The St. Bernard Abbey in Hemiksem by Jan Wildens, 1616

The Complex Economics of Medieval Convents

Medieval convents were better funded than many scholars assume, thanks in part to royal patrons sympathetic to the holy women's mission.
Brothel by Joachim Beuckelaer, 1562

Regulating Sex Work in Medieval Europe

When sex work was considered a "necessary evil," legal brothels provided certain protections for the women who worked there.
Two women spinning silk in the 15th century

The Silkwomen of Medieval London

A group of skilled women ran the silk-making industry in 15th century London. So why didn't they protect their workers' rights by forming a guild?
Image from Livre des profits ruraux (late 15th century France)

The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose

Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.
bezoar goat

From the Belly of a Goat to the Mouth of a King

Bezoars, a strange lump formed in the belly of a goat, once were considered a panacea, and worth more than their weight in gold.
aristotle and phyllis

That Time a Woman Rode Aristotle Around Like a Horse

In the Middle Ages, the legend of Aristotle and Phyllis exemplified the “Power of Women” trope.
trial by combat

Trial by Combat? Trial by Cake!

The medieval tradition of deciding legal cases by appointing champions to fight to the death endured through 1817, unlike its tastier cousin.
Jabir ibn Hayyan Geber

How to Create a Human Being

The Book of Stones, a central alchemical text, contained formulae with the power to create living tissue from ordinary matter, supposedly.
Engraved Illustrations of Various Castles and Fortified Structures

The Medieval Castle That Pranked Its Visitors

At Hesdin, in France, the idyllic beauty of the grounds met the sadistic slapstick of the castle’s “engines of amusement.”
Burning woman witchcraft

Where Witch Hunts Began

Although witch hunts are associated with 17th-century Salem, many hundreds of thousands of "witches" were killed in Europe from the 13th century on.