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5 How-To Manuals from the Middle Ages

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From dying to being a king, these manuals had people in the Middle Ages covered.

1. How to Die Well

The Middle Ages was a good time to learn how to die. If you avoided the Black Plague and survived the 100 Years War, you still might get some of your disease-laden drinking water on a hangnail and die of septicemia. It was during this time that an instructional pamphlet, Ars Moriendi: The Craft of Dying (top photo), started making its rounds among the population of Europe. Appearing sometime in the early 1400s, the Ars Moriendi was a small book of six chapters, each one written to help a dying soul and those attending him to ease the passage into death. As the book grew in popularity and became widely translated, a second, shorter version, which had more pictures and less writing, became available.

The book was written with the idea that in a man’s desperate last hours, he becomes a target for Satan like never before. Ars Moriendi teaches how to withstand that battle. As the first chapter says, death need not be feared. In fact, the book gives a “commendation of Death, and the cunning to die well.” Other chapters help a person avoid despair in their final hours, pose questions to be asked of him to make sure his eternal soul is in order, and offer comforting prayers to say by his bedside.

2. How to Battle

Historical Fencing

Gunpowder slowly began having a say in European warfare between the 14th and 16th centuries. Before that, combat (and there was a lot of combat) was sword to sword.

Well, that’s not exactly true. There were swords, both long and short, spears, maces, pole-axes, daggers, messers, bucklers, bows, crossbows, and lances. Not to mention the art of using any of the above while on horseback, wrestling, fighting two against one, shield use, and how (Plate 242) to fight a woman (the man must stand in a pit with a wooden mace, the woman above him with a 5 pound stone tied into her veil. Presumably these instructions were for judicial battles or other organized fighting.) If this seems like a lot to learn, it was. The scribes of the time produced many manuals, largely pictorial, to help soldiers learn their craft. The woodcuts above are from a popular series of books written by Hans Talhoffer.

3. How to Punish Sins

Having your priest give you a private penance for your sins was a new idea in the early Middle Ages. Before then, people confessed their sins publicly, and maybe only once in their lifetime. In the 6th century, Irish monks begin making extremely detailed lists of possible sins, called Penitentials, along with the punishments to pay for committing them. Some of the punishments (fasting for 4 years for fornication with a virgin) are likely the result of muddled translation or a variable definition of “fasting.” Other sins and precise punishments from the Penitential pamphlet Corpus 190 of the Canons of Theodore include:

-He who desires to fornicate (with) himself (i.e., to masturbate) and is not able to do so, he must fast for 40 days or 20 days.
-If he is a boy and does it often, either he is to fast 20 days or one is to whip him.
-Whoever fornicates with another man's wife must fast for 4 years, 2 wandering in grief, 2 (years) more (fasting) during the 40-day periods and 3 days each week.
-Whoever fornicates with an effeminate male or with another man or with an animal must fast for 10 years

4. How to Care for the Sick

Art Bin

The Fasciculus Medicinae was the first illustrated medical manual to be put into print, in the late 1400s. Actually, it wasn’t so much a manual as a bound collection of separate works about medicine and anatomy. The anatomy was, shall we say, very interpretive in some cases, such as The Zodiac Man. Or in the case of The Incised Man, rather scary, giving detailed directions for where it was best to cut and bleed patients for whatever particular ailment they suffered (“Incisions in the two veins behind the ears, on both sides, are useful for improving memory and cleansing the face of pustules, and against all other spots on the face”). The book widely added to medical knowledge, for good or ill, in the Middle Ages, and the woodblock illustrations influenced the art of the period.

5. How to be a King

Only a small fraction of the population of Medieval Europe read or wrote. Because of this, most books either concerned the church, the wealthy, or the nobility. Often all three of these attributes would be found in the same person. One of the most popular genres of “advice books” during this time was called “Mirrors for Princes.” They were often written by noble relatives, respected scholars, or religious leaders to be presented to new nobility as they came to power. These books were meant to instruct young royalty of their duties and their history. Most of these books, alongside records of battles and studies of other monarchies, instruct on the need for piety, benevolence, and the important of a praiseworthy life. A famous exception is the book The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli. Machiavelli taught that it was better to be feared than loved, better to be stingy than generous (so as not to encourage greed in your subjects), and how to avoid contempt and hatred while adhering to the rest of his suggestions. Unlike most Mirrors, Machiavelli’s book is still widely read today.

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History
Civilian Researchers Discover Wreckage of the USS Indianapolis
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On July 30, 1945, the cruiser USS Indianapolis sank in the Pacific Ocean after it was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58. More than 70 years after the historic naval tragedy— which claimed the lives of nearly 900 crew—The New York Times reports that the ship’s mysterious final resting place has been found.

The discovery came courtesy of a team of civilian researchers, led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. His state-of-the-art research vessel, Petrel, located the wreck 18,000 feet below the Pacific’s surface, the team announced on Saturday, August 19.

"To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances."

Before it sank, the USS Indianapolis had just completed a top-secret mission to a naval base on the Northern Mariana island of Tinian. After delivering enriched uranium and components for Little Boy— the atomic bomb that the U.S. would drop on the Japanese city of Hiroshima about a week later—the cruiser forged ahead to Guam, and then to the Philippines. It was supposed to meet the battleship USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare to attack Japan.

The USS Indianapolis never made it to Leyte Gulf. Shortly after midnight on July 30, the Japanese submarine I-58 spotted the cruiser and fired six torpedoes. The USS Indianapolis—which was hit twice—sank within 12 minutes. Around 300 to 400 sailors and Marines were killed in the attack; the rest were stranded in the Pacific Ocean for several days.

Many of these survivors would ultimately lose their lives to sharks, a grisly scene that would be famously (albeit semi-accurately) recounted in the 1975 movie Jaws. Others died from drowning, heat stroke, thirst, burns and injuries, swallowing salt water or fuel oil, and suicide. More than 300 crew members were rescued after a bomber pilot accidently sighted the imperiled men while on a routine antisubmarine patrol.

The mass tragedy—which wouldn’t be announced to the public until August 15, 1945—sparked controversy: Charles B. McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis, was found guilty in a court martial of failing to steer the ship on a “zigzag” course to elude Japanese submarines. A Japanese submarine captain testified that this precautionary measure wouldn’t have thwarted the enemy, but McVay was charged nonetheless. The captain died by suicide in 1968, and wouldn’t be officially exonerated by the Navy until 2001.

For decades, the remains of the USS Indianapolis were lost to the ravages of time and nature. But in 2016, naval historian Richard Hulver found a historic ship log that mentioned a sighting of the USS Indianapolis. Allen’s search team used this information to locate the ship, which was west of where experts assumed it had gone down.

Allen’s crew took pictures of the wreckage, including a piece of its hull, and will search for more of the ship. They plan to keep the exact location of the USS Indianapolis a secret, however, to honor the sunken ship as a war grave.

"While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Allen said.

[h/t The New York Times]

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entertainment
The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.

DINO'S LODGE

In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

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Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.

JERRY'S

In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

Wire Photo, eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.

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