Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Animals in the mediaeval streets of London, Paris, Frankfurt, Nuremberg

Illustration of the Hotel Dieu, France. From
In the twelfth century, half the householders of Paris kept pigs which roamed the streets in search of provender. As unofficial refuse collectors, they were invaluable, tut they tended to trip up pedestrians and tangle up traffic. After the heir to the throne had fractured his skull when a pig ran between his horse´s legs, an edict was issued that there should be no more pig-rearing in towns. Little attention seems to have been paid, however -or perhaps the custom waned and then increased again- for in the time of Francois I, four centuries later, the executioner was empowered to capture all the stray pigs he could find and take them to the Hotel Dieu for slaughter. London suffered from the same nuisance, and in 1292 four men were sworn in as ¨killers of swine¨ with the task of capturing and slaughtering ¨such swine as should be found wandering in the King´s highway, to  whomsoever they might belong, within the walls of the City and the suburbs thereof¨. In such cities as Frankfurt and Nuremberg, it was the custom to keep not only pigs, but sheep, cows and fowls as well. There, curiously enough, it was the pigsties rather than the pigs which were regarded as anuisance, and in 1481 the Rath of Frankfurt was compelled to rule that pigsties should no longer be located in front of houses on the public street.
Hotel Dieu. From
Excerpt from The Fine Art of Food, by Reay Tannahill. Pages 58/59. Great Britain, 1970


  1. It is a very interesting subject. I have read that the excrement of horses was a huge problem in European cities before the automobiles.

    In Istanbul horses have dissappeared from the city scene except for a few gypsies who still ride them. But there are still a significant number of stray dogs and cats who survive by eating thrown away food, or fed by inhabitants of streets they roam.
    Actually they have always been around. At the Ottoman era stray dogs were regarded as guardians of nighborhoods by barking at strangers. Mahmut II, the sultan who tried to modernize the empire wanted to get rid of the stray dogs of Istanbul and sent most of them away to an island on Marmara sea where they starved to death. Their voices terrified the city's inhabitants who loved those animals very much and an earthquake that happened a short while later was interpreted as the curse of the dogs. Thank God, some survived and they're still part of this beautiful city.

  2. Hello Ali, your comment is a post in itself, really interesting! Today I was reading that the streets of Technotitlan were cleaner because they were mostly vegetarian, except for the ancestors of the chiuaua dog that were raised for food and the turkeys.
    Thank you for sharing,



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