Perhaps the best description of medieval barbers comes from an inscription on a 16th-century woodcut by German artist Jost Amman, presented in the first person from a man practicing the trade: “I am called everywhere, I can make many healing salves, I can cure new wounds, also fractures and chronic afflictions, Syphilis, Cataract, Gangrene, pull teeth, shave, wash and cut hair, I also like to bleed.”
It’s like the weirdest Tinder profile ever, right?
Barbers in the Middle Ages were excellent multi-taskers. It’s true: a lot of surgery in the Middle Ages was done by so-called barber-surgeons, a medieval precursor to the old dude with the combs in the blue water down the street. But they did a whole lot more than just cut people open. The list below features some of the surprising – and often disgusting – things that medieval barbers did besides just cut hair.