Interesting Facts about the Medieval Era


The medieval era, particularly in Europe, is considered to be one of the fascinating periods in human history, mainly because of the different important events that happened during that time that brought an impact on how we live today. However, while many thought that the medieval era was glorious, there are actually some weird and peculiar things that are happening in that period. To know more about these strange events, customs, and beliefs that developed in those times, here are several interesting facts about the medieval era.

Medieval Authors Hired Scribes to Write for Them

Most of the authors that lived during medieval times didn’t actually write their works; instead, they would dictate what they would want to be written in their work to a scribe, who is hired to pen what the author is saying. During that period, writing was seen as a type of labor, and many aspiring writers or those who are gifted with beautiful handwriting would apply for a job as a scribe for well-known authors.

Animals Would Sometimes be Put to Trial

This fact sounds ridiculous, but there are actually animals that were put on trial for multiple cases, including murder, bestiality, and being familiars for witches. One of the most infamous animal trials happened in 1457 when a sow (female pig) and her piglets were found guilty of killing a child. The sow was then hanged, but the piglets remained innocent and were acquitted for the crime.

Archery is a Must-Have Skill for Englishmen

In order for King Edward III to have a sufficient supply of archers during wars, he made a law that requires Englishmen to participate in archery practice every Sunday. Because of these practices, England became known as the land that produces the best archers, and they also produce the most archers.  It is believed that the archer is one of the most important pieces in battle, as they are able to kill enemies from a distance with little to no effort and with minimal casualties, and because of its importance, many kings wanted to produce as many archers as they can.

Eels Were Once Used as Currency

Eels were so common in medieval times that they would sometimes be used as currency. According to the Domesday Book, a manuscript record that surveyed England in 1086, there were rents for watermills that were paid using eels, and these eels are listed as “sticks,” which means 25 eels that are bundled together. There was one recorded paid rent that amounted to 1,000 sticks, and these sticks were given to a certain “Giles brother of Ansculf.”

knight armor

There Were More Social Classes

Most of us who studied history in class may probably already know that there were three classes during medieval times, namely the clergy, the knights, and the workers. However, there are actually more social classes that began developing after 1100, and these new social classic include the merchants (responsible for trade) and new branches to the “worker” class like carpenters, architects, butchers, and painters. There is also a common misconception that peasants did not own their land, thus considering them as serfs, but some peasants in medieval times were actually given land by their lord and are regarded as “free men.” However, there were still serfs or people unable to own land present during those times. If you want to know more about peasants, serfs, and free men, you can read our article,  Learn About a Peasant’s Life in Medieval England.

The Clergy Did Not Initiate the Witch Hunts

The medieval period is arguably infamous for having witch hunts, wherein people would condemn certain secluded women of being witches and will burn them at stakes. It is a common misconception that the clergymen or those who belong to the church were the ones that started the witch hunts, but they were actually trying to convince people that witchcraft and magic aren’t real so that they will stop hunting for witches. Furthermore, when a Catholic clergyman named Heinrich Kramer published the “Malleus Maleficarum” (a book that endorses the execution of witches) was published in 1487, many clergymen actually did not support what was written on it.

The Created a Sadistic Custom Called Cat-Burning

Cat-burning was a popular form of entertainment in medieval times, and it involves putting dozens of cats inside a bag and throw them into a bonfire, thus causing their death. This custom is attributed to the popularity of witch hunts during that period, as cats were seen as familiars or assistants to witches. In addition, cats were also seen as symbols of the devil, and that they would bring great misfortune for those who wanted to keep them alive. It is not clear when this custom ended, but many historians believed that cat-burning events stopped in the 1800s.

The Elite Wore a Pair of Strange Shoes Called Crakow

It is a known fact that the elite during the medieval period had a glamorous and extravagant sense of fashion, and one of those ridiculous fashion pieces that they wore a strangely shaped shoe called the Crakow. The Crakow is a leather shoe that has a pointy tip at the front, and some say that the longer the tip is on the shoe, the better it looks. It is said that the Crakow shoes originated in Krakow, the capital of Poland back then and that it had fallen in and out of trend before it reached its peak of popularity in the 15th century.

So, those are just a few interesting facts about the medieval era. There are plenty of historical events, customs, and cultures that could be learned about the said period, which presents how much everything that happened during that time was impactful to society. Although there is so much information about the medieval times floating around the internet and in libraries across the world, there are still some secrets about the period that remain hidden to this day, and we might finally uncover some of them in the near future.

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