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Flurrescence of Medieval Europe

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Germanic roots and feudalism are described, as well as the Church and its doctrine.

Germanic roots and feudalism are described, as well as the Church and its doctrine.


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  • 1. The Fluorescence of Medieval Europe The Framework of Feudal Society
  • 2. The Fluorescence of Medieval Europe
    • Christianity formed the ideological framework, the body of ideas that governed all life in this era
    • Interpretation came from authorities
    • The organization itself was hierarchical, headed by the pope or (Eastern Orthodox) patriarch
    • Feudalism also emphasized hierarchy, faith, and, above all, loyalty to some master
    • The left diagram shows the feudal ideal, from king to peasant
  • 3. The Medieval Arts: Abstract Formalism
    • Iconography: Identification and interpretation of symbols, usually in image form
    • Before legalization of Christianity in Rome in 313, visuals identified new converts
    • Fish served as a symbol because Greek word (ichthys) is an acrostic of the first letters of the Greek words:
    • “ Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”
  • 4. Numbers: Allegorical Symbols
    • Numbers acquired allegorical significance, or a symbol other than its literal meaning
    • Three is allegorical for the Trinity
    • Four signifies the Evangelists (i.e. the four authors of the New Testament: the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
    • See p. 196 for their winged symbols: Matthew as man, Mark as lion, Luke as ox, and John as Eagle
    • Twelve signifies the 12 apostles
  • 5. The Medieval Visual Arts
    • Generally, the arts abandon Roman realism
    • Exceptions: Jonah and the Whale recast into the Christian theme of rebirth (fig. 9.6 and 9.7 on p. 199, Fiero text
    • Good Shepherd (p. 199) retains few of the details expected of Roman sculpture
    • Rationale: ban of graven images in Judaism influenced early Christian themes
  • 6. Early Medieval Architecture
    • Early Christian architecture was modeled after the Roman basilica
    • Features: large colonnaded (i.e., with many columns) hall for public meetings:
    • It contained a central nave (hall facing the altar) and a semicircular recess called an apse
    • For Roman version, see fig. 6.16, p. 151 in Fiero text
    • For Christian version, see figs. 9.8 for patterns and 9.9 and 9.10 for illustrations, pp. 200-201
    • Basic Roman model appears to the left
  • 7. Medieval Life: Germanic Roots I
    • The so-called Dark Ages was a period of disorder and a struggle for stability
    • Cause of the disorder: spread of migratory Germanic tribes across Europe in the face of the predatory Huns and ultimately of the Mongols
    • They were largely agrarian, stateless, and militaristic, skilled in battle on foot and on horseback
    • Lacking either cities or urban culture, they were called barbarians by the Romans (originally a Greek term)
    • They represented the dialect of those peoples as “bar, bar, bar”
  • 8. Medieval Life: Germanic Roots II
    • The peoples all spoke a Germanic dialect, usually mutually unintelligible
    • The tribes: Eastern Goths (Ostrogoths); Western Goths (Visigoths), Franks (original French), Angles (original English), Saxons, Vandals, Burgundians
    • Ostrogoths lived in the now Slavic countries eastward; Visigoths lived near the Danube
    • As they were pushed westward, the Goths occupied all of Europe
  • 9. The Sack of Rome
    • Battle of Adrianople: Visigoths defeated the “invincible” Roman army
    • This unleashed a flood of Germanic tribes into the Mediterranean cities, including Rome
    • The tribes included the Vandals, whose willful destruction of Rome in 455 added their name to the English vocabulary to mean the same thing
    • Odoacer deposed the remaining Roman emperor in 476, marking the official end of the Roman empire .
  • 10. Medieval Life: Roots of Germanic Law
    • A chief had his own band of followers
    • The primary law emphasized loyalty to the chief
    • Loyalty to one’s chief went hand in hand with valor in battle
    • “ If [a chief] dies in the field, he who survives him survives in infamy”—Tacitus
    • This loyalty, known as fealty, formed the superstructure of the feudal state that would dominate medieval society for the next thousand years
  • 11. Germanic Law
    • Served as the foundation of English common law and in other countries
    • Law was developed by oral tradition passed down generations
    • The chief was responsible for governing, but general assemblies of armed men made the decisions
    • Assent indicated by brandishing their javelins
    • Unlike Roman law, was not legislated
    • Aim: to publicly shame the guilty, such as adultery (see pp. 244-246)
    • Trial by jury is derived from common law—and Germanic law.
  • 12. Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire
    • Charlemagne (Charles the Great) rose to a throne hoping to restore the Roman empire under Christian leadership
    • In a Christian version of holy war, conquered other Germanic peoples such as the Saxons, the Lombards, and the Slavs
    • In 800, Pope Leo III crowned him “Emperor of the Romans” thereby establishing a bond between state and church
    • Established administrative units under dukes and counts to carry out his edicts
    • Fostered the arts, literature, and architecture (see p. 249 for details.
    • Carolingian copyists invented a typeface, called a miniscule , that separated words with spaces and added punctuation, which Latin lacked.
  • 13. Medieval Life: Roots of Feudalism
    • Feudalism arose after the death of Charlemagne in 814
    • Lacked a standing army, a legal system, or well organized state: fragmentation was inevitable
    • Three sons divided the empire among themselves separating French from German-speaking
    • Attacks by the Vikings from the north and the Muslims from the Mediterranean further created division
    • Fragmentation of his empire led to people at all social levels to attach themselves to the dukes or counts he had created and to any warrior with a following
    • The search for protection and security lay the groundwork for feudalism
  • 14. Structure of Feudalism
    • The king was the chief protector of his subject in his realm, under various names
    • The lords formed the subunit of the realm
    • The knights formed the military level of this structure, with the serfs underneath them
    • The serfs were the peasants, though they might differentiate themselves by social and economic class.
  • 15. The Feudal Contract
    • Feudalism involved the exchange of land for military service
    • In return for the fief (grant of land), the vassal owed his lord a certain number of fighting days (usually 40) in return
    • Other obligations by both lord and vassal were involved: courts of law, paying the ransom for kidnapped lords, and others
    • Provided a form of local government
  • 16. When Knighthood was in Flower
    • Knights formed part of the nobility who provided the protection
    • Comprised a closed, hereditary class
    • Men were mounted cavalry warriors known as chevalie r (French for horse) or Knecht (German for servant);
    • The term knight was derived from the latter
    • Typically wore chain mail (flexible armor made of interlocked metal rings)
    • Observed a code of chivalry involving loyalty to the lord, courage in battle, and reverence toward women
    • War games (such as jousts, or personal combat between men on horseback) were frequent
  • 17. The Chain of Fealty Extended to the Pope
    • The hierarchy of clergy from parish priest to bishop to the pope covered Europe
    • Sanctions ensured the power of the church
    • Excommunication of the individual deprived him or her from the benefits of sacrament
    • Interdict extended this prohibition to entire communities or fiefdoms’
    • Finally, any deviation from Church doctrine was branded as heresy , thereby targeting the individual or community for these sanctions, plus more severe, physical punishment—such as burning at the stake
  • 18. The Crusade: War Against the Infidels
    • Initially intended to recapture Christian lands from Muslim.
    • The crusades expanded to subjugate pagan Slavs, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Jews, and heretics, among others
    • There were nine Crusades, according to one typology
    • As in all wars, the Crusades involved mass killings in the name of Christianity
  • 19. Interpretation of the Crusades: A Defensive Move?
    • According to some historians (e.g. Thomas Madden), the Crusades were a defensive response to Islamic expansion
    • Expansion was ordered by Muhammad himself, who declared war against other religious faiths
    • The Muslims were doing well, conquering two-thirds of the old Christian world in Turkey, North Africa, and much of southern Europe
    • When Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade (left), he justified it as a defense against Islamic expansionism
  • 20. The Crusades: Holy Terror
  • 21. Conclusion
    • The medieval era also had Germanic roots
    • The iconography of Christianity became codes for pre-legal Christians in Rome
    • Some of the architecture was of Roman derivation, such as the basilica
    • There were Germanic as well as Hebrew and classical roots of the medieval era
    • Feudalism itself came from the Germanic tribal beliefs of loyalty to one’s chief
    • The hierarchy also was of Roman derivation
    • They culminated in the Crusades against Muslims and others
    • Next: how did the arts of the medieval era reflect this social and political structure?