4 weird and wonderful medieval battle stories

  1. The war of the bucket
    1. We’ve all had frivolous arguments. But history seems to show us that even the smallest molehill can become a mountain... and end in death. One such argument peaked in Italy in 1325 when Modenese soldiers stole a bucket from the main city well in the Bologna capital. The Bolognese considered this humiliating and demanded the return of the bucket - but the stubborn Modenese refused. Things had been tense before, but this bucket was the final straw. The Bolognese rode out with 32,000 men to teach the Modenese a lesson. But the Modenese met this army in Bolognese territory with 7,000 men - and beat them! The Bolognese ran back to their city and locked themselves behind the walls. It’s said that the Modenese stole another bucket from a well outside the city walls as a trophy, and this bucket remains in the city of Modena to this day.
  2. The battle of the bad pint
    1. A bad pint is rarely greeted with a smile - people can get pretty serious about their beer. But it’s still unusual for a rubbish drink to lead to battles and bloodshed. In 1355, in Oxford’s Swindlestock Tavern, boozy student duo Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield exchanged rude words with the pub owner, John Croyden. It began as a comment on the foul taste of his ale, but soon escalated to the students splashing their booze into the taverner’s face and assaulting him. The next morning greeted them with more than just a hangover - after a retaliation attack from some less-than-pleased locals, the mayor ordered the two students to be arrested in an attempt to ease tensions. This sparked outrage amongst 200 students who took to the streets in violent protest, attacking the mayor. This became a two-day battle with the locals that left 63 students and about 30 locals dead. Clearly, alcohol and intellectuals were not a good mix in medieval England!
  3. The Battle of Morgarten
    1. Underestimate your enemy and you’ll die. Leopold of Austria believed that he would achieve a sweeping victory when he decided to deliver a surprise attack against the Swiss confederacy in 1315. His was a top notch army of knights - the Swiss were little more than a rabble of peasants - but they were smart. Having heard of an approaching attack, the Swiss created a road block between Lake Ägerisee and Morgarten Pass. To one side there was a swamp - to the other, a steep slope. They awaited the arrival of the knights. The ambush was set. Once the Austrian army reached the roadblock, the peasants appeared. They hurled rocks and logs down onto the intruders from above. The knights had nowhere to run - they were trapped between a mountain lined with angry peasants and a swamp place. They were annihilated! This was the first time that an army of peasants defeated a feudal force. 
  4. Cheese vs. sardines
    1. Ever tried to give up chocolate for Lent? It’s no fun. And the Spanish certainly seemed to feel the same way back in medieval times when they were trying to give up all their delicious food and fast for Lent. So a parody came into being, a humorous tale spun throughout Spanish medieval tradition of Lord Carnal’s war with Lady Lent. The story goes that Lord Carnal commanded an army of meat, cheese and wine against Lady Lent’s army of vegetables and sardines. It symbolised the Spaniards’ internal battle with desire and their reluctance to fast. Sadly, the gluttonous Lord Carnal was defeated and imprisoned by frugal Lady Lent and her army of greens. The end of the battle symbolised the start of the Lent season.