7. 35 Examine the Norman Invasion, Battle of Hastings, and the impact of the reign of William the Conqueror on England and Northern France. Norman Conquest



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7.35 Examine the Norman Invasion, Battle of Hastings, and the impact of the reign of William the Conqueror on England and Northern France.

Norman Conquest

Edward the Confessor, king of England, died childless on January 5, 1066. It is almost certain that years earlier Edward had promised the English throne to his cousin William, duke of Normandy. In addition, according to the Bayeux Tapestry and other Norman sources, William had secured an oath from Harold Godwinson, the powerful earl of Wessex, in support of his claim to the throne. Nevertheless, when Edward died, Harold Godwinson had himself crowned as King Harold II, and he was accepted by the British nobles. William decided to invade England to gain the throne.

William was not the only threat faced by the new king, however. Edward the Confessor had used his lack of an heir as a diplomatic tool, promising the throne to different individuals throughout his reign. One of the claimants was the exiled Tostig, earl of Northumbria, who was Harold’s brother. Another was Harald III Hardraade (also known as Harald Hardrada), the king of Norway. Both of these men threatened invasion in pursuit of their claims on the throne.

In May 1066 Harold II mobilized forces in the south to guard the coast against an invasion by William. Meanwhile, the king was forced to repel Tostig’s raids on the southern and eastern coasts. Soon Tostig and Harald formed an alliance, and in September their combined forces invaded in the north. Harold marched northward and met them at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. There, on September 25, Harold won a smashing victory in which both Harald and Tostig were killed.

By August 1066 William had assembled a force of about 4,000–7,000 knights and foot soldiers on the coast of Normandy. But contrary winds made it impossible to sail for eight weeks. The delay proved advantageous to William, however. In early September King Harold was forced to disband his southern army because he had run out of supplies and because his troops had to return to the harvest. Thus, when the winds finally turned favorable on September 27, William and his army were free to cross the English Channel unopposed. They landed at Pevensey the next day and marched directly for Hastings.

Harold, having just defeated Harald and Tostig, hurried southward with his exhausted army. On October 13 he approached Hastings with about 7,000 men. The next morning, before Harold had prepared his troops for battle, William attacked. His forces gradually wore down Harold’s army, and toward evening Harold was killed.



William the Conqueror

William made a swift march to isolate London, and the majority of English nobles submitted to him. He was crowned King William I at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. Sporadic revolts against him continued until 1071, but they were put down. Helping to complete the conquest was the redistribution of land with the rapid building of a great number of castles to house his followers.

William’s conquest forever changed the course of English history. In political terms his victory destroyed England’s age-old ties to Scandinavia and brought the country into closer contact with Western Europe.

After subduing England’s powerful earls, William seized their lands and distributed them among his elite Norman followers. These men, numbering fewer than 180, became the nobility of Norman England. William ordered the nobles to build fortified stone castles to protect their lands. As payment for their lands, the nobles supplied the king with armed knights. Soon the nobles began to grant some of their lands to knights who would serve them just as they in turn served the king. This exchange of land for military service, known as feudalism, had originated in Normandy. The Normans also introduced French as the language of the king’s court; it gradually blended with the Anglo-Saxon tongue.

William won the loyalty of the mass of the people by wisely retaining the old Anglo-Saxon laws, courts, and customs with only a few changes. Thus the principle of self-government, which lies at the root of the political system of English-speaking peoples, was preserved and strengthened. At the same time, William taught the English the advantages of a central government strong enough to control feudal lords.

Toward the end of his reign, William ordered a great survey to be taken of all the lands and people of England. For the king’s officials it was an invaluable record, and for today’s historians it is a unique source of information about the period. For the English people, however, it was as though an angel of God were recording every fact of their lives for the final judgment. Therefore, they called it the Domesday (Doomsday) Book. The original may still be seen at the National Archives in Kew, Surrey. “So very narrowly did he cause the survey to be made,” complained the old Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, “that there was not a single rood of land, nor an ox, or a cow, or a pig passed by, and that was not set down in the accounts.”

William was often on the European Continent dealing with his widespread holdings. He died in Rouen, Normandy (now in France), on September 9, 1087, from injuries received while warring with the French king Philip I. He was succeeded in Normandy by his eldest son, Robert, and in England by his second son, William Rufus, as William II.

Map of Battle of Hastings, 10/14/1066 Death of Harold Godwinson



Using your knowledge and the information above, thoroughly complete the following:

-Write, in detail, why William, Duke of Normandy invaded England, and explain what happened at the Battle of Hastings and the outcome of the battle.

-Explain how English culture changed after William became king of England.

-Describe a legacy or long-lasting effect this change of power (William becoming king) had on Europe.

7.37 Examine the spread of Christianity north of the Alps and the roles played by the early church and by monasteries in its diffusion after the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire.

Life in a Christian Monastery, ca. 585 CE

In the latter part of the fifth century the barbarian hordes overwhelmed the last vestiges of the Roman Empire sinking Europe into what would come to be called the "Dark Ages." In defense, and under the influence of the Italian monk St. Benedict, monasteries spread throughout Europe. They provided islands of intellectualism as the world around them devolved into anarchy. The monasteries preserved the intellectual legacy of Rome as well as the text of the Bible while simultaneously nurturing scholarship and the desire to maintain moral values.

It was a harsh life. St. Benedict established the Benedictine Rule that reflected the two primary principles of monastic life - Ora et labora or prayer and work. The monks lived by a strict timetable of prayer, labor and study. Much of their day was spent in transcribing the Bible and ancient texts left from the Roman Empire, preserving these sources of knowledge for future generations.



Pope Gregory I (known as "the Great") served as head of the Church from 590 to 602. Prior to his elevation to this post he was abbot of St. Andrew's, a monastery on the outskirts of Rome. He wrote of his experience and provides us insight into daily living in a monastery and the moral structure that governed monastic life.

One of the rules set forth by St. Benedict specified that the monastery was to be a commune in which all possessions were held in common and personal property forbidden. Gregory recalls an incident in which a monk was found to have 3 gold pieces and describes the consequences of this transgression:

"There was in my monastery a certain monk, Justus by name, skilled in medicinal arts. . . . When he knew that his end was at hand, he made known to Copiosus, his brother in the flesh, how that he had three gold pieces hidden away. Copiosus, of course, could not conceal this from the brethren. He sought carefully, and examined all his brother's drugs, until he found the three gold pieces hidden away among the medicines. When he told me this great calamity that concerned a brother who had lived in common with us, I could hardly hear it with calmness. For the rule of our monastery was always that the brothers should live in common and own nothing individually.

Then, stricken with great grief, I began to think what I could do to cleanse the dying man, and how I should make his sins a warning to the living brethren. Accordingly, having summoned Pretiosus, the superintendent of the monastery, I commanded him to see that none of the brothers visited the dying man, who was not to hear any words of consolation. If in the hour of death he asked for the brethren, then his own brother in the flesh was to tell him how he was hated by the brethren because he had concealed money; so that at death remorse for his guilt might pierce his heart and cleanse him from the sin he had committed.

When he was dead his body was not placed with the bodies of the brethren, but a grave was dug in the dung pit, and his body was flung down into it, and the three pieces of gold he had left were cast upon him, while all together cried, 'Thy money perish with thee ! ' . . .
When thirty days had passed after his death, my heart began to have compassion on my dead brother, and to ponder prayers with deep grief, and to seek what remedy there might be for him. Then I called before me Pretiosus, superintendent of the monastery, and said sadly: 'It is a long time that our brother who died has been tormented by fire, and we ought to have charity toward him, and aid him so far as we can, that he may be delivered. Go, therefore, and for thirty successive days from this day offer sacrifices for him. See to it that no day is allowed to pass on which the salvation-bringing mass is not offered up for his absolution.' He departed forthwith and obeyed my words.



Monasteries in the Middle Ages

As the popularity of monks and monasteries grew, monks became very influential figures in the middle ages society. Not only were they educated by they also demonstrated skills in agriculture and manual labor, as this is what they did within the monasteries. However, the labor they undertook was not the forced and undignified type imposed in the previous centuries by the barbarians and Romans.



As time went by the influential families in the medieval era began establishing their own monasteries within their estates. The abbots who were designated to oversee these monasteries were related, directly or in directly to the family that owned the monastery. As such, the abbots administered the monasteries in the interest of the owners. This resulted into the rapid integration of the monasteries into the power structure of the medieval society.

Monastery Life

Life in the monasteries involved regular periods of worship, studying and labor. Days were managed into eight different activities all of which began and ended with worship in the church. The initial church service was at about two in the morning while the last one took place at sunset. During the day they would spent a couple of hours studying the bible, praying, and meditating in private. The rest of the hours were spent in manual labor within the monastery and in the gardens.

Monasteries in the middle ages were used for several activities:

  • The monastery was used as a source of refuge for pilgrims. At this time in Europe, there were almost no inns for travelers.

  • The monastery engaged in social work that involved feeding the hungry and caring for the sick.

  • The medieval monasteries offered education mainly to boys who were looking for a life of priesthood and those who were looking to enter other professions.

  • The monasteries were also in charge of copying, by hand, the manuscripts of classical writers in an effort to preserve these manuscripts. They also penned down the Bible in Latin and distributed copies to the community. They record events that took place during this time and these served as a good source of middle ages historical records.

Using your knowledge and the information above, thoroughly complete the following:

-Explain how Christianity was spread after the fall of the Roman Empire.



-Describe the roles of monks and monasteries during the Middle Ages.

-Discuss reasons why monks and monasteries are important to our knowledge of European history.

7.39 Explain the importance of the Catholic Church as a political, intellectual, and aesthetic institution, including founding of universities, political and spiritual roles of the clergy, creation of monastic and mendicant religious orders, preservation of the Latin language and religious texts, Thomas Aquinas’s synthesis of classical philosophy with Christian theology and the concept of “natural law.”

Historical summary of the Medieval Catholic Church

The popes of the early Middle Ages ruled a church in a ruined empire. The popes gained great political status in the absence of any significant competition. To the so-called barbarians they personified the majesty of Rome. Combined with their religious duties, therefore, they were forced to become civil rulers as well. This meant governing land and peoples as well as ruling the church. The popes pressed the mission of converting the barbarians, eventually bringing all of western Europe into the Roman church. Their religious prestige was greatly enhanced in the 7th century by the Muslim conquests in the Middle East, which effectively removed competition from the bishops in those areas.

By the 10th century the religious and cultural community that is called Western Christendom had come into existence. At the same time new political arrangements were being formed in Europe. Kings and nobles were dividing territory and exerting authority. Because the church had become an earthly power as well as a religious one, there followed inevitable conflicts between the popes and the civil rulers. What would later be called the divine right of kings clashed fiercely with the divine right of the papacy. In spite of such vigorous popes as Gregory VII and Innocent III, the papacy eventually lost. The emergence of nation-states late in the Middle Ages left little room for papal claims to exercise more than religious authority.

By the 14th century the papacy had become a pawn of political power. The French forced the popes to move from Rome to Avignon in what has been called the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy from 1309 to 1377. Following this episode was the Great Western Schism (1378–1418), during which opposing popes tried to rule. This ended with the Council of Constance, which deposed the popes and named Martin V (reigned 1417–31) as pope.

The course of the papacy should not detract from other developments in the Western church. Monasticism emerged early in the Middle Ages and continued to play a vital role in maintaining the spiritual life of the church, keeping alive the culture of the Roman Empire and helping to educate the leaders of Christendom. An extensive mission enterprise launched by Gregory I was continued by his successors until all Europe had been brought into the church. Some spiritual reform took place within the church, spurred by outstanding leaders such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic. Universities were founded in major cities, culminating in the 13th-century endeavors in theology, art, philosophy, logic, and the sciences. The Crusades to recover the Holy Land were launched in 1095 by Pope Urban II.

Monasticism has played a vital role in the creation, preservation, and transmission of culture. This was especially true of the Christian orders in the Middle Ages. Often the only literate members of society were the monks. It was they who made and transmitted written copies of the Bible and other ancient works from generation to generation. They organized some of the first libraries. Often they conducted scientific and other research to benefit the surrounding communities. They were expert farmers who were able to pass on the benefits of their expertise to peasants on the large manors.



Origin of the University

During the Middle Ages the Latin word universitas referred to any type of community. When used in its modern sense as a place for advanced learning, it usually required the addition of other words such as “masters and scholars.” The term that was normally used to describe a legally chartered school of teachers and students was studium generale, meaning a place of study open to students from all parts. The universitas was a group of teachers or students (or perhaps both) within the studium. A studium was quite similar to a guild in both origin and composition. The beginners were essentially apprentices, called bachelors, while the teachers were the masters.

The studium probably emerged when the bishop of a diocese gave a teacher permission to operate a school other than the local cathedral or monastery school. It is likely that a license to teach was granted to a master after a formal examination. The studium itself became a school that granted a teaching license to its scholars after they completed a prescribed course of study and passed examinations.

By the 11th or 12th century no studium generale could be started without a license from either a church or governmental official. Teachers and students, who were mostly either clergy or future clergy, enjoyed certain privileges. In 1158 the Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa granted those in his jurisdiction protection from unjust arrest, the right of trial before their peers, and permission to dwell in security. Such privileges were gradually enlarged to include protection from extortion in financial dealings and the right to stop attending lectures as a protest against grievances or outside interference with established rights.

Gradually certain schools—especially Bologna and Paris—gained international recognition, and students flocked to them. Their reputations allowed graduates of those schools to teach anywhere else. To promote the quality of certain schools, the popes and emperors granted special licenses or charters. In 1233, for example, Pope Gregory IX issued a document to the school at Toulouse allowing anyone who had been admitted to a doctorate at the school to teach anywhere without further examination. By the end of the 14th century the term universitas had displaced studium and was used by itself to describe the better-known schools of Europe.

Latin in the Middle Ages

The classical period of Latin literature came to a gradual end as the Roman Empire began breaking up under the onslaughts of barbarian invasions. But the use of Latin as a literary vehicle persisted in the West for more than a thousand years.

One of the chief reasons for the survival of Latin resulted from the empire’s domination over much of Europe for about 500 years. Even when the empire was gone, the use of Latin remained because it had been for so long the language of the ruling classes. An even more significant reason was the presence of the Christian church—still headquartered at Rome—as the dominant social and religious force of the whole medieval period.

The language of the church in the West was Latin, and the bulk of classical and religious learning was preserved and transmitted by the monasteries and cathedral schools and, much later, in the early universities. Latin prose of the Middle Ages was used in official documents, laws, treaties, and diplomatic correspondence, as well as in theological and philosophical works, scientific treatises, devotional exercises, personal correspondence, textbooks, history, and biographies of the saints.



Using your knowledge and the information above, thoroughly complete the following:

-Describe the Catholic Church’s role in the lives of medieval Europeans.

-Discuss the importance of monasticism (monks and monasteries) during the Middle Ages.

-Explain the Catholic Church’s influence on education in medieval Europe.

-Describe why the Catholic Church’s use of Latin was important to medieval Europe and to our
knowledge of the Middle Ages.


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