Christians, Jews, and the Black Plague

1707 Words7 Pages
Relations between the Christians and Jews of medieval Europe were always influenced by their unequal social and economic statuses and the religious competition that existed between them. While the Jews served a purpose in the Christian religion, this purpose meant that the more populous Christians that had come to dominate Europe only tolerated the Jews. No premise of equality existed, and the Jews came to depend on relationships with lower-level rulers to secure their relative safety. Rumors persisted that Jews had poisoned wells, and the Jews were often the targets of violence that the Christians seemed exceedingly willing to deliver. Overall, life was better for the Christians and worse for the Jews, although this would be of no…show more content…
One of the most documented Christian responses to the plague was the rise of the flagellants. A spontaneous and unsanctioned movement, the flagellants sought to ward off the plague by physically punishing themselves for the sins that had caused God to send the Black Death to punish them (Tuchman, 1978, p. 125). Flagellant processions would typically remain on the move, marching from town to town, while twice a day beating themselves with whips and other instruments until they drew blood (Slack, 1988, p. 439). They were also known for their singing of religious songs while marching and whipping themselves, which ran counter to the official Catholic Church position and caused church officials no small amount of trouble (Lerner, 1981, p. 535-36). The official reasoning by the Catholic Church was that the flagellant movement was an unnecessary and wrong reaction to the Black Death, since there were equal death rates among Christians and Jews. The flagellants were also part of a Christian movement known as premillennialism (Lerner, 1981, 534). The extensive deaths in Europe cause many Christians to believe that the second coming of Christ was near, which would result in the end of the world. This interest in the events that were prophesied to happen just before the end of the world ran very high during this time. This interest was also a large influence responsible for the rise of groups like the flagellants (Lerner, 1981, 538). Another common occurrence in
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