Many contemporary historians and schoolbooks portray the Middle Ages as a time of poverty, backwardness, and religious arbitrariness, from which the people were freed only by the Renaissance and later the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, there have been a few historians who paint a much different picture and insist that the Middle Ages weren’t as bad as some claim, and that in some ways they were better than most other historical periods. Here are 25 facts about this “dark” and controversial era that will help you make up your mind concerning which category you belong to: the lovers or the haters of Medieval times.
People didn’t shower or even wash their hands
Even though public baths and sanitary methods were common in Rome, Athens, and most big cities in Europe, all this changed in medieval times. Christians were prohibited from bathing naked and, overall, the Church proclaimed that being sanitary and public bathing led to immorality, promiscuous sex, and diseases. These “unwritten laws” of religion became part of the daily lives of most citizens who slowly started avoiding any kind of self-cleaning.
It was a very dirty era
It is estimated that the inhabitants of medieval London, both human and animal, produced fifty tons of excrement a day. As a matter of fact, during the fourteenth century, Sherborne Lane in East London was so disgusting that it was officially known as Shiteburn Lane.
Death was common for entertainers
Nowadays actors, singers, athletes, and TV personalities might be some of the highest-earning and most respected individuals around the world but in medieval times things weren’t that great for them. If an entertainer failed to make the king happy he could be executed for not being good at his job and no, that’s not just a story you’ve seen in films.
Bread could make you hallucinate or even kill you
Bread was the staple of life in the Middle Ages. However, during summer making bread was a particularly difficult task for villagers since they would run out of grain and the new crop wasn’t ready to be harvested. For that reason they were forced to make bread from old rye infested with a fungus called ergot, which pretty much had the same effects as LSD.
There was animal blood everywhere
It’s historically recorded that this problem got so out of hand in England during the 1360s that King Edward III demanded that butchers be banned from slaughtering animals within the City of London because of the stench from the blood and offal. Rotting meat was commonly dumped in the Thames.