6.5. THE YEAR 1666: THE BLACK PLAGUE AND THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON
It is strange that in the first part of the Middle Ages historical documents said nothing about apocalyptic manifestations related to the year 666, but there were fears related to 1666. The year 1666 is no more apocalyptic than the year 666, although it might be seen as the sum between the Millennium (1,000) and the number of the Beast (666). The similarity between the year 1666 and the number of the Antichrist was obvious, but it came in contradiction with the apostle’s words: “here is wisdom”; there was nothing wise in looking in the calendar and seeing that the year 1666 was approaching.753 And yet, as a strange coincidence, the year 1666 hosted three major apocalyptic manifestations, independent of each other: in Asia Minor, the Jew Sabbatai Zevi reached the apex of his messianic career;754 in Russia, the reform of the Orthodox Church broke the community of believers in two, leading to antichristical slanders and a long civil war;755 and in England the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London created a hellish atmosphere.
Same as in the 14th century, the havoc of the plague represented God’s tangible and immediate fury. The years 1665-1667 were years of horror for the Londoners. The writings of the time portray a terrifying picture of the society affected by this ruthless disease. Although it is considered to be a work of fiction, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year from 1722 is based on a solid documentation and describes in great detail the physical and mental effects the plague had had upon the citizens.