The Black Death had such an impact on the fourteenth century, and therefore upon the Order of St Augustine, that it warrants that some Augnet pages be accorded to it.
The Black Death one of the deadliest natural disasters in all of human history.
Historical records attribute the Black Death to an outbreak of Bubonic Plague, an epidemic of the bacterium Yersinia pestis spread by fleas with the help of animals like the black rat (Rattus rattus), although today's experts debate both the microbiological culprit and the mode of transmission.
The original 14th-century European event was called the "Great Mortality" by contemporary writers and, with later outbreaks, became known as the "Black Death" because of a striking symptom of the disease, called acral necrosis, in which sufferers' skin would blacken due to subdermal hemorrhages.
The Black Death (more recently known as the Black Plague) was a devastating pandemic that first struck Europe in the mid-14th century (1347–1350). Starting in Asia, the Black Death reached Mediterranean and western Europe in 1348, probably from Italian merchants fleeing from it in the Crimea.
It killed twenty million Europeans in six years, a quarter (or one-third?) of the total population and up to a half of the population in the worst-affected urban areas. A series of plague epidemics also occurred in large portions of Asia and the Middle East during the same period, which indicates this outbreak was actually a worldwide pandemic.
The 200 million victims constituted the largest death toll from any known epidemic of any disease in world history. A strong presence of the more contagious pneumonic and septicemic varieties increased the pace of infection, spreading the disease deep into inland areas of the continents.
Plague continued to strike parts of Europe throughout the 1400s, 1500s, and 1600s with varying degrees of intensity and fatality. Researchers still do not agree on why large outbreaks of the infection have never returned to Europe. However, improvements in hygiene habits and strong efforts toward public health and sanitation probably had a positive impact on the decline of the disease.
The result of the Black Death was not just a massive decline in population. It irrevocably changed Europe's social structure, was a disastrous blow to the Catholic Church and to the morale of Christians, caused widespread persecutions of minorities like Jews and lepers, and created a general mood of morbidity that influenced people to live for the moment, unsure of their daily survival.
The Augustinian Prior General at the beginning of the Black Death was Thomas of Strasburg. He was elected Prior General at the General Chapter at Paris in 1345. He is listed as the fourteenth Prior General since the Grand Union of the Order in 1256, and the first one who was not Italian.
He must have possessed unusual administrative talents in view of the position that he had held in the Diocese of Strasburg previously, as well as the fact that he was re-elected at three successive general chapters. He was carrying out his third term of office at the time of his death in 1357.
The last ten years of his generalate was a calamitous time for the Order of Saint Augustine and for the population of Europe generally because of the Black Death (1347 to 1351).
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