Inside a Castle
|Castles looked cool on the outside, but really they were
cold, damp, and poorly lit. The only heating was provided by
fireplaces in each room and castles had to be lit by torches because
they were very dark inside.
People tended to spend much time outdoors
to get away from the dampness of the castle. Tapestries were hung on
the wall to help brighten up the halls and keep in heat.
The main furniture in the great hall were wooden benches and large tables made
by laying wood planks across other benches. At night, the table was
taken down to make room for the servants who slept on the floor. The
floors were covered year-round with reeds, bones, and scraps of food.
When the room began to smell, the servants added more reeds and
sprinkled spices to help get rid of the odor. Once a year, the
servants replaced the soiled reeds with new ones, and the whole
process started again. The king and his family often shared a single
room where their sleeping quarters were separated only by curtains.
click to enlarge
The king's kitchen staff decorated most of the food before they served
it. Sometimes when meat was served, the servants put the fur or
feathers back on the meat to make it look alive! On the other hand,
because there was no refrigeration, the food spoiled quickly.
Sometimes when food was spoiled, they just dumped extra gravy on it
and served it anyway. One of the only ways to preserve and season food
was to salt all the meat.
In fact, since salt was so important at the
medieval table, it began to be a sort of status symbol. Most great
halls only had one large salt container, and where you sat in relation
to it told people how important you were. The more important people
sat "above the salt," and those who were less important sat
"below the salt." During the evening meals, the lord and his
family sat upon a raised platform and watched court jesters who sang,
juggled, and told stories.
Castles had no modern plumbing, but the garbage disposal presented no
problem. The servants dumped it in the moat. Bathrooms in castles
often emptied right into the moat as well. Since people in the Middle
Ages believed that washing too much could make you sick, bathing
became a once-a-month affair. Most didn't even bother with soap
because the soaps were so strong that they could eat holes through
cloth. The royal family preferred dirt to holes, so wash days were few
and far between.