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50+ Bizarre Things About Medieval Era You Probably Didn't Know

If we look back to see how far humanity has grown, we'll see the ages of stages of evolution that changed us from barbaric cave-dwellers to civilized humans. But it's not like civic behaviour dawned on us in a moment. Human history is filled with moments that will leave us speechless - either in amazement or disgust.When we take a look at the past, we find lots of interesting things. The Medieval Era in the history of mankind lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It was an era where faith and science, each found their way to humanity. That was the time when many huge empires rose and collapsed - the events that led to the differences between Rationalism and Romanticism.Let's turn the pages of history and find out the deep and dark truths about the Middle Ages.

1. Sad truth behind Peasantry.

Being a peasant, back in the day, was a tough, miserable life. They barely had any control or authority over their own lives. You were bound to work for your lords for years, and you were given a small plot of land, where you were supposed to grow food for your family as well as feed the cattle.

2. Peasants could set themselves free.

Yeah, but it wasn't as easy. If you were caught after running, you'd be severely punished. However, if you could run and hide for more than a year and reach another town, you could become a freeman of that town.

3. Marriage was quite simple.

All you had to do was to recite certain lines in presence of a witness, and BOOM! You are bound in a nuptial bond - whether the venue is a hall, woods, streets or even a tavern.But it changed once the Church started to intervene in nearly all the aspects of their lives.

4. Black Death was one of the biggest pandemics humanity has seen.

It resulted in deaths of around 200 million people in Europe in the years 1346–1353. Originating from Asia, Black Death is believed to come to Europe via Silk Road, and took down 30-60% of Europe's population at that time.

5. Peasants had cleaner teeth.

Though this sounds like a good thing, the reality behind it isn't as positive. Since they didn't have access to the sweet desserts that their lords enjoyed, they had lesser tooth decays to worry about.

6. Binge-drinking was a serious problem.

Apparently, Black Death wasn't the only epidemic spreading across the European continent. People were drastically consumed by alcoholism. People conveniently mistook alcohol to protect from diseases. This took a more serious turn when they believed it so blindly, that they started to drink themselves to death.

7. Football was considered violent and was banned in England.

Back then, it was rather a "Mob Football" with an unlimited number of people hustled for a pig bladder, used as a ball. There were very little rules and people went quite further than a shoulder push to get the ball. Because of the ruckus caused by it, King Edward II placed a ban on the violent sport in 1314.

8. There were no pavements to walk on.

People used to walk on bare earth... on a good day! Generally, the 'bare earth' was covered with human and animal waste, from shit on streets to food waste.

9. Peasants did have some authority.

Power over minor local issues was devolved to a council of peasants who would decide small details such as land disputes. The smart ones were able to, sometimes, take over the properties their owners.

10. The common folk had weird customs.

Most of the Middle Age was shaped by Christianity. But still, there are a few curious rituals, that didn't harm the religion, and were too fun to be discarded by the church.Some included lighting up wooden barrels to them down the hill and throwing of wheat over the heads of the newlyweds.

11. The Lord of Misrule.

Being an idiot was a community service. Every year the peasants would elect someone to be a Lord of Misrule. He was made to wear a paper crown and was celebrated as the fool of the community.

12. Poor didn't have the luxury of Anesthetics.

Back in the days, Anesthetics were only reserved for the lords and higher-ups, when it came to medical attention. The poor had to stay conscious during the whole ordeal of surgeries, bearing the pain.

14. Too much blood was considered bad for health.

Doctors believed that the internal fluids - blood, bile, and phlegm, should neither be too little nor too much. That's why they bled their patients regularly relieve them from the excess blood.

15. Horoscope was held higher than health.

Astrologers were highly respected among the people of medieval ages. Even doctors had to consult a person's horoscope before his treatment. They could also predict the harvest as well as the personalities of your children.

16. Many medicines were based on superstitions.

Medical diagnoses usually involved astrology and other wild theories and were 'treated' by equally ridiculous treatments. For example, bloodletting was considered medically helpful for 'any illness' as the removal of 'bad blood' from your body.

17. The origin of the Piggy Bank.

However money saving was quite a foreign concept for peasants, they'd save what money they could in pots made from a type of clay called Pygg. This is where we get the term ‘piggy bank’.

18. Chastity belts were made for women.

A chastity belt was worn by women to prevent sexual intercourse. Along with a protection from rape, it was also used to 'maintain faithfulness to their husbands.' It was one of the 'anti-temptation device' by crusaders.

19. Sheep dung was a contraceptive.

Back when contraceptive pills weren't a thing, sheep excreta was used achieve the same results. Not just that, a sponge soaked in lemon juice and inserted into the vagina also passed as a contraceptive measure.

20. Not all authors were writers.

As ironic this might sound, most of the population couldn't read or write. But through experience, they had the immense knowledge to be shared. So, they had the ancient version of voice recording - a Scribe, who'll write down the author's dictation.

21. Shops didn't have names on the outside.

Since most of the people weren't able to read or write, there was no point in having billboards and hoardings for advertisements. Hence, the shop owners chose to present a model of their skills, like painting thread and needle for a tailor, or an anvil for a smith, instead.Do you recall all the shops in the medieval games you used to play? Well, now you know why there were symbols in front of shops and not a banner.

22. Bad breath was a valid reason for divorce.

There are records of women who had a divorce for something as trivial as a bad breath. That means, having a morning breath could ruin your relationships. Good luck with waking up next to each other.

23. Farm animals were very small.

Medieval-time farm animals were small and often unhealthy. A full-grown bull was only slightly larger than a modern calf, and sheep were about a third of the size they are today. Generally, fleece yield was sometimes less than one pound per sheep.

24. Animals could be convicted for crimes.

Animals were treated like humans - and not in the positive sense. An animal could be convicted and tried for crimes. And if found guilty, they were often sentenced to death.

25. Old bread could kill you!

In the conditions of food shortage, people had to reserve to eating old rye. This usually led to similar effects as of LSD. And just like any other regular drug, it's overuse could potentially kill you.

26. Practicing archery was compulsory.

It was compulsory for the male population of the folk to practice archery every Sunday, for at least two hours. The clergymen were supposed to supervise that the practice is continued.

27. Clown shoes were in fashion.

One of the worst things of those days, apart from body-hugging dresses, was ridiculously long shoes.

28. Ill people were considered 'Evil'.

During the Dark Ages, anything that happened to us was considered to be a result of how we lead our lives. So if a person was to be in an accident, he was accused of things much worse than carelessness. Due to this, those with mental illnesses were treated like dirt, as they were 'paying for the sins they have committed'.

29. Swaziland still has this funny law.

In Swaziland, it is illegal for witches to fly higher than 150 meters from the ground on their broomsticks. I'm pretty sure this rule must have a pretty amazing backstory.Witchcraft is taken seriously in Swaziland where many people believe in the power of black magic.

30. The times were different - Literally!

Back in middle ages, The days were divided up in a unique time-telling format, that varied with respect to season. They divided the day into seven hours of equal length. Because summer days are longer than winter ones, a winter hour was about sixty minutes, but a summer one was about 150 minutes.

31. Robin Hood was real!

Well, to be more accurate, there were many 'Robin Hoods' living in the woods trying to loot from loaded merchants and lords to distribute it among the poor.Thanks, to the law that made archery compulsory, 'Robin Hoods' were quite good with bow and arrow.

32. It was illegal to wear a mask in public places.

As it was easy to hide anyone's identity with a mask, it was illegal to wear masks in public in order to ensure public safety.

33. Medieval ages gave us magnificent universities.

The grandeur of the architecture back in the day created such robust institutes that have seen centuries of civilizations.Our finest establishments such as Oxford date back to the Middle Ages. Back then they were violent places and there were rules forbidding students from carrying bows.Yupp, there are records of Oxford students having a fight with the locals. 

34. Churches controlled everything.

In medieval days, there was one church for every 200 people. Not only construction-wise, but also with the propagation of the faith, Church was taking over a lot of power in the continent.

35. Children were used for the crusade against Arabs.

The Church wanted to get rid of the Islamic population by using children to preach the sermons and convert the Arabs to Christianity. This Children's Crusade backfired when most of them were sold as slaves.

36. Church tried to take over Arab holy lands.

The Church declared 'Fight an Arab and you could be forgiven' - raising a rather violent crusade to fight and convert the Arabs to Christianity.

37. Only the art 'in name of God' was great.

Early rulers believed that art has a religious and biblical derivation. Hence, only the art that spoke of God were entertained. Anything other than that was considered vile and blasphemous.

38. You could buy forgiveness from God.

If you had enough money, you could pay a priest, who'll pray to God to forgive you for your sins, so that your soul could find a restful place in heaven.

39. Church had nothing to do with Witch Hunts

The burning of witches became popular after the Protestant Christianity started to spread wings. The Catholic Church didn't believe in the superstitions of witches and paranormals.

40. Friar Roger Bacon predicted many of modern equipment.

Roger Bacon was a Franciscan friar who in his Epistola de Secretis Operibus, wrote: “Cars can be made so that without animals they will move with unbelievable rapidity,” and “flying machines can be constructed by which artificial wings are made to beat the air like a flying bird.” He also predicted steamships, submarines, and diving suits.Sure, it was Da Vinci to visualize them in his sketches, but it was Bacon's foresight that made it possible.

41. An Oath of Chivalry was taken by the knights...

All the knights were sworn by their lords and kings to take the oath of chivalry - to protect the people of the kingdom - men, women, and children. Though, it was not always executed as expected.

42. ... But it was usually disregarded by them!

Disregarding the oath, the knights used to loot and pillage the same villages they swore to protect when they weren't busy fighting battles.Indeed, 'Chivalry is dead'.

43. The Vikings weren't who we know they were.

The English word 'Viking' actually means 'raider', because that's all that Englishmen saw them as - in the form of raiding Danes that tried to invade their lands. The actual 'Vikings' were mostly humble farmers.

44. It was possible to go through a Trial by Ordeal

When accused of a crime you could choose to be tried by ordeal. This would involve an extremely painful task leaving you wounded. If the wounds healed quickly, or you survived, it would be called a 'divine intervention'.

45. The Hundred Years' War didn't last for a 100 years. 

The Hundred Years' War is generally accepted to have lasted from 1337 to the Battle of Castillon in 1453, which clearly is a little more than 100 years.One of the biggest examples of 'Pseudonyms', this war actually lasted 116 years.

46. London Bridge DID fall down.

This nursery rhyme "London Bridge is falling down" actually has a real-life origin as the London Bridge was pulled down by the Saxons to protect the city from the Danes.

47. People rarely ever took a bath

Earlier Europe was glorified by Greek and Roman history for their sanitation and bath-houses. But it didn't carry on with the arrival of the medieval period. The Church proclaimed that being sanitary and public bathing led to immorality, promiscuous sex, and diseases.People highly obeyed this 'unwritten rule'. For example, Queen Isabella of Spain is known for only taking two baths in her entire life.

48. Only the court jesters had the freedom of speech.

Just like the satirists and comedians in today's age, jesters were capable of speaking almost anything in front of their rulers and lords - because whatever they said was supposed to be taken as a jest.Anyone else who tried to do the same, without proper qualifications, could easily find himself rotting in dungeons or maybe have himself decapitated.

49. Surprisingly, they didn't believe in a flat earth!

Haha! In your face, Flat-earthers! By the Middle Ages, The Earth is a globe - was quite a widespread belief - at the very least among the educated. Columbus did face opposition on his voyage, but not from people who thought he’d drop off the edge of the world. Instead, people believed he’d predicted too small a globe and would run out of supplies before he made it round to Asia.

50. They had incredibly disturbing means of torture.

The Dark Ages are known to have set the standards of torture far beyond the reach of humanity. From stoning people to boiling them in a metal bull, the torture techniques have been quite a disturbing memory for the ones from the medieval times.The one shown here is a Saw, where a person was hung from a bar naked and inverted and a saw was run through this body. You must have committed witchery, adultery, murder, blasphemy or even theft.

51. A Royal Feast was always quite exquisite.

If the nobles or the lords had a guest who was supposed to be impressed, they'd don the tables with something like wild boar or even roast swan.So, how did you like to sift through the pages of history and know things that you probably never knew about? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and share this article with your friends to inform them about the bizarre historical happenings.If you have any additions or suggestions, you can reach out to me on harsh@wittyfeed.com

Barber by day, surgeon by the other part of the day.

Many barbers were part-time surgeons who were adeptly able to work sharp tools on human skin. And the colorful spiral poles you see, in front of a barber shop today, was actually bloodied bandages that barbers hung outside their shops on a pole in a spiral pattern