50 Surprising & Peculiar Events that Happened in Middle Ages

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In medieval Europe, "barber-butchers" were barbers that practiced surgery as well, a profession ranging from amputations to haircuts. The red and white 'barber swirl' in front of most barber shops today signifies blood and bandages which were common in their trade.

27. People in the Middle Ages would brew a batch of ale, have a big party to drink it, and collect donations for the needy. They called it a "help ale" and preceded charity keggers by 1500 years.

28. During the middle ages there was a legal category called "enbrotherment" that allowed two men to share living quarters, pool their resources, and effectively live as a married couple. The couple shared "one bread, one wine, one purse."

29. In the 10th century there lived a Syrian poet named Al-Maʿarri who was attacking and rejecting Islamic (or any other religion) claims. He could freely express his opinions in Arabic lands without fear of his life. In 2013, almost a thousand years after his death, a Jihadist group beheaded his statue.

30. Theophrastus Phillipus Auroleus Bombastus von Hohenheim was a physician from the 15th century who said: "All things are poisonous and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not poisonous". He is regarded as the father of toxicology.

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The original word for "bear" (the animal) has been lost. Superstitious people in medieval times thought that saying the ferocious animal's name would summon it, so they used a euphemism that meant "the brown one" ("bear"). The original word was never recorded, so it remains a mystery.

32. The act of "giving the key to the city" is a continuation of a medieval practice where the cities would be locked at night but someone given the key could come and go as they please as an honor for something great done for the city.

33. Due to lack of sugar in their diet, the average person in the Middle Ages had teeth that were in a very good condition.

34. An influential Islamic philosophical movement (Brethren of Purity) in the 8th century Iraq declared the perfect human to be "of Persian derivation, Arabic faith, Hebrew in astuteness, a disciple of Christ in conduct, as pious as a Syrian monk, a Greek in natural sciences, an Indian in the interpretation of mysteries.

35. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongols would catapult the dead bodies of soldiers infected by the bubonic plague over city walls during sieges. This is one of the earliest known accounts of biological warfare.

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36Nasir al-Din al-Tusi

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi was a Medieval Persian scholar, who put forward the basic theory of evolution 600 years before Darwin was born.

37. El Cid was a military leader in the middle ages who was so feared that, after his death, his embalmed body was placed on a horse and sent into battle causing the enemy to flee.

38. In the Middle Ages, men who wanted a boy sometimes had to remove their left testicle because it was believed that the right testicle made "boy" sperm and the left made "girl" sperm.

39. The medieval practice of putting dragons, sea serpents and other mythological creatures on their maps was to denote uncharted areas.

40. The biggest medieval codex ever discovered is a collection of manuscripts commonly referred to as the Devil's Bible. The 'Codex Gigas' weighs about 165lbs (roughly 75kg) and is said to be a product of a desperate monk's deal with Lucifer himself.

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41Piggy banks

Piggy banks

The origin of the piggy bank was in the Middle Ages. The material used to make storage jars for coins was an orange clay called "pygg." Through language evolution and cultural overlap, English potters were asked to make pygge banks, so they started making them in the shape of pigs.

42. According to legend, Cnut, the 11th Century Viking King of England, Denmark and Norway, once commanded the tide to halt. His intent was to prove a point to members of his privy council that no man is all-powerful, and we all must bend to forces beyond our control, such as the tides.

43. When medieval Islamic scholar Al-Biruni was trying to determine the exact position of Qibla (the Muslim direction for prayer), he realized that a vast span of Earth's land was unaccounted for in the modern maps of the time. This turned out to be the American continent.

44. The Cagots community were a minority in Europe during the medieval times. They were shunned, hated, and segregated from entering taverns or touching food in markets. They were not an ethnic or religious group and were indistinguishable from other people, and no one knows why they were so despised.

45. The urine of ginger boys was prized in medieval Europe for making stained glass.

46Greek Fire

Greek Fire

Greek Fire was almost impossible to put out and was generally used to attack ships. It was created in the 7th century but its recipe has been lost to history and we still aren't completely sure what it was made of.

47. There is a 9th century Germanic 'bible' (Heliand) which presents Jesus as a warrior-king.

48. During the black death, several French cities ran out of places to bury the dead, so Pope Clement VI had to consecrate the entire Rhone River so that it could be considered holy ground and bodies could be thrown into it.

49. In Medieval Germany, peasants believed in a magical land called “Cockaigne”, or “schlaraffenland”, where you could grab pork sausage off of trees or have cooked fish swim out of a beer river and onto your plate. This tale stuck and motivated the working class. In fact, it is still told today.

50. In medieval times, red hair was associated with moral degradation and intense sexual desire. Redheads were regarded as vampires, werewolves, and witches. The Spanish Inquisition singled them out for persecution, believing their hair to be sure sign that they stole the fires of hell.

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