Invasions of Western Europe



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Ch. 13: European Middle Ages

Charlemagne Unites The Germanic Kingdoms



  1. Invasions of Western Europe

  • Germans migrated into the land of the disintegrating Western Roman Empire and set up large regional kingdoms across Europe.

  • The blending of Roman, Christian, and Germanic societies under regional Germanic Kings created a new European society—The Middle Ages

  • Repeated invasions and constant warfare caused a series of changes that altered the economy, government, and culture in the 5th century A.D.

  1. Disruption of trade —businesses collapsed due to invasions of the land and sea

  2. Downfall of Cities—with the fall of Rome, cities were abandoned as centers of administration

  3. Population Shifts—people moved from cities to the rural country; Western Europe became mostly rural

  1. The Decline of Learning

  • Germanic invaders of Rome could not read or write so level of learning shrank, especially when nobles retreated to the countryside; Greek language was almost lost

  • Priests and other church officials, along with few other people, were left literate;

  • Mostly illiterate, no written language; rich oral history of songs and legends; LOSS of COMMON LANGUAGE LATIN>>>>???

  1. Loss of a Common Language

  • Latin changed as a result of German-speaking peoples mixing with Romans—by 800s, French, Spanish and other Roman-based languages had evolved from Latin

  • The development of new languages shows the breakup of a once unified Europe.

  1. Germanic Kingdoms Emerge

  • Between 400-600 small Germanic kingdoms replaced Roman provinces, constantly changing boundaries because of war, Catholic Church survived the Fall of the Roman Empire and during this time of political chaos provided people with order and security

  1. The Concept of Government Changes

  1. family ties and personal loyalty held Germanic society together

  2. people lived in small communities that were governed by unwritten rules and traditions

  • Germanic stress on personal ties made it impossible for an orderly government to be set up for large territories

  1. Clovis Rules The Franks

  • Franks- Germanic people who ruled in the Roman province of Gaul

  • Clovis was leader of the Franks—he brought Christianity to the region so the Church in Rome supported his military campaigns against other Germanic people

  • By 511, Clovis united the Franks (all those he conquered) into one kingdom which set up an alliance between Clovis’s Frankish kingdom and the Church—powerful alliance

  • After Roman empire collapsed, Franks controlled the largest and strongest of Europe’s kingdoms

  1. Germans Adopt Christianity

  • Politics played a key role in spreading Christianity. By 600, the Church, with the help of the Frankish rulers, had converted many Germanic peoples; converts had settled into former Roman lands

  1. Monasteries, Convents, and Manuscripts

    • Monasteries- religious communities built by the Church to adapt to rural communities where Christian men called monks gave up their private possessions and devoted their lives to serving God. Women who did this were called nuns and lived in convents

    • Monasteries served as centers for learning; Preserved the Greco-Roman literature.

    • Education was traditionally for the aristocracy and members of religious orders.

    • Many monks because of their education, served as advisors and administrators in the king’s bureaucracies.

  1. Papal Power Expands Under Gregory I

  • In 590-Gregory I became pope (head of the Church in Rome)

  • He broadened the authority of the papacy beyond religious matters they were now involved in politics

  1. pope’s palace—center of Roman government

  2. church revenues (money) was used to raise armies, repair roads, and help the poor

  3. negotiated peace treaties with the Lombards (Italy)

  • Idea of a churchly kingdom, ruled by a pope, would be a central theme of the Middle Ages

  1. An Empire Evolves

  1. Charles Martel Emerges

  • Roman empire dissolves so small kingdoms sprang up all over Europe

  • Charles Martel- 719 he ruled the Franks as mayor of the palace (more power than the king) and extended the Franks’ reign all over Europe, he defeated Muslim raiders from Spain at the Battle of Tours in 732 which made him a Christian hero

  • Pepin the Short- son of Charles Martel—wanted to be king so he made a deal with the pope—agreed to fight the Lombards who were threatening Rome—and then the pope anointed Pepin “king by the grace of God.” = This began the Carolingian Dynasty—family that ruled the Franks from 751-987

  1. Charlemagne Becomes Emperor

  • son of Pepin the Short, aka Charles the Great, ruled the Franks

  1. Charlemagne Extends Frankish Rule

  • Charlemagne conquered many lands and built a large empire while spreading Christianity, he reunited western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire, by 800 his empire was larger than the Byzantine Empire and he had become the most powerful king in western Europe

  • In 800- Charlemagne went to Rome to crush the mob who attacked the pope-so Pope Leo III crowned him emperor to say thank you. This was a historic coronation because the pope claimed the right to give the title “Roman Emperor” on a European king—this event signaled the joining of Germanic power, the Church, and the heritage of the Roman Empire

  1. Charlemagne Leads a Revival

  • He strengthened his power by limiting the nobles’ power

  • He sent royal agents to govern his empire to make sure powerful landowners (counts) governed their counties justly

  • One of his greatest accomplishments was the encouragement of learning—his children were taught, opened a school for children at court and had monasteries open schools to train future monks and priests

  1. Charlemagne’s Heirs

  • Before Charlemagne died in 814 he crowned his son, Louis the Pious, emperor but he was an ineffective ruler

  • Louis the Pious had 3 sons who fought one another for control of the Empire…in 843 the 3 brothers signed the Treaty of Verdun dividing the empire into three kingdoms which resulted in a loss of power and central authority for the Carolingian kings. This lack of strong rulers led to a new system of governing and landholding called feudalism.

  • The Treaty of Verdun essentially divided Europe into three regional kingdoms

  • Charles the Bald received what we know as France

  • Louis the German received what is now Germany

  • Lothar received what is known now as Italy

  • This division of Charlemagne’s empire among his grandson’s weakened the dynasty

  • It foreshadowed the early modern map of Europe


Feudalism in Europe

  1. Invaders Attack Western Europe

  • After the Treaty of Verdun and the breakup of the Carolingian Empire there was constant warfare and political turmoil. This led to the rise of European feudalism- a political and economic system based on land ownership and personal loyalty

  1. The Vikings Invade from the North

  • Vikings invade from the North-from Scandinavia, called Northmen or Norsemen and were a Germanic people, worshipped warlike gods

  1. led many raids against villages and monasteries

  2. were warriors, traders, farmers and explorers-Leif Ericson, an explorer reached North America around 500 years before Columbus

  3. reign of terror ended around time of exploration and they gradually accepted Christianity

  1. Magyars and Muslims Attack from the East and South

  • Magyars-nomadic people who attacked from the east, superb horsemen who invaded and attacked villages and monasteries around the late 800s, they did not settle the lands, but instead took captives to sell as slaves

  • Muslims attacked from the south (600s and 700s they wanted to conquer and settle Europe, but 800s and 900s goal was plundering)

  • Invasions by Vikings, Magyars, and Muslims caused disorder and suffering, people lived in constant danger

  1. kings could not defend their lands from invasion so people began looking elsewhere for protection

  2. people turned to local rulers who had their own armies for security

  3. leaders whose armies could fight the invaders gained political strength

  1. A New Social Order: Feudalism

  1. Feudalism Structures Society

  • 850-950—worst years of invaders’ attacks

  • Rulers made agreements all over Europe for protection, this system of governing and landholding called feudalism emerged in Europe

  1. System based on rights and obligations

  2. In exchange for protection and other services, a lord (landowner) granted land called a fief to a vassal

  3. Feudal Pyramid

  1. King

  2. Powerful vassals—wealthy landowners (nobles and bishops)

  3. Knights-mounted horsemen who pledged to defend their lords’ lands in exchange for fiefs

  4. Peasants

  1. Social Classes are Well Defined

  • Social classes were inherited

  • Most people were peasants

  • most peasants were serfs-people who could not lawfully leave the place where they were born, they were bound to the land, but were not slaves, lords could not buy them or sell the, but what their labor produced belonged to the lord

  1. Manors: The Economic Side of Feudalism

  • Manor- the lord’s estate, it rested on the rights and obligations between a lord and his serf

  1. lord provides housing, farmland and protection to the serf

  2. serf tends the lords lands, cared for his animals and maintains the estate

  3. peasant women shared the farm work with their husbands

  4. all peasants (free or serf) owed the lord certain duties

  1. A Self-Contained World

  • Most peasants never traveled more than 25 miles from their manor

  • Manor contained the lord’s manor house, a church and workshops

  • 15-20 families lived in the village on the manor

  • Manor was self-sufficient-produced everything needed for daily life

  1. The Harshness of Manor Life

  • peasants paid high taxes on grain

  • paid taxes on marriage—could only get married with the lord’s consent

  • owed village priest a tithe (church tax) which was 1/10 of their income

  • serfs lived in crowded quarters

  • serfs’ lives revolved around work

  • many children did not survive to adulthood

  • disease and malnutrition were common

IX. The Age of Chivalry

  • During the Middle Ages, nobles constantly fought one another; the feuding kept Europe in a fractured state

  • Feudal lords defended their estates, seized new territories, and increased their wealth; It was a violent society that prized combat skills

  1. Knights: Warriors on Horseback

  • Soldiers mounted on horseback became valuable in combat during the reign of Charles Martel in the 700s

  • Martel observed that the Muslim cavalry often turned the tide of battles; organized the Frankish troops of armored horsemen or knights

  1. The Technology of Warfare Changes

  • Leather saddles and stirrups changed the way warfare was conducted in Europe during the 700s

  • The saddle kept a warrior firmly seated on a moving horse; stirrups enabled him to ride and handle heavier weapons

  1. The Warrior’s Role in Feudal Society

  • By the 11th Century, western Europe was a battleground for warring nobles vying for power

  • Feudal lords raised private armies of knights; in exchange for military service, lords gave land away (fiefs)

  • Wealth from the fiefs allowed knights to devote their lives to war

  • As a lord’s vassal, the knights’ main obligation was to serve in battle; 40 days of combat a year

  • Always training for war; Wrestling and hunting helped them gain strength and practice the skills needed on the battlefield

X. Knighthood and the Code of Chivalry

  • By the 1100s, the code of chivalry, a complex set of ideals, demanded that the knight fight bravely in defense of three masters

  1. Feudal lord

  2. Heavenly lord

  3. Chosen lady

  • The chivalrous knight protected the weak and poor; was loyal, brave, and courteous; most failed these standards

  1. A Knight’s Training

  • At age 7, a boy would be sent off to the castle of another lord; acted as page, practicing fighting skills

  • At age 14, he became a squire, acting as a servant to a knight; around 21, the squire became a full-fledged knight

  • After being dubbed a knight, most young men traveled for a year or two, gaining experience fighting in local wars

  • Some participated in tournaments, which combined recreation with combat training

u) Brutal Reality of Warfare

  • By the 1100s, massive walls and guard towers encircled stone castles; fortress designed for defense

  • Siege of a castle was gory; Defenders of a castle used boiling water, hot oil, or molten lead on enemy soldiers

  • Archers fired deadly bolts that could pierce full armor

v) Epic Poetry

  • In the 1100s, the themes of medieval literature downplayed the brutality of knighthood and feudal warfare

  • Feudal lords and their ladies enjoyed listening to epic poems; recounted a hero’s deeds and adventures

  • The Song of Roland is one of the earliest and most famous medieval epic poems

  • It praises a band of French soldiers who perished in battle during Charlemagne’s reign; transforms it into a struggle; A few brave knights led by Roland battling Muslims from Spain in which they are outnumbered

  • The code of chivalry promoted a false image of knights making them more romantic than brutal

XI. Women’s Role in Feudal Society

  • Most women in feudal society were powerless, just as most men were; but with the added burden of being inferior to men

  • This was the view of the Church and was generally accepted in feudal society

  • Under the feudal system, a woman could inherit an estate from her husband

  • When the husband was off fighting, she acted as military commander and a warrior; defended the castle by hurling rocks and firing arrows

  • Peasant women performed endless labor around the home and often in the fields;

  • Bore children and took care of the family; young peasant girls learned practical household skills from their mother at an early age; poor and powerless

XII. The Power of the Church

  • Without strong central governments in feudal Europe, the Church emerged as a powerful institution; shaped the lives of all social statuses

  • Strong rulers began to question the pope’s authority

w) The Structure of the Church

  • In crowning Charlemagne as the Roman Emperor in 800, the Church sought to influence both spiritual and political matters

  • It was recognized earlier that conflicts could arise between the Church and the state

  • God had created two symbolic swords—the pope held the spiritual sword and the emperor held the political one

  • The pope should bow to the emperor on political matters and emperor should yield on religion

  • If in his own realm, the two leaders could share power in harmony; disagreements on the boundaries

  • Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church and various European rulers competed for power

  • Like the system of feudalism, the Church had its own organization; power based on status

  1. Pope – headed the Church from Rome

  2. Cardinals

  3. Bishops – supervised priests

  4. Priests – contact between people and the Church

x) Religion as a Unifying Force

  • Feudalism and the manor system created divisions among people, but the shared beliefs in the teachings of the Church bonded people together

  • Stable force in a constant state of turmoil

  • Provided sense of security and belonging

  • Priests provided sacraments; rites paved the way to salvation in harsh times

  • Church served as the religious and social center

y) The Law of the Church

  • All medieval Christians, kings, and peasants alike were subject to canon law (Church law) in matters such as marriage and religious practices

  • The Church also established courts to try people accused of violating such law; serious offenders were excommunicated

  • Popes used the threat of excommunication, or banishment from the Church, to wield power over political rulers

  • Excommunication would free all vassals from their duties to the king

  • Interdict -- many sacraments and religious services could not be performed in the king’s lands

XIII. The Church and the Holy Roman Empire

z) Otto I Allies with the Church

  • Crowned king in 936, Otto I an effective ruler from Germany, formed a close alliance with the Church; invaded Italy on Pope’s behalf

  • Otto’s rewarded by being crowned emperor by Pope

  • The German-Italian empire Otto created later became known as the Holy Roman Empire; strongest state in Europe until 1100

  • Future Popes and Italian nobles resented German power over Italy

  • The Church was not happy that kings, like Otto, had control over clergy; resented the practice of lay investiture, a ceremony in which kings and nobles appointed church officials

  • Power was in naming bishops; Church reformers felt that kings should not have that power; in 1075, Pope Gregory VII banned lay investiture

aa) The Emperor Clashes with the Pope

  • Furious, German Emperor Henry IV ordered Pope Gregory VII to step down from the papacy

  • Gregory then excommunicated Henry IV

  • German bishops and princes sided with the pope; to save his throne, Henry IV tried to win his forgiveness


bb) Showdown at Canossa

  • In January 1077, Henry IV crossed the Alps to the Italian town of Canossa to ask for the pope’s forgiveness

  • The Pope was obligated to forgive any sinner, but still made Henry IV wait in the snow for three days before ending his excommunication

  • Nothing was solved, but the pope had humiliated Henry IV, one of the proudest rulers in Europe

cc) Concordat of Worms

  • The fight over lay investiture lasted until 1122; Worms, Germany

  • A compromise was reached known as the Concordat of Worms between representatives of the Church and the Emperor

  • The Church alone could appoint a bishop, but the emperor could veto the appointment

dd) The Reign of Frederick I

  • By 1152, Frederick I was chosen as the strong leader Germany needed to keep the peace

  • He was the first ruler to call his lands the Holy Roman Empire

  • Region was not united; a patchwork of feudal territories

  • Dominated the German princes, but when he left disorder always returned

  • Frederick repeatedly invaded the rich cities of Italy and his brutal tactics caused Italian merchants to unite against him

  • Eventually defeated in 1176 at Battle of Legnano; defeat undermined his authority with the German princes

  • Drowned in 1190 and his empire fell apart

  • German kings after Frederick I, including his grandson, attempted to revive Charlemagne’s empire and his alliance with the Church

  • Feudal states of Germany did not unify during the Middle Ages

  • Never gained the base of power the French and English kings were able to have



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