Plague doctors wore the plague doctor suit, a special kind of attire, to guard themselves against air infections during the plague throughout Europe. It has become associated with death and sickness even though it was worn by a small portion of traditional and early modern medics who were learning and healing patients of plague. Let us learn more about plague doctor mask history and what is a plague doctor.
1. What is a Plague Doctor Suit?
- Typically, the suit included an overcoat that was ankle-length and a mask with a bird beak, filled with materials that gave off a sweet or strong odor (usually lavender). Gloves, boots, a broad-brimmed hat, and an exterior over-clothing attire were also included. (See Go to the John Meaning)
- The standard mask had glass slots for the eyes and an arched beak similar to that of a bird that covered the nose of the doctors with the help of straps. Small openings for the nose, filled with odored materials, were present to ensure respiration.
- The beak was capable of storing dried flowers like roses, herbs like peppermint, camphor as well as juniper berry, storax, myrrh, etc. The objective of the mask was to keep away misma i.e horrid scents believed to be the fundamental reason behind the disease. Herbs were believed, by many doctors, to repel the evil scents connected with the plague thus stopping them from spreading.
- The leather hat with a broad brim signified their profession. Instead of touching the patients, wooden canes were used to highlight the body parts that require treatment. The canes were also used to maintain distance from people and dispose of the clothes of plague-infected people without contacting them. (Also read How To Dress Like A Bad Boy?)
2. What is the Plague Doctor Mask History?
- Most of its portrayals can be found in sarcastic writings and political drawings but we don’t know where they originate from. The beaked suit look may have appeared in a play worn by a fictional character playing a doctor which could have inspired other medics to embrace the look.
- Depictions of doctors with plague doctor suits increased as a reaction to fear and superstition about the mysterious origins of the plague. These doctors were often the last things seen by patients before dying. Doctors began to be viewed as the ones who foreshadow death. (Also read How is Silk made from Silkworm?)
- In 1619, Charles de L’Orme, physician to King Louis XIII wrote about the eruption of the plague in Paris. Considered to be the first reference to the plague suit, he said he designed a suit, inspired by an ankle-length canvas gown of a soldier, that included a long coat, boots, breeches, hat, and gloves made from Moroccan goat leather. It contained similar odored materials which were used in the masks.
- At first, L’Orme described the mask as having half a foot-long nose that formed like a beak. It was packed with fragrance with two openings, one for each nostril that allows respiration with the air carrying the fragrance of materials present at the end of the beak. (See Origin of an Ogre)
3. What is a Plague Doctor?
A plague doctor was a health professional who treated plague victims during epidemics. Cities employed them to treat patients irrespective of any income and particularly poor people who couldn’t afford treatment. (Also read Different Types of BPD)
Plague doctors shared a mixed-status as some people considered them untouchables and left their places if they saw them in the area. Some plague doctors are blamed for extracting money from patients and their families in fees for fraudulent treatments. In several cases, these doctors were young, second-rate doctors and volunteers starting their careers rather than professional veterans. Mostly these doctors, instead of curing disease, were used to track deaths and the number of infected people for statistical purposes. Also, check out the go dawgs sic em meaning.
In countries like France and Holland, they were referred to as empirics due to a lack of medical knowledge. They were also known as municipal or community plague doctors. These doctors were not included under the normal category of doctors and the other general practitioners could be easily found simultaneously working in the city or town.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the plague doctor suit and its fascinating history and description. In the end, we can say that the past was different from today and yet quite the same. (Also read 29 Common Types of Bra Designs and Their Functions)