When to when?

Imagine a world without effective medicine, surgery, or anaesthetics. A world devoid of plastics or synthetic fabrics. A world in which agricultural productivity was so low that animal products were a luxury to many. This was a brutal world of entrenched social inequality, almost devoid of labour-saving devices. A world in which even dim lighting was expensive during long, cold, winter nights.

Welcome to the Middle Ages.


"Scholars have advocated many different termini for our period, and there seems to be little agreement and indeed little basis for reasoned argument on these points. The Middle Ages begin, we are told, with the death of Theodosius in 395, or with the settlement of Germanic tribes in the Roman Empire, or with the sack of Rome in 410, or with the fall of the Western Roman Empire (usually dated A.D. 476), or even as late as the Moslem occupation of the Mediterranean. It ends … with the fall of Constantinople, or with the invention of printing, or with the discovery of America, or with the beginning of the Italian wars (1494), or with the Lutheran Reformation (1517), or with the election of Charles V (1519). Several reference works I have consulted simply assert that the Middle Ages ended in 1500, presumably on New Year's Eve. Yet another terminus often given for the Middle Ages is the so-called “Revival of Learning,” that marvelous era when Humanist scholars “discovered” classical texts and restored them to mankind after the long Gothic night. Medievalists must always smile a little over these “discoveries,” for we know where the Humanists discovered those classical texts—namely, in medieval manuscripts, where medieval scribes had been carefully preserving them for mankind over the centuries. … In view of all this disagreement over the duration of the Middle Ages, perhaps we should content ourselves with saying that our period extends from the close of the classical period to the beginning of the Renaissance. If classicists and Renaissance scholars don't know when their periods begin and end, then that is their problem."

Robinson, Fred. C. [1984]. “Medieval: the Middle Ages.” Speculum 59, pp. 745–56. (Presidential address to the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, 1984.)
Cited here : Spade, Paul Vincent, "Medieval Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL.

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Mos Teutonicus

Mos Teutonicus (Latin: the Germanic custom) was a postmortem funerary custom used in Europe in the Middle Ages as a means of transporting, and solemnly disposing of, the bodies of high status individuals. The process involved the removal of the flesh from the body, so that the bones of the deceased could be transported hygienically from distant lands back home.

German aristocrats were particularly concerned that burial should not take place in the Holy Land, but rather on home soil. The Florentine chronicler Boncompagno was the first to connect the procedure specifically with German aristocrats, and coins the phrase mos Teutonicus, meaning ‘the Germanic custom.'

English and French aristocrats generally preferred embalming to mos Teutonicus, involving the burial of the entrails and heart in a separate location from the corpse. One of the advantages of mos Teutonicus was that it was relatively economical in comparison with embalming, and was more hygienic.

Corpse preservation was very popular in mediaeval society. The decaying body was seen as a representative of something sinful and evil. Embalming and mos Teutonicus, along with tomb effigies, were a way of giving the corpse an illusion of stasis and removed the uneasy image of putrification and decay.

The process of mos Teutonicus began with the cadaver being dismembered to facilitate the next stage in the process, in which the body parts were boiled in water or wine for several hours. The boiling had the effect of separating the flesh from the bone. Any residual was scraped from the bones, leaving a completely clean skeleton. Both the flesh and internal organs could be buried immediately, or preserved with salt in the same manner as animal meat. The bones, and any preserved flesh, would then be transported back to the deceased's home for ceremonial interment.

Mediaeval society generally regarded entrails as ignoble and there was no great solemnity attached to their disposal, especially among German aristocrats.

Although the Church had a high regard for the practice, Pope Boniface VIII was known to have an especial repugnance of mos Teutonicus because of his ideal of bodily integrity. In his bull of 1300, De Sepulturis, Boniface forbade the practice. The papal bull issued which banned this practice was often misinterpreted as prohibition against human dissection. This probably hindered the research of some anatomists as they feared repercussions and punishment as a result of medical autopsies but De Sepulturis only prohibited the act of mos Teutonicus, not dissection in general.