Medieval Information

Everything About the Dark Ages

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Here at, we are always looking for new content to add to the main site. Henceforth, we are currently accepting medieval submissions.

Whether it is a book's review, a game review or a homework you just did, we are interested in it as long as it's well written and accurate. Anything you send will be checked and if approved it will be posted in this website.

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Medieval Names



Before the year 1066, the English were known by their single Christian name. Of course, this was a great problem when living in a big town and when not everyone was familiar with each other.

After the Norman conquest of Great Britain in 1066, a new system which included the use of a surname was introduced to England. This proved to be very useful, but nevertheless inaccurate.

At first, surnames could be based on a person's job, place of birth, characteristic or from his father such as "Joseph the smith", "Gilbert of Hastings", "Edward the red" or "William son of John". The three former surnames (job, place of birth and attribute) were found to be inaccurate because they could change and were very prone to confusion. For example, if "John the Tall" lost his two legs, his surname would be completely mistaken.

For this reason, the paternal name has been traditionally used as a surname, for it is very accurate and cannot change.

Medieval Fief



Fief is the land appointed by the king or a noble to his vassal in exchange of goods or protection.

The fief very often consisted of many acres of land and it was worked by serfs who earned only enough to survive and provided enough goods to support the entire population.

Interesting Facts about Castles



-At Exeter castle, wine was used to extinguish fire from a siege. This happened in 1136.

-Spiral stairs in towers are designed to give defenders an advantage. When attackers are making their way up, the shape of the tower makes attackers expose more of their body to the defenders.

-The Black Death left many deaths. For example all the inhabitants of Cainhoe Castle, in England; perished from the Black Death. The castle was found abandoned some time later.

-Donnington Castle suffered the longest known siege. It lasted from July 1644 to April 1646.

-Medieval long-bows had a range of more than 200 feet.

-In the Dark Ages, people believed that swords were blessed due to their cross-shape.

-166 houses were destroyed to build Lincoln Castle.

-Heated sand was used in medieval warfare. When interlopers attacked during the day, the sand accumulated on a castle would be thrown at them. Heated sand has the effect of penetrating an armor and of making a person run away.

-The only five-sided keep in England is located in Mitford Castle.

-It has been proved that Framlingham Castle is built under a Saxon cemetery.

Medieval Serfs



Serfs were a step higher than slaves. Even though they were very maltreated, they still possessed some rights and privileges. Nevertheless, they would seldom die from hard work and low wages. Serfs were the crux of Feudalism. They worked the lands; giving a monetary income to their patrons (the vassals) who would in turn generate taxes to his or her lord. Who would pay homage to the king. It was all a transference of money passed down from the serfs to the king.

Serfs were very discomfort about their situation. They worked for hours and were paid a very small salary. This, along with other causes, brought Feudalism to an end.

Medieval Vassals



Vassals were appointed by a lord to protect him in exchange of land. Knights were the most common protectors of lords. Vassals were given a certain number of serfs to work their lord's lands. Nevertheless, vassals not only had to protect their lord. They also had to pay a very high percentage of their earnings. This somewhat discouraged vassals from doing business with lords; which, at some point, helped the decay of Feudalism.

Medieval Lords



Lords were nobles who, sometimes appointed by the king, would rule many acres of land. Being in command of thousands of serfs, lords were generally very rich.

Being the richest, except for the king, lords normally had castles or palaces located in a place where watching over their territory could be easy. Most of the castles governed by lords were medium-sized.

Nevertheless, as Feudalism decayed, so did lords. Lords didn't possess as many lands as they used to when Feudalism was over. In fact, lords were not as common anymore.

Medieval Kings



Kings were the ultimate rulers of a country. They possessed all the power that a man could possess. According to tradition, they were appointed by God himself from heaven. God gave them the privilege to rule over a country. Furthermore, whatever they did was always right. This conspicuously changed when, for example, Louis XVI was decapitated. But before the XVII century, the king, or monarch, had absolute power. Hence, absolutism.

The royal family, being also chosen by God, also enjoyed many privileges. Every royal family member had a right that consisted on being able to enter any house, sleep with any woman; and stay in the house for as long as he or she wanted. This, along with many other "privileges" made peasants, serfs; and sometimes lords, resentful towards the royal family. Nevertheless, before the XVII century; nothing could be done about it, or, torture would come in handy.

Medieval Maps



Making a map of a small city was a very difficult task during the Dark Ages. Making a map of the whole world was extremely complicated and very few of them were actually made (very innaccurate, of course).

In order to make a map, the drawer had to travel a lot of land reaching from one side of the sea to the other - often ending in a river or lake making it much harder. Map creators had to be also especially careful with not contradicting anything that the church said, reason for which most medieval maps had its center in Jerusalem.

Medieval Map

Additionally it was believed that the three races of men had descended from the three sons of Noah-Shem (Europea, Asia and Africa). Which is why maps are divided in three - all in different sides with Asia on top, Africa on the right and Europe on the left.

The development of medieval maps took very often years of hard work to accomplish. When the New World was discovered, many maps had to be changed and improved.

Sailors were the principal users of such maps. All maps have wind roses for sailors to easily find their location with the use of a compass.

Today many medieval maps still exist and they can be seen. Of course they are very innaccurate and one can only recognize a given piece of land after some research and much patience!

Finding Lost Medieval Treasures



As we all know, there are hundreds of thousands of buried treasures today. Of course I am not talking about chests filled with gold, but more about swords, coins or other smaller objects which we can also call "treasures".

The Middle Ages were a time of great wealth - many battles took place and most of the time, many weapons were simply left to be buried and they remain today under the soil which can be seen.

Metal detection is a new reality. As a personal experience, I lived in Norway for two years. It is there where I found two Viking coins which were more than a thousand years old! I was very excited and bought a metal detector thanks to which I found many other coins/artifacts.

If you are into treasure hunt, I recommend you to buy a good metal detector in order to find a hidden treasure. It is even possible for you to change history if your finding is good enough! Obviously it all depends on where you live - but nevertheless; our ancestors left a vast array of treasures waiting to be found.

To find a lost treasure, what you must first do is know where to look.

England is host to many treasures (especially in the South). If you live in a 200-year old house, it is very likely that a treasure exists. Of course do not limit yourself to metal detection as it is useful but not the only way to find a treasure - treasures can be everywhere including in your very own walls (if your house has a history, of course).

I have a cousin who bought a house in York. The house was 200 years old! When he noticed that one of his walls was hollow, he opened a hole right in the middle to see why it was that way. What he found was a sack full of medieval coins. The coins were of course brought there by previous house residents, but nevertheless; this teaches us that in past centuries (when no banks existed) people had to bury or hide their treasures. Some of them died and the treasures remain there.

Today it is estimated that in Europe there's many billion dollars worth of hidden treasures.

For the enthusiasts, I recommend Scandinavia, England, France, Spain and Portugal as great places to look for treasures. Always look near a past settlement or near a place which was inhabited.

Many laws exist today about medieval treasures - make sure to check them out first.

Population of Europe during the Dark Ages



In the 1,200's the medieval population was nothing but a very small fraction of what it is today. Cities which today are important had only a few hundred thousand inhabitants. Paris and London had no more than 30,000 residents each just 800 years ago!

The world's largest cities were Constantinople, Baghdad and surprisingly, Tenochtitlan.

In the year 650, only approximately six million European inhabitants were recorded. This number increased to almost 37 million by the year 1340. Cypher which decreased to 22.5 million by the year 1450 caused by the Black Death which killed more than 40% of the European population.

Medieval Horses and Cavalry



Horses were very important during the Dark Ages. They were used mostly by nobles, but anyone could have one.

Taxes had to be paid in some countries in order to have a horse, though this was rare. For peasants, taxes meant a lot of manual labor since possessing a horse was in the first place very difficult.

Horses were used for transportation, warfare and farming. Since they were so required, horse prices skyrocketed in the midst of the Dark Ages. Sometimes a horse would be as expensive as a small house! For this most peasants never had a horse in their life.

What most peasants did, however, was to buy a horse or two by sharing expenses with all the members of the community. They would share the horse for farming or other purposes - of course what they really sought was to make the horse reproduce.

For warfare, horses were extremely useful. Cavalry was the main striking force in an army and not counting with cavalry was like signing one's defeat.

When an army won a battle, the soldiers would look for armor, weapons and horses to steal from the defeated. Horses were sometimes reserved for the higher generals, but sometimes even soldiers possessed them and they were like a ticket to move up in the army ranking.

Having a good horse was extremely useful and it also gave respect to the rider. For this, horses would have very elegant stirrups and other adornments.

For transportation purposes, a horse was also very effective. A horse is able to run for hours and continue running - reason for which they were extremely useful for communicating one town with another or for sharing news about war or other subjects of interest at the time.

Horses are the main symbol of a knight. A knight had to have a horse or else he would be mostly ignored. As I mentioned before, a horse gave honor and reputation to the rider which was mostly wanted.

During medieval competition when a knight would face another, horses had to be very well equipped. Losing in a tournament meant, if previously mentioned, the winner taking over the loser's horse. This was of course a great dishonor and sometimes the knight who lost would pay large sums of money to regain his horse and thus; part of his honor.

In a last stance, horses were also used to be eaten. This was common during a siege when there was no food and soldiers had nothing to eat. They then ate the horse and drank its blood to survive a little bit longer. Of course this was rare, but nevertheless it did happen.

Medieval Weddings



What is more traditional than a medieval wedding? Long feasts with luxurious walls combined with the villagers cheering for the newly-married couple.

Marriages were often arranged - though love did influence many of them. Many nobles sought only economical benefits from marriage - but that was more of the exception rather than the rule - as the traditional folklore suggests.

Nevertheless, in most occasions, marriages were arranged by the parents usually when the bride and groom were very young (11 or 12 years of age) which led in many cases to an insignificant affection shown by the couple.

Modern Medieval Weddings
Even today, many people marry in castles to remember how it once was. The most common castles for marriage are situated in France as some of them are as luxurious today as they were a thousand years ago.

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