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The Fluorescence of Medeval Europe


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Describes the Germanic Roots of Medieval Europe, the structure of feudal society, and the role of the Church.

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The Fluorescence of Medeval Europe

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