Children during the Black Death
Testament of an Elite Wife during the Black Death [Will]
The following will belongs to the butcher Phylippinus' wife. The butcher and his wife were a well-off couple, owning at least two shops in Bologna's central meat market as well as land outside of Bologna in Borgo Panigale. Their last wishes reflect this wealth as they leave more charitable bequests, especially in the form of dowries, and pious bequests, such as the butcher's dedication of an altar and funding for a pilgrim. The wife makes her will at the end of July and within 10 days she is dead.
During the time of the Black Death, the wife of the butcher's children were grown, and she and her husband were concerned about the welfare of their young grandchildren, the children of their deceased daughter Agnesia. Her other daughter, Chadiana, was an adult although she was not yet married and was given much responsibility. While alive, the butcher had the wealth and responsibility–evidenced by his wife's will which named him as heir and left money for her daughter and grandchildren to have only after the patriarch died. (Note that the grand-daughters get more money from their grandmother than the grandsons, who presumably were the heirs of their father.)
Following the wife's death, when the butcher was sick of plague and had to make a will, he named as guardian his daughter Chadiana who was to take charge of the young grandchildren and to benefit from the estate as heir. She was aided as executor by two clerics and as guardian by a notary, for whose young daughters Phylippinus provided a dowry.
It should be noted that this family had a servant who lived with them and served them through out the epidemic. Some of the witnesses–their neighbors–were present at the testaments of both the butcher and his wife. Note also that testators left cloth as bequests during the epidemic. Apparently they were not as concerned with clothes retaining miasma as were anti-plague ordinances of the government.
Archivio di Stato di Bologna, Memoriali, volume 229, folio 117v. Annotated by Shona Kelly Wray.
Primary Source Text
In the name of Christ, Amen. July 29, 1348. Phylippa, daughter of the late Aradus, wife of Philippinus Laurentii butcher and citizen of the parish of San Felice, healthy in mind and senses, but sick in body, declares her will thus. For the benefit of her soul, she leave three lire to don Johannes, chaplain of the parish church of San Felice, for masses for his necessities. She leaves 20 lire to her servant, Sante daughter of the late Senitius from the village of Monte Marino. She leaves 40 solidi to Nicolaus and Bencevenis, sons of Francischinus de Medicis, who was married to her deceased daughter Agnexia, which money they can have after her husband, Philippinus, has died. She leaves 40 lire to her grand-daughters Zoleta and Chola, daughters of her son-in-law Francischinus, which money they can have after her husband has died. For all of her goods and property, moveable and immoveable, and all her rights and actions, both now and in the future, she institutes as universal heir, her husband, Phylippinus. She leaves her daughter, Chadiana, 25 lire, which she can have after the death of her father, ordering Chadiana and the grandchildren Nicolaus and his siblings to be quiet and content with the legacies. She declares that this is her last will and cancels and invalidates any previous testament or codicil. Enacted in the testator's house in the parish of San Felice, in the presence of the following witnesses: don Johannes, parish priest of San Felice, Blaxius Thomaxini of San Felce, Nasimbene Petri, shoemaker of San Felice, Bonjohannes Gregorii of San Felice, Azzolinus Petri of San Felice, Franciscus Jacobi, shoemaker of San Nicolo del Borgo di San Felice, Johannes Johannis de Spilamberti, and Andreuccio Oradei de Donzellis of San Felice. Written by the notary, Martinus Johannis de Pizoy. The notary and testator went to the Office of the Memoriali to register the testament on that day.
How to Cite This Source
Shona Kelly Wray, "Children during the Black Death," in Children and Youth in History, Item #167, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/167 (accessed July 30, 2015).
- Primary Sources
- Decameron [Literary Excerpt]
- Italian accounts of the Black Death [Personal Accounts]
- Health Ordinances of Pistoia, 1348 [Legal Document]
- Testament of a Father during the Black Death [Will]
- Testament of a Mother during the Black Death [Will]
- Testament of an Elite Wife during the Black Death [Will]
- Testament of an Elite Husband during the Black Death [Will]
- Will-making among the general populace of Bologna during 1348 [Graph]
- The Dance of the Dead [Mural]
- The Dance of Death [Woodcut]