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 did not have last names
In the medieval period, most people had only a given name such as William. To help differentiate, most were known by their city of origin and thus William became William of Nottingham. Another way for someone to differentiate himself was to add his attribute after his name and thus William became William the Butcher, for instance.
People with mental issues were treated like dirt
Having mental issues in the Middle Ages was a real problem. Beatings were administered as punishment to the mentally ill who acted out for the disturbances their behavior caused and as a means of “teaching” individuals out of their illnesses. Others who were considered dangerous were flogged out of town, thrown in jail, or executed for being possessed by the devil. Happy times!
Men wore horrible shoes
Apparently in medieval Europe men considered long-toed shoes a fashionable thing for some odd reason. As a matter of fact, most nobles had to tie the ends to their leggings in order to show off their “hot” shoes while crusaders had to cut off the tips of their shoes in order to be able to run away from the enemy.
Medieval cuisine was gross and unhealthy
The violence of the Middle Ages led to a primitive society lacking in elegance and refinement. Early medieval food was basic and the ingredients were homegrown. The masses ate a lot of bread, poor-quality meat (mostly pork) that was rich in fat, while there was a serious lack of fruits and vegetables.
Medicine was based mostly on superstition
A medical diagnosis during medieval times involved astrology and other wild theories that today would sound utterly crazy. For example, bloodletting was one of the most widely accepted and respected methods of treatment, since most physicians believed the body would get rid of every disease or illness if the “bad blood” was removed from the system.