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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Achoo (04/11/13)

TITLE: The Dread Sternutation
By Dawn Winston
04/17/13


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The Dread Sternutation
It was 590 AD. Pope Pelagius II had died of the bubonic plague like so many thousands of others. Italy was flooded terribly. Even granaries of the church’s reserves of corn were destroyed, so pestilence followed. The streets of Rome were empty except for the wagons of corpses to be buried in vast pits outside the city walls.
To fight the plague new pope Gregory ordered litanies, endless prayer and processions begging for God’s help. One of the symptoms of the plague was sneezing, or stenutation, and life ended in spasms of sneezing and yawning. It was a death sentence. “Achoo” meant goodbye. So when yawning, a sign of the cross was put over the mouths of the dying, and when one sneezed they were immediately blessed in hope of not sub coming. “God bless you.”, they were first to say.
One of the processions led by the pope was through the streets praying by candlelight, chanting “Lord have mercy.” When the pope passed over the bridge of Saint Peter’s the Archangel Michael was seen in a heavenly vision over the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, sheathing his flaming sword in symbolism that the plague was ended. Heavenly voices were heard singing “Queen of Heaven, rejoice!” And the pope answered, “Pray for us to the Lord, alleluia.”
We still say “God bless you” when one sneezes, but nowadays we hope, it is only a cold.


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Member Comments
Member Date
dub W04/23/13
If I remember right, that Pope later escaped into the countryside not to be seen again until the plague passed. Interesting historical analogy.
Joanne Sher 04/23/13
Loved this bit of history. Thanks for sharing it!