Medieval Villages in Europe

Medieval villages were small cells within a larger organism known as a kingdom, where residents resided in cruck houses made of wood or mud and thatched roofs.

They cultivated wheat for bread production, barley for beer production and hay for their animals.

Church and mill services and the village smithy provided them with their farm tools; few ventured beyond its boundaries.


Medieval dovecotes served not only as symbols of wealth and status but also served a practical function: income from selling young pigeons/doves for sale as food and manure to the land.

Dovecotes were constructed in various shapes and sizes, though most commonly noted for their tower-like appearance. Common examples are typically circular in shape with massive stone construction topped by pointed roofs – although you might also come across square, rectangular or even polygonal models, including those found at Dunster in Somerset that feature domed roofs!

Lords would often display their privilege to keep doves and pigeons as a status symbol by placing dovecotes prominently on their estates, near approach roads or adjacent to their manor house’s main entrance or gatehouse. Dovecotes reminded visitors of their right and duty to provide food for the realm while protecting and cultivating land.

Pigeons were fed a varied diet of seeds, grains and breadcrumbs from nesting boxes. Dung collected was valuable as fertiliser for vineyards or orchards; additionally it could also be used for tanning leather.

In the 16th century, pigeon meat became increasingly popular, even amongst commoners; so much so that every family should eat pigeon pie at least once every week! As such, sales of squabs decreased.

By the early eighteenth century, advances in fodder crops had enabled farmers to raise higher quality meat from cattle, sheep and pigs without using pigeons; this marked a significant reduction in dovecotes as social status symbols and eventually their construction and improvement until Napoleonic Wartime when many were converted for other uses such as cider houses. Arthur Cooke claimed turnips had effectively brought this about; in actual fact they remained widely constructed until their conversion for other purposes such as cider houses.

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Tithe Barns

Medieval times saw each peasant contribute one tenth of his crops or livestock to the church through donations stored in tithe barns like this stunning example in English village Landbeach. It features exquisite woodwork with carefully chosen sinuous arcade posts and substantial timber frame and rafters; large double doors stand opposite each other to allow wind draughts into winnowing process to separate grain from chaff.

Tithe barns were a common feature in villages and towns during this period, though not all were designed specifically to store church tithes. Some were constructed solely for private purposes – like this 13th-century barn in Cressing Temple built by military monks known as Knights Templar.

Other barns were constructed as grain silos or animal tethering areas, like this ten bay structure constructed by Bristol Abbey monks who owned an adjacent manor in Ashleworth village in 1481.

Medieval villages were places where people lived, worked, and played. Their main streets were packed with vendors selling goods from carts loaded with merchandise; bells of local churches would ring all day long; streets often bore names that indicated their inhabitants’ trade (e.g. “Shoe Street”) while being overseen by guilds or guild members.

Churches and taverns provided places of social gathering; here they could exchange news, stories and gossip; while churches served as centers of spiritual life. Citizens in medieval cities enjoyed greater rights compared to living in rural areas, including being Freemen; this allowed them to avoid paying taxes to feudal lords while enjoying more freedom to live life their way without worrying about paying taxes for feudal services or building infrastructure projects; yet still many preferred rural living arrangements.

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Heiligenbrunn is located high up in the mountains and features narrow cobbled streets and magnificently preserved town walls. Ideal for walkers looking for some medieval history with their holiday, Heiligenbrunn offers plenty of walking trails that make its history come alive.

Eze, France stands out as an exquisite medieval village in Europe. Situated amidst rolling mountain terrain, Eze boasts stunning architecture from centuries past such as churches and monuments that date back to medieval period.

Salt was once seen as an invaluable commodity, often called the ‘white gold’ of its day. Civilizations went great lengths to acquire it. Nowadays, we still rely heavily on salt for preservation purposes as well as an essential ingredient in medicine and ritual practices, not forgetting adding flavoring agents when seasoning foods.

medieval Europe’s inhabitants relied heavily on salt for many reasons. Salt acted as a preservative, making food last longer on long journeys or marches, and salted meats (such as pork and bacon) and barrels of salted fish (mainly cod in northern Europe and sardines in the Mediterranean) provided valuable sources of protein for armies marching across continents.

Salt production was an extensive endeavor that was highly labor-intensive. This process involved boiling water with sunlight in large earthen kilns known as salt kilns until its hygroscopic property caused it to absorb moisture from the air and form into clumps of crystallized salt, which were later harvested and dried for distribution and trade.

At the turn of the 10th century, Europe saw its first permanent settlements emerge – nucleated villages consisting of clusters of houses surrounded by areas for cultivation. Their development marked an exciting new chapter in civilized societies from all over the globe.

These villages were founded on the principle that each household owned its own land for living purposes, enabling them to make laws, raise taxes and elect a mayor – an early precursor of cities and towns which would eventually liberate people from servitude to an Lord.

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The medieval period was an age of social upheaval, Christian expansion and architectural innovation, giving rise to fairytale cities and charming villages with half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets that appear frozen in time. But what were life like in these villages of medieval Europe?

Before the Middle Ages, most people lived on one feudal manor or religious communities in rural areas. Once trade expanded around 1000 AD, towns began emerging around castles or monasteries or along major trade routes with thick walls protecting them and residents known as vassals of their local lord or king and known as Burghers.

Life within towns was lived out in tightly packed houses made of timber frames covered in clay called “wattle and daub”, known for being made into houses called wattles or daub houses. A typical house would typically feature living quarters, pantry storage space, stable space as well as an enclosed thorny courtyard which was used for washing clothes or storage needs.

Villages often had guilds to bring together individuals working in similar crafts. Each guild had its own house, banner, and patron saint – for instance shoemakers may celebrate Saint Crispin! Guilds provided an important link between individuals and larger communities while helping regulate trade and avoid unfair competition.

Not all villages had guilds alone; many also boasted courts and law merchants to provide legal services, which helped to shape European law and customs. Villages marked an advance towards civilized society.

European medieval towns provide an exciting and immersive way of experiencing life during the Middle Ages. From Carcassonne in France, to Rye in England – these medieval gems will transport you back through time!

About the author


Frauline is based in Cebu, right in the heart of the Visayas / Philippines. She is an experienced writer with a background in journalism and writes about the beautiful Philippine islands.