Top 10 Most Infamous Crimes in Medieval History

Step into the annals of history and uncover the dark underbelly of the medieval era, where tales of treachery, violence, and unspeakable acts echo through the ages.

“Four knights came from the king’s side and, addressing themselves to Thomas, they called him a traitor and demanded the absolution he had granted the prelates.”

Edward Grim, contemporary historian and eyewitness of the assassination of Thomas Becket.

From notorious assassinations to shocking betrayals and heinous acts of cruelty, the medieval period witnessed some of the most infamous crimes in human history.

In this article, we delve into the shadows to uncover the top 10 most infamous crimes that stained the pages of medieval history. Brace yourself for a journey into a world where power, greed, and avarice collided, leaving a trail of devastation and intrigue in their wake.

1. Assassination of Thomas Becket (1170)

The murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, inside Canterbury Cathedral by knights loyal to King Henry II shocked medieval Europe and sparked a major religious and political controversy.

2. Massacre at Béziers (1209)

During the Albigensian Crusade, forces led by Simon de Montfort attacked the town of Béziers in southern France, resulting in the massacre of thousands of inhabitants, including women, children, and Cathar heretics.

3. Massacre of Jews during the Black Death (14th century)

In several European cities, Jews were scapegoated and accused of causing the Black Death. Pogroms and massacres were carried out against Jewish communities, leading to widespread violence and persecution.

4. Gilles de Rais (15th century)

A French nobleman and companion of Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais was later convicted of serial murder and necrophilia. He is believed to have tortured, raped, and killed numerous children.

5. The Jacquerie (1358)

The Jacquerie was a peasant uprising in France during the Hundred Years’ War. Peasants revolted against their feudal lords, resulting in widespread violence, pillaging, and the massacre of nobles and their families.

6. The Assassination of William II of England (1100)

King William II of England was killed while hunting in the New Forest under mysterious circumstances. The incident has been surrounded by speculation and conspiracy theories.

7. The Massacre at Cesena (1377)

During the Papal States’ campaign to suppress a rebellion, the papal troops under Cardinal Robert of Geneva (later Pope Clement VII) carried out a brutal massacre in Cesena, Italy, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians.

8. The Massacre at Limoges (1370)

During the Hundred Years’ War, the forces of the future Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, sacked and massacred the residents of Limoges in retaliation for their resistance, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 3,000 people.

9. The Siege of Beziers (1209)

As part of the Albigensian Crusade, the town of Béziers was besieged by Crusader forces. When the town fell, the inhabitants were indiscriminately massacred, resulting in the deaths of thousands.

10. The Massacre of Thessalonica (1185)

After a dispute between Byzantine soldiers and the citizens of Thessalonica, Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos ordered a massacre of the city’s population, resulting in the deaths of thousands.

These crimes from medieval history are known for their brutality, controversy, and lasting impact. They reflect the dark side of the medieval period, characterized by political unrest, religious conflicts, social inequalities, and violence.

“Thus, by a curious stroke of fortune, within a short space of time two brothers, kings of one realm, perished by the hand of a brother’s son, though in each case their murderers had a different motive.” –

Orderic Vitalis, medieval chronicler, on the assassination of William II of England.


As we conclude our exploration of the most infamous crimes in medieval history, we are reminded of the enduring impact these dark chapters have left on our collective consciousness.

The echoes of these crimes serve as cautionary tales, urging us to learn from the mistakes of the past and strive for a more just and compassionate world. While the deeds committed in the name of power and ambition may have stained the annals of history, they also compel us to reflect on our own actions and choices.

May the lessons learned from these harrowing accounts inspire us to build a future where justice, empathy, and humanity prevail over the forces of darkness.

“Thus, by a curious stroke of fortune, within a short space of time two brothers, kings of one realm, perished by the hand of a brother’s son, though in each case their murderers had a different motive.” – Orderic Vitalis, medieval chronicler, on the assassination of William II of England.

Top 10 Most Infamous Crimes in Medieval History | Great Books

“The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer
This immersive book offers a vivid exploration of daily life in medieval England, including chapters dedicated to crime and punishment, providing a comprehesive understanding of the era’s criminal activities.

“The Medieval Underworld” by Andrew McCall
Andrew McCall delves into the shadowy world of crime in medieval Europe, examining various criminal acts, from theft and murder to smuggling and piracy, shedding light on the social, economic, and cultural aspects of crime during this period.

“A Treasury of Medieval Murder” series by Paul Doherty
This captivating series of books delves into specific infamous crimes from medieval history, such as the murders of Thomas Becket, Joan of Arc, and Edward II, offering a detailed examination of the events and the impact they had on society.

“The Great Mortality” by John Kelly
While not solely focused on crime, this book explores the devastating impact of the Black Death on medieval Europe, including the breakdown of social order and the rise in criminal activities as a result of the catastrophic pandemic.

“The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime” by Judith Flanders
Although focusing on the Victorian era, this book examines the fascination with crime and the development of forensic techniques, providing a broader historical context for understanding the evolution of crime and justice throughout history.

These five books offer captivating insights into the crimes that shaped medieval history, providing historical context, analysis, and engaging narratives that will immerse readers in the dark and intriguing world of medieval crime.