Plague: During the Middle Ages Austria was often afflicted with epidemics, the plague being the most dangerous one. Plague years were 888, 1006-1009, 1312/13, 1337, 1370, 1381, 1410/11, 1435, 1521, 1529, 1563, 1570, 1586 and 1691, the plague epidemic of 1349 claimed a particularly large number of victims, 1541 (when one-third of the Viennese population died), 1588, 1679 (when 12,000 people died in Vienna, "Lieber Augustin") and 1713/14 (death toll of 9,000 in Vienna). The Austrian Military Border was the first successful cordon sanitaire against the spread of the plague.
Works of art, popular beliefs and customs are evidence of how strongly the plague influenced the mentality and actions of the people; in Austria, patrons of plague sufferers were Saint Sebastian, Rochus, Rosalia, the Holy Trinity, and others; amulets (coins: Benediktuspfennig, Valentinkreuzer), pilgrimages (e.g. to Alkoven), plague images (e.g. the large painting of 1483 in the Graz Cathedral), plague crosses and leaves and Plague Monuments as well as passion plays and traditional plague processions (in Schöder, Murau and Knittelfeld) were very popular. Saint Charles's Church in Vienna was built in fulfilment of a vow by Emperor Karl VI during the plague of 1713.
Literature: P. Heitz, Pestblätter des 15. Jahrhunderts, 1901; K. Clement, Die Pest im Volksglauben, doctoral thesis, Graz 1950; K. Bergdolt, Der schwarze Tod in Europa, 1994.