The Middle Ages, this period rich in history, clichés and fantasies (still the fault with the cinema, that?!). There’s so much to say about this era… The worst instruments of torture, the worst illnesses, the weirdest deaths, and now: the slightly strange laws. You’ll see we were really weird at the time.
1. Taxes were based on the floor area of properties
Basically: what touched the ground. The ground floor what. It is therefore not surprising to come across medieval remains with very particular architecture… Thin at the base, larger upstairs. The scheming to have a big house by paying a minimum of money. Not dumb!
2. Animals could be judged
From the 13th century, animals could be taken to court and condemned by the court. For example, in Lausanne, caterpillars were excommunicated and hunted for eating crops. Worse, some animals were put to death out of superstition and completely legally… Cats, for example, were often executed because they were considered “animals of the devil”. Horrible.
3. In Paris, it was forbidden to let your pig roam the streets
And there is an explanation for this. On October 13, 1131, pigs roam, as usual, in the capital. Nothing crazy, until one of them throws himself into the legs of a horse, the rider falls and dies crushed by his steed. It’s already sad, but the worst is that it is about Philippe, eldest son and heir… of King Louis VI Le Gros.
4. It was strictly forbidden to play football…
During the 14th century, this prohibition spread from London to all of England, then from England to France. It must be said that medieval football was somewhat different (?) from that of today. The ball was replaced by a pig’s bladder (yum) that had to be taken to the ends of the city and the number of players was not limited. In terms of the rules of the game, only one prohibition: kill. The rest was ok. Vibe. It is therefore easier to understand the prohibitions.
5. …. And the poor weren’t allowed to play tennis
After 1485, it was completely illegal for a non-noble to play tennis, EXCEPT on Christmas Day. At the time, the sport was seen as disruptive to work, encouraging gambling among workers, and disrupting the feudal hierarchy. Right-wing sport since the first dayyyy, actually.
6. He was allowed to fight to prove his innocence
Yes, Game of Thrones did not mytho us, when Tyrion escapes his execution by asking Bronn to fight in his name! From the middle of the first millennium, in Europe, one could choose to fight instead of being judged. Their logic: God grants victory to the innocent. When testosterone saves your ass, in short.
In England, this law remained in force until 1819, even though !
7. …. Or go through a “trial by ordeal”
It’s more or less the same delirium. Basically, this is also a “judgment of God”, but instead of fighting, the suspect had to submit to very painful, even life-threatening ordeals. If he succeeded, then it was concluded that he was innocent. Otherwise, he was often already dead, which considerably reduced the length of the trial.
8. In the 14th century, in England, people were forbidden to gain weight
A very inclusive and tolerant decision by King Edward III of England, in 1336. His justification: razing the bulge of chubby soldiers. In the words of his law, obesity rendered affected people “unable to help themselves or their lord in time of need”. As a great lord, he therefore gave his little flat stomach tips by prohibiting the consumption of more than 2 dishes at mealtimes. Exploded his technique. Our advice is much better, huh.
9. Norman law humiliated liars
In the event of defamation, Norman law required the offender to… Stand up in a market, pinching his nose, while repeating to all passers-by “I am a liar”. Nice.
10. In the 15th century, prostitutes in Venice had to wear yellow
The idea: to allow them to be “spotted” and to check that they have complied with their obligations. Alalala, we knew how to be tolerant in medieval times, I tell you. In the 14th century, in the city (which is also a large port), their activity was reduced to Rialto Island (business district). Then, they are forbidden to cross the threshold of the taverns. A young woman dressed in yellow in an unauthorized area risked a fine. Note that these rules of dress were found all over Europe. In London, for example, they were not allowed to wear noble materials such as fur or silk.