Medieval Monday: 10 Medieval Jobs that No Longer Exist

Today many people are concerned that their job or profession will become obsolete due to changing technology. In you go back to the Middle Ages you can find several occupations – some that involved a great deal of learning, and others that were a choice only for the desperate – that have disappeared. Many of these were also made redundant by technology. Here are ten of these jobs.

Alchemist

One of the main ‘scientific’ beliefs throughout the medieval world was that it was possible to change chemicals and metals. Scholars experimented with various processes and techniques to purify metals and convert them into new forms. One particular goal of medieval alchemists was to turn lead into gold or silver, but for others the objective was to create medicines to heal or sustain the human body.

Some of the leading scholars of the Middle Ages dabbled in alchemy, including Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon, but by the 17th century the ideas behind alchemy were gradually dismissed, and the science of chemistry replaced it.

Alewife

In medieval England, the profession of brewing was often dominated by women. In towns and villages women could be found running side-businesses in brewing and selling ale. As Judith M. Bennett explains, brewing was “a small-scale, low-investment, low-profit, low-skilled industry – suited especially well the economic needs of married women. Because ale soured quickly and transported poorly, it was unsuitable for large-scale, centralized businesses. As a result, wives who sought to sell ale on a modest and ad hoc basis could compete effectively in the trade.”

By the 15th century this practice began to fade, as brewing became more commercialized and society sought to restrict the independence of women.

Cup Bearer

An important position in many royal courts was to be the person that served the monarch their drinks. It was widely feared that one could easily be poisoned, so this person was responsible for making sure the drinks were safe, even if that meant tasting the beverages themselves. A king needed to be very trusting of his Cup Bearer, so the person with this job could be very influential in court politics.

Click to read more of this post, shared from medievalists.net


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

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Medieval Monday: The King

Sadly, this is the last episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, but you can find all of my posts with these videos in the Medieval Monday index.

In this episode he talks about English kings, focusing specifically on the three Richards as examples. It is interesting to see how political spin hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years–just the motives and the methods of delivery. Can you really believe everything written in the history books? Perhaps not…

One interesting update, though. Since this was filmed, Richard III’s body has been found beneath a parking lot in the English city of Leicester. It was finally proved that he did suffer from scoliosis and had a slightly curved spine, but he did not have a hunchback as portrayed by Shakespeare  and others.


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: The World’s Oldest Secular Norse Song

Listen To The World’s Oldest Known Secular Norse Song From Codex Runicus – A Medieval Manuscript Written In Runes

Codex Runicus, the medieval manuscript dating from circa 1300 AD, comprises around 202 pages composed in runic characters. Known for its content of the Scanian Law (Skånske lov) – the oldest preserved Nordic provincial law, the codex is also touted to be one of the very rare specimens that have its runic texts found on vellum (parchment made from calfskin). And interestingly enough, as opposed to Viking Age usage of runes, each of these ‘revivalist’ runes corresponds to the letters of the Latin Alphabet.

Now while a significant section of the Codex Runicus covers the Scanian Ecclesiastical Law (pertaining to Danish Skåneland), the manuscript also chronicles the reigns of early Danish monarchs and the oldest region along the Danish-Swedish border. But most interestingly, the last page of the codex also contains what can be defined as the oldest known musical notations written in Scandinavia, with their non-rhythmic style on a four-line staff.

One such Norse song verse, more famously known in modern Denmark as the first two lines of the folk song Drømde mig en drøm i nat (‘I dreamt a dream last night’), is presented in the video below, performed under the tutelage of renowned Old Norse expert – the ‘Cowboy Professor’ Dr. Jackson Crawford.

Read the full article on realmofhistory.com



Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: Lighting

With electricity still far in the future, Medieval lighting came in the form of fire. Rush lights were the simplest and cheapest form of lighting, though they weren’t particularly bright. Wild rushes were gathered, dried, then stripped of their skins. They were then soaked in animal fat, which left the rush itself to serve as a wick that could be lit. As many as needed were placed around the home to give off light.

Candles were the next step up from rush lighting—they were brighter and lasted longer than rushes.  Tallow candles were the most common type. These were made from tallow (animal fat) that was boiled and strained, turning creamy white once it had cooled and hardened again. The best type to use was from sheep, the next best from cows. Fiber strands were twisted into wicks that were dipped into the melted tallow over and over again until the candle shape was gradually formed. These types of wicks were not like modern ones that completely burn up as the wax melts away. They had to be trimmed at regular intervals. Tallow candles were easy to produce, but there were some drawbacks. The process of making, and burning, tallow candles was very smelly. These candles were also drippy and produced a lot of smoke that left soot stains on everything around them.

Though tallow candles could be made at home when animals were slaughtered, they were only made in large quantities by chandlers. The making of tallow candles and tallow soaps was often a side business of butchers. Though their products were in high demand, these shops were widely avoided due to the unpleasant odors they produced.

The nobility and the church had access to a different type of candle that was more expensive and of far better quality than tallow—beeswax. They burned the brightest of all the candle types, and lasted longer. They were produced in a similar way than tallow, but did not smell and burned clean. Just as making tallow candles were a natural side business for butchers, beeswax candles were often made by bee keepers. Since these types of candles were favored by the nobility, and burned exclusively by the church, making beeswax candles was a highly profitable business.

Oil lamps were also used for lighting, but only in southern regions of Europe where oil was easy to come by, and the weather was warm enough that it would not solidify.

Some candles could also be used as clocks. They would be made to a specific thickness, and the person watching them would have to know how far down they would burn in a certain amount of time.

Larger than candles or lamps were torches, which could be fixed to walls, carried, or staked into the ground. They were typically made from branches or bound sticks made of green or wet wood that would not quickly burn down. Rags would be bound on one end, then soaked in something flammable like pitch, oil, animal fat, or tree sap. Like tallow, torches did not burn clean and had an odor that varied depending on which flammable substance was used. Torches gave off a lot of light by comparison to candles, but had to be replaced often as they burned out.

I’ve included a short video that talks about medieval chandlers and the process of making candles. Some of the information is repetitive, but it adds some nice visuals. Enjoy!


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: The Outlaw

Here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. He talks about the medieval outlaw–a topic that has a lot more surprises than I expected. Not all “outlaws” were bandits and murderers, and there was a fair amount of bureaucracy involved (not to mention strange and horrendous punishments). You won’t want to miss this one!


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.

Medieval Monday: Saving the Past

As so many medieval historical sites and artifacts have been lost to time, one of them has recently been brought back from oblivion thanks to The Friends of Friendless Churches! Check out this article from medievalists.net and see the pictures. The transformation is really incredible!


English medieval church restored to beauty after being abandoned for over 50 years

A medieval church dating back to the 13th century is reopening after an impressive campaign led by The Friends of Friendless Churches to restore it.

Located in East Hatley, Cambridgeshire, St Denis dates to 1217, with much of the surviving medieval elements coming from the 14th century. The long history of the church includes renovations done in the 17th and 19th centuries, but gradually it fell in to disrepair and as the cost of repairs couldn’t be met, St. Denis was abandoned in 1961 in favour of a new church.

Aerial shot of the Church of St Denis in East Hadley – photo by Ben Greenhalgh / The Friends of Friendless Churches

Continue reading and see more images: http://www.medievalists.net/2018/09/english-medieval-church-restored-to-beauty-after-being-abandoned-for-over-50-years/


Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.

 

Medieval Monday: The Philosopher

It’s the beginning of the month, so here’s another episode of Medieval Lives with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. He talks about the medieval philosopher, which was really more of a scientist or alchemist, and also about the medieval physician. Were they really as backward thinking as we suppose? Or were the seeds that eventually grew into the age of Enlightenment planted during this era? There is some fascinating stuff in this episode, including why people in the Middle Ages were so preoccupied with the idea of changing other metals into gold–it’s not for the reason you might think!


Learn more about the daily life in Middle Ages by browsing previous posts in the Medieval Monday Index.