I've often come across readings that mentioned there were numerous holidays in calendars in use within the Christian Churches or Church controlled lands, with work stopping on worship days, feast days and so on. While this opens a wide geographical area I am curious if there are any sources that note holidays within a typical year for a European-centric area (say current day France-Germany-Italy) between the 11th-13th Centuries. What holidays were there and were these religious (feast or sanctified days) or were there celebrations for any other purpose (such as we have for memorial days within many current calendars).

2 Answers 2


Saints Days, in particular, the local saint's day Shrove Tuesday Lent Easter

Christmas was less important.

In any area of importance four quarterly Saint's days would be identified with local days when legal actions occurred and markets occurred in the local large city. As such courts were either rotating, or held on feudal bases, it is usual for surrounding regions to have different days.

Memorial days as we currently understand them are a modern thing. All holidays, as saints days, were in memory of X. The most important being in memory of the suffering of our Lord.

Any calendar of relevant saints days will be local in effect, because locality defined the importance of particular saint's days.

  • Nice overview, thanks. I figured Saints would be local, I got into some of that from being a fan of the Cadfael series, but didn't think of legal days.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Sep 3, 2012 at 12:48

If we're talking about strictly catholic holidays, a good example that became popular across medieval Europe is the Feast of Corpus Christi, which started in Germany in the middle of 13th century. Soon it has spread both in Western and Eastern Europe, after pope Urban IV decision to make it official for all Latin Rite countries.

In different areas of Europe, local saints were often connected with previous, pagan beliefs and folk traditions. Catholic church adopted a lot of such beliefs and transformed them its own way. Good example for that can be St. John's Eve, which took advantage of St. John being connected with water, to take over traditional midsummer events from pagan era.

Another one would be All Souls' Day, started at the very end of 10th century, by Odilo, abott of Cluny, which was also a day connected with pagan traditions across all Europe.

It's worth to mention that with saints days, religious importance of particular saint wasn't the only priority. It also relied on which saints were patrons to local churches and monasteries, especially to those most important for local community, which was changing with time and was sometimes determined by random happenings.

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