Pious workers who dragged the first stones to build the Chartres Cathedral never saw the Cathedral finished because it normally took between 40 to 60 years to build a cathedral, and in the 1100s, few Europeans lived beyond the age of 50.
In 1180, the Cathedral was finished, by 14 years later, the roof of the great cathedral burst into flames. Amazingly, the people of Chartres got together and built an even more magnificent cathedral in just 25 years which still stands today.
The cathedral is a symbol of an era. The period between 1000 and 1300 is referred to as the Age of Faith. It was an age when hundreds of towering cathedrals were built throughout Europe. Church leaders exerted enormous political and economic influence in Europe, but it wasn’t faith alone that built cathedrals. This age was also a time of increasing material prosperity.
The High Middle Ages were a time of vigorous growth for European civilization.
Farming improved and trade revived:
In the years between 1000 and 1300, dramatic changes were occurring at every level of European society. At the top, new royal families were coming to power. In addition, church leaders were reforming and strengthening the Church. Nobles were creating a glittering society with mock battles and poetry contests. Perhaps the most important changes had begun much earlier at the lowest level of society – the peasant who worked on the land.
New ways of farming increased food:
Europe’s revival would have been impossible without better ways of farming, which provide food.
One of the first great improvements in farming came in Charlemagne’s time, which was a new and heavier plow that cut deep into the dirt and turned it over. Very gradually, this plow replaced the earlier, lightweight plow that only scratched the top of the ground. With this new plow, crops were planted in the rich soil which brought about better harvests.