Carmelite Chronicles
The Black Death (1348-1349)

September 10, 2019 |

During the 14th century the Order continued to grow, but at a considerably slower pace. By the end of the century, there were about three hundred houses, as many again as in the previous century, but it took twice as long to do it. A certain letup was to be expected after the first fervor had passed. There were other causes: the fact that the Order came to maturity in a waning society was one. The Black Death was another.

This grim reaper, which in the years 1348 to 1349 harvested, some say, as much as half the population of Europe, claimed its share of the mendicant orders; their apostolate among city dwellers made them particularly vulnerable.

Surprisingly, little information is available about this striking phenomenon, still less about its effect on the Carmelites. At the general chapter in 1348, two hundred friars perished during the sessions or while traveling to and from the meeting. The convent in Avignon lost 66 members; the necrology of Florence lists more than a 100 dead in the Tuscan province during these years. The convent in London lost 24 members in one year of the plague. Papal dispensations from the full course of studies for the doctorate had to be requested on account of the shortage of masters due to the plague.

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

Fr. Joachim Smet O.Carm.
Fr. Joachim Smet, O.Carm. (1915-2011) was one of the leading historians of the Carmelite Order. In addition to being a founding member and President of the Institutum Carmelitanum in Rome and editor of Carmelus, a journal of Carmelite Studies, Fr. Joachim was a gifted writer. he is well-known for his four-volume work The Carmelites and his Life of Saint Peter Thomas. Among his other works: Familiar Matter of Today-Poems (2007), The Mirror of Carmel: A Brief History of the Carmelite Order, (2011), various publications on Carmelite Nuns, Carmelite Liturgy, Carmelite Libraries of Spain and Portugal and the Carmelites of Medieval England.
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