The Early Middle Ages 500 - 1000 AD
After the fall of the Roman Empire the Nobles of Europe came to power with the help of the Roman Catholic Popes. This should last for a thousand years (until about 1,450 AD) then the power of the cities and reformers became stronger and stronger. This should result in the slowly dismantling of Kingdoms, Counties, Duchies and the power of the Roman Catholic Church.
The people who suffered during this long period under the joke of the Church and the Warlike Kings, Counts and Dukes became more and more independent with the help of the Cities. From the 14th century onwards most cities were fortified all over Europe to defend the citizens against Warlike Nobles. Finally came the time of progress in architecture, art, trade and science and the first form of democracy was introduced in 1462 AD..
Medieval England, France and Germany
Saxon Britain 600-900 AD
One of these customs was fighting everyone in sight. A king's power was not hereditary; it depended solely on his ability to win battles and so gain land, treasure, and slaves to give his supporters. He was obliged to fight and keep fighting. If not, he would find himself out of a job or deprived of his life, or both. Succession from father to son was never a forgone conclusion. Any relative of the old king who could muster enough support could make a bid for the throne. This helps to explain why the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms came and went so quickly. The power of any kingdom over its neighbours was only as solid as the strength of its king in battle.
King Offa. Roughly speaking, the 7th century was the age of Northumbrian ascendance, with Mercia playing second fiddle. In the 8th century these roles reversed. The most powerful and well known of the Mercian kings was Offa, who ruled from 758-796. A successful warrior (which is a given for anyone in those days who managed to hold onto power for so long), he defeated kings in Sussex, Anglia, and Wessex, proclaiming himself King of the English.
Offa caused to be built the earthwork that still bears his name, Offa's Dyke, which stretches the 150 mile length of the Welsh border. Begun in the 780's, the purpose of the dyke seems to have been as a fortified frontier barrier, much as Hadrian's Wall some six centuries previous.
In most places the ditch was 25 feet from the bottom of the cut to the top of the bank, with wood or stone walling on top of that. The work involved has been compared to the building of the Great Pyramid. This gives us some idea of the power wielded by Offa. It seems that the dyke was not permanently manned, relying instead on the warning given by a series of beacons.
The upper hand enjoyed by the Mercians did not long survive Offa's death. In the 820's a series of victories by Egbert, king of Wessex, broke Mercian control in the south east. The 9th century may well have turned into a struggle for the upper hand between Mercia and Wessex if not for one thing; England was once again the subject of recurring raids from across the seas. This time it was the Danes and Norwegians. The Danes attacked the east coast of England, the Norwegians attacked the north by way of Ireland and Scotland.
In the early part of the period, the Roman province of Gaul gives way to the Frankish kingdoms, led for some 250 years by the Merovingian kings. Even under the Merovingians, the region remains recognizably Roman, preserving Roman administrative structures, language, learning, and many artistic practices.
Christianity assumes ever greater importance as the nobility converts, founding large numbers of monasteries. The network of churches and monasteries built in the Merovingian period provides Charlemagne with an administrative infrastructure that will allow him to create his great empire in the ninth century.
Charlemagne's descendants, known as the Carolingians, will rule the region until almost the end of the period. Metalwork remains an important art form throughout the period. Highly accomplished examples of ivory carving and manuscript painting emerge under Carolingian rule. Though relatively few survive, many stone buildings—particularly in the form of churches, monasteries, and palaces—are built.
In the early part of the period, central Europe is inhabited by various tribes, either pagan or newly Christian. By 1000, the region is the heartland of the Holy Roman Empire, a loose confederation of territory ruled by a Christian dynasty aspiring to the greatness of Roman and Byzantine imperial power.
The shift affects patronage of the arts. Sixth- and seventh-century patrons commission portable metal objects and personal adornments that might aggrandize them anywhere; ninth- and tenth-century emperors seek to replicate the splendors of Christian Rome. They foster the building of stone churches and monasteries, the illumination of sumptuous books, and the casting of bronze sculptures in a revival of ancient technique.
The most important events in the period 500 to 1,500 AD.
500 AD Clovis, founder of the Frankish state, conquers most of France and Belgium, converting his territories to Western Catholic Christianity. He founds the Merovingian dynasty and passes his kingdom on to his sons, who begin fighting one another for additional territory.
ca. 550 AD Various tribes, among them the Franks, Alemans, Thuringians, and Saxons, are active in central Europe, an area the Romans called Germania. Some, like the Franks, adopt Christianity in the fifth century; others, like the Thuringians, remain pagan even in the face of brutal efforts to convert them. These Germanic peoples operate in small bands of warriors, owe a fierce loyalty to their chieftains, and move from one settlement to the next rather than establishing urban centers. Metalwork is chief among the arts of the period. Germanic artisans make jewelry, decorated weapons, and other portable luxury objects with rich surface patterns, abstracted animal forms, and colorful inlays.
ca. 575–591 AD Gregory of Tours writes the Historia Francorum, a ten-book history recording the deeds of the Franks. Gregory becomes bishop of Tours in 573. His writings serve as the sole testimony to much of the architecture of his day, as most of these buildings no longer stand. He praises the craftsmanship of his generation and is a patron of many buildings and artworks himself, including a new Cathedral of Saint-Martin at Tours (destroyed in the Norman invasions of the ninth century).
590 AD Pope Gregory, originally a Benedictine, creates a religious policy for western Europe by fusing the Roman papacy with Benedictine monasticism. He creates the Latin church, which serves to counteract the subordination of the Roman popes to Eastern emperors. As the fourth great "church father," St. Gregory the Great draws his theology from Ambrose of Milan, Jerome and AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO. His concepts of purgatory and penance widen the gulf between the Eastern and Western Churches. He reigns until his death in 604.
599–600 AD In two letters to Bishop Serenus of Marseille, Pope Gregory the Great criticizes the bishop's destruction of images in his diocese, arguing that pictures are useful for educating the illiterate. Gregory's statements will serve as the basis for church doctrine concerning artistic images in the West for the next thousand years.
610 AD Heraclius becomes Emperor in Constantinople as the Persian Empire is attempting the takeover of Byzantine civilization. For the sake of convenience, the rule of Heraclius generally marks the beginning of Byzantine history, though it can be argued that Byzantine civilization begins with Diocletian, Constantine or Justinian.
622 AD Mohammed founds the Islam in Medina Arabia. This event was the introduction to the later Wars between Moslems and Christianity, the Crusades (11th-12th century) and the fall of the Byzantium and Ottoman empires (15th century).
627 AD: Persia is conquered by Byzantine forces. The Jerusalem cross is retrieved from the Persians, who stole the relic in 614. Heraclius reigns until his death in 641.
642 AD The Moslem Caliph Omar from Damascus ordered that all the books in the library of Alexandria in Egypt should be destroyed because, as he said "they will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous." Therefore, the books and scrolls were taken out of the library and distributed as fuel to the many bathhouses of the city. So enormous was the volume of literature that it took six months for it all to be burnt to ashes heating the saunas of the conquerors.
650 AD Arab forces conquer most of the Byzantine territories, formerly occupied by the Persians.
ca. 650 AD Saint Eligius, bishop of Noyon and renowned metalworker, fashions a cross of gold and jewels, a fragment of which is still preserved at the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris. Fine metalwork holds particular prestige for the Franks, who commission it for both personal jewelry and ecclesiastical objects.
677 AD The Arabs attempt to conquer Constantinople but fail.
687 AD Pepin of Heristal, a Merovingian ruler, unites the Frankish territories and builds the center of his kingdom in Belgium and other Rhine regions. He is succeeded by his son, Charles Martel, who forms an alliance with the Church which helps the Merovingian Dynasty (and Christianity) to expand into Germany. Pepin the Short succeeds his father, Charles Martel, and strengthens the alliance between Benedictine missionaries and Frankish expansion.
700 AD Benedictine missionaries complete the conversion of England begun by St. Gregory the Great. The Franks assert their dominance throughout central and western Europe, establish palaces for their kings, and win a reputation for the effectiveness of their armies. In 732, they halt the advance of Islamic forces into France and, in 754, when the pope feels threatened by his Lombard neighbors, he calls the Franks to help. The Franks come to style themselves defenders of the Christian faith and enjoy the special sanction of the pope.
717 AD The Arabs attempt to conquer Constantinople for the second time. Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian, who reigns until 741, counters the Arab attempt with "Greek Fire" (a liquid mixture of sulfur, naphtha and quicklime which is released from bronze tubes, situated on ships and on the walls of Constantinople) and great military strength. Leo defeats the Arab forces and reconquers most of Asia Minor. The territory of Asia Minor, together with Greece, becomes the seat of Byzantine civilization for several centuries.
October 732 AD Charles Martel and his army participate in a series of small encounters that are collectively called the Battle of Poitiers or the Battle of Tours. Charles, ruler of the Franks, is called upon by the duke of Aquitaine to help repel the Muslim incursions into what is now France, which began with the Arabs' arrival in the Iberian Peninsula in 711. Emerging victorious, Charles ensures that the Muslims will proceed no further into Frankish territory.
735 AD Venerable Bede, an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine scholar, writes the History of the English Church and People in Latin, perhaps the best historical writing of medieval history.
740 AD The Iconoclastic movement is initiated by Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian, but the movement flourishes under the reign of his son Constantine V who rules until 775. The Iconoclasts advocate doing away with paganistic icon worship (images of Christ or saints). For them, Christ cannot be manifested or conceived of through human art. The Iconoclast controversy ends in the ninth century when a new Byzantine spirituality recognizes that the contemplation of icons may help someone assend from the material to the immaterial.
750 AD The first great English epic poem, Beowulf, is written in Old English. The work is anonymous and untitled until 1805. It is a Christian poem that exemplifies early medieval society in England and shows roots in Old Testament Law. Irish monks establish early-medieval art. The greatest surviving product of these monks is the Book of Kells, a Gospel book of decorative art.
751 AD St. Boniface anoints Pepin the Short a divinely sanctioned king of the Franks by the noblemen of his kingdom, marking the beginning of the Carolingian dynasty. After his death in 768, he is buried at Saint-Denis and his kingdom divided between his two sons, Charles and Carloman. When Carloman dies in 771, all of the land passes to Charles, better known as Charlemagne.
754 AD St. Boniface murdered by the Frysians in the Lowlands.
768 AD Pepin's son, Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne), succeeds his father and is one of the most important rulers of medieval history. In time, his empire, known as the Carolingian dynasty, includes the greater section of central Europe, northern Italy and central Italy in addition to realms already conquered by Frankish rule. Charlemagne's system of government divides the vast realm into different regions, ruled by local "counts" who are overseen by representatives of Charlemagne's own court. In addition, to aid expansion and administration of the kingdom, Charlemagne promotes, what is called later, the "Carolingian Renaissance." Prior to this revival of learning, practically the entire realm (with the exception of Benedictine England) is illiterate due to the decay of the Roman Empire. The director of the "renaissance" is Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Alcuin, who receives his learning from a student of Bede. Alcuin sets up schools, sees to the copying of classical Latin texts and develops a new handwriting.
772 AD Charlemagne (Charles the Great), king of the Franks, embarks on a series of military campaigns that ultimately subject the lands of modern France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and parts of Italy to his rule. He moves from castle to castle in order to govern his vast empire, but makes his new palace at Aachen the capital. In 792, he begins construction of a palace chapel at Aachen modeled on the Church of San Vitale at Ravenna (consecrated in 547), which was built during the time of Emperor Justinian (527–565). Charlemagne was even said to have taken columns from San Vitale to complete his chapel.
790–792 AD Charlemagne's court responds to the Iconoclastic controversy in Byzantium with the Libri Carolini (the Caroline Books). The treatise limits images to decorative or mnemonic uses. Although it falls short of advocating the destruction of images, it refuses to support Pope Gregory's venerable claim that images can be used to teach the ignorant and seems to have met with an unenthusiastic response from Pope Hadrian I.
ca. 795 AD Charlemagne commissions the scribe Dagulf to create a small Book of Psalms (Paris, Louvre; Vienna, National Library) for Hadrian I, probably intended as part of a package of diplomatic gifts. The book is notable for its lavish use of gold and costly purple and blue pigments, as well as for its elegant ivory covers showing scenes of the textual transmission of the Psalms. The covers allude to Charlemagne's ambitious efforts at ecclesiastical and educational reform, which include the large-scale production and distribution of newly copied and corrected Latin texts.
ca. 796–850 AD The scriptorium at the Monastery of Saint-Martin's at Tours specializes in the production of single-volume Bibles that include all the books of the Old and New Testaments. These enormous tomes sometimes include miniature paintings used as dividers for major sections of the text. In 846, one such Bible is created for King Charles the Bald. It includes a long poem dedicating the book to the king as well as a painting depicting the monks presenting the manuscript to him (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale).
800 AD Charlemagne is crowned "Emperor and Augustus" in Rome on Christmas Day by Pope Leo III, a gesture intended to bolster the power of both pope and king, to link Charlemagne's rule with the emperors of ancient Rome, and to assert the parity of the Western Roman Empire with Byzantium.
ca. 805 AD At Aachen, Charlemagne promotes a revival of classical culture. He founds schools, brings the scholar Alcuin of York to his court, and encourages artists to reinvigorate Greco-Roman traditions. He commissions lavish manuscript books, copies of sacred and classical texts, and sets a fashion emulated by his heirs. Some Carolingian books have gem-encrusted covers, purple-dyed pages, text written in gold and silver inks, and miniature illustrations executed in a lively, confident style. Court workshops also produce cast bronze figures, ivory carvings, and treasury objects that incorporate precious metals, gemstones, and antique cameos.
814 AD Charlemagne dies without leaving competent successors to continue the glory of the Carolingian dynasty. His sole surviving son, Louis the Pious, divides his inheritance between his own three sons, who engage in civil war. Charlemagne's united realm is invaded by Scandinavian Vikings, Hungarians and Muslims during these civil wars. The Carolingian Empire falls apart.
ca. 817 AD Gozbert, abbot at Saint Gall (Sankt Gallen) in Switzerland, receives from another abbot an ideal plan for a monastery. Near the center of the community is a square cloister flanked by the abbey church, a rectangular structure with an apse at either end. All around are other buildings of quadrilateral plan, each one designated for its own purpose as bakery, brewery, dormitory, guesthouse, infirmary, library, and so on. The Saint Gall plan is not intended as a working design for any specific monastery, but many monastic foundations built in the ninth century seem to aspire to its ideal and resemble small towns, orderly and self-sufficient.
843 AD The Treaty of Verdun divides the Carolingian Empire among the three grands of Charlemagne. Charles the Bald receives Francia Occidentalis (much of western modern-day France), Lothar I receives Francia Media (central lands including parts of modern Belgium, the Netherlands, western Germany, eastern France, Switzerland, and much of Italy), and Louis II receives Francia Orientalis (land east of the Rhine River).
855–869 AD King Lothair II, great-grandson of Charlemagne, commissions the engraving of a large rock crystal. Some four inches in diameter, the rock crystal, now in the British Museum, is carved with eight detailed scenes from the Old Testament story of Susanna.
871 AD King Alfred the Great of England constructs a system of government and education which allows for the unification of smaller Anglo-Saxon states in the ninth and tenth centuries. Alfred is responsible for the codification of English law, public interest in local government and the reorganization of the army. He founds schools and promotes Anglo-Saxon literacy and the establishment of a national culture. Alfred dies in 899. His innovations are continued by his successors.
10th century AD Hrotsvitha, a nun at Gandersheim abbey in Saxony, writes secular and religious poems, plays, and epics noteworthy for their highly sophisticated Latin.
909 AD William I the Pious, duke of Aquitaine, donates land in Burgundy for the building of a Benedictine monastery dedicated to saints Peter and Paul. Hence the monastery of Cluny, which will become the largest in the West, is born. In the foundation charter, William renounces all rights to the monastery, allows for the free election of the abbot by the monks, and places the monastery directly under the control of the Papal See.
910 AD The Benedictine monastery of Cluny in Burgundy becomes a place of monastic reform. The two major innovations here are the direct subjection of monasteries to the pope -- avoiding secular, local and ecclesiastical powers -- and the building of "daughter monasteries" subordinate to the Cluniac "family," which grows to sixty-seven monasteries by 1049.
911 AD The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte between Charles the Simple, king of the Franks, and Rollo (Hrolf), Viking leader of the Normans, is concluded. The Franks hand over the central piece of land that will become Normandy to the invaders from the north in an attempt to stop their attacks.
936 AD Otto the Great is crowned king in Germany and is responsible for Germany's strength through the latter part of the eleventh century. Otto establishes a pattern of resistance to political fragmentation and a close alliance with the Church.
955 AD John XII becomes pope at the age of eighteen and rules for nine years. His title as pope exemplifies the decline in value of the Church in the early-medieval period. Local lords establish control over churches and monasteries, and Church officials are often unqualified. The majority of priests are illiterate and live with concubines. The majority of popes, mostly sons of powerful Roman families, are corrupt or incompetent.
962 AD Otto I, duke of Saxony and king of the Germans, is crowned emperor by Pope John XII. This revival of the Roman empire in the West, in the tradition of the Carolingians, will come be known as the Holy Roman Empire. Until the dissolution of the empire in 1806, every candidate for election to the throne must be able to trace his ancestry back to Otto I.
968 AD Emperor Otto I completes and dedicates a new cathedral at Magdeburg in Saxony. Like other imperial churches of the period, it includes a westwork, a structure attached to the entrance wall and outfitted with galleries for royal appearances. Otto makes Magdeburg a base for missionary efforts to convert the pagan Slavs to the east. The patron saint of the city is Mauritius, who, as a military leader fighting for Christianity against pagan armies, shares affinities with Otto himself. Since Mauritius commanded African troops, he is often depicted with dark skin and African features.
972 AD Otto II marries a Byzantine princess, Theophano, thus creating an alliance between the Ottonian and Byzantine empires.
973 AD Mathilde, granddaughter of Otto I, becomes the abbess of the convent at Essen. An extraordinary patron of art, Mathilde contributes a candelabra and three bejeweled processional crosses to the foundation. The grandest expression of Mathilde's munificence is a golden statue of the Virgin, which is one of the earliest surviving large-scale sculptures from medieval Germany.
987 AD Hugues Capet ascends to the Frankish throne, inaugurating the Capetian dynasty and replacing the Carolingians. The Capetian dynasty rules until 1328. Initially the Capetians wield little authority beyond their capital at Paris, but in time their power grows and with it the importance of Paris as an administrative, ecclesiastical, and artistic center.
ca. 1000 AD Emperor Otto III commissions a sumptuous gospel book illustrated with miniatures notable for their linear expressiveness and debt to Byzantine models (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek). Other Ottonian commissions include magnificent altar frontals, treasury objects, and architectural sculpture. Ottonian artists expand the gestural language and narrative potential of many-figured scenes, experiment with ways to express emotion, and bring both weight and grace to depictions of the human form.
1025 AD The Byzantine aristocracy gains control over the government and begins to limit the freedom of the peasantry, thereby beginning the destruction of the economic base of Byzantine civilization.
1046 AD German Emperor Henry III arrives in Italy and names a German monastic reformer as pope. The series of reforming popes that follow enacts decrees against simony and clerical marriage.
1049 AD The Cluniac monastic reform sparks interest in the reform of the clerical hierarchy.
The High Middle Ages 1000-1300 AD.
1050 AD The period from 1050 to 1300 is generally considered the High Middle Ages. Western Europe rises as a great power with only China equaling it in political, economic and cultural flourishing. It also witnesses profound religious and intellectual change, including the organization of the papal monarchy.
The first agricultural revolution of Medieval Europe begins about 1000 with a shift to the northern lands for cultivation, a period of improved climate from 700 to 1200 in western Europe, and the widespread use and perfection of new farming devices, some previously discovered by the Carolingians and the Romans. Technological innovations include the use of the heavy plow, the three-field system of crop rotation, the use of mills for processing cloth, brewing beer, crushing pulp for paper manufacture and many other advantages that before were not available, and the widespread use of iron and horses. With an increase in agricultural advancements.
Western towns and trade grow exponentially and Western Europe introduce a money economy.
1059 AD The reforming popes, following from the acts of Henry III, issue a decree on papal elections which gives the cardinals sole right of appointing new popes. This decree allows papal elections to escape the whims of political leaders.
1066 AD William the Conqueror invades England and asserts his right to the English throne at the Battle of Hastings. The Norman Conquest fuses French and English cultures because William is both the King of England and the Duke of Normandy. The language of England evolves into Middle English with an English syntax and grammar and a heavily French vocabulary. French art and literature prevail over previous English art and literature, and the French language eventually becomes the language of the political realm. William achieves political stability in England with the introduction of the feudal system. The system progresses over the next two centuries into a national monarchy.
1071 AD The Seljuk Turks of Islam defeat the Byzantines at Manzikert in Asia Minor and reconquer most of the eastern Byzantine provinces.
1073 AD Gregory VII initiates a new conception of Church. According to Gregory, the Church is obligated to create "right order in the world," rather than withdraw from it. Gregory seeks to create a papal monarchy with power over the secular state and to establish ecclesiastical authority. Henry IV, the German king, resists this authority thereby inaugurating the "investiture controversy." Gregory excommunicates Henry IV in 1077. The Gregorian reform encourages the practice of Christian warfare in the pursuit of providing "right order in the world" and establishes religious enthusiasm in all of Christendom.
1079 AD Scholasticism emerges as an attempt to reconcile classical philosophy (primarily Aristotelean) with Christianity. Peter Abelard contributes to this movement with his great theological work, Sic et Non. He dies in 1142.
1095 AD The First Crusade is initiated when Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus requests help in reconquering the lost territory of Asia Minor. Western Europe sends enormous support to rescue Jerusalem from the control of Islam. Pope Urban II calls the crusade to strengthen the Gregorian papacy by bringing the Greek Orthodox Church under papal authority and by humiliating the German emperor Henry IV who had forced Urban to flee Italy.
1098 AD The crusaders of the First Crusade capture Antioch and most of Syria, killing the Turkish inhabitants. The oldest epic poem in French, The Song of Roland, is written by an unknown author. The poem is set in northern Spain during the reign of Charlemagne and is based on the Roncesvalles massacre of Charlemagne's rearguard. It serves to establish the differing characteristics between Christianity and paganism. The death scene of Roland, devoted patriot of Charlemagne, is commonly considered one of the greatest scenes in all of world literature.
1099 AD The crusaders of the First Crusade capture Jerusalem, killing its Muslim inhabitants. The Crusaders divide their new territories into four principalities.
1100 AD Henry I, the son of Willaim the Conqueror, institutes a system of representatives dedicated to travelling the country and administering justice. He dies in 1135. Around the same time, a new asceticism is sought for monks who wish to engage in contemplation and self-examination. Two new orders are created: the Carthusian and the Cistercian. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, leader of the Cistercians, establishes 343 monasteries by the time of his death. Accompanying the fervent worship of Christ Jesus during this period is the pronouncement of the Virgin Mary as a saint. This is the first time a woman is given central significance in the Christian religion.
1108 AD Louis VI, the first important Capetian king of France, banishes the "robber barons" from the Ile-de-France, which allows agriculture, trade and intellectual activity to flourish.
1122 AD A compromise is drawn between pope and emperor over the issue of investiture. At the Concordat of Worms (a German city), religious symbols, originally invested for prelates, are replaced with symbols of temporal rule. Prelates accept the emperor as their temporal overlord and are invested with the symbol that recognizes their right to rule. Following the issue of investiture, the successors of Gregory VII develop the canon law of the Church which provides the papacy with jurisdiction over the clergy, the rights of inheritance and the rights of widows and orphans. Because the papacy begins acting as a court of appeals, it is necessary that popes are trained as legal experts, rather than as monks.
1125 AD German princes abolish the hereditary claim to the throne and establish the right to elect new rulers.
1144 AD The Romanesque abbey church of St. Denis, a burial shrine for French saints and kings, is torn down and replaced with Gothic architecture. Gothic architecture is highlighted by pointed arches, rather than Roman arches, ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses and intricately wrought stained-glass depictions of stories from the Bible and everyday life.
1152 AD Frederick I of Germany entitles his realm the "Holy Roman Empire," in an attempt to bring prestige back to the German throne.
1155 AD A student of Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, writes the Book of Sentences which answers fundamental questions of theology with passages from the Bible and various Christian thinkers. His book becomes a standard text in all universities by the thirteenth century.
1164 AD Henry II constructs the Constitutions of Clarendon in an attempt to regain power for the civil courts, which have been loosing authority to ecclesiastical ones. The archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, strongly resists the decision of Henry and a quarrel breaks out. Becket is murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. He is quickly made a martyr by the English public and is revered as the greatest saint of English history. The political result is the abandonment of Henry's court program. Aside from this event, Henry II is considered one of England's greatest kings due to his judicial reforms and legal innovations. His reforms establish a stable government which requires little, if any, attention of the king.
1165 AD Frenchman Chretien de Troyes is the first writer to condense the legendary Arthurian history, based on the Celtic hero King Arthur and his knights of chivalry, into what is known as the Arthurian Romances. Chretien is the first writer to put forth the idea of romantic love within marriage. The innovation of longer narrative poems is the earliest ancestor to the modern novel. The idea of chivalry, the literal meaning being "horsemanship," emerges about the time of the romances. Chivalry includes the defense of honor, combat in tournaments, and the virtues of generosity and reverence. The noble code of chivalry is accompanied with the improvement of noble life and the status of noblewomen.
1168 AD English scientist Robert Grosseteste translates Aristotle's Ethics and makes technological advances in optics, mathematics and astronomy. He dies in 1253.
1170 AD The first European windmill is developed.
1176 AD The German troops of Frederick I are defeated by the Italian Lombard League at Legnano.
1180 AD Philip Augustus, Louis VI's grandson, assumes the title of monarch in France. He recaptures most of the western French territory, previously taken by William the Conqueror, from the English king, John. Philip installs royal officials in the conquered regions in order to win allegience to the king. Philip is one of the strongest founders of the modern French state.
1187 AD Muslims recapture Jerusalem, and the Third Crusade is ordered. It is led by German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, French King Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionhearted. It is not successful.
1189 AD Richard the Lionhearted, son of Henry II, assumes the English crown. He rules for ten years and is only present in the country a total of six months. His rule exemplifes the strength of the governmental foundations set up by Henry II. During Richard's absence, ministers take care of administration and help to raise taxes for the support of the crusades.
1198 AD Innocent III, the founder of the Papal State, is thirty-seven when he is elected pope. He is trained in canon law and theology. His primary concern of administration is the unification of all Christendom under the papal monarchy, including the right to interfere with the rule of kings. He is the organizer of the Fourth Crusade, ordered to recapture Jerusalem from Islam.
1200 AD The growth of lay education and the intellectual renaissance begin. Students start entering schools with no intention of becoming priests, and education is offered in European languages other than Latin. The rise in lay education causes a loss in Church control over education, the growth of literacy in the West and the transformation of cathedral schools into advanced liberal arts universities. Bologna and Paris are the distinguishing schools of the High Middle Ages.
1204 AD The crusaders of the Fourth Crusade capture Constantinople. The sack of Constantinople causes a firm Byzantine hatred of the West. King John of England loses Normandy and the surrounding area to the French king, Philip Augustus.
1206 AD St. Francis of Assisi, at the age of twently-five begins his twenty year allegiance to Christ Jesus until his death in 1226. He is the founder of the Franciscan order which seeks to imitate the life of Jesus by embracing poverty. St. Francis wins the support of Pope Innocent III.
1208 AD Innocent III calls for the Albigensian Crusade in order to destroy the heretical threat of the Albigensians.
1212 AD Spain reconquers the Iberian peninsula from the Muslims in the name of Christianity.
1214 AD A student of Grosseteste, Roger Bacon predicts the technological advancement of automobiles and airplanes and extends Grosseteste's observations in optics. Both thinkers advocate concrete sensory observation for the advancement of scientific thought, rather than abstract reasoning.
1215 AD Innocent III organizes the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome in order to discuss and define central dogmas of Christianity. It recognizes the necessity of the Eucharist and penance as sacraments for salvation. The Council exemplifies the power of the papacy over kings and Church. The Council also calls for the Fifth Crusade to be warred under papal guidance by sea. It is a failure. English barons write "The Magna Carta" (Great Charter) in order to cease John's demands of money from the English without the consent of the barons and to require that all men be judged by a jury of peers in public courts, rather than privately by the crown. The Magna Carta serves as a symbol of a limited government and a crown that is bound by the same laws as the public.
1216 AD The Dominican order is founded by St. Dominic of Spain and is authorized by Innocent III. Its purpose is to convert Muslims and Jews and to put an end to heresy. The Dominicans eventually become the main administrators of inquisitorial trials.
1223 AD Louis VIII, Philip Augustus' son, rules for three years and conquers most of southern France.
1225 AD Thomas Aquinas, the most influential Scholastic theologian, is teaching at the University of Paris. Aquinas believes in the contemplation of God through the natural order, though ultimate truths are revealed only by studying the revelations of the Bible. His two greatest works are the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa Theologica, both of which attempt to found the Christian faith on rational principles. His philosophy emphasizes human reasoning, life in the material order and the individual's participation in personal salvation.
1226 AD Louis IX (St. Louis), son of Louis VIII, is one of the most loved monarchs of French history. He is canonized by the Church for his piety and reigns over a period of internal peace in France.
1228 AD Frederick II, leader of the Sixth Crusade, begins a diplomatic negotiation with Islam for control of Jerusalem. It is a success. However, because Frederick was excommunicated by the pope, he crowns himself king of Jerusalem.
1237 AD The Mongols, under the leadership of Batu, cross the Urals from Asia into Russia. Prior to the thirteenth century, Russia is ruled by westerners who found the Kievan state. During the thirteenth century Russia retreats from the West, partly due to the distance between Moscow and the rest of Europe.
1240 AD Mongols enter the state of Kiev and create a new state on the Volga River, from where they rule Russia for two centuries. Over these two centuries, the Grand Duchy of Moscow emerges and eventually defeats the Mongol Khans.
1242 AD: St. Bonaventura enters the Franciscan order. He becomes the seventh general of that order within fifteen years. He is a professor of theology at the University of Paris, Bishop of Albano, made cardinal by Gregory X and is canonized by Sixtus IV. St. Bonaventura's major works are the Reductio Artium in Theologiam, the Biblia Pauperum and the Breviloquium. His thought is heavily influenced by an ancient Greek philosopher, Plotinus.
1244 AD Jerusalem is lost by the West and is not recaptured again until 1917.
1250 AD The successors of Innocent III are involved in a political struggle with Frederick II, who attempts to take control in central Italy. They order a crusade against him, the first time a crusade is called for political reasons. The outcome is the death of Frederick.
1252 AD The papacy approves the use of torture for religious disobedience, following Innocent III's brutal "inquisitions" against heresy (namely the Waldensian and Albigensian heretics).
1260 AD Several texts are translated from their original languages into Latin, including the texts of Aristotle.
1261 AD The Byzantine Empire returns to Constantinople.
1265 AD Dante Alighieri is born. Later, he will write the Divine Comedy -- perhaps the greatest literary expression of the Middle Ages -- in Italian verse. Born in Florence, Dante is extensively educated in literature, philosophy and Scholastic theology. His "Comedy" is saturated with the belief of earthly immortality through worthy deeds and the preparation of life everlasting.
1267 AD Florentine Giotto, the most important painter of the later Middle Ages, begins the modern tradition in painting. He is a naturalist whose paintings include depictions of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem and the death of St. Francis.
1268 AD The military champion of the papacy's crusade against the heirs of Frederick II is Charles of Anjou, who is from the French royal house. Charles defeats the last of Frederick's heirs and wins Sicily.
1272 AD Edward I of England, Henry III's son, establishes Parliament, originally a feudal court for the king and not yet a system of representative government.
1280 AD Eyeglasses are invented and later improved in the late medieval period.
1282 AD Charles of Anjou's efforts to tax Sicily provokes the "Sicilian Vespers" revolt. The rebels install the king of Aragon as their own king, thereby reinstating rule to the house of Frederick II.
1285 AD France becomes the strongest power in Europe due to the administration of St. Louis' grandson, Philip IV. He attempts to gain full control over the French Church from Rome and begins the process of governmental centralization.
1294 AD Boniface VIII disputes with the kings of England and France over the taxation of the clergy for support of war. Later, Boniface will run into political problems with Philip IV of France.
The Late Middle Ages (1300-1500 AD)
The Late Middle Ages begins here and ends around 1500. The beginning of the Late Middle Ages witnesses the invention of the magnetic compass, greatly aiding overseas expansion and enhancing trade between places such as Italy and the North.
1300 AD Boniface VIII calls the first papal "jubilee," thereby recognizing pilgrimages to Rome instead of Jerusalem, which is no longer accessible to the West.
1303 AD Boniface VIII is captured in Anagni by local citizens and is abused beyond his capabilities to sustain the mistreatment. He dies in his seventies a month after his release. After his death, the Church witnesses many institutional crises.
1305 AD The papacy is moved from Rome to Avignon, beginning the Church's "Babylonian Captivity." For most of the fourteenth century, the papacy is subordinate to French authority with the majority of cardinals and popes being French.
1315 AD Bad weather and crop failure result in famine across northwestern Europe. Unsanitary conditions and malnutrition increase the death rate. Even after the revival of agricultural conditions, weather disasters reappear. A mixture of war, famine and plague in the Late Middle Ages reduces the population by one-half.
1327 AD Born in 1260, German Dominican Master Eckhart defines the individual soul as a "spark" of the divine at its most basic element. By renouncing all knowledge of the self, one is able to retreat into that "spark" and reach God. Most of his teachings are condemned by the papacy. Two bands of mysticism arise from Eckhart's theories: heterodox, the belief in the unification of God and man on earth without the aid of priests as intermediaries, and orthodox, the belief in the possibility of joining the soul with God and the awareness of divine presence in everyday life.
1328 AD The last heir of the Capetian dynasty dies and is replaced by the first ruler of the Valois dynasty. Because the English kings are also descended from the Capetian line, England attempts to claim the French crown.
1330 AD Oxford theologian John Wyclif is born. He later becomes the leader of a heretical movement: finding the Church extravagant, he condemns most Church officials and begins a reform movement. He receives aristocratic support by advocating the replacement of officials with men willing to lead apostolic lives modeled on the New Testament. He dies in 1384, before the death penalty for heresy emerges in England. The use of heavy cannons in warfare begins.
1337 AD The French retaliate against the English and initiate the Hundred Years' War, a series of battles lasting until 1453. The three greatest battles of the war are fought at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). Due to the military superiority of the English, the French are defeated in most of the battles.
1340 AD Geoffrey Chaucer is born. He later begins the literary tradition with his Canterbury Tales.
1342 AD The reign of Avignonese Pope Clement VI exemplifies the French takeover of the Church. Clement offers spiritual benefits for money, appoints Church leaders for economic gains and commits sexual acts on "doctors' orders." The French Church based in Avignon rises in power, centralizes the Church government and establishes a system of papal finance.
1347 AD The Black Death appears during a time of economic depression in Western Europe and reoccurs frequently until the fifteenth century. The Black Death is a combination of bubonic and pneumonic plagues and has a major impact on social and economic conditions. Religious flagellation appears among lay groups in order to appease the divine wrath. English Franciscan William of Ockham dies. He teaches that God is free to do good and bad on earth as He wishes and developes the philosophical position known as "nominalism." His quest for certainty in human knowledge is one of the foundations of the scientific method.
1348 AD Italian Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) begins writing the Decameron, a collection of stories about love, sex, adventure and trickery told by seven ladies and three men on a journey into the country to escape the Black Death. Boccaccio's work is the first literature written in narrative prose. His prose is realistic of the men and women in the stories, rather than blatantly moral or immoral as in the earlier romances.
1356 AD A war begins between the English and the French directly following an occurrence of the Black Death in France. French peasants suffer the most economically, as is usual in medieval times during war, and physically -- their homes are pillaged and burned. The English defeat the French king, John II, at the Battle of Poitiers, and the peasants again are asked to bear the weight of the upper class.
1358 AD Economic hardship in France results in an uprising of the lower-class, called the "Jacquerie" (taken from the French peasant "Jacques Bonhomme"). The peasants burn castles, murder and rape their lords and lords' wives and take advantage of the political confusion in France by attempting to reform the governmental system. The revolt occurs during the king's captivity in England. Also, during this time, an aristocratic group plans the takeover of power. A brief revolt is put to an end when this group restores order by the massacre of the rebels.
1360 AD With the introduction of oil painting into western Europe, the earliest naturalistic painting is created. Its subject is the French king, John the Good. After this, naturalistic portraitures become prominent in European art.
1367 AD Urban V is successful in returning the pope to Rome. However, Pope Gregory XI dies in 1368. Because the papacy is now in Rome, an Italian pope, Urban VI, is elected and begins quarreling with the French cardinals. The French cardinals cancel the previous election and elect a French pope, Clement VII.
1378 AD The second phase of the Church's institutional crisis is the Great Schism. The French papacy leaves Rome due to the uprising of Urban VI and his group of newly founded cardinals. The split of the two groups causes confusion in Europe. French territories recognize Clement VII as pope, and the rest of Europe recognizes Urban VI as pope. The schism survives the death of both popes. The Florentine Ciompi, wool-combers, witnessing a depressed industry, rise against the governmental system and gain power for six weeks, in which time they institute tax relief, provide a proletarian representation in government and expand employment. All reforms are revoked with the new oligarchic power.
1381 AD The presence of the Black Death in England works to the advantage of English peasants, causing a shortage of labor, a freeing of serfs, a rise in salary and a decrease in rent. The aristocratic class, however, passes legislation that lowers wages to the amount before the plague and that requires lower wages for laborers without land. The peasants rise against this oppression in what is called the English Peasants' Revolt when a national tax is levied for every individual in England. The peasants march into London, murder the lord chancellor and treasurer and are met by Richard II. Richard promises the abolition of serfdom and a lower of rent. After the peasants leave, Richard has the peasant groups followed and murdered.
1385 AD The first German university is opened in Heidelberg. Geoffrey Chaucer: The Legend of Good Women
1386 AD The queen of Poland, Jadwiga, marries grand duke of Lithuania, Jagiello. The marriage creates a state double the size of Poland's previous size.
1399 AD In England, the death penalty becomes the punishment for heresy, and many Lollards, Wyclif's lay followers, convert.
1400 AD Czech students of John Wyclif bring Wyclifism to the Bohemian capital of Prague. Preacher John Hus (1373-1415) adopts Wyclif's theories to support his own claims against ecclesiastical extravagance. The Northern provinces of Italy devise their own systems of government. The government of Venice becomes a merchant oligarchy; Milan is ruled by dynastic despotism; and Florence becomes a republic, ruled by the rich. The three cities expand and conquer most of Northern Italy.
1409 AD A council of prelates from both sides of the Great Schism meet at Pisa and decide to rename a new pope in place of the two. However, both popes enjoy great political power and refuse the deposition, causing three rivals to the papacy instead of two.
1410 AD Polish-Lithuanian forces defeat the German Teutonic Knights and extend rule eastward, almost into Russia. Eastern Orthodox Moscow begins a campaign of resistance to Roman Catholic Poland-Lithuania.
1414 AD A Lollard uprising in England fails. Some Lollards retreat underground and aid the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.
1415 AD John Hus travels to the Council of Constance to propose his reforms for the Church. Upon his arrival at the Council, Hus is tried for heresy and burned. His death encourages futher revolt by his followers.
1417 AD The Council of Constance, the largest Church meeting in medieval history, ends the Great Schism. The council gains secular support and elects Martin V as pope. It replaces papal monarchy with a conciliar government, which recognizes a council of prelates as the pope's authority, and mandates the frequent meeting of the council. This new period is known as the Italian territorial papacy, which lasts until 1517.
1419 AD The province of Burgundy breaks from France and allies with the English during the Hundred Years' War.
1420 AD Hus' supporters defeat German "crusaders." The lower-class Hussites are led by general John Zizka.
1427 AD Thomas a Kempis writes The Imitation of Christ, a manual directing the individual through Orthodox mysticism. Originally in Latin, it is translated into European languages for the lay audience. Its major themes concern the path of Christian piety for those active in everyday life, communion with Christ, biblical meditation and a moral life. The only sacrament suggested to its reader is the Eucharist.
1429 AD Joan of Arc, a peasant girl in France, seeks out the French leader and relates her divinely-inspired mission to drive the English out of France. She takes control of the French troops and liberates most of central France.
1430 AD Joan of Arc is captured and taken to England. The English accuse her of being a witch and condemn her for heresy. Joan is publicly burned in the city of Rouen.
1434 AD Aristocratic Hussites end the revolt of Hus' supporters and their attempts of social and religious reform. Bohemia does not return to Catholic Orthodoxy until the Catholic Reformation of the seventeenth century. The Medici banking family dominates the government of Florence.
1453 AD Ottoman Turks take Constantinople and end Byzantine civilization. The French king Charles VII captures Bordeaux in the southwest and ends the Hundred Years' War, during the reign of English King Henry VI and after the withdrawal of Burgundy from English alliance. The French monarchy reestablishes rule and returns to collecting national taxes and maintaining a standing army in times of peace. The monarchy becomes even stronger during the reigns of Louis XI (1461-1483) and Louis XII (1498-1515).
1454 AD Italy is divided into five major regions: Venice, Milan, Florence, the Papal States and the southern kingdom of Naples.
1455 AD Henry VI of England (1422-1461) wages the Wars of the Roses. The two sides of the war are the red rose (Henry's family at Lancaster) and the white rose (the house of York). Yorkist Richard III gains the kingship for a short time.
1462 AD Ivan III of Moscow annexes all Russian principalities between Moscow and Poland-Lithuania over a period of twenty-three years.
1463 AD Duke Philip I "the good" (1396-1467) introduce early democracy in the Lowlands and appoint Stadholders in the most important cities. The first council of the States General (a college of representatives of all provinces) is held in Brussels.
1469 AD Ferdinand of Aragon marries Isabella of Castile, and the two Spanish kingdoms end their conflicts but remain separate powers.
1477 AD Charles the Bold of Burgundy is captured by the Swiss, and Louis XI recaptures the lost territory.
1482 AD Ivan III of Moscow (1462-1505) renounces the Mongol Khanate rule over Russia. The Mongols do not resist in the light of the rise of the Moscow state.
1485 AD With the end of the Wars of the Roses in England, the Tudor dynasty replaces Richard III. Henry VII, the first Tudor king, rules for twenty-four years and revives the English throne. He reestablishes royal power over the aristocracy, ends funding of foreign wars and reforms finances. Parliament also becomes a stable part of the governmental system.
1492 AD Ferdinand and Isabella annex Granada, expel all Jews from Spain and seek overseas expansion (for example, as patrons of Christopher Columbus). The flow of American gold and silver through Spain, the conquest of Mexico and Peru and superiority on the battlefield make Spain the most powerful state in Europe.
1505 AD Ivan the Great of Moscow extends the Russian border into the Byelorussian and the Ukrainian territories, before his death. Muscovian Russia is recognized as a major Eastern-oriented power in Europe.
1509 AD Henry VIII succeeds his father, Henry VII, for the English crown.