If you keep up with our blogs here at Baer Swords, you know that we have a fascination with medieval weapons and combat. When we think of the middle ages, our minds are instantly transported back to a time of knights in shining armor and brutal combat. However, this is one very small aspect of medieval life. What about the people who did the dirty work while empires were forged and discoveries made? It’s important to note that the word “job” doesn’t always compute in a medieval context. Although most people were paid some type of wage, people were mainly working to survive rather than to make a profit. Let’s take a look at some of these dirty jobs.
Like we discussed in our previous blog about the most common medieval myths, the dark ages were not “dark” or “drab” by any means. Charlemagne decreed the cultivation of madder, flax, and woad in the 9th century that were used to make a variety of dyes to be used in clothing. Although it was primarily the nobility who benefited from these dyes, they were still very prevalent. But what about the production of the actual cloth itself?
In order for wool to be used as a viable article of clothing, it needed to be fulled. This process prevented fraying, stretching, and cleansed the material, making it waterproof. The fuller’s job was to use stale urine, which contains ammonium salts, to wash and strengthen the wool so that it could be used by a tailor to make clothes. Urine was often collected from surrounding homes to meet the high demands of cloth production. Needless to say, playing with urine wouldn’t pass modern health standards and it certainly wasn’t fun!
Chances are, if you’ve ever taken a chemistry class, you know how important safety is. Always wear eye protection, a lab coat, and know where the safety equipment is at all times and how to use it. The lime burner’s job was to do everything your chemistry professor told you not to do.
Simply put, a limeburner was in charge of heating up limestone in a kiln to create a more malleable form called quicklime. This could then be used in the building process as a type of mortar. Not only was this process extremely dangerous and resulted in injuries and deaths quite frequently, but limeburners had to work in grueling and hot work environments day in and day out. Lime burning is still a process done today, but it’s much safer due to modern technology.
Luckily, we live in a time when we don’t need to work these horrible jobs in order to survive. And for those who want to experience what it was like to live in medieval times, we have much better ways of doing that. At Baer Swords we offer sword fighting classes where we teach HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts). This is the ultimate way to live out your medieval fantasies in a safe way! Give us a call today to get started.
There are plenty of dirty medieval jobs to cover, so stay tuned to our blog to learn more!