A Closer Look at the 1500s: 40 Fascinating Facts

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1Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary

In 1524, a statue of Virgin Mary was charged as being a witch in Riga (the current capital of Latvia) and was sent to a trial by water in the Daugava River. The statue floated, so it was denounced as a witch and burnt at Kubsberg.

2. Tomatoes are native to the Americas and weren’t introduced to Italy until the 1540s.

3. The bread did not exist in Japan prior to 1543 until Portuguese sailors brought it to their shores.

4. Martin Luther was a great German Reformation leader, in 1543, who wrote a 65,000-word treatise called “On the Jews and their Lies” in which he argued that Jews should be shown no mercy or kindness, and that “these poisonous worms” should be expelled for all time.

5. In 1550's France, the Queen of France, Catherine de Medici was so disgusted by women with “thick waists” that she enforced a ban on them from her court. This led to the widespread use of the corset throughout western civilization for the next 350 years.

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6Shenshi province earthquake

Shenshi province earthquake

The deadliest earthquake in recorded history struck in the Shensi province of China in 1556, which killed about 830,000 people.

7. Whilst being burnt alive at the stake in 1556, a woman gave birth to a live baby who the executioner then threw back into the flames.

8. The equals sign was invented in 1557 by a Welsh mathematician named Robert Recorde. He only invented it because he was fed up with the ‘tedious repetition’ of the phrase is ‘is equal to.’

9. In 1567, Hans Steininger, the man said to have the longest beard in the world, died after he tripped over his beard and broke his neck running away from a fire. He usually bundled up his beard in a leather pouch, but that day he hadn't.

10. Yasuke was a 16th century African who traveled to Japan as a slave and caused such a sensation that a powerful warlord wished to see him. He thought his black skin was painted and ordered it to be scrubbed. However, they became friends and Yasuke was later given the prestigious rank of a Samurai.

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In the 16th century, prestigious mathematics professorships could be "won" by defeating the current professor in a public algebra competition.

12. A 16th-century serial killer named Christman Genipperteinga is said to have murdered 964 individuals. This including 6 of his newborn babies, birthed from a sex slave he held captive 7 years. He was caught when she (slave) convinced him to let her go to the town where she betrayed him by dropping peas for the town’s men to follow and capture him.

13. The traditional Japanese dish of Tempura was actually introduced to them by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th Century.

14. Around the 16th century, there was a chamber in Romania’s Biertan fortified church where all the couples that wanted to divorce were forced to live, with only one item of everything: one bed, one spoon, one chair, etc. before breaking up. Only one couple in 300 years ended up divorcing.

15. When the Portuguese introduced chili peppers to Japan in the 16th century, rather than being eaten they were commonly put into socks to keep toes warm.

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16Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe was an enormously rich 16th-century Danish astronomer, who is well known for the pet moose that accompanied him everywhere and developed a strong taste for the beer, eventually becoming so intoxicated at a party that it fell down a flight of stairs and died from subsequent injuries.

17. The gibberish language being spoken in the stop-motion clay animated series ‘Pingu’ is actually a language which has been used by the clowns and mimes since the 16th century.

18. Ishikawa Goemon was a 16th-century legendary Japanese outlaw hero, who stole gold and other valuables from the rich to give it to poor, for which he was sentenced to death. He and his son were boiled alive in public in an iron cauldron, but he was able to save his son by holding him above his head. His son was later forgiven.

19. The reason that so many working-class British men wore a flat cap is that a 16th-century Act of Parliament designed to stimulate wool consumption penalized non-nobles over the age of 6 if they weren't wearing a woolen cap.

20. The first example of wearable computing was a ring with a usable Abacus in 16th century China.



In the 16th century the Pope declared Capybara's as “fish” so that his followers could eat it.

22. During the 16th century, Western Ireland was under the control of Pirate Gráinne Ní Mháille. After years of fighting against England, Queen Elizabeth agreed to personally meet with her. Gráinne showed up with a dagger, refused to bow, and threw a noblewoman's handkerchief into a fire

23. 16th century Puritans saw common names as too worldly, so they opted for virtuous/religious names instead. This led to names such as If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned.

24. The Cagayan Battles of 1582 in the Philippines was the only recorded battle in the history to be fought between European infantry and samurai.

25. One of the earliest weapons of mass destruction was used during the Siege of Antwerp in 1585. A Dutch explosive fire ship containing 4 tons of explosive rammed a fortified Spanish bridge, killing 800 Spaniards, causing a small tsunami, and vibrating windows 22 miles away.

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