The setting: Medieval Europe. The problem: the pope lived in Avignon, under strict control from the French King. The plague ravaged Europe, leaving behind whole cities of corpses. Sanitation was very poor, there were no sewer systems, and more often than not, one could find human and animal feces lining the streets. The standard of living was very low, and much of this was blamed on religion. Many people would have liked to see the pope dead. Solutions were virtually non-existent. The pope was looking for a way to restore his power, and improve the life of Europeans. The main problem facing the pope was, of course, the plague. Nearly twenty-five million people had died of this highly infectious disease already, and it didn't appear to be slowing. Medieval physicians had developed a number of "cures," some as absurd as placing live chickens on the wounds of the infected. Due to the primitive technology at that time, there were very few actual cures. Many of the practices of the doctors were invented simply to deceive the populous into believing that they had cures, and that all was not lost. The pope, in his quarters at Avignon, sat between two large fires. They thought that this would purify the "bad air" which most blamed for the spread of the plague. Although there was no bad air, the fires actually did prevent the plague, killing off the bubonic bacteria. This was an example of what some people call "accidental science," or a discovery made from superstition, or by accident. The other large problem that the pope had to deal with was, of course, the fact that life in Europe sucked at the time, and that everyone wanted him dead. The poor standard of living was due to many factors. Poor sanitation, famine, disease, war, poverty, you name it, they suffered through it. Many of these problems were much more easily solved than the plague. The digging of a public sewer system would have alleviated many of the pestilence and disease problems of the age. The Bubonic plague was carried by fleas which resided on rats. The rats infested the cities because of poor sanitation and the filth that coated the cities. If the cities were cleaner, the rats would not number as many, and they would stay in the sewers as they do today (mostly).
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