Teaching Module

Children during the Black Death

Testament of an Elite Husband during the Black Death [Will]


The following will belongs to the butcher Phylippinus. The butcher and his wife were a well-off couple, owning at least two shops in Bologna's central meat market as well as land outside of Bologna in Borgo Panigale. Their last wishes reflect this wealth as they leave more charitable bequests, especially in the form of dowries, and pious bequests, such as the butcher's dedication of an altar and funding for a pilgrim.

During the time of the Black Death, Phylippinus' children were grown, and he and his wife were concerned about the welfare of their young grandchildren, the children of their deceased daughter Agnesia. His other daughter, Chadiana, was an adult although she was not yet married and was given much responsibility. While alive, Phylippinus had the wealth and responsibility–evidenced by his wife's will which named him as heir and left money for her daughter and grandchildren to have only after the patriarch died. (Note that the grand-daughters get more money from their grandmother than the grandsons, who presumably were the heirs of their father.)

Once Phylippinus was sick of plague and had to make a will, he named as guardian his daughter Chadiana who was to take charge of the young grandchildren and to benefit from the estate as heir. She was aided as executor by two clerics and as guardian by a notary, for whose young daughters Phylippinus provided a dowry.

It should be noted that this family had a servant who lived with them and served them through out the epidemic. Some of the witnesses–their neighbors–were present at the testaments of both the butcher and his wife. Note also that testators left cloth as bequests during the epidemic. Apparently they were not as concerned with clothes retaining miasma as were anti-plague ordinances of the government.


Archivio di Stato di Bologna, Memoriali, volume 230, folio 1r. Annotated by Shona Kelly Wray.

Primary Source Text

In the name of Christ, amen. August 9, 1348. Phylippinus, son of late Laurentius olim Fratris Phyllippi, butcher of the parish of San Felice, healthy in mind and senses, but sick in body makes his will thus. For the benefit of his soul, he gives land in Borgo Panigale to the church of San Lorenzo di Porta Stiera in Bologna so that an altar be built in that church to honor St James and that one priest be chosen to celebrate the divine offices at that altar for the benefit of the testator's soul. He choses that his body be buried at the church of San Francesco, for which his executors should decide on the expenses. As executors he nominates the Prior of the Worthy Poor, the rector of the church of San Lorenzo di Porta Stiera, whoever that is now or will be, and his daughter Chadiana. For the benefit of his soul, he leaves ten lire in aid of dowry to Francischina, daughter of Narlus olim ser Martini butcher of the parish of Santa Maria della Carità. For the benefit of his soul, he leaves 25 lire in aid of dowry for a woman from Borgo Panigale. For the benefit of his soul and the soul of his brother-in-law Bonacosa Arardi, he leaves five lire to clothe six poor persons, who will be chosen by the butcher Narlus olim Ser Martini of Santa Maria della Carità. He leaves 13 lire to be distributed among the poor for the benefit of the soul of his brother-in-law Bonacosa Arardi. He leaves three quarters of one butcher's shop in the meat market in the town square to his nephews, sons of his late brother. He leaves half of one butcher's shop in the said meat market to the son of a butcher. He leaves ten lire to his two neices [daughters of his deceased brother] for them to use when they marry or enter a convent. He leaves ten lire each to the two daughters of notary Paulus son of Ser Franciscus de Castagnolo for them to use when they marry or enter a convent. He leaves 50 lire for Zoleta, Cola, Bencevenis, and Nicolaus, his grandchildren and children of his deceased daughter and Francischinus de Medicis. He leaves 15 lire for one person to go and visit the shrine of St. James of Campostella. He leaves his servant Sante from the village of Monte Marino two silk gowns that belonged to his deceased wife. He also leaves Sante two towels, pillows, and cloth that his wife used. He leaves 30 lire to his cousin, Thomas, a butcher in the parish of Santa Maria della Carità, for him to ensure that the altar in the church of San Lorenzo be constructed within the next three years. He names as guardians for his four grandchildren his daughter Chadiana and notary Paulus, son of Ser Francescus de Castagnolo. For all of his goods and property, moveable and immovable, and all his rights and actions, both now and in the future, he institutes as universal heir his daughter, Chadiana. He declares that this is his last will and cancels and invalidates any previous testament or codicil. Enacted in the testator's house in the parish of San Felice, in the presence of the following witnesses: don Andrea, parish priest of San Felice, Franciscus Jacobi, shoemaker of San Nicolo del Borgo di San Felice, Azzolinus Petri of San Felice, Petrus Cursii of San Felice, Petrus Medaglini of San Lorenzo di Porta Stiera, Nicolaus Johannis butcher of San Felice, Petrus ser Jacobi, agricultural worker [laborator terre] of San Nicolo del Borgo di San Felice, and Petrus Guidonis Symonis from Borgo Panigale. Written by the notary Petrus Anthonii de Burellis. The notary and Franciscus Jacobi, designated as proctor for the testator, went to the Office of the Memoriali to register the testament on that day.

How to Cite This Source

Shona Kelly Wray, "Children during the Black Death," in Children and Youth in History, Item #167, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/167 (accessed August 10, 2021).