Daily Life in Medieval Europe (The Greenwood Press Daily by Jeffrey L. Singman

By Jeffrey L. Singman

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The churchyard that served for burial was often an important public space in the community, serving not just as a repository for the dead, but as a place of public assembly, a marketplace, and even as a playing field. In this, as in so many aspects of medieval life, solemnity and secularity were closely intertwined, reminding us that medieval people saw the world in a manner often very different from our own.

For aristocratic girls, these physical labors were less important, and the emphasis was more on household management, needlework, and the various social graces expected of a lady of good breeding. If an aristocratic family had an excess of daughters, some might be sent to live in a nunnery, where eventually they were expected to profess the religious life when they came of age. Boys, meanwhile, began the transition from the world of women to that of men. For the overwhelming majority, this meant beginning to participate in the work of agriculture.

The medieval church constituted a kind of second social system, sharing governmental authority with the feudal hierarchy, and occasionally coming in conflict with secular lords over disputed rights. Every community and neighborhood was under the auspices of a parish. The church had its own law code, called canon law, and a system of church courts to enforce it, exercising authority over many aspects of people’s lives. Marriage and its legal ramifications fell under the jurisdiction of the church, and wills were also solemnized and enforced by church authority.

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