Middle Ages Unit

When you utter the phrase “Life during the Middle ages” do you see a sudden image of a knight in shining armor fighting bravely or does a pictographic vision of romance between a royal lady and a heroic knight pops up in your mind? Or do you believe in the darkness of the Middle Ages as sketched in the pages of history? Actually both the thoughts are true, the medieval sagas portray a gorgeous and romantic portrait of life during the Middle Ages, albeit of the nobles and the other halves were the usual story of the common man to whom in every ages life is equated with struggle for survival.

The Apex Of The Medieval Pyramid-The King

The structure of society in the Middle Ages was like a feudal pyramid whose head was the king. The feudal system is a layered system where the peasants paid taxes to their lords and the lords paid the revenue to the king. But smartness was an essential criterion for the king to secure his high position. The nobles were the most important strata of the feudal pyramid and the king has to appease them constantly.

The king had his own army. In the medieval wars, the vassals served the king with loyalty, advice and their soldiers. In lieu the vassals are bestowed with mini-kingdoms called fiefdoms by the king. A vassal had vassals under him.

The king appointed officials to carry out his order properly. In this stratified structure the power and position of the king was not always secured. There are instances of powerful barons rivaling the power of the king and pressurizing him to favor them. We can present an excerpt from the speech of King John, the ruler of England when forced in such a position. He said, “No freeman shall be arrested except by the law of the land. We shall refuse justice to no one.”

Women – Their Life During The Middle Ages

There are grand romances sketching the sparkling pictures of medieval court legends. But in the real life during the Middle Ages, the women lead a far cry from the portrayed luminosity. Women were not esteemed in the medieval ages. St Jerome, a Latin father of a Christian church termed women as the gate of the devil. The women had no right even on their own lives. Marriage for convenience were widespread during the medieval, the women had no say in marriages. Girls under the age of ten were married to persons who had crossed fifty. Divorce was not accepted by church, so maximum marriages were forceful or calculated conjugation. When a lady became widow, her family forced her to enter another marriage and she could be enforced to a marriage for four times. If a woman fell in love with a person not approved by her family she would be forced to become a nun to solve the issue.

Monks And Nuns – Their Life During The Middle Ages

A monk is a man who is a member of a religious brotherhood and had devoted his life to follow the discipline of his order. A Nun is a woman who has devoted her life to reach salvation. The monks and nuns lived in a monastery, a combo of church and hospital. The monks and the nuns were often teachers to kids and helped them learn how to read and write. They took care of poor and sick people. A monk or a nun spent most of the time in prayer, meditation, sewing, reading, writing and preparing medicine. They lead an austere life according to the timetable of St Benedict of Italy.

The Church -The Edifice Of Religion During The Middle Ages

Medieval people believed in next world after death. The church or the cathedral was the house of medieval religion. The common man believed the priests of the cathedrals could secure a place for him in the heaven after death. People funded the cathedral construction to get rid of their sins.

In middle ages the land was divided into sections called diocese and each Bishop got a diocese for religious purpose. The bishop led the church with the pope.

Advancement of Science Of Medicine During The Middle Ages

The Greek civilization reached the zenith in science of medicine but the rest of the Europe was in darkness till the Arabs translated the texts in Latin. Medieval medicine was based on the viewpoints of the doctor of the Middle Ages and their viewpoints were far from being accurately scientific. For example the medieval doctors blamed a strange gas for the breakthrough of Black Death. Plants were the usual ingredients for medieval medicine, however dung, beetles, bat droppings, powdered earthworms were also used to prepare medicines. There was no full proof way of anesthesia and injections were not known.

The Saga Of The Crusade

In 1095, Pope Urban II spoke “The Muslims have conquered Jerusalem” and the western world rose with the motto of reconquering Jerusalem, they cried “God wills it”. The French, the German and the Italian Christian waged the war of crusade against the Arabs. The word crusade means “a war of the cross”. During the first crusade (1095-1097) most of the knights died of hunger and thirst. But the underlined thought of every mind that went to crusade were not only purgation of sins, greed played a vital role here.

There were two types of knights, one who rode a horse and the knight who was on his feet. Apart from the army of knights there were pilgrims, horse groomers, wives of the knights who went on to crusades.

Richard I of England was bestowed with the epithet of ‘Lion Heart’ for his brave performance as a general in the crusades. Six crusades were fought in a period of 176 years spanning from 1095 to 1271.

The Common People – Their Life During The Middle Ages

The common people belonged to the lowest stratum of the medieval society. Their life was a constant struggle for sheer existence. They were consisted of many groups, the peasants who farmed lands that yielded crops, the bailiffs who collected taxes and managed fiefdoms, the servants who did household works and the craftsman who made candle, shoes, baskets and other art works and things for the nobles.

The standard dress of the peasant was a straw hat weighing 2-3 lbs, a long-sleeve white cotton shirt, trouser, a leather smock and a pair of leather shoes. The commoners lived in shacks made of cement, wood and straw.

Medieval Clothing

The life during the Middle Ages were not secured and safe. People clustered near the protection of powerful people who had well defended castles or monasteries. So with little thought for dressing, medieval clothing was not sophisticated. Mostly the fabrics were handspun and people wore homemade dresses, which were rough and shapeless. Trousers, tunics and shawls made of wool and fur were worn to fight cold. Shoes were made of leather. Colors like brown, gray, dark blue and red were in vogue.

The Food Life During The Middle Ages

In the Medieval Northern Europe, the staple diet was cattle and sheep meat. Southern Europe had fruits, vegetables and herbs for food. The foods were usually cooked in olive oil. The banquets generally consisted of a six-course menu. There were prescribed eating manners and etiquettes to follow in tables. They ate with spoons and knives.

In the middle ages fish and meat were dried or smoked to preserve. Fruits and vegetables were pickled for preservation. Meats were salted in huge wooden vats for winter. They stored fruits and vegetables in barrels.

Middle ages imported spices from the east so they boosted their cuisines with the aroma of the spices.

Beside the dark hues of the Middle Ages there are gray shades of the troubadour lyrics, magnificent discoveries and acceleration of knowledge that would lead to the illuminating age of Renaissance.