Already in December of the year 1678 occurred in the then suburban "Leopoldstadt" the first cases of plague, but they were covered up and trivialized by the authorities. The disease spread rapidly in other suburbs, which were outside the imperial capital. Thus, the poorer classes belonged to its first victims. Although the number of deaths from month to month rose, all warnings and criticisms of pleague doctor, Paul de Sorbait, on the inadequate situation of the medical service and the hygiene remained unheard.
The dedicated physician had already published in January 1679 a "plague-order", which provided extensive measures to protect the population during an outbreak of plague. In this plague-order Paul de Sorbait described the former knowledge about the disease and described it: "the most part of those so caught by it, with bumps, glands, swelling marks or with splenic fever, brown and black spots and kale, pest lumps in addition to great interior heat and within a few days or hours fatally ends".
In July of the same year the "spark of pestilence" (Pestilenzfunken) jumped over the city walls: A terrible and great death began within the city of Vienna. A chronicler reported, "at last she (= plague) but took the audacity, penetrated into the city itself and caused a shocking defeat among the rich and aristocratic nobility in the palaces and stately buildings. There you saw whole carts full of noble and ignoble, rich and poor, young and old of both sexes, carried out by all alleys to the door."
The people in town were full horror and panic: The bodies lay for days on the road, because there was a lack of infirmary servants and gravediggers. Quick released prisoners then took over those services. Instead of single burials large pits were created outside of the city to accommodate the dead in mass graves. Those who could afford it, fled from the city. Emperor Leopold I and his family left Vienna on 17 August. He first went on a pilgrimage to Mariazell (Styria) and then fled to Prague. As there the plague also broke out, he retreated to Linz, where he remained until the final extinction of the plague in 1680.
The exact number of people who died in 1679 from the plague in Vienna probably never will be determined. The gigantic death rates of contemporary reports, oscillating between 70000 and 120000 dead, from the still preserved coroner’s reports can not be proved. According to those records, the disease about 8,000 inhabitants would kill. But it is questionable whether in the prevailing confusion all cases of death were reported to the coroners and how many died on the run.
Plague in Vienna
Detail of the woodcut "Dance of Death"
Hans Holbein the Younger
The great dying – The plague or the "Black Death" in Europe
The plague is one of the severe acute bacterial infectious diseases that today already in case of suspicion are reportable. Only a little more than 100 years ago, at the occasion of the plague epidemics in Hong Kong and India set in the modern pest investigation: The Swiss tropical doctor Alexander Yersin discovered in 1894 the plague pathogen: The bacillus received after this researcher the name "Yersina pestis". Already at that time, the science recognized the role of certain rodents in the pathogenesis of plague epidemics and the participation of the rat flea or human flea as possibilities of transmission of plague to humans.
Since ancient times, the plague was one of the heaviest and most frequent epidemics. However, one designated for a long time also other epidemics such as smallpox or dysentery as pest because they equally were associated with high mortality. The term "pest" but meant in a figurative sense misfortune and ruin. The word therefore in the past has been avoided as far as possible, and the historians tried to express it with other words as "tiresome disease", "burning fever" or "contagion" (= contamination, infection).
In the years 1348 to 1352, Europe was overrun by the worst plague in history. The disease, which evolved to become a pneumonic plague, destroyed a third of the population at that time. According to the estimations, thus around 25 million people were fallen victim to the "Black Death". The pneumonic plague was not transmitted by flea bites – like the bubonic pest – but by highly infectious droplets containing bacilli with coughing and sneezing from person to person. In Vienna this plague epidemic reached its peak in 1349.
In the next 400 years followed at irregular intervals ever new plagues and spread fear, terror and death. Effective drugs were missing, and since the disease by the Catholic Church was interpreted as God’s punishment, the population put itself under the protection of many plague saints, the Holy Trinity or the Virgin Mary. Eloquent testimonies of those efforts are still churches and chapels, pest altars, pest crosses and plague columns. The adoration of the Holy Trinity in the time of need of the 17th century especially by newly founded religious brotherhoods was disseminated – thus, also in Vienna in 1679 a Trinity Column was erected – the Plague Column at the Graben. As a monument to the last plague in Vienna in 1713 today reminds the Charles Church, which is, however, devoted to the plague saint Charles Borromeo.
As medical measures against a Pest disease recommended doctors sweating cures, bloodletting, chewing of juniper berries or Angelica roots, but also the administration of theriac, a popular drug of the Middle Ages. Frequently, garlic, laurel, rue, and a mixture of sulfur powder are listed in the prescriptions. The recipes, however, differ as to whether they are used for poor or rich Pest patients. One of the few effective medical attendances was the opening of the bumps (buboes) to drain the pus, which also the sufferers felt as a blessing. As a miracle drug was considered the applying of an impaled toad on the bumps, previously put in vinegar or wine bath. Such prepared toads were also attributed great healing power during the plague in 1679 in Vienna.
From Vienna "plague-order" of pest doctor Paul de Sorbait, 1679
"after the experience brings with it that cleanliness is a strange useful and necessary means, both to prevent the intrusion of infection, as well as the same to avert. Herentwegen (= hence) uncleanliness causes such evil and keeps it. So is our earnest command, that firstly no blood, viscera, heads and leggs of the killed cattle, nor herb leaves, crabs, snails, egg shells or other filth (= waste, manure) on those streets and squares (must be) poured out: ditto (Ingleichen) no dead dog, cats or poultry are thrown into the streets, but all of them carried out of the city".
From "Merck’s Wienn" of preacher Abraham a Sancta Clara, 1680
"As a whole, there is not a lane or a road wich the raging death had not crossed. Throughout the month, in Vienna and around Vienna one saw nothing else but wearing the dead, conducting the dead, dragging the dead and burying the dead".
"From what the plague was caused but I know all of that/ that this poisonous arrow (= plague) mehristen Theil (= for the most part) from the hand of God is abgetruckt (= shot)/how its diverse testimony proves the divine Scripture (= Bible). From which apparently manifest and obvious/that the pestilence was a ruthe (= rod)/so the sublime hand of God wreaths I trust but leastwise the tree to show /from which God the rod braids. This tree is the sin".
* Song of dear Augustine
Oh du (you) lieber (dear) Augustin
S’money is gone, d’joy is gone,
Oh du lieber Augustin,
Everything is gone!
Oh, and even the rich Vienna
poor now as Augustine
Sighs with me in the same sense
Everything is gone!
Every day otherwise was a feast,
Now what? Plague, the plague!
Now only a huge nest of corpses,
That’s the rest!
Oh du lieber Augustin,
Lie only down into the grave you,
Oh my dear Vienna
Everything is gone!
Text source: Rathauskorrespondenz
Plague in Vienna
Plague doctor – through these clothes the doctors during the plague epidemic of 1656 in Rome hoped to protect themselves from the pest contamination. They wore a wax jacket, a type of protective eyewear and gloves. In the beak there were "wolriechende Specerey (odoriferous specialties)".
Found on Flickr (El Don Quijote de Viena ) for this terrifying evil building. Original date: 2017-11-12 20:25:02