Outline of Medieval Age

This post goes from 476 to 1500 and outlines history, especially church history, philosophy, and literature. Even during those 1,024 years, one can find church reform movements and shining lights.

If you’re in a hurry, use the ctrl-f search to find your term.

The Eastern Roman Empire did not fall until 1453, but was going strong until then.

And the early Western Medieval Age from about 500 to 1000 was not as bright as the Eastern Empire, but historians nowadays hesitate to use the label “Dark Ages.” One can find many lights shining back then.

And for sure the High Middle Ages were not dark at all, but were prosperous and educated for those who could afford to buy an education for their sons. Two examples of prosperity and educated thought in the High Middle Ages: the huge Cathedrals and the growth of the universities.

At the end of this post, there is a Conclusion section, which asks the Western world to remember some things.

Also, please see the post: Glossary of Medieval Terms: A to Z

Let’s get started.

Successors to the Eastern Roman Empire

I.  Byzantine Empire (476-1453)

A.  Caesaropapism

1.  Sacred emperor

2.  When Constantinople (Byzantium) fell in 1453, Moscow took over the idea of Caesars (Czars)

B.  Art

1.  Prevailing mood was conservative and tight-fisted

2.  Abhor novelty

3.  Art flat, lacks perspective, theme is saints

C.  Justinian (r. 527-565)

1.  Corpus Juris Civilis or Justinian Code (533)

a.  Absorbs centuries of Roman law

b.  He makes it more authoritarian

c.  Later rulers will use it to justify kingship or Rex Lex

d.  Justinian extends Empire to Greece, Italy, S. of Spain, N. Africa (535-555)

1)  This does not last long after his death

E.  Classical culture

1.  Custodians

a.  Philosophers of Athens, though Justinian closes schools in Athens

F.  Division of Christendom

1.  Authority

a.  East places more stress on Bible and ecumenical councils than does the West with Papal supremacy from Peter

2.  Filioque clause

a.  Inserted by West

b.  East objects to Western description of Holy Spirit proceeding from Father and Son

3.  Iconoclastic controversy (726-843)

a.  Eastern emperor Leo III (r. 717-40) bans use of images in churches and attempts to enforce this in West in 725

b.  Empress Irene makes peace by restoring images at Council of Nicaea in 787

4.  Language

a.  West speaks Latin

b.  East speaks Greek

5.  Politics

a.  Eastern patriarchs submit to worldly rulers (Caesaropapism)

1)  This is due to eastern influence with its emphasis on submission

b.  Latin popes try not to do so

6.  Celibacy for clergy

a.  East permits clerical marriage except Bishops

b.  West does not

7.  Eucharist

a.  East uses leavened bread for Eucharist

b.  West does not

8.  Mutual excommunication

a.  Mutual excommunication of Pope Nicholas I and Patriarch Photius in 9th century

b.  Same by Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius in 1054

G.  Anna Comnena (1083-1153)

1.  Context

a.  Eastern Empire in 1025

1)  At death of Basil II in 1025 the Empire extends from Danube to Syria, from the Tigris to Armenia, Bulgaria, Crete, Cyprus, a third of Italy

2)  Constantinople is reputed to be center of learning

3)  Treasury has 220 million francs

b.  Empire declines just before her father takes the throne, Alexios I (r. 1081-1118)

1)  In 11th century Byzantium is menaced by Scythians from north, Normans from the west, and Turks to the East

2)  Anna is unkind to them (greedy, godless, and oath-breakers)

3)  Powerful military magnates refuse to pay the taxes as they had when Basil was alive, so this falls on shoulder of poor farmers

4)  No farmer was willing to resist Turks

5)  Ecclesiastical estates were tax exempt

6)  Military declines, so king forced to hire mercenaries– unpatriotic– to resist

7)  During First Crusade, commander of Turkish origins is hired to conquer Anatolia from Turks

8)  Successors of Basil very corrupt

c.  Alexios I (r. 1081-1118)

1)  Extreme financial measures to build up army, such as temporarily confiscating church property (then returning it)

2)  Militarily, Alexios stops Turkish invaders from east, Normans from west, and cooperates with crusaders from north

3)  Alexios defends orthodoxy by exiling, excommunicating, and anathematizing

4)  At the end of his rule, he extends Byzantium’s borders and restores its glory

2.  Life

a.  She is brought up in the royal household, under Queen Maria’s care, her fiancé’s mother; her husband was chosen early

b.  Through deaths, she loses right of her future husband’s accession, and himself

c.  Her education was the best of the era, leading her into classics, reasoning, grammar, science, medicine and the Bible, conducted by private tutors

d.  At eleven years old, she loses her first fiancé, Constantine Ducas, but marries Nicephorus Bryennius when she was fourteen, and he seventeen

e.  The marriage lasts forty years and was a happy one

f.  They have two sons, Alexios and John Ducas

g.  In the court her father’s family was not peaceful because of indecision over succession

h.  Nicephorus dies in 1138, when he was fifty-seven years old

i.  She retires to Kecharitomene monastery, pursues studies of classics, writes her Alexiad, and dies in 1153

3.  Work

a.  Alexiad completed in 1148

b.  She writes to preserve her father’s accomplishments, lest they are lost forever

c.  She is first known woman historian

H.  Decline and Fall

1.  Turks overrun provinces in East in 1071

2.  Western Christians sack Constantinople in 1204

3.  Ottoman Turks capture Constantinople in 1453

Early Western Middle Ages

I.  Introduction

A.  Time

1.  476: Romulus Augustulus defeated by Odoacer, a German

2.  1000s is approximate

II.  Economy

A.  Serfs

1.  Freeman

a.  Peasant with own modest hereditary property

b.  Becomes serf by surrendering property in exchange for protection and assistance

c.  Freeman receives land back with clear definition of his legal and economic rights

d  Property not his own, but he has full possession and use of it

2.  Unfree serf

a.  No real property of his own

b.  Served lord with least protection

c.  Many escapes: even calendars mark the days most favorable for escape

d.  Peasants make up ninety percent of pop.

B.  Localism

1.  Village fortresses

a.  Farming belts become self-contained and insular

2.  Money

a.  Roman tax system breaks down

b.  Minting of coins localized

III.  Kingdom of the Franks

A.  Merovingians (481-680)

1.  Identity

a.  Frankish kings dominate Gaul (France) by subduing the Arian Burgundians and Visigoths

b.  Named after Clovis’ (481-511) half-mythical ancestor Merovech

2.  Mayor of palace

a.  Spokesman for the landowners of Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy

b.  Power was localized in this office held by the Carolingians

c.  Pepin I of Austrasia (d. 639) expropriates Frankish crown

Genealogical Table: The Carolingians

Source of Tabove table: Matthias Becher, Charlemagne, trans. David S. Bachrach (New Haven: Yale, 2003)

B.  Carolingians (680-843)

1.  Carolus

a.  Latin for Charles

2.  Benefices or fiefs

a.  Son Pepin II (d. 714) rules de facto, if not in title

b.  Charles Martel (d. 741), his illegitimate son, raises great cavalry by bestowing lands on powerful noblemen

C.  Charlemagne (768-814)

1.  Life

a.  Son of several kings who expand

b.  In 800, Pope Leo III (795-816) crowns him “Charles Augustus, Emperor of Romans

c.  He respects papacy, but does not submit

2.  Governance

a.  Kingdom embraces loosely France, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland, almost whole of western Germany, much of Italy, a portion of Spain, and island of Corsica

b.  Governs them through counts, perhaps 250

c.  Serve him well, but not always loyal or under control

3.  Modest renaissance

a.  He acquires great wealth from loot of conquered lands

b.  Gradual prosperity

1)  Heavy compound plow opens new land with eight-ox teams

2)  Three-field system, instead of two; increased food production

3)  Mechanization, e.g. water mills for grinding grain

c.  Invites scholars from all over kingdom to court in Aachen

d.  Interest in classical antiquity

4.  Problem of Succession

a.  At his death kingdom is divided up into three sections by Treaty of Verdun (843)

1)  Lotharingia in North, roughly Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Alsace-Lorraine, and Italy

2)  West, roughly modern France

3)  East, roughly modern Germany

b.  Political unity impossible

c.  Papacy begins to lose its prestige as it throws in lot with one monarch then another

IV.  Germany

Genealogical Table: the Ottonians

Source of above table: Pierre Riché, The Carolingians, trans. Michael Idomir Allen (U of Pennsylvania P, 1993) Allen did the genealogical tables as well.

A.  Otto I (r. 936-973)

1.  Life

a.  Henry I (r. 918-936), a Saxon, not Frankish, is strongest of German dukes

b.  Henry places his son on throne

c.  First, Germany was divided into five duchies, based on tribes, to defend against Hungarians

d.  Then, Otto I (or Great) (r. 936-973), defeats Hungarians, controls tribal duchies, and extends kingdom

B.  Holy Roman Empire

1.  Pope John XII (r. 955-964)

a.  When Berengar of Friuli, a usurper, hassles Pope John XII, he asks Otto to help him

2.  Crowning (962)

a.  In 962 Otto extricates usurper and pope crowns him Holy Roman Emperor

b.  Holy Roman Empire was born, and primarily a German phenomenon

C.  Successors and Italy

1.  Italy: They dabble in Italy without securing a solid base in Germany

2.  Disintegration: Kingdom will disintegrate

V.  Church

A.  Doctrine of Papal Primacy

1.  Eastern Bishops

a.  Constantine ruled church as just another department of the state

b.  Bishop of Constantinople, Gregory of Nazianzus (r. 381-389), at Council of Constantinople in 381 says he is leader of east behind bishop of Rome because city is “new Rome”

c.  In 451 Council says Constantinople has same primacy as Rome

d.  Mid-sixth century eastern bishop describes himself as “universal” patriarch

2.  Western Bishops

a.  When trade and cities decline, people look heavenward

b.  But then distractions and weakness of emperors in 5th and 6th centuries bishops

c.  Pope Damasus (r. 366-384) claims he is successor of Peter

d.  Pope Leo I (r. 440-461) takes title pontifex maximus and claims he is endowed with “plenitude of power” over all bishops

e.  Pope Gelasius I (r. 492-496) claims authority of clergy “more weighty” than power of kings

f.  Pope Gregory the Great (r. 590-604) negotiates independent peace treaty with Lombards, completely ignoring the Byzantine emperor’s viceroy in Ravenna

1)  Lombards are Germanic who settle in Po valley

g.  Local bishops and cathedral chapters fill vacuum left by removal of Roman governors

h.  Church alone possesses effective hierarchical administration scattered throughout the old Roman empire

B.  St. Benedict (ca. 480-547)

1.  Life

a.  B. in Nursia in Umbria

b.  Studies in Rome and shocked at debauched life

c.  Begins Benedictine monastic life in response to corruption in church

d.  Eventually pressured to leave monastic life and help out in local communities

2.  Mission

a.  Spread the gospel

b.  Communal prayer

c.  Devotional reading

d.  Work in fields, household, and copying

e.  In 597 Augustine (d. 607?) begins conversion of England

f.  Bede the Venerable (673-735) wrote Ecclesiastical History of England

VI.  Philosophy

A.  Boethius (ca. 480-ca. 524)

1.  Life

a.  Roman from a senator’s family who had been Christian since Constantine

b.  Educated at Athens and Alexandria

c.  At age thirty he became a consul under Emperor Theodoric, Germanic

d.  Hoped to translate all of Plato and Aristotle, but only got De interpretatione and Categories

e.  He studied Augustine and his De Trinitate, and was encouraged that philosophy could help in leading soul to God

f.  He wrote against common heresies of the day (Arianism and Sabellianism, which tried to preserve divinity of Christ and unity of God, so Christ and Holy Spirit reduced to temporary modes

g.  Through unknown political events Emperor Theodoric imprisoned him for treason

2.  Work

a.  Consolation of Philosophy

1)  Philosophy personified as woman (word philosophy is feminine)

2)  Written in dialogue (conversation with long speeches), alternating between prose and poetry; poetical section serve to sum up argument and to mark pauses while poetry reflects on position he has reached

3)  Why do wicked prosper?  Is a tyrant happy?  No, says Lady Philosophy, for a tyrant appears to do as he wishes, but he ends up doing bad things; thus he has no real power

b.  Free Will and Providence

1) God’s foresight does not necessarily mean all things are necessary or forced

2) God is eternal so observes all things past present, and future

3) Just as the events we observe are not made necessary and or unnecessary by the fact we observe them

4) So the things God observes are not made necessary or unnecessary

c.  Rejection of world and pleasurable pursuits

d.  Work as whole had tremendous influence for hundreds of years

VI.  Literature

A.  England (673-735)

1.  Bede (673-735)

a.  Political expansion

1)  Oswiu expands Northumbrian borders to eastern Scotland

2)  Ecgfrith invades Ireland in 684 and devastates part of kingdom of Meath

3)  In 685 Ecgfrith was trapped in the mountains and killed by Picts at Nechtansmere in Forfarshire

b.  Political decline

1)  Aldfrith takes throne in 685 and fails to maintain territories

2)  Aldfrith was a scholar

3)  A dies and has three quick successors, Osred and Cenred and Osric

c.  Ceolwulf accedes in 729 (d. ?764)

1)  Beginning is full of troubles

2)  Ceolwulf was tonsured forcibly, shaved head

3)  Plague enters monastery

4)  He resigns in 737 to Lindesfarne Monastery

d.  Foreign lands

1)  Muslims threaten Christian Europe

2)  They had already taken Christian Africa

3)  He sees anarchy and decay in countries beyond the seas

4)  Twin comets appear, portending doom

5)  Then come the Nordic invaders

e.  Art

1)  Revived by Theodore of Tarsus and Italian scholars

2)  Learning and the arts in the monasteries flourish for at least sixty years after his death

f.  Summary

1)  Local politics is insecure and in decline

2)  Christian Europe is threatened by Islam

3)  Plague killed some monks

4)  Learning and arts flourish at twin monasteries

g.  Life

1)  B. at Monkton in Durham County in West England

2)  In 680 at age of seven he is taken under the care of Benedict Biscop who founded a monastery at Wearmouth in 674

3)  Monastery was founded by Theodore of Tarsus, a refugee from Greek East due to Islamic invasions

4)  In 681 Jarrow house is founded nearby and becomes twin monastery to the one at Wearmouth

5)  He is taken under care of Ceolfrith, but a plague devastates monastery; many killed

6)  At nineteen he is made a deacon, six years before the usual time, due to outstanding abilities

7)  Venerable is title applied to him early

h.  Work

1)  Ecclesiastical History of the English People

2)  In 731 he finishes the History four years before his death

2.  Beowulf (700s)

C.  Court of Carolingians (768-843)

1.  Einhard (ca. 770-840)

a.  Early

1)  B. in region of Main River

2)  Noble East Franconian family

3)  Educated in Monastery of Fulda, now central Germany

4)  Unusually small, well documented

b.  Middle:  Charlemagne’s Palace School

1)  Abbot Baugulf recommends him to Charlemagne’s Palace School at Aachen in 791 or 792

2)  Alcuin (ca. 735-804) is leader of school and promotes Einhard to lead literary and mathematical studies

3)  Einhard and Charlemagne very close

4)  In charge of constructing new buildings and making handcrafts

5)  He is made ambassador for some missions

c.  Later years

1)  in 814 Charlemagne dies, and Einhard becomes private secretary of Louis the Pious

2)  He receives grants of land near Paris, where he erects monastery

3)  Einhard support Lothar, son of Louis

4)  Loses favor with Louis

5)  He retires to monastery with his wife Imma, prob. in 830

6)  He is abbey, she abbess

7)  He brings about reconciliation of Louis and Lothar before Einhard’s death in 840

8)  Louis dies in 840 and leaves kingdom to three sons

9)  Kingdom dissolves even further

e.  Summary

1)  First half is smooth and prosperous (791/2-814)

2)  Second half is politically tumultuous (814-840); he writes Life at this time

f.  Works

1)  He writes his Life of Charlemagne between 830-833

2)  He is pessimistic about dissolution of Charlemagne’s empire

3)  He rarely refers to Charlemagne as emperor, in deference to Louis

D.  Court of Otto I (r. 936-973)

1.  Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (930s-980/90s)

a.  Life

1)  Her name means “Strong Voice”

2)  She is of noble Saxon parentage because only daughters of aristocracy admitted into Gandersheim abbey

3)  Judging from traditions of the times her entrance into Abbey is young

4)  Her education is liberal studies, classical

5)  She is familiar Roman authors:  Horace, Ovid, Statius, Lucan, Boethius, Terence, and Virgil

6)  She probably knows Greek

7)  First known dramatist in Christianity

8)  Dramas are first performable plays of Middle Ages

9)  First Saxon poet

10)  First woman historian of Germany

11)  Her epics are the only extant Latin epics written by woman

12)  She is the first know medieval poet to have consciously attempted to remold image of women in literature

b.  Abbey

1)  Abbey founded in 852 by Liudolf and his wife Oda, ancestors of Ottos

2)  By 950s Abbey recognized as intellectual and religious center

3)  In 947 Otto I frees it to have its own court of law, keep its own army, coin its own money, and have a seat in imperial diet

4)  It functions as school, library, hospital, and political and religious center

5)  Hildesheim bishops quarrel over independence of Gandersheim Abbey

6)  Virginity, but not poverty

c.  Works

1)  Works arranged in three books chronologically and generically

2)  In Hrotsvit’s epics, Otto I is depicted as the ideal Christian ruler, a descendant of David, earthly replica of heavenly king

3)  Eight legends, based on apocryphal or pseudo works, in which men dominate

a)  “Maria,” about Virgin

b)  “Ascensio,” of Christ

c)  “Gongolf,” the knight

d)  “Pelagius,” martyr of Spain in 900s, contemporary to Hrotsvith

e) “Basilius,” Faust theme a man who makes a pact with devil

f)  “Theophilus,” Faust theme

4)  Six plays, in which women dominate

a)  Gallicanus, Roman general who converts

b)  Dulcitus, martyrdom of three virgins during Diocletian persecution

c)  Callimachus, conversion of pagan youth

d)  Paphnutius, conversion of a prostitute

e)  Abraham, conversion of a prostitute

f)  Sapientia, martyrdom of three allegorical virgins, Fides, Spes, Karitas (Faith, Hope and Love)

g)  She wishes to replace Terence’s disparagement of women

5.  Two epics

a)  Carmen de Gestis Oddonis Imperatoris, a Christian epic of Otto the Great

b)  Primordia Coenobii Gandeshemensis, founding of Gandersheim Abbey with miracles, visions, and legends; Hildesheim bishops’ role in founding abbey is ignored to bolster Abbey’s independence

c)  A short poem, now believed to be a quotation from Bede

High Middle Ages in the West

I. Introduction

A. Time

1. 1000 is approximate

2. 1100s-1200s is prosperous

3. 1300 → is calamitous

II.  Economy

A.  Population

1.  Rise

2.  Improved agricultural production

3.  End of invasions

B.  Class structure simplified

1.  Those who fight: Knights

2.  Those who work: farmers and laborers

3.  Those who pray: Clergy

4. Simple because it omits aristocracy, the bureaucracy, merchants, and long distance traders

C.  Feudalism

1.  Late ninth century

2.  N. European and Hungarian (Magyars) Invasions

3.  Lord-Vassal

a.  Cause

1)  Not enough money, so how to pay for services?

2)  Land

b.  Lord-vassal

1)  Lord promises land (fief) to vassal, a knight

2)  Knight protects and fights for lord

3)  Sub-vassals, ten to twenty levels

4)  Beneath, 90% peasantry

D.  Growth of Towns

1.  Chartering Towns

a.  Lords create towns by granting charters, promising a little more freedom to people who live in them

b.  Many serfs migrate into towns

c.  German word Burgh referred to fortress in town, later refers to urban commercial center; burghers, burgesses, bourgeoisie

d.  Thus, lords in manorial society unwittingly begin to erode their own grip on economy

2.  Merchants

a.  They may have been risk-taking serfs who have nothing to lose by foreign trade

b.  They travel in armed caravans and convoys

c.  Buy goods as cheaply as they can at source and selling has high as they can to markets

d.  At first, they were not popular

1)  Nobility

2)  Clergy

3)  Peasants

3.  Challenge to old nobility

a.  Wherever merchants settle, they lobby for laws favorable for commerce

b.  They want towns controlled by traders and craftsmen

c.  They form guilds and associations

1)  drapers, haberdashers, furriers, hosiers, goldsmiths

d.  Cradle of mod. European capitalism

e.  Gradual death of feudalism because now money through taxes pays for services in war

4.  New laws

a.  Towns provide social mobility, so how does old ruling class keep people in their place?

b.  To keep people in their place, laws are passed for people to wear clothing according to their social station

c.  Only families of long standing and who own property have social mobility

d.  Once merchants and guilds get into power, they keep status quo by limiting innovation and new products from overseas

e.  Kings and princes capitalize on towns and slowly bend them to their will

f.  Towns were still small, disease-ridden, foul

III.  England

Genealogical Tables

C. Warren Hollister, Henry I (Yale UP, 2008).

In the above table, the big names are there, for example: Edward the Confessor (top left); Malcolm III, who married Margaret, a queen who was declared a saint (center left);  commoner Herleve (near center-top), the mistress of Robert I, duke of Normandy, who produced William I, the Conqueror and Bastard (center-right); Maud (Matilda) who married Geoffrey, count of Anjou (bottom-left), who fought King Stephen (bottom-right) in behalf of her son, the future Henry II.

Matilda / Maud, mother of Henry II, was an Empress in Germany, so she was anointed, but not in England, where she was titled “Lady of the English.”

Source of above table: C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, English Monarch Series (New Haven: Yale, 2001)

Dan Jones, the Plantagenets, rev. ed. (New York: Penguin, 2014).

A.  William the Conqueror (r. 1066-1087)

1.  Rise to power

a.  Conquers English army in 1066 at Hastings, and spends twenty years subduing rest of England

b.  King remains duke of Normandy, basis of later conflicts

2.  Governance

a.  Subjects noble vassals to crown

b.  Yet, he consults them regularly about decisions of “state”

c.  William and sons keep knights under tight rein

d.  “Parleying” preserved

1)  Conferences between king and lesser nobles with stake in royal decisions

B.  Angevin Dynasty (1154-1399/1485)

1.  Accession of Henry II

C.  Henry II (r. 1154-1189)

1.  Identity

a.  Son of duke of Anjou and Matilda

1)  Henry I (r. 1100-1135) died without male

2)  Henry was son of William

b.  Head of Plantagenet family, family name of Angevin line of kings

2.  Life

a.  He conquers part of Ireland

b.  Makes king of Scotland his vassal

c.  Quarrels with Thomas à Becket (1118-1170), archbishop of Canterbury

d.  Henry’s agents murder Thomas in his own cathedral

e.  This arouses noble and popular opposition

D.  Eleanor of Aquitaine (ca. 1122-1204)

1.  Life

a.  Previously married to Louis VII, but this was divorced eight in March 1152

1)  Ostensible reason was consanguinity (blood relationship)

2)   True reason was Louis’ suspicion of infidelity (Eleanor with a cousin)

b.  She marries Henry II and bears him eight children (1154-1170)

1)  Notably Richard the Lion-hearted

2)  John

Genealogical Tables

Source for above table: Ralph V. Turner: Eleanor of Aquitaine (New Haven: Yale UP, 2011)

Robert the Pious is the son of Hugh Capet, who is the namesake of the Capetian dynasty.

Source of above table: W. L. Warren, Henry II, English Monarch Series (New Haven: Yale, 1978).

2.  Matron of literature

a.  Courtly Life

1)  Thriving court life and courtoisie

2)  Court is codifying its behavior

3)  Chivalrous actions

4)  Elegant, cultivated politeness

5)  Refined art of love inaccessible to common mortals

6)  Disciplined love

7)  Refinement of language, manners, and clothing

b.  Heroes

1)  Had prowess and were courteous

2)  Pride in lineage

3)  Self-control in love based on choice under control of will and reason

4)  Scrupulous loyalty in battle

5)  Largesse or liberality

6)  Physical beauty, strength and courage

7)  Respect for actions and feelings of others, leading to ethical questions and conflicts

c.  Women

1)  They rise in importance and prosperity

2)   Courtly hero not only is amorous, but he must be in love

3)  He must serve a noble lady

d.  Caution: This is aristocratic and idealized

Genealogical Tables

Dan Jones, the Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings Who Made England, rev. ed. (Penguin, 2014).

In the table, above, Edward III, on the left, four “rows” from the bottom, had too many children! Their descendants are about to struggle for the throne: .

Let’s continue with the later Plantagenets, as they divided into the Houses of Lancaster and York. Here is the House of Lancaster, which eventually won the struggle, thanks to Henry Tudor (later Henry VII).

Dan Jones, The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors (Penguin, reprint ed. 2015).

In the above table, note Henry VII at bottom, center. His grandfather was Owen Tudor, a minor figure. Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, descends from John of Gaunt through Katherine Swynford, John’s mistress. Their relationship had to be legitimized with marriage after their children were born. It is easy to see why, during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs, the royal descendants of the Plantagenets believed the Tudors had a weaker claim to the throne than they did. But Henry could claim Catherine of Valois, a female, as his grandmother, and her ancestry was very illustrious, as we saw in Stage One. But she was a female, and womankind did not count as much as mankind did, back then.

Let’s fill out the bigger picture and include the House of York, because Henry VII, a Lancastrian, married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, thus bringing together the two (formerly) warring houses, next: 

Dan Jones, The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors (Penguin, reprint ed. 2015).

Henry VII, the first Tudor king, is on the bottom left. So Henry’s father-in-law was Edward IV. Henry VII defeated Richard III, who fought bravely enough, at the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485. And so the Wars of the Roses ended, apart from some skirmishes and resentment afterwards.

E.  Magna Carta (1215)

1.  Monarchy vs. Nobility

a.  Richard the Lion-hearted (r. 1189-1199)

1)  His crusades to Holy Land puts heavy tax burden on nation

b.  John (r. 1199-1216)

1)  King John, Richard’s brother and successor, conflicts with pope over choice of bishop of Canterbury

2)  Pope excommunicates him

3)  Pope places England under papal interdict, cutting off many essential church services

4)  Unsuccessful military ventures with Philip Augustus of France (r. 1180-1223)

5)  This leads to a rebellion of nobility, clergy and townsmen

c.  Botton line:  they make mistakes and weaken monarchy

2.  Description

a.  Limits, yet preserves and respects monarchy

b.  Extraordinary taxes can only be levied by common council of kingdom

c.  Barons were to stir people up to “distress” an ambitious king in any way

F.  Parliament (1265)

1.  Monarchy vs. Nobility

a.  Wealth of High Middle Age means trickle down to more persons than just the nobility and barons

b.  Kings should summon them, too, to great council

c.  Henry III (1216-1272) renews hostilities with nobility

d.  Nobility maintains power

e.  Parliament makes its appearance for first time

2.  Who

a.  Monarch

b.  Two knights from every shire

c.  Two burghers from every town

3.  Description

a.  Institution of a future democracy

b.  King relies on advice of barons in council to make decisions

c.  Parliament’s power remains vague and fluid, and some kings ignore it, but it is pillar of English law

IV.  France

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).

In the above table, Hugues le Grand is Hugh the Great. He was the son of Beatrix, and she married Robert I, and Beatrix descends from Charlemagne. Louis IX ends the above table and begins the next one.

In this next table (Part 2), about the later Capetians (in all capitals), look for the VALOIS DYNASTY (in all capitals):

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).

In the above table, the French Valois dynasty begins at the center right, in the rectangular box. The Valois dynasty will produce Charles VI, whose daughter Catherine of Valois will marry first Henry V of England and then she married, second, Owen Tudor, who is the namesake of the Tudor dynasty in England, in the next table.

Here is the pedigree table of the early Valois:

Robert Knecht, The Valois: Kings of France, 1328-1598 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2007).

On the right, in the third “row” from the bottom, is Catherine, who married Henry V, king of England, the famous warrior. He died young, in 1422. She remarried to Owen Tudor (not shown), a minor figure compared to the illustrious ancestry of the Valois. .

A.  Capetians 987-1328

1.  Hugh Capet (987-996)

a.  Noblemen choose Hugh Capet to succeed last Carolingian ruler

b.  Philip VI of Valois (r. 1328-1350)

2.  Louis VI (r. 1108-1137)

a.  Alarmed at Norman kings in England

b.  Finds allies with Flanders

c.  Slow consolidation of power

3.  Louis VII (r. 1137-1180)

a.  Finds allies in large cities in northern France

b.  Uses wealth to build a royal army

c.  Slow consolidation of power

4.   Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)

a.  Inherits financial, administrative bureaucracy and slow consolidation of power from predecessors

b.  He resists divisive French nobility and clergy

c.  His armies occupy English territories on French coast

d.  In 1214 French defeat English

e.  This unifies France around monarchy

f.  Lays foundation for French military and political ascendancy

5.  Louis IX (r. 1226-1270)

a.  Reputation for piety and judicial fairness

b.  Efficient bureaucracy of predecessors now becomes instrument of king

c.  People associate king with justice and nationalism

d.  Declared saint in early 1300s

B.  Consolidation

1.  France

a.  French kings consolidate and tame nobility

2.  England

a.  Solves how it may accommodate the “many” (nobility and other rich) with the “one” (monarchy)

Royal Dynasties of France and England

France England

Charlemagne: Interesting Facts and Stories

Pippin, Son of Charlemagne

Bernard, King of Italy

Pippin, Great-Grandson of Charlemagne (transition to the House of Vermandois)


Herbert I, Count of Vermandois

Herbert II, Count of Vermandois


Robert I (r. 922-23) (House of Robertines)

Hugh the Great (r. 938-956)


Hugh Capet (r. 987-996)

Robert II (r. 996-1031)

Henri I (r. 1031-60)

Philip I (r. 1059 or 1060-1108)

Louis VI (r. 1108-1037)

Louis VII  (r. 1137-1180)

Philip II Augustus (r. 1180-1223)

Louis VIII (r. 1223-1226)

Louis IX, the Saintly King (r. 1226-1270)

Philip III (r. 1270-1285)

Philip IV (r. 1285-1314)

Louis X (r. 1314-1316)

Philip V (r. 1316-1322)

Charles IV (r 1322-1328) (last Capetian king)


Rolf or Rollo the Viking



(They lived before Henry II, Plantagenet, below)

Richard I, Norman Marquis and Count

Richard II, Duke of Normandy

Robert I, Duke of Normandy

William the Conqueror: Interesting Facts and Stories

Matilda: Wife and Queen of William the Conqueror

King William II, Rufus: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Henry I: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Stephen: Interesting Facts and Stories

Empress Matilda and Three Henrys


Henry II Plantagenet: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Henry II)

King Richard I, Lion-Heart: Interesting Facts and Stories

King John: Interesting Facts and Stories

Henry III: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Provence: Interesting Facts and Stories (married Henry III)

Edward I: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Castile: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Edward I)

Edward II: A King of Bad Judgment

Edward III: Better Than Most

Richard II: The Weak King

Henry IV King of England

Henry V King of England

Henry VI King of England

Edward IV King of England

Edward V: Prince in the Tower

Richard III, King of England


V.  Holy Roman Empire

A.  Hohenstaufen Empire (1152-1272)

1.  Frederick I Barbarossa (r. 1152-1190)

a.  Feudal strife between princes

b.  Emperor under pope

c.  Popular support for Frederick

d.  Justinian Code undergoing revival

1)  It stresses secular authority

e.  Unified Germany due to fall of rival, Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony (d. 1195)

f.  He restores Pope Adrian IV (r. 1154-59)

1)  Arnold of Brescia (d. 1155), a religious revolutionary, gained control of Rome

g.  Now, pope depends on Frederick

h.  Pope is hostile because Frederick refuses to recognize territorial claims within Papal States

2.  Henry VI (r. 1190-1197)

a.  Son of Frederick

b.  Hostile pope

c.  Independent German princes because of distractions in Italy

d.  Princes won over to support young Henry by Frederick promising them full hereditary rights to own fiefs

e.  Pope wants fragmented Empire, so he can create allies among other rival princes

3.  Otto IV Welf (r. 1197-1212)

a.  Otto Welf is NOT a Hohenstaufen

b.  When Henry dies in September 1197, leaving Frederick a ward of the pope, chaos ensues

c.  Pope crowns him emperor (1209) but excommunicates Otto four months later when Otto invades Sicily, for the pope feels encircled

d.  Pope supports Frederick with the French

e.  In December 1212, young Frederick with support from pope, French and Germans, defeat Otto in battlefield of Bouvines

4.  Frederick II (r. 1215-1250)

a.  He spends only nine months in 36 years north of Alps

b.  He desires imperial title for himself and sons and is willing to pay German princes what they want to keep title

1)  He recognizes claims of ecclesiastical princes of Germany

2)  He does the same for secular princes

c.  Is this like the Magna Carta?  No, for Frederick does little for the monarchy

d.  Imperial policies that threaten to encircle Rome causes pope to excommunicate Freddie four times

1)  Fred had abandoned Germany but is determined to maintain Lombardy-Sicily axis

e.  Pope Innocent IV (r. 1234-1254) allies German princes against Fred

B.  Result

1.  Fragmentation of Germany

a.  From 1250-1272 Hohenstaufen dynasty fades into oblivion

2.  Papal religion

a.  Pope engages in full-scale involvement in politics

b.  This brings criticism

3.  Habsburg Dynasty (1273 to 1800s)

a.  Rudolph of Habsburg elected by noblemen

b.  Size of realm varies much throughout history

VI.  Spain

A.  Recovery from Moslems

1.  Knightly adventurers flock southward to liberate Spain from Moors

2.  At first, in-fighting among city-states and regions

a. Toledo, 1085

b.  Aragon, Catalonia

3.  Pope Innocent III in 1212 proclaimed a crusade against Spanish Moslems with a pan-Iberian army

B. Result

1.  By end of High Middle Age, two powerful Christian kingdoms and several weaker ones

2.  Literature and legend

a.  These conquests lead to plays (El Cid by Corneille)

b.  And epics (Chanson de Roland)

VII.  Church

A.  Corruption among certain leaders, not all

1.  Simony

a.  Nobility often sells offices to highest bidder, known as simony

2.  Immorality

a.  Some priests have concubines

B.  Crusades

1.  1095-1099

a.  Pope Urban II ordered one in 1095, and Jerusalem won in 1099, along with Syria

2. Response to aggressive Islamic jihad for 462 years, which closed off trade and pilgrimage routes.

3.  1147-1149

a.  Not too successful in Holy Land

4.  1189-1192

a.  In 1187 Jerusalem fell but not reconquered

See this post: The Truth about Islamic Jihad and Imperialism: A Timeline

Muslims waged jihad for four hundred years before the pope called the first crusade in 1095. No jihad, then no crusades–then peace.

C.  Investiture Controversy

1.  Cluny reforms

a.  Cluny reform movement (see below) seeks a separation of church and state

1)  No secular authority has the right to appoint a bishop nor esp. the pope

b.  Church elects on principles of canon law, by monks or canons of cathedrals

c.  These reforms is first articulation of separating church from state

2.  Church vs. State

a.  Emperor Henry IV (r. 1056-1106) challenges pope Gregory’s (r. 1073-85) claim of a separation of church and state

b.  Henry assembles his bishops, and they renounce loyalty to pope in 1076

c.  Pope excommunicates Henry and absolves Henry’s subjects from loyalty to him, delighting Henry’s nobility

d.  Fearing revolts, Henry prostrates himself before outside Gregory’s retreat at Canossa on January 25, 1077

e.  Henry regroups his troops and challenges pope

f.  Pope re-excommunicates Henry in March 1080, but repeated excommunications do not work, historically

g.  In 1084 Henry installs his anti-pope Clemet III and forces Gregory into exile, where he dies in 1085

h.  People do not like Henry’s irreverence

3.  Concordat of Worms (1122)

a.  Henry V (r. 1106-1125) renounces right to appoint bishops and popes

b.  Emperor and monarchs retained de facto power by being at elections and influencing candidates

c.  Pope can challenge secular rulers and win

4.  Other popes

a.  In 1100’s and 1200s Popes are powerful by bureaucracy and intellectuals (lawyers) who pore through customs and laws to prop up papal claim to power

b.  Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) is most effective one yet by forcing his will on papal monarchy by playing one king off another

1)  King John submits from appointing archbishop of Canterbury

2)  Suspends all church services in France and excommunicates French king to make him repudiate an uncanonical second marriage

D.  Inquisition (1223)

1.  Causes

a.  Reform movements create heresies, so Church believed

1)  Albigensians, from town of Albi in S. France, who reject church’s corruption

a)  Hold exotic theology from Persian dualism, two gods, good & evil

b)  God of OT created matter and was evil

c)  God of NT was good

b.  Control Jews

2.  Permanent tribunal in 1223

a.  In 1223 papacy establishes permanent tribunal

b.  Torture, secret witnesses, conviction on only two witnesses, denial of legal council

c.  Drawn from Roman law

E.  Church Reformers

1.  Cluny monasteries (910 onwards)

a.  Begins in 910 at Cluny, north of Lyon, by a Benedictine monk, Berno

b.  Reforms monasteries that have been corrupt

c.  Model theirs after Benedictine order, but reform it

d.  Clergy improves education and morals

e.  By 1100 they have 300 monasteries

f.  Monasteries raise up priests who care for people

g.  They hold to church-state separation

1)  Secular rules should not appoint bishops or popes

2.  Cistercians (1098)

a.  Robert of Molesme (ca. 1027-1111) in Burgundy

b.  Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) spreads this reform to 300 houses by his death

c.  Robert founds monastery in Citeaux

d.  Work with lay brothers in farms

Bernard of Clairvaux:

Men who “call themselves philosophers should rather be called slaves of curiosity and pride.”

If you attend the divine school of the Holy Spirit, you can say with the Psalmist, “I have understood more than all my teachers” (Ps. 119:99). . .  “Why, o my brother, do you make such a boast?  Is it because you have understood or have endeavored to understand the reasoning of Plato and the subtleties of Aristotle?  ‘God forbid!’ you answer; ‘It is because I have sought Thy commandments, O Lord.'”

3.  Saeculum and regula

a.  Terms used in 12th century

b.  Secular clergy minister in world, own property, and must obey bishop

c.  Regulated clergy live in orders

4.  Dominicans (1216)

a.  Dominic (1170-1221) Spaniard, well-educated

b.  Mendicant lifestyle

c.  Quickly expanded throughout Christendom

d.  St. Thomas Aquinas

e.  Corporate poverty dropped in time, for full-time scholars and teachers could not beg

f.  Go about preaching gospel and combating heresies

g.  Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216) recognizes it in 1216

5.  Franciscans (1223)

a.  St. Francis (1182-1226) Italian

b.  Son of wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, Italy

c.  Undergoes profound conversion in 1209

d.  Starts order devoted to poor and diseased

e.  Pour into Christian towns and preach gospel and set example of sanctity

f.  In 1210, Innocent III approves order, with some misgivings

g.  Pope approves order completely in 1223

VIII.  Philosophy

A.  Cathedral Schools and Universities

1.  Cathedral Schools

a.  Gather male students for the clergy and civic life

b.  Curriculum:  Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music)

2.  Universities (after 1200)

a.  In 1100+, prosperity

b.  University of Paris most celebrated

c.  Curriculum awarded degrees in civil and canon law, medicine, theology, and liberal arts (mostly mastering Aristotle)

B.  Realism vs. Nominalism

1.  Realist (aligned with Plato)

a.  Genus vs. Species

1) Human is the genus, and individuals are species

2) Humanity and redness exist as own entities, as in Plato’s Ideas/Forms

3) Individuals and red objects denote greater reality

b.  Universality or essence of individual species or objects exists and is more “real” than separate species or objects

c.  Example:  In all individual humans is essence of humanity

2.  Nominalist (aligned with Aristotle)

a.  Universality, genus or essence is merely functional, not real

b.  Humanity and redness are names used for convenience and do not exist in another, ideal world

c.  William of Champeaux (ca. 1070-1121)

3.  Compromise:  Conceptualist (aligned with Abelard)

a.  For convenience the mind gathers them together and ideas exist in mind

b.  Genus is simply a mental gathering together of species without the actual existence of another reality outside of our mind

c.  Universals exist in mind of God

d.  Roscellinus (1050-1125); revived by Ockham (1280-1349)

C.  Scholasticism

1.  Description

a.  Attempt at reconciling Aristotle

b.  Aristotle used reason without revelation

c.  Reason with faith, and philosophy with revelation

2.  Conflicting Views

a.  One side Averroes (died 1036) bifurcates the reason and revelation

1)  One truth in reason, and one in revelation

b.  Other side, clergy and papacy reject

1)  Reject Aristotle

2)  Pass decrees banning some of his works (1215 and 1231)

3.  Solution

a.  Thomas Aquinas uses both

b.  Subordinates reason to faith in unanswerable questions such as Trinity

4.  Method of Scholasticism

a.  Question set forth for intellectual analysis

b.  Summary of pro and con of both sides, citing authorities like Bible, church fathers, Aristotle, other ancient authors

c.  Synthesis or solution

5.  Legacy

a.  Robert Grosseteste (ca. 1168-1253, Oxford U, later bishop of Lincolnshire)

b.  Roger Bacon (ca. 1214-1292, Oxford U)

c.  Both study qualities of light and used scientific methods to conduct experiments

D.  Peter Abelard (1079-1142) (text, p. 221)

1.  Life

a.  Born in Pallet, Brittany

b.  Studies in Cathedral schools

c.  Tutors a niece of Fulbert, the canon of Notre Dame, Heloise

d.  Too personal and had son, Astrolabe

e.  Secretly marries her after birth

f.  Rumors circulate and she enters convent

1)  Actually Abelard forces her to enter convent

2)  For if he cannot have her, then no one can

g.  Fulbert in angers hires a band who breaks into Abelard’s quarters and castrates him

h.  Bright intellectual who gathered many students

2.  Works

a.  Sic et Non (1122)

1)  He sets out contradictions from Scriptures and church fathers and requires students to reconcile them

2)  This is scholasticism, for he seeks to reconcile faith and reason

E.  Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)

1.  Life

a.  Born in Italy

b.  Studies at University of Naples

c.  Becomes a Dominican in 1244

d.  Later studies at U. of Paris with Albertus Magnus

e.  Overweight and has a table cut out for him that fit his big belly

f.  In 1879 Leo XIII praises and endorses Thomism and gives it official (though not exclusive) place in thinking of Rom. Cath. Church

2.  Writings

a.  Summa Theologiae

1)  He weds together faith and reason through scholastic method

Via Media Middle path

Bridge between Latin Averroists and Bonaventure

Faith and Reason; Aristotle and Doctrine; Theology and Philosophy

Example:  Existence of God can be known through natural  reason and accepted by faith

“The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles . . . . Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent a man, who cannot grasp a proof, accepting, as a matter of faith, something which in itself is capable of being scientifically known and demonstrated.”

F. William of Ockham

1. English and Prof at Oxford U & U of Paris

2. Separates reason from faith, philosophy from theology

3. Example:  Existence of God

“An article of faith cannot be evidently proved; but that there is only one God is an article of faith.”

“The proposition ‘God exists’ is not known by itself, since many doubt it; nor can it be proved from propositions known by themselves, since in every argument something doubtful or derived from faith will be assumed; nor is it known by experience, as is manifest.”

G. Summary Tables

1.. Marriage (Aquinas) and Divorce (Ockham)

Via Antiqua (Old Way)

1. Faith and Theology and Revealed Truth

Aquinas’s Marriage (he marries 1 and 2)

2. Reason and Philosophy and Natural Truth


Via Moderna (“Modern” Way)

1. Faith and Theology and Revealed Truth

Ockham’s Divorce (he divorces 1 and 2)

2. Reason and Philosophy and Natural Truth

H. Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471)

1.. Brothers of the Common Life

2. Devotio Moderna (Modern Devotion)

3. Reaction against philosophy and scholasticism

“Never read anything just to seem more learned or wise . . . But woe to those who spend their lives rooting out esoteric learning, caring little about how to serve me [Jesus].  The time to come when Christ the Teacher of teachers, the Lord of angels, will appear to conduct the final exam, that is to examine each person’s conscience . . . and he will bring to light the things hidden in darkness, and all those scholars, so quarrelsome in their learning, will fall silent . . . I am he who, in an instant, can raise the humble mind to understand the principles of eternal truth better than anyone who has studied for ten years in graduate school.”

“Human reason is weak and can be misled; true faith, on the other hand, cannot be fooled.  All reasoning and natural enquiry should follow faith, not precede it or weaken it . . .  God– eternal, boundless, and of infinite power– does great things in heaven and on earth that are a complete mystery to us.  There is no searching out his wondrous works.  If God’s works were such that human reason could easily figure them out, they could not be said to be wonderful, nor would they be too marvelous for words to express.”

IX.  Literature

A.  France

1.  Song of Roland

a. Charlemagne’s army fights Moors or Muslims in Spain, and on the way back over Pyrenees mountain range (between France and Spain), the rear guard gets wiped out.

2.  Eleanor of Aquitaine (ca. 1122-1204)

3.  Chrétien de Troyes (fl. 1160s-90s)

a.  Life

1)  Very little known about his life

2)  He is born in province of Champagne, east of Paris in city of Troyes, on Seine River

3)  He is writing between 1164 and 1191

4)  He is under patronage of royalty

5)  He studies in flourishing schools of Troyes the trivium and quadrivium

6)  He could have been a cleric without taking priestly orders

b.  Works

1)  Three finished Romances

a)  Eric and Enide

b)  Cliges

c)  The Knight with the Lion

2)  Two Unfinished Romances

a) The Knight of the Cart

b) The Story of the Grail

3)  Possibly author of William of England

c.  Romances

a)  Defined as long narratives, depicting heroes of ancient Troy and Celts of British Isles

4.  Marie de France (fl. 1160-1210)

a.  Life

1)  Little is known about her life

2)  She was born in France but lives in England, which is controlled by France

3)  She may have been an abbess in England

4)  She knows royalty and dedicates some works to them

5)  With her education, evidenced in her Latin and writings, she has an aristocratic background

6)  She knows the vernacular lit of her era

7)  My name is Marie, I am of France; let no monk erase my name and take credit for my writing

b.  Works

1)  Fables

a.  She translates or writes Fables

b.  Stories with humans including an interplay with animals

c.  They are symbolic and didactic

2)  Lais

a)  Short lyric poems sung with an instrument

b)  Short narrative poems also sung with an instrument

c)  Tales of love and adventure with fairies, transformations and marvels

B.  Italy

1.  Context

a.  See Holy Roman Empire and Hohenstaufen dynasty

b.  See Late Middle Ages

2.  Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

3.  Dante (1265-1321)

Late Middle Ages

I.  Introduction

A.  Time

1.  Calamitous 1300s

a.  Society, church and commerce affected

2.  1500 is approximate

a.  Society begins to absorb Renaissance

3.  Overlaps with Renaissance (1400s)

II.  Economy

A.  Devastation 1300-1450s

1.  Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453)

2.  Bubonic plague (1347-1351)

B.  Recovery

1.  Florence, Italy

a.  Growth of City-State economically

b.  Florence struggle as a Republic, but always controlled by rich

c.  Social classes very clear and protective

d.  Ciompi Revolts in 1378 in Florence

1)  Little people sick and tired

2)  Feuding btwn old and new rich

3)  Social anarchy after Plague which cut city pop. in half

4)  Collapse of banking, leaving poor vulnerable

e.  Despotism temporarily emerges in response to this and other crises

III.  Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453)

Genealogical Table

The Valois dynasty will produce Charles VI, whose daughter Catherine of Valois will marry first Henry V of England and then she married, second, Owen Tudor, who is the namesake of the Tudor dynasty in England, in the next table.

Here is the pedigree table of the early Valois:

Robert Knecht, The Valois: Kings of France, 1328-1598 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2007).

On the right, in the third “row” from the bottom, is Catherine, who married Henry V, king of England, the famous warrior. He died young, in 1422. She remarried to Owen Tudor (not shown), a minor figure compared to the illustrious ancestry of the Valois. .

Robert Knecht, The Valois: Kings of France, 1328-1598 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2007).

A.  Problem of Succession

1.  Charles IV (r. 1285-1314) of France, a Capetian

a.  He is last of Philip the Fair’s surviving son, dies without male heir

2.  Edward III (r. 1327-1377) of England, a Plantagenet

a.  Grandson of Philip the Fair, asserts claim to French throne

3.  Philip VI of Valois (r. 1328-1350)

a.  He is chosen instead

b.  Though Edward is a vassal of Philip, he holds fiefs in France, which is repugnant to French because it threatens royal control and centralization

B.  Progress of War

1.  John II the Good of France (r. 1350-1364)

a.  France has three times population of England

b.  But England wins many victories

c.  Though France goes a long way in consolidating nation, petty lord are rivals during weakness

d.  Superior weapons of English, such as longbow that could fire six arrows a minute and pierce an inch of wood or armor of a knight at 200 yards

2.  Estates General in France (1355)

a.  Equivalent to English Parliament

b.  Assembly of classes or “estates”

1)  Clergy,

2)  Nobility

3)  “Commoners”

c.  Institution of a future democracy

d.  He convenes nobility to levy taxes

e.  During this weakness, rich merchants try to control government

f.  French nobility too divided to be an instrument of effective government

3.  Jacquerie revolt in France (1358)

a.  La Taille, taxes for king and nobility on peasants

b.  Jacquerie is for “commoner” named Jacques Bonhomme

c.  Nobility eventually puts down revolt, matching atrocity with atrocity

d.  Nobility too divided amongst themselves, however, to win control

4.  Peasant revolt in England (1381)

a.  Richard II (r. 1377-1399)

b.  Peasants and artisans join forces, led by John Ball, a secular priest, and Wat Tyler, a journeyman

c.  They have been long oppressed

d.  Bloody crackdown ends revolt that year

5.  Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

a.  Orleans is besieged

b.  Charles VII is desperate

c.  Peasant girl presents herself to king, saying King of Heaven calls her to deliver Orleans

d.  Desperate, king lets her try

e.  English forces are exhausted and ready to withdraw when Joan shows up with fresh army

f.  She is not a military genius, but provides inspiration and national pride

g.  She is captured in May 1430, and Charles does little to rescue her

h.  She is turned over to Inquisition in English-held Rouen

i.  After months of interrogation, she weakens and is executed as a relapsed heretic on May 30, 1431

6.  French victories

a.  Burgundians unite with Charles

b.  Unity, at last

c.  English are pushed back eventually to holding only Calais by 1453

IV.  Black Death (1347-1351)

A.  Preconditions and causes

1.  Population

a.  Doubles from 1000 to 1300 and outstrips food production

2.  Famines (1315-1317)

a.  Between 1315 and 1317 crop failures produce greatest famine of Middle Ages, producing bad health

3.  Cities

a.  Overcrowded, esp. among major trade routes

B.  Losses

1.  Population

a.  Western Europe loses two-fifths (40%) of population

b.  Whole villages vanish

2.  Economy

a.  Number of farm laborers decrease, but wages increase

b.  Agricultural prices fall because of lowered demands, but luxury and manufactured goods rise, work of artisans

c.  Nobility recovers by passing laws to make peasants stay on farms and freeze wages

d.  This is another cause of Jacquerie rebellion

C.  Recovery

1.  Cities rebound

2.  Artisans have freer room for advancement and appreciation, social mobility

3.  Kings take advantage of nobility’s losses to centralize governments

VI.  Church

A.  Avignon Papacy (1309-1370)

1.  King Philip IV the Fair (r. 1285-1314)

a.  He is ruthless, unlike Saint Louis IX

b.  He and England on brink of war, but Scotland     keeps England occupied

c.  France and England tax church under guise of Crusades

d.  This launches war with Pope Boniface VIII, which Philip wins (see below)

2.  Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294-1303)

a.  After him, papacy is never as strong

b.  Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294-1303) resists taxation (Clericis Laicos, 1296)

c.  King forbid exportation of money from France to Rome

d.  Boniface concedes in 1296 and canonizes Louis IX

1)  French may tax clergy in emergency

e.  Philip arrests papal legate in Paris, Bernard Saisset, as if spoiling for a fight, in 1300

f.  Pope responds with Ausculta Fili (“Listen, My Son”) in Dec. 1301

g.  Philip unleashes antipapal rhetoric

h.  In 1302 Pope writes Unam Sanctam in which supremacy is granted to Pope

i.  France invades Rome in 1303, captures Boniface at his retreat, and beat him badly until populace returns him safely to Rome; but he dies in October

3.  Other Popes

a.  Clement V (r. 1305-1314)

1)  In Avignon, Pope is cut off from papal estates

2)  He expands papal taxes, especially collecting first year’s revenue of a church office or benefice bestowed by pope

b.  Clement VI (r. 1342-1352)

1)  He begins practice of selling indulgences, which are pardons for unrepented sins

2)  Doctrine of purgatory develops at this time

c.  Benedict XII (r. 1334-1342)

1)  Pope begins building Palace of the Popes at Avignon

d.  Successors

1)  Locked into French secular patrons

e.  Pope Gregory XI (r. 1370-78)

1)  Makes papacy return to Rome

B.  Great Schism (1378-1417)

1.  Politics

a.  On Gregory’s death, cardinals in Rome elect Pope Urban VI (r. 1378-1389) as pope

b.  Thirteen cardinals (all but one French) elect Pope Clement VII (r. 1378-1397), cousin to French king

c.  Only solution was a Council to depose one or both popes

d.  Church debates whether Council can be called without permission from Pope

2.  Council of Pisa (1409-1410)

a. Council decides to depose both

b.  They elect a new one, Alexander V

c.  Neither Clement VII nor Urban VI accept decision

d.  Now there are three popes

3.  Council of Constance (1414-1417)

a.  Held in Constance, Switzerland

b.  Cardinals elect Martin V (r. 1417-1431), after three others resigned or were deposed

C.  Reformers

1.  Beguines (1200s-1500s)

a.  Source of name is unclear

b.  Women from France live in chastity, but not in poverty

c.  Some were poor, other rich

d.  Some lived with families, others in communities, not monasteries

e.  They devote themselves to the Lord and to the poor

f.  Expand into Netherlands

2.  John (Meister) Eckhardt (1260-1328)

a.  Theologian and effective preacher in vernacular

b.  Head of Saxon province for his order, Dominicans

c.  He believes he had direct experience with God

d.  He advocates calmness and quiet, not ecstatic emotion

e.  He helps people in their spiritual impulses

f.  Accused of heresy, but claims he is orthodox

3.  John Wycliffe (ca. 1320-1384)

a.  Oxford theologian and philosopher of high standing

1)  Doctorate in theology in 1372

b.  Followers are known as Lollards, derivation uncertain, though it may mean “mumbler”

1)  Achieve a voice in Parliament

2)  Win support of merchants and artisans

c.  He supports divine right of kings

d.  He supports view that property of immoral clerics should be seized by State

1)  Church ought to be content with food and clothing

e.  He supports England’s reduction of papal authority in England during Avignon papacy

f.  Personal merit, not rank or office, was only basis of religious authority

g.  Bible was only authoritative guide for faith and practice

h.  Proto-Protestant

i.  Dies of a stroke

4.  John Hus (ca. 1369-1415)

a.  Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), from poor parents

b.  His mother wishes him to become a priest

c.  He attends elementary school

d.  Matriculates into university of Prague

e.  Gets his A.B. degree, six of twenty-two

f.  In 1402 he is ordained

g.  Influenced by writings of Wycliffe

h.  He arrives at Constance, where he is imprisoned in a dungeon

i.  He refuses to recant his views

j.  He is burned at stake outside city

k.  Tenets

1)  Condemns indulgences

2)  Opposes three popes in Great Schism

3)  Supports Wycliffe’s views

IV.  Literature

A.  Italy

1.  Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) or Petrarca

a.  Life

1)  B. Arrezo, Italy

2)  Social unrest forces his mother to leave Florence

3)  Receives best education at University of Montpellier and Bologna

4)  Settles in at Papal court at Avignon in 1326

5)  Meets Laura

6)  Diplomat for Pope

7)  Fathers two illegitimate children (son in Rome, 1337; dau. 1343) by unknown woman

8)  Declared Poet Laureat in 1341

b.  Works

1)  Canzoniere (songbooks) sonnets

a)  Octet and sestet (8 & 6 = 14), usu. rhyming abbaabba; and cdecde, cdcdcd, or cdedce

2)  Influences Shakespeare, who modifies it into three quatrains and couplet, rhyming abab, cdcd, efef, gg

2.  Boccaccio (1313-1375) Giovanni

a.  Life

1)  Birthplace unknown, but illegitimate son of Florentine merchant; but father legitimizes him in ca, 1320 and treats as a real son

2)  Studies commerce, then canon law; later complains that his education was too utilitarian and not poetic, this is classics and poetry

3)  In court of Robert of Anjou, king of Naples

4)  Financial security eludes him in his mature years

5)  Patrons were few and far between

6)  He loses his stepmother to the Plague

7)  He serves Commune of Italy as ambassador and diplomat

b.  Works

1)  Decameron (ca. 1351)

2)  10 young men and women flee the plague in the city to a country villa

3)  They pass the time each telling a story for a day

4)  This influence Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

5)  Develops into short story later

B.  England

1.  Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340-1400)

a.  He was part of royal life, but not always financially secure since he was not royal himself

b.  During hundred Years’ War, he would have seen only English victories

2.  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (ca. 1350-1375)

C.  France

1.  Christine de Pizan (1364-?1430)

a.  She would have seen only losses in Hundred Years’ War

D.  Drama

1.  Origins of Tragedy

a. Easter and Christmas pageants performed with some dialogues or tropes (inserted lines) in 800’s and 900’s

b.  Scenes and dialogues became more elaborate, with added realism and tension in already fixed Bible events

2.  Origins of Comedy

a.  Most Classical comedy had dropped off, or did it?

b.  Evidence of imitation

1)  Vitalis of Blois wrote Geta, (1000’s) miserly old man, like Plautus’ Amphitryo and Aulalaria

2)  Babio, England, 1100’s miser

c.  Demise of theatre does not mean death of performers as class

d.  Church leaders attacked drama, so it is hard to believe that performers limited themselves to innocent juggling or mimes

e.  As drama revives, so do old stock characters of New Comedy

1)  Boasting soldier

2)  Old husband, loose wife, tricky servant

f.  Therefore, it is hard to believe class of actors did not hear of classical drama, however distant actual plays were

g.  But how did comic elements get introduced into more serious liturgical dramas?

3.  Origin of Comedy in Sacred Subjects

a.  Scenes and dialogues became more elaborate

b.  Professional actors needed to perform, not clerics and deacons

c.  Scenes moved from altars to side chapels or naves, sometimes taken outside during festivals

d.  Vernacular language, not just Latin used

e.  Talented actors and writers pushed boundaries out

4.  Stage

a.  “Simultaneous” stage:  certain parts designated as Paradise, Earth, Hell, Pilate’s House

b.  With too many scenes, then fixed positions: Heaven to stage right, Hell to stage left with gaping jaws, fire, smoke

c.  Unity of Christian universe in time and one space

d.  Procession or wagon train in England

1)  Each scene on wagons; as one finished, another pulled up

2)  Each scene given over to guild (weavers, tile-makers, fish-sellers)

3)  Continuity provided by prologues and narration


Western world, you’re asleep! You need to wake up because you achieved a lot. Remember the good past, like your original, biblical faith, and forget the bad past. Even the Middle Ages can teach us some things–what to do and what not to do. Live as free people.

For those interested in the progress of the church, remember this: The Medieval church was still God’s church. He didn’t abandon it. If you look closely, you can find reform movements and calls towards more gospel and concern for the poor.


Glossary of Medieval Terms: A to Z

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