The Plague Doctor is a dark healer in a bird costume

Plague doctor or plague doctor - this is how an epidemiologist was called in medieval Europe, whose main duty was to treat patients with the bubonic plague, or "black death". Despite the fact that the plague doctors did the necessary and thankless work, constantly risking their lives, they nevertheless terrified the local population. After all, a meeting with the plague doctor indicated that the Black Death had settled nearby.

Plague Doctor Outfit

Recognizing a stranger as a plague doctor was not a big problem. This was facilitated by his outstanding suit, which can be safely called the first medical uniform.

The fact is that doctors of that time already assumed that plague infection occurs during physical contact, through clothing and bedding. Based on these ideas, one of the most extraordinary images of the Middle Ages arose - the Plague Doctor costume. To visit the sick during the plague, doctors were required to wear special clothing made with an eye on the leather armor of light infantry.

It was believed that a mask with a beak, giving the doctor the appearance of an ancient Egyptian deity, wards off the disease. But the beak also had a functional load: it protected the doctor from the "disease-causing odor", that is, it was the prototype of modern respirators. The beak or its tip was filled with strong-smelling medicinal herbs that made it easier to breathe with the constant plague stench. In addition, the doctor placed incense on a special sponge in the nostrils and ears. To prevent him from suffocating from all this bouquet of smells, there were two small ventilation holes in the beak. Like the gas masks of the twentieth century, the mask had glass inserts to protect the eyes.

The long-brimmed black hat indicated the status of the doctor. A long cloak soaked in wax and leather or oiled clothing made of dense fabric were needed to avoid physical contact with the bodies of infected people and corpses. With a cane, they moved dead bodies and used them for self-defense.

Plague-infected patients were treated empirically (trial and error). They used leeches, dried lizards, dissection and cauterization of plague abscesses, bloodletting and other folk remedies. In any case, the mortality rate during the plague epidemic reached 90%, so their methods of treatment definitely did not get worse.

The most famous plague doctor was Michel de Nostredame, better known as the fortuneteller Nostradamus. His family died during one of the epidemics and Michel decided to become a doctor in order to find a way to treat the plague.