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Black Death: Bordeaux is Burning

Yards and yards of gold-laced silk make up the wedding dress of Princess Joan, the daughter of King Edward III of England. Most accounts of her fifteen-year-old life concern her wardrobe... and one other thing. On her way to marry the Prince of Castile, she stops at the family residence within the port city of Bordeaux (present day France). Disfigured, Plague-ridden bodies are rotting in the streets, but the Princess will not be put off. On September 2nd, within weeks of her arrival, Princess Joan is dead. There will be no funeral. No burial plot. Bordeaux is burning. Her ashes are drifting with the wind. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
When King Edward learned of the Plague, he moved the rest of his family to remote locations where they mostly survived. Bordeaux decided to burn the dock-side buildings where the Plague was the worst but the fire got out of control. Historians know this because the city got the bill from those aristocratic residences that were supposed to remain safe.[4]

Note: There is a logistical momentum created when the royal entourage travels anywhere. In many ways, the tail wags the dog, so Princess Joan either had to stop in Bordeaux or turn around and go home.

Black Death: Interfaith Prayer Saves Damascus

Even Marco Polo didn't travel as widely as Ibn Battuta (pronounced ih-BIN bah-TOO-tah). He set out on his world wide journey in 1324 at the age of 25. He will not return home for 24 years. The journal of his travels remains one of the greatest single sources of knowledge of life in the Middle Ages through what is now called the Middle East. He arrives in Damascus to find it ravaged by Plague. A call for prayer and deliverance brings out Muslims, Jews and Christians, together appealing for God's mercy... and it helps... that is... if you think 2,000 people dropping dead in a day as "an improvement". One can only imagine how bad it was BEFORE they started praying. [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
A passage from the account seems appropriate....

"After the dawn prayer next morning they all went out together on foot, holding Korans in their hands, and the amirs barefooted. The procession was joined by the entire population of the town, men and women, small and large; the Jews came with their Book of the Law and the Christians with their Gospel, all of them with their women and children [...] made their way to the Mosque of the Footprints, and there they remained in supplication [...] and God lightened their affliction; for the numbers of deaths in a single day at Damascus did not attain two thousand, while in Cairo and the Old Cairo it reached the figure of twenty-four thousand a day." from "Journey of Ibn Battuta".[6]

Black Death: Pope Clement VI Saves the Jews... as best he can

With the Black Death sweeping across Europe, the local peasants seek someone to blame. Many accuse the Jews of poisoning the wells in order to kill off the Christians, and despite attempts by Pope Clement VI to calm his Christian flock, they are in a panic. Zurich, in present day Switzerland, bans the Jews and the Plague won't reach Zurich for another year! Some authorities arrest the Jews... probably in an attempt to protect them from violence. Sixty large Jewish communities are wiped out along with many smaller ones across Europe. [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
FYI, from a Jewish perspective, the Christians are not exactly covering themselves in glory this year but the normal patterns are being followed. In general, for whatever reason, the better educated leadership try to protect the Jews within their communities, but the peasantry, the lower clergy and monks usually blame the Jews in their midst. There are reasons for this, having little to do with religion but religion is used as the excuse. The various Popes at this time are establishing colleges to train the clergy, so that they have a more consistent Christian education. The Church will change the educational system again when they realize that the Holocaust was due, in part, to linking Christianity with a national identity or a national figure as they did in the Middle Ages rather than making it an individual conviction. This allowed Hitler to claim that if a citizen didn't support Germany in war he wasn't a good Christian.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1348, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Cantor, Norman F., In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, Harper Perennial, 2001. p. 7, 29-62.(BOOK)
  2. Joan of England (1335-1348) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. Bordeaux - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Cantor, Norman F., In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, Harper Perennial, 2001. p. 49. (BOOK)
  5. Ibn Battuta - Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org, 2014 [last update]
  6. Ibn Battuta: Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354
  7. Cantor, Norman F., In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, Harper Perennial, 2001. p. 153-154. (BOOK)
  8. 1348, from JewishHistory.org. (WEB SITE TIMELINE)

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