The life and activities of people during the Middle Ages was quite different from the lifestyle of today. The time of a common man was spent working in the fields growing crops for their sustenance.
The sowing and reaping days were celebrated with Church feasts and social activities were very important. Superstitions and culture dictated most of the activities. Hunting, falconry, wrestling, gambling, horseback riding and riddle making were some of the Middle Ages activities which were common at that time.
Hunting was a privilege as well as a necessity during the Middle Ages. It provided knights with opportunities of practicing their skills at warfare and was even practiced as a tradition. On the other hand, peasants hunted down small animals for their survival. The forests were generally owned by the Monarchs and hunting in those forests was restricted to the monarchs themselves or their servants.
Hunting activities were generally conducted on horsebacks and pet hunting dogs would assist in tracking the prey. Hunting would also sometimes serve recreational purposes and include games like “Force Hunting” and “Bow and Stable Hunting”. As for the Poor, the hunting activities were restricted to the common grounds and hunting in the monarch’s lands was strictly prohibited. Punishments to the severity of death were given if the rules were broken.
Falconry or hawking was another form of hunting which was mainly enjoyed by the lords and nobles in the medieval age. The peasants and common people were incapable of affording the high costs involved in this activity. Falconry required the training of falcons, hawks and eagles to hunt down small animals like game or small birds when commanded by their trainers. The trainers or falconers, as they were called, were responsible for raising the young birds, which were taken from their nests, and for training them for human contact.
The birds were skilled in hunting down the prey, listening to command and returning to the falconer. Thus, the practice of falconry was quite expensive for the common man. The birds required a variety of equipment for their training and were housed in special cages called mews. Their skills were generally flaunted at grand hunting parties organised by the royals as a means of entertainment and showing off their standards.
Wrestling and many other martial art forms were common Middle Age activities. Grappling or Ringen as it is called in German was an unarmed combat. All these were enjoyed as a source of entertainment by the lords and monarchs. During the late Middle Ages, many schools teaching the European Martial arts had shaped up. Wrestling would also involve games and placing bets during those times.
A very common Middle Age activity- Jousting was practiced almost in all empires. Knights used to practice their skills and weaponry in these tournaments where they used to battle against each other. This also used to be a source of entertainment for the lords and emperors as well as the masses. These jousting tournaments though were the evolved versions of the ancient gladiator contests, resulted in much lesser bloodshed as a proper code of conduct was followed. The matches used to take place in open fields divided by fences.
The knights were provided with a lance and rode a horse. The aim of each knight was to break the lance or unhorse his opponent for winning. The contest was a part of the tradition during those times and acted as a gathering point of all the nobles of the land.
The origin of gambling in medieval times can be traced back to religious activities. The bishops and English Clergyman were fond of dicing. Dice games, coin games betting on pigeon races, cock fighting, checkers and chess were common games involving bets.
Many such games had become such an obsession for the people and armies that various rulers had them banned or imposed restrictions. By the end of the middle age, playing cards had replaced dice as the most popular gambling game. Lottery also gained a reputation of an important gambling game which was initially introduced to serve the purpose of distributing the unsold merchandise or gifts.
Since the means of entertainment were limited during medieval times, people used to take up various activities for their amusement as well as others. As a Middle Age activity- riddle making had a special role in religion, education and recreation. Searching for messages of god within arithmetic, biology and various other subjects was the basic ideology behind these riddles. Guessing games had a special place in educating the young minds. The monarchs on the other hand used to find these riddles interesting which kept them away from boredom.
The religion during the middle ages was not very different from what it is today but the religious activities followed during the era were quite different. The Church largely had the control over all activities being carried out in a region. It had judicial as well as legislative powers. Strict religious norms existed following which was a compulsion for all to avoid persecution. Sacrifices to gods were made and measures to curb the spread of other religions were taken. The activities performed by the monks and nuns of those times were also quite different.
The activities the people performed during the Middle Ages were quite different from what we see today. The customs, society, technology and knowledge were at the developing stage at those times. A major section of society was ignorant and rational thinking among the masses was still to develop.
Various manuscripts, writings and other evidences depicting the lifestyle of the people during those times are available. Castle life was for the monarchs and their servants. The sports and other activities of the era were either for the amusement of the lords and kings or for entertaining the masses. As time went by, these cultures paved way for rational thought and changes appeared in the society as well as in people’s activities.