High walls surrounded medieval cities. The streets within the fortifications were small and dirt. In the center of the city, there was generally a plaza. This plaza housed the most significant public buildings, including the cathedral, town hall, and marketplace.
Cities grew around castles or other fortified places. So, they started with a wall around an open area that had been used for fighting wars or farming. As people moved into this area, more walls were built around them until finally you had a large fortified community.
Crime and violence were common practices in medieval cities. Thieves and robbers were part of the society then, so they did not feel guilty about stealing from or harming others. They used these activities to make money because there were no police forces to speak of in those days.
There were three main types of neighborhoods in a medieval city: royal, commercial, and religious. These categories did not have any real meaning except where they related to power. For example, communities who were rich usually belonged to one category or another. But it was mostly about who had what kind of influence over the city leaders.
The king or queen would want their subjects to live in safe communities with good schools and hospitals. So, they would appoint officials called mayors who had power over security matters.
Then there are the insider explorations: castle tours, walks along the walls, and shops and cafés in ancient squares. Many towns throughout the world still retain their medieval walls that are mostly intact. They provide a valuable glimpse into bygone days when people lived more securely within the bounds of the city than they do today.
The medieval world was one where violence was common and armies marched across Europe pillaging and burning their way to victory. For example, during the Hundred Years' War between France and England, nearly all of France's major cities had their gates destroyed or taken by force! This chaos helped to spark the Renaissance about 500 years later.
Walls were built to protect cities from invasion but they could also be used as instruments of oppression. In Israel/Palestine for example, the Romans built their own wall around Jerusalem but it was the Jews who actually constructed the majority of the city's defenses. The walls served to isolate and therefore dehumanize their captive population by preventing them from seeing or communicating with outsiders.
In conclusion, medieval cities everywhere were surrounded by walls for defense purposes. These walls often remain visible today to reveal an impression of what our ancestors must have seen when they looked out over their cities.
The palace, the primary site of worship, and the homes of all the individuals who served as royal "back-up": civil workers, military members, craftsmen, and traders were all protected by a thick outside wall. The ancient world's cities all had the same layout. How did an old city appear? First, there was probably no one single event that created every city gate. They evolved over time based on what people needed or wanted from their settlements.
City gates were important structures within urban walls. They provided access to the city for pedestrians and vehicles, and sometimes even housed small shops or restaurants. City gates were built for security but also allowed citizens to avoid dangerous streets inside the city limits. There are two types of city gates: those that opened onto roads leading into the center of the settlement (i.e., town gates), and those that led away from it (i.e., ward gates). Ward gates were usually located near neighborhoods or villages, while town gates tended to be closer to centers of authority, such as government buildings or religious sites.
People started building city gates around 3200 B.C. The oldest known city gate is at Abu Salabikh, which is about 20 miles south of Cairo. It is a stone structure that dates back to about 2900 B.C. Other ancient cultures also used wood or brick for their city gates, but none of them are as old as the Egyptian ones.
The primary benefit of living in a medieval city is security behind the city walls. The benefit was then realized in the economic and learning possibilities available in cities. These alternatives were either unavailable or just available to a limited extent in the village.
In addition to this, cities offered more freedom for individuals. They could go where they wanted, talk with people from different backgrounds and religions, find employment, start businesses - all things possible only in a large community with many different activities going on at any given time.
Cities also had their disadvantages. There were no such thing as police officers or firefighters when you needed them the most. You could be robbed or even killed during violent times and downfalls of towns. It was also difficult for farmers to move their products to market since there were no roads back then. But overall, cities were better places to live than villages.
Medieval people believed that heaven was found under heaven, in paradise. Since they didn't have any kind of science to explain what happens after death, they used symbols like castles and swords to describe it. They also used stories about saints who went to heaven after dying to give people hope. This is why priests played an important role in giving out last rites - prayers for the dead. They also told stories about past events that happened in churches to remind people of eternity.
The majority of people in Medieval England were village peasants, but religious centers drew people, and many grew into towns or cities. Outside of London, the cathedral cities of Lincoln, Canterbury, Chichester, York, Bath, Hereford, and others were the biggest towns in England. Within London's city limits there were also large populations of people living in Southampton, Norwich, Ipswich, Stamford, Gloucester, Berkeley, Coventry, and other places.
In 1086 there were about 1 million people in England. By 1327 that had increased to 3.5 million, mostly living in villages but also including hundreds of small towns and cities. The population was still only half the size it would be 200 years later.
Medieval cities were by no means metropolises. London had about 70,000 people in 1540, which was less than half the population of Paris or Rome. But they were important markets for agriculture and trade, so their growth was real. Cities provided jobs for miners, builders, soldiers, and merchants; they were centers of culture with fine churches, universities, and theaters; and they were sources of disease as well as food and shelter. In short, they were vital parts of England and Europe.
Cities usually had walls for defense, but these were made of earth and trees rather than stone, so they could not withstand long campaigns by armies using modern tactics.
Medieval towns were often built around a castle or monastery, or along the contour of a slope or riverbank. As a result, their roadways were steep, meandering, and uneven in width. Because the ground available within the medieval town walls was restricted, the streets were small. Sometimes houses would be built right up to the wall with only a narrow gap between building and street pavement.
In addition to these physical limitations, medieval towns also suffered from restrictions on trade, warfare, and mobility for other reasons. They may have been largely self-sufficient with respect to food production but not necessarily otherwise. For example, they might buy some goods outside the town gate (or even inside it!) but could only sell what they produced themselves. As for warfare: if you wanted to fight a war against someone else's city then you needed their permission, which wasn't always easy to get. And while cities sometimes fought each other, this happened mostly at local levels where the main form of aggression was theft (i.e., brigandage) rather than violence per se. Finally, as for mobility: although horses were used for transportation in many ways, they were not useful for travel beyond nearby areas until the late Middle Ages. Before that time, people moved about on foot or by oxcart.
Some examples of medieval towns are shown below. Each one shows the relationship between town and country, together with an indication of how far they were from another settlement of their kind.