Distorted vision of the Middle Ages today
Creating a false vision of the Middle Ages today
The Modern, Improved Middle Ages vs Truth - Theoretical considerations
The phenomenon which I tentatively call the 'new medieval' has been with us for many years and is evolving just as quickly and analogically to the increase in ignorance among the interested people.
It is difficult to distinguish sometimes whether someone is interested in the Middle Ages or just its image today, manipulated, adapted to contemporary visions that shape people also ideologically, full of modernized forms and styles that correspond to today's ideas and expectations. Unfortunately, often guided by the thoughtless demands of 'political correctness', so common today, destroying both the common sense of the recipient and the passion of researchers.
In everyday life, this translates into our common opinions about the Middle Ages, which are likely to replace the search for historical truths.
It is all based on a naivety that has been cultivated over the years that helps create targeted visions.
Sometimes I talk to people about the Middle Ages and I hear: 'Oh yes, I love the Middle Ages! I love The Witcher, Game of Thrones (or other series)! I would like to have a sword at home!' etc ... well. It has nothing to do with the Middle Ages, even if I personally have nothing against these series. People who are interested in the Middle Ages will rather know Beowulf, Chanson de Roland or Aleksjada, maybe even listen to music of Hildegard von Bingen, etc... But they don't know it, for the most cases.
The fact is that original medieval tales, too, are idealized in an obvious way. But the chivalric virtues that the authors would like to instill in contemporary society, including the nobility, are placed on the pedestal and model. Art also has educational goals, and there is a very vague line between shaping society toward virtue or submission. The biggest problem, however, is still the manipulation of history instead of giving the objective truth. This is the basis of the story. It is said that 'history is written by the winners', and that is unfortunately a fact. Our textbooks changed many times, mainly due to ideological wars, although it should result from archaeological research and source analysis in the context of new finds and better research technologies. However, this is a strictly scientific field, and we will leave it without further analysis for now.
However, it is worth paying attention in this context to the distorted image of medieval swords in modern times…
While I am able to somehow understand this approach in pop culture (movies, books, games, etc.), I cannot completely understand how it is that producers, reconstructors and enthusiasts of the Middle Ages show such a large increase in ignorance. In fact, I am shocked to see every day production novelties that are supposed to pretend to be the Middle Ages, and in fact completely distort its true picture. What I am writing about applies to every field of creativity, art and business related to historical reconstruction nowadays.
So what is the problem? Where does it come from?
Ignorance of knowledge (or simply historical truth) has its origins not only in primitivism, but is also sometimes intentional. We are talking here about creating 'own Middle Ages' in such a way that it fits into someone's products or imagination. With time, such a creator begins to believe and defend this vision himself.
This kind of ignorance and one's own personalized vision of the Middle Ages unfortunately influences the style of creation of a given manufacturer, also in the case of swords and scabbards.
Passing on this false vision of the Middle Ages to your recipients opens up an area for many manipulations and, in fact, takes away the opportunity to learn about history, with all its nuances and discoveries.
This is condemnable.
In the subject of medieval swords, old errors and myths are reproduced, such as the one that says that the Templar formula forbade decorating weapons. Why check? Better to repeat the nonsense you have read and heard.
Why be up to date with archaeological finds and studies, since someone has a book from 50 years ago and works according to this book?
Or finally, why research and look for yourself when you can watch someone else do something? After all, if someone is just interested in business, then their own searches do not make sense. Mindlessly watching the work of others and creating your own interpretations of selectively collected sources becomes the norm, a manner that is enough to do business in the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages are a great era, full of twists in history, battles, discoveries, conquests, very important figures, works of art and a specific style, very characteristic forms and ideas.
We have a lot of sources that have survived to our times, in fact enough to be able to reconstruct the small, selected elements of the Middle Ages. Such as e.g. swords and scabbards.
Unfortunately, in many cases there is a lingering ignorance that has been cultivated over decades and has become a specific tradition that suits the comfort of some makers.
Most of us do not like to listen to criticism or showing mistakes, especially regarding the worldview and maybe also tastes that are not to be judged. But it just so happens that such changes make us more aware, and more humility can teach empathy and understanding also towards others.
We are almost closed to criticism, especially in the area of social media, which deprives us of the possibility of verifying our views or visions.
My humble appeal to artisans: don't make your own vision of the Middle Ages, with a whole host of mixing styles, visionary enhancements, and personal prejudices, please.
My humble appeal to customers: please check the knowledge and historical awareness of the producers you chose. It has a direct impact on what you buy, what you order.
Why do I care about this so much? Well, I believe in Truth and I really like the medieval era. If we are building on a false image of reality, it is as if we are building on sand. And knowledge is the best investment.
Maciej Kopciuch, A.D. 2022