In Germany, there was a bishop who during mass offered the host at the end of a pole or on a long-handled spoon. The wealthy would flee to the countryside. Pope Clement VI, living at Avignon, sat between two large fires to breath pure air. The plague bacillus actually is destroyed by heat, so this was one of the few truly effective measures taken.
This is describing a religious ceremony where the Bishop blesses the "host" - the Holy Eurcharist (blessed bread or wafer) and it is given to the worshippers, along with a sip of blessed wine. These two items represent the body and blood of the worshipped Savior, Jesus Christ. A small piece of the blessed bread (The host) is actually placed on the tongue of the person as he/she comes up to the altar.
As you can imagine, many people sharing a chunk of bread and sipping from the same cup could pass germs. The bishop was at risk at the possibility of touching many tongues as he placed the host on the tongue of the person coming to the altar. It was feared that the plague could be spread that way. So the bishop distributed the host by spoon, instead.
Today, individual cups of wine and indivudual wafers are handed out in a more sanitary way at religious ceremonies.
The plague was spread by rats and unsanitary conditions (polluted water from no sanitary sewer system) in the community. People didn't wash their hands, much, either.
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