The year 1566 was tough for the Dutch. It included a plague, a great freeze, floods, and drought, not to mention a Spanish invasion. Dutch artist Rien Poortviiet has created a gorgeous volume of paintings (Daily Life in Holland in the Year 1566 And the Story of My Ancestor's Treasure Chest, representing life as his research showed it to be during that year. He shows in Rembrandtesque detail what clothes people wore, how they got dressed, the misery of the poor, and numerous details of it daily life. For example, many cities had laws regulating the length of knives that could be worn -- perhaps society's first attempt at weapon control. (No doubt the Dutch Sharp Edge Association, also known as the Netherlands Rapier Association, protested vigorously.) The town would hang a wooden knife cut to the s proper length at the town gate so visitors could measure up.
Poortviiet revels in revealing the smallest details. He shows examples of engagement ring and the medallions that peasants their hats. Some were quite humorous; evidently the middle ages wasn't quite as scandalized by the scatological as we have become. Houses had no r house might be numbers, so your house might be the one three houses down from the red boot - the red boot being the sign of a local tanner, perhaps. Men going out for a beer would say, I'm going to pick up a circle," so naturally women getting together for needlework in the evening would have a "sewing circle."
Sanitation was unknown. Garbage and trash were thrown into the streets If a canal passed by the front of a house, it became the catchall of all the debris. Out houses were built over the canal, which was then used for rinsing dishes. It was, however, forbidden to burn deathbed straw within the city limits. Fire itself:: was a constant danger and the city strictly regulated the way houses could be built. Homes with tile or slate roofs were subsidized and, depending on the value of the house, the owner was required to have one or two leather pails on hand, One job of the fire chief was to make sure that there were open holes kept in the ice during the winter for fighting fires.
Traveling was dangerous. Wolves were common, as were robbers and cutthroats. Usually one could tell when approaching a city by the smell, and the sight of bodies hanging from trees. It was required that the condemned confess before being executed so torture was common and the devices used to extract confessions were ingeniously designed to be both beautiful and effective. They are rather vividly portrayed here. Executions were a form of entertainment and it was common for the entire family to attend. The town bailiffs income was derived from the number of criminals or malefactors he was able to torture or execute. (And we thought ticket quotas were bad!) Of course, it wasn't just criminals who got their dues, Anabaptists were also prime fodder for the rack and gallows.
In fact, 1566 was a year or great ferment in the church. The Reformation was beginning to take hold and the anti-idolaters were smashing church icons in a maddening attempt to vent their frustration against the government and the church. All this history is portrayed in hundreds of beautifully detailed paintings and sketches, each supplemented by short text. A magnificent volume.