The instability and warfare caused famine in large regions, though Rome was still able to obtain grain by sea. Then came earthquakes and flooding to further the suffering, and from the plague Rome was not immune. The disease struck with such rapidity that the victim would often die shortly after realizing he had contracted the disease. Even the Roman Pontiff died of the plague in 590. His successor was Pope St. Gregory the Great, and he did do everything in his power to try to save his people. He understood that the plague was a chastisement from God, and encouraged the faithful to repent of their sins. Finally, St Gregory called for a procession throughout Rome and then walked through the streets of the city praying as they approached the Church of Saint Mary Major. Pope St. Gregory met them upon their arrival, joining them in prayer and holding aloft the miraculous image of Our Mother painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. As the procession neared the Vatican the participants saw St. Michael, the Archangel standing as he sheathed his flaming sword. It was a sign that the chastisement had come to an end, and at once the heaviness in the air abated and the air itself seemed to freshen and clear. Indeed, at that moment the plague ended as the faithful rejoiced and lifted up their voices to thank the Mother of God.