25 Historical Facts about the 1400s

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1 Joan d’Arc

Joan d'Arc

In May 1430, Joan d’Arc was tried, condemned, and burnt at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1456, the very same church debunked her charges and denoted her as a martyr. Finally, in 1920 she was canonized and made a patron saint of France.

2. On January 9, 1493, Christopher Columbus saw 3 mermaids and described them as “Not half as beautiful as they are painted.” They were Manatees.

3. In 1452, a Hungarian engineer known as Orban offered to sell an extremely powerful cannon to the Roman Emperor. He refused, so Orban instead sold the cannon to the Ottoman emperor, who used it to breach the walls of Constantinople in 1453, which brought the end to the Roman Empire.

4. There is a book that was written around 1420 that was found to have cat piss on one of its pages. The author of the manuscript even wrote on the page “Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer… and beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.”

5. The Voynich manuscript which is dated to the 15th century consists of 240 pages of text in an unidentified language, and obscure illustrations seemingly related to topics such as astronomy and biology. Despite the considerable scientific effort, it remains mostly undeciphered to this day.

6 King James IV of Scotland

King James IV of Scotland

In the 15th century, King James IV of Scotland conducted an experiment by sending a mute woman and two infants to an empty island to learn what the ‘natural human language’ would be.

7. The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, was introduced by King Sejong in the 1440s to improve literacy. The difficulty of Chinese characters favored privileged aristocrats, whereas Sejong’s phonetic alphabet allowed Koreans of all classes to learn how to read and write.

8. In 1475, Turkish law stated that it was legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he does not provide her with the daily quota of coffee.

9. In 1434, Sweden and Spain got into an argument about who was more Gothic and deserving of higher honors. The Swedes claimed direct descent from the Goths. The Spanish claimed that only lazy Goths had stayed in Scandinavia while the heroic ones conquered Spain.

10. Since 1405 until the present day without interruption, the city of Lausanne (Switzerland) has maintained a lookout in the Cathedral bell tower. The lookout announces the time by yelling the hour from 10 pm to 2 am, 365 days a year. The lookout cries the hour to each cardinal direction.

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11 Queen Isabella

Queen Isabella

In 1475, when Queen Isabella was crowned, the queen chess piece became female, and could only move one square at a time, like the King. In 1495, when Isabella was the most powerful woman in Europe, the present rules of chess were established, in which the Queen moves in all directions on the board.

12. In 1485, a disease named English sweating sickness broke out causing people to sweat to death in a matter of hours. The disease claimed the lives of tens of thousands before mysteriously vanishing.

13. In 1457, King James II of Scotland banned golf because he felt that young men were playing too much golf instead of practicing their archery. The ban was not removed until 1502 by King James IV who was a golfer.

14. In 1462, it is said that Mehmed II, who conquered Constantinople and was noted for his own psychological warfare tactics, was so sickened by the sight of 20,000 impaled corpses outside Vlad the Impaler’s capital that he turned around and went home.

15. In 1474, a chicken, mistaken for a rooster, laid an egg in Basel, Switzerland. The town then prosecuted it in court and later burned it alive as punishment for being found guilty of an unnatural crime.

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16 Meteor shower

Meteor shower

In March or April of 1490, tens of thousands of people were likely killed by a meteor shower over China.

17. In 1440, a land sale treaty between the Pope and Florence accidentally left out a small strip of land around Cospaia. The people of the area promptly declared their independence and remained sovereign for nearly 400 years.

18. The 15th-century Islamic mosaics in Spain’s Alhambra palace display a near-perfect understanding of mathematical logic and 16 of 17 types of symmetry identified by modern mathematicians.

19. In 1474, in the Sundernagar district in the state of Gujarat in India, Rajput Parmar community sacrificed more than 200 men to save an injured but escaped partridge bird from hunters. Since then killing of partridge is banned in that area.

20. In 1498, Charles VIII of France, eager to attend a tennis match, banged his head on a door frame. He died a few hours later as a result of the injury.

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21 Siege of Prague

Siege of Prague

In 1420, the Siege of Prague was broken up in a counter-attack after 26 men and 3 women defended a strategic hill against 8000 Austrian knights.

22. Owain Glyndŵr, the last native Prince of Wales disappeared at the end of his rebellion in 1412 and managed to remain hidden despite a large bounty and an eventual pardon. His fate and location have remained a closely guarded family secret for over 600 years.

23. In 1428, Ethiopia proposed a union with Aragon by marrying the King’s grandson with the Ethiopian Emperor’s daughter, along with sending a group of artisans to spread Aragon influence. The King of Aragon originally sent 13 artisans to begin the process, but all of them perished on the journey.

24. Eberhard I, the Duke of Wuerttemberg (1445-1495) once was praised as the richest prince amongst the German princes, as he was said to be able to rest his head on the lap of every one of his subjects without having fear for his life or property.

25. In 1470, the Duke of Ferrara Borso d’Este ordered his subjects to construct a mountain out of scratch to reassert his power after a group of traitors insulted him.

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