The Middle Ages
Middle Ages
1,000 year period from fall of Rome to beginning
of modern times (500 – 1500)
Early (Dark) MA – 5th – 10th C. – disorder &
High (Later) MA – 11th – 15th C – advancing
toward a higher civilization
Decline – Germanic invasions
Decline of trade & industry
Merchants stopped shipping (fear of bandits)
Roads deteriorated
Lacking markets, industry shut down
Cities declined in population
Unemployed workmen moved to rural areas
Decline cont.
Decline of Learning & Culture
Roman schools, libraries, museums destroyed
Arts and sciences were neglected
Reading and writing were forgotten – more
concerned with staying alive
Decline cont.
Decline of strong central government
Many weak Germanic kingdoms (Visigoths,
Ostragoths, Angles, Saxons, Franks)
Failed to maintain order, provide protection, insure
 Lacked manpower
 Lacked large armies
 Lacked roads & bridges
 Lacked rules of succession
Frankish Kingdom
Only strong Germanic government
Clovis (Frank) – removed rivals, converted Franks to
Monasteries, monks; best educated communities
Gregory I – Church becomes more secular (worldly); greatly
expands Church (papal) power
Charles Martel – defeated invading Moors at the Battle of
Tours (732) – ended Muslim threat into Christian Europe.
Pepin – defeated Lombards in Italy and ceded all lands to
the Pope (donation of Pepin) First in Carolingian dynasty
Charlemagne (768 – 814)
Conquered Muslims (Spain), Slavs, Saxons
Thus increased power of Catholic Church
800 AD crowned “Emperor of the Romans” by Pope Leo
Later Otto I (Great) strengthened region (Germany) into
Holy Roman Empire (never truly united)
Provinces ruled by nobles; missi dominici (messengers)
sent to check power of nobles
Established schools, encouraged copying of Latin
Charlemagne cont.
After his death, divided into sections, nobles
gained power over local territory
9th-10th C. invasions
Muslims along southern coast
Magyars from Hungary
Norsemen (Vikings) based in Scandinavia – expert
sailors and fierce fighters; sacked town after town,
plundered; ships sailed in deep or shallow waters
Invasions & disorder led to new system
Turned to local aristocrats & nobles for protection
Feudalism: Economic, political, social, military
system based on services for land
Vassal – served a lord in exchange for grant of
Feudalism cont.
Knights emerged with armor, lances, better
protected horses; became the backbone of
European aristocracy
Little trade so wealth based on land
Land granted was called a fief
Feudalism cont.
Lords were kings, dukes, counts, barons, etc.
Held political, economic, social power
Knights sometimes fought each other
Chivalry – Ideal, civilized behavior; code of
Defend Church
Help the poor
Defend their lord, lady, etc.
Feudalism cont.
Most women under control of men
Men often at war – women had to manage the
So, many responsibilities but subservient to men
Manorial System
Agricultural estate run by a lord and worked by
Small farmers needed protection; gave up land to
lords; used land
Serfs – peasants bound to the land
Provided labor, paid rent, and subject to lord’s
control; couldn’t leave without permission
Feasts & holidays of the church provided rest &
contact with Church
Role of the Church
Powerful institution
Religious and political power
Structure (hierarchy) – Church officials – clergy
Pope, Bishops, Priests
Unifying force during M.A. – security, belonging,
hope; center stage in people’s lives
Sacraments important – baptism, communion,
confession, confirmation, marriage vows; lots of
religious holidays
Church cont.
Church law called canon law
Also established courts to protect canon law
Could use excommunication (banishment)
Interdict – sacraments would not be allowed
Church cont.
Holy Roman Empire created – strong state in
central Europe; German princes/principalities
Germany and northern Italy (p.372)
Clash over “lay investiture” – practice where
kings/nobles appointed church officials
Religious conflict over this
Concordat of Worms (city) – Church could
appoint bishop, but emperor could veto
Settles differences between Church and Holy
Roman Empire
Church cont.
Frederick the Great “Barbarossa” – first emperor
to call lands Holy Roman Empire
Mostly Germany and Northern Italy
Invaded rich cities of Italy
Finally defeated – Italian foot soldiers used
crossbows to defeat feudal knights
After death, Germany remains divided into
feudal kingdoms (until 1870’s!)
The Age of Faith
Problems in the Church:
Illiterate priests, questionable morals, cared
about role as feudal lords, married with families
(against Church), sold positions within Church
(simony), lay investiture (King appoints Bishops)
Secular (worldly, non-religious) interests
Age of Faith cont.
Reform by Popes (Leo IX and Gregory VII)
Enforced laws, created canon law, group of
advisers called the papal (Pope) curia, collected
New religious orders – Dominicans,
Benedictines, Franciscans
Friars (who traveled spreading ideas of Church)
Faith cont.
Cathedrals – originally built in the Romanesque
style (round arches, heavy roofs, walls, pillars
Change to Gothic – Reached upward towards
heaven – more and more light
Spires, arches, stained glass windows (p. 381)
Notre Dame (Paris)
Church Architecture
Flying Buttresses
Chapter 14 - Age of Faith Inspires
Religious purpose – retake Holy Land from
Muslims; reunite Christendom which had been
divided in 1054 (East and West)
Political – threatened Byzantine capital,
Constantinople; get rid of quarrelsome knights &
nobles who fought each other
Economic – land, opportunity for trade, riches
Crusades cont.
Christian military expeditions (holy wars)
Holy wars against the infidel (non-believer)
Directed against Muslims; liberate the holy land
(Palestine) from the infidels; Jews
Pope Urban II challenged Christians to take up the
cause; shall have forgiveness for sins
Religious reasons, but also sense of adventure,
gain territory, wealth, title
Crusades cont.
1st – Ill prepared – no plan, no knowledge of geography,
climate, etc.
Reached Jerusalem in 1099; took the city
Later retaken by Muslims
2nd – attempt to recapture Jerusalem; failed
Saladin (Muslim leader) won
Crusades cont.
3rd – 3 powerful leaders: Philip II of France, Frederick I
(Barbarossa) of Germany, Richard the Lion-Hearted of
Only one remained (Richard) and made a truce
w/Saladin – unarmed Christians could visit Jerusalem;
city remains under Muslim control
4th Crusade – Failed; crusading spirit dwindles
Search for personal gain
Crusades cont.
Children’s crusade 1212
Unarmed; thousands died of starvation, disease
Several of these crusades; all failed
Spanish Reconquista – attempt to regain land
controlled by Moors (Spanish Muslims)
1492 – Granada falls to Ferdinand and Isabella
Inquisition – Court tries heretics (many Muslims
and Jews converted; or burned at the stake
Results of the Crusades
Increase in trade to Middle East, Asia
New products, foods, spices, silks
Exposure to new ideas
Failure lessened power of the Pope
Weakened feudal nobility & increased power of
Legacy of intolerance between Christians,
Muslim, Jews
Crusades: Successful Failures?
Failed to retake the
holy land – they lost!
Many people died
Trade with the east
New products (spices,
silks, etc.)
Towns and cities
Military technology
Access to new ideas
& cultures
Crusades: Winners & Losers
Kings gained power as
Church grows weaker
Merchants got rich
Church loses power
Nobles lost power
People lost faith
Legacy of intolerance
in Middle East
Changes in Medieval Society
Labor becomes valuable after plague – services
become worth more
Huge population increase due to decrease in wars,
invasions; dramatic expansion in food production
Expansion of arable land (cut trees, drained
Technology – Iron used for scythes, axes, plows
(carruca); new harness for horses to replace slow
oxen; horseshoes
Changes cont.
Rise of towns as people came together to share
plows, horses, etc.; people are leaving manors
Switch from 2 field (one fallow) to 3 field system
(spring,fall); crop rotation
Coins come into play gradually creating a money
economy rather than barter
Banks, investments emerge
Commercial Revolution (capitalism) – invest in
trade for profit
Trade & Cities cont.
Growth of trade leads to revival of cities
Merchants needed places to live and store
products; fairs, trade
Merchant or middle (bourgeoisie) class
Cities developed own local govt.
Daily Life
Cities surrounded by stone walls
Narrow streets, crowded
Fire a constant danger
Pollution – waste, smoke, cheap coal, water
(butchers dumped blood, animals into water);
tanneries dumped acids also
Guilds – associations of people in same trade
Apprentice – Journeyman – Master craftsman
Revival of Learning
Works by Greeks and Latins preserved by Muslims
were now brought back to Europe and translated
Written in vernacular – local, every day language
Dante – The Divine Comedy; Chaucer – The
Canterbury Tales
Crusaders brought back new technology too
Universities emerge; scholasticism
Thomas Aquinas uses logic to prove ideas
England and France Develop
England battered by invasions from Vikings,
Danes, Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons)
Struggle for power
ENGLAND – William of Normandy – (“the
Conqueror”) of France landed in England 1066
and defeated Anglo-Saxons; Battle of Hastings
Became new king of England
England cont.
French and Anglo-Saxon merged into English
Created strong centralized monarchy
2 roles – King of England; still vassal to King of
France (but more powerful!)
Henry II expands power of monarchy
Expands power of royal courts
Common law begins to develop from court decisions,
jury trials
Claims right to try church officials
England cont.
Son John becomes king; nobles resented King
John’s growing power
1215 at Runnymede, John is forced to sign the
Magna Carta (Great Charter) of feudal liberties
Monarch had limited power, not absolute
Protects basic rights of all
England cont.
Edward I – English Parliament emerged
Important development in representative
Eventually, nobles and church lords formed
House of Lords; knights and townspeople
formed the House of Commons.
Basis of our Congress (House/Senate)
Other Kingdoms
France – Hugh Capet (Capetians) rule for 300
Phillip II greatly expanded French territory,
enlarged power; others used $ and marriage to
expand France; first French parliament
(legislature) – Estates General (3 estates:
clergy, nobles, townspeople)
Italy and Germany do not unite like Britain and
France (not until 19th C.)
War and Plague
Black Death – mid 14th C.
Most devastating event in European history
Bubonic plague most common; pneumonic also
Rats were hosts for fleas that spread disease
Probably spread by merchants from Middle East into
southern Italy
Italy’s cities particularly hard hit
Many felt it was sent by God as punishment for sins
Horrible attacks on Jews – anti-semitism
Killed over 1/3 of the population of Europe!
Ring around the rosy
Ring around the rosy (rosary beads)
Pocketful of posies (to stop odor of decay)
Ashes, ashes (Church burned the bodies)
We all fall down (dead)
The Triumph of Death (Pieter Brueghel)
Dance of Death – Nuremberg Chronicles
Burning of the Jews - Strasbourg
Funeral for a plague victim
Plague Physician
Troubles cont.
Decline in power of Church – Great Schism (2 popes –
Avignon and Rome)
John Wycliffe preached that Jesus was head of Church
Offended by worldliness and wealth the Church
Bible alone is final authority, not the Pope
Jan Hus – same theories; tried as heretic, burned at the
First Church “reformers”
Troubles, cont.
Hundred Years’ War (Eng. And Fr) - series of wars
over land and claims to the French throne
Warfare changes with the longbow – could penetrate
armor thus ending power of knights
Joan of Arc, saves Orleans, burned at the stake; France
Result – feeling of nationalism (to country)
End of 100 Yrs. War – end of Middle Ages – decline of
nobles (Crusades), Church (Great Schism), plague

The Middle Ages