told the tale of the Necromancer of Toledo to make his point. Listen to this clip, a reading of the answer Satan supposedly gave the Necromancer when asked which country sent the most souls to hell.

FitzRalph

Richard FitzRalph

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In a highly superstitious world with little understanding of medicine, the plague produced a number of frantic responses, the most extreme being the flagellants. Followers of this ascetic and fervently religious practice paraded throughout the countryside behind crosses and banners, whipping themselves bloody. Here, in this clip, Heinrich of Herford in Westphalia describes one such group.

Heinrich of Herford.

Heinrich of Herford

These audio clips are just snippets of what to expect in the months to come as I research my new book, “1348: A Medieval Apocalypse – The Black Death in Ireland”. This will be a fascinating expedition deep into our medieval past. Subscribe below to journey along with me.

3 comments on “Accounts of the plague – Voices from a Medieval Apocalypse.

  1. Frank Hopkins on

    Where are the bodies Finn? I know that Blackpitts off the SCR has been mentioned as a possible burial site for victims of the plague but have any sites been identified by archaeologists or in medieval records?

    Reply
    • Findwyer on

      Hi Frank. There are very few confirmed plague pits in Ireland. Incidentally the Black Pitts are almost certainly named after Dublin’s tanning pits which were located around there. I worked on a dig on New Street once – I would take a plague pit any day, the whiff off the tanning pits even today was rank!

      Reply
  2. Brian on

    Fascinating subject. The sense of panic and hopelessness must have been overwhelming. Looking forward to the updates and eventual book.

    Reply

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