Surprising Medieval Discoveries That Changed The World

By Antonia Čirjak on February 24 2020 in Society

  • In 1302, an Italian navigator Flavio Gioja develped one of the earliest versions of what we know know to be a compass.
  • It is actually not known who invented eyeglasses, but the historical records tells us that is was a person from Italy.
  • The printing press is definitely one of the biggest discoveries of the world's history.

The medieval period was a time of discovery, innovation, and revolution. It marked the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the birth of the Renaissance. It was the time of the Black Death and numerous wars. There were amazing discoveries in the medieval period, but there were also major enhancements to already existing technologies found all over the world. Here's a list of the most important and surprising discoveries made in The Dark Ages.

7. Compass

The development of the compass reflected the need for safe travel of navigators and sailors through the Mediterranean sea. Being able to tell the cardinal points of Earth and determine their directions was critical for long sea voyages in the medieval period. Don't get me wrong, this is important even today, but it was kind of harder for the navigators in The Dark Ages. The earliest versions of the modern compass were developed in 1302 by the Italian navigator Flavio Gioja. 

6. Astrolabe

Used primarily by navigators and astronomers, astrolabes could calculate the positions of the celestial bodies, as well as the latitude and local time of a particular region. Prototypes of an astrolabe existed since antiquity, but it was the middle ages that provided us with more sophisticated and more accurate versions of this device. The designs of astrolabe also inspired the designs of the medieval clock.

5. Stirrups 

Stirrups are rings or frames where horse riders would put their feet for additional support while riding, allowing them to fight and control the mount more effectively when on the horse. They are originally from China, arriving in Europe around the 7th century, where they were adapted and used extensively in military warfare. The next time you mount your horse, remember the ingenuity of medieval military.

4. Knights And Heraldry

You most likely already know about this one given that it is one of the most iconic inventions of the medieval period. It was actually the arrival of Norman knights that introduced these iconic face-covering helmets and kite shields we all know and love. After the Battle of Hastings and the debut of mounted knights, their armors and weapons continued to get upgraded for the next 200 years. They also had their own coat of arms on shields and banners for recognition in battle.

3. Eyeglasses

You might be using them right now to read this article, and it is all thanks to them. Well, we are not sure who invented them, but we know that it was someone from Italy. The origins of the device can be traced back to the late 13th century, and it was Roger Bacon, a medieval English philosopher who made the earliest recorded comments of the use of eyeglasses. They made it possible to correct human vision and help with both short and long sight. They are heralded as one of the most useful middle age discoveries. 

2. Tik-Tok

No, not the popular video-sharing application. The discovery we are talking about is the mechanical clock, used primarily in clock towers. Even though timekeeping devices have existed since ancient times, it was actually the technology of middle ages that enabled accurate timekeeping. Counting minutes and seconds before that was nearly impossible because people had to rely on nature, i.e., the movements of the Sun.

1. The Printing Press

This discovery is considered to be one of the most important medieval discoveries. The construction of the press was first revealed in the year 1439, in a lawsuit in Strasbourg. The printing press was what made it possible to produce books without writing them by hand, which was usually done by monks. The press laid the foundation for the mass production of books in later periods of history, and it also gave the monks much needed rest.

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