Medieval Chronicles - Discover our medieval past in hundreds of factual, informative and easy to understand articles. See how the medieval times looked by clicking on any of the hundreds of images available or use the drop down menu in the menu bar to see all the medieval categories that are available. We have all the information you need about the places, events and daily lives of medieval people from the lowly peasant to the most famous Kings and Queens of medieval times.
The medieval times of our history was packed with amazing Kings, Knights, events, inventions, peoples, battles and wars etc that shaped future generations and led to many advancements in our civilisation.
There were some very dark periods in medieval times such as the Spainish inquisitions, Black Death and the gruesome medieval torture techniques that were inflicted on many victims in medieval castle dungeons. We have chronicled the good and bad periods of medieval times equally hopefully leaving no stone unturned in our quest to accurately chronicle our medieval past.
In medieval times people belonged to different classes and had different social status.
Kings ruled large parts of the land and there was a feudal system in place. The Feudal system organized medieval society and power was wielded across castles dominated districts.
The main landowners with the most power in medieval times was the Church and powerful Lords (Kings and Other Nobleman)
Lords in turn would give this land to vassals (people loyal to the Lord) in return for the Vassals fighting for the Lord and collecting taxes on land he owned.
Kings lived in castles and had the highest standard of living as compared to other medieval people!
Vassals ruled and maintained the lands that were granted to them by the medieval kings. in return vassals promised to defend the King’s land and trained armies for this purpose.
In Medieval times poor people such as serfs and other peasants had very harsh lives, they had to work very hard in order to earn their livelihood! People of the peasants class included serfs and slaves. They worked in the fields and lived in small communities called manor estates.
The medieval manorswere ruled by the local lords and the serfs could not leave the area without the lord’s approval. Whereas other servants in the peasant class worked in the lord’s house and did chores such as cooking, laundering, cleaning and other household chores.
Medieval Knights were warriors who fought for the King in order to defend his lands. Potential Knighthood candidates used to start their training at the age of seven years old at this time they were known as ‘Page Boys’.
Page Boys becameSquiresaround the age of fourteen years, during this time their development became more intense, training with weapons would be harder and they would participate in fighting on the horseback.
A squire would eventually become a full blown Knight around the age of twenty one if he passed all his tasks! He gained the title of knight at a “dubbing” ceremony.
Medieval priests provided spiritual guidance to medieval people and organized religious ceremonies in local churches, whereas monks and nuns used to give up ordinary lives and settled in monasteries and convents, devoting their lives to help poor people.
The medieval times was a very violent period in English history because many brutal battles and wars were fought in that era. For example many battles were fought between the Christians and Muslims on the issue of the Holy Lands during the Crusades.
As the medieval period progressed there were dramatic changes in not only the warfare tactics used but the advancement of weapons and armor – usually the most dominate armies had the most advanced weapons, armor, and best trained knights.
Although battles and wars in medieval times were full of violence and were bloodthirsty affairs, they also led to developments of better warfare technology, weaponry and armor as well as progression in both offensive and defensive strategies and structures.
New types of warfare that developed during the Middle Ages ranged from basic field battles to advanced siege warfare.
These wars and battles also had a great impact on the overall economies of medieval Europe and the culture and social life of the common man.
Medieval Times Clothing
The Medieval times brought many changes to the lives of the people because it was an era in which the clothing of the people was revolutionized.
The tailoring industry was born in medieval times, when fashion was introduced and adopted by common medieval people.
During the medieval times new changes and fashion trends were introduced in the clothing of both men and women by introducing new diversified outfits, fabrics and styles that not only provided comfort to medieval people, but also fulfilled their dire need to get rid of their old rough and shapeless clothes.
Similarly the medieval clothing and outfits of women of medieval times were sophisticated, stylish and classy.
Medieval times clothing was highly dominated by the upper class of the medieval times and a peasant womans dress would be simple, itchy, rough and scratchy in contrast to the luxurious clothing worn by medieval royals and nobility.
The wardrobe of a medieval peasant woman included a free fitting long gown and a linen wrap to cover the hair. Married women wore tight-fitting caps and nets over their hair while other women wore veils over their hair.
The common medieval people would wear simple dresses, but also tended to adopt new trends and medieval fashions to get warmth and comfort from what they wore.
The quality of clothes and their attire truly depended on their social standing. Even in the modern world certain styles are inspired from the Medieval times clothing.
Medieval Times Knights
Medieval Knights history can be traced all the way back to around the year 800
In this era of medieval warfare a medieval knights’ role was dominant because of their strength, influence and power, indeed a medieval knight can be thought of as the battle tank of his day, able to take out a large number of foot soldierson his own.
In Medieval Times it was not an easy to become a Knight and most came from families of the nobility – one could earn the title by either fighting bravely on the battlefield or by becoming an apprentice to a knight – apageboyand then a Squire – and by earning the title through years of devotion and hard work.
Medieval knights were heavily armored soldiers. Although gaining Knighthood was an arduous task, but one of the main advantages of becoming a medieval knight was the respect they gained from people in exchange of their esteemed courage and devotion – they also received loot and rewards from their battles and were quite wealthy and respected members of medieval society.
According to the code of conduct normally known as “Chivalry”a medieval Knight was not only bound to serve and defend hislord, but also his people, hiscastle and his motherland.
In the later Medieval Times, Medieval Knights became less importance because of a change in warfare tactics and the introduction of the new weapons such as longbows and ‘gunpowder weapons’ which could penetrate a knights armor
Nobility & Knights – Hierarchy
Nobleman and Knightswere also very important people in medieval times and it was important for Kings/Queens to have a good relationship with them as they often needed to be defended from enemies by the armies that the nobleman controlled.
Knights were important allies in the brutal medieval world, especially in times of war, in return for their services a Knight would be granted land and or payment, noblemen and knights always gave their allegiance to the king for these things.
Nobility were expected to be productive and contribute to the medieval system, they provided the soldiers that would fight for the King and also made sure that back up equipment for the kings armies such as clothes and weapons were always available.
Medieval Times Castles
The UK and Europe is Home to thousands of castlesonce inhabited by lords, knights and nobles. The Castles of the United Kingdom have a lot of secret tales to tell. Most of these castles have survived the test of time, exuding the brilliant fragrance of history from bloody battles and political conspiracies to ghosts and family heirlooms.
Here are a few examples of Famous UK castles:
Windsor, Edinburgh, Leeds and Caernarfon Castleare all famous UK castles that have survived the ages as living legacies of a bygone era.
Windsor Castle, as home to Britain’s monarchs, is regarded as one of England’s most popular castles with Hampton Court and Leeds not too far behind in reputation.
Edinburgh castlesfame is augmented by the presence of the crown jewels and, together with Stirling Castle, has a place in the famous list in Scotland and in all of UK.
Other famous UK castles are St. Michael’s Mount, Warwick Castle and Tower of London just to name a few. St. Michael’s Mount is situated on a rocky island just a little ways off from the South of London. A 12th century Benedictine monastery stands on a nearby hill where people make a pilgrimage each year.
Warwick Castle, on one hand, showcases a beautiful interior and is usually the setting for most Medieval throwback festivities such as jousts, morality plays and the like.
The Tower of London is an imposing structure that has stood for more than a thousand years. Much like Edinburgh Castle, it protects and safeguards the English crown jewels at present. The castle used to be a famous executioner’s den and torture chamber. Three queens, including Henry the VIII second wife, was beheaded here.
UK castles do not only exemplify great architecture and impressive engineering. They have also contributed to British culture, encouraging today’s generation to explore the past and learn from it.
Medieval Times Music
The medieval times had so much to offer in terms of its rich and sophisticated music. Medieval Music was obviously part of the world civilizations for hundreds of years, the only difference was that medieval music was regulated by the church. Sacred and secular compositions of the music were most dominant because of the involvement of the Catholic Church in the middle ages.
The Catholic Church was the main contributor to the music and art because most of the musicians were trained in the church and they were financially strong enough to buy papers where music was initially written down.
The whole concept of medieval music included music, instruments, poetry and art. During the Medieval Times the following were the best known medieval musicians who were also poets and story tellers.
There were many torture devicesin medieval times that were used for different punishments and were granted for different crimes.
The brazen bulltorture device was a Greek device used to torture the criminals till death by heating them alive. It was one of the most gruesome methods of executing criminals during the medieval times.
Then there was also such torture devices as thethumb screw that was supposedly a Russian device and had three upright metal bars between which thumbs were placed and a screw was used to press the wooden bar in a downward direction and as a result the victims thumb was crushed.
Other Medieval times torture devices such as the rack were used throughout Europe. The victim was tied down at both ends of the torture rack and then stretched with the help of a mechanical device until the joints were dislocated.
The Breaking wheel (also named the Catherine wheelin later medieval times) was also a very nasty middle ages torture device. The victim was tied to the breaking wheel and it was rolled down a rocky hill. Later a wooden frame was introduced to the wheel was so it could move more freely – The breaking wheel could also be set on alight or metal spikes added for addition pain.
During the Medieval Times victims were also burned at the stake where they were burned to death. Many heretics (non believers of the Christian faith) were burned at stake.
Another Medieval Times torture device was the pillory in which a set of wooden boxes were clasped together to provide holes for the neck and the hands. These boxes were opened and victim’s neck and hands were placed inside them. It was mostly used to humiliate the victim.
Other Medieval times torture devices such as the breast ripperwas used to torture women. It was a metal claw that pierced and shredded the breaded to pieces after the victim was tied to a wall.
The Medieval swords was the weapon of choice in medieval times, knights in particular loved their medieval swords
Medieval Swords were especially favored by the medieval Knight – during medieval times two types of swords were mostly used. One was pointed and small with sharp blades and could be controlled by a single hand (the short sword). Whereas the other type of sword had a rounded end and was long with sharp edges and was controlled with both hands (the long sword).
In early medieval times, small yard length swords were popular as these type of swords could be controlled with one hand, whilst the other hand was concerned more with holding the shield tightly. Swords of this period had very sharp and thin edges and were primarily used to cut.
In the latter part of the medieval period swords became stouter and more sharply pointed in a way to create more thrust towards the opponent and were better for penetrating the gaps in a knights armor.
In later times improvements made in the strength of medieval armor reduced the need for a medieval shield, thus large heavier swords became more popular, these massive swords – controlled with both hands could literally cut a person clean in half.
The Arming sword or ‘Knightly sword’ as it was also known was the most used sword in the high middle ages – The Knightly sword was a single handed, straight and double edged weapon. Its blade was 70 to 80 meters in length.
The longsword was popular in the late middle ages and it was controlled with both hands. It was a straight and double edged sword and blade’s length was between 85 and 110 cm.
The Claymore sword was the Scottish version of the longsword and was used in the later part of medieval times.
Medieval Times Food
During medieval times eating habits and the type of food did not change too much over the period.
Food of the Peasant Class
In the early part of the medieval period, cereals were probably the most important staples. Poor medieval people such as serfs ate oats, rye and barley – they used these ingredients to make bread, gruel, porridge and pasta, whereas the governing class used wheat for this purpose. The lower classes also used Fava beans and vegetables as supplements for their cereal based diet.
Socially people were divided among different classes in medieval times, hence the refinement of food in the later medieval period also differed among the classes. Food of the lower working classes was less refined as it was believed that there was a natural similarity between one’s food and labor. The nobility ate food through refined cooking, a method that was developed in the late Medieval Times.
Long distance trading of food in medieval times was very expensive because the transportation was very slow and food preservation techniques were not developed, only based on drying, pickling, smoking and salting. Due to this reason the food of the nobility’ was under foreign influences, whereas the food of poor people was not affected as much, if at all.
Food of the Nobility and Royalty
Meat was considered a prestigious food in medieval times and was therefore a more expensive food item, it was mainly eaten by nobility. Beef was not very common as it required greater investment in land. More common forms of meat were pork, chicken and domestic fowl.
Rice was introduced in the later part of medieval times, whereas potato was introduced in the sixteenth century and was not widely eaten during the medieval period. Medieval time’s foods of the rich and poor were different.
The Northern populations also consumed cod and herrings. Fish was eaten as dried, smoked or salted and was also popular further inland. Other species of freshwater and saltwater fish were also eaten as part of the food.
Medieval Times History
The medieval period spanned from the end of the Roman empire around 500AD to just before the renaissance period around 1500AD.
The term medieval times or middle ages was first used by Italian historians in the late fifteenth century during the period of enlightenment when they used the words to describe the last thousand years of European history.
The feudal system began in the latter part of medieval times as the national monarchies of England, France and Spain emerged.
During the medieval times Christianity emerged as the main religion of Europe and the idea of considering Europe as a large church-state emerged right after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Pope was the strongest person in medieval times and held immense power during this period.
The 12th century is remembered as the century when an economic revival took place in Europe. New towns were developed and people enjoyed a better, safer life with speed of communications also improved.
During this period agriculture also developed and the cultivation of beans took place on a large scale that provided food for all the classes of society. Due to the proper supply of food the population increased rapidly.
During the 13th century in medieval times history, advancement in the field of architecture took place and the classic formulation of the culture and Gothic architecture took place.
The ‘Black Death’ took the lives of millions of people in the 14th century is considered one of the most important events of medieval history.
Medieval times art was produced in almost all types of medium at that time. The most prominent of these styles were sculptures, metal works, stained glass, fresco wall paintings, mosaics, tapestry and work in precious metals or textiles.
In the earlier Middle Ages decorative arts were more famous and highly valued as compared to medieval paintings. Decorative arts were also classed as “minor arts” and included work such as metal work, enamel, ivory craving and embroidery using precious metals.
Another notable thing about medieval art was the realistic depiction of the objects. After the end of the Medieval period, the Renaissance rejected medieval art and termed it as “Gothic” art and as a product of the “dark ages”.
During medieval times medieval kingswere one of the most important an d powerful people in medieval society.
A special religious ceremony commonly known as a “coronation” was arranged in which the new king was crowned by a Pope or a Bishop of the Christian church. To indicate the kings right to rule, and they were often consecrated with holy oil.
In medieval times, kings were chosen in different ways. One of the common ways was to choose a successor from the kings own bloodline commonly known as hereditary succession. Medieval kings came to power because of an assassination or by forcefully conquering lands through an invasion.
Being crowned king was not an easy task, a king had to manage the whole kingdom during later medieval periods when the kingdoms were not divided by smaller tribes. Moreover kings had to spend a lot of time making sure that their court, lords etc. remained loyal to them.
Medieval times produced both good and bad Kings. Some Kings were much more generous to their people and others brought shame to their land and people.
Generous kings allowed peasants to live on their lands with low taxes and used their tax money wisely for the betterment of the society and the kingdom. On the other hand a cruel king either sent the peasants to the dungeons or put them to death if they broke the rules placed upon them.
Medieval kings usually wore fancy clothes to show off their wealth and status and had a very luxurious lifestyle. Jesters and troubadours would amuse and entertain them in the medieval castles.
At that time the king was a lawmaker and everyone was bound to obey him because of his power which was supported by the nobles and lords loyal to him.
Legendary Kings and Knights
King Arthur was a legendary figure in early medieval times but was he even a real person? he is believed to have won no less than twelve battles in the 5th century and is considered by many to be the greatest king of England.
William the Conqueror (1028-1087) defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and brought his form or feudalism to these lands which changed the course of our history.
Richard the Lion heart(1157-1195) was the favorite son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and a central figure of the third crusades which lasted hundreds of years as the Christians tried to recapture the holy lands and the city of Jerusalem from the Muslim Turks.
During medieval times militaryexpeditions were very common and known as thecrusades.The crusades were a series of Holy warslaunched by the Christians against the Muslims who were in control of Jerusalem at various times during the medieval period.
Crusades were normally launched to take control of any area or to achieve a specific goal. The First crusade was launched by the Christian Pope to reclaim the Holy lands from the Muslim conquerors. The expedition was successful and the Christians captured the Jerusalem in 1095. After the victory the Christians set up several Latin Christian states.
During the medieval times a total of nine crusades were initiated after different intervals of time. The first four crusades were known as the Principal Crusades and were the most important and historical most discussed amongst historians.
The remaining four Crusades were called the Minor Crusades, including a less significant expedition called Children’s crusadewhich was started by a French child and ended in total disaster for all the children involved.
In medieval times every crusade was fought between Christians and the Muslims to conquer the Holy city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem had a significant importance for both of the religions at that time and the prime goal of Christians was to release the Holy Land from the Saracens.
This was the era in which the Crusades and the Orders of Religious Knights including the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights and theHospitallers became famous because of their power, strength, fight to the death attitude and battlefield skills.
The crusades not only provoked the voyages of discovery, but they also affected the wealth and power of the Catholic Church along with their social effects on the common people of medieval Europe.
To summarize the fact it is clear that all of the crusades failed to achieve their defined goals permanently, however the influence that they had created extended over more lands than just the Holy Land.
Religious architecture – The Latin cross plan developed over the years with its primary model of a Roman basilica. The basic architecture included a nave, altar stands to the east and transepts. Justinian Icommissioned the cathedrals in the Byzantine styleof domes with a Greek cross that resembled a plus sign. In this type of architecture sanctuary was on the east side of the church and it also contained an altar.
Castle windows that were designed for archers called arrow slits or arrow loops which were added into the castles design, walls were crenelated and Gatehouses, murder holes and battlements were placed in areas of the castle that were vulnerable to attack.
Civic architecture was either of the military or religious type and included town halls, manor houses, bridges and also residential houses. Medieval times architecture can be divided into Pre-Romanesque, Early Christian,Romanesque architecture, Russian church architecture, Norse Architecture, including Ottonian, Merovingian, Asturian and Carolingian.
Early medieval architecture was religious and secular as well. The palace of Santa María del Naranco in pre-Romanesque Spain is an example of such architecture. The Romanesque style of Medieval architecture included the style of architecture of buildings that were mostly constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries.
After Roman Imperial architecture the Romanesque style was the first pan European style.
The most first example of such style of architecture was the 12th century abbey church of Saint-Denis in Saint-Denis near Paris. Cathedrals were taller and because of competition and the prestige of image and power new churches/cathedrals were built as high as possible.
The medieval times are also commonly known as the middle ages and the dark ages, this medieval period started around the end of the 4th century and lasted approximately one thousand years with the collapse of the roman empire up until late into the 15th century, it came to an end with the beginning of the great renaissance period around 1492.
There were some truly remarkable events that changed the course of history during medieval times such as the Norman conquest, Feudalism, the signing of the Magna Carta and the Black Death to name a few.
There was so much going on in medieval times in fact that historians decided to split the medieval times into three distinct periods to make all the information easier to manage. These medieval periods are called the early, high and late medieval periods.
It is important to understand how society operated in medieval times, people were organized into a medieval feudal system where the wealthiest in society also tended to be the most important and powerful people who made all the rules.
At the very top levels of medieval society were Popes, Kings and Queens. The majority of medieval people were poor and did not have much wealth, these people made up the main population in medieval times and they had different roles, there were also knights, military men, tradesmen, merchants, peasants etc. who all contributed to the make-up of medieval society.
The Church and it’s leader the ‘Pope’ were really the most powerful people in the Feudal system, they could depose a King/Queen, force them out of power and take away their authority, they could also remove a King and put someone else in their place.
The Pope could also make a judgment against a King/Queen, Intervene and even impose sanctions on any King or Queen that was considered to be unjust.
At the top of the Pyramid was the Pope, Church and then the King/Queen of the day
The King claimed ownership of the land from the Pope who represented God who owned everything
The King then granted land to important noblemen in return of their allegiance to serve and protect the King
The King granted land to Knights who were less powerful than Nobleman but would fight for the King
The Vassals also agreed allegiance to the King and were required to fight for the King as requested in exchange for land
The land owned by Noblemen and Knights was worked by the peasants or serfs who were usually very poor
The serfs/peasants usually belonged to the land, meaning they couldn’t leave under the Feudal systems rules
In medieval times people were highly religious and believed that God was all powerful, the Pope and Church were deemed to be the servants of God and ‘medieval people’ believed that they were carrying out instructions directly from God – this allowed the Clergy to become very powerful and they along with Royalty and Nobility, who were the most powerful people within the Feudal system which was brought to England by the Normans during the Norman conquests.
The Pope was so powerful in medieval society that he could literally excommunicate a king, this basically meant that all communication to that person could be stopped and would lead to the king becoming an outcast.
In medieval England this was very significant because being outcast by the church was a major thing that meant you would be unable to communicate with friends and family because they could turn their back on you if you did not belong to the Catholic Church.