5 Medieval Facts of Life

1. The capital of the Muslim empire in Spain was Cordoba. Under Muslim rule, it was the greatest seat of learning in Europe from the 8th to the 12th centuries, and one of the very few cities in Europe where Jews, Christians & Muslims lived together in peace.


During Europe’s Dark Ages, Muslim-ruled Spain was experiencing a Renaissance of knowledge that would widely influence the later Renaissance of the rest of Europe after the Dark Ages. In fact, contrary to ideologically-slanted Western history accounts, the first European Renaissance occurred in Spain under Muslim rule.


2. During the Middle Ages, the majority of people did not know how to read or write. The Church was the only institution that was literate. Literacy was pretty much the domain of royals and the noble classes of society. However, the lower classes did not begrudge their higher ups this skill. They considered it completely natural that those in charge should be literate, for they had more need of learning than did mere peasants.

3.  Medieval people were often sewn into their clothing due to the lack of fastenings, and because fashion dictated that many pieces of an outfit were to fit snugly.


4.  To keep people from spreading the plague during the Black Death, family members showing signs of infection would be boarded up inside the home along with all other household members. Needless to say, they all died – even those who may have survived the plague had they not been imprisoned with infected family members.

5. In England, those accused of a crime suffered physically during bizarre trial rituals believed to determine, by God, one’s guilt or innocence. Called ‘trial by ordeal,’ the accused would be burned with a hot iron, hung for a number of minutes, stabbed in a vital organ, or any similar such acts of brief torture. If he survived the ‘ordeal,’ he would be found not guilty. It was believed that his survival was a sign from God of his innocence.


Conversely, there was a less painful quasi-trial, called ‘compurgation,’ enacted by the Catholic Church. In a ‘trial by compurgation,’ 12 peers of an accused person would be rounded up. The accused would then take an oath before them of his innocence. If they unanimously believed him, he would be set free. If they could not come to a unanimous agreement about his innocence, he would be convicted of both the original crime, and the crime of lying under oath.


Imagine that. No evidence presented, no witnesses, no attorneys.

Just your word and the hope that you will be believed by 12 strangers.



Which one of these facts of life could you live without?

4 thoughts on “5 Medieval Facts of Life

  1. “burned with a hot iron, hung for a number of minutes, stabbed in a vital organ, or any similar such acts of brief torture”…………Wow, and all that without underpants!

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