The rest of continental Europe was equally devastated. At times it seemed that civilization would not continue. "The country of Holland, one of the most rural and least densely settled parts of the Netherlands, suffered losses of 30% to 35%-- losses so great that reclamation of lands along the Zuider Zee came to a halt after 300 years of diking, draining, and damming" (Bishop, pg. 180). Odd reports of wolves descending from the Alps and devouring entire villages pepper the chronicles of the time, betraying the highly superstitious nature of the people.

Perhaps the most interesting (and tragic) social phenomenon of the entire disease comes from Germany. During the plague, a cult of the 5th and 6th centuries was revived. Hundreds of people calling themselves flagellants would snake through towns in long chains, whipping themselves and crying out prayers in frenzied supplication for God's mercy. Women following the processions would wipe up the flagellants' blood and call the cloths holy. The Pope quickly condemned this violence, especially when the flagellants began to blame the Jews for the plague and burn Jewish villages. Yet he couldn't stop the rising tide of violence, and this was the beginning of the ghetto culture that would come to a head during the Holocaust.

Scandinavia remained isolated until the summer of 1349, when the plague sailed in on a ship of dead men. A British ship had been seen floating in the harbor, and was pulled in by some fishermen. It was full of plague victims and the disease spread outward from the dock. In Scandinavia, the plague would kill over 45% of the population because of climactic conditions conducive to the septicemic strain. In Iceland over 50% died. Perhaps most terrifying is the story of Greenland's colonists. The plague was probably carried in on a transport ship sometime in 1350. This was the last of the transports to the island until the early fifteenth century when a Norwegian ship came into the dock (due to the freezing of the sea). Sailors got out to investigate and found only cattle wandering through deserted villages. Not a single person remained alive.

The Black Death Part 8: The Contemporary Response to the Plague

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