Transport and communication in medieval Europe

Transport and communication in medieval Europe

Medieval people – knights, merchants, artisans, monks, pilgrims – was in constant motion. They moved slowly enough, because then the vehicles did not develop a great speed. There were three types of transport: land, river and sea.

The development of land transport was influenced by the condition of roads. Even the ancient Romans built a network of well-paved roads, primarily for military purposes. However, in the early Middle Ages, stones and blocks from the roads built by the Romans were sometimes thoughtlessly taken away and used as a building material. Most of the roads were then narrow, at times so much that two carts could not part on them. Ideal was considered such a road, which could easily drive a team of three horses.

Good roads were in France, because

the king and monasteries established special duties for their construction and maintenance. Some of them were paved at the end of the 11th century.

During the XII-XIV centuries. In connection with the development of trade, many new ways were laid. There is a kind of “road revolution”. However, these new roads were mostly dirt roads and differed little from ordinary paths. They could be moved only in good weather. In winter and during the rainy season, they were impassable.

The main way of transportation of cargo was the Pack-packed cargo placed on the backs of animals, usually donkeys or mules. Used also carts, first harnessed by oxen, and in time and horses. The decisive role in the use of horses as draft force was played by the appearance of a yoke, an iron horseshoe and a drawbar. The cart became lighter with the invention of a wheel with spokes and an iron rim. At the same time, the ways of communication improved. All this allowed carrying heavier loads.

Since the Roman bridges were almost destroyed, and there were not many new ones, streams and rivers sometimes had to wade. More bridges began to build in the middle of the XII century. Thus, in the years 1135-1146. near Regensburg built a stone bridge across the Danube. Most often, bridges were built across small rivers. They were mostly wooden and sometimes

so weak that they could not drive a cart. Sometimes a bridge was built at the bridge, and the believers’ donations were also used for repair work. In addition, with traveling, the bridge duty was almost always collected. Sometimes, local feudal lords deliberately spoiled roads and bridges in their possessions, so that the cargo would fall to the ground and become custom in their own way. This principle is reflected in the saying: what fell from the cart – it’s gone. And sometimes feudal lords, like outrageous robbers,

X century. Monk Richer on the state of medieval bridges

In the twilight, I barely made out the bridge, drove up to him, carefully surveyed and was overwhelmed by a new nuisance on the road. There were so many holes in it that at that time even the townspeople would not have crossed it if they had had urgent business. My indefatigable fellow traveler from Chartres, a seasoned, experienced traveler, looking around the boat and finding none, returned to the dangerous bridge and, praising the sky, nevertheless carried his horses unharmed. Putting a shield under the feet of the horses in places of failure, then found a board somewhere, then bending, then straight, then slowly, and then running, he eventually successfully forwarded me with the horses.

Since land transport was unsafe and the goods were transported quite slowly, the importance of water transport increased. In the Middle Ages, rivers such as the Danube and the Rhine made it possible to transport goods and information much faster, cheaper and more reliably. In the XI century. began to lay channels – artificial channels, connecting the two rivers. For example, in 1257, Milan began to operate a 50-kilometer canal, which was built over 80 years ago. Rivers, their tributaries and artificial channels on flat-bottomed barges and large barges were transported large loads. Barges went under sail, on oars, if necessary they were pulled by drag. For ordinary river crossings, ordinary boats were used. For the movement of rivers also charged duty.

Sea transport differed from the river primarily by its scale. Naval vessels moved along the coast, long-term navigation in the winter was considered risky. In the IX century. The most enduring were Scandinavian vessels with high sides, adapted for distant sea crossings. On their board could accommodate from 200 to 300 persons. Such vessels Byzantines called “carabia”. Obviously, the word “ship” also originates from here.

In the XIII-XV centuries. there are significant improvements in shipbuilding. The championship belonged to German and Mediterranean shipbuilders. They built galleys that sailed and sailed, as well as one-, two – and even three-masted ships: galleons, coca, karaks. Such vessels, with a capacity of 500-600 tons, could accommodate more than 1,000 people on board. Appear and improve the ship’s instruments and devices: steering wheel, compass, sea charts. New lighthouses are being built. The so-called coastal is abolished and sea law is introduced, which is more profitable for seafarers. In particular, feudal lords were forbidden to assign cargoes from ships that crashed on their territory.

The Middle Ages can be studied on the basis of various sources, even… tapestries. A unique example is a tapestry from the Norman city of Baio. On the huge linen cloth colored woolen threads embroidered image of the events of 1064-1066 gg. in England and Normandy. Here you can note many details of everyday life, life, work of people of a distant era: the construction of the Norman fleet, loading weapons and provisions on ships, clothing, weapons, and even a comet.

The tapestry was woven on the orders of the faithful companion of the Norman Duke William, his stepbrother Odo, bishop of Bayo. The length of the product is approximately the same as the length of the wall of the main room of the cathedral, where the tapestry was once hung.

Currently, the tapestry is kept in a museum, which is called – the Tapestry Museum from Baio.

Regular postal communication during the Middle Ages was not – letters and news brought ambassadors, messengers or even random people. Sometimes important information came with a big delay. For example, the news of the death of the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa reached his son Henry four or five months after his death. In the XIII century. From Byzantium, specially prepared postal pigeons were brought to Europe. The obstacle for the development of postal communication was also the low level of education of the population.


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Transport and communication in medieval Europe