posted 05-20-2006 03:29 PM
Communicating across Europe in the middle ages was a difficult thing. Most people beleive that even in the best weather, a message sent by horseback, pony-express style would take about six months to get across the continent.
The roads were dangerous, and in many cases, sending messages by boat was the preferred route. Boats of course have a limit to where they can go, often leading to onerous detours, and a longer travel time.
Carrier pigeons could apparently send messages a little bit faster, and in worse conditions, but even pigeons have limits, and the message would have to be smaller, either written in a tiny script, or of only a few sentences.
Many people seem to think that this is the only way news could travel across Europe. Was it though?
Just about every tall hill had either a church or a castle on top of it.
Stories mention church bells ringing all across europe to commemorate certain events. Was this just a clamorous chiming, or was there some amount of codification? Today, church bells can be used to toll out the hours quite easily, and most people can tell the difference between the bells being rung for a wedding, and those being rung for a funeral. At sea, ship's bells are still used to send various messages, usually of very general nature... Natives in many parts of the world use drums, or wind instruments to send detailed messages across long distances. Would it be so odd for our ancestors to have had a similar system.
Most pictures of castles feature a large number of banners flying in the wind. Many of these seem to have had a heraldric nature, probably indicating who was around the castle, but did they all have this sort of meaning? Ships today are capable of sending very detailed messages through the use of special flags. This concept has been around for quite a while, and most of our current Naval flags were designed around the 1800s. There is a flag for every letter of the alphabet, and all ten numbers. Would it be so odd to see some similar system at work in medieval times?
Some people may suggest smoke signals and flashing lights, but I do not know that there is any evidence of this being done in Medieval Europe.
Anybody have some mor solid documentation on the speed, and nature of information that might have been transmitted across Europe by unconventional means?