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Abstract

Upon the arrival of the Black Death pandemic (1348-1353), the Catholic Church was already facing backlash from its followers. Many were unhappy with the move of the papacy from Rome to Avignon in the early 12th century, seemingly the beginning of the end for the Church as an undisputed powerhouse. With the arrival of plague, the relationship between Church and layperson was put to the test. As plague raged through cities, the Catholic Church lacked the support necessary to appease followers. Thus, those in Avignon were comforted by Pope Clement VI, and those outside of Avignon were left to fight their own religious battle against the plague. Priests flocked to areas in which they would receive the most financial gain, often with wealthy individuals or those that had already passed on. Avignon was viewed as a religious safe space, specifically for the Jewish population (as there was financial gain through keeping them present in the religious capital). In addition, the Muslim experience throughout plague was one filled with support from their religious institution, and a universal absolving of sin upon death. While one religious group handled the plague as best as they could, Catholics were left to fend for themselves through feelings of fear, guilt, and despair. This only added fuel to the fire of Catholics angry with the Church. As a result, Catholic followers discovered religious independence from the institution through their loss of confidence in the Church as an institution. This acted as a hairline crack in the institution’s infrastructure that ultimately resulted in the Reformation. Through selfish choices rooted in financial gain, the Catholic Church as an institution lost power as a result of the Black Death, whilst followers explored their individual faith with God.

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