Below is a copy or The Black Plague..


Do not copy the below, read it from the orignal link at Discovery Channels Web site or for your convenience, I have reproduced it below.....

In the 14th century a plague spread across Asia, Europe and Great Britain with such virulence that the course of human history changed forever. Leave the present day and travel back 600 years to witness this crucial moment when many believed the end of the world had come. Click on the rat to begin your journey.


You are about to follow the path of what became known as the Black Death. Just as the disease spread in different directions, you will, at times, have a choice of paths to explore. To retrace your steps or visit a missed city, town or village, use the map to navigate anywhere along the plague's path. In each disease-stricken country, you will encounter the people who experienced the devastation and chaos.


The people of the Crimea were dying from a plague of unparalleled fury. Rumors spread to major European seaports: India was depopulated; dead bodies covered Mesopotamia, Syria and Armenia; in some areas along the Great Silk route no one was left alive. These reports, however, barely added a moment of reflection to the everyday activities of the Europeans. To the west, Asia was the land of pagans and infidels. Strange events happened in these exotic places and there was no reason to believe that a similar disaster would strike the West. Even though Genoese merchants had long ago established a trading settlement along the Black Sea, this plague was considered a foreign illness attacking foreign cities in a foreign land.


The indigenous people of Asia also saw this plague as a foreign disease &endash;


Ships arrived from Caffa at the port of Messina, Sicily. A few dying men clung to the oars; the rest lay dead on the decks. Ships that were once greeted with excitement were now refused entry. Ships that carried the coveted goods of the fabled East now also carried death. The Pestilence had come to the shores of Europe.

It was said that the cause of the Pestilence or The Great Mortality -- 14th-century names for the contagion -- was a particularly sinister alignment of the planets, or a foul wind created by recent earthquakes. Other theories existed. "Looks," according to one medieval physician, "could kill."

But the source of the pestilence was something much more common and much more insidious -- rats and fleas infected with plague.

For centuries the bacillus Yersinia pestis, the bacteria associated with plague, lived comfortably within the confines of the blood streams of the small medieval wild black rat and the stomachs of adult rat fleas, and for centuries human populations were left untouched. The habitats of wild rats and humans rarely crossed paths, and rat fleas seldom found the blood of humans an enjoyable meal. People were accidental victims when no other warm-blooded small mammal was available.

Situated along the Arno River, Florence became the center for moneychangers to the world. In this international city, people from Europe and Asia roamed the streets, passed the magnificent baptistery of Florence, admired the rough and sturdy Palazzo Vecchio, viewed the artwork of Giotto and did business. Large powerful banks emerged as the Florentines created wealth and a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. In 100 years, Florence would be the birthplace of the Renaissance. But in the mid-14th century, with all their sophistication, wealth and power, the people of Florence were not prepared for the devastation that was about to hit them. Florence was the first of the great cities of Europe to feel the full force of the epidemic, and contemporaries frequently referred to the 14th-century plague as "The Great Pestilence of Florence." Historians estimate that between 45,000 and 65,000 Florentines died of the Plague. Consecrated burial grounds could not accommodate the vast number of tombs needed for all of the corpses. Highly paid laborers, taking on a high-risk profession, dug huge trenches, creating common graves for the cartloads of bodies that arrived hourly. In the hope of escaping inevitable death, many people left the city. But could they outrun the disease?

Francesco Petrarch, scholar, humanist and poet laureate, left Florence for Parma to escape the plague. For awhile Parma remained safe, but the plague eventually reached this remote village as well. Petrarch survived, but his world had changed. In a letter dedicated to a friend, Petrarch laments all the plague has taken from him, including -- although she is not explicitly mentioned -- Laura, the great love of his life.


The world took on an eerie silence. Mourning bells no longer tolled as villages and towns discontinued the practice that had become too repetitious. Castles echoed with their stillness. Fields remained empty. Ghost ships off the coast could be seen floundering as the crews were all dead.

Unfinished cathedrals dotted the countryside standing like headless skeletons -- morbid monuments to the masons and architects who lay dead in nearby trenches. Many cathedrals would not be finished for a hundred years or more as the stone cutters, artisans and laborers were all dead. A few survivors took to the roads in an attempt to flee the contagion, in the process spreading as well as contracting the disease. In their wanderings they witnessed a world that in a little more than three years had changed beyond recognition.

Rumors spread as quickly as the Pestilence itself. England watched as the disease carved a path directly to its door. Country after country collapsed like dominoes hit by a silent breeze. Medieval chroniclers noted that the disease spread during winter as rapidly as in the summer. Scientists now believe that the warming winds of El Niño created higher than normal temperatures during the crucial winter months. A cold, harsh winter might have killed countless numbers of rats and fleas and slowed down the killing rampage of the plague.

People who were experiencing the plague wrote to their friends in other countries, warning them of what to expect. In Avignon, the papal capital from 1309 to 1377, Pope Clement VI ordered prayers and held processions. The pope fled to a small town near Valence, and under the advice of his physicians he spent the remainder of the plague years, even during the blazing heat of summer, sitting between two huge fireplaces as a method to ward off the illness. The Pope survived. Other theories of prevention also existed. The recipe for a sweet-smelling nosegay, however, may have been less a preventive measure and more a method to tolerate the stench that permeated the air.

Law and order broke down. Morality was at an all-time low. In Germany fear triggered two destructive movements: flagellism and anti-Semitism.

The Brotherhood of the Flagellants, as the movement was called, originated in Eastern Europe. It was in Germany, however, that the Flagellant movement really took root. Traveling from village to village, groups of chanting men dressed in linen cloths which stretched to their ankles performed their unique religious rituals for the townspeople. They carried a heavy scourge with three or four leather thongs. Through each thong projected a metal stud. With these scourges flagellants rhythmically and purposefully beat themselves. Some beatings were so severe that the metal studs became embeded in the flesh and blood splattered the crowd. Self-scourging, the flagellants believed, saved those of the Brotherhood from the fires of Hell.

Slowly the movement died out but in their wake, the flagellants left behind another much more destructive movement. In village after village, flagellants laid the blame of the plague at the feet of the Jews. Hundreds of Jews were accused of poisoning wells and put to the question&emdash;medieval code for torture&emdash;and burned. Historians believe that about 8,000 Jews were slaughtered in Strasbourg alone.

The Pestilence did not end at the water's edge of Europe. Crossing the channel, new lands provided fresh bodies.

Amid the yellow-green Irish hills, a monk sits at his desk, tonsured head bent closely over his work. He has just witnessed the last of his brothers die, and the chanting voices of the dead echo in his ears as he awaits his own excruciating death. Brother John Clynn is writing a letter to the future with little hope that anyone will remain to read his last work of recorded history. Like many of his contemporaries, this lone monk, surrounded by the Irish hills set against the backdrop of a setting sun, bel ieves the world has come to an end. Brother Clynn is right.


The plague lasted from 1346 until 1350. In less than four years the disease carved a path of death through Asia, Italy, France, North Africa, Spain and Normandy, made its way over the Alps into Switzerland, and continued eastward into Hungary. After a bri ef respite, the plague resumed, crossing the channel into England, Scotland, and Ireland, and eventually made its way into the northern countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and even as far north as Greenland. In other words, the plague touched al most all of the known world. Although the death toll from region to region varied, modern demographers agree with the casual remarks of the medieval chronicler Froissart, who stated that "a third of the world died." Translated into a body count, about 20 million victims lay in hastily dug trenches.

So much death could not help but tear apart economic and social structures. Lack of peasants and laborers sent wages soaring, and the value of land plummeted. For the first time in history the scales tipped against wealthy landlords as peasants and serfs gained more bargaining power. Without architects, masons and artisans, great cathedrals and castles remained unfinished for hundreds of years. Governments, lacking officials, floundered in their attempts to create order out of chaos.

The living lost all sense of morality and justice, and a new attitude toward the church emerged. Medieval people could find no Divine reason for the four-year nightmare, and dissatisfaction with the church gave impetus to reform movements that eventually broke apart the unity of the Catholic Church. Priests and elderly scholars, the holders of knowledge, died in unprecedented numbers. In England, from the days of the Norman Conquest, the keys of education had been locked away in the languages of Latin and French. Into the vacuum left by the dead clergy and teachers flowed new ideas, and the revolutionary use of the vernacular to communicate these ideas allowed the common person to become educated. After the plague, concern for the survival of learning dro ve the founding of new universities across Europe. Only five years after the Pestilence left its shores, England created three new colleges at Cambridge. It may not be too much of an overstatement to say that the Black Plague anticipated the onset of the Renaissance and the rise of humanism.

Before the plague, death was seen as a kind caretaker for souls awaiting resurrection. In plague-stricken Europe, death became something much more sinister. Art and literature portrayed death as an inescapable monster.

One gift the Black Plague may have bequeathed to future generations is the ability to resist the immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. The virus for AIDS and the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis attack the body in similar ways. Those who survived the Black Death may have carried a chance gene mutation, giving them immunity from the plague that would also provide protection against HIV. Those immune to the AIDS virus today may have received this mutation from the survivors of the Black Dea th.

For those living in the years directly after the plague, however, the nightmare was over, but getting on with the business of life in a new world remained painful and difficult. No longer were the mysteries of life easily explained, and the reality of dea th was all too plain. As one Black Death epitaph put it:

We are a spectacle to the world. Let the great and humble, by our example, see well to what state they shall be inexorably reduced, whatever their condition, age or sex. Why, then, miserable person, are you puffed with pride? Dust you are and unto dust yo u shall return, rotten corpse, morsel and mean for worms.

Brother Clynn left five clean pages for anyone who might survive the Pestilence to continue his work. At the end of his last paragraph, written in the copyist's hand, are the words "Here it seems the author died." Brother John Clynn had died of the plague.

Imagine, if such a disease could impact us how are the rest of the wolrld's wildlife populations reacting to the diseases we are now importing and spreading throughout the world??