How people entertained themselves in the Middle Ages

We wonder how people entertained themselves in the Middle Ages - today we will talk about medieval man and the types of medieval entertainment Как люди себя развлекали в Средние века касл мэн castle men castlemen

If you’ve wondered how people entertained themselves in the Middle Ages, then you’ve come to the right place. The life of a medieval man was not easy, but there was also a place for entertainment. After all, about 30% of the entire year, due to the specifics of the climate and the structure of the daily economy, people in the Middle Ages spent in idleness and idleness. Moreover, even now, everyone can afford it.

Visit a church

The church occupied an important place in medieval life. Festive services were held quite brightly and interestingly, with the participation of the best choral singers. Since the 9th–10th centuries, the festive service in Western Europe has taken the form of a performance thanks to the staging of scenes from the Old Testament, Gospel or everyday stories. Such services continued to exist until about the end of the 13th century, when they were replaced by city theatrical performances.

During the holiday, women tried to dress smartly: they not only attended the service, but also sought to watch others and demonstrate themselves. Everyone had their own place in the church, depending on their social status. On Sundays and holidays, work was prohibited, and after the service the parishioners wanted to have fun. Therefore, dancing and singing often took place right in the church square, although church leaders, at least in words, condemned such entertainment.

Sometimes a preacher would appear in a city or castle and give an interesting sermon. Therefore, even preaching can be called entertainment, since very good speakers usually became preachers.

Attend a theater performance

Theatrical performances in the Middle Ages were mainly focused on the theme of the Holy Scriptures and were intended for the so-called “spiritual entertainment” of local residents. In addition, popular books and chivalric novels served as the basis for these performances. Religious stories, as a rule, showed the suffering of Christ, the wait for the Savior and the lives of saints. Initially, such performances were part of a church service, and then moved to city squares, where they were performed by clergy and members of various city associations.

Despite the conventionality of the productions, what happened on stage seemed real to the audience, and tragic events were adjacent to comic scenes. It is interesting to note that the audience often became participants in the action in such productions.

But of course, you could have fun without moralizing. For example, look at traveling artists or even troupes of professional actors.

Listen to musical and poetic works

Medieval minstrels and jugglers often performed instrumental music during their performances, singing and dancing. They played various instruments such as trumpets, horns, flutes, harp and violin.

For example, in the cities of medieval Germany, poets created societies similar to guilds and held holidays where they competed in poetry and acting. The rhetoricians, who united artisans and merchants, also held competitions financed by the city authorities, for which various valuable prizes were awarded (for example, new fashionable costumes). Each creative workshop had a special hierarchical structure and even its own coat of arms.

Just dance

Dance was a popular entertainment for all levels of medieval society, and not a single holiday passed without it. Although the jugglers complicated their technique by adding acrobatic elements, the townspeople preferred to dance themselves rather than just watch the professionals. At the same time, from the end of the 14th century, dance houses appeared in Western Europe. As a rule, such houses were located next to the town hall and church. However, loud music and laughter in the dance houses caused discontent and endless complaints from parishioners and temple servants.

Dance houses could be located in multi-storey premises, where the ground floor during fairs was connected to butchers’ shops and a beer hall, and visitors could move freely between establishments. The halls on the upper floor were usually reserved for people of noble birth, and the lower ones for ordinary citizens. Some cities had dance houses, where in addition to the halls there was also a hotel, and in some cases prisoners were even kept in the basement of the dance house.

In addition, there were dance houses intended exclusively for ordinary townspeople: they built special covered sheds where musicians were located, and men and women danced around them. Improvised dances and round dances, which the church considered rude and shameless, were popular among the urban population.

Visit the fair

Every week, townspeople could visit small city markets, but fairs were held much less frequently, usually only once or several times a year: at Christmas, Easter, or in honor of the local patron saint of the city or the patrons of trade and craft guilds.

Medieval residents came to the fair not only to shop, but also to see exotic goods from distant countries, enjoy the performances of jugglers, acrobats and trained bears, and listen to stories from merchants who had traveled overseas.

At the same time, fairs attracted a diverse crowd, which often led to fights and riots. Therefore, for a long time it was allowed to hold them only in cities where there was a bishop or ruler capable of maintaining order and resolving disputes between the participants.

Take part in a medieval carnival

Medieval carnivals represented the flip side of Lent. If abstinence was observed during fasting, then after it many days of lewdness and unbridled fun began.

Carnival is a time of gluttony, chaos and the glorification of physical pleasures. The main events of the carnival took place in the church, and although the official high clergy tried to prohibit these obscenities, they still continued to occur.

For example, in Paris in 1445, the carnival is described as follows: priests and clerics wear masks and strange costumes during services. They dance, dressed as women and minstrels, sing obscene songs, eat sausages right on the altar, and play games of chance. They also ride through the city on dirty carts and carts, uttering shameful words and gestures.

As a result, carnival represents a violation of established hierarchies and norms. But as soon as this holiday ended, life returned to normal again.

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Как люди себя развлекали в Средние века касл мэн castle men castlemen

Greet the arrival of a high-ranking person

Entries into the city of rulers and other high-ranking persons have always had great symbolic significance. They served as reminders of power, celebrated victory, and confirmed political dominion over distant territories. These ceremonies occurred with great frequency because in the Middle Ages kings and lords had to constantly move around to maintain their power.

This whole process consisted of several stages, each of which was clearly regulated. The arrival began with a solemn greeting from the ruler, often at a great distance from the city or castle. This was followed by the reception of the royal person at the city walls, the handing over of the keys, the opening of the city gates, and the greeting of the nobility and clergy. After this, the procession moved along the main streets of the city, decorated with flowers and green branches. Eventually, feasts were held in the central city square with roasted meat and barrels of wine for all the city’s inhabitants.

View the ongoing knight’s tournament

The tournament was a real celebration of military courage and knightly honor. Many would be interested to see how young people prove their courage and skill. At first, the tournament resembled a mixture of a fair and a real battle: participants fought with each other, received serious injuries or even died, and a crowd of knights, their squires, foot soldiers, servants, blacksmiths, sellers and onlookers gathered around.

Under the influence of knightly novels, tournaments became more organized, participants used special weapons, knights fought one on one, and the arena was surrounded by a fence. Tribunes were built for spectators, and the winner was awarded a prize by noble and beautiful women.

Eventually, tournaments turned into luxurious and sophisticated entertainment at court, accompanying weddings, coronations, peace or alliances. After the end of the tournament, as a rule, a grand feast was also arranged.

Try medieval sports

The nobility had many opportunities to train and compete using real weapons. Organizations of archers and fencers existed in many cities (including in Ancient Rus’) and their organization resembled professional workshops. Preparations were carried out in different directions, and each city chose a certain type of martial arts for competitions.

In the city-republics of Italy, residents organized games and competitions that resembled exercises. In river towns there were also fights, for example, for the symbolic capture of a bridge. In England, a popular form of recreation was playing ball, which was associated with great dangers in cities and therefore restrictions were introduced to curb the ardor of the players.

Home games

Of course, in the Middle Ages there were various indoor games, such as spinning and escaping from the circle. In the served game, one player sat in the center of the circle, and the rest tried to catch him without leaving the circle.

There were also quieter games where players had to answer questions or tell stories. The game “Saint Cosmas” consisted of one player taking on the role of a saint, and the others trying to cheer him up by any means.

In the Middle Ages, checkers, chess, dice and even cards became popular. Chess was a favorite game of the nobility, and chessboards made of wood or metal were considered an item of luxury and art.

Card games had different rules, but often involved money. For example, if three or four cards of the same suit were drawn from the deck in a row, the player who drew the first card would take the bet.

The most popular game in those days was dice, which was played by all levels of society, and in which money, clothes, horses, and even entire houses and castles were lost. There were frequent cases of fraud due to fake bones. This gave rise to many conflicts, sometimes even leading to wars.

Visit the bathhouse

In medieval cities, city baths were common; in some cities the number of public baths exceeded 20-30 units. Visiting the bathhouse at that time was used not only for hygienic purposes, but also for entertainment, pleasure and communication. After bathing, people held receptions, played dice and danced.

For example, in German cities, wine merchants sold wine right outside the bathhouses, which often led to drunken fights. The city authorities banned this custom, allowing it only a few days a year. Despite government bans, some baths and taverns turned into brothels offering massages and courtesan services.

At the same time, prostitution, although condemned by the church, was an integral part of life in the Middle Ages. Brothels belonged to noble families, merchants and even church leaders. In the High and Late Middle Ages, visiting such places was not considered shameful (if we talk about Western Europe).

Go to execution

The place of the public execution could be different – in front of the city, in the square or in front of the criminal’s house, but this event was always open to everyone. Information about the place, time and execution process itself was available to all residents. Spectators were convened by special heralds, and the execution itself was often carried out on market day in order to attract the maximum number of people.

The procession with the criminal gathered a crowd around it as it moved through the city. The entire execution ritual was carefully designed to attract the attention of spectators, and sometimes the criminal was given the right to duel with the executioner, which could lead to his release.

After the execution, the bodies of criminals were forbidden to be buried in the cemetery, and they were left on the gallows for many years until they decomposed, to serve as a lesson for others. Everything went under the close attention of spectators, who could even demand a review of the case if something went wrong.

Now you know how people entertained themselves in the Middle Ages. They were not much different from us and did not deny themselves fun.

Additionally, through this link, you can find a wealth of fascinating information about the Middle Ages and medieval castles.