For you to completely understand the articles contained within this website, it is suggested that you get used to the medieval nomenclature. Henceforth, you should try to familiarize yourself with terms which are contained within this excellent resource.
Armet: A very light helmet. It was closed and a very good protection for the face and eyes principally.
Barbute: An Italian helmet. It had a "Y" shape in the middle that provided visibility and ventilation.
It is not possible for one to fully write about the Middle Ages in a single article. Henceforth, I have made a complete list of articles contained within this site for the sole purpose to provide you with as much information as possible. I strongly recommend that you read the following articles in order.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the V century, a new period which is referred to as the "Middle Ages" began. Land was divided and kings emerged - castles began to appear throughout the land after the Norman conquest of England and the church was stronger than ever before. Some historians call this "The Dark Ages" because they were in fact full of grief, sorrow, torture, invasions and plague. This went through for a full millenium until the XV century when Constantinople finally fell and the Reinassance emerged bringing new ways of thinking along with more rights for people.
In this website you will learn all about medieval castles including the way they were attacked, defended and inhabited. Since it would be virtually impossible to hold such an immense array of information within one single page, I have broken it into many pages. I recommend that you read the following articles in order:
Before the X century, villagers had to rely heavily on walls and rivers to stop an invading army's progression. Walls were commonly built. Nevertheless, as time passed; people realized that walls were not as effective as they used to be because of new weapons and siege engines.
During much of the early Medieval period, foreign invasions were very common. Kings began to lose their power because they could no longer protect their people from the vikings who destroyed everything in their path.
This led to many economical and social problems which were firstly addressed in Normandy when the first settlers arrived during the X century. Their fear was enormous and so was their courage for they devised a way to effectively diminish Vikings and other invaders which seemed to be possessing most of Europe.
Serfs were a step higher than slaves. Even though they were very maltreated, they still possessed some rights and privileges. Nevertheless, they would seldom die from hard work and low wages. Serfs were the crux of Feudalism. They worked the lands; giving a monetary income to their patrons (the vassals) who would in turn generate taxes to his or her lord. Who would pay homage to the king. It was all a transference of money passed down from the serfs to the king.
Serfs were very discomfort about their situation.
When the word "knight" is mentioned, we often imagine a strong and handsome mounted warrior fighting dragons to defend his beloved.
Way to Knighthood:
As young as the age of seven, kids were already chosen to become knights by their parents. In order to be chosen to become a knight, a test had to be conducted on them to decide whether they were suitable for the task or not. In order to be chosen, a kid had to be tall for his age, strong and extremely healthy. If chosen, the kid was called a "Page".
Lords were nobles who, sometimes appointed by the king, would rule many acres of land. Being in command of thousands of serfs, lords were generally very rich.
Being the richest, except for the king, lords normally had castles or palaces located in a place where watching over their territory could be easy. Most of the castles governed by lords were medium-sized.
Nevertheless, as Feudalism decayed, so did lords. Lords didn't possess as many lands as they used to when Feudalism was over.
Kings were the ultimate rulers of a country. They possessed all the power that a man could possess. According to tradition, they were appointed by God himself from heaven. God gave them the privilege to rule over a country. Furthermore, whatever they did was always right. This conspicuously changed when, for example, Louis XVI was decapitated. But before the XVII century, the king, or monarch, had absolute power. Hence, absolutism.
The royal family, being also chosen by God, also enjoyed many privileges.
The Vikings were a tribe inhabiting Scandinavia who wanted to possess the Southern Countries because of the terrible weather conditions that they were subject to.
Lack of agriculture led many adventurous Vikings to sail South in search of land. Ireland was the primary target of such attacks which were successful most of the time.
Nevertheless, as the Vikings kept pushing forward into land, they began conquering Scotland - and at their peak, they conquered half of England.
It was during the X century when king Alfred the Great decided to halt the Viking progression so he reorganized his army, built many ships, and made a decisive defeat on them.
Before the Dark Ages, Romans were undoubtedly the strongest empire in the world. Their strength was lost; but their customs were not. Medieval armies used many Roman tactics in the battlefield. Packed tightly, strong medieval armies could easily rout old and antiquate armies away from the battlefield.
Stirrups were used to mount horses much easily. They were very important for medieval knights since; before they were invented, fighting on top of a horse was extremely difficult.
What is best known about the Middle Ages, besides castles, is the weapons used during the time. Most of these were so good and unique that many stores even sell them today! - as a matter of fact, medieval weaponry is very well known throughout the world as they were continuously improved.
They were most commonly used from a distance. Their effectiveness increased dramatically as they were used from a higher altitude against lower targets as gravity would play an immense role in this.
The Battle of Crecy was a major defeat for the French in the hundred years war. 12,000 highly trained soldiers under the leadership of king Edward III of England; engaged battle with 40,000 French soldiers under Philip VI.
King Edward II had a secret weapon. At least 2,000 longbowmen on top of a hill. They could fire more than 12 arrows per minute causing extreme casualties to the French. While king Philip VI relied heavily on his knights, he realized that they were not effective anymore.
Siege weapons were used to overcome a castle's defense.
They could land devastating blows to a castle's walls which almost invariently resulted in the castle's fall. Castle defenders could do very little in order to destroy the siege weapons besieging the castle. It was not until many centuries later when castles themselves began employing siege weapons to destroy the attackers as well.
When the term "siege weapons" is mentioned, one normally thinks of a catapult launching a missile.
During the Medieval Times, Europeans not only had to worry about internal battles - but they also had to deal with outsiders such as the Vikings, Russians and; mainly, the Asians.
Among the Asians, many different cultures existed. The most powerful was (supposedly) the Mongol tribe as they managed to conquer a very big percentage of Asia (including some China and Russia) and as far as the Middle East with some European invasions.
Mongols - The mongols were hated because of the extreme fear they inspired on their enemies.
Not only is the first crusade contained in this article, but all of them are. What happened during the crusades? Were they successful? What was the children's crusade? Who was Saladin? Learn this and much more in this category of this website.
In the X century, shortly after the Viking Christianization, many warriors were raised as a mistaken effort to completely eradicate foreign invasions. Since there was peace between the major European nations including France, England, Germany and Italy; the newly-trained warriors were found needless and they resorted to fight among each other and terrorize villagers.
Medieval shields were usually very strong because of the newly developed weapons which could easily destroy a light shield.
A shield's primary function was to defend a soldier against swords or projectiles. Projectiles were useless against shields (unless they were longbows, and the shields practically worthless). Additionally, foot soldiers could arrange themselves and box up - meaning that they could have protection from three sides by cooperatively aligning their shields which could help them progress slowly and steadily while minimizing damage caused from projectiles and swords.
The Vikings before then XI century, were an immense threat to England and the rest of Europe. They were able to create very fine weaponry which was, in a way, different from other medieval weapons.
For Vikings, weapons were not only used for battle, but they were also used to show each individual's own wealth and social status. For this reason, most Viking weapons were decorated with precious gems which made them very valuable.
When a battle was lost, a calm retreat could save hundreds of soldiers while panic could kill them all. Learn about how soldiers retreated in this article.
During the Dark Ages, many open-field battles took place. When an army lost a battle, normally it would have relieving forces to make an ordered retreat which would result in fewer losses. Nevertheless, many armies did not care or did not possess such forces which made the retreats much more deadlier resulting in immense losses for the retreating army.
During the Middle Ages, plague was very frequent. Read this excellent article to know exactly what happened and how many deaths were accounted to plagues in general.
Plague was not a myth - it was a reality that could destroy entire villages and kill thousands of people within a very short timeframe. By far, the most famous plague is the Black Death, which occurred in 1347 and ended in 1350.
This, along with invasions, was the biggest fear villagers suffered in the Dark Ages.
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror. William believed that building castles and forts everywhere was vital for his success in England. In just a couple of years, he built more than 40 castles; The Tower of London included. William took advantage of an old Roman wall to build the most magnificent edifice that England has ever seen.
The Tower of London was originally built as a means of defense against a possible Danish attack to London's trade route in the river. It was also meant to show England its own power.
Archers were, during the Dark Ages, the main long-range infantry at battle. A skilled archer was able to fire up to 12-15 arrows in just a minute, reason for which they were extremely effective.
An archer with a good accuracy could, from a distance, shoot a heavy armored soldier in a weak spot sometimes avoiding the shield itself. Of course, those archers were very rare or they would have had dominated the battlefield completely.
Additionally, they were also used widely for a castle's defense.
To storm a castle, the invading army employed many different techniques. The most common way to make a castle fall was to besiege it. A castle could last many months if their supplies were enough; unluckily, there was not much knowledge in ways to preserve food.
The attackers would normally cut off any supplies to the castle (including rivers, commerce, farms). In addition to this, the invaders used catapults to throw dead bodies into the castle; spreading diseases. If a spy was captured outside the castle, he would normally be thrown alive as well.
Starting with timber castles, castles evolved throughout the centuries to build better elaborated strongholds. Before the XII century, most castles were made of timber and wood; by the end of the XII century, however, there was a much higher need of protection, hence stone castles.
Besieging a castle was a very difficult task and very frequently, a failed attempt. As castles evolved, so did their defense. When moats were introduced, invading a castle through force was a much harder task.
Castles were not as we imagine them--luxurious and warm--castles were completely different and mostly even undesirable. They were host to two of the two greatest human feelings--pleasure and pain. After a victorious battle, a castle was the place for feasts and glory. But after a lost battle? After a plague? After death had eradicated children? Castles were not luxurious at all. They provided only what was needed to live in that epoch--protection.
Castles were cold. There was a very dim room in which children could run or in which adults could do their daily activities.
The Thumbscrew torture was used during the Middle Ages, most notoriously during the inquisition.
When a victim refused to reveal sensitive information, he or she would be subject to the thumbscrew. The victim's hands were placed in the device (see below) and the torturer would crush the victim's fingers slowly.
In the X century, shortly after the Viking Christianization, many warriors were raised as a mistaken effort to completely eradicate foreign invasions. Since there was peace between the major European nations including France, England, Germany and Italy; the newly-trained warriors were found needless and they resorted to fight among each other and terrorize villagers. An outlet for this need of war was sought by Pope Gregory VII who after being called for aid by the Byzantine emperor, sought to expand Christianity to new lands.
Making a map of a small city was a very difficult task during the Dark Ages. Making a map of the whole world was extremely complicated and very few of them were actually made (very innaccurate, of course).
In order to make a map, the drawer had to travel a lot of land reaching from one side of the sea to the other - often ending in a river or lake making it much harder. Map creators had to be also especially careful with not contradicting anything that the church said, reason for which most medieval maps had its center in Jerusalem.
The principal reason why churches were built is because a town's inhabitants felt pride when they had a mighty church to praise God within. The first problem arose when money was needed to actually build it. However, raising money was easy for the townspeople were happy to donate and that combined with the very generous donations from the rich nobles and the king, made the economical problem perish.
A style had to be chosen. After the XII century, most French churches followed the Gothic Style, though many other styles existed.
In the early XII century France, a new architectonical style emerged. At first, it was simply called "The French Style", but the name was later adjusted to "Gothic" because of its simplicity which resembled the older barbarian tribes including the Goths.
The gothic style has many characteristics, but by far the most important ones are its illumination and simplicity.
Born at 1028, he was the son of Robert I, duke of Normandy. He was a descendant of the Vikings, thus he could easily claim the throne. When his father went on a pilgrimage in 1034 and died on the return trip, William became duke at the age of seven. His father's brother (who was the archbishop) moved to his house in order to protect him. Many of his relatives were assassinated. Even though many attempts were made to kill the young boy, he always managed to flee; in many nights, William had to hide.