“Peasant Breaking Bread “published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.
Since we are now in the end of January, I thought I would discuss how people lived in Medieval Europe during the winter.
First, you must remember I am writing in generic places and not one specific location. The winters vary dramatically from region to region. Imagine living in January on the coast of Italy, and compare that to living at the same time in Sweden. We will examine the places where it is relatively cold during the winters.
Let us look at the peasants and how they survived winters. Survival would be a task for them, for not having enough supplies or warmth, could mean death for you and your family.
We would assume they might have fireplaces in their homes. What we perceive as a fireplace did not originate until around the 12th centuries, and was rare. Even when they became more popular, they were reserved for royalty and the wealthy.
Large fires were made in fire pits in the center of the house. This meant the house was constantly filled with smoke. This smoke must have been a constant irritant to those who were inside the home.\
For anyone who has lived in a rural area, we know barns are rarely if ever heated. This is because animals like cows and horses give off tremendous heat from their bodies. To utilize this heat, peasants homes were built alongside the barn, the animal’s bodies would warm the inside of the living area.
The peasants’ livestock was vital to their survival. In the fall, they had to make a hard decision. They needed to anticipate how hard, and long winter would be. They needed to kill of their excess livestock; this would allow them to feed the others during a winter. If they underestimated the winter, they would starve. If they overestimated, they might not have enough livestock for breading in the spring.
The butchered livestock meat would be smoked or jerked and prepared for the winter. This meat would be eaten more during the winter to help maintain body temperature.
Pottage was the staple diet of a peasant. This was a type of stew made with vegetables and grains. Many items over the winter would be thrown in as a supplement to the pottage. Fruits picked and stored in a cellar in the fall would also be added. It was important for them to cook the fruits, for at this time it was though eating fresh fruit was unhealthy.
Another way for the peasants to fight off the cold was clothing. Wool was a very popular cloth and many winter clothing such as sweaters, pants and scarfs were made of it. This is also very itchy, so most wore linen garments underneath.
Large beds were also utilized during the medieval period. This allowed numerous people to share their body heat with each other. Peasants work was less during winter than other times of the year, so many might of simply stayed in bed for much of this period.
W.A.Rusho is a Professional Wrestler, Amateur Historian an Author. You may contact him at his website or via email