What is a Plague Mask? How did it come about?

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Plague is a disease that caused the death of more people than many wars, took place in the form of 3 big epidemics in the world and caused great destruction in all of them. The plague mask was also developed by the doctors of the period to eliminate the risk of contamination.

The Plague of Justinian, which killed almost 10,000 people a day in 561 AD, the Black Death that killed a third of the European continent between 1334 and 1372 and appeared intermittently until 1879, and the Third Pandemic, which affected much of Asia between 1894-1959. .

Plague, one of the global pandemics that has the potential to kill hundreds of millions of people and seems impossible to stop, has been named the Black Death because those who have the disease show symptoms such as painful swollen lymph nodes and blackened skin.


Before Talking About the Plague Mask: What Is The Plague? How is it found?

This disease is transmitted from animals to humans by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis, which can be transmitted through flea bites, contact with liquid or tissue, and through sneezing or coughing. It was understood much later that mice played a major role in the spread of the disease. Bacteria carrying the plague bacteria caused the disease to spread quickly and easily in the houses they entered.

The most obvious symptoms of plague, whose symptoms appear in a week, are as follows: Shivering, vomiting, fever, pain in the head and back, weakness, difficulty in breathing, groin pain, bleeding, egg-shaped swellings in the body, bruises on the body, internal bleeding.

At that time, the belief that polluted air spread the plague was dominant, and people thought that they could find a solution by burning incense to this polluted air. They even believed that if their skin did not come into contact with the air, the disease would not be transmitted to them. For this reason, they avoided taking a bath for a long time. Other misconceptions at that time should be killed for no reason, with the thought that some people were spreading the plague. Jews were burned alive for allegedly mixing poison into water wells. Even at that time, many men and women were accused of witchcraft and murdered. Along with them, cats were savagely slaughtered for being magical animals, causing rats to swarm around spreading the plague.




The Emergence of the Plague Mask

During the plague epidemic, cities and towns where the disease appeared began to be checked by plague doctors. These doctors began to prepare protective mixtures and antidotes, which they thought prevented the disease.

While the plague doctors were dealing with the patients of such a deadly and highly contagious disease, they were under the threat of getting sick, and therefore they had to take precautions to minimize the risk of transmission, wearing beaked masks, which they called the plague mask, and long coats and leather gloves. This coat covered them from head to toe. The mask, on the other hand, resembled a bird’s head as it had a long beak.

17th as the creator of this costume. Charles de L’orme is considered the doctor of many European royalty in the 19th century. Among L’orme’s patients were Gaston d’Orléans, son of King Louis XIII and Marie de Médici.




How Did Plague Doctors Dress? What is a Plague Mask?

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According to L’orme’s description, if we visualize the outfit, we can think of it as a jacket covered with scented wax, trousers tucked into boots, a shirt inside the jacket, a goatskin hat and gloves. Doctors also carried a stick to touch patients without touching them. The reason for wearing the hat was to indicate that the people wearing it were doctors.

But what was unusual was the iconic plague mask that plague doctors wore. The mask, which is in the form of a beak with a length of 15 cm and has holes filled with perfumes on both sides of the nostrils, was intended to breathe and to neutralize microbes.

The plague mask was filled with a paste consisting of more than 55 herbs, powdered viper meat, cinnamon and honey. L’orme thought the beak shape would be sufficient for the plague microbe to be absorbed by the protective plants before it descended into his nostrils and lungs. Doctors thought that this mask could protect because they thought that the plague was transmitted from polluted air at that time. At the same time, perfumes and incense were very common at that time, as there was a perception that fragrances negatively affected microbes.

According to some rumors, people believed that the plague was spread by birds in ancient times. For this reason, it might have been thought that it would be meaningful to use a mask resembling a bird’s beak.

Since plague is actually transmitted from animals to humans through flea bites, sneezing and coughing, plague masks and other fragrant remedies unfortunately didn’t work very well until the advent of modern antibiotics.


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