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High Middle Ages

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The cathedral , a significant architectural contribution of the High Middle Ages.
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The cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, a significant architectural contribution of the High Middle Ages.

The High Middle Ages is a term used by historians to describe European history in the period of the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries (1000–1300 CE). The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention ends around 1500.

From about the year 1000 onwards, Western Europe saw the last of the barbarian invasions and became more politically organized. The Vikings had settled in the British Isles, France and elsewhere, whilst Viking kingdoms were developing in their Scandinavian homelands. The Magyars had ceased their expansion in the 10th century, and by the year 1000, a Christian Kingdom of Hungary was recognized in central Europe. With the brief exception of the Mongol incursions, major barbarian invasions ceased.

In the 11th century people began to move outward in to the wilderness, in what is known as the "great clearances" when the vast forests and marshes of Europe were cleared and cultivated. At the same time settlements moved beyond the traditional boundaries of the Frankish Empire to new frontiers in eastern Europe, beyond the Elbe River, tripling the size of Germany in the process. Crusaders expanded to the Crusader States, Spain conquered from the Moors, and the Normans colonized southern Italy, all part of a major population increase and resettlement pattern. If only one thing can be said of the High Middle Ages, it was the changes brought about by the rapidly increasing population which by 1250, some people say, became overpopulated reaching levels it would not reach again in places until the 19th century, and checked in the Late Middle Ages by a series of calamities.

The High Middle Ages produced many different forms of intellectual, spiritual and artistic works. This age saw the rise of modern nation-states in Western Europe and the ascent of the great Italian city-states. The still-powerful Roman Church called armies from across Europe to a series of Crusades against the Seljuk Turks, who occupied the Holy Land. The rediscovery of the works of Aristotle led Thomas Aquinas and other thinkers to develop the philosophy of Scholasticism. In architecture, many of the most notable Gothic cathedrals were built or completed during this era.

Contents

Historical events and politics

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A farmer using oxen to plow a field

Climate and agriculture

The Medieval Warm Period, the period from 10th century to about the 14th century in Europe, was a relatively warm and gentle interval ended by the generally colder Little Ice Age. Farmers grew wheat well north into Scandinavia, and wine grapes in northern England, although the maximum expansion of vineyards appears to occur within the Little Ice Age period. This protection from famine allowed Europe's population to increase, despite the famine in 1315 that killed 1.5 million people. This increased population contributed to the founding of new towns and an increase in industrial and economic activity during the period. Food production also increased during this time as new ways of farming were introduced, including the use of a heavier plow, horses instead of oxen, and a three-field system that allowed the cultivation of a greater variety of crops than the earlier two-field system.

 depicting the  during the Norman invasion of England
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Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings during the Norman invasion of England

England

In England, the Norman Conquest of 1066 resulted in a kingdom ruled by a French-speaking nobility. England was eventually at war with Ireland, Scotland, and France itself. The Normans invaded Ireland in force in 1169 and soon established themselves throughout most of the country, though their stronghold was the southeast. The Exchequer was founded in the 12th century under King Henry I, and the first parliaments were convened. In 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta into law, which limited the power of English monarchs.

Western and Central Europe

By the time of the High Middle Ages, the Carolingian Empire had fallen and was replaced by separate kingdoms east and west of the Vosges called France and Germany, although not with their modern boundaries. In Germany, the Holy Roman Empire reached a high-water mark of unity and political power.

Much of the Iberian peninsula had been occupied by the Moors after 711, although the northernmost portion was divided between several Christian states. In the 11th century, and again in the thirteenth, a coalition of Christian kings under the leadership of Castile drove the Muslims from central and most of southern Spain.

Eastern Europe

The High Middle Ages saw the height and decline of the Slavic state of Kievan Rus' and the emergence of Poland. Later, the Mongol invasion in the 13th century had great impact on Eastern Europe, as many countries of that region were invaded, pillaged, conquered and vassalized.

It was during this period that the Byzantine Empire began its centuries-long decline after its pinnacle in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Eastern and Western churches had formally split in the 11th century, leaving the Empire isolated between a hostile west and various Muslim enemies in the east. The Empire suffered a string of decimating military defeats, beginning with the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Fourth Crusade all but destroyed the Byzantines, and their power was further reduced by the Ottoman Empire into the 15th century.

The Rise of Chivalry

Household heavy cavalry (knights) became common in the 11th century across Europe, and tournaments were invented. Although the heavy capital investment in horse and armor was a barrier to entry, knighthood became known as a way for serfs to earn their freedom. In the 12th century, the Cluny monks promoted ethical warfare and inspired the formation of orders of chivalry, such as the Templar Knights. Inherited titles of nobility were established during this period. In 13th-century Germany, knighthood became another inheritable title, although one of the less prestigious, and the trend spread to other countries.

Religion

The Church

The East-West Schism of 1054 formally separated the Christian church into two parts: Western Catholicism in Western Europe and Eastern Orthodoxy in the east. It occurred when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael I excommunicated each other, mainly over disputes as to the existence of papal authority over the four Eastern patriarchs.

The Crusades

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The Siege of Jerusalem

Main article: Crusade

One of the most important events of the period was the series of religious Crusades, in which Christians fought to retake Palestine from the Muslims. The Crusades impacted all levels of society in the High Middle Ages, from the kings and emperors who themselves led the Crusades, to the lowest peasants whose lords were often absent in the east. The height of the Crusades was the 12th century, following the First Crusade and the foundation of the Crusader states; in the 13th century and beyond, Crusades were also directed against fellow Christians, and in eastern and northern Europe, non-Muslim pagans. Expanded contact with the east, especially among the city-states of Italy, would eventually help spark the Italian Renaissance.

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Scholasticism

Main article: Scholasticism

The new Christian philosophy and method of scholasticism developed in the late 12th century from the rediscovery of the works of Aristotle through Medieval Jewish and Muslim Philosophy (Maimonides, Avicenna, and Averroes) and those whom he influenced, most notably Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure and Abélard. Scholastics believed in empiricism and supporting Roman Catholic doctrines through secular study, reason, and logic. They opposed Christian mysticism, and the Platonist-Augustinian beliefs in mind dualism and the view of the world as inherently evil. The most famous of the scholastics was Thomas Aquinas (later declared a "Doctor of the Church"), who led the move away from the Platonic and Augustinian and towards Aristotelianism. Aquinas developed a philosophy of mind by writing that the mind was at birth a tabula rasa ("blank slate") that was given the ability to think and recognize forms or ideas through a divine spark. Other notable scholastics included Roscelin, Abélard, and Peter Lombard. One of the main questions during this time was the problem of the universals. Prominent anti-scholastics included as Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Damian, Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Victorines.Template:Ref

Golden age of monasticism

Mendicant orders

  • The 13th century saw the rise of the Mendicant orders such as the:
    • Franciscans (Friars Minor, commonly known as the Grey Friars), founded 1209
    • Carmelites, (Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Carmel, commonly known as the White Friars), founded 1206–1214
    • Dominicans (Order of Preachers, commonly called the Black Friars), founded 1215
    • Augustinians (Hermits of St. Augustine, commonly called the austin Friars), founded 1256

Heretical movements

Before the 11th century heresy existed in Europe but in small numbers and of local character: a rogue priest, or a village returning to pagan traditions; but beginning in the 11th century mass-movement heresies appeared. The roots of this can be found with the rise of urban cities, free merchants and a new money-based economy. The rural values of monasticism held little appeal to urban people who began to form sects more in tune with urban culture. The first heretical movements originated in the newly urbanized areas such as southern France and northern Italy. They were mass movements on a scale the Church had never seen before, and the response was one of elimination for some, such as the Cathars, and the acceptance and integration of others, such as St. Francis, the son of an urban merchant who renounced money.

Cathars

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Cathars being expelled from Carcassone in 1209.

Main article: Cathars

Catharism was a movement with Gnostic elements that originated around the middle of the 10th century, branded by the contemporary Roman Catholic Church as heretical. It existed throughout much of Western Europe, but its home was in Languedoc and surrounding areas in southern France.

The name Cathar most likely originated from Greek catharos, "the pure ones". One of the first recorded uses is Eckbert von Schönau who wrote on heretics from Cologne in 1181: "Hos nostra germania catharos appellat."

The Cathars are also called Albigensians. This name originates from the end of the 12th century, and was used by the chronicler Geoffroy du Breuil of Vigeois in 1181. The name refers to the southern town of Albi (the ancient Albiga). The designation is hardly exact, for the centre was at Toulouse and in the neighbouring districts.

The Albigensians were strong in southern France, northern Italy, and the southwestern Holy Roman Empire.

Waldensians

Peter Waldo of Lyons was a wealthy merchant who gave up his wealth around 1175 and became preacher. He founded the Waldensians which became a christian sect believeing that all religious practices should have scriptural basis.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were a Christian military order founded after the First Crusade to help protect Christian pilgrims from hostile Muslims. The order was deeply involved in banking, and in 1307 Philip the Fair (Philippe le Bel) had the entire order arrested in France and was dismantled on charges of heresy. They were secretly pardoned by Pope Clement V in 1314.

Trade and commerce

Marco Polo at the court of
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Marco Polo at the court of Kublai Khan

In Northern Europe, the Hanseatic League was founded in the 12th century, with the foundation of the city of Lübeck in 11581159. Many northern cities of the Holy Roman Empire became hanseatic cities, including Amsterdam, Cologne, Bremen, Hannover and Berlin. Hanseatic cities outside the Holy Roman Empire were, for instance, Bruges and Danzig. In Bergen, Norway and Novgorod, Russia the league had factories and middlemen. In this period the Germans started colonising Eastern Europe beyond the Empire, into Prussia and Silesia.

In the late 13th century, a Venetian explorer named Marco Polo became one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk Road to China. Westerners became more aware of the Far East when Polo documented his travels in Il Milione. He was followed by numerous Christian missionnaries to the East, such as William of Rubruck, Giovanni da Pian del Carpini, Andrew of Longjumeau, Odoric of Podenone, Giovanni de Marignolli, Giovanni di Monte Corvino, and other travellers such as Niccolo Da Conti.

Technology

Main article: Medieval technology

During the 12th and 13th century in Europe there was a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. In less than a century there were more inventions developed and applied usefully than in the previous thousand years of human history all over the globe. The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption or invention of printing, gunpowder, the astrolabe, spectacles, and greatly improved ships. They also improved upon the clock. The latter advances made possible the dawn of the Age of Exploration.

Alfred Crosby described some of this technological revolution in The Measure of Reality : Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600 and other major historians of technology have also noted it.

Culture

Art

Main article: Medieval art

Art in the High Middle Ages includes these major periods or movements:

Other areas of study include regional surveys (Anglo-Saxon art and Jewish art for example) or areas of speciality such as Illuminated manuscripts.

Architecture

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Fan vaulting and glass windows at Bath Abbey

Main article: Gothic architecture

Gothic architecture superseded the Romanesque style by combining flying buttresses, gothic (or pointed) arches and ribbed vaults. It was influenced by the spiritual background of the time, being religious in essence: thin horizontal lines and grates made the building strive towards the sky. Architecture was made to appear light and weightless, as opposed to the dark and bulky forms of the previous Romanesque style. Saint Augustine of Hippo taught that light was an expression of God. Architectural techniques were adapted and developed to build churches that reflected this teaching. Colorful glass windows enhanced the spirit of lightness. As color was much rarer at medieval times than today, it can be assumed that these virtuoso works of art had an awe-inspiring impact on the common man from the street. High-rising intricate ribbed, and later fan vaultings demonstrated movement toward heaven. Veneration of God was also expressed by the relatively large size of these buildings. A gothic cathedral therefore not only invited the visitors to elevate themselves spiritually, it was also meant to demonstrate the greatness of God. The floor plan of a gothic cathedral corresponded to the rules of scholasticism: the plan was divided into sections and uniform subsections. These characteristics are exhibited by the most famous sacral building of the time: Notre Dame de Paris.

Literature

Main article: Medieval literature

A variety of cultures influenced the literature of the High Middle Ages, one of the strongest among them being Christianity. The connection to Christianity was greatest in Latin literature, which influenced the vernacular languages in the literary cycle of the Matter of Rome. Other literary cycles, or interrelated groups of stories, included the Matter of France (stories about Charlemagne and his court), and perhaps the best known cycle, the Matter of Britain, which featured tales about King Arthur, his court, and related stories from Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland. There was also a quantity of poetry and historical writings which were written during this period, such as Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Southern France gave birth to Provençal literature, which is best known for troubadors who sang of courtly love. It included elements from Latin literature and Arab-influenced Spain and North Africa. Later its influence spread to several cultures in Western Europe, Portugal, the Minnesänger in Germany, Sicily and Northern Italy, later giving birth to the Italian Dolce Stil Nuovo of Petrarca and Dante, who wrote the most important poem of the time, the Divine Comedy.

Music

Main article: Medieval music

The surviving music of the High Middle Ages is primarily religious in nature, since music notation developed in religious institutions, and application of notation to secular music was a later development. Early in the period, Gregorian chant was the dominant form of church music; other forms, beginning with organum, and later including clausulae, conductus and the motet, developed using the chant as source material.

During the eleventh century, Guido of Arezzo was one of the first to develop musical notation, which made it easier for singers to remember Gregorian chants.

It was during the 12th and 13th centuries that Gregorian plainchant gave birth to polyphony, which appeared in the works of French Notre Dame School (Leonin and Perotin). Later it evolved into the ars nova (Philippe de Vitry, Guillaume de Machaut) and the musical genres of late Middle Ages. An important composer during the 12th century was the nun Hildegard of Bingen.

The most significant secular movement was that of the troubadors, who arose in the south of France in the late 11th century. The troubadors were often itinerant, came from all classes of society, and wrote songs on a variety of topics, especially courtly love. Their style went on to influence the trouvères of northern France and the minnesingers of Germany.

Timeline

References

  1. Music of the Middle Ages: 475-1500 (http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/WestCiv/MedievalMusic.Chron.html)
  2. Middle Ages: The High Middle Ages on Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia at infoplease (http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0859627.html)
  3. Provençal literature on Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia at infoplease (http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/ent/A0840334.html)

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