Clovis In A. D. 481 a brutal and wily warrior named Clovis became king of the Franks

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Chapter 12: The Rise of Medieval Europe

Section 1: Frankish Rulers

Merovingian Rulers

  • During the A.D. 400s, the Franks, settled in what is now France and western Germany.

  • Their early rulers, known as Merovingian kings.


  • In A.D. 481 a brutal and wily warrior named Clovis became king of the Franks.

  • Clovis became the first Germanic ruler to accept Catholicism.

  • Had many military victories.

  • Frankish kingdom decline, after Clovis rule because the kingdom was divided among heirs who fought one another.

  • political power had passed from kings to government officials known as mayors of the palace.

Charles Martel

  • In A.D. 714 Charles Martel, or “Charles the Hammer,” became mayor of the palace.

  • When Muslim forces threatened Europe in A.D. 732, Led the defense of Tours, France.

  • In A.D. 752 Pepin the Short, the son of Charles Martel, became king of the Franks.

  • The pope anointed, or put holy oil on, Pepin, making him a divinely chosen ruler in the eyes of the people.

  • In A.D. 754 Pepin forced the Lombards, a Germanic people, to withdraw from Rome and gave the pope a large strip of land, in central Italy.

  • the pope cut his political ties to the Byzantine Empire linking futures of Catholicism and western Europe.

Charlemagne’s Empire

  • In A.D. 768 Pepin’s son, Charlemagne, (Charles the Great) became the Frankish king. (Carolingian dynasty)

  • Charlemagne expanded his kingdom to what became known as the Frankish Empire: France, Germany, northern Spain and most of Italy.

  • To promote literacy, Charlemagne founded a school in Aachen and developed a program of study based on the Bible and Latin writings

A Christian Realm

  • One of the ideas that united western European was the creation of the Christian Roman Empire.

  • Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the new Roman emperor–protector of the Church and ruler of much of western Europe.

  • counts assisted him in ruling the empire. Royal messengers, went on inspections in which they informed Charlemagne about the performance of the counts and other local administrators.

  • Charlemagne’s forceful personality helped keep the empire together but after his death in A.D. 814, his son became emperor and could not govern as well, Louis the Pious, could not fill.

  • After Louis’s death, Charlemagne’s three grandsons fought one another for control of the empire.

  • They agreed in the Treaty of Verdun to divide the Carolingian lands:

    • Charles the Bald took the western part, or present-day France.

    • Louis the German acquired the eastern portion, or present-day Germany.

    • Lothair, who became the Roman emperor, took a strip of land in the middle of the empire.

Invasions Increase Disunity

  • While internal feuding weakened the Carolingian kingdoms, outside invasions nearly destroyed them.

  • Slavs and a fierce groups of nomads called Magyars invaded central and southern Europe

  • The most threatening attacks came from the Vikings, raiders from Scandinavia. (Norway, Denmark, and Sweden)

Viking Trade & New Europe

  • Skilled in sailing and trading, they moved along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Europe.

  • Norwegians settled the North Atlantic islands of Greenland and Iceland, and even reached North America.

  • Danes temporarily held England and established the Viking state of Normandy in northwestern France.

  • Swedes settled in present-day Ukraine and Russia.

  • The violent raids isolated communities and severely weakened the central authority of monarchs, causing trade to decline.

  • Beginning in the A.D. 900s, a new political and social system brought more stability to western Europe, called feudalism.

Question: How did Charlemagne work to achieve European unity? How are European leaders trying to achieve the same goal in Europe today?

Section 2: Medieval Life

Feudal Relationships

  • To develop his own cavalry, Martel began granting warriors fiefs, or estates with peasants.

  • From these fiefs, warriors got the income to buy horses and battle equipment.

  • In theory, feudal relationships were like a pyramid:

    • The king was at the top.

    • In the middle were various ranks of lords, or noblemen.

    • At the bottom were the knights.

  • Each lord was a vassal–a noble who served a lord of the next higher rank.

Feudal Obligations

  • Ties between a lord and a vassal were made official in a solemn ceremony known as homage.

    1. The vassal agreed to provide his lord with a certain number of knights for battle during a period of 40 to 60 days each year.

    2. The vassal agreed to serve in the lord’s court.

    3. To provide food and lodging when the lord came visiting, and to contribute funds for family functions.

    4. Vassals also pledged to pay ransom in the event of the lord’s capture in battle.

  • Every noble built a castle, or fortified manor house

  • castles were built of stone instead of wood and had thick walls and turrets, or small towers.

Life of the Nobility

  • Lords, ladies, and knights made up the nobility of the Middle Ages.

  • Within his fief, a lord, or nobleman, had almost total authority. He collected rents, settled disputes, and protected the land from outside attacks.

  • In contrast, a lady, or noblewoman, had few, if any, rights.

    • Women were married early to a young husband picked by their fathers, they raised children and taking care of the household. Some made clothes and medicine and even took care of the husband’s duties while the men were away at war.


  • Nobles looked forward to tournaments–mock battles between knights–as a show of military skills.

  • Nobles loved to hunt, the art of falconry and archery.

  • nobles and their guests ate while being entertained by minstrels, or singers.

Becoming a Knight

  • A nobleman’s son began training for knighthood at age 7.

  • Knights were trained from age 7, and followed chivalry, a code of behavior that called for knights to be brave in battle and to treat noblewomen with manners.

  • Beginning as a page, At age 15, the page became a squire , Once he proved himself in battle, the squire was knighted in an elaborate ceremony.

The Manorial System

  • The wealth of a feudal lord came from the labor of the peasants who lived on and worked the lord’s land.

  • economic life across Europe centered around a system of agricultural production called manorialism, which provided lords and peasants with food, shelter, and protection.

  • Manors, or estates, were fully integrated economic communities that varied in size and included a castle, pastureland, fields, forests, and the peasants’ village.

  • While feudalism describes the political relationships among nobles, manorialism concerns economic ties between nobles and peasants.

Work on a Manor

  • Although some peasants were skilled artisans, most were serfs, or people who were bound to the manor and could not leave it without permission.

  • In return for the lord’s protection, the peasants provided various services for the lord.

  • Peasant obligations were to farm the lord’s fields, make payments in the form of bread or other goods, and provide various types of community-repair labor.

  • Instead of dividing plots of land into two fields, one of which lay fallow, or unsown, each year, farmers in the A.D. 1000s began to use a three-field system.

  • The three-field system produced more crops than the old system and helped to preserve the soil.

Question: Compare and contrast the feudal class structure in medieval Europe with the varna system in early India discussed in Chapter 8.

Section 3: The Medieval Church

The Medieval Church

  • The decline of Rome in the A.D. 400s led the Church to assume many political and social tasks.

  • During this time, the bishop of Rome, now called the pope, became the strongest political leader in western Europe, and he claimed spiritual authority over all Christians.

Religious Role

  • The Catholic Church taught that all people were sinners and dependent on God’s grace, or favor.

  • The only way to receive grace was by taking part in the sacraments, or church rituals

  • One of the most important sacraments was the eucharist.

  • People generally had a limited understanding of church rituals because:

    • masses were said in Latin, which few understood.

    • many priests were poorly educated and did not preach effectively.

    • few worshipers could read or write.

Church Organization

  • The pope, bishops, and priests formed what is called the secular clergy because they lived in saeculo, a Latin phrase that means “in the world.”

  • Monks and nuns who lived apart from society were known as regular clergy, and lived by a regula, or rule.

Benedict’s Rule

  • In A.D. 529 a Roman official named Benedict founded a monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy.

  • According to the Benedictine Rule, monks could not own goods, must never marry, and were bound to obey monastic laws.

  • Their life was one of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the directives of an abbot, or monastery head.

  • Women took part in monastic life by living in a convent under the direction of an abbess.

Missionary Efforts

  • The regular clergy preserved ancient religious works and classical writings by laboriously copying books by hand.

  • In A.D. 597 he sent monks to England where they converted the Anglo-Saxons to Catholicism.

  • During the A.D. 600s, monasteries in Ireland sent missionaries throughout the North Atlantic and western Europe.

  • By the A.D. mid-1000s, most western Europeans had become Catholics.

Power of the Church

  • Disobedience to church laws resulted in severe penalties for a common person and ruler alike.

  • A lord or king who violated church law could face an interdict.

  • The Church had feudal ties that boosted its wealth and political power but often undermined its spiritual vitality.

  • Nobles began to influence church policies, especially by having relatives appointed to church positions.

Church Reform

  • By the A.D. 900s, a reform movement began in the monasteries and spread throughout much of western Europe.

  • In A.D. 1059 a church council declared that the pope would be elected by a gathering of instead of by political leaders.

  • Gregory VII believed that the pope should have complete jurisdiction over all church officials and criticized the practice _____________when secular rulers gave the symbols of office to bishops they appointed.

Fighting Heresy

  • In A.D. 1215 Innocent III, convened a council that condemned drunkenness, feasting, and dancing among the clergy.

  • The council also laid down strict rules for stopping the spread of heresy, or the denial of basic church teachings.

  • At first, the Catholic Church tried to convert heretics.

  • If conversion failed, heretics were threatened with excommunication.

The Inquisition

  • In A.D. 1232 the Church set up a court known as the Inquisition in order to seek out and punish people suspected of heresy.

  • Those brought before the court were urged to confess their heresy and to ask forgiveness.

  • Inquisition officials often accused people without sufficient proof or used torture to obtain confessions.

  • The Church welcomed back those who repented, but those who did not repent were punished, ranging from imprisonment to loss of property and even execution.

Friars Inspire Reform

  • Other reformers of the Church during the early A.D. 1200s included friars, or wandering preachers.

  • The friars followed monastic rules but did not isolate themselves from the rest of the Christian community.

  • Around A.D. 1210 Francis of Assisi, the son of a wealthy Italian cloth merchant, founded the Franciscan friars to follow the simple life of Jesus and his disciples.

  • In A.D. 1215 a Spanish priest named Dominic organized the Dominican friars, who lived a life of poverty, simplicity, and service.

The Jews

  • In the early Middle Ages, Jews and Christians had lived peacefully together in most of Europe.

  • By the 1000s, many Christians increasingly saw the Jews as outsiders and a threat to society, even blaming them for plagues, famines, and other social problems.

  • The most powerful source of anti-Semitism, or hatred of the Jews, came from interpretations of Christian doctrine.

  • Many church leaders and laity blamed the Jews for Jesus’ death and resented the Jews’ refusal to become Christians.

  • With church approval, political leaders required Jews in certain areas to:

    • wear badges or special clothes that identified them as Jews.

    • live in separate communities that became known as ghettos.

    • not own land.

    • not practice certain trades.

  • To earn a living, many Jews became peddlers or moneylenders–jobs despised by medieval Christians.

  • Beginning in the late 1200s, rulers in England, France, and certain parts of central Europe expelled their Jewish subjects, many of whom settled in eastern Europe.

Question: How effective were the actions of the Catholic Church in trying to make all western Europeans believe and practice one faith?


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