Have you ever wondered who/what the person dressed in black with a white long beaked mask is? Or do you know a little about this person/character, but would love some more info?
The Black Plague Doctor!
Typically donned head to toe in black, with a white, long-beaked mask, the Black Plague Doctor is one of many iconic figures from the middle ages, largely due to the unique and often terrifying mask. Fully covering the face with glass openings for their eyes, the mask’s prominent feature is the long curved beak shaped nose that typically held dried flowers, herbs and spices to keep away the bad and evil smell of their patients. Although this character has a foreboding presence, seen as the bringer of death, they were instructed to treat patients in a friendly and kind manner.
It was believed that the Plague was spread by smell, hence the stuffed beak and clothing designed to basically cocoon the doctor. A shining example of the archaic medical practice and understanding of medicine and disease at the time.
The Black Plague Doctor is a fascinating character and one we love to profile at the Abbey Medieval Festival. Since 2013, the role of resident Plague Physician has been filled by Murray, a volunteer with the Abbey Medieval House Troupe, who, every year, travels from Victoria to rid Abbeystowe of the deadly Plague. To show that he is not to be feared, Murray has been seen playing ring-around-the-rosy and soccer with patrons at the Abbey. Treating patients is his first priority, and he always likes to lend a helping hand to clear out the dead at the end of the day.
If you spot our wonderful plague doctor at the Abbey Medieval Festival this year, feel free to stop and say hello, ask for a photograph, or treatment advice* – his plague pillows are highly effective!
*Disclaimer: Murray is only qualified to assist with medieval treatment of the black plague.