Sex and sexual relationships in the Middle Ages, much like during any age, were fraught with contradictions.
Most of these contradictions stemmed from the involvement of the medieval Church in dictating proper sexual conduct. In turn, according to Marty Williams and Anne Echols, authors of Between Pit and Pedestal: Women in the Middle Ages, the Church’s involvement was owing to the fact that,
Many theologians were completely unable to reconcile sex and the sacred because sex was viewed as something unholy and unclean (p. 86).
It’s widely agreed that most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by mid-February.
I’ve always found this perspective unduly negative and deterministic. Yes, many people may suffer setbacks in their yearly goals during February. Yet it’s also widely agreed that “If at first you don’t succeed…” is a valid approach to life.
As discussed in the previous post on the medieval Church, church life in the Middle Ages was life.
The services it provided contributed to every key turning point in people’s existence. According to John R.H. Moorman, author of Church Life in the Thirteenth Century,
It gave first, the regular worship of the Church on Sundays and weekdays. It gave also the opportunities of Christian baptism, matrimony and burial, together with a little teaching and some spiritual direction mainly administered in the confessional. Further, it offered to the sick and the dying spiritual comfort and perhaps, in some places, medical help as well. (p. 151)
I remember during the final days of 2015 telling a friend the following:
“I’m looking forward to 2016. Even-numbered years are always great years.”
To be honest, I’m not even sure what data I was basing that assessment on. When I think of recent even-numbered years, no especially noteworthy occurrences immediately spring to mind.
In the medieval world, the influence of the Church was ubiquitous.
The average modern inhabitant of the western world, even a religious one, might struggle to conceive of how much this was the case.
If there’s one aspect of medieval knights that tends to be grossly exaggerated in mainstream media, it’s the amount of time they spent in open warfare.
To begin with, as previously discussed in my post on the feudal system, a “knight’s fee”—that is, the assorted obligations a vassal owed his lord in exchange for the land he lived upon—was both passive and active in nature.
Few aspects of medieval history capture the imagination quite like the medieval knight.
The chivalric ideal
At the same time, few aspects of 13th century medieval history are as grossly misrepresented in mainstream entertainment as the medieval knight.
My previous post about knights in the Middle Ages touched on how the process of becoming a knight involved training in manners, music, and poetry when a young boy was a page, and sacred vigil and dedication of his sword when a squire was elevated to knighthood.