Most of the time was spent working the land, and trying to grow enough food to survive another year. Church feasts marked sowing and reaping days, and occasions when peasant and lord could rest from their labors.
Social activities were important, and every citizen in a medieval town would be expected to attend. Fairs with troubadours and acrobats performing in the streets…merchants selling goods in the town square…games of chance held at the local tavern…tournaments featuring knights from near and abroad…these were just some of the ways medieval peasants spent their leisure time. Medieval weddings were cause for the entire town to celebrate.
Medieval superstitions held sway over science, but traveling merchants and returning crusaders told of cultures in Asia, the Middle East and Africa that had advanced learning of the earth and the human body. Middle Age food found new flavor courtesy of rare spices that were imported from the East. Schools and universities were forming across Western Europe that would help medieval society evolve from the Dark Ages on its way to a Renaissance of art and learning.
Medieval education was often conducted under the auspices of the Church. During the 800s, French ruler Charlemagne realized his empire needed educated people if it was to survive, and he turned to the Catholic Church as the source of such education. His decree commanded that every cathedral and monastery was to establish a school to provide a free education to every boy who had the intelligence and the perseverance to follow a demanding course of study.
Grammar, rhetoric, logic, Latin, astronomy, philosophy and mathematics formed the core of most curriculums. During the Dark Ages, the only natural science learned came from popular encyclopedias based on ancient writings of Pliny and other Roman sources. The medieval student might learn that hyenas can change their sex at will and that an elephant's only fear is of dragons. Students learned more when they ventured out into the countryside to talk with trappers, hunters, furriers and poachers, who spent their time observing wildlife.
Medieval students often sat together on the floor, scrawling notes from lessons using a bone or ivory stylus on wooden tablets coated with green or black wax. Knights were also educated and looked down upon if they could not read and write. Girls were virtually ignored when it came to education. Only daughters of the very rich and powerful were allowed to attend select courses.
At 14 or 15, some scholars would continue education at a university. These were a creation of the Middle Ages and could be found in larger European cities. Wars and invasions often halted studies, but these universities would reemerge during the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The cap and gown that college graduates wear today have their roots in medieval academic garments.
From the 11th through the 13th centuries, medieval clothing varied according to the social standing of the people. The clothing worn by nobility and upper classes was clearly different than that of the lower class.
The clothing of peasants during the Middle Ages was very simple, while the clothing of nobility was fitted with a distinct emphasis on the sleeves of the garments. Knights adorned themselves with sleeveless "surcoats" covered with a coat of arms. Barbarian nomads wore clothing made of fur, wool, and leather. They wore long trousers, some of which had attached feet. Fine leather shoes were also worn. Imports such as turbans and silks from the East were common for the more fortunate of society.
As with today,…