Table of contents:

9 terrible things that would have awaited you in the Middle Ages
9 terrible things that would have awaited you in the Middle Ages

Plague, shameful processions, lack of bedrooms and other troubles.

9 terrible things that would have awaited you in the Middle Ages
9 terrible things that would have awaited you in the Middle Ages

1. Poisoned bread

How they lived in the Middle Ages: bread could be poisoned
How they lived in the Middle Ages: bread could be poisoned

It may seem that a loaf of bread is the simplest and most harmless thing in the world. But in harsh medieval Europe, even a simple loaf could bring a painful death to an unlucky eater. Or plunge him into the abyss of madness.

A fungus called ergot, or Claviceps purpurea, parasitizing rye, was not yet counted 1.

2. something dangerous. Therefore, the grain contaminated with it was quite calmly eaten. Cereals, by the way, provided 70% of the daily calorie intake even for noble people, and even the commoners did not see meat at all for months. I had to eat rye bread and porridge, and with them ergot.

Claviceps purpurea contains poisonous alkaloids, the most dangerous of which is ergotinine. It causes convulsions, spasms, impaired blood supply, psychosis, hallucinations and other troubles. In addition, regular use of ergotinine leads to abscesses and gangrene of the limbs.

The burning sensation in the arms and legs becomes so unbearable that people twitch in pain, as if dancing.

This misfortune - ergotism - was called by the inhabitants of the Middle Ages the Antonov fire, or the dance of St. Anthony.

Often the poor in the Middle Ages did not have plates, so the prepared food was laid out on large pieces of bread, which were then also eaten. This means that ergot-contaminated baked goods were used to eat any food at all.

Naturally, no one thought of connecting poisoning with spoiled rye for centuries, because bread is the body of Christ, and disease is the punishment for sins. Therefore, it was necessary to make a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Saint-Antoine-en-Viennoy, to venerate the relics for everything to pass (no).

Scientists estimate that 132 epidemics of ergotism occurred in Europe from 591 to 1789. In 1128, in Paris alone, 14,000 people were killed by the fire of St. Anthony.

By the way, here's an interesting fact for you: it is the custom of using bread instead of a plate that we owe the appearance of pizza.

2. Lack of bedrooms

How they lived in the Middle Ages: there were no bedrooms
How they lived in the Middle Ages: there were no bedrooms

Note for girls who dream of becoming a medieval princess: most of the castles of that time did not have bedrooms. At all. No, of course, especially noble gentlemen were still supposed to have a private room, but there was no time to wait for solitude: there were always a wife, children, servants, servants, and a crowd of people nearby.

Imagine a situation: you, lord, have decided with your lady to provide yourself with an heir. And under the bed your footman-bed-servant snores loudly.

Any minor knights and other minor vassals could even sleep in the hall in front of the fireplace, on straw mats.

In the Middle Ages, there was no dedicated space for sleeping: people ate, slept, played, worked and rested mainly in the same room. It never occurred to anyone to build separate bedrooms for all the inhabitants of the castle.

That is why canopies were so common - to somehow organize personal space. Another way to solve the problem is to settle in a box-bed like this, which was especially popular in France.

18th century Austrian bed
18th century Austrian bed

And yes, if you look at the medieval lodge, you will notice that it is much smaller in size than the modern one. Do you think people were lower then? No, the average height in those days was about 170 centimeters.

The reason is different: everyone slept half-sitting. There was a superstition that it was dangerous to do this while lying down, since such a posture is inherent only in the dead.

3. Shameful processions

How they lived in the Middle Ages: for offense one could get on a shameful procession
How they lived in the Middle Ages: for offense one could get on a shameful procession

People at all times have liked the idea that they are personally better than the rest. And this could be emphasized by humiliating someone. In medieval Europe, there were no social networks, so the persecution took place during public shameful processions.

If you remember, in something like this in Game of Thrones, they humiliated Cersei Lannister - they took him down the street without clothes and shouted “Shame! Shame! In reality, however, it was not queens that were generally punished this way, but smaller birds. In addition, every shameful procession was organized with a bit of creativity.

For example, a brewer who made bad booze was forcibly pumped with it before being driven through the streets. And the thieves tied to stealing pork sausage were made a crown of pork hooves. So the penitent, in addition to insults and beatings, could enjoy a not very pleasant aroma.

Women could be sent to a shameful procession for being grumpy, gossiping, or simply being too talkative.

The culprit was put on a device called a "grumpy bridle" or "mask of shame" on his head and taken along the streets on a rope to shame and humiliate. At the same time, the victim could not stop, as the mask dug into the tongue.

Guilty men were also not particularly favored: for example, a drunkard could be shoved into a barrel and left in this position until all his joints were reduced from pain.

Grumpy woman and drunkard
Grumpy woman and drunkard

The procession was sometimes replaced by a standing at the pillar of shame. Of course, onlookers did not stand aside and booed the condemned. There are even known cases when the latter died from the actions of the crowd: stones or broken glass were thrown at them.

4. Strange justice

How they lived in the Middle Ages: justice was peculiar
How they lived in the Middle Ages: justice was peculiar

Some believe that in the Middle Ages, heads were cut off for any reason. This is not so: the bulk of the punishments were fines, compulsion to repentance, stigma, but not murder.

However, the main problem of the Middle Ages was not to punish the culprit - something would be invented with this - but to find him. There were no cameras on the streets then, DNA expertise had not yet been invented, so they had to resort to other methods of inquiry. For example, to the court by a duel.

And if there was a murder, then sometimes they even resorted to cruency. This is when the murdered person could “appear in court” against the accused. This procedure was used in Germany, Poland, Bohemia and Scotland. In addition, the deceased could be not only the victim, but also the accused.

And if the villainy happened, but they could not find the criminal element in any way, they hung up a doll disguised as a criminal. This was called the execution In effigie, "in the picture." After that, by the way, the real criminal, if they did find him, could not be touched. He was already executed, why bother a second time?

5. Ban on kissing

How they lived in the Middle Ages: kissing was forbidden
How they lived in the Middle Ages: kissing was forbidden

Between 1346 and 1353, the bubonic plague pandemic, or Black Death, wiped out more than 60% of the population of Europe - initially somewhere around 50 million people lived there. They tried to fight the misfortune in different ways: for example, with the help of processions and communal prayers, rubbing the sick with garlic or urine, and other interesting things.

It turned out, as you know, not very well. The disease returned to Europe year after year.

But the fight against the plague was not always ridiculous and useless. For example, the English king Henry VI, who had to come up with a way to cope with the next epidemic, guessed to declare a quarantine. On July 16, 1439, he issued 1.

2. the law on the observance of social distance, inter alia, prohibiting kissing on pain of a serious fine.

For England in those days it was wild: kissing was the main way of greeting in the Middle Ages. Men touched the lips of women, subordinates - the rings on the lord's finger or the lady's hand. Henry VI was called a prude, members of parliament refused to carry out the royal proclamation, foaming at the mouth, proving their right to kiss anyone, no matter how many plague fleas he or she carried.

The situation was aggravated by the fact that the ruler was then only 17. What this brat understands there.

But in the end, the ban, apparently, still began to be observed, because the epidemic began to decline. So by his decree, the young king saved many lives, albeit, perhaps, not fully understanding the importance of social distance.

6. Lively cemeteries

How they lived in the Middle Ages: the cemeteries were lively
How they lived in the Middle Ages: the cemeteries were lively

It is unlikely that a modern person wants to live next to a cemetery. No, the dead, of course, are quiet people, but all the same it is uncomfortable to be around them. In the Middle Ages, the attitude towards death was slightly different.

Cemeteries were busy places back then. There people had fun, held debates and elections of community leaders, gambled (in particular, dice), listened to sermons and even watched theatrical performances. Courts were also often held in or near cemeteries.

According to historians Philippe Aries and Daniel Alexander-Bidon, cemeteries were also places of trade. The reason is that they belonged to the church and were tax exempt. Consequently, all assemblies at burial sites could be held without paying any fees.

And this was very popular with small traders.

The proximity to the dead did not particularly frighten medieval Europeans for a reason. The Church taught that the Last Judgment was about to come and the dead would be resurrected and reunited with their loved ones in the Kingdom of God.

True, it was still not recommended to stay at the churchyard for the night. It was believed that at this time the dead come out of their graves to dance. For example, there is evidence of one tower guard from the village of Mals in South Tyrol, who swore and swore that he witnessed this.

As you can see, the idea of a zombie apocalypse is popular not only these days.

7. Common crypts

Crypt of San Bernardino alle Ossa in Milan
Crypt of San Bernardino alle Ossa in Milan

Medieval cemeteries were a good and fun place. But, unfortunately, they suffered from overpopulation - both alive and dead. Since there was not enough space for them, especially after all kinds of "black death" epidemics there, the remains were periodically dug up and placed in common crypts. The latter were called 1.

2. ossuaries, or ossuaries.

It was believed that for a complete resurrection on the day of the Last Judgment, it was enough for the deceased to have at least a few parts of the body. Therefore, to save space, not everything was put into the ossuary.

Believers came there to pray and prepare themselves for death morally. The remains of the departed were exhibited in ossuaries with motivating quotes in the spirit of memento mori. And at the entrance to the Parisian catacombs there is an engraving of Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort, or “Stop. This is the kingdom of the dead."

In general, in the Middle Ages, it was normal to think about death. The body is perishable, the spirit is eternal, all deeds. Again, the situation was favorable: now a pestilence, now a war. Therefore, even entire guides were written on how to properly prepare for the transition to another world. One of the most popular, Ars Moriendi, or The Art of Dying, was published in two parts from about 1415 to 1450.

8. Miraculous healings

How they lived in the Middle Ages: monarchs had to touch the sick
How they lived in the Middle Ages: monarchs had to touch the sick

If it seems to you that the rulers in the Middle Ages had fun, and all the horrors bypassed them, then you are mistaken.

In addition to the many advantages that the status of God's anointed one gave, the monarch also had some unpleasant responsibilities. And it was not always possible to get rid of them.

So, for example, it was believed that kings are so close to the Lord God that in general they are practically holy. This means that they can heal various sores with a simple touch.

Crowds of ragamuffins with a bunch of diseases of varying severity constantly hung out at the royal palace in the hope of getting rid of ailments.

This tradition began in the middle of the 11th century with the English king Edward the Confessor - for this, his successors probably more than once remembered him with a kind word. He became famous for the fact that once he touched a beggar with scrofula, and he took it and be healed.

Recall that scrofula is tuberculosis of the skin and mucous membranes. But due to the imperfection of medieval medicine, any other disease was also called it.

Since then, all over Europe, people began to believe that the monarch's hands have healing powers. And the kings really had to touch the sick who came to them for help in order to strengthen their popularity among the people.

For example, Louis XIV, the famous "sun king" of France, once touched 1,600 people with various skin diseases in one day. By the way, later one of Louis' mistresses died of scrofula. And, as Voltaire pointed out, this proves that royal laying on of hands is not all that effective.

9. Strange drinks

How they lived in the Middle Ages: the beer was thick
How they lived in the Middle Ages: the beer was thick

There is a myth that in the Middle Ages, people mostly drank alcohol, as the water was so dirty that it could kill. This is not so: if it was not from the Thames or the Seine, where residents dumped all the waste, but from normal wells, then everything was fine.

Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Europe of that time loved to drink. Only medieval beer was different from modern one: it was thick, like a stew. At first, hops were not added to it, which, although it was discovered in the 9th century, did not become ubiquitous throughout Europe until the 15th century.

Before that, gruit was thrown into the beer - a powder mixture of herbs made from woodwort, wormwood, yarrow, heather and wild rosemary. But this recipe was observed only in monasteries.

Lone brewers, on the other hand, added a variety of things to the brew that were not always suitable for consumption. For example, they ate bark. The taste was specific, and they used this drink with caraway seeds and raw eggs.

Drinking beer was dangerous - but mostly for the wealthy. Wealthy gentlemen and wealthy ladies drank it from mugs covered with a glaze high in mercury and lead. Therefore, they often had serious health problems and even died from this.

Commoners, on the other hand, possessed only simple pottery, so they avoided this fate. Small, but consolation.