Medieval and Renaissance Education

Keeping Warm in the Medieval Era

 

It’s finally sweater weather! As we pull our sweaters and coats out from storage, we can’t help but wonder: how did people in the medieval era keep warm? We’ve all seen living conditions in movies and in previous Pearson’s Renaissance Shoppe blog posts and articles, and it really doesn’t seem like there was much of a barrier between medieval people and the blistering cold winter.  

The folks at the BBC did some of the hard work for us. Recently, they ran an article about what medieval people, specifically Robin Hood, might have done to stay warm during winter. The first defense against the cold was wool. Most of their clothing was made out of wool, with an extra next-to-body layer of linen. These materials were often layered to add to their effectiveness. Unfortunately, especially for someone like Robin Hood, perspiration limited the effectiveness of these materials. Medieval people had to remove layers until they cooled down (and dried off).

Medieval folks had winter accessories, albeit slightly different from ours. Their wool coats often came with a hood that would cover their coifs – a type of tight-fitting cap. They also wore gloves, but they were slightly different from the gloves we wear today. These gloves featured two fingers and a thumb, almost like today’s mittens.

Medieval Coffee Buzz?

 

As the weather continues to get colder, we all cling to specific drinks to keep us warm. Some prefer hot apple cider while others swear by hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. At Pearson’s Renaissance Shoppe, we are avowed coffee drinkers. We love a piping hot cup of Joe to start off these cold mornings and enjoy a toasty cup after dinner. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a world without coffee! Unfortunately, for those living in the medieval period, a coffee-less world would be their fate.

So, when did coffee finally make it to Europe? Well, according to National Geographic, the beginning of coffee is the stuff of legend. According to the legend, an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi took note of a strange red berry his goats were eating. These red berries turned out to be coffee beans. After sampling some of the red berries himself, he noticed what would become the world’s first coffee buzz!

Coffee became a food and wine staple in Africa, and soon it spread to Arabia and Muslim countries. The first recorded instance of roasted coffee beans brewed into a warm drink happened around 1000 A.D. This beverage grew in popularity and eventually made its way to Europe in the 17th century. That’s right: Europe had to wait more than 800 years for their coffee! We can’t even stand the drive-through at Starbucks!

Top Medieval Myths…and the Truth! Part 2

Whenever movies or TV shows are created that are based on specific time periods, and certain artistic licenses are taken, myths can be created and perpetuated for many years. This may be one reason why the medieval era is rife with popularly believed myths. At PearsonsRenaissanceShoppe.com, we love the medieval period, as evidenced by our detailed medieval costumes, so whenever we hear one of these myths, we just have to speak up and clarify. As we conclude our short series on medieval myths, we hope that we have inspired you to learn more about this fascinating period in our history!

  • The common image of knights is one of nobility, chivalry, and honor. While they were certainly these three things, knights were also young soldiers who were warriors at heart. At the beginning of the 11th century, as lords fought over land, knights would often show up to the small villages and massacre everyone. To try to stop the violence, the Pope at the time sent many knights to the Middle East as part of the First Crusade. This only created more violence.
  • Life in the medieval period was hard, unpleasant, and ultimately too short, right? That’s what most people think when they think of the medieval era. While the average life expectancy was 35 years, it’s important to remember that this was before vaccinations against childhood diseases were invented. Even though the image of a peasant doing back-breaking manual labor for an uncaring lord is common, it isn’t completely accurate. Peasants generally worked about 8 hours a day with generous breaks and naps (naps!). They also had Sundays off, long Christmas and Easter holidays, and days off for saint feast days. That doesn’t sound too bad, huh?

Top Medieval Myths…and the Truth! Part 1

One of the most mythologized times in history is the medieval era. People have so many misconceptions about the medieval period that separating fact from fiction can become quite the chore! We strive for accuracy with all out medieval costumes, so it is important to us that we help our customers learn about the medieval period, free from the myths. Today, we gathered some of the most commonly believed myths about the medieval era.

  • Many people believe that there weren’t any advancements in science for a variety of reasons. Some say the church would do anything to suppress any new scientific ideas and research. This is not true. In fact, it was the Catholic monks who set up monasteries all over Europe who would bring along extensive libraries. During this period, the church established many of England’s well-known universities, like Oxford and Cambridge, and translated many works by Aristotle and Plato, giving way to the Renaissance era.
  • The common belief is that everyone in the medieval era was dirty and smelled pretty bad. The fact is that medieval people actually washed quite often! A custom of medieval people was to offer a bath to guests when they entered each other’s home. Soap was also a very popular item back then, being made in England, Italy, Spain, and France.

Get Married – The Renaissance Way

Long gone are the days when a traditional wedding was expected every time. Nowadays, people are crafting weddings that accurately reflect their own unique personalities and coming up with some truly original and fun ideas. Many people who are into cosplay and Ren Faires are opting for Renaissance-themed weddings, complete with Renaissance dresses, foods, and music.

Did you know that during the Renaissance period no man was allowed to give his daughter or female relative to any man with the blessing of a priest? There are many more Renaissance customs that seem odd by today’s standards. Since the Catholic Church was the dominant religion of the time, marriages were required by law to be performed by a priest, and even though couples could be separated, divorce was illegal.

Wedding ceremonies were also a bit different. Rings and kisses would be exchanged in front of a priest, but then the couple would have to wait about 40 days before they could have their actual wedding ceremony. The wedding cake we all know and love was also somewhat different during the Renaissance era. Guests would each bring small cakes and stack them on a table. The bride and groom would try to kiss without knocking them over.

Living in the Medieval World

If you are reading this blog, then it is probably a safe bet that you are interested in the medieval period of history. We’re often curious about what life was really like inside medieval castles, and so we’re always combing the internet, looking for cool facts and websites about this amazing time and place. Recently, we stumbled upon this great website maintained by a fellow medieval enthusiast named Edd Morris. Edd loves visiting old castles and researching the lifestyles of the castles’ inhabitants. So, put on your medieval outfits, throw on some early music, and take a look inside the lives of medieval castle dwellers.

According to Edd’s website, Exploring-Castles.com, although life in a medieval castle would have been orderly and organized, it would have been pretty smelly and not comfortable by today’s standards. Remember, this was the time before plumbing and in-door heating and air conditioning. As far as living quarters, the lord and his family would have lived with the (relative) luxury of private rooms. Privacy was hard to come by in castles, especially when it came to the bathroom situation. Since privacy wasn’t held in as high regard as it is today, toilets were often just long lines of benches with no separation. As interested as we are in medieval times, we would much rather leave this aspect far behind!

For more information, take a look at Edd’s site, Exploring-Castles.com!

Five Family Friendly Faires

 

Every summer, when your kids get out of school, one of the first questions they ask is, “Where are we going for vacation?” Of course, some of the heavy hitters, like Disney World, might be a little out of your price range. Also, if you are a Renaissance enthusiast, big theme parks aren’t very Ren Faire friendly. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of family friendly Renaissance faires we know you and your family will love! Make sure you browse our collection of kids medieval costumes before you book your trip!

  • Georgia Renaissance Festival – This incredible festival, located in Fairburn, Georgia, is home to an amazing amount of kids-oriented activities, like the Cirque du Todd juggling and balancing show, the Barely Balanced acrobats, and a children’s play area of rides and games. Hurry – this one ends June 8!
  • Bristol Renaissance Faire – Centered in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this faire imagines a summer day in 1574 when Queen Elizabeth visits the town of Bristol. This huge festival (16 stages of entertainment!) features magic shows, storytelling, toy ship sailings, and Bristol’s Kids Kingdom. This faire runs from July 5 to September 1.
  • New York Renaissance Faire – This stunningly accurate 16th century Renaissance Faire takes place in the Hudson Valley. Kids can be involved in the Questing Kids day-long interactive adventure and the Enchanted Forest, which features a fairy coven. Runs from August 2 to September 21.
  • Minnesota Renaissance Festival – One of the oldest (44 years!) and one of the best, this Shakopee, Minnesota Renaissance Faire has something for everyone – especially kids! Kids can make their own fairy wands and pirate hats, learn how to juggle, or even visit the reptile petting zoo. This faire lasts from August 16 to September 28.
  • Maryland Renaissance Festival – This fantastic festival, located in Annapolis, Maryland, has been recreating a Renaissance Village called Revel Grove for over 30 years. Kids can enter free during their Children’s Weekend (August 23-24) and can participate in a variety of shows. The full festival runs from August 23 to October 19.

Present-Day Medieval Combat

These days, LARPers and cosplay fans would relish the opportunity to put their medieval armor to use and participate in real-life medieval combat. For many, it seems like an unattainable dream. You might be surprised to learn that this dream isn’t as unattainable as you might think. In fact, there are tournaments around the world that feature authentic medieval battle.

Early in May, the International Medieval Combat Federation gathered in Belmonte, Spain, to compete in the Medieval Combat World Championships. These tournaments are based on rules developed by King Rene of Anjou. According to a book written by King Rene, the tournament must be a melee fought by two sides. The book also featured heraldic ceremonies, costume design for the heralds and judges, specific weapons and armor, and prizes.

If you missed the chance to show off your battle skills in this year’s Medieval Combat World Championships, you can still take part in medieval battle. Beginning on June 12, Togir, Croatia, will host this year’s World Championship Battle of the Nations. This tournament features historical medieval battle competitions between teams from more than 25 countries. These events will not only including battles, but also medieval music, dance, traditional crafts, and a medieval market featuring handmade artisanal goods. To learn more about this event, visit http://botn.info/en/ .

Live in Medieval Style

 

At Pearson’s Renaissance Shoppe, it’s no secret that we are big fans of medieval style. In fact, we love the medieval period – the history, the cultures, the art! We find the whole period endlessly fascinating. Sometime we wonder, “Wouldn’t it be great to live in an actual medieval castle?” Well, you actually can! Of course, it costs quite a pretty penny. Here are some castles currently up for sale:

Were There Medieval Sports?

If you collect medieval costumes, you may have noticed that many of them do not lend themselves to what we now know as sports. Can you imagine trying to play soccer in our Archeress dress? Or having a round of golf in our Bowman Tunic? It seems like medieval costumes were not meant for the types of sports we play today. It may surprise you to learn that people during the medieval ages did play sports.

Many sports during the medieval period were aimed at young men with the intention of strengthening their fighting skills. One of the big tournaments during the medieval period was the joust. We’ve all seen movies where knights participate in jousts, and these depictions are certainly true to life. Another sport typically associated with the medieval period is archery. Archery wasn’t so much popular as it was required by law to be practiced by men in the lower class – due to its prevalence in battle, archery laws were passed to prepare young men for potential battles.

Other than these two battle-oriented sports, there were sports that resembled those of today. There was a game called colf, which was a forerunner of golf, gameball, an early version of football, and hurling or shinty, precursors to today’s hockey.