Diseases and causes of death among the popes

  • Francois P. Retief University of the Free State
  • Louise Cilliers University of the Free State

Abstract

The causes of death of popes are reviewed in the light of existing knowledge, and analysed in terms of four periods: First Period (64-604) Early Middle Ages (604-1054), Late Middle Ages and Renaissance (1054-1492), and Post-Renaissance (1492-2000). Among those who died of natural causes, multi-disease pathology was commonly present as is to be expected in an older population group, and acute terminal febrile illnesses, malaria, stroke, severe heart disease, gout or poly-arthritis, terminal kidney disease, gallstones, cancer, dysentery, the plague, lung infection, gangrene of a leg, abscesses, depression or debilitating psychiatric illness. Unnatural causes comprise inter alia assassination, death in prison or in exile, casualties of war or public violence, poisoning and stoning during street violence. This study covers the time period up to the year 2005.

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Published
2005-06-30
Section
Articles