Why did plague doctors wear beaked masks?

Although plague doctors were supposed to be a source of help, their appearance could be a terrifying sight.

Plague mask

With a long cloak and grotesque bird-like mask, the plague doctor was far from a comforting sight.


The first description of such a get-up dates to 1619, from a physical of the Medicis, Charles de Lorme: “The nose [is] half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume”.


The hooked snout continued substances thought to ward off the pestilence in the bad air, including lavender, camphor, vinegar, sponge or laudanum.