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Article - 'Medieval Britian, Issue Three' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Mar 30, 2005

Blurb

The third part in the series, which discusses religion and towns in detail, of course, relating to Medieval Britian.

Body

Third in the exciting series on Medieval Britain, this time I will be going in depth on the religion of the time, which isn’t as simple a plonking a church down in your game, throwing in a couple of priests and maybe a quest or two. While this may be acceptable for some people, I disagree. However, due to me not being able to write much on the subject I have also included information on Medieval Towns. Anyway, enough of me ranting, here’s the article. Oh also, to stop any more confusion, this article is by Raytane, as my first two got labelled as written by guests. Hopefully this can be fixed.

Religion

The English Medieval Church played a much bigger role then the churches these days. Everyone, be them peasants or nobles believed that God, Heaven and Hell all existed. From the earliest of ages people were taught the only way to get into Heaven was if the Roman Catholic Church let them. Everyone was terrified of Hell and all would have been told of the horrors in hell waiting for them in weekly services they attended.

The control of the church was total. Peasants worked on church land for free. This wasn’t very good for the peasants as the time they spent working away on the churches land could have been spent on working their own land to provide food for their families. They paid 10% of their yearly income to the church (this tax was called tithes).Tithes could be paid in either money or goods produced by the peasant farmers. As peasants rarely had any money they mostly paid with harvested grain, animals, seeds etc. This usually cost the peasant a lot of work as seeds for example, would have been needed to grow next years crop to feed the family. What the church received from tithes was kept in a huge “tithe barn”, a lot of the grain was eaten by the rats or poisoned by their urine. To fail to pay tithes, or so the peasant were told, would mean their souls would go to hell after they had died.
You also had to pay for baptisms, which, so the church said, was the only way to get to heaven (you could not go if you did not get baptised), marriages (there were no couples living together in Medieval Times as the Church taught that this equalled sin) and burials – you had to be buried on holy soil if your soul wanted to go to heaven. Either way you look the church gets money.

The church also did not have to pay taxes, which made them wealthier than any other king in England. The sheer wealth of the church is best shown in their buildings, cathedrals, churches, monasteries etc.

In Medieval England, peasants lived in cruck houses. These were filthy, usually no more than two rooms, with a wooden frame covered with wattle and daub (a mixture of mud, straw and manure). No cruck houses exist now - most simply collapsed after a while as they were so poorly built. However, there are many medieval churches around. The way they were built and have lasted for centuries, is an indication of how well they were built and the money the Church had to invest in these building.
Overall the Church was the richest, most powerful landowner in all of England.

Medieval Towns

Towns, have you ever seen a game without one? Well, normally these would have a weapon shop, an armor shop, an Inn, some important person’s house (eg. Mayor or King) and a few random houses. Sure this is fine, but I’m just going to go a bit more detailed than that.
There were few towns in Medieval England and those that existed were very small by our standards. Most people in Medieval England were village peasants but religious centers did attract people and many developed into towns or cities.
Medieval towns tended to grow around areas were people could easily meet such as cross roads or rivers. Towns needed more water then a village to a nearby water supply was vital. Rivers were used for washing, drinking and disposing of sewage (if it hadn’t already been dumped on the street).

Village people came to towns to trade; there for the owner of the town had to make sure the town was safe. Often towns would have a large fence built around the perimeter of the town, with the gates locked at night to keep out undesirables.
A successful town attracted many merchants to it. Many towns were owned by a lord an it was in his interest to attract merchants, as they had to pay tax. The more merchants, the more tax the lord gets. Taxes were collected by a sheriff. As many people could not read or write the system was open for abuse and corruption. This is why many people in towns wanted to get a charter.

A charter gave people in a town certain rights that were clearly stated in the charter that town had. Many charters gave towns the right to collect their own taxes thus removing corrupt sheriffs from doing so. It was also common for a town to ask for its own law court so that legal problems could be settled quickly.

Towns were a dirty place to live in. There was no sewage system as we have today. Many people would throw toilet waste out the window and onto the street along with other rubbish. This in turn attracted a lot of rats into the towns, thus leading to the Black Death. Sometimes a town would use pigs to eat up rubbish. The water was also far from clean, as it would have been polluted by rubbish thrown in from towns upstream and downstream. Therefore, as people would have used this source of water (they had no other choice) and because people knew little about health and hygiene, disease was common. Life expectancy was short. Life for a poor person in a town or city was often described as “nasty, brutal and short”.

As homes were made of wood, fire was another danger in a town or city. Walking in a town at night could also be dangerous. Though towns had a curfew (a time when everyone had to be in their homes) no town had a police force to deal with those who broke the law. No town had street lights - the only choice was candles but in a wooden city or town, these ‘street lights’ could prove disastrous.

Shops attracted people to a town. The shops also doubled as a home for the craftsman that worked in it. A sign outside of the shop showed people what that person did for a living. Signs had to be used as so few people could read or write.


Well, this is by far my shortest one so far:(. A disappointment I agree but no matter, next time I will make sure it is long, really long! Not sure what to do next, maybe I’ll do the wars thing which I was considering doing last time. Any other ideas, comments, criticism is accepted.

Raytane