Medieval world

Facts about Medieval world

We found 25 facts about Medieval world

Despite appearances, it was a colorful and dynamic period of world history

Many people imagine the Middle Ages as a time of total asceticism, lack of education and extreme piety. In reality, it was a time of political intrigue, courtly scandals, flourishing of culture and art, science, engineering and law. The Middle Ages saw the founding of the oldest and still functioning universities, the invention of printing, and the beginning of the conquest of the "unknown world".

It was also a time of great turmoil, of struggles for influence both within the Church and between the various European powers, often fought out on the battlefields.

Medieval world
The Middle Ages is an epoch of European history that lasted from the 5th to the end of the 15th or even to the beginning of the 16th century.

The beginning of the Middle Ages is considered to be the year 476, the dethronement of Romulus Augustulus - the last Western Roman emperor. The exact date for the end of the Middle Ages is not clear. Some consider its end in the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, others in the first expedition of Christopher Columbus to America in 1492, and still others in the beginnings of the Reformation movement in 1517.

The medieval revision of the calendar and the introduction of anno Domini.

Before the year 525, the years were counted from the foundation of Rome, according to the rules of the Julian calendar. At the behest of Pope John I, calculations were made to determine the year of Christ's birth as the beginning of the new calendar. Since the concept of zero was not yet known in Europe at that time, the calendar begins with the year 1 AD. The individual countries gradually adopted this dating system, and the last of the Western European countries to adopt it was Portugal in 1422.

Contrary to popular belief, witch hunting was not popular in the Middle Ages.

Sure, a few witch trials during this period, but most witch trials took place between the 15th and 17th centuries. The time of the greatest hunts and violent trials was between 1570 and 1630, marking the decline of the Renaissance. Even the most popular manual for witch hunters, Malleus Maleficarum, was not published until 1486. Among the European countries, the fiercest battles with "witchcraft" were fought in the German countries.

The strangest medieval footwear comes from Cracow in Poland. These shoes are, of course, crakows, flat with a short shaft and a ridiculously long toe.

They came on the market around 1330 and became incredibly popular in Western Europe, where they were called Cracoves or Poulaines. The length of the toe lengthened and shortened over time, reaching a length 60 cm longer than the foot at its tip. Often the tips of the shoes were decorated with additional, often obscene elements. Shoes became associated with promiscuity and decadence, so much so that at one point the Church issued a decree on who could and could not wear them. An English poem from 1388 states that men were unable to kneel during Mass because of the long tops of their crakows. By 1480, crakows fell out of fashion and did not reappear on a large scale until the 20th century.

The Middle Ages brought two deadly epidemics to Europe.

The first, the Plague of Justinian, struck the Old Continent between 541 and 542, when it arrived in Constantinople from Egypt or Ethiopia. From there it spread throughout Europe reaching Danish territory. Although the exact number of dead cannot be determined, it is estimated that the Justinianic plague killed 50 million people. The plague returned every dozen to several decades, and the last time it occurred on a large scale was around 750. The second plague was the Black Death, also caused by Yersinia pestis, which decimated the population of Europe between 1346 and 1353, killing between 75 and 200 million people.

The Middle Ages were a time of castle building.

The first of them were built in the 9th century, but they were not very numerous. The dynamic construction of castles in Europe began between the 10th and 11th centuries. The first castles were often built of wood, but their defensive qualities were low and the cost of repair and maintenance was quite high, so their construction was abandoned in favor of stone buildings. The first stone castles were built in Europe in the 11th century, shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066.

In the Middle Ages, there was no need for a church wedding - no one associated marriage with God.

It was not until the 12th century that things changed. In 1164 the Church decided to recognise marriage as a sacrament, and a priest was required to perform it. Before that, people simply declared their intention to get married, usually in the presence of a witness. If they wanted to make it more solemn, they would make their vows to each other at the church door, without a prayer or a priest.

Islam was born in the early Middle Ages.

The exact time frame is not clear, but it is known that Muhammad, the founder and prophet of Islam, was born in 570 and received his first revelations in 610. The principles of religious and political functioning of the Muslim community were formed in 632-661.

The Great Western Schism, or the crisis of the Catholic Church that began its slow disintegration and eventually led to the Reformation.

It lasted from 1378 to 1417 and was caused by political gamesmanship between cardinal factions. At the time, the Church was plagued by extreme corruption, nepotism, and chaos. Because of this, the French-speaking popes resided in Avignon instead of Rome from 1309.  

This situation did not please the Italian clergymen, who in a conclave in 1378 elected Roman Pope Urban VI. Surprised and dissatisfied, the cardinals decided to call a second conclave, during which they elected Clement VII to the throne in Avignon. The disputes between the parties lasted so long that in 1408, during the two pontificates (Benedict XIII of Avignon and Gregory XII of Rome), a third pope, Alexander V and, after his death, John XXIII, were elected in Pisa.

From June 26, 1409 to May 29, 1415, there were as many as three popes in Europe.

The Great Schism was not ended until the Council of Constance, at which all acting "heads of the Church" were removed from power and Martin V was elected to the Chair of Saint Peter, which was permanently transferred to Rome.

Not all people in the Middle Ages were pious and God-fearing.

Of course, many people believed in God, prayed fervently, participated in religious rites, and even went on pilgrimages.

However, the world was not so different from our world as it might seem; among the people who believed in eternal life, there were also those who believed that life ended with the last breath and that religion was merely a tool for the exertion of pressure and power.

The average life expectancy was only 33 years.

This does not mean that everyone died at that age. The highest mortality rate was among infants and young children, but if someone managed to reach a more mature age, he or she could enjoy life until at least their 40s or 50s, and those who were wealthier, better fed, and had better living conditions could live up to two decades longer than that.

Those who think of the Middle Ages as the Dark Ages are mistaken.

Even as Europe was experiencing hard times between the 6th and 8th centuries, the Arab world was developing both engineering, medicine, astronomy and other sciences. The Middle Ages saw the development of firearms, the astrolabe, the compass, eyeglasses, the clockwork, and the printing press.

Gunpowder was invented in China as early as the 9th century and came to Europe several hundred years later.

It most likely arrived in the Old World as a result of battles with the Mongols, who used it. Recipes for making gunpowder appeared in European books as early as the second half of the 13th century, but it was not until 200 years later that it came into widespread use in the army.

The Middle Ages were also a time of great chivalric battles. Some of them decided the fate of countries for centuries to come.

Some of the more important battles include The Battle of Fontenoy in 841, the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Battle of Legnano in 1176, the Battle of Bouvines in 1214, and the Battle of Grunwald in 1410.

Traveling between cities was not safe, especially for merchants.

Gangs of bandits often roamed the roads, robbing and even murdering travelers. The criminals included not only the lowest social classes, but often knights as well.

In 1810, thanks to the German writer Friedrich Bottschalk, they were given the name Raubritter (robber knght).

Raubritters took advantage of the weakening of central power to spread their wings in criminal activity. They were favored by situations of struggle for the throne or interregnum.

Most of the raubritters activity took place in mountainous areas where they could easily attack from concealment. They could also move quickly away from the scene of the attack. For example, robber barons attacked in Scotland, Bavaria, Tyrol, Italy, and Silesia. 

The Middle Ages were also the time of the Crusades. They were originally intended to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslim hands, although political pressures sometimes took them in surprising directions.

The First Crusade was the only de facto successful expedition. Launched by Pope Urban in 1096, it resulted in the capture of Jerusalem and the creation of the County of Edessa (1098), the Principality of Antioch (1098), the County of Tripoli (1104), and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099). However, less than a century later, Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin's army in October 1187.

The 4th expedition, contrary to its original plans to help the Latin states in the Middle East, was bribed by a Venetian doge and used to capture Constantinople.

The 5th set out for Egypt, but was driven out after initial military successes.

The last two crusades ended in defeat and the withdrawal of troops. In total there were seven crusades. The last one took place in 1270. Of the four crusader states formed during the First Crusade, the Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted the longest, until 1291.

In the Middle Ages, animal trials were held that sometimes ended with the accused animal being sentenced to death.

Animals suspected of breaking the law were treated the same as humans and subjected to the same procedures.

At least 85 animal trials from this period have been documented.

In the fall of 1457, in the village of Savigny, France, a pig and its six piglets were accused of murdering a five-year-old boy.

The trial included a judge, two prosecutors, a defense attorney, and eight witnesses. The pig was sentenced to death by hanging, but the piglets were acquitted despite traces of blood on their bodies.

In the Middle Ages, people did not believe that the earth was flat. At least in the circles of the enlightened people, the rest of society simply did not have such abstract questions in mind for them.

Educated people were well aware that the place they lived in was a sphere. This knowledge had been around for a long time; as early as the fifth century B.C., the ancient Greeks were aware of the sphericity of the Earth.

The first major university in Europe was opened in the 9th century.

It was the Medical College of Salerno, which attracted people from all over Europe in search of knowledge. Interestingly, medicine in Salerno could be studied by both men and women on equal terms.

The oldest medieval university in Europe is the University of Bologna.

Founded in 1088, it originally specialized in the teaching of canon and civil law. Beginning in the 13th century, the university also began to teach medicine, philosophy, astronomy, arithmetic, logic, theology, rhetoric, and grammar.

Vikings did not wear horned helmets. Such a vision of the Scandinavian warriors only came into existence in the 19th century thanks to the painters of that time who colored the figures of the invaders in this way.

To this day, archaeologists have not found a single Viking helmet with horns. As a rule, Vikings wore no helmets at all or simple conical helmets made of leather or iron.

The greatest battle of the Middle Ages was the Battle of Grunwald. The clash between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Order took place on the 15th of July 1410. 

It was a decisive battle between two huge armies, each numbering from a dozen to tens of thousands.

It is estimated that 50,000 people fought on the fields of Grunwald. This was a huge number of troops for the time, as most medieval battles involved at most a few thousand soldiers.

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