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Medieval History: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
The Black Death: Causes and Symptoms
A graphic description of Black Death symptoms and causes of the disease.
What Did People Wear in the Middle Ages?
What did people wear in the Middle Ages? Find out in this introduction.
What to Know About the Epic Poem Beowulf
Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language and the earliest piece of vernacular European literature.
What You Need to Know About the Black Death
What the horrific disease known as the Black Death actually was, where it started, how it spread, how many people died, the impact on medieval Europe and more.
The Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is a stunningly beautiful manuscript from the early Middle Ages containing the Four Gospels. This introduction provides information about the origins and history of the book as well as its construction, and offers suggested reading.
How To Avoid the Plague
Traveling back in time to the 14th century? Make sure you know how to avoid the deadly plague.
Medieval
An explanation of the origin and history of the term medieval.
What You Need to Know About the Crusades
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The Black Death Comes to Europe, 1347
Map of the route the Black Death took to arrive in Europe in 1347. Page 3.
What Was Underwear Like in Medieval Times?
What men and women wore under their clothing in the Middle Ages.
Beowulf Quiz
Beowulf Quiz Here are 25 questions to test your knowledge of the poem Beowulf and its history. Don't
Richard the Lionheart
A biography of King Richard I of England, known as Richard the Lionheart.
What Peasants and Laborers Wore in the Middle...
Undergarments, overgarments, accessories and everyday clothes for members of the medieval working class.
Renaissance Love Poems
English love poems of the Renaissance era by six poets.
Defining the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages are often broken into three sub-eras: Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
The Spread of the Black Death through Europe
A series of maps by your guide depicting how the dreaded 14th-century plague spread through Europe
Manor
The medieval manor was an agricultural estate, and more.
The Art and (proto)Science of Alchemy
A mixture of science, philosophy and mysticism, medieval alchemy was a precursor to chemistry, and medieval alchemists accomplished some important scientific advances.
Medieval Food Preservation
Keeping food edible for months and even years during the Middle Ages. Page one: drying foods, preserving foods with salt, and smoking meat and fish.
The Dream of the Rood - Earliest English Dream...
The Old English lyric The Dream of the Rood is the earliest English dream poem to be found in written form. The Dream of the Rood was first discovered on the Ruthwell Cross.
Origins of Plague
Map of the possible origins of the 14th-century plague and the route it took to Europe. Page 2.
What Made Charles So Great?
An introduction to the life of Charlemagne and his impact on European history.
El Cid - National Hero of Spain
The national hero of Spain, El Cid displayed remarkable military ability in his conquest of Valencia, and after his death he became the subject of many legends, stories, and poems.
The People's Crusade
The People's Crusade was a popular movement of crusaders who did not wait for the official leaders of the expedition but took off for the Holy Land early, unprepared and inexperienced.
Baron
In the Middle Ages, there was no specific rank associated with the term Baron.
Chains
When ancient society evolved into medieval society, slavery didn't disappear.
Blaming the Crusades
Can the crusades be blamed on an individual? A reader's question elicits a response.
Before the Black Death, There Was the...
Centuries before the horrific Black Death, a virulent epidemic of plague struck Byzantium, Persia, and parts of southern Europe, shaking the empire and affecting it for decades.
When Were the Middle Ages?
When did the Middle Ages start and end? A look at some of the many different ways this much-misunderstood era is defined.
Splendor in Medieval Africa
A brief introduction to the medieval kingdom of Mali and the splendid African society that flourished there.
Charlemagne Study Guide - Timeline
This study guide offers general information to help you learn about Charlemagne. The timeline of Charlemagne's life provides a chronological listing of significant events in the Frankish king's life and reign.
Everything You Need to Know About Charlemagne
This study guide offers general information to help you learn about Charlemagne. Here are some important facts about Charlemagne's birth and family, conquests and campaigns, administration, cultural impact and legacy.
The Bad Old Days - Canopy Beds
The real development of canopy beds in medieval Europe. Part of your Guide's refutation of the infamous Bad Old Days net hoax.
The Problem With Feudalism - the F-Word
Feudalism was once considered the prevailing social system of medieval Europe. But most medievalists have serious problems with both the term and the concept it describes.
A Swift Strike
A map depicting the spread of the Black Death from January to June, 1348. Page 4.
Childbirth in the Middle Ages
The dangers of medieval childhood, estimated death rates, and the attitudes of medieval parents towards the loss of a child. Page 2.
Chateau Gaillard
The extraordinary fortress of Chateau Gaillard was constructed by Richard the Lionheart.
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
The complete text of the Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt. A public-domain document online here at the Medieval History site.
The Spread of the Black Death through Italy
A map depicting the Spread of the Black Death through Italy in the 14th century, by your Guide. Page 5.
Medieval Clothing by Region and Period
Medieval clothing varied according to the time frame as well as the region. Here are some societies (and segments of society) whose clothing styles are especially evocative of their cultures.
Charlemagne - King of the Franks and Lombards
Charlemagne consolidated a large portion of Europe under his rule, promoted learning, and instituted innovative administrative concepts. This profile of the emperor offers quick facts about the emperor and a concise biography. Part of the Who's Who in Medieval History resource.
Top 8 Books about the History of the Templars
Your Guide's choices for the best books that offer factual historical information about the Templar Knights, the warrior monks of the Crusades.
The Black Death Spreads through France
A map of the routes taken by the Black Death through France in the 14th century, by your Guide. Page 6.
Bailiff
There are several different uses of the term Bailiff in the Middle Ages.
Abu Bakr - The First Muslim Caliph
Abu Bakr was the closest friend and companion of Muhammad and the first Muslim caliph. He was one of the first men to convert to Islam, and was chosen by the prophet as his companion on the hijrah to Medina.
Donatello - Master of Renaissance Sculpture
Donatello was one of the foremost sculptors of the Italian Renaissance. A master of both marble and bronze, he also had an extensive knowledge of ancient sculpture.
Peter the Hermit
Also known as known as Cucu Peter, Little Peter or Peter of Amiens, Peter the Hermit preached Crusade in the wake of Urban's speech at Clermont.
The Beowulf Story
A description of the events that transpire in the Old English Epic poem, Beowulf.
The Bad Old Days - Porridge
Medieval peasant pottage and the peas porridge rhyme. Part of our refutation of the infamous Bad Old Days net hoax.
Augustine of Canterbury
Saint Augustine founded the Christian Church in southern England and became the first archbishop of Canterbury.
Images from the Book of Kells
Public-domain images from the Book of Kells, free for your use, here at the Medieval History site.
The Papal States
In the Middle Ages, the papacy owned land. Not just a nice corner lot with a three-bedroom cottage and a shed, either. They owned lots and lots of land. How much land? And how did they come to control it? Find out in this introduction.
Famous Medieval Couples
A survey of some of the most famous -- and not-so-famous -- couples in Medieval and Renaissance history and fiction.
Europe on the Eve of Plague
A map depicting the political boundaries of nations in Europe in the year 1346, from your Guide.
An Insidious Spread
A map depicting the spread of the Black Death in Europe from July to December, 1348. Page 7.
Silk Production and Trade in Medieval Times
The use of silk in the Middle Ages.
1349
Map of the spread of the Black Death in Europe in the year 1349, by your Guide. Page 8.
The Avignon Papacy
The Avignon Papacy was the period in the 14th century when the popes lived in and operated out of Avignon, France, instead of their traditional home in Rome
Why Bother with Beowulf?
Medieval literature provides a gateway to our past.
Medieval Food Preservation, Page Two
Keeping food edible for months and even years during the Middle Ages, page two: pickling, confits, fermenting, freezing and cooling. Page 2.
The Medieval Child, Part 5: The Learning Years,...
Learning a trade and the life of apprentices in medieval times. Page 3.
Charlemagne Study Guide - Biography
This study guide offers general information to help you learn about Charlemagne. This overview is an introductory biography of the important Frankish king.
The Nika Revolt: Violent Uprising in Medieval...
The Nika Revolt was a devastating riot that took place in early medieval Constantinople, in the Eastern Roman Empire.
Who's Who in Medieval History
A resource to help you find information on the web and off about significant individuals from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The Medieval Child, Part 1: Introduction
The first in a series of articles exploring the status and daily life of children in the Middle Ages, Part I examines the concept of childhood, the importance of children, and the question of affection in the medieval family.
Biography of Albertus Magnus
Philosopher, cleric and writer, Albertus Magnus was one of the most influential scientists of the Middle Ages.
Saxons
Who the Saxons were, when and where they thrived, and what happened to them.
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus made a historic voyage in 1492, searching for a westward route to the treasures of the east and instead encountering a new world.
The Secret of Kells
The Secret of Kells is an Oscar-nominated animated film.
A.D. (Anno Domini)
The initials A.D. stand for Anno Domini, which was part of the dating system used in the Middle Ages. A definition from your Guide.
Wool
The sources of wool, types of wool, and uses of wool in medieval Europe.
The Holy Land
The onetime Roman province of Palestine would prove to be a holy land for Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
What role did Bishops play in the history of...
Bishops performed priestly and administrative duties, and they played an important role in the development of the medieval Christian Church.
Floors, Straw and the term "Threshold"
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Book of Hours
A book of hours was a prayer book containing appropriate prayers for specific hours of the day, days of the week, months, and seasons. Books of hours were usually beautifully illuminated, and some of the more notable ones are among the finest works of medieval art in existence.
A Medieval Atlas
Find the map you need or explore some fascinating pieces of the past.
Powerful Pontiff Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was one of the most powerful and influential popes of the Middle Ages.
Giotto di Bondone - Father of the Renaissance
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The Hospitallers - Monastic Knights
The Hospitallers were a monastic brotherhood of knights who both tended to ill and injured pilgrims and took up arms to protect them on their way to the Holy Land.
The Knights Templar: Warrior Monks
A concise introduction to the origins, expansion, organization and downfall of the Templars, the warrior monks who defended pilgrims in the Holy Land.
The Forgotten Empire
After Rome fell, Byzantium lasted another thousand years. A brief look at a forgotten empire.
Defining the Knight
Definition of Medieval knights, their armor, roles, and duties
Charlemagne Quotes
Words of wisdom attributed to the great Frankish king.
Dark Legacy
How centuries of war in the name of Christianity began with one man's ambition.
Work and Adolescence in the Middle Ages
The sixth in a series of articles exploring the status and daily life of children in the Middle Ages, Part 6 examines the work options of adolescents and recreational activities.
Medieval Methods for Making Fabric from Wool
How a wide variety of wool cloth was manufactured in the Middle Ages, from sorting the wool to the finishing stages.
The Hoax
The hoax in question, with associated links leading to specific information refuting the bogus assertions.
A New Religion: The Consolidation of Christian...
The change in circumstance of the Christian religion after the accession of Constantine led to an evolution in Christian thought.
Constantine the Great
What is a fourth-century Roman emperor doing at a Medieval History site? See the important actions he took that would have effects reaching far into the Middle Ages.
Paracelsus - Alchemist and Physician
Paracelsus was a physician and alchemist who made significant strides in the field of medicine
Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - the very rich hours of the Duke of Berry - is the most renowned book of hours ever produced. It is often referred to as the king of illuminated manuscripts, and it is one of the most important pieces of artwork in history.
Young King Henry VIII
Portrait of Henry VIII in early manhood by an unknown artist. Page 6.
Explorer Erik the Red
Erik's exile from Iceland was only the beginning of his greatest adventure.
Harun Al-Rashid - Abbasid Caliph
The fifth Abbasid caliph, Harun al-Rashid and his fabulous court at Baghdad are immortalized in The Thousand and One Nights.
The History of Algebra
Get a rundown about the origins of Algebra from this article that originally appeared in a 1911 encyclopedia.
Villein
Villeins were usually free peasants, but they owed service to their lord and suffered many restrictions.
Concise Biography of El Cid
The subject of many legends, stories and poems, El Cid was nevertheless a real historical individual. He has been painted both as a chivalrous knight and a freebooter, depending on who's doing the painting. But whatever else he was, El Cid was a remarkable military leader whose achievements still command respect.
The Ruthwell Cross - Early Medieval Stone Carving
The Ruthwell Cross is a powerful religious symbol, a marvelous work of Anglo-Saxon art, and a significant source of literary and historical evidence.
Did Medieval Brides Really Smell Bad?
Whether or not brides bathed more than once a year, and why they carried flowers at their weddings. Part of our refutation of the infamous Bad Old Days email hoax.
Young Henry
Portrait of Henry as a child by an unknown artist. Page 4.
Explorer and Navigator Amerigo Vespucci
Navigator and explorer Amerigo Vespucci scientifically determined that Columbus had not reached India but a previously unknown continent.
The Dead
Measures against getting buried alive that were never taken. Part of your Guide's refutation of the infamous Bad Old Days net hoax
C.E. (Common Era)
The initials C.E. stand for Common Era, a relatively new nomenclature for our current, most common dating system. A definition from your Guide.
Best General Histories of the Medieval Era
A general reference of the Middle Ages is a must-have for medieval history buffs and students alike. Each of these introductory works provides a sound starting point for what you need to know about this much-misunderstood time.
A Medieval Love Story
Peter Abelard and his student, Heloise, engaged in a true-life romance in the 12th-century.
The Notorious King John of England
A look at the life and reign of King John of England, whose reputation was bad during his lifetime and, in spite of efforts to rehabilitate it, remains bad to this day.
al Mansur - Caliph
He founded Baghdad, and called it the City of Peace. After overthrowing another dynasty, eliminating his enemies (and some allies), handling revolts with extreme measures and murder, Abu Ja'far al Mansur certainly needed some peace.
Alfred the Great
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Beowulf
The epic of Beowulf, the most precious relic of Old English, and, indeed, of all early Germanic literature, has come down to us in a single MS.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and later England, was arguably the most powerful woman of High Medieval Europe.
The Chaucer Quiz
Shell for testing HTML code and text.: geoffrey chaucer quiz script quick quiz script src text javascript
The Medieval Child, Part 5: The Learning Years
The fifth in a series of articles exploring the status and daily life of children in the Middle Ages, Part 5 examines education during adolescence.
The Medieval Child
An index to our series of articles about childhood in the Middle Ages.
King John of England
During his lifetime and for long after, King John of England was considered a bad monarch.
Saint Augustine of Hippo
One of the most influential Christian theologians in history, Saint Augustine enjoyed a greater stature among medieval scholars than any other writer or philosopher.
The Treaty of Verdun
The division of the Carolingian Empire made under the terms of this treaty would foreshadow future nations of Europe.
Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle was one of the first castles built in England after the Norman Conquest. This photochrom print, published between 1890 and 1900, depicts a gorgeous view of the ruins.
The Medieval Child, Part 2: Entry into the...
The second in a series of articles exploring the status and daily life of children in the Middle Ages, Part 2 examines childbirth and baptism.
Emperor Justinian I
One of the most important emperors in Byzantine history, Justinian would reign for nearly 40 years, sponsoring an important law code, surviving a plague and the Nika Revolt, acquiring considerable territory and initiating an extensive building program.
Otto the Great
Otto consolidated the German Reich and made significant advances for secular influence in papal politics. His reign is generally considered to be the true beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.
Sumptuary Laws - Laws that attempted to keep...
The origins and history of sumptuary laws and the motives for passing them in the Middle Ages.
Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II launched the Crusade Movement with his call to arms at the Council of Clermont.
Renaissance Poetry: William Shakespeare
A poem from the Renaissance era by William Shakespeare, from your Mining Co. Guide
Leif Ericsson - Leif the Lucky
Leif the Lucky displayed the Viking spirit of adventure when he sailed off to explore what lay west of Greenland about a thousand years ago, undoubtedly making it to North America.
Medieval Christmas Traditions
Many of the Christmas traditions we're familiar with today began during the Middle Ages or evolved through medieval times.
Albertus Magnus Quotes
Words of wisdom from one of the most learned and prolific scholars of the Middle Ages.
Demesne
Part of every manor was the lord's demesne.
John Ball
John Ball was an English priest who took a prominent part in the peasant revolt.
Justinian Quotes
Excerpts from the Code of Justinian and quotations that have been attributed to the Byzantine emperor.
Court of Star Chamber
The Court of Star Chamber evolved from the medieval English king's council as a supplement to common-law courts, but though it served swift justice, it was subject to abuses.
The Medieval Child, Part 4: The Playful Years
The fourth in a series of articles exploring the status and daily life of children in the Middle Ages, Part 4 examines play, chores, socialization, and discipline for youngsters of ages four to twelve.
Types of Meat
The types of animals that provided meat to cooks in the Middle Ages, including cows, goats, sheep, pigs and rabbits.
The Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy
The castle of Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy, was built in the second century C.E. and would play an interesting role in the Middle Ages.
The Visigoths
The Visigoths were a Germanic people whose activities during the waning years of the Western Roman Empire and the following few centuries would help form medieval Europe.
Origins and Early History of Heraldry
A look at the possible origins of this colorful art and the early history of heraldic usage.
The Bad Old Days - Thatched Roofs
Neither cats nor dogs could live inside a thatched roof. Part of our refutation of the infamous Bad Old Days email hoax.
Who -- or what -- was a Bogomil?
A Bogomil was a member of a heretical sect that originated in Bulgaria in the tenth century.
Lead cups and other nonexistent drinking...
Medieval people did not drink from lead cups. They did, however, drink alcohol from pewter, horn, ceramic, gold, silver and even wood drinking vessels.
Young Catherine of Aragon
Portrait of Catherine of Aragon about the time she came to England, by Michel Sittow. Page 5.
Sheriff
The Sheriff was the chief administrative and judicial officer of a shire.
The Theodosian Code
The Theodosian Code is an important indicator of the continuity of Roman law from the ancient era into the Middle Ages.
The Myth of Rotten Meat
Did medieval people regularly use spices to disguise the taste of rotten meat? A medieval myth exploded by your Guide.
Abbot
An explanation of an Abbot's role and the origin of the term.
Ostrogoths
The Ostrogoths played a significant role in early Medieval Italy.
Philosopher and Famous Lover Peter Abelard
Peter Abelard, philosopher, teacher and writer, was a significant contributor to Scholastic philosophy, but may be best known for his infamous affair.
Types of Fish & Seafood
The water creatures that were caught, preserved, traded and eaten in medieval times.
Baldwin IV
The problems of the reign of Baldwin IV. may be said to have been two - his sister Sibylla and the fiery Raynald of Chatillon.
Types of Fowl
The birds that were cooked and consumed by people in the Middle Ages.
Profile of Michelangelo Buonarroti
He is considered by many to be the greatest sculptor who ever lived, and was certainly one of the greatest artists of all time. His extraordinary work has deeply moved people throughout the world for more than half a millennium with its breathtaking beauty. Get the basic facts about Michelangelo in this Who's Who Profile.
Pope Gregory I
Gregory's influence was paramount in shaping the early medieval papacy. A monk, theologian, and Doctor of the Church, he has even been credited with originating Gregorian Chant.
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