In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
Population decline, counterurbanisation, the collapse of centralized authority, invasions, and mass migrations of tribes, which had begun in Late Antiquity, continued into the Early Middle Ages. The large-scale movements of the Migration Period, including various Germanic peoples, formed new kingdoms in what remained of the Western Roman Empire. In the 7th century, North Africa and the Middle East—most recently part of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire—came under the rule of the Umayyad Caliphate, an Islamic empire, after conquest by Muhammad's successors. Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, the break with classical antiquity was not complete. The still-sizeable Byzantine Empire, Rome's direct continuation, survived in the Eastern Mediterranean and remained a major power. Secular law was advanced greatly by the Code of Justinian. In the West, most kingdoms incorporated extant Roman institutions, while new bishoprics and monasteries were founded as Christianity expanded in Europe. The Franks, under the Carolingian dynasty, briefly established the Carolingian Empire during the later 8th and early 9th centuries. It covered much of Western Europe but later succumbed to the pressures of internal civil wars combined with external invasions: Vikings from the north, Magyars from the east, and Saracens from the south.
During the High Middle Ages, which began after 1000, the population of Europe increased greatly as technological and agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish and the Medieval Warm Period climate change allowed crop yields to increase. Manorialism, the organisation of peasants into villages that owed rent and labour services to the nobles, and feudalism, the political structure whereby knights and lower-status nobles owed military service to their overlords in return for the right to rent from lands and manors, were two of the ways society was organised in the High Middle Ages. This period also saw the formal division of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, with the East-West Schism of 1054. The Crusades, first preached in 1095, were military attempts by Western European Christians to regain control of the Holy Land from Muslims, and also contributed to the expansion of Latin Christendom in the Baltic region and the Iberian Peninsula. Kings became the heads of centralised nation-states, reducing crime and violence but making the ideal of a unified Christendom more distant. In the West, intellectual life was marked by scholasticism, a philosophy that emphasised joining faith to reason, and by the founding of universities. The theology of Thomas Aquinas, the paintings of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, and the Gothic architecture of cathedrals such as Chartres are among the outstanding achievements toward the end of this period and into the Late Middle Ages.
The Late Middle Ages was marked by difficulties and calamities including famine, plague, and war, which significantly diminished the population of Europe; between 1347 and 1350, the Black Death killed about a third of Europeans. Controversy, heresy, and the Western Schism within the Catholic Church paralleled the interstate conflict, civil strife, and peasant revolts that occurred in the kingdoms. Cultural and technological developments transformed European society, concluding the Late Middle Ages and beginning the early modern period. (Full article...)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance
outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain
, a knight of King Arthur
's Round Table
. In the tale, Sir Gawain accepts a challenge from a mysterious warrior who is completely green, from his clothes and hair to his beard and skin. The "Green Knight
" offers to allow anyone to strike him with his axe if the challenger will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts, and beheads him in one blow, only to have the Green Knight stand up, pick up his head, and remind Gawain to meet him at the appointed time. The story of Gawain's struggle to meet the appointment and his adventures along the way demonstrate the spirit of chivalry
. The poem survives in a single manuscript, the Cotton Nero A.x.
, that also includes three religious pieces, Pearl
, and Patience
. These works are thought to have been written by the same unknown author, dubbed the "Pearl Poet
" or "Gawain poet." All four narrative poems
are written in a North West Midland
dialect of Middle English. The story thus emerges from the Welsh and English traditions of the dialect area, borrowing from earlier "beheading game" stories and highlighting the importance of honour and chivalry in the face of danger.
Jogaila, later Władysław II Jagiełło (help·info)[nb 1] (ca. 1351/1362 – 1 June 1434) was Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377–1434), jure uxoris King of Kingdom of Poland (1386–1399), and sole King of Poland (1399–1434). He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis. In 1386 in Kraków he was baptized as Władysław, married the young queen regnant Jadwiga of Poland, and was crowned King of Poland as Władysław II Jagiełło. In 1387 he converted Lithuania to Christianity. His own reign in Poland started in 1399, upon death of Queen Jadwiga, and lasted a further thirty-five years and laid the foundation for the centuries-long Polish–Lithuanian union. Władysław II was the founder of the Jagiellon dynasty that bears his name, while pagan Jogaila was an heir to the already established house of Gediminids in Grand Duchy of Lithuania; the royal dynasty ruled both states until 1572,[nb 2] and became one of the most influential dynasties in the late medieval and early modern Central and Eastern Europe. During his reign Polish-Lithuanian state was the greatest Kingdom of the Christian world.
Jogaila was the last pagan ruler of medieval Lithuania. After he became King of Poland, as a result of Union of Krewo, the newly formed Polish-Lithuanian union confronted the growing power of the Teutonic Knights. The allied victory at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, followed by the Peace of Thorn (1411), secured the Polish and Lithuanian borders and marked the emergence of the Polish–Lithuanian alliance as a significant force in Europe. The reign of Władysław II Jagiełło extended Polish frontiers and is often considered the beginning of Poland's Golden Age. (Read more. . .)
- ^ He is known under a number of names: Lithuanian: Jogaila Algirdaitis; Polish: Władysław II Jagiełło; Belarusian: Jahajła (Ягайла). See also: Jogaila (Władysław II Jagiello): names and titles.
- ^ Anna Jagiellon last member of royal Jagiellon family died in 1596.
Did you know...
- ...that a paillasse is a thin mattress filled with hay or sawdust and was commonly used in the middle ages?
- ...that a barbican is a tower or other fortification defending the drawbridge, usually the gateway?
- ...that a coif is a type of armored head-covering made out of chain-mail and worn under the helmet for extra protection?
- ...that a heriot is a payment owed to the lord of the manor by a serf’s family upon the serf’s death; usually the family’s best animal, such as a cow, horse or most commonly ox?
- ...that before 1066, it was noted in the Domesday Book, if one Welshman killed another, the dead man’s relatives could exact retribution on the killer and his family (even burning their houses) until burial of the victim the next day?
- ...that buboes are pus-filled egg-sized swellings of the lymph glands of the neck, armpits, and groin; typically found in cases of bubonic plague?
- ...that laws passed in the late 1300s aimed at maintaining class distinctions by prohibiting lower classes from dressing as if they belonged to higher classes?
- ...that Pier Gerlofs Donia, a 15th century Frisian freedom fighter of 7 feet tall was alleged to be so strong that he could lift a 1000 pound horse?
- ...that Edgar Ætheling was the last of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England, but was only proclaimed, never crowned?