Writing about the Medieval World

I have had to learn a lot in order to write accurately about the twelfth-century world. So many things we take for granted as “given” in the modern world just didn’t exist. For example, people didn’t shake hands.

It seems we assume in times passed that women curtsied, rode sidesaddle, and couldn’t inherit. And no doubt there are times and places where these things were true. They weren’t true in twelfth-century southern France.

We think of medieval men as wearing beards and at some times and places that was true, too, but not in twelfth-century southern France. In fact, men thought those beard-wearing men in the north were unstylish if not rather barbaric.

Time was not discussed as minutes or even hours but in relation to the sun or the canonical hours of the church.

Today when we see twelfth-century buildings most of the paint has faded, giving us the perception that the middle ages were if not dark, at least gray. But churches, castles and other buildings were filled with colorful frescos or paintings.  Tapestries date from the later middle ages, but castles were hung with wall hangings and flags.

Coats of arms only developed over a long period of time. And probably most people wouldn’t know that term until the later middle ages, if then. In the twelfth century nobles had insignias and emblems of various sorts that they displayed on their flags, tunics, etc. However, these were relatively simple and not the complicated arms of a later date. For example, the Count of Toulouse’s emblem was a twelve pointed cross.

Even chess was different. The queen was not the most powerful piece on the chessboard.

Most importantly, people in the middle ages, didn’t know they lived in the middle ages or the medieval world. Those are modern  designations. They thought their times were modern as we do.  And they no doubt felt that with new fangled improvements such as fireplaces, that they were far superior to their ancestors.





About medievalphyllis

I love history and I love writing. I've been working on an historical novel about a medieval viscountess, Ermengarde of Narbonne since 2009. It has been quite a journey and the journey isn't over. Previously I written 6 historical novels for kids, but this is a new challenge.
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