The composition of the population of the medieval city was extremely heterogeneous. The craftsmen prevailed in it, who themselves sold their own products, combining in one person an artisan and a merchant.
Most of the urban population was involved in the service sector. They belonged to hairdressers, owners of inns, laborers, servants, etc. In large cities, feudal lords lived with their vassals and servants, representatives of the royal administration, “black” and “white” clergy. To the urban population belonged professors, masters and students of universities, lawyers, doctors. Gradually, merchants appeared in the cities.
Almost every medieval city was filled with beggars. At first they were treated with understanding and sympathy. The destitute always knew that near the churches and monasteries they could be given shelter, food, clothes or money. This situation existed until the middle of the XV century. It is then that wage labor is spreading in all spheres of urban life, and therefore beggars are beginning to be perceived as cheap labor. Now it was possible to ask for charity only with the permission of the city authorities. Often this led to the starvation of those beggars who were at the bottom of city life.
XV century. The Augsburg Rules on the Poor
The Council recognized the need and decided: first of all, in the future, everyone, whether married people, women or men, widows or unmarried, alien or local, burghers or city dwellers, protects everyone alike, either by day or at night, by the decree of the honorary council, from which they should receive a special badge, namely a tin sign. This token must be worn and carried to anyone who asks for alms, and without it, it is forbidden to ask for it. The exception is the foreign pilgrims and beggars who are allowed to beg for three days and no more. To those women and men who, as already said, are allowed to beg, we must wait for alms daily in front of the church, with their own children around whom it is protected to send for charity.
The population of medieval towns was relatively small. Large cities were considered, where 20-30 thousand people lived, average -3-5 thousand people. But there were also towns where 1-2 thousand townspeople lived. In cities-giants the population reached 80-100 thousand, for example, Paris, Milan, Venice, Florence, Cordoba, Seville. It is interesting that in England in the XIV century. Only in two cities lived more than 10 thousand people – London and York. The capital of Byzantium Constantinople greatly exceeded the Western European cities in terms of population. In the periods of the highest flowering in Constantinople, there were from 300 to 400 thousand inhabitants.
Initially, the townspeople, along with craft and trade, continued to engage in agriculture. They had gardens, vegetable gardens, and kept cattle. This phenomenon was observed, mainly, in small towns. Although the connection of a city dweller with agriculture remained for a long time.
Medieval cities for defense against attacks were usually surrounded by high stone or wooden walls with towers and deep moats filled with water. The city gates were closed at night. The walls around the city usually limited its territory. With the resettlement of the population from the villages became crowded. The territory had to be expanded several times, erecting new fortifications around the old wall. So there were suburbs, populated mainly by artisans. It was the craftsmen, together with the merchants, who were the watchdogs and replenished the city militia. They had to have weapons and be able to use them.
In the center of the city there was a market square. It was always crowded. The townspeople came here not only to buy or sell something, but also to meet with friends and hear news. Here, new decrees of the king, orders of the city authorities were announced, various holidays were held. Near the market square towered two buildings: the Cathedral – the main Christian temple of the city and the Town Hall. In the... Town Hall, the City Council, the Magistrate, met and sat.
Closer to the center were the houses of the most prosperous and respected citizens. The house in the city could be purchased only by obtaining all the city rights. Full-fledged townspeople in each country were called in their own way: in Germany – By Burghers, in Italy – by Popolans, in France – by Bourgeois. The rest of the population was ordinary urban residents.
Since the city’s territory was small, the streets were narrow. Their width usually reached the length of the spear. Houses literally “stuck together” and were built in 2-3 floors. The main building materials were stone, wood, straw. The foundations became narrow, and the upper floors often hung over the lower ones, because the land in the city was very expensive. The streets were always dark, even on bright sunny days. At night the streets were also not illuminated. If a person was forced to go to a night city, they had to take a bowl or a torch. Cities with wooden buildings and thatched roofs often suffered from devastating fires. Therefore, there was a rule: with the coming of night to extinguish the houses lights.
The city streets were inhabited mostly by artisans of a certain specialty, which confirmed their names. There were streets of potters, weavers, shoemakers, tanners, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, etc. The entrance to the craft workshop was decorated with a special emblem. It symbolized the products that the craftsman made: kalach, boot, sword, key, etc. The windows of each workshop, as a rule, went out into the street. During the day, the shutters opened. The upper half was used as a canopy, and the lower half was used as a counter where the goods were exhibited. Through the open window you could see how these or other products are made.
In the medieval cities, the streets were not paved, because in the summer heat there was a pillar of dust, and in the spring and autumn the mud was knee-deep. Porcine was poured directly into the street, and economic waste was thrown into the same place. On the streets of the cities there was a disgusting smell.
Once the French King Philip II August, opening the window in the morning, fainted. As it turned out, the cause of this was extremely unpleasant smells from the streets of Paris. After this unfortunate incident, the king ordered the stone to be laid out. Probably, this was the first medieval pavement. The pavements appear around the middle of the 13th century, but not in all European cities. It is known that at the end of the XV century. residents of the city of Reutlingen persuaded the German Emperor Frederick III not to come to them because of the terrible state of the streets. Not listening to advice, the king nearly died with a horse in a swamp in one of the city streets.
The crowded population, lack of hygiene, general unsanitary conditions turned the city into a real nursery of pathogens and epidemics. From them, at times, a third or even half of the urban population died out. The medieval city was also poorly provided with drinking water. The first aqueducts appeared around the 12th-13th centuries. in Italy. Subsequently, people realized that it was mud and impurities that attracted the emergence and spread of epidemics. That is why at the end of the XIII century. magistrates begin to issue orders for the improvement of cities.
An integral part of the colorful life of the medieval city was the taverns. Here the townspeople and visitors could have a good rest and have fun. Since the 12th century, hotels and public baths have appeared in the cities, where hairdressers offered their services to visitors. A common hairdresser could do an uncomplicated surgery or, if necessary, give the patient blood. Medieval hospitals, and there were many of them in the cities, were called infirmaries named after the biblical healer St. Lazarus.