When in the old city of Suzdal during our great Russian vacation last winter, I was interviewed by a reporter from Vesti news service. She was supposed to contact me on Facebook when the piece came out but never did. Stephen just recently stumbled upon it, and the kids and I are seen from 1:55 to 2:20. (I guess she thought I was from Wisconsin since my page shows I graduated from UW-Madison.)
The entire video’s interesting and highlights many of the ancient and medieval historic Christian sites we visited along the incredible Golden Circle. The funny thing, though, is that reporter and her cameraman followed us around and talked with me for a good 20 minutes, yet my one translated pull quote was “The architecture is tremendous.” Classic. The reporter was quite surprised that we were Americans AND new converts to Orthodoxy, which is the most intriguing angle, in my opinion. But I suppose the story was more about tourism, not faith. Oh well. Still super cool.
Did you know that people in Middle Ages weren’t as dirty as you thought? Despite the fact that people of the time did some dirty stuff, they did their best to try to be clean. But, there was no plumbing, sanitation, or medical knowledge during the Medieval Period. Although even commoners had access to toilets, waste disposal wasn’t held in high regard. Water was often used for hygiene, but getting it could be an arduous task, so other practices were employed, too. These unsanitary conditions, as well as general poor health, contributed to the spread of the Black Death.
If you were in a castle and had to go to the bathroom, you might have to journey far away, down an extensive hallway, till you found a “garderobe,” which is French for “clothes closet.” People of the time thought that fetid odors repelled moths, so they often hung their garments within the garderobe. Upon entering, you would sit on a raised platform made of smooth wood or clammy stone. Below you was a hole through which your excrement would fall and drain into the moat. Cleaning yourself would entail using “torche-cols,” a handful of straw, or a “gomphus,” a curved wooden stick. Medieval commoners had outdoor privies, whose walls were lined with “wattle-and-daub,” a mix of dung and clay. The waste would drop into a cesspit lined with stone, although the urine would simply seep into the ground. Unfortunate people with the reeking job of “gong farmers” would clean out the solid debris at night causing a rancid smell. However, city dwellers would just empty their chamber pots out windows. “Gardez l’eau!” which means, “Look out, water!” was commonly heard when walking through the noxious streets of Paris.
Obviously, the people of the Middle Ages didn’t have plumbing, but they tried to stay clean as best as possible. Nobility bathed in soothing warm water brought to them by servants and put in a wooden barrel, while commoners had to gather their own water, which was a major chore. Another perturbing thing was the water was always cold and the whole family used the same water. How repugnant! Despite the taxing effort. Regardless of the toil. Most people bathed weekly. In the summer, folks washed in bodies of water and some villages even had public bathhouses. Ladies and lords also regularly clean their hands. If you visited a medieval castle, you’d hear a trumpet blare and a servant yell, “corner l’aiue,” which meant “blow the water.” Before a meal, guests then washed their hands in “lavers” found at the entrance of the royal dinning hall. There, you’d find a stone basin, water, and fragrant soap from the Far East. During the feast, however, people didn’t drink water because it was too polluted. Instead, nobles consumed wine abundantly, and everyone chugged massive quantities of ale.perturbing thing was the water was always cold and the whole family used the same water. How repugnant! Despite the taxing effort. Regardless of the toil. Most people bathed weekly. In the summer, folks washed in bodies of water and some villages even had public bathhouses. Ladies and lords also regularly clean their hands. If you visited a medieval castle, you’d hear a trumpet blare and a servant yell, “corner l’aiue,” which meant “blow the water.” Before a meal, guests then washed their hands in “lavers” found at the entrance of the royal dinning hall. There, you’d find a stone basin, water, and fragrant soap from the Far East. During the feast, however, people didn’t drink water because it was too polluted. Instead, nobles consumed wine abundantly, and everyone chugged massive quantities of ale.
Because people of the Middle Ages drank too much alcohol and not enough water, they had a weak immune system. This, coupled with their lacking personal hygiene, unsanitary living conditions, and limited medical knowledge, sickness abounded. Despite people’s best efforts, a myriad of diseases, such as typhoid, dysentery, smallpox, and influenza, ravaged the medieval population. Of course, the Black Death proved most fatal, killing one out of every three Europeans. In fact, this plague, which lasted from 1347-1350, tragically ended the lives of 800 people a day in France alone! It was like a nasty barbarian army of death! The life expectancy was a stunning thirty years old. People began to perceive that there was a relationship between everything – from using the bathroom, dealing with waste management, having proper hygiene, to drinking clean water – preventing maladies. They had a lightbulb moment!
Both the medieval poor and the nobility definitely appreciated their garderobes, yet they didn’t fully understand the substantial significance of sanitation. Because life was so hard back then, people got creative with their water usage and hygiene practices. Due to the fact they lacked knowledge in these areas, it’s no wonder the Black Death was extremely fatal for Europe. Most significantly, plague survivors discovered their was a link between illness and disease and their personal and environmental health standards. They began to realize that cleanliness is next to godliness. Nevertheless, people of the Middle Ages had to endure suffering, stink, and sickness to a degree that is unimaginable. It was a horribly foul time.
In ancient times Alexander the Great deftly conquered many massive lands and spread Greek culture. Alexander, who was only 20 years old, was king of both Macedonia and Greece. He decided to take over more territory beginning with Persia because he wanted revenge. This military genius advanced to Egypt, defeated it, and built a majestic city, which he named Alexandria. He also made a beautiful library there. “Thank you for constructing this stunning building with its prestigious collection of books!” remarked the people of Alexandria. Alexander shared the ideas of Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. He had been boldly battling in India for 10 gruesome, gory, and gross years, and then traveled to Babylon. While Alexander was there, he established his capital. This incredible leader was resolutely raucous and ruthless, and his empire and Greek influence were vast, so his nickname was Alexander the Great.