Medieval Jobs & Occupations

What were the Most Important Medieval Jobs in Medieval Cities, Towns and Villages *Discover Medieval Jobs, Guilds & Occupations!


The medieval period was an important time in European history. It was during this period that feudalism arose in Europe and became entrenched as new kingdoms and empires came into being.

Feudalism The Feudal Pyramid Image

It was also during this period that the foundations of the renaissance and the modern era of Europe were made. This was largely accomplished through the advances in various sciences made in the later medieval period.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Serf-Farm-Hand

The occupations of the medieval period were quite often different from those that exist today, although they were also related.

Medieval Manor Estate in Medieval Period

Medieval Manor Estate

The Medieval period was dominated by the working of the land and revolved around the manor estates owned by the ‘Lord of the Manor in countryside estates.

Medieval Jobs *Manor Estate Related Jobs Types

  • Baker
  • Blacksmith (Made Horse Shoes and Many Important Items)
  • Brewer (Made Ales)
  • Clergyman
  • Cooper (Made Various Storage Casks)
  • Farmer
  • Farm hand (Serf)
  • Locksmith (Made Various Locks and Keys)
  • Miller (Made Bread)
  • Shoemaker (Made and repaired Shoes)
  • Winemakers (Made Wine)
  • Roofers (Made & Repaired Roofing)
  • Wheelwright (Made and Repaired Cart Wheels)
  • Reeve (Oversaw Work of Serfs)

Medieval Jobs *Craftsmen Important Trades During Medieval Times

  • Blacksmiths
  • Carpenters
  • Cobblers (Shoemakers)
  • Stonemasons
  • Wheelwrights

Medieval-Blacksmith-Anvil-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

There were also many Medieval Jobs directly related to warfare activities such as

  • Armourers (Made Armour & Shields)
  • Bowyers (Made Longbows)
  • Castle Guardsmen (Protected Castles)
  • Fletchers (Made Arrows)
  • Swordsmith (Specialist Smith who Forged Swords)
Medieval-Bowyer-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

Medieval Bowyer


Medieval Jobs *Skilled Craftsmen Jobs *General

Medieval craftsmen were skilled workers who made important products that were needed in medieval villages, towns, and cities and also for warfare. Craftsmen had to complete long apprenticeships, after which they became journeymen.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Guild-Medieval-Blacksmith

Craftsmen commonly joined a Guild and could become masters of their trade by completing a ‘masterpiece’ work that was accepted by the Guild as being worthy of a master craftsman.

Medieval-Jobs-Guild-Coachmakers-Sign

Medieval Jobs & Occupations *Important Medieval Craftsmen List

Artist

In the medieval period, an artist was typically someone who would paint a likeness of a person. Artists usually worked in the service of famous and wealthy persons.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Artist

They would be commissioned to create portraits of such persons for which they were handsomely rewarded. Some like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci were also commissioned to work on public works. A variety of materials and mediums were used by the artists during the medieval era.


Blacksmiths

The carpenter and blacksmith were one of the most important occupations in the medieval period. Nearly all areas of life used iron and steel products and tools at the time. Such tools were used in warfare, farming, and a variety of other skilled occupations such as *Horse Shoes *Door Knockers *Metal Gates *Armour *Weapons *Tools *Torture Devices

Medieval-Blacksmith-Forge-Medieval-Jobs

A medieval Blacksmith is at work using a forge and heat to mold the blade of a medieval weapon

A blacksmith would forge such tools in his workshop. In doing so, the smith used an anvil and a hammer to shape and forge various tools first melting into liquid form.

Medieval-Blacksmith-Amourer-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations


Bell founders

Bell Founders made bells of all types, bells were in high demand during medieval times for many buildings such as Churches and Clocktowers.

Bell-Founder-Medieval-Jobs-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

Specialist medieval craftsmen had to be very skilled to produce large quality bells that were cast in moulds. Bells also required fine tuning so that they would hit the correct pitch and harmonies required.


Belt & Buckle Maker

Like hats, belts were very popular in medieval times, belt makers were in demand to make a variety of belts for common people and nobility

Belt-Maker-List-of-medieval-Jobs-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

Belt makers used a variety of cutting tools, skiving knives, and hole punches.

Medieval-Shoe-Makers-Tools


Calimala *Cloth Finishers and Merchants

The Calimala were an elite guild of cloth finishers that were based in Florence in Italy which became a very powerful city under the ‘House of Medici’.

Medieval-Jobs-Calimala-Cloth-Finishers-and-Merchants

The Calimala imported woolen cloth from France and other regions and used highly skilled techniques in which the cloth was dyed, stretched, fulled, calendared, and finished.


Candle Maker

Candlemakers were kept busy in medieval cities, towns, and villages as they offered an essential product to light medieval people’s homes and businesses.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Candle-Maker

Candles were primarily used for illumination during the medieval period. They would be used at homes, churches, outdoor feasts, and in greater abundance on special occasions.

A candlemaker was the one who made these candles. Although most towns had their own candlemakers, notable estates of noblemen retained their own candlemakers. These would be responsible for harvesting the wax from the bees and using it to create candles.

 


Carpenters

Carpenters created useful products out of wood. They were important during the medieval ages as many important objects such as utensils, furniture, wagons, building structures required wooden parts and frameworks

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-carpenter

These were created by a carpenter who could earn a very good wage from his occupation. Some carpenters were permanently attached to a wealthy person such as a nobleman or a king. The more intricate a carpenter’s work was, the more highly it was rewarded.

Medieval-Carpenter-Medieval-Jobs-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations


Cabinet Makers

Cabinet makers were carpenters who work in the specialism of making chests and trunks out of wood, they would have also made other products.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Cabinet-Maker


Cobblers (Shoemakers) Made & Repaired Shoes

Cobblers made and repaired shoes for everyday medieval people. Wealthy Medieval people such as Nobility had their own shoemakers called a Cordwainer.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Shoemaker

A Cordwainer made luxury shoes with various styles that were exclusive to the nobility.

Medieval-Shoe-Makers-Tools

Medieval Shoe Makers Tools


Hatters *Hat Maker

Hats were very popular in medieval times and some form of headgear was w0rn by almost all people in medieval society. Various materials were used to make medieval hats, including wool, silk, linen, leather, cotton, etc.

Hatters were classed as skilled craftsmen and as such were part of a Guild

Various Styles of Medieval Hats

Tailors were also hired by nobility and rich merchants to make their clothes as well as medieval hats. Thus customised hats with elaborate styles could be ordered.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Hat-Maker

The common people and the peasantry, on the other hand, usually purchased ready-made hats or sometimes made them at home. Peasant women could sew and embroider them when required.


Moneyers *Coin Makers

Moneyers during medieval times had the exclusive task of minting coins as per the instructions of the king. Sometimes they would remain idle in which case some of the moneyers worked with goldsmiths. During the late medieval times, the status of a moneyer was recognised as a respectable medieval Craftsman.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Moneyer

  • A moneyer worked in a workshop commonly in a medieval city or town
  • Severe punishments were given to a moneyer if he broke the rules of production
  • A moneyer worked on a supply and demand basis, sometimes they were very busy
  • During quiet times a medieval moneyer who work for a Goldsmith to make an income
  • A moneyer was a respected craftsman in medieval society


Cooper

Coppers made barrels, wooden casks, and other similar containers. The Cooper was a very skilled and important craftsman in medieval times, Casks were in high demand to transport dry and wet products commonly food, but were difficult to produce and required considerable skill to make.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Cooper

Some Coopers were directly employed by Breweries and made the Casks that were used to transport Ales and wines.

Medieval-Cask-Made-by-a-Cooper-Medieval-Craftsmen


Goldsmiths *Jeweller

As artisans, goldsmiths enjoyed very significant prestige in medieval Europe. They typically worked not just on gold but also on silver and occasionally used gems in their works. In most major medieval European cities, goldsmiths organised as guilds that held significant sway and political power.

Medieval-Jobs-Occupations-Goldsmith

Given their affluence, goldsmiths also often acted as bankers since they had a ready stock of well-secured gold at most times.


Locksmith

A medieval Locksmith made various Locks and Keys. Locksmiths were in high demand during the medieval period creating many types of locks, the most popular of these was the fetterlock, which was used to secure livestock.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Medieval-Craftsman-Locksmith-Medieval-Jobs

Medieval Locksmith

Medieval homes often had several locks on their doors especially if they were important buildings such as armories and treasuries that stored valuable items.


Roofers

Medieval roofers used different materials to make and repair medieval buildings’ roofs, in earlier medieval periods the thatched roof (straw) was popular and needed a different skill set to later medieval roofing materials such as clay tiles, and wooden shingles, and stone slabs.

Medieval-Jobs-Medieval-Roofer-Fitting-Clay-Tiles

These new roofing materials were introduced by law in the 13th Century as they were less likely to catch fire which helped to stop fires from spreading through medieval towns and cities which were mainly made of wood.

Medieval-House-with-Straw-Roof-medieval-Roofer


Stone Masons

Stonemasons were involved in the building of stone medieval buildings and castles and creating fancy stoneworks for buildings and castles such as created gargoyles. A stonemason was a skilled craftsman who would break, cut, and carve stones to be used in buildings.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Stone-Mason

Most stonemasons organized together as guilds. A mason was hired to carve and place stones in structures such as castles and churches. A quality stonemason with finesse in work was highly sought after and could earn decent money.

Medieval-Stonemason-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

Like Carpenters Stonemasons were highly skilled and very Important trades in medieval times.

Castle Battlement Entrance


Tanner

Tanners use the skins and hides of animals to create leather products using a messy process called tanning, in a building called a tannery that is usually located on the outskirts of cities and towns due to the stench created by this process.

Tanners used a special process known as tanning to make leather products from animal skins such as

  • Bags
  • Boots
  • Harnesses
  • Leather Armour
  • Scabbards (Sword Protective Sheath)

Tanning was a dirty, messy, and foul-smelling occupation that was often frowned upon by medieval people of higher status, however, the ancient art of tanning was very skilled, and as such tanners were classed as craftsmen and belonged to Guilds.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Tanner


Weavers

There were many types of weavers in medieval times who made a wide range of cloth products.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Weaver

Medieval weavers made all kinds of items made from cloth such as clothing from materials such as wool, flax, hemp, and sometimes silk. Weavers were classed as urban craftsmen and had to become a member of a guild that established a standard of quality for the work they produced.

Medieval weavers often worked at Home and used two types of looms

  • Warp-weighted looms (Earlier Medieval Periods)
  • Horizontal looms (Later Period 10 – 11th Century)

Wheelwright

A medieval wheelwright was in demand to make wheels for carriages and also repaired broken wheels, the name wheelwright means in Old English ‘Shaper of Wood’.

Medieval-Craftsmen-Medieval-Wheelwright-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

Carts of various types were in demand and carriages were popular modes of transport with wealthy medieval people such as Royals, Nobles, and wealthy merchants.


Medieval Jobs & Occupations *Armour & Weapons Related

  1. Armourers (Made Armour & Shields)
  2. Bowyers (Made Longbows)
  3. Fletchers (Fletching of Arrows)
  4. Swordsmith (Specialist Smith who Forged Swords)

1. Armourers

Armourers were part of a guild of master craftsmen who made body armour and shields for medieval knights and soldiers. Although an armorer was a type of blacksmith, he specifically focused on creating armor for the knights and noblemen who fought battles.

Suits of armor required a great degree of skill to create and were very expensive to buy, modern estimates consider a price of up to $100,000 to be accurate. Every suit of armor was designed to be specific to the dimensions and preferences of the individual wearer. So each suit was a unique project.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Amourer

Blacksmiths made general products as well as armour and weapons, but as the medieval period progressed manufacturing processes became more advanced and complex, this gave rise to specialist smiths who worked only as ‘armourers’.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Amourer

Once an armourer had specified the features he would use in the armour, he would begin working on every inch of the armour, using tools such as a very heavy hammer and rudimentary welding equipment.

Armourers could also specialise in a certain part of body armour protection, there were armourers who just made helmets or shields for example.


2. Bowyers

Bowyers were specialist craftsmen who made Longbows which were used by Longbowmen (archers in medieval armies), they were in high demand during the many battles of the ‘Hundred Years War’ between England and France (Plantagenet Period)

Medieval-Bowyer-making-a-longbow-Medieval-Jobs-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

This was the golden era of the English Longbowman who dominated the battlefield during the Battles of

  • Crécy (1346)
  • Poitiers (1356)
  • Agincourt (1415)
Medieval Footsoldiers Battle of Crecy

Medieval Longbowmen during the Battle of Crécy

Bowyers were master craftsmen and as such were members of a Guild.

English enemy fire their arrow bolts at French Enemy

English Longbowmen

The Bowyer commonly learned his ancient trade from his father, mastering the most important skill when making a longbow which was the bending called ’tillering’. The bending of a longbow needed to be very even, if the bow was not bent correctly it would simply snap when drawn.

Medieval-Longbow-made-by-Bowyer-Medieval-Jobs


3. Fletcher

Closely related to the craft of the bowyer was the art of arrow making which is far more complex than it may first appear. Fletchers were in high demand during the hundred years war between England and France (1337 – 1453) as they made the arrows used by the famous English longbowmen during the battles of *Crécy (1346) *Poitiers (1356) *Agincourt (1415)

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Fletcher

Arrow makers sometimes made just the fletching of an arrow also called the ‘flight’, but also commonly made the whole arrow and Fletching.

Arrows were commonly under a yard long and made from lightweight woods such as

  • Aspen
  • Ash
  • Birch

Feathers were ‘Fletched’ to the base of the Arrow commonly

  • Geese
  • Swan
  • Peacock

A nock or groove was cut into the base of the arrow into which the bowstring was placed and this held the arrow in position.


4. Swordsmith *Bladesmith

The sword, a mystical weapon and favourite weapon of the gallant knight was made by a specialist smith called a ‘swordsmith’ or ‘bladesmith’.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Bladesmith

Swordsmiths were very skilled craftsmen who were in demand throughout the medieval period and formed their own guilds.

Medieval-Blacksmith-Hammer-Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations

Weapons makers were in a constant struggle against advancements made in armour design, as the medieval period progressed sword technology advanced and the use of tempered steel in sword manufacture became more common around the 10th century.

The swordsmith would heat blocks of iron in a furnace, this allowed the swordsmith to work the shape of the sword, it was then rapidly cooled in water ‘quenched’ which created a hardened and tempered steel.


Medieval Jobs & Occupations *Related to Castles

  • Executioner
  • Guardsmen
  • Page Boy & Squire
  • Knight

Executioner *Hangman *Headsman

The executioner would be given a warrant that authorised him to behead prisoners for very serious crimes such as treason. It was the executioner and his assistants that administered torture in the dungeons of the castle and he acted in an official capacity.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Executioner


Guardsmen

Castle Guards threw rocks, hot oil, and other projectiles from battlements at the top of the castle walls and towers onto besieging armies. Castle Guards may have been deployed as archers on the walls of the castle, commonly using crossbow weapons.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Castle-Guards

Castle Guards stationed around the Gatehouse poured boiling oil through murders holes at the castle’s gatehouse entrances and also used other weapons such as crossbows to protect these highly important areas of the castle.

Drawbridge to a Castle Gatehouse

This Drawbridge leads to the Castle Gatehouse Entrance


Page Boy & Squire

Page Boy

In medieval Europe, a page or page boy was classed as being a young nobleman who left home at a very young age (around 7 years) to learn how to become a knight (assisting a Squire) in another royal or noble household.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Squires

Typical chores of a page included taking the lord’s messages to different other persons, tidying up the clothes and weapons of his lord, and serving the Lord in other ways such as by filling his wine cup at meals. Often the page was also required to aid the lord put on his armor and weaponry just ahead of a battle.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Medieval-Page

Squire

In the medieval period, a squire was someone who accompanied a knight as his shield and armour-bearer. Typically, a squire was a teenager and earned the title of Squire at the age of 14. He would then accompany the knight onto the battlefield, to prove his mettle and to show his loyalty to the lord.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Squire

Before battles, the squire was also required to perform different tasks as his lord may require, such as readying the horse and preparing weapons.


Knight

Medieval knights and feudalism had a special relationship that was well defined. Knights often worked for a high-ranking lord who may have granted them lands.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-the-Knight

These lords in turn would work for the King or a higher-ranking noble and were responsible for providing their military services during battles.


Medieval Jobs & Occupations in Medieval Cities, Towns & Villages

Medieval Manor Estate in Medieval Period

The Fields and Buildings are listed in this image of a Medieval Manor Estate

There were many jobs in medieval Cities, Towns, and Villages that were neither classed as crafts, but that could be considered skilled or unskilled.

  • Baker
  • Butcher
  • Cook
  • Farmer – Farm Hand
  • Grocer *Merchant
  • Messenger
  • Miller
  • Tax Collector
  • Winemaker
  • Watchmen

Baker

A Baker was one of the most common occupations during the medieval period. A baker would bake and sell bread as well as other basic eatables made from flour.

In some parts of medieval Europe, bakers would sometime swindle the public by selling bread at a higher price. To counter this, kings would then promulgate decrees to punish such cheating.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Medieval-Baker

A Medieval Baker is baking bread in an oven


Butcher

The Butcher was one of the most important people in medieval times, depending on whether the butcher resided in a medieval village, town, or city he may have actually slaughtered the animal himself, prepared the meat, and sold it in his shop.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Butcher


Miller

A miller was someone who ground up the grains to make flour. Farmers who would grow wheat and other grains brought them to the miller.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Medieval-Miller

The miller then ground them up to make flour which was then turned into bread and other eatables. Mills powered by water flowing under a building were typically used. These comprised of horizontal and vertical grinding stones which crushed the grains by applying weight to them while rotating.

Quern Stone used by a medieval miller

Quern Stone also known as a grinding stone was used by a medieval miller to grind wheat


Farmer & Farm-Hand (Serf)

During the medieval period, Europe was largely feudal and relied heavily on agriculture. As a result, farming was the main occupation of a large percentage of the population. Most of the farmers were essentially Serfs who worked on the land of the Lord of the Manor or tenants who would be given land by the local lord who originally owned it.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Farm-Hand

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Reeve

Serf Working in Field Watched by a Reeve

They would till and cultivate it, reap crops and keep a share of the profits while giving the rest to the Lord. Yet there were other farmers who privately owned land. The amount of land a person owned was often seen to define his prestige and standing.

A Medieval Manor


Winemaker

Winemakers played an important role in medieval times as they produced the wine that was very popular, they would grow and harvest the grapes and produce the wine which was stored in casks made by a cooper.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Winemaker


Medieval Jobs & Occupations *Entertainers

  • Court Jester
  • Jongleur *Musician & Entertainer
  • Minstrel *Travelling Musician
  • Trouvere * Poet Musician *Singer
  • Troubador *Musician *Poet *Storyteller
  • Waits *Musicians

Court Jester

A medieval court jester was a jester employed by the royal court for his performance and entertainment. This was a permanent position and the Court Jester had his own residence that was provided for him.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Jester

The jester entertains lords at a medieval feast

The medieval court jester could perform a variety of tricks other than telling jokes. For instance, his entertainment also included music, juggling, acting, clowning, etc

Jongleur *Musician & Entertainer

Jongleurs were entertainers in medieval france who were very similar to the trouvère. they were storytellers and general public entertainers.
Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Jongleurs-Musicians

Jongleurs medieval musicians and entertainers from the 11th-century medieval times

Minstrel

A minstrel was essentially a medieval musician. Minstrels could play a variety of instruments, sing poetry and songs, and typically travel around from one place to another.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Medieval-Minstrel

Some were permanently retained by the wealthy noblemen and kings so that they could play when required. Minstrels recorded and popularized the heroic deeds of the knights of the medieval period. They would sing these from tavern to tavern, playing a key role in preserving information about many important historic events.

Trouvère (Troubadour) *Poet *Musician *Singer

Trouvère were poet-composers who were very similar to Troubadours, they composed and performed lyric poetry during the high medieval period.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Trouvères-Medieval-Musicians

Waits *Musicians

Waits were very important during the medieval period and most cities and towns had a band of waits (Band of Musicians). Waits could be seen in most medieval towns and cities playing their instruments through the night and entertaining important visitors. These brightly dressed bands of musicians would play their music anywhere including outside medieval peoples homes.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Medieval-Waits-Musicians


Other Medieval Jobs & Occupations

Barrister

As the medieval age progressed, the laws of the land became more important and clearly defined. There was a need for someone to be able to interpret and argue with these laws.

This is why a barrister enjoyed an important role in the later medieval period. Initially, local parish priests would serve as barristers but in time, a whole separate class of independently educated barristers came into being. They would be educated in the King’s law and settle legal disputes through arbitration.

Medieval-Jobs-and-Occupations-Barrister

Summary

  • A miller ground up grains and provided flour. He would use a manual mill which was typically powered by water to turn the millstones.
  • A blacksmith forged and shaped tools made from iron, steel, and other metals.
  • A stonemason cut, carved and installed stones using in buildings like churches and castles.
  • An armorer created pieces of armor tailored to the person who would wear them.
  • A minstrel played musical instruments, sang songs, and told poetry. Minstrels would travel from tavern to tavern popularizing poetic narrations of important events.
  • A carpenter cut and carved wood to create furniture, wagons, tools, and other items.
  • A baker baked and sold bread as well as other items made from flour.
  • A barrister specialized in the King’s law and interpreted it to mediate legal disputes.
  • A candle-maker created candles from bee wax. Candles were extensively used for lighting homes, churches, and other places.
  • An artist painted the likeness of a person. They were hired by rich nobles and kings to have their portraits made.
  • A farmer tilled and cultivated the land to grow crops. Farming was the most common occupation in the medieval period.

Our thanks go out to the The Nuremberg Twelve Brothers Foundation who have allowed us to use some of their images of various medieval people in their jobs and occupations – here is a link to their fantastic work