CHAPTER 9. Medieval Civilization

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1 CHAPTER 9 Medieval Civilization In the late Middle Ages, life began to change in Europe. Feudal warfare declined and trade started to flourish again. Towns also began to grow, which stimulated the local economy. Europe started to revive. The economy and society recovered and reached new heights. The church was renewed and rejuvenated. Gothic art was born and wonderful works of literature were created. Crusaders were able to take control of the Mediterranean away from the Muslims. The Christians reconquered Spain. Trade had been restricted when there were endless feudal wars taking place, but now that war was on the decline, trade once again thrived. Roads were restored to make traveling easier for traders. Trade fairs took place in northern France. Many traders from different parts of Europe traveled to these fairs. There was a mixture of people and merchandise from many different places. People were introduced to languages, customs and goods from far off lands. The nobles of this area were enthusiastic about the fairs. They charged fees and also made money from the sales taxes they imposed. They offered protection for people who traveled to the fairs. The Mediterranean was a major trade route. It was the fastest route, and it could be used to travel to Europe, Asia and Africa. There were many cities along the coast that ships could stop at. For example, if someone were carrying goods from Alexandria or Beirut, on the eastern Mediterranean, to London, they could stop at ports in Tripoli, Tunis or Cadiz. 1

2 Constantinople was an important trade center. It was located in a very advantageous spot, so that most people traveling between Asia and Europe would pass through it. If one were traveling from Bruges to China, a good route would have been to travel to Constantinople and then head to Budapest, Vienna and eventually Bruges. This would have been the quickest way, other than the detour to Constantinople, which was an important stop to make along the way. The Hanseatic League began to hurt the trade industry of northern France in the late 1200s. The League was very powerful. It was an organization of north German cities. They controlled many cities, including London, Bruges, Paris, Hamburg, Stockholm, Novgorod and Troyes. Their goal was to expand their mutual trade interests. The league limited piracy on the seas and protected members. They used their large fleets for shipping goods and for making sure the northern seas were safe. Traders began to set up permanent shops to sell their goods. Craftsmen also set up shops in towns. As towns grew, the local economy was stimulated. Peasants could sell food in town and then use the money to buy goods from the townspeople. If a serf spent a year and a day in a chartered town, he gained freedom. A charter was a written document that guaranteed the rights of townspeople. Each charter had a different set of rules. Many towns formed guilds. Guilds were associations of merchants and craftsmen. Merchant guilds were the first type of guild. They maintained standards of quality on goods produced and sold in town. A guild was usually made up of all of the selfemployed people in an occupation. Craft guilds were later set up by craftsmen. The members of a guild governed it, and once a guild was formed only its members could practice that occupation. The members set up a just price, which took into account the cost of materials and a reasonable profit, for goods. To become a member, a boy could become an apprentice and learn the art from a master craftsman. Apprentices did not make any money. After that, he became a journeyman. While a journeyman, he still worked for a master craftsman, to sharpen his skills, but he did earn money. To become a master craftsman, a journeyman had to submit a masterpiece to be approved by the guild masters. Cathedrals were the greatest achievements in medieval art and architecture. They took years to build. One of the styles of architecture that developed was Romanesque. This type of architecture adopted the Roman round arch and Roman types of vaulting. Architects created domes and built very thick walls, without windows, to support them. 2

3 Gothic architecture began to replace the Romanesque style. Diagonal ribbed vaulting and pointed transverse arches were two of its most dominant characteristics. This type of architecture was more structurally sound than the Romanesque style, therefore the walls could be made thinner and stained glass windows could be put in. The builders could also construct vaulted ceilings of record heights, using the support of a new invention called the flying buttress. The flying buttress was a support that helped hold up the roof. People started writing in the vernacular, or everyday language of the people. The chanson de geste was one type of vernacular writing. It was a long narrative poem that depicted chivalric ideals. A well-known chanson de geste told the story of the death of Roland, a knight in Charlemagne s army. Dante was a famous poet who wrote Divine Comedy. This work included conversations with historical figures in hell. Geoffrey Chaucer was another poet who wrote The Canterbury Tales, which depicted the lives of ordinary people. Scholasticism, a school of thought that used logic to support Christian beliefs, was introduced in the late Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas was a scholastic philosopher. He wrote Summa Theologica, which explains Christian beliefs in light of reason. In this work, Aquinas tried to show that there could be no argument between the truths of faith, based on divine revelation, and those of human reason. If there was a conflict between the two, it was caused by incorrect reasoning. He believed that the ability to reason was a gift from God. Universities were established in towns, and many advances were made in the sciences. Experiments were performed to test theories. Alchemists, or scientists who tried to change different metals into gold by using philosophy, magical beliefs and chemistry, had been using experiments for quite some time. Roger Bacon, who performed many experiments in the 1200 s, became known as the founder of experimental science. Even though medical advances were being made at universities, people still used folk medicine techniques. Some people with serious illnesses went on pilgrimages to holy places, where they prayed for a cure. They thought that evil spirits or the devil caused illnesses, so they traveled to Holy Places to obtain special blessings from God. The Crusades were Christian military expeditions. The crusaders were trying to reach Jerusalem. In 1095, the Byzantine emperor asked Pope Urban II for knights to fight the Muslim Turks. Pope Urban II called for the first crusade at the Council of Clermont. The objective of the First Crusade was to reconquer the Holy Land, which was held by Muslims. When the Seljuk Turks conquered Palestine in 1071, they no longer let Christians peacefully visit. The Christians felt they needed to recover what they thought of as their Holy Land, so 25 years later the first crusaders set out. 3

4 Crusaders led by Peter the Hermit, a preacher, set out before the official crusade started. They were peasants who had no weapons. They believed Peter was showing them the path to heaven. The Turks killed most of them in Asia Minor. The official crusaders left Constantinople and headed into Asia Minor in In 1099 they seized Jerusalem. When they captured Jerusalem they murdered Muslims and Jews. They set up four feudal states, Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli and Jerusalem, in Palestine and Syria. The crusaders held Jerusalem for 88 years, until the Muslims, under the command of general Saladin, took control of it in The Second Crusade was a failed attempt to recapture Edessa. The Turks seized it in 1144, and Bernard of Clairvaux, a French monk, was prompted to call for the second crusade. Trying to recapture Jerusalem was the reason for the Third Crusade. King Richard of England gained some territory back, but not Jerusalem. He was forced to agree to a truce that guaranteed the safety of Christians visiting Jerusalem. The Fourth Crusade began in 1204 in Venice, where the merchants persuaded the crusaders to assault Constantinople. They seized Constantinople, which was the farthest point reached by the Fourth Crusade. Children were sold into slavery at the port of Marseille when they tried to reach the Holy Land. This crusade was called The Children s Crusade, and it took place in 1212, 116 years after the First Crusade. The Crusaders were able to gain temporary control of the Holy Land, but were ultimately defeated by the Muslims and forced to withdraw from the territory they had taken. The last area the Christians held was Acre. The Muslims finally reconquered it in The crusades helped to quicken the pace of change and increase interest in distant lands. Dealings with the Muslims helped to replace ignorance about other cultures with a certain admiration for them. People realized they were not as horrible as they had thought they were. Merchants, such as Marco Polo, traveled by land to visit other areas that they were curious about, such as China. In the 1200 s, people began to feel differently about making money. They started charging what customers would pay, rather than a just price. Usury, or the practice of lending money at a very high interest rate, began to take place. Bankers also offered Bills of Exchange, or bank orders that enabled merchants to pay for merchandise without coins. 4

5 The excerpts in Lesson 9, Two Views of the Capture of Jerusalem, describe the taking of Jerusalem from the point of view of a Muslim and a Christian. The Christian account tells how the crusaders walked on bare feet around the city to humble themselves in imitation of Jesus to gain God s favor. They attributed their victory to the aid of God. It also describes how the Christians slaughtered the Muslims. The author doesn t feel the killing violates Christian ideals because they didn t apply to dealings with non-christians. The Christians had motives other than religious ones for capturing Jerusalem, such as seizing the riches of the king of Babylon. The Muslim account describes how the Franks took silver and gold objects from the Dome of the Rock. This was a motive they gave for the Christian conquest of Jerusalem. The report also tells how the Franks killed Muslim religious leaders and scholars. The dates in the Muslim story make it apparent that the Christians and Muslims had different calendars. 5

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