"In the 1348th year after the birth of our Lord, the most beautiful city in Italy-that is the bustling Florence, there was a terrible plague... It first occurred in the East, less than a few years ago. Countless people died... In Florence, the residents died one after another, almost becoming an empty city."
This passage comes from "The Decameron" by the Italian Renaissance writer Giovanni Boccaccio. It details the Black Death (the plague) that ravaged all of Europe in the Middle Ages. It is believed to be compatible with Dante’s " A masterpiece on par with the Divine Comedy.
Due to the backward medical conditions in Europe in the Middle Ages and people have not yet formed a complete concept for the prevention and control of infectious diseases, the Black Death swept across the entire European continent with lightning speed. According to incomplete statistics, during the outbreak of the Black Death in Medieval Europe, about 30% to 60% of the population died, and the popes and kings people believed in became poor clowns on the way to escape.
In the context of the collapse of the social system and people fleeing around, instead of fleeing the hardest-hit areas of the major plague, a group of people went deep alone and used simple medical equipment to give those people who were suffering from the disease the last hope. These "retrogrades of the times" are the famous plague doctors (also known as Doctor Bird Beak).
In 541 AD, Egypt and Abyssinia on the southern border of the powerful Byzantine Empire began to show signs of small-scale plague infection. Due to the lack of preventive measures against infectious diseases, the plague spread by ships to the surrounding areas of the Mediterranean in just a few weeks, and large-scale deaths began to appear immediately.
At this time, the senior leaders of the Byzantine Empire began to realize the severity of the epidemic. They successively appointed some doctors with medical knowledge in the city to diagnose and treat patients in order to prevent the spread of the plague throughout the country. However, people knew nothing about the measures to prevent and control infectious diseases at that time. The vast majority of doctors appointed by the Byzantine Empire not only failed to help patients out of the sea of suffering, but there were a large number of deaths due to cross-infection.
According to The Records of War by the Byzantine historian Pro Kirby, the plague began to break out in the spring of 542 AD and lasted for 4 months. At the beginning of the plague outbreak, the doctors sent by the Byzantine Empire were still able to maintain the number of patients within a controllable range. However, as a large number of doctors died due to cross-infection, the number of people infected with the plague began to increase significantly, with the largest number At that time, more than 10,000 people died as a result.
The rapid increase in the number of deaths made the burial of dead bodies a major problem at the time. At first, cities chose to dig large pits in the suburban barren land to bury the dead. However, with the increase in the number of deaths every day, there is no more space around the city for burial, and helpless people can only begin to divide part of the city into "morgues" for corpses. According to Prokolby’s description, Constantinople, known as the most prosperous city in the world, became an absolute purgatory in this unprecedented plague attack, and the city will never hear singing. Evening songs, you can't see the funeral queue.
According to statistics from the authorities of Constantinople, the plague that broke out in the spring of 542 AD caused approximately 230,000 deaths, and Prokobe believes that at least half of the people died in the plague. This is true in the imperial capital, not to mention the remote areas where the level of medical care is more backward (it is estimated that the Justinian plague caused the total population of Europe to plummet by nearly 50%, and it did not recover until more than 200 years later).
"Spots, oh, rosy spots
Pocket full of floral fragrance
Ah sneeze! Ah sneeze!
We are all done. "
This is a folk song that was widely circulated during the European Black Death in the Middle Ages. Rose refers to the rose-like rash when the Black Death occurred; while the floral fragrance refers to the fact that the dead body could not be treated in time because of the high mortality rate. People can only put various petals in the pockets of the dead's clothes to cover up the odor of rotting. The whole poem seems to eulogize a good life, but it is full of metaphors, suggesting that Europe was in a terrifying environment ravaged by the Black Death.
(The picture comes from Wikipedia)
How serious was the Black Death in medieval Europe? As shown in the figure above, due to the lack of prevention and control measures, the Black Death spread throughout the European continent in less than three years, causing approximately 25 million deaths. In order to curb the plague infection and gradually restore the local economy, European countries have appointed a number of doctors to visit the hardest-hit areas of the epidemic. They are mainly responsible for the most basic diagnosis and treatment of patients, recording the number of infections, and organizing the burial of dead bodies.
Some friends may have a hint of doubt when they see this: Since doctors have to go to the hardest-hit area and make frontal contact with patients, do they have any protective measures? To answer this question, we must understand how the European medical community in the Middle Ages recognized the plague infection. Due to limited medical knowledge, medical scientists at that time believed that the Black Death was mainly spread through the air, so they came up with a way to fight off the virus by smelling flowers. Doctors at that time often chose to wrap a few petals around the mouth and nose during the diagnosis and treatment process to resist the virus.
Charles Delorme (picture from Wikipedia)
It is also under this misunderstanding that a large number of doctors were infected and died in the process of treating patients, and people began to realize that the fragrance of flowers did not have any inhibitory effect on the spread of the Black Death. In 1619 AD, the French medical doctor Charles de Lorme (Charles de Lorme) came to the conclusion after many clinical observations in Europe: The Black Death does not necessarily spread only through the nose and mouth. All are strictly protected.
也正是在这种误解下，大量医生在治疗病人的过程中被感染并死亡，人们开始意识到，花的芬芳对黑死病的传播没有任何抑制作用。公元1619年，法国医学家查尔斯·德·洛尔梅（Charles de Lorme）在欧洲进行了许多临床观察后得出结论：“黑死病”不一定只通过鼻子和嘴传播。全部受到严格保护。
Later, Charles DeLorm invented a set of clothing specially used by doctors to diagnose the plague. The entire costume is composed of a robe coat, a mask and a wooden walking stick. The robe coat is woven with multiple layers of cloth, and the outer layer is covered with high-density wax. This airtight gown can effectively ensure that the doctors will not directly touch the patient when visiting the doctor, and the presence of wax can also effectively prevent infectious fleas or the patient's blood from contaminating the clothes.
On the mask worn by the doctor, Charles Delorm installed transparent glass on the eyes to isolate the patient's tissue fluid, blood or droplets. At the front of the mask there is also a raised part similar to a bird's beak, which is filled with a large amount of aromatic substances (mainly ambergris, melissa, spearmint, camphor, cloves, tincture of opium, rose petals) . At the time, these strong aromatic substances were thought to be able to curb the miasma and reduce the stench from necrotic tissues or corpses of patients.
Finally, we will introduce the key tool of plague doctors in diagnosis and treatment-wooden crutches. The official term for this kind of crutches at the time was "indicating stick", which doctors used to avoid direct contact with patients. It is worth mentioning that this wooden crutch has another very important function-to lash patients and forgive sins. Perhaps this kind of effect seems absurd to people nowadays, but it was the only hope of survival for countless patients who fell into despair at that time. People believe that plague is a punishment from heaven, and only through constant lashing can they be saved from original sin.
Because of Charles Delorm’s lofty status in the European medical world at the time (he was the private doctor of several members of the Medici family royal family from 1610 to 1650, and later became Henry IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The chief physician of the three French kings), this kind of plague doctor’s special clothing was immediately spread throughout Europe as soon as it was invented. Because of the crippled masks, these plague doctors were also called "beak doctors" at the time. People hoped that these scary doctors could scare away the virus and bring them healthy bodies.
Under the medieval European social system that was on the brink of collapse because of the Black Death, the beak doctors became the only light in the long darkness. Whenever the sky is dimly light or the night falls, these anti-epidemic fighters who shoulder the hopes of countless patients will appear in major streets wearing heavy robes and conduct diagnosis and treatment from house to house.
Although limited by the backwardness of medical standards, the bloodletting therapy pursued by the beak doctors has almost no effect on the epidemic, but the beak doctors have brought a little bit of hope to countless patients at the most desperate moments and ensured the most Basic social order. The birds' beak doctors also used persistent and arduous research to discover the most basic prevention and control measures such as "isolation" and "cleaning".
Regrettably, although the beak mask was the best anti-epidemic equipment available at the time, there was still no way to withstand the pervasive plague. Most of the beak doctors were brave enough to fight the Black Death. According to statistics, in 1348, almost all doctors in Montpellier, France, died of plague. In Venice, the famous water city in Italy, all medical resources were used up in less than a year, and only 4 of the 24 best physicians remained.
Although their colleagues fell one after another on the road of fighting the epidemic, most of the beak doctors did not retreat because of this. They firmly walked into the hardest hit area every day at dawn or dusk to take care of the patients, and instructed the staff to carry out the treatment of the corpses. Incinerate.
It is true that the main task of the beak doctors is to go deep into the hardest-hit areas to diagnose and treat the plague victims. However, considering that the social system at that time was close to collapse, the ruling class, including the pope and the king, was already on the road to escape. There is no extra time to manage the life and death of the people at the bottom. As a result, many beak doctors with a strong sense of social responsibility have taken the initiative to take on part of the epidemic prevention organization work. They will investigate the patient's previous whereabouts in detail, trying to find people who have been in close contact with them and isolate them.
There are also many beak doctors who will combine their own understanding of the epidemic to propose various large-scale prevention and control measures to major cities. Gentile of Foligno organized people to set fire to smoke in the street, trying to get rid of the "stinks" that caused the black plague to spread; Agramon advised people not to discard animal organs and excrement near the city. With the help of many beak doctors, major European countries gradually constructed public health systems during the Black Death epidemic. During this period, Italy established a health committee with certain jurisdiction and put forward the slogan of "do everything possible to protect public health and prevent large-scale environmental pollution."
It is precisely by virtue of the effective maintenance of the social system that the status of Doctor Bird's Beak in various countries has risen linearly. They not only have the privilege of unrestricted autopsy (the beak doctor was the only occupation with this privilege in medieval Europe), but they will also be awarded the title of "municipal plague doctor" or "district plague doctor", which is useful for their future medical practice It will be of great benefit.
The lofty social status has also led many lawbreakers to regard Doctor Bird's Beak as a bargaining chip for their fortune. In 1650, Barcelona, the famous Spanish port city, sent two beak doctors to Tortosa to support the local epidemic control. However, the two beak doctors were kidnapped by a group of robbers on the road before they reached their destination. The robbers threatened the relevant authorities in Barcelona and demanded that they pay a very valuable ransom. In the end, Barcelona paid the ransom at the request of the gangster and saved the two beak doctors.
Due to the particularity of his profession, the beak doctor at that time had a strong sense of mystery
At the same time, due to prolonged access to the worst-affected areas of the Black Death, most cities in Europe at that time strictly prohibited the beak doctors from contacting the public, and many cities even chose to isolate the beak doctors.
Occupational particularities make it impossible for most beak doctors to enjoy a comfortable life like ordinary people. However, once the epidemic rages, they will walk out of the isolation centers in remote towns or major cities and do their best to help patients escape sea of bitterness.
Although most of the beak doctors at that time were synonymous with "brave" and "selflessness", we should not ignore the negative impact of some unprofessional ethics and fraudsters.
At that time, becoming a beak doctor meant a high salary and excellent social influence. In order to take a shortcut, some young doctors would often choose to falsely report their medical experience and instead use the platform of the beak doctor to quickly build a reputation. They do not have any experience in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, and they often convey completely wrong anti-epidemic concepts to patients during the treatment process. As a result, the epidemic has not been effectively controlled, but the transmission speed has increased day by day.
There are also many beak doctors who will launch so-called "exclusive" treatment plans in the course of practicing medicine. They claim that such treatment plans can greatly curb the spread of the epidemic in people's bodies, but they require high remuneration. Facts have proved that the treatment plan proposed by these beak doctors is completely a means for them to deceive and deceive, and many families have gone bankrupt.
Under the temptation of huge profits, the worst type of deception among Doctor Bird's beak also surfaced. They use the trust of the patient to tamper with the will privately after the death of the patient and swallow the property of others. Although major cities have since issued a series of laws to monitor bird beak doctors, there are still many crooks who have never experienced professional medical training into the ranks of bird beak doctors. This situation further aggravated the social contradictions in European countries at that time, and many patients became hostile to Doctor Bird's Beak and refused to implement a series of epidemic prevention measures formulated by the medical school.
Some people say that Doctor Bird’s Beak is a life-killing "God of Death". They walk into the streets and take away one after another. Others say that Doctor Bird’s Beak is a hopeful "angel". Limited medical conditions gave European people hope for life in the dark.
However, in my opinion, Doctor Bird's Beak was neither a life-killing "god of death" nor a hopeful "angel". They were just individuals with noble qualities in the social environment at that time. Just like the Chinese doctors who are fighting on the front line of the fight against the epidemic today, they do not ask for rewards, are not afraid of life and death, and use their bravery and fearless spirit to relieve the pain of each patient and allow each family to return to completion.