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Black Death Victims - Funeral at Tournai, Belgium

Black Death Victims - Funeral at Tournai, Belgium Medicine Visual Arts World History Medieval Times Disasters

Tournai - known, in Dutch, as "Doornik" and, in Latin, as "Tornacum" - is a Flemish (Walloon) city, in the province of Hainaut, where the people speak French. It is located about 85 kilometers southwest of Brussels, on the river Scheldt.

Together with Tongeren, located immediately south, Tournai is the oldest city in Belgium. A quaint place to visit, the town has always been significant in Belgium's cultural history.

Residents of Toumai fell victim to Europe's medieval outbreak of plague. This 14th-century image is a fragment of miniatures from the Chronicles of the Abbot of the monastery of St Martin the Righteous (1272-1352) depicting the funeral of plague victims in Tournai, Belgium.

The Chronicle is maintained at the Library of King Albert I in Brussels.

We learn more about the plague, in Tournai, from another chronicler, Gilles li Muisis:

6. The plague seen from Tournai

Gilles li Muisis, Abbot of St Giles at Tournai, wrote two accounts of the plague. The first, a brief summary written late in 1348, appears in his Chronicle and is printed as below. Early in 1350, li Muisis supplemented his chronicle with a detailed description of the events of 1349 and his reflections upon them. The prologue and extracts are printed as b below.

(a) Gilles li Muisis from J-J de Smet (ed), Recueil des Chroniques de Flandre II, Brussels, 1841, pp. 279-80.
...
... the mortality [that is to say, the plague] grew strong in Rome, the Romagna, Sicily, Tuscany, Italy, Gascony, Spain and various other countries, at last entering France in 1348 ... The death rate was unbelievable at Marseilles, where the illness arrived by land and sea...and throughout the whole country round about.
...
(b) ... if anyone dies because of the mortality, at whatever hour of the day or the night, and regardless of his social standing, his grave should be dug immediately and he should be buried in a coffin or box, and should have the bell tolled in accordance with his status and the customary masses sung on Sundays.
...
The things written above relate to the period up to the beginning of March [1350], for there I have made an end of 1349. The winter was certainly very odd, for in the four months from the beginning of October until the beginning of February, although a hard frost was often expected, there was not so much ice as would support the weight of a goose. But there was instead such a lot of rain that the Scheldt and all the rivers round about burst their banks, so that meadows became sea, and this was so in our country [Belgium] and in France.

Of distant countries I cannot speak with authority. Many wise men suspect that because of the lack of frost and the excess of water there will be much sickness in March and in summer. (From the Chronicle of Gilles li Muisis, quoted by Rosemay Horrox in The Black Death, at pages 45-54.)


Media Credits

Image of the funeral of plague victims - in Tournai, Belgium - source described above.  Online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

PD

 

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