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50 Significant Facts About the 1500s (16th Century)

26Götz von Berlichingen

In 1504, a German knight named Götz von Berlichingen lost his right arm when an enemy cannon fire forced his own sword against him. He had two mechanical hands made for him, capable of holding a shield to a feathered pen. He was then known as Götz of the Iron Hand. - Source


27. A community of monks in the Austrian Alps in the 16th century invented a method of painting on canvas made from spider webs, and today less than 100 known examples exist.


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28. A 16th-century serial killer named Christman Genipperteinga is said to have murdered 964 individuals. This including 6 of his newborn babies, birthed from a sex slave he held captive 7 years. He was caught when she (slave) convinced him to let her go to the town where she betrayed him by dropping peas for the town’s men to follow and capture him. - Source


29. The reason that so many working-class British men wore a flat cap is that a 16th-century Act of Parliament designed to stimulate wool consumption penalized non-nobles over the age of 6 if they weren't wearing a woolen cap. - Source


30. Martin Luther was a great German Reformation leader, in 1543, who wrote a 65,000-word treatise called “On the Jews and their Lies” in which he argued that Jews should be shown no mercy or kindness, and that “these poisonous worms” should be expelled for all time. - Source


31Puritans

16th century Puritans saw common names as too worldly, so they opted for virtuous/religious names instead. This led to names such as If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned. - Source


32. Tycho Brahe was an enormously rich 16th-century Danish astronomer, who is well known for the pet moose that accompanied him everywhere and developed a strong taste for the beer, eventually becoming so intoxicated at a party that it fell down a flight of stairs and died from subsequent injuries. - Source


33. The symbol ⸮ has been proposed as a punctuation mark to denote irony since the 1580s. - Source


34. Martin Guerre, a French peasant of the 16th century, was at the center of a famous case of imposture. Several years after Martin Guerre had left his wife, child, and village, a man claiming to be him reappeared. He lived with Guerre's wife and son for 3 years. The false Martin Guerre was eventually suspected of the impersonation. He was tried, discovered to be a man named Arnaud du Tilh, and executed. The real Martin Guerre returned during the trial. - Source


35. During the Ming dynasty (approximately 1570 A.D.), powdered smallpox scabs were blown up the noses of the healthy. The patients would then develop a mild case of the disease but were immune to it from then on.


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36Virgin Mary

In 1524, a statue of Virgin Mary was charged as being a witch in Riga (the current capital of Latvia) and was sent to a trial by water in the Daugava River. The statue floated, so it was denounced as a witch and burnt at Kubsberg. - Source


37. Around the 16th century, there was a chamber in Romania’s Biertan fortified church where all the couples that wanted to divorce were forced to live, with only one item of everything: one bed, one spoon, one chair, etc. before breaking up. Only one couple in 300 years ended up divorcing. - Source


38. The word "swagger" was first used in 1590 by William Shakespeare in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." - Source


39. The gibberish language being spoken in the stop-motion clay animated series ‘Pingu’ is actually a language which has been used by the clowns and mimes since the 16th century. - Source


40. Yasuke was a 16th century African who traveled to Japan as a slave and caused such a sensation that a powerful warlord wished to see him. He thought his black skin was painted and ordered it to be scrubbed. However, they became friends and Yasuke was later given the prestigious rank of a Samurai.


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41Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast could be based on the real-life story of Petrus Gonsalvus, a 16th century royal with a condition that covered his entire face and body in hair, who married a beautiful Parisian woman named Catherine. - Source


42. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I paid £10,000 for what was believed to be a Unicorn horn but was actually a Narwhal tusk and is now part of the Crown Jewels and known as the Horn of Windsor. - Source


43. To avoid capture and persecution in England in the 16th century, Catholic priests would hide in “priest holes”, which were secret spaces in many homes that were constructed to hide a priest during a search. Sometimes priests died from starvation or asphyxiation. - Source


44. The coats of arms of the islands Åland and Öland are almost identical because the islands got mixed up in the 16th century since their names are so similar. - Source


45. Leonardo DaVinci, who is now renowned as a great Italian artist and inventor of the 16th century, also worked as a party planner. - Source


46The Adoration of the Christ Child

The Dutch 16th-century painting "The Adoration of the Christ Child" is speculated to feature a shepherd and an angel with Down syndrome. - Source


47. During the 16th century spike of increasingly large weapons, soldiers wielded Zweihänders, which were gigantic swords that reached 1.8 meters and could weigh 3.5 kg. Frisian hero, Pier Gerlofs Donia, reputedly beheaded several people with a single blow. - Source


48. Oda Nobunaga was a powerful daimyō (feudal lord) who nearly unified Japan before his death in the 16th century during the late Sengoku period. He supposedly had a homosexual relationship with vassal Mori Ranmaru, an especially attractive man. At the time, their relationship wasn't seen as uncommon but was seen as strong and admirable. - Source


49. 16th century Filipino hunters would use a rock yo-yo to hunt prey. The weapon was able to be pulled up and thrown back down for multiple attempts at the prey. - Source


50. Famous 16th-century Italian nobleman Alessandro de Medici was half black. In fact, many European noble families have relatively recent black ancestry. - Source

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