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The Middle
The beginning…Early Middle Ages
Decline of Roman Empire
Rise of Northern Europe
New forms of government
Heavy “Romanization” (religion,
language, laws, architecture,
• Latin- “medium aevum” means
“middle age” and is source of
English word “medieval”
Early Middle
• Dark Ages (500 CE- 1000 CE)
• Rise of influence of barbarians -Roman
Emperors granted land with the Roman
Empire in return for military service
Germanic Peoples
Roman empire overrun by Germanic groups with repeated
invasions and constant warfare
• Breakdown of trade: money became scarce.
• Cities abandoned – no longer center of economy or
• Population became rural.
• Decline of literacy – priests and other church officials
were the few that were literate.
• Breakup of unified empire – language began to
change-No longer Latin.
• End of Democracy
End of Democracy
• Unified by loyalty to public government and
written law
• Orderly government
• Family ties and personal loyalty
• People lived in small communities governed by unwritten
rules and traditions
• Ruled by a Chief who led a band or warriors loyal only to
him – not some emperor they’d never seen
European Empire Evolves
After the decline of the Roman Empire small
kingdoms sprang up all over Europe.
The largest and the strongest was controlled by
the Franks
• Lead by Clovis – first Christian king
• Area that is now France
• Greatest king was Charlemagne
• most powerful king in Western Europe
• encouraged learning
Welcome to England and the English…
an island of peoples, languages, and divisions...
Chartres Cathedral
The White Tower in London…
Latin -- church, schools
French -- court, castle
English -- commoners
What was it like to live in
the Middle Ages?
The 3 Estates in the Middle Ages
• The idea of estates, or orders, was
encouraged during the Age, but
this ordering was breaking down.
– Clergy
• Latin chiefly spoken, those who pray,
purpose was to save everyone’s soul
– Nobles
• French chiefly spoken, those who
fight, purpose was to protect—allow
for all to work in peace—and provide
– Commoners
• English spoken, those who work,
purpose was to feed and clothe all
above them
Expanding Influence of the Church
• Christian Church has become an important political,
economic, spiritual and cultural force in Europe
• Leading officials of Church were the Pope and
• Banning of heresy (holding beliefs that contradict the
official religion)
• conversion by force
• Eventually in 11th Century, Church split into two
independent branches Eastern Orthodox (Greek)
based in Constantinople and Roman Catholic in
You scratch my back…
I’ll scratch yours….
• Church was granted favours by
Roman Emperors / Kings
• in return the Church would endorse kings to help
secure their rule
• Church supplied educated administrators to help
run kingdoms
• in return kings would enforce laws that
prohibited other religions
Monasticism and Saints
• Monks were people who gave up worldly possessions
and devote themselves to
a religious life
• Established between 400 -700 communities called
monasteries which became centres of education,
literacy and learning
• Strict codes of monastic conduct called Rule of St.
• Saints- one who performs miracles that are interpreted
as evidence of a special relationship with God
• St. Augustine- wrote “Confessions” which discussed
ideas of ethics, self knowledge, and the role of free will
which shaped monastic tradition and the influence of
The Church
• Provided guidance through
well known precepts..
– Seven Deadly Sins
Slaves and Serfs
• Slaves made up of conquered peoples
• Some treated harshly, while other were
treated fairly
• Rural slaves became serfs, who worked the
land and provided labor for owner (in return
for protection)
• Set up for system of feudalism
• Increasing violence and lawless
• Feudalism= relationship between those
ranked in a chain of association (kings,
vassals, lords, knights, serfs)
• Feudalism worked because of the notion
of mutual obligation, or voluntary cooperation from serf to noble
• A man’s word was the cornerstone of
social life
Key terms
Fief = land given by a lord in return for a
vassal’s military service and oath of
Serfs= aka villeins or common peasants
who worked the lords land
Tithe = tax that serfs paid (tax or rent)
Corvee= condition of unpaid labor by
serfs (maintaining roads or ditches on a
The lords estate –
 The lord
provided the serfs
with housing,
farmland and
 Serfs tended
the lands, cared
for the animals,
maintained the
Peasants rarely
traveled more than
25 miles from the
Was home to 15
– 30 families
 Peasants heavily
taxed, including a
tithe – a church tax
of 1/10 their
• A product of feudalism,
chivalry was an idealized
system of manners and
– Restricted to nobility
• The Medieval knight was
bound to the chivalric code
to be loyal to…
– God
– his lord
– his lady
• Chivalric ideals include...
– benevolence
– brotherly love
– politeness
• Sir Gawain is an example
The Age of Chivalry
Sons of nobles began training at an early age for
 Page – at 7 they were sent to another lord to be
 Squire – at 14 they act as a servant to a knight
 Knight- at 21 they become a knight and gain
experience in local wars and tournaments
The Age of Chivalry
Tournaments – mock battles that combined recreation and combat training
Fierce and bloody competitions
The Wheel of Fortune
The idea of Fortune and her
wheel was one of the most
pervasive ideas throughout
the Middle Ages.
On the wheel are depicted four
figures: one at the top, one
at the bottom, one rising,
and one falling.
• It served to remind of the temporality of earthly
•Helps understand the medieval mind
• Important things in life come from within
• That hard work has its own merits.
the Ptolemaic
• Imagine a sphere that encloses
another that holds another that
holds yet another…and continues
into heaven…
• It is a commonly held myth that
people of the Medieval period
thought the Earth was flat…FALSE!
– It was round, but at the center
of the universe!
• So what! Well, the people of
the Medieval period loved
order! Remember the Three
Estates, the Seven Deadly
Sins—a place for everyone
and everyone in that place.
Watch for this order to begin to be
High Middle Ages
1050 - 1300
The “High” Middle Ages
(begin 1095)
• Begin with the First Crusade (1095)--reclaim
Jerusalem from the infidels
– Open trade routes
– Peasants (the vassals) are liberated from their
lords to fight, and die, in the Holy Lands
– Cities spring up along the crusade routes
– Feudalism dies out
– the transition to the Renaissance begins
The “High” Middle Ages
• Before, in the Dark
Ages, the Church
provided structure to
society, not only with
religion, but by
providing education,
as well.
• Sadly, with the
Crusades, the Church
becomes incredibly
– Popes fight for
political power
– Greed is rampant
• selling of indulgences
• Crusades for $
• look for this in the
With the Crusades comes
The Black Death
• spreads along trade routes
• kills much of the population
• the plague outbreaks occur
through the Middle Ages and
into the Renaissance
• Paradoxically, the Plague provides
for continued growth in cities
– Afterwards, hundreds of new jobs
– Many debts “died off” with
• also contributed to society’s
The Bubonic Plague
• Called “black death” because of striking symptom of
the disease, in which sufferers' skin would blacken due
to hemorrhages under the skin
• Spread by fleas and rats
• painful lymph node swellings called buboes
• buboes in the groin and armpits, which ooze pus and
• damage to the skin and underlying tissue until they
were covered in dark blotches
• Most victims died within four to seven days after
• Caused massive depopulation and change
in social structure
• Weakened influence of Church
• Originated in Asia but was blamed on
Jews and lepers
Ideas, Inventions and Key Figures
Roger Bacon (gunpowder)
Luca Pacioli (Father of Accounting)
Johannes Gutenberg (printing press)
Christine de Pisan (writer); Geoffrey Chaucer (writer)
Joan of Arc (Hundred Year’s War)
Pope Urban II (indulgences)
Pope Innocent IV and Bernard Gui (inquisitions)
Parliamentary Government in England
Enough already!
I thought this was an English class!
Literature During the
Medieval Period
• Latin was the language of the Roman Catholic
Church, which dominated Europe
• The Church was the only source of education
• Thus, Latin was a common language for
Medieval writings.
• A notable amount of medieval
literature is anonymous
• Medieval authors re-tell and
embellish stories they heard or
read rather than invent new
Characteristics of Medieval Literature
• Heroism
– from both Germanic and Christian traditions,
sometimes mingled
• Beowulf
• Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
• Presentations of idealized behavior
– literature as moral lesson
• loyalty to king
• chivalry
• use of kennings (especially in Beowulf)
– A figurative, usually compound expression used in
place of a name or noun. Example, storm of swords
is a kenning for battle.
Use of Allegory
• Definition: figurative mode of representation
conveying a meaning other than the literal.
• Much of medieval literature relied on allegory to
convey the morals the author had in mind while
The Ideal of Courtly Love
• This relationship was modeled on the
feudal relationship between a knight and
his liege lord.
• The knight serves his courtly lady with the
same obedience and loyalty which he
owes to his liege lord.
• She is in complete control; he owes her
obedience and submission