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EpidemicsHate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS$
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Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198819660

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198819660.001.0001

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Mechanisms for Unity

Mechanisms for Unity

Saints and Plagues

(p.68) 4 Mechanisms for Unity

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates changes in mentalities after the Black Death, comparing practices never before analysed in this context—funerary and labour laws and processions to calm God’s anger. While processions were rare or conflictual as in Catania and Messina in 1348, these rituals during later plagues bound communities together in the face of disaster. The chapter then turns to another trend yet to be noticed by historians. Among the multitude of saints and blessed ones canonized from 1348 to the eighteenth century, the Church was deeply reluctant to honour, even name, any of the thousands who sacrificed their lives to succour plague victims, physically or spiritually, especially in 1348: the Church recognized no Black Death martyrs. By the sixteenth century, however, city-wide processions and other communal rituals bound communities together with charity for the poor, works of art, and charitable displays of thanksgiving to long-dead holy men and women.

Keywords:   Black Death, processions, Catania, saints, Catherine of Siena, San Bernardino of Siena, Saint Roch, Francesca Romana, Saint Rosalia of Palermo, festivals of thanksgiving

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