A plague doctor was a physician who treated victims of the bubonic plague.] In times of epidemics, these physicians were specifically hired by towns where the plague had taken hold. Since the city was paying their salary, they treated everyone, wealthy or poor.Some plague doctors wore a special costume. The garments were invented by Charles de L'Orme in 1630 and were first used in Naples, but later spread to be used throughout Europe. The protective suit consisted of a light, waxed fabric overcoat, a mask with glass eye openings and a beak shaped nose, typically stuffed with herbs, straw, and spices. Plague doctors would also commonly carry a cane to examine and direct patients without the need to make direct contact with them.
“The nose [is] half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume… Under the coat, we wear boots made in Moroccan leather (goat leather)…and a short-sleeved blouse in smooth skin…The hat and gloves are also made of the same skin…with spectacles over the eyes.”
The doctor carried a long wooden stick which he used to communicate with his patients, examine them, and occasionally ward off the more desperate and aggressive ones. By other accounts, patients believed the plague to be a punishment sent from God and requested the plague doctor whip them in repentance.
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