The Middle Ages

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					The Middle Ages:
Myth and Reality
      The Middle Ages: The Myth
   We think of knights in
    shining armor, lavish
    banquets, wandering
    minstrels, kings, queens,
    bishops, monks, pilgrims,
    and glorious pageantry.
   In film and in literature,
    medieval life seems
    heroic, entertaining, and
    The Middle Ages: The Reality
   In reality, life in the
    Middle Ages, a period
    that extended from
    approximately the 5th
    century to the 15th
    century in Western
    Europe, could also be
    harsh, uncertain, and
The Lord of the Manor
              For safety and
               defense, people in the
               Middle Ages formed
               small communities
               around a central lord
               or master.
                  The Manor
   Most people lived
    on a manor, which
    consisted of the
    castle (or manor
    house), the church,
    the village, and the
    surrounding farm
   Each manor was largely self-
    sufficient, growing or producing
    all of the basic items needed for
    food, clothing, and shelter.
   To meet these needs, the manor
    had buildings devoted to special
    purposes, such as:
       The mill for grinding grain
       The bake house for making bread
       The blacksmith shop for creating
        metal goods.
        These manors were
         isolated, with
         occasional visits
         from peddlers,
         pilgrims on their way
         to the Crusades, or
         soldiers from other
            The Feudal System
   Under the feudal
    system, the king
    awarded land grants or
    fiefs to his most
    important nobles,
    barons, and bishops, in
    return for their
    contribution of soldiers
    for the king's armies.
Nobles and Vassals
           Nobles divided their
            land among the lesser
            nobility, who became
            their vassals. Many of
            these vassals became
            so powerful that the
            kings had difficulty
            controlling them.
              The Magna Carta
   In 1215, the English
    barons formed an
    alliance that forced
    King John to sign the
    Magna Carta. It limited
    the king's powers of
    taxation and required
    trials by jury. It was the
    first time that an
    English monarch was
    subject to the law.
                The Peasants
   At the lowest level of
    society were the
    peasants, also called
    serfs or villeins.
   The lord offered his
    peasants protection in
    exchange for living and
    working on his land.
       Hard Work & High Taxes
   Peasants worked hard to
    cultivate the land and
    produce the goods that
    the lord and his manor
   They were heavily taxed
    and were required to
    relinquish much of what
    they harvested.
     Bound by law and custom…
   It is the custom in England, as with other
    countries, for the nobility to have great power
    over the common people, who are serfs. This
    means that they are bound by law and custom
    to plough the field of their masters, harvest
    the corn, gather it into barns, and thresh and
    winnow the grain; they must also mow and
    carry home the hay, cut and collect wood, and
    perform all manner of tasks of this kind.
                                   -- Jean Froissart, 1395
                                          MEDIEVAL LIFE
                                       Cooperation and Mutual


     FEUDALISM:                                                                      MANORIALISM:
   POLITICAL SYSTEM                                                                 ECONOMIC SYSTEM
                                            Fief and Peasants                    Agriculture the basis for
 Decentralized, local
  government                                                                      wealth
                                       Loyalty         Military Aid              Lands divided up into
 Dependent upon the
  relationship between                  LORDS (VASSALS TO KING)                   self-sufficient manors
  members of the nobility                                                        Peasants (serfs) worked
 Lord and his vassals                                                            the land and paid rent In
  administered justice                                                            exchange for protection
  and were the highest                                                           Barter the usual form of
  authority in their land                                                         exchange

                            Food                Protection            Shelter

                                    Homage         Military Service
                                   KNIGHTS (VASSALS TO LORDS)

             Food                               Protection                         Shelter

                            Farm the                                  Pay
                              Land         PEASANTS (SERFS)           Rent
      Women: Household Chores
   Whether they were
    nobles or peasants,
    women held a difficult
    position in society.
   They were largely
    confined to household
    tasks such as cooking,
    baking bread, sewing,
    weaving, and spinning.
           Hunting & Fighting
   However, they also
    hunted for food and
    fought in battles,
    learning to use
    weapons to defend
    their homes and
            Other Occupations
   Some medieval women
    held other occupations.
    There were women
    merchants, and
    Midwives, Farmers, & Artists
   Others were
    midwives, worked in
    the fields, or were
    engaged in creative
    endeavors such as
    writing, playing
    musical instruments,
    dancing, and painting.
              Witches & Nuns
   Some women were
    known as witches,
    capable of sorcery
    and healing. Others
    became nuns and
    devoted their lives
    to God and spiritual
           The Catholic Church
   The Catholic Church was
    the only church in Europe
    during the Middle Ages,
    and it had its own laws and
    large income.
   Church leaders such as
    bishops and archbishops
    sat on the king's council
    and played leading roles in
   Bishops, who were often
    wealthy and came from
    noble families, ruled
    over groups of parishes
    called dioceses.
   Many times, they were
    part of the feudal system
    and in exchange for a
    fief and peasants had to
    provide homage and
    military aid to a leige
                Parish Priests
   Parish priests, on the other
    hand, came from humbler
    backgrounds and often had
    little education.
   The village priest tended to
    the sick and indigent and,
    if he was able, taught Latin
    and the Bible to the youth
    of the village
   Monasteries in the Middle
    Ages were based on the
    rules set down by St.
    Benedict in the sixth
    century. The monks
    became known as
    Benedictines and took
    vows of poverty, chastity,
    and obedience to their
   Monks were required to
    perform manual labor
    and were forbidden to
    own property, leave the
    monastery, or become
    entangled in the concerns
    of society.
   Daily tasks were often
    carried out in silence.
   Monks and their female
    counterparts, nuns, who
    lived in convents,
    provided for the less-
    fortunate members of
    the community.
    Monasteries and
    nunneries were safe
    havens for pilgrims and
    other travelers.
                Monastic Life
   Monks and nuns went
    to the monastery
    church eight times a
    day in a routine of
    worship that involved
    singing, chanting, and
    reciting prayers from
    the divine offices and
    from the service for
               The Divine Office
   The first office,
    “Matins,” began at 2
    AM and the next seven
    followed at regular
    intervals, culminating in
    “Vespers” in the evening
    and “Compline” before
    the monks and nuns
    retired at night.
   Between prayers, the
    monks read or copied
    religious texts and
    music. Monks were
    often well educated
    and devoted their
    lives to writing and
   Pilgrimages were an
    important part of religious
    life in the Middle Ages.
    Many people took
    journeys to visit holy
    shrines such the
    Canterbury Cathedral in
    England and sites in
    Jerusalem and Rome.
         The Canterbury Tales
   Chaucer's Canterbury
    Tales is a series of
    stories told by 30
    pilgrims as they
    traveled to
   Most medieval homes
    were cold, damp, and
    dark. Sometimes it
    was warmer and
    lighter outside the
    home than within its
   For security purposes,
    windows, when they were
    present, were very small
    openings with wooden
    shutters that were closed at
    night or in bad weather. The
    small size of the windows
    allowed those inside to see
    out, but kept outsiders from
    looking in.
              Peasants Homes
   Many peasant
    families ate, slept,
    and spent time
    together in very small
    quarters, rarely more
    than one or two
    rooms. The houses
    had thatched roofs
    and were easily
House Construction
Medieval Village
           Homes of the Wealthy
   The homes of the rich were
    more elaborate than the
    peasants' homes. Their
    floors were paved, as
    opposed to being strewn
    with rushes and herbs, and
    sometimes decorated with
    tiles. Tapestries were hung
    on the walls, providing not
    only decoration but also an
    extra layer of warmth.
             Fenestral Windows
   Fenestral windows, with
    lattice frames that were
    covered in a fabric soaked
    in resin and tallow,
    allowed in light, kept out
    drafts, and could be
    removed in good weather.
    Only the wealthy could
    afford panes of glass;
    sometimes only churches
    and royal residences had
    glass windows.
    The Kitchens of Peasant Homes
   In simpler homes where
    there were no chimneys,
    the medieval kitchen
    consisted of a stone
    hearth in the center of
    the room. This was not
    only where the cooking
    took place, but also the
    source of central heating.
             The Peasant Diet
   In peasant families, the
    wife did the cooking and
    baking. The peasant diet
    consisted of breads,
    vegetables from their own
    gardens, dairy products
    from their own sheep,
    goats, and cows, and pork
    from their own livestock.
               Herbs & Pottage
   Often the true taste of their
    meat, salted and used
    throughout the year, was
    masked by the addition of
    herbs, leftover breads, and
    vegetables. Some vegetables,
    such as cabbages, leeks, and
    onions became known as
    "pot-herbs." This pottage was
    a staple of the peasant diet
     The Kitchens of Manor Houses
   The kitchens of manor
    houses and castles had
    big fireplaces where
    meat, even large oxen,
    could be roasted on
    spits. These kitchens
    were usually in
    separate buildings, to
    minimize the threat of
              Sources of Meat
   Pantries were hung
    with birds and beasts,
    including swans,
    blackbirds, ducks,
    pigeons, rabbits,
    mutton, venison, and
    wild boar. Many of
    these animals were
    caught on hunts.
       Woolen & Linen Clothing
   Most people in the
    Middles Ages wore
    woolen clothing, with
    undergarments made
    of linen. Brighter
    colors, better
    materials, and a
    longer jacket length
    were usually signs of
    greater wealth.
           Clothing of the Wealthy
   The clothing of the
    aristocracy and wealthy
    merchants tended to be
    elaborate and changed
    according to the dictates of
    fashion. Towards the end of
    the Middle Ages, men of
    the wealthy classes sported
    hose and a jacket, often
    with pleating or skirting, or
    a tunic with a surcoat.
             Women’s Clothing
   Women wore flowing
    gowns and elaborate
    headwear, ranging from
    headdresses shaped like
    hearts or butterflies to tall
    steeple caps and Italian
                 Monk’s Clothing
   Most of the holy orders wore long
    woolen habits in emulation of
    Roman clothing. One could tell
    the order by the color of the habit:
    the Benedictines wore black; the
    Cistercians and Dominicans,
    undyed wool or white, and the
    Franciscans, brown. St. Benedict
    stated that a monk's clothes should
    be plain but comfortable and they
    were allowed to wear linen coifs
    to keep their heads warm.
               Nun’s Clothing
   The Poor Clare Sisters, an
    order of Franciscan nuns, had
    to petition the Pope in order to
    be permitted to wear woolen
               Peasant Clothing
   Peasant men wore
    stockings and tunics, while
    women wore long gowns
    with sleeveless tunics and
    wimples to cover their hair.
    Sheepskin cloaks and
    woolen hats and mittens
    were worn in winter for
    protection from the cold
    and rain. Leather boots
    were covered with wooden
    patens to keep the feet dry.
      Outer and Under Garments
   The outer clothes were
    almost never laundered,
    but the linen underwear
    was regularly washed.
    The smell of wood
    smoke that permeated the
    clothing seemed to act as
    a deodorant. Peasant
    women spun wool into
    the threads that were
    woven into the cloth for
    these garments.
                Fur and Jewelry
   Fur was often used to line the
    garments of the wealthy.
    Jewelry was lavish, much of
    it imported and often used as
    security against loans. Gem
    cutting was not invented until
    the fifteenth century, so most
    stones were not very lustrous.
    Ring brooches were the most
    popular item from the twelfth
    century on.
            Love Conquers All
   Chaucer's prioress in
    the Canterbury Tales
    wore a brooch with
    the inscription Amor
    vincit omnia (Love
    conquers all), not a
    appropriate slogan for
    a nun.
        Laws Governing Jewelry
   Diamonds became
    popular in Europe in the
    fourteenth century. By the
    mid-fourteenth century
    there were laws to control
    who wore what jewelry ,
    and knights were not
    permitted to wear rings.
    Sometimes clothes were
    garnished with silver, but
    only the wealthy could
    wear such items.
             Health & Hygiene
   As the populations of
    medieval towns and
    cities increased,
    hygienic conditions
    worsened, leading to a
    vast array of health
   Medical knowledge was
    limited and, despite the efforts
    of medical practitioners and
    public and religious
    institutions to institute
    regulations, medieval Europe
    did not have an adequate
    health care system. Antibiotics
    weren't invented until the
    1800s and it was almost
    impossible to cure diseases
    without them.
         Myths and Superstitions
   There were many myths and
    superstitions about health and
    hygiene as there still are today.
    People believed, for example,
    that disease was spread by bad
    odors. It was also assumed that
    diseases of the body resulted
    from sins of the soul. Many
    people sought relief from their
    ills through meditation, prayer,
    pilgrimages, and other
    nonmedical methods.
                         Four Humors
   The body was viewed as a part of
    the universe, a concept derived from
    the Greeks and Romans. Four
    humors, or body fliuds, were
    directly related to the four elements.
       Fire: yellow bile or choler
       Water: phlegm
       Earth: black bile
       Air: blood.
   These four humors had to be
    balanced. Too much of one was
    thought to cause a change in
    personality--for example, too much
    black bile could create melancholy.
   Medicine was often a risky
    business. Bloodletting was
    a popular method of
    restoring a patient's health
    and "humors." Early
    surgery, often done by
    barbers without anesthesia,
    must have been
              Medical Treatment
   Medical treatment was
    available mainly to the
    wealthy, and those
    living in villages rarely
    had the help of doctors,
    who practiced mostly in
    the cities and courts.
    Remedies were often
    herbal in nature, but
    also included ground
    earthworms, urine, and
    animal excrement.
   Many medieval medical
    manuscripts contained
    recipes for remedies
    that called for hundreds
    of therapeutic
    substances--the notion
    that every substance in
    nature held some sort of
    power accounts for the
    enormous variety of
         Lay Medical Judgments
   Many treatments were
    administered by people
    outside the medical tradition.
    Coroners' rolls from the time
    reveal how lay persons often
    made sophisticated medical
    judgments without the aid of
    medical experts. From these
    reports we also learn about
    some of the major causes of
   Performed as a last resort,
    surgery was known to be
    successful in cases of
    breast cancer, fistula,
    hemorrhoids, gangrene,
    and cataracts, as well as
    tuberculosis of the lymph
    glands in the neck
    (scrofula). The most
    common form of surgery
    was bloodletting; it was
    meant to restore the
    balance of fluids in the
           Arts & Entertainment
   Art and music were critical
    aspects of medieval
    religious life and, towards
    the end of the Middle Ages,
    secular life as well. Singing
    without instrumental
    accompaniment was an
    essential part of church
    services. Monks and priests
    chanted the divine offices
    and the mass daily.
            Musical Instruments
   Some churches had
    instruments such as organs
    and bells. The organistrum
    or symphony (later known
    as a hurdy gurdy) was also
    found in churches. Two
    people were required to play
    this stringed instrument--
    one to turn the crank and the
    other to play the keys.
   Medieval drama grew out
    of the liturgy, beginning
    in about the eleventh
    century. Some of the
    topics were from the Old
    Testament (Noah and the
    flood, Jonah and the
    whale, Daniel in the lion's
    den) and others were
    stories about the birth and
    death of Christ.
   These dramas were
    performed with costumes
    and musical instruments
    and at first took place
    directly outside the
    church. Later they were
    staged in marketplaces,
    where they were
    produced by local guilds.
                   Town Life
   After 1000, peace and
    order grew. As a result,
    peasants began to
    expand their farms and
    villages further into the
    countryside. The earliest
    merchants were peddlers
    who went from village
    to village selling their
   As the demand for goods
    increased--particularly for the
    gems, silks, and other
    luxuries from Genoa and
    Venice, the ports of Italy that
    traded with the East--the
    peddlers became more
    familiar with complex issues
    of trade, commerce,
    accounting, and contracts.
   They became savvy businessmen
    and learned to deal with Italian
    moneylenders and bankers. The
    English, Belgians, Germans, and
    Dutch took their coal, timber,
    wood, iron, copper, and lead to the
    south and came back with luxury
    items such as wine and olive oil.
   With the advent of
    trade and
    commerce, feudal
    life declined. As
    the tradesmen
    became wealthier,
    they resented
    having to give their
    profits to their
   Arrangements were made
    for the townspeople to pay
    a fixed annual sum to the
    lord or king and gain
    independence for their
    town as a "borough" with
    the power to govern itself.
    The marketplace became
    the focus of many towns.
             Town Governments
   As the townspeople
    became "free" citizens,
    powerful families,
    particularly in Italy,
    struggled to gain control
    of the communes or
    boroughs. Town councils
    were formed.
   Guilds were established to
    gain higher wages for
    their members and protect
    them from competitors.
    As the guilds grew rich
    and powerful, they built
    guildhalls and began
    taking an active role in
    civic affairs, setting up
    courts to settle disputes
    and punish wrongdoers.
           The Merchant Class
   The new merchant class
    included artisans,
    masons, armorers,
    bakers, shoemakers,
    ropemakers, dyers, and
    other skilled workers.
   Of all the craftsmen,
    the masons were the
    highest paid and most
    respected. They were,
    after all, responsible
    for building the
    cathedrals, hospitals,
    universities, castles,
    and guildhalls.
   Masons learned their
    craft as apprentices
    to a master mason,
    living at lodges for
    up to seven years.
    The master mason
    was essentially an
    architect, a general
    contractor, and a
           The First Companies
   The population of cities
    swelled for the first time
    since before the Dark
    Ages. With the new
    merchant activity,
    companies were formed.
    Merchants hired
    bookkeepers, scribes,
    and clerks, creating new
              The Printing Press
   Printing began in 1450
    with the publication of
    the Bible by Johannes
    Gutenberg. This
    revolutionized the spread
    of learning. Other
    inventions of the time
    included mechanical
    clocks, tower mills, and
     The Birth of the Renaissance
   The inventions of
    Leonardo da Vinci and
    the voyages of
    discovery in the
    fifteenth century
    contributed to the birth
    of the Renaissance.
                  Urban Life
   Few serfs were left in Europe by
    the end of the Middle Ages, and
    the growing burgher class became
    very powerful. Hard work and
    enterprise led to economic
    prosperity and a new social order.
    Urban life brought with it a new
    freedom for individuals.
   Adapted from the Annenberg Media/ website “The Middle Ages”

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