Despite various efforts by church and government authorities to calm peoples nerves and assure them that all precautions were taken to keep everyone health, the plague (or a another deadly bacterium that causes swelling of the lymph nodes) swept through Europe with devastating effects in the 14th century. As people saw government officials, medical workers, and members of the clergy perish, they tried to find their own ways to stay ‘plague-free’. During the middle ages, the miasma theory was the leading explanation for the cause and spread of illnesses. Those who were still living used strong, and often putrid, scents to ward away the evil smell that carried the plague. In addition to sniffing pine, sulfur, and lemons, another ‘remedy’ thought to prevent the plague was loud sounds. Church bells rang in all towns, cannons were fired, and any mechanism that could cause loud noises was used to ward off the disease.
However, while these methods did nothing to prevent the deadly plague from ravaging towns, there were some methods used that were effective in preventing the coming Black Death. City officials in Milan sealed up houses that harbored someone with the plague, Venice forced all incoming ships to dock in a remote island, and, even though it was not known at the time that the plague bacterium is killed by heat, Pope Clement VI only breathed ‘pure air’ by sitting between large fires, effectively killing any plague bacteria. To read more about various precautions that were taken to prevent the plague see, http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/bdeath/Stop.html