In times of the coronavirus pandemic, it is common that we have seen, in photography or costumes for Halloween, the peculiar clothing of the doctor of the black plague, a quite controversial character for the contexts of the bubonic plague in Europe, since his mere presence was the meaning of death for many.
In the fourteenth century in Europe, humanity suffered a global health crisis, the black plague disease had ended many lives, and what initially seemed to be a problem on the Asian continent, ended up reaching European lands, being Italy , the first country affected by this plague.
Black plague arose as a result of the transmission of fleas carried by rats, it is presumed that by then, the so-called bubonic plague could have wiped out a third of the world’s population. And as in modern times, this disease claimed the lives of many people, whatever their context or social status.
A matter of disgust
In those times, not just any doctor or health professional felt encouraged to exercise their profession, since the exercise of it demanded an imminent danger due to the high level of contagion that it produced. That is why they contacted the doctors of the black plague, at that time a series of specialists who did not necessarily carry out studies related to the field of medicine, but who, through empirical experience, were valued by the people who required their services.
These doctors used to roam the city, to care for all people without discriminating their social class, since it was the city authorities who paid their wages. Unlike conventional doctors, these were called «municipal doctors» or «community plague doctors.»
Popular and required
Due to the demand for doctors, and the knowledge they made known, they were very important, since they received awards, praise and all kinds of courtesies for their work, this somehow facilitated the exercise of their profession because they were allowed to perform autopsies.
Their degree of importance to society was so important that many historians point out that these iconic characters were kidnapped and then asked for money in exchange for their ransom. So great was his demand, and the atrophy of his work, that over time his presence diminished.
A black plague doctor was very clear about health protocols so as not to end up getting it, it is from there that the idea of dressing in a particularly strange way was born. It was the French doctor Charles de L’Orme who introduced the concept of this outfit that consisted of wearing a long black robe, gloves, a black hat (to protect his hair), a curious mask with holes with glass lenses and a peculiar nose iconic that appeared to be the beak of a bird; However, the root of this particular ornament fulfilled a very important function, that of providing a space for the doctor, who placed straw and medicinal herbs (myrrh, mint leaves, rose petals, cloves) to avoid breathing the accumulation of carbon dioxide that we emanate when breathing.
To this style, his classic walking stick was added, which also fulfilled an important function for the black plague doctor, which served to review and / or evaluate patients without touching them. Another practical function was to keep people away, since the tip of the end of the cane was contaminated by having touched other infected patients with that object.
The peculiar costume of the black plague doctor served quite peculiar functions; However, when going out, this type of terror costume infringed fear on the people who observed it, since for many it symbolized the arrival of death.
Many bad exponents took advantage of this situation for their benefit since it could charge exorbitant sums money to go to visit a sick patient. Back then many wealthy families paid large amounts as long as the black plague doctor went to check them out.
This is how even some presented supposed cures, such as sangria or extravagant formulas such as placing toads in owls and among other concoctions invented by them.
Due to the dangerous nature of their practice, many black plague doctors had to comply with many rules, among them they isolated themselves as much as possible from the entire social and / or family environment. However, despite all the rules or the effort they used to not get, many of them ended up getting and dying.
It should be noted that these curious characters also fulfilled functions of the public sector, since their job was not only to practice medicine in those infected with the black plague, but they also acted as an annexator of deaths (keeping the registry of deceased people), witness in the signature of the dead, perform autopsies and even provide advice for sick people.
It should be noted that it is this famous French doctor who also worked as a doctor for the black plague, and even more so are his peculiar contributions to the field of medicine at that time: from the elimination of infected bodies, taking fresh air and drinking clean water.
Many have been the anecdotes and witnesses who highlighted the name of this iconic character, who served at the time to save thousands of life from the black plague. So his legacy for popular culture and history buff has in its basic concepts the predominant value of this unique character of medicine.