The Legacy of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages in the West (ca AD 500-1450/1500)
The World in Transition, AD 395-1500
The Three Heirs to the Roman Empire: 6th-7th centuries: a new period in the history of world civilization; clear that no one empire would rule the Mediterranean world; by the 7th century, three successor civilizations, the Byzantine, the Islamic, and the western European, had developed, each with its own culture, its own religion, and its own language; these three civilizations quickly became rivals.
The Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean World at the Death of Justinian I.
Byzantine civilization: (5th century-1453) descended from the eastern half of the Roman Empire; capital was Constantinople; language was Greek; it combined Roman imperial traditions of government with intense pursuit of the [Orthodox] Christian faith; aspects of this culture (including the Orthodox religion) spread into Eastern Europe and Russia during the Kievan Rus period (AD 882-1240) and the Appanage Period (1054-1480).
Islamic civilization: (7th century-ca. 1500) founded by the prophet Muhammad; language was Arabic; government and culture permeated with this dynamic new religion; it created an Empire in the old Near East, along the African coasts of the Mediterranean, & it spread into the Indian subcontinent.
Western Christendom (6th century-1500); its language was Latin for the educated, most often the clergy; the laity spoke one of many vernacular languages descended from Latin or Germanic tongues; economy & governmental structures were weak; it slowly moved toward political and religious cohesiveness based on the Christian religion; became dynamic, expansionistic, and creative during the High Middle Ages (1050-1300).
The Eastern Heirs of the Roman Empire
Byzantine Civilization (5th century-1453)
Chronology of the Byzantine Empire from the fall of Rome to 1453: 1) ca. ad 500, the Empire consisted of Greece and the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor, Palestine, and Egypt;
The Emperor Justinian (Mosaic from San Vitale, Ravenna).
2) in 527, Justinian became emperor (ruled to 565), and tried to revive the Roman Empire; result was 30 years of wars to oust the Ostrogoths and other Germans from Italy and North Africa; war exhausted the human and material resources of the empire and devastated and divided Italy; 3) following centuries, the Byzantines lost most of their territory around the eastern & southern edges of the Mediterranean; hence, the Empire consisted of Asia Minor, the Balkans, parts of Italy, and Crete and Cyprus; 4) decline of the Byzantine Empire took centuries: attacks from the east by the Turks weakened it; during the Fourth Crusade (1204), Europeans sacked Constantinople; the Empire recovered under the Paleologi Dynasty (1261-1453), but it lacked unity and was fragmented; Constantinople finally fell to the Moslem Turks in 1453, an event considered shattering by Europeans.
Character and Achievements of the Byzantine Empire: 1) its capital was the defendable Constantinople, a rich and sophisticated city of 1,000,000;
The City of Constantinople.
2) it developed separately from Western Europe; the language was Greek; and its culture was an ethnically diverse blend of the Roman, the Hellenistic, the Persian, and the Semitic; 3) its church also moved away from the West; doctrinal disputes; unwillingness to acknowledge the authority of the Roman pope, recognizing instead the Patriarch of Constantinople; church and secular state were linked, and according to the doctrine of Caesaropapism, the emperor was both a secular and religious leader; matters involving religion were also political, such as the iconoclastic controversy of the 8th-9th centuries; this effort to remove images from the church failed, but it helped bring about the split from the Western Church in 1054; 4) Orthodox missionaries like Cyril and Methodius carried the faith into the Balkans and invented the Cyrillic script so the Bible could be written in Slavic; 5) Byzantine works of art and architecture include mosaics, like the portraits of Justinian and Theodora in San Vitale (Ravenna) or the Hagia Sophia (=Holy Wisdom);
The Church of Hagia Sophia (Constaninople).
The Interior of the Church of Hagia Sophia.
6) Byzantines helped preserve Roman law and Greek culture: laws were codified by Justinian (the Corpus juris civilis): laws from the reign of Hadrian to that of Justinian=the Code; a summary of opinions of great jurists=the Digest; legal principles=the Institutes; & some of Justinian's laws=the Novels; the Byzantines also helped preserve Greek learning, like the teachings of Aristotle; Western Europeans in part learned of it from them.
Kievan Rus and its Culture, AD 882-1240
Eastern Europe and the migration of the Slavic Peoples: When the Slavs arrived is uncertain; they mixed with peoples like the Huns, the Bulgars, and the Magyars; three distinct Slavic groups emerged:
Slavic Migration Before ca. AD 700.
1) Western Slavs: in the 7th century, they migrated west, founded Kingdoms of Poland & Bohemia; converted to Catholicism by German missionaries in the 9-10th centuries; also converted were the non-Slavic Magyars, who founded the Kingdom of Hungary; Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians henceforth linked to Western European culture; 2) Southern Slavs in the Balkans; some, like the Serbs converted to Orthodox Christianity and hence linked to Byzantine cultural tradition; other, like the Slovenes and Croats became Roman Catholic and were more European oriented; 3) Eastern Slavs and the Origins of Kievan Rus: Eastern Slavs migrated into European Russia and Ukraine in the 6th century; contact with the Vikings who traded along Russian rivers from the Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas and built cities like Novgorad (=new fort).
Origins of Kievan Rus uncertain; over time, its grand princes came to rule the Dnieper region and came into contact with the Byzantines to the south; Orthodox Christianity arrived in the 980s, when Vladimir I converted and married Anna, sister of a Byzantine ruler; the new faith grew and became a unifying factor for the Russian people and a foundation of the Russian state; also meant that Russia moved along a different path of cultural development than the West; high point of Kievan Rus was the reign of Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054); Kievan Rus declined in part because succession problems led to civil wars and the Mongol invasions.
Principalities of Kievan Rus.
Appanage and Mongol Russia (1054-ca. 1500) followed, a period of extreme fragmentation; 1) a number of important states (Moscow, Novgorad, Vladimir-Suzdal, etc) arose and competed for power;
Cathedral in Suzdal.
Fortified Monastery at Suzdal.
2) invasions by the Mongols from Central Asia and Teutonic knights from the West; and 3) ethnic divisions within Russia grew (Great Russians around Moscow, Ukrainians, White Russians, etc.). 4) most important: Moscow rose in political & religious importance; a) political rise possible because the Muscovite princes cooperated with the Mongols; in 1328, Ivan Kalita named Grand Prince; during the reign of Ivan the Great (r. 1462-1505), northern Russia was united under a single ruler, the foundations of a strong central government were established, and Mongol rule ended (1480); his most important successor: Ivan the Terrible (r. 1533-1584), the first Russian Tsar.
Map of the Kremlin.
b) religious importance because the metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church settled in Moscow; over the years, the Orthodox Church increased its power and wealth; the Metropolitan of Moscow was crowned Patriarch in 1589; Moscow proclaimed the “third Rome,” the rightful successor of Rome and Constantinople. “Two Romes have fallen, the third Rome will be Moscow and a fourth is not to be.” This new confidence in their faith inspired the building of great churches like the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin.
Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin.
By the 16th century, political & religious foundations of the future Russian state laid and clear that Russian civilization would develop in isolation from the West and be different from it and a competitor with it; nonetheless, the Russians would often envy Western European civilization and borrow wholesale from it.
Islamic Civilization and the Islamic Empire, AD 622-1453
Introduction: Arabs conquered a major Empire, which extended from the Indus River to the north African coast of the Mediterranean to Spain and southern France (632 and 732): they brought their language, their culture, and their religion to these territories, 50% of the once great Roman Empire. What gave this people the energy that made possible these accomplishments?
The Expansion of Islam.
Birth of Islam: Creator was the prophet Muhammad (b. ca. 570 in Mecca); a merchant, he converted to a monotheism in 610 and preached a new religion that drew on and completed Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad's message angered local officials, many of who were polytheistic; he and his followers fled to Medina in 622 (hijra and the first year of the Muslim calendar); converts found in Medina; returned to Mecca 8 yrs later captured the city. He destroyed idols in the Ka'ba, making it into a Moslem shrine; today the Ka'ba is goal of pilgrims who embark on the Haj; Muhammad's died in AD 632; most of Arabia had accepted or been forced to accept Islam and had been united.
Muhammad's religious teachings: Koran contains God's revelations to the Prophet Muhammad; further, it contains much that is found in the Old Testament and the Torah. Koran teaches Muslims The Five Pillars of Faith: 1) Recite the words of witness, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet”; 2) Pray five times a day facing Mecca; 3) Give alms to the poor; 4) Fast from dawn to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Moslem year; and 5) Make a pilgrimage or Haj to Mecca during one's lifetime.
The Ka'ba at Mecca.
Islamic Pilgrims Circle the Ka'ba.
No institutionalized church or clergy or elaborate ritual; the mosque was a place of worship and teaching by scholars; no statues or religious images; a strict moral code, the virtues of temperance, humility, justice, generosity, tolerance, obedience, and courage; a ban on alcohol and pork; polygamy was permitted, with four wife limit; slavery was practiced, but Muhammad encouraged the freeing slaves; a Day of Judgment; religion and politics mixed, hence the holy war, or a Jihad. The sacred books: the Koran; the Hadith (sayings and traditions of the Prophet); and the Shari’a (Islamic law).
The Spread of Islam: 632-661: conquest of Persia and parts of India, the Middle East, and North Africa as far as Tripoli. 662-750, Moslems conquered Armenia, the rest of North Africa, Spain and the southern parts of France. Muslim expansion into Europe at Battle of Tours (732), but failed to take Constantinople. The conquests meant that the Moslems controlled the Mediterranean Sea and its trade routes.
Islamic Doctrinal Split: Issues involved selection of Muhammad's successors (the caliph), and the interpretation of the Koran; result: the Shi'ites and Sunnis; both agreed on law and religious practices. Shi'ites: only a direct descendant of Muhammad could rule and be an intermediary between man and God and strict fundamentalists about the Koran. Sunnis: any capable Muslim could be elected caliph and they were liberal on the interpretation of the Koran. A third group emerged later, the Sufis, or mystics believed they could communicated directly with God and receive special inner knowledge. They also lived an austere life of withdrawal from this world.
Government and Economy: Muslim empire divided into provinces; originally had a strong central government under a caliph, who held supreme civil, military, and religious power; first caliph was Abu Bakr; 4th caliphate was Ali (656–61); afterwards problems over succession developed and no one caliph ruled the Islamic world. Most important caliphates: the Umayyads (660-750; Damascus) and the Abbasids (750-1258; Baghdad). After the Abbasids massacred the Umayyads in 750, one member escaped to Spain, where he established the Caliphate of Córdoba; it lasted until 1031. Additional caliphates were established in North Africa, including the Fatimids (968-1171) and the Ayyubids (1173-1250) in Egypt, the Alids (788-985) and the Almoravids (1056-1147) in Morocco, and the Almohades (1130-1269) in Tunsia, Algeria, Morocco, and parts of Spain. Economy based on commerce (China to the Mediterranean) and on manufacturing (silk, cloth, tapestries, and carpets; jewelry, perfumes, and spices; precious metals and swords from Damascus and Toledo).
Culture contributions of Islam: Learning valued; works of ancient Greek, Roman, and Asian science and philosophy were preserved, many of which later reached western Europe; scientists and geographers invented the astrolabe; mathematicians perfected algebra and transmitted the system of Arabic numbers, first developed in India, to the West; philosophers included Avicenna, (Canon of Medicine); the 12C philosopher Averroës wrote commentaries on Aristotle and Plato and tried to reconcile the teachings of Aristotle with those of Muhammad; he taught that religious truth was accepted by faith, while philosophical truth was reached through reasoning. Islamic religious art is highly decorative; no representation of human or animal forms for religious purposes; found frequently were geometric or floral designs. Secular art, humans and animals were represented, often hunting or fighting battles. Islamic Architecture: the arch, the dome, and the minaret.
A Mosque in Bosnia.
Collapse of the Muslim Empire: 1) almost inevitable; empire extended from Spain to India and encompassed many different peoples; nothing in common save their religion and Arabic; no lasting political unity. 2) Further the invasion of the Seljuk Turks reduced the Abbasids to religious leaders in 1055. These Turks defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert (1071) and seized much of Asia Minor, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Their power declined when the Mongols defeated them at Kösedagh (1243). Then, during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Ottoman Turks, who had converted to Islam in the 9th and 10th centuries, won control of Asia Minor and eventually conquered Constantinople itself in 1453. Their empire in Asian Minor, southern Europe (the Balkans), and North Africa lasted until World War I. 3) Moreover, the advance of Islam had alarmed European Christians, and they launched crusades against Moslem control of the eastern Mediterranean and the Holy Places in Palestine. During the same period, Christians retook most of Spain and the island of Sicily. Islamic religion of course survived the collapse of the Empire, and it is firmly rooted in North Africa, parts of southern Europe and Russia, the Near East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. 4) Nonetheless, today some 935,000,000 people practice Islam, about 22% of the world's population.
Western Christendom During the Middle Ages
Introduction: Medieval Civilization (at first the least promising of the three heirs to the Roman empire), fused three great cultural traditions: the Greco-Roman (or Classical), with its emphasis on man and the use of Reason; the Judaeo-Christian, with its emphasis on God and Faith; and the Germanic, with its literature, its languages, and its political practices. Because many of the essential components of western civilization are almost mutually exclusive, this civilization has been dynamic and open to change.
Three Periods of the Early Middle Ages
The Early phase (ca 500-750): violence and chaos
Five Themes: a) barbarian Germans like the first Frankish king Clovis (481-511) seek to create monarchies; b) these struggling monarchies fought each other for domination, ending the peace and unity of the Roman world and beginning to establish the basis for the nations of modern Europe; c) a drastic political, economic, cultural (even surviving works, like Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, evidence this decline), and urban decline (population of Rome drops to 40,000); d) invasions and threats of invasions from the Byzantines (Italy, 6th century), Slavs, and Scandinavians; and
The Baptism of Clovis (Illuminated Manuscript).
e) the Church undertakes a major effort to convert barbarians like Clovis (496) with the missionary work of St Boniface (?680-754) and others, asserts that the spiritual authority of the church was superior to political authority (Pope Gelasius I [r. 590-604] and the Theory of the Two Swords) and preserve learning and civilization (monastic libraries, the Book of Kells and Gregorian chant).
The Four Evangelists from the Book of Kells.
The Frankish Empire.
The Carolingian Period, ca 750-987
Introduction: By 750, institutions & culture of the Germanic West were still modest; then a revival for about a century; called the Carolingian Renaissance, and it was largely due to Charlemagne and his royal family; a lesser but similar revival associated with the English kings of Wessex like Alfred the Great.
The Carolingians: important in Frankish history from 714 [Charles Martel] to 987 [the coronation of Hugh Capet], began as an ambitious family of feudal landowners. They held the hereditary office of Mayor of the Palace = the Chief Administrators of the Frankish kingdom; under Charles Martel, they halted the Muslim advance at the Battle of Tours (or Poitiers, 732); they collaborated with other nobles to undermine the Merovingians, and, under Pepin the Short, deposed (with the aid of the church) them in 751. Close ties between the Frankish Monarchy and the Church are important, so it is worth asking why the Pope supported Pepin in deposing the old kings. The answer is simple: the Pope and the Church needed a military protector like Pepin and Pepin sought to use Christianity to justify his claim to the throne and unify the Franks. Pepin offered the so-called “Donation of Pepin”, a promise to guarantee papal control over various lands in Italy, and in return the Pope reanointed him as King of the Franks and gave him the title Protector of Rome. Both sides gained from this new alliance of convenience. The Frankish kings could claim to rule by the grace of God while the Church gained military protection, security in its own lands, and Frankish support for missionary work.
A Statue of Charlmagne (modern).
The Age of Charlemagne, 768-814: Pepin died in 768; his sons, Charles and Carloman, divided the Frankish kingdom; Carloman died in 771, allowing Charles, or Charlemagne, to become the undisputed ruler. 1) Natural leader and a man of great energy, Charlemagne transformed the Frankish kingdom into a great empire and he then presided over a remarkable cultural flowering. Charlemagne enjoyed success as a military leader, and he succeeded in conquering the Lombards in northern Italy, the Saxons in the east, the Muslims in northern Spain, not to mention numerous other peoples. By about 800, he had created the largest state in Europe after the fall of Rome.
The Empire of Charlemagne.
2) Within his kingdom, Charlemagne provided good government. Royal commands (capitularii) were usually issued after consultations with the great nobles and the clergy; these commands were carried out by missi dominici, royal officials who served as representatives of the kings and who prevented abuses by local officials; and officials and nobles were bound to Charlemagne by an oath of allegiance - they provided service, especially military service, and were rewarded with land (the benefice or fief). 3) Charlemagne a genuinely religious man who believed that God made kings responsible for the Church; encouraged missionary work, converting the Saxons by the sword when necessary; and he enhanced the prestige of the papacy by advocating reform of the Church under papal guidance. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor in Saint Peter's Basilica on Christmas Day, 800; some historians see this coronation as the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire, which, in various guises, will exist until 1806.
The Coronation of Charlemagne (AD 800).
Exterior of Charlemagne's Church at Aachen.
The Interior of Charlemagne's Church at Aachen.
4) the Carolingian Renaissance: Remarkable cultural flowering that received royal support. Palace School at Aachen or Aix-la-Chapelle; Alciun its director; it soon attracted the best minds of Europe, making Charlemagne’s capital at Aachen a great cultural center. Scriptoria at Aachen produced books in a new and clear script, Carolingian miniscule, which later became the basis for modern script and typefaces.
Carolingian Miniscule (Beginning of the Book of Exodus).
Charlemagne also encouraged the opening of schools at monasteries and bishoprics, many of which sustained the Carolingian Renaissance in the centuries to come. Important books from the Carolingian Renaissance include Einhard's biography of Charlemagne, one of our few primary sources for his reign. Representative of Carolingian achievements in the arts are Charlemagne’s palace church at Aachen, illuminated manuscripts, and religious carvings; these works are in a new style, one derived from a mixture of classical, Byzantine, Germanic, and Celtic styles.
The Disintegration of the Carolingian Monarchy, 814-987: Charlemagne’s Empire did not survive for long after his death; its failure may be easily explained: 1) The Empire itself was never truly unified; it contained ethnicly and linguistically diverse peoples; its relationship to the Church was ambiguous, for Church leaders wanted independence; it was threatened by enemies on all its frontiers (Muslims to the south; Slavs and Magyars to the east; Vikings and Norsemen to the north); and the great Frankish nobles asserted themselves against Charlemagne’s successors, thus undermining the power of the central government. 2) Worse, Charlemagne's heirs not outstanding; his son, Louis the Pious, was indecisive, and he divided the empire into thirds, giving each son a kingdom, and he made the eldest Lothair emperor and gave him vague authority over the others. Not unexpectedly, civil war resulted, and by the Treaty of Verdun (843) Charlemagne’s empire was split into three parts: Charles the Bald ruled the West Franks [France], Louis the German ruled the East Franks [Germany], and Lothair ruled the central lands. 3) The central kingdom quickly disappeared, leaving the West Franks and the East Franks as the dominant groups (Treaty of Mersen, 870) To a certain extent, the history of Western Europe from the 10th to the middle of the 20th centuries has been dominated by the struggle between the descendants of these groups over the old Frankish Middle Kingdom.
Europe after the Division of Charlemagne's Empire.
Ninth and tenth centuries marked by: 1) the decline of the monarchy and the rise of great nobles; 2) feudalism and manorialism develop; 3) the Church to become bolder in its claims for power and independence and in its effort to assert its superiority over the state, thus setting the stage for one of the great struggles of the High Middle Ages; 4) invaders from the north devastated Europe in the 9th and 10th centuries, bringing about a political, economic, social, and cultural decline almost as severe as that which followed the fall of Rome. Some of these invaders, we might note, claimed land and settled down, like the Normans in Normandy in 911 and others in England and Ireland. Only about 987, when Hugh Capet is crowned king of France, does it appear that this general decline will be halted and then reversed
Feudalism and Manorialism
Feudalism as a political institution and manorialism as the socio-economic system that supported emerged from the wreckage of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th and 10th centuries. Feudalism necessary due to decline of a powerful centralized government in the years after 814; political, military, judicial, and other functions of government exercised at the local level; feudalism was a political arrangement that provided for the performance of these functions of government by a class of landed nobles. Nobles bound by an interdependent system of personal ties; the heart was the feudal contract, which established relations between lord and vassal, the most important of which were protection and service. The noble class developed a value system (later called chivalry); knights were to be Christian, brave, faithful, generous, and protective of women and the poor; evidence of this code may be found the French epic The Song of Roland and the Spanish El Cid.
The Feudal System
Manorialism: Power and prestige of the noble class based on land (the fief), which supported the lord, his family, and his soldiers. Landed estate organized as manors; each a self-supporting economic unit; the lord provided the land and protection; serfs provided the labor.
A Typical Medieval Manor.
Serfs (=landless peasants) bound to the soil; could not be bought or sold individually; they passed new owners when land changed hands. Medieval farming methods primitive; yield was low. Three-field system was used, with one field planted in the autumn, one in the spring, and one fallow. Cultivated fields were farmed in strips, largely because of the turning radius of the heavy plow. Serf's life was difficult and usually short; a serf usually lived out his entire life without leaving the manor upon which he was born. He owed his lord labor on the lord's land; he paid the lord in kind to have his wheat ground, his bread baked, and his grapes pressed; he owed his lord labor on roads and buildings; he could not leave the manor without his lord’s permission; and his marriage might be arranged by his lord. In return, the serf had the right to live on the manor and to farm his strips of land. A certain degree of security and order governed the serf's existence.
The High Middle Ages, 1050-1300
The 11th Century European Agricultural Revolution: it
make the High Middle Ages possible and had long been in preparation; 4
factors prepared ground for it: the end of the wave of raids that
swept Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries; the clearing and
of new land and the spread of the three-field rotation system;
innovations like the heavy plow and the horse collar;
The Medieval Plow (Moldboard Plow).
and the use of wind & water mills for power.
Results: a dramatic increase in the supply of food in western Europe; dramatic population growth; a revival of trade and the rebirth of towns (the medieval urban revolution). Economic prosperity produced an energy that drove Medieval Europeans to make numerous political, economic, social, and intellectual advances.
The Medieval Revival of Trade: Two sorts of commercial activity after 1050: local: surplus grain and products from small industries in markets and long distance trade, especially in textiles, wine, and luxury items. How & why? Mediterranean reopened after Italians defeated Muslim raiders; Italian cities, which took a leading role in the revival of commercial activity, traded with the Byzantine Empire. Europeans wanted silks, spices, and other luxury items from the east; Venice, Genoa, Milan, and Pisa (on routes between E and W) became market centers. Elsewhere: trade developed between Scandinavian cities and cities along the Atlantic coastline; between England, northern France, and Flanders; and along the rivers linking the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea and Constantinople. Results: Trade expansion made necessary the creation of new forms of business organization (partnerships); a money economy; and a money-changing or banking system. Trade stimulated the development of trade fairs in the Champagne (France) and elsewhere. Medieval trade revival laid foundations for the development of a modern market economy which eventually evolved into capitalism. This greater commercial activity also stimulated the growth of towns which in turn stimulated even greater economic growth.
The Medieval Urban Revolution: Urban life declined significantly declined after the fall of Rome, though less so in Italy. Urban life revived during the 11th century. Why? increased food supply produced by the Medieval agricultural revolution, population growth, and the revival and expansion of trade. Where? Towns either revived or were founded where merchants gathered: along communication links like seacoasts, rivers, and roads; near places of security like castles; or where fairs were sponsored, like monasteries. Some medieval towns (Paris [150,000], London [40,000], or Florence [100,000]) were Roman in origin; others newly built.
The Walled City of Carcassone (France).
City of Bourges (France).
Impact of such towns and their economic and political activities: 1) Introduced a new class, the bourgeoisie, which had no place within the medieval system of lord, church, and peasant; the bourgeoisie were master artisans, merchants, and their families; their world was governed by market relationships; they believed in bettering their lot in this world through individual initiative; the affluent demanded a role in government. 2) Merchant and craft guilds developed; organizations of local artisans and businessmen, and their purpose was to control, protect, and promote specific economic activities by ensuring a stable market; quality; and prices (the “just price”). Guilds also controlled admission to specific crafts by establishing a complex series of steps--apprenticeship, journeyman, and master--through which an aspirant had to go.
Street (from the Gouvernement des
Merchants established international trading groups were established; i.e. the 13th-century Hanseatic League of London, Bruges, Novgorod, Danzig, and Bergen.
3) In cities the bourgeoisie developed concepts of self-government and freedom from the feudal system; many cities gained either by fighting or by purchase charters which granted them self-government, individual freedom; an exemption from manorial obligations; urban rather than feudal justice, and commercial privileges. According to one medieval phrase: “Stadtluft macht frei”. Serfs often fled their manors, finding refuge in cities. In cities religious and intellectual life flourished; their wealth made possible the building of great universities and cathedrals of the High Middle Ages.
The Rise of National Monarchies, 1050-1300: two themes dominate the political life of the High Middle Ages: 1) the successful development of national monarchies in England and France, with medieval England laying the foundations for a parliamentary monarchy and France establishing the basis for absolutism; 2) the failure to develop national monarchies in Germany and Italy.
The Holy Roman Empire (the Germanies): Holy Roman Empire in 1050: the most centralized and best governed territory in Europe; by 1300. its central government had lost its power and the Empire had fragmented into a large number of warring states; the resulting power vacuum lasted until 1871, when modern Germany was created; and it is this Germany that helped bring about two world wars and was from 1945-1990 a divided country. One explanation: the 11th century Investiture Controversy.
The Holy Roman Empire.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century: Germanies least affected by invaders from the N &E after Charlemagne’s death; nevertheless, no central government and real power in the hands of dukes and other nobles who elected their king. Ottonian Dynasty (919-1024): determined to provide good government, to retard feudalism, and to protect their lands from foreign attack, especially from the east. Greatest Ottonian: Otto the Great (936-973), crowned king in Aachen and then Holy Roman Emperor in Rome (962). Ottonian’s weakness: elected & lacked own lands, a secure income, & his own military forces; accordingly dependant on the great nobles and the Church for resources and for military & administrative personnel. Control over the Church depended on the practice of "lay investiture," (=practice of investing high church officials with the symbols of their office). Century after Otto, no major problems; high point of the Holy Roman Empire reached in the reign of Henry III (1039-1056).
Church reformers & popes attack lay investiture.
bitter conflict between Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) and Henry IV
the Investiture Controversy (1074-1122)—at its height, the Pope banned
lay investiture and threatened Henry with ex-communication; Henry tried
to depose the Pope, who promptly excommunicated him and released his
from any allegiance to the emperor.
Henry IV (Hohenstauffen).
Henry's lords rebelled & forced him to make peace at Canossa (1177). Struggle finally ended by the Concordat of Worms (1122): the Emperor lost the right to appoint bishops while retaining the right to grant them land and secular political power. The Church won the Investiture Struggle, and in doing so it weakened the Holy Roman Empire, thus permitting the growth of feudalism and greater power for the feudal lords.
Results of the Investiture Struggle: Political de-centralization of Germany. The Hohenstauffens, especially Frederick Barbarossa (1152-1190), tried but failed to reverse this decline. New method of choosing emperors established by the Golden Bull (1356); henceforth, the Emperors were elected by seven great lords; in 1356, a member of the Habsburg family was elected emperor, and the crown remained in their hands until 1806; the Habsburgs ruled in Austria until 1918. Meanwhile, the Hohenzollerns began growing, and they would first rule Prussia and then a united Germany from 1871 to 1918.
Disunited Italy. Its southern third became a battleground where the Normans and the Hohenstauffens struggled. Popes predominated, but the Church was unable to establish a strong government. And in the north, the site of rich commercial and manufacturing towns, two themes prevailed. These towns maintained political autonomy, largely because the struggle between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Church prevented either one from asserting tight control, and they fought each other incessantly; ironically, it is from cities like Florence in this area that the Italian Renaissance was born in the 15th century.
The Establishment of Strong Centralized Monarchies in England and France: England, in contrast, saw the beginnings of parliamentary government in the 13th century; France: absolutism began to take root.
Medieval England: 1066: William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England (the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry).
The Opening Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry.
William centralized power: all lands (fiefs) were held directly or indirectly from the king; a personal oath of loyalty (the Oath of Salisbury ) made each lord the vassal of the king; the king coined money, supervised justice, and built castles; local government was dependent upon the kings; and the Domesday Book (1086), a land survey, compiled for tax levies. Over time, Norman and Anglo-Saxon cultures blended, producing a uniquely English culture.
England in the 200 years after William: English kings increased power and control over the kingdom and suffered a major crisis. Henry I (r. 1100-1135) established the office of the Exchequer. Henry II (r. 1154-1189) allowed feudal nobles to avoid military service by paying the king; Henry used the money to hire mercenaries loyal to himself. Major crisis: during the reign of Henry II; Henry caught in a struggle over control of the English church with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Becket was murdered, perhaps on the orders of Henry, and he had to back down before the Church.
The Murder of Thomas a Becket.
English kings also reformed the legal system and established one legal system. Henry I dispatched royal judges to try cases. Henry II is known as the “father of English common law”. He established circuits for royal judges, and he initiated the Grand Jury, 25 informed men who submitted the names of individual suspected of criminal activity. Petit juries were introduced in the 1200s, and these twelve men gradually won the right to judge civil and criminal cases. Henry II also took a major role in preserving English possessions in France.
Thirteenth century England: Two themes dominate: 1) Futile efforts to hold on to possessions in France weakened English kings, beginning with the unpopular John I (1190-1216). To fight wars in France, wars which he frequently lost, John needed money, and this weakness gave the great barons the opportunity to force him to sign the Magna Carta (1215); it asserted that the king was subject to the law of the realm and that he had respect such feudal customs as taxation only with the consent of the great lords. The Magna Carta also stated that an accused person had the right to a trial by a jury of his peers. Originally, the Magna Carta applied only to the barons; over the years they were extended to all Englishmen. In this manner, limits on the power of the English king established.
The Magna Carta
2) The Magna Carta symbolizes the second theme: the origins of parliamentary government. Origins are Anglo-Saxon: a king had to consult powerful nobles and officials. William the Conqueror consulted a Great Council. During the reign of Henry III (1216-1272), nobles led by Simon de Montfort rebelled and seized the English crown. De Monfort called representatives of the gentry (two knights from each shire) and middle classes (two burgesses from each town) to meet with the great lords and clergy of the Great Council. De Montfort’s rebellion was crushed; but the practice of calling this representative body continued. Edward I (1272-1307) called the Model Parliament (1295), to which each county and town sent two representatives, to advise the king and to vote on taxes. In time, Parliament divided into Lords and Commons, and it used the power of granting taxes to win the right to pass laws.
Medieval France (The Capetian Dynasty): Growth of a national monarchy set France on a road to absolutism (=concentration of all power in the hands of the king). Between the Treaty of Verdun (843) and 987: a decline of monarchical power in France. Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, was elected king in 987. The Capetians ruled until 1328, and they accomplished several goals: 1) achieved control over their own lands & the Ile de France; 2) they enlarged the size of the royal domain and they conquered much of the land held by the English within France;
Map of Capetian France in the 14th Century.
3) they strove to assert royal authority over that of the feudal nobles; and 4) they governed a prosperous France of 15 million. Major problem: the claim of English kings to territories in France, including Normandy, Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine, and Gascony. Under the able Philip Augustus (1180-1223), the Capetians; 1) defeated John of England, adding large tracts of land to the royal holdings; 2) provided effective government and collected taxes; 3) began building Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris;
West Facade of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.
and 4) helped found the University of Paris. Other Capetians added to their holdings and strengthened the power of the monarchy, partly by making alliances with the bourgeoisie; king and townsmen used each other to weaken the power of the nobility. No parliament developed in France; the Estates General lacked power and it met infrequently. Since the kings could establish taxes without calling the Estates General, they tended to ignore it. At the end of the High Middle Ages, Philip the Fair was the French king, and he presided over an efficient centralized monarchy. France was on the road to the creation of an absolute monarchy.
The Vitality of Medieval Religious Life
The Papal Monarchy, 1050-1300: Medieval popes able to challenge and best such secular kings as Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century and Henry II of England in 12th because of power of the papal monarchy, particularly from the 11th to the 13th centuries. By the beginning of the 14th century, the ability of popes to challenge successfully the power of kings was on the wane. But: how were Popes able to exercise such political and religious power?
Decline in Religious Life: 9th-11th centuries, European religious life declined, both at the local level and in the upper ranks of the clergy. Parish priests were frequently illiterate and immoral; higher ranking clergy were often appointed by powerful lords, and they served their interests rather than those of the church. In the 10th century, the church undertook to reform itself, a movement that began in the monasteries and then spread to the papacy.
Monastic Reform Movement: Began with the founding of Cluny (910); by 1049, there were 67 monasteries. Reform received new life from the Cistercians (early 12th century), founded by Bernard of Clairvaux: the order had five houses in 1115, 328 in 1152, and 694 in 1300. Other monastic orders flourished in the same centuries, and they ranged from the mendicant or begging orders to the Franciscans, founded by the legendary Francis of Assis (1182- 1226). Called “God’s own troubadour”, St Francis preached a life of total poverty, charity and good works, and love for all; the Franciscans ironically became one of the largest and most powerful of the monastic orders.
Fountains Abbey (Old Post Card)
A Typical Medieval Monastic Complex (modeled on Fountains Abbey in England).
1 Abbot or Prior's house
2 Almonry - where alms in the form of food or money were distributed to the needy by the almoner
4 Brew House
5 Buttery The word has nothing to do with "butter", but comes from old French "boterie" and the Latin "botaria", meaning "cask or bottle". The buttery was a storage area for ale and wine.
6 Calefactory - a warming room
7 Cellarium - A storeroom, often underground
10 Chapter House - the meeting rooms for the administrative body of the monastery. In England the chapter house was usually polygon-shaped, with a sharply pointed roof.
11 Church - usually the first part of the monastery top be completed in stone.
12 Cloister - an open area, often grassed, sometimes with a fountain in the centre.
13 Corn mill
14 Dormitory - often called "dorter" from the French "dortoir", the sleeping quarters of the monks.
16 Fish ponds
17 Fraterhouse - Sometimes called "frater" or "refectory" - the dining area.
19 Garderobes - latrines.
20 Guest Houses
21 Infirmary - the sickroom of the monastery, often with its own chapel and kitchens.
22 Kitchen - the kitchen was generally in a separate building because of the risk of fire.
23 Lay brothers dormitory - the lay brother was not a full-fledged monk. He took religious vows, but focused on a life of manual work, allowing the monks to spend more time in scholarship and ontemplation.
24 Library - the precious books and manuscripts of the monastery were often chained to desks, so valuable were they.
25 Locutory - a room for conversation, also a place where monks might meet with people from the outside world.
26 Night Stairs - permitted passage from the dortoir to the church for night services.
28 Prison cells - a monk or lay brother might be confined in a cell for major transgressions.
30 Reredorter - Small rooms at the rear of the dorter (dormitory) with seats and running water.
31 Smithy - Located away from the main buildings because of the risk of fire.
The Cloister at Fontenay Abbey (France) from the Air.
Papal Reform Movements: Goals of the Popes: 1) free the
Church from secular control; 2) centralize Church government under the
Pope; and 3) assert the supremacy of the Papacy within a Christian
Examples: the Investiture Controversy and the struggle between Henry II
and Becket in England. Under Innocent III (1198-1216), the power
of the medieval papacy reached its height. He believed by uniting
all of Christendom under papal rule that he would be able to bring
order to the world. He also launched crusades against European
such as the Albigensians (south of France) and to the Holy Land.
In 1215, he called the Fourth Lateran Council; it affirmed the
dogmas of the Christian faith. Other Popes followed his
Pope Gregory IV founded the Inquisition in 1232; it and other papal
used to root out heresy. Efforts of the Church to assert itself
to clashes with secular kings. Until the end of the 13th century,
the Popes usually prevailed. Then came the conflict with Boniface
VIII (1294-1303), of whom it was said: he entered the papacy like
a fox, ruled like a lion, and died like a dog. With the bull Unam
Sanctum, Boniface asserted the authority of the Church over Philip the
Fair, king of France, but unlike in previous situations, the French
did not back down; rather, he sent a group of thugs and arrested
Pope Boniface VIII.
This humiliation opened a period of great trial for the Church, one that would result in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Throughout the Late Middle Ages, the 14th, the 15th, and the early 16th centuries, the Church refused to reform itself, and, moreover, it resisted pressure from without to reform. The result was the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (1309-1377) and the Great Schism (1378-1415). Even the Council of Constance (1415-1417), while it ended the Great Schism, failed to bring about true reform.
Popular Religious Movements, 1050-1300: During the centuries of monastic reform and the growth of the papal monarchy, there also grew up in Europe numerous popular religious movement, and they resulted partly from genuine religious motives and partly from social and economic causes. They included the Waldensians, founded by Peter Waldo, who preached poverty, a strict moral life, and the use of the vernacular language, and the Albigensians, who rejected the leadership of the Church and embraced philosophical dualism; they also rejected marriage, all forms of materialism, and cooperation with the state. The Church itself had little toleration for these movements, and it frequently launched crusades against them, as did Innocent III against the Albigensians in 1209.
The Crusades, 1095-1272: Clear expression of the power of religion in medieval life and of the power of the papacy to motivate hundreds of thousands were the eight crusades undertaken to recover the Holy Lands from the Moslems. Crusades also part of the expansion of Europe during the High Middle Ages, an expansion that also included the “drang nach osten” (the movement of Christian knights into Eastern Europe) and the “Reconquista”, (=reconquest of Spain from the Moslems).
Map of the Crusades.
Factors making the Crusades possible: 1) For centuries, Christians had been making pilgrimages to the Holy Lands; because of military victories by the Moslem Turks, access to the Holy Places was threatened. 2) Christians and Moslems had been at war for centuries, and the Church had supported these wars. And, 3) there were numerous Europeans, especially knights, hungering for adventure, wealth, and land, not to mention trading advantages. In 1095, Pope Urban II (1088-1099) launched the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont; the Pope’s call was echoed by Peter the Hermit, and over 100,000 people, from commoners to great nobles, set out for Jerusalem, most with religious motives, including the plenary indulgence. Great military successes were enjoyed at Antioch (1098) and elsewhere, and Jerusalem was taken in 1099. The Europeans promptly established four Crusader kingdoms, including the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem under Baldwin of Flanders. To protect these conquests, orders of crusading kings, such as the Templars and the Knights Hospitalers were founded. And over the next 200 years, seven more crusades were launched as the Turks sought to regain their lost lands. Most met with but little success, and by 1291 the last of the Crusader kingdoms fell.
Impact of the Crusades on Western Europe: 1) They demonstrated the religious vitality and the growing self-confidence of western Europe; 2) they gave Europeans an opportunity to learn new military tactics, to become familiar with new weapons like the crossbow, and to construct new types of castles;
The Krak des Chevaliers -- a Crusader Castle.
3) they also increased the power of kings, who raised taxes and commanded large national armies; in contrast, many feudal nobles were killed, while others sold rights and privileges to towns to raise the funds necessary for a crusade. 4) they opened the old Middle East and Asia to the west, stimulating a demand for Asian luxuries and making great trade centers of Venice and Genoa. And, 5) they put Europeans into direct contact with the civilizations of the ancient world and with works of hitherto unknown classical authors, such as Aristotle.
German Crusades in the Baltic Region: Motivations were mixed. Lords sought new estates; peasants wanted land and an escape from the manorial system; Christian missionaries wanted converts; and merchants wanted new areas to trade. Results: Thousands of Germans moved into the Baltic region and established towns and brought new land under cultivation. They also brought the German language and culture and the Christian religion with them; protecting them were military orders like the Teutonic Knights. The cities established by the Germans joined with other German cities to establish the Hanseatic League. At its high point, this League controlled much of the trade of northern Europe, from the Baltic to the North Sea. German presence in the Baltic areas ended in 1945, when million were expelled at the end of World War II.
Teutonic Knights Fighting the Mongols.
Medieval Intellectual and Cultural Life
High Medieval Intellectual Life, 1050-1300: Europeans
for achievements in philosophy, literature, architecture, and
Increase in literacy, from about 1% in Florence in 1050 to about 40% in
1340; most literate European had some association with the
Interest in learning led to the founding of schools and universities in
major cities and town.
Founded in 1264.
A post-graduate student could earn an MA in 5-6 years and a PhD in about 13. Subject matter at universities, like Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Salerno, and Bologna, was the Seven Liberal Arts (the Trivium [grammar, rhetoric, and logic] and the Quadrivium [arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music]). Language of instruction was Latin. Some universities specialized; students wishing to study medicine went to Salerno, while those wishing to study Roman and Church law went to Bologna. Oxford and Paris specialized in theology.
A Medieval Classroom.
Philosophy: Scholasticism was a medieval philosophy that used Reason (from Greek philosophy) to deepen the understanding of what was believed by Faith (from Christianity). One philosopher was Peter Abelard (1079-1142), who in the controversial Sic et non argued that human reason could resolve conflicts between religious authorities on matters of faith. He asserted: “By doubting we come to inquiry, and by inquiry we perceive the truth.” Abelard was condemned by the Church. After the middle of the 12th century, the works of Aristotle (= the Philosopher) were re-introduced into Europe; they shaped the work of philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica), probably the greatest scholastic thinker of the medieval period. He argued that there were two paths to the knowledge of God and His creation: Revelation or faith and reason, and each had its own proper sphere of activity.
Scientific thinking not of major importance. Medieval thinkers utilized a deductive method of thinking, and they turned to the Bible or accepted Classical authorities for answers. For questions dealing with the cosmos, one opened the works of Ptolemy; for medical matters, one turned to Galen. Other medieval thinkers practiced astrology, or the effort to predict the future by observing the movements of the planets and the stars. Others turned to alchemy, hoping to find the formula that would transform lead into gold. Since medieval scientists did not use the empirical method, they often accepted uncritically the ideas of authorities. Few questioned, for example, Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the cosmos, and even those who did simply tried to tinker with the model to accommodate the fact that it did not accurately predict the movements of the heavens.
Vernacular Literature: Much of the thought and writing was religious and in the Latin language, there was also a strong tradition of vernacular literature. National epics, or chansons de geste, like the English Beowulf or French Song of Roland
The Roland Window at Chartres.
or the Spanish Cid or the German Nibelungenlied, recounted the stories of great heroes and the values of a bloody warrior society. More refined were the troubadour songs of the 12th century, which celebrated unfilled romantic love and were addressed to women. Romances were long narrative poems, like the Arthur stories of Chrétien de Troyes or the later German Parzifal of Wolfram von Eschenbach or the Tristan und Isolde of Gottfried von Strassburg. Also important were the fabliaux, humorous often bawdy and worldly animal tales, like the Romance of Reynard the Fox; they mocked the ideas of chivalry, ridiculed human foolishness, and mocked the Church. Popular with the common people were the so-called miracle plays, which recounted Biblical and other Christian stories for the unlettered. Probably the greatest work of the High Middle Ages was the Divine Comedy of Dante Alghieri (1265-1321), which told of the poet's spiritual journey through the Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. For English-speaking people, the best known of the medieval writers was Geoffrey Chaucer, the fourteenth-century author of humorous, bawdy, and very popular Canterbury Tales.
High Medieval Art and Architecture: In medieval church art and architecture, there are two great styles, the Romanesque (ca 1000-1150) and the Gothic (ca 1150-1400).
The Romanesque Style: Great church buildings were
churches and pilgrimage churches. Most were built in rural areas
or along the great pilgrimage routes to Compostela in Spain.
Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostela.
Principal architectural features of the severe and plain Romanesque style are the round [or the Romanesque] arch, the barrel vault, and massive stone walls with small windows. Exterior decoration is usually quite simple, often only one intricately carved tympanum over the central door or doors; interior decoration is made up of elaborately carved column capitals and some frescoes. This art is didactic, and it deals rather graphically with the conflict between good and evil, and the Last Judgment is a common subject, as at the pilgrimage church of Ste Foy (Conques).
The Abbey Church
Foi at Conques.
The Last Judgment Tympanum at Conques (France).
The Reliquary of Sainte Foi at Conques.
The Gothic Style: Characteristic of this more sophisticated and graceful style are the great cathedrals, usually built in great cities like Paris or smaller one like Chartres. Major architectural features included the pointed, or Gothic, arch, the rib vault, the use of thinner walls and large windows, and flying buttresses. Architects sought to build churches which unified design and decoration and which emphasized the importance of height and light. Art, like in the Romanesque period, was didactic; it also is commemorative and decorative, and typical Gothic cathedrals, like Chartres or Amiens, have elaborate and unified sculptural programs on the exterior and windows filled with stained-glass. The are, in short “Bibles in stone and glass.” Cathedrals like Notre Dame de Paris or Chartres (built 1194-ca. 1220) often required centuries to complete. They were in fact the result of intense religious devotion, and the entire community from noble to peasant worked and gave of themselves to erect them. Such cathedrals are also reminders of the sophistication of the medieval builder.
Chartres Cathedral from the Air.
The West Facade of Chartres
The Nave of Chartres Cathedral.
The Flying Buttress.
The Late Middle Ages/
The Transition to the Renaissance, 1300-1450/1500
Introduction: By ca 1300, Western Europe had enjoyed some 250 years during which major advances were made in economics, politics, religious life, intellectual life, and the arts. These achievements threatened by the crisis that broke out early in the fourteenth century. But, instead of falling into another “dark age”, like those following the fall of the Roman Empire or the death of Charlemagne, Europeans survived the crisis of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, emerging with enough energy to undertake the Renaissance which began in Italy in the fifteenth century and which spread to northern Europe around 1500. The Late Middle Ages thus encompasses the multiple crises of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and the beginnings of the Renaissance.
Late Medieval Economic and Social Problems: European economic life still based on the medieval manor; it supplied basic foodstuffs. 1) But problems (soil exhaustion to poor weather) produced major food shortages between 1301 and 1314 and outright famine in 1315-1317. 2) inflation; rising prices brought a decline in living standards; landholding nobles increased income by extracting more money from their peasants. 3) Result: peasant rebellions, such as the jacquerie in France (1358), which left some 20,000 dead, and the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. English peasant leader John Ball exclaimed: “Are we not all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve? And what can they show, or what reasons give, why they should be more the masters than ourselves? They are clothed in velvets and rich fabrics, ornamented with ermine and other furs, while we are forced to wear poor cloth. They have handsome houses and manors, when we must brave the wind and rain in our labors in the field; but it is from our labor they support their pomp.” All failed as the nobles repressed them with great brutality. Unrest also appeared in towns like Florence, Ghent, and Paris; it too was quickly suppressed. 4) the Black Death (1347). Brought in on ships from Asia, it spread rapidly, especially in towns and cities, and historians estimate that some 20,000,000 died, or between 25% and 33% of the European population; in cities, the death rate reached as high as 66%.
The Black Death.
Results of these crises: These crises appeared to have causes beyond the control of man; contemporary secular and religious leaders appeated incapable of controlling them in the short run; result: a loss of faith in existing authorities and beliefs and heightened fears and anxieties. One consequence: bizarre religious behavior, such as the Flagellants; in addition, black magic and witchcraft became more widespread. Apocalyptic fears also influenced the arts, and both the Dies Irae, a hymn about the end of the world, and pictures of the Dance of Death date from this period.
Muscians at the Dance of Death.
The Cemetary of the Innocents, Paris.
Some, such as Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), author of the Imitation of Christ, turned to mysticism. Still others projected their troubles on minority groups, such as the Jews, and subjected them to terrible persecutions. A long-range consequence was also the decline of the medieval church.
Late Medieval Warfare and Politics: The Hundred Years War:
last of the wars over English possessions in France.
Map of the Hundred Years War
In 1337, the English tried to claim the French throne; other issues included English claims on the French provinces of Aquitaine and Gascony and the rivalry between the French and the English in Flanders. England won most of the battles (Crécy , Poitiers , Agincourt ), but lost the war.
The Battle of Agincourt.
New weapons were the longbow (range of 400 yards); with it, the English archer slaughtered French knights; also early cannon, and both weakened feudalism. At the low point for France, Charles VII lost the Royal Domain around Paris; it took Joan of Arc (1412-1431), who believed that she was sent by God to save France, to rally the French and lead then to victory at Orléans (1429). Soon after, she was seized by the English, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake in Rouen. But the French succeeded in driving the English from most of French soil, and the whole of France was consolidated under the rule of a single king. In addition, the French king gained the undisputed power of taxation in 1439, which proved to be a major step on the road to absolutism.
The Wars of the Roses: Representative institutions grew in England during the 14th century, largely through the sharing of the power to tax by king and parliament. King and parliament had to approve any change in a law; Parliament gained the right to levy taxes, and tax bills had to originate in the House of Commons; and the king could spend appropriated money only on the purpose Parliament had approved. Trend partially interrupted during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) when two families, the houses of Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) fought over the English throne. Power of parliament temporarily declined during this civil war and a number of great baronial families killed each other off. The first Tudor Henry VII became king in 1485; he tried to establish absolutism; he also married a daughter of the House of York, thereby seeking to reconcile the English people.
The Holy Roman Empire: Emperors attempted and failed to join their possessions in Germany and Italy into a single Empire. The Golden Bull (1356) accelerated decentralization. A member of the House of Hapsburg elected emperor in the 14th century; and clever diplomacy and careful marriages allowed the Hapsburgs to gain control of the duchy of Austria and permanent control of the Holy Roman Emperorship (1437); but they never able to assert control over the empire. Weakness of the Holy Roman Empire in Italy and the conflict between the Empire and the papacy helped make the Renaissance possible; neither the Empire nor the Church could control central and northern Italy; small city-states like Venice, Milan, and Florence were able to achieve a measure of sovereignty; and it is in these city states that the Renaissance was born.
Decline of the Church During the Late Medieval Period
Crisis of the Church and the medieval ideal of a unified Christian community led by the Papacy shattered. 1) decline of papal power due to the growing power of secular kings; they defended their interests, even if a conflict with the Church ensued; 2) urban dwellers felt the Church hindered the growth of trade and industry; 3) crises of the 14th century undermined the prestige of the Church; 4) the Italian Renaissance included a rebirth of interest in the ideas of the "pagan" Greeks. Evidence for the decline of papal power and prestige: Philip the Fair's "arrest" of Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). Within a few years, matters worsened greatly: 1) Babylonian Captivity (1309-1377); the papacy moved to Avignon, where the popes were French and under the watchful eyes of the French kings;
The Papal Palace at Avignon.
2) Great Schism (1378-1415); the pope returned to Rome, but there were first two competing popes and then three (in 1409); 3) the Council of Constance (1414-1417) called to end the schism, combat heresy, and reform the Church. It succeeded in the first two, but failed in the third, and this failure of the Church to reform during the 15th century is one of the factors which made the Protestant Reformation possible.
Radical Reformers: Meanwhile, they challenged the function as well as the authority of the church hierarchy; reformers such as John Wycliffe (c. 1320-1384) and John Hus (c. 1369-1415) also helped pave the way for the Reformation. They challenged the idea that the Church as an institution controlled the road to salvation by asserting the existence of a personal relationship between the individual and God and by claiming that the Bible was the ultimate source of authority for Christians, not the Church; hence these reformers advocated translations of the Bible into the vernacular. They further attacked the wealth and privileges of the upper clergy, favoring a return to the simplicity of the early church. The Church responded to these challenges with great vigor, declaring them heresies; John Hus was burned at the stake in 1415 during the Council of Constance and the power of the Inquisition was used against others.
The Execution of John
The Church clearly refused to reform itself, yet one more reason for the Reformation which Martin Luther set off with the posting of the Ninety-five Theses on the door of Wittenberg Church just over a century later in 1517.
Door, Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany.
The Wartburg Castle.
Luther's Writing Table at the
Statue of Martin Luther, Wittenberg, Germany.
Conclusion: Despite the severity of these manifold crises (economic and social, political and intellectual), European civilization did not descend into a new dark ages. Rather, just when Europeans were suffering through this “age of adversity”, there was also evidence of a revival of culture. This was the Renaissance, which began in Italy during the 1400s and which spread to northern Europe after 1500. Hence, what we see in the Late Middle Ages are the faint beginnings of both the Renaissance and the Reformation.
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