Excerpted on author's behalf:
Beginning in 1346, the plague killed an estimated one-third of the inhabitants of Europe. The Black Death arrived among the invading Mongols of the Golden Horde. It spread along the trade routes to the lower Volga and the Black Sea, and from there it moved quickly across the Mediterranean and into Europe by way of merchants, sailors, and travelers. Avignon, the seat of the papacy at the time, succumbed in 1348. The coming of the plague was part of a series of events that reduced the papacy from the height of its power to its lowest point in centuries. The plague came at a critical moment for the Church, and the papacy at Avignon did not adequately rise to the challenge. Inevitably, the poor response led to intense criticism, general distrust of the Church, heretical movements, and eventually, the Reformation. Perhaps the papacy was headed along that road already, but the Black Death certainly sped it on its way.
"Plague, Papacy and Power: The Effect of the Black Plague on the Avignon Papacy,"
Saber and Scroll: Vol. 5
, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.apus.edu/saberandscroll/vol5/iss1/3
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