Which city is known as the beggar town
• From house to house
• In front of the churches
• Begging techniques
In the Christian Middle Ages, begging was a generally recognized and hardly questioned way of making a living for the poor. Beggars were generally tolerated. The poor had a religiously motivated right to help and the rich had a duty to help. The traditional medieval alms-giving only expected the recipient of the alms to intercede for the salvation of the donor.
Since 1500 there has been an increasing trend towards differentiating between arms in need of support and those not in need of support. Of course, wandering beggars could not simply be ignored. So it often came to the practice that they were given a one-off aid, a meal, perhaps a small sum of money, an opportunity to stay overnight - but then they were asked to leave the city again.
Basically, the usual begging practice in Münster, as in other cities and areas, was begging from house to house. The house beggars went from door to door and asked for alms above all from the wealthy clergy and citizens. In addition to the beggars who went from house to house, there were also the so-called street beggars who stayed in a certain place and asked for alms.
Since 1550 there were always new begging regulations in Münster, which always contained a provision about begging times. Begging was only allowed in the mornings and afternoons, but prohibited at lunchtime and in the evenings. The citizens should have their afternoon and evening rest.
It can be assumed that in Münster, too, many needy people settled in front of or in the houses of worship, as they hoped that Christian motivated people would be willing to donate. However, in the tradition of Münster there are only few references to the practice, which is often used, especially in larger cities, that the poor stayed in front of the church doors and in the churches in order to address the wealthy there directly or to ask for alms by showing off physical ailments .
In or in front of the church, the wealthy were particularly willing to donate for two reasons. On the one hand, they were very strongly reminded of their Christian duty of charity. On the other hand, they knew that the intercessory prayer of the poor was very safe for them here.
For the impression beggars made, their physical condition was of fundamental importance. The techniques of professional begging therefore included, above all, effectively displaying illnesses, infirmities and physical deficiencies. The right to beg was based primarily on physical weaknesses. Emphasizing these appropriately was a means of portraying begging as legitimate and arousing compassion.
The illustration shows a gallery of ailments that may have aroused horror and pity in the people who passed by. Another area of begging techniques was in the field of artistic activities. The beggars played various musical instruments, sang or told stories to get alms.
The boundaries between showing off and pretending to be physical or mental weaknesses were fluid. This explains why the beggars were often encountered with suspicion of fraud. The discovery of fraudulent practices by the false poor, who stole alms, weakened the willingness to act benevolently towards the real poor and made the living conditions of these people even more difficult.
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