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Life in The Dark Ages

A detailed description of life in the medieval ages and comparisons between then and modern day.

Life In the Dark Ages

Many consider the medieval period to be one of the bleakest and most morbid time periods in known human history. As William Manchester put it, it was “an age of treachery, abduction, fratricide, depravity, barbarism, and sadism (Manchester 34).” As the time dragged on and on the medieval period sent humans into a spiraling decline that eventually led to this period being known as the “dark ages.”

            The first reason for this decline was the amount of diseases running rampant throughout generations. The most well known of these was the bubonic plague or “the black death.” This disease constantly struck at least once during each generation since the year of 1347. During that year a fleet of Genoese ships docked in Messina Harbor and out stumbled what was left of sick crewmen. Unbeknownst to them when they set sail the rats on board their ship had contracted the bubonic plague and given it to them. Every man on that ship had a variety of pneumonic, bubonic, and septicentic plague strains. This caused the first pandemic of the bubonic plague ever in Europe that ended up killing off over one third (or seventy five million people) of the European population. It got so bad that at the turn of the year and for times to come carts were pulled down the streets with their pullers ringing a bell yelling, “Bring out your dead!” Also a never before seen disease called Typhus swept the territory of Aragon after the Spaniards defeat of the moors. In 1495 an outbreak of syphilis occurred in Naples and an epidemic of the “sweating sickness” took place in England (34).

            The outbreak of disease helped to later secure the supremacy of the church in these dark times. Religion played a major part in medieval life and society began to believe that God was punishing them for unknown sins. With this fear implanted in their minds they began to put sole trust in the clergy of the church. They believed that holy community figures could guide them on the path to enlightenment. Christianity became the “only true religion” and the church soon prosecuted all followers of other religions. The first example of this is the Spanish Inquisition. Tomas de Torquemada (a Dominican monk) became the driving force behind the Inquisition even though it was instituted by Isabella of Castile. All accused or suspected heretics (those who refute or disagree with their church or articles of faith) were tortured until they confessed and then either thrown in prison or killed.  During this time new torture methods were invented including sharp iron frames that prisoners were forced to lie on, racks that stretched their limbs, and the iron maiden (die verfuchte Jungfer) (35). The Jewish were during this time period at around the social status of blacks (at the time slaves). By 1492 Jews were forced to convert to Christianity and be baptized within three months or be banished. Then they lost all hope when Isabella of Castile suspected all converted Jews of recidivism (relapsing into a previous condition or behavior; so returning to Judaism) and began to resettle them in 1478 (35, 41).

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