The high middle ages

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The Christian Centuries

Teaching Strategies and Suggestions

The High Middle Ages can be introduced with a Standard Lecture that gives a Historical Overview, setting forth the key historical and cultural milestones of this period. After this opening, either of two approaches may be used to teach the section on feudalism. One approach is the Patterns of Change model, which will allow the instructor to analyze the origins of feudalism and trace its development from its simple beginning to its later, more complex stages. A second strategy is to focus on the feudal monarchies, using a Comparison/Contrast approach to point out their similarities and differences. Whichever approach is used, the instructor should underscore the idea that the papal monarchy functioned just like a secular monarchy in the High Middle Ages.

Another major theme in the High Middle Ages is Christianity, which may be approached in two ways. A variation on the Reflections/Connection model can be adopted to show the relationships between the church and other medieval institutions (political, social, and economic) as well as the way that Christian values helped to shape standards of public and private morality. Second, the Patterns of Change model can be applied to demonstrate the fluctuating fortunes of the church. As part of this presentation on the church, the instructor can also discuss institutions in general, dealing with such features of institutional development as life cycles, purposes for seeking power, and innate contradictions.

Scholasticism can also be treated with the Patterns of Change model. For almost the first time since teaching the Classical period, the instructor has enough material to delve into the personalities of many key figures being studied, including Peter Abelard, Peter Lombard, and Thomas Aquinas. The teacher can also apply the Diffusion model to show the significant impact of Arab artists and intellectuals on Christian civilization. In light of the contemporary debate about opening the canon of Western culture, it is important to stress the role of the Arabs in the development of medieval Christian science, architecture, and literature.

The teacher can use the Reflections/Connections model to show influences—particularly those of feudalism and the church—on the medieval arts and humanities. With the Diffusion model, the instructor can set forth the shift from the monastic, feudal culture of the first half of this period to the courtly, urban culture of the second half; in literature, this shift is represented by the change from the chansons de geste to romances, from monkish poets to the secular Dante; and, in theology, by the change from Abelard to Thomas Aquinas. In addition, the instructor, employing the Patterns of Change approach, can trace the evolution of architecture from the Romanesque to the Gothic; and a Slide Lecture or films can illustrate the two artistic styles. As a conclusion to the High Middle Ages, the instructor can use the Spirit of the Age approach to demonstrate the medieval synthesis that embraced Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Gothic cathedrals, Thomist philosophy, and scholastic reasoning.

Lecture Outline

I. Historical Overview

A. Major events of the High Middle Ages

B. The medieval synthesis

C. The two phases of the era
II. Feudalism

A. The feudal system and the feudal society

1. Origins of feudalism

2. Characteristics of feudalism

3. Spread of feudalism

4. Chivalric code

a) Impact on men

b) Impact on women

B. Peasant life

1. Serfdom

2. Daily routines

C. The rise of towns

1. Rise in population and migrations

2. Town life

a) At odds with feudal system

b) Work and commerce

(1) Trade routes

(2) Role of women

D. The feudal monarchy

1. The French monarchy

a) The Capetian kings

b) Institutional developments

2. The English monarchy

a) Norman England

b) Conflicts between kings and barons

3. The Holy Roman Empire

a) Lay investiture

b) Failure to centralize

4. The papal monarchy

a) Reform movements

b) Powerful popes
III. Medieval Christianity and the Church

A. Structure and hierarchy

B. Christian beliefs and practices

1. Church as way to salvation

2. Rituals and ceremonies

a) Inseparable from doctrine

b) Seven sacraments

C. Religious orders and lay piety

1. Monasteries and nunneries

a) Hildegard of Bingen

b) Scivias or May You Know

2. Mendicant orders

3. The Albigensians
IV. The Age of Synthesis: Equilibrium Between

the Spiritual and the Secular

A. Learning and theology

1. Cathedral schools and the development

of scholasticism

a) Curriculum

b) Scholasticism: aims and methods

2. Peter Abelard

a) Life and ideas

b) Realism and Nominalism

3. The rise of the universities

4. Intellectual controversy and

Thomas Aquinas

a) Averroists vs. traditionalists

b) Thomas Aquinas

(1) Thomistic theology

(2) Thomistic summaries

(3) Influence of Aquinas

B. Literature

1. Monastic and feudal writing

a) Goliards and poetry

b) Chanson de geste:

The Song of Roland

2. Vernacular and courtly writing

a) Troubadors and courtly romances

b) Chrétien de Troyes

c) Lays: Marie de France

3. Dante

a) Life and works

b) Divine Comedy

C. Architecture and art

1. Romanesque churches and

related arts

a) Origins and evolution of churches

(1) Floor plan and decorations

(2) Vézelay

b) Illuminated manuscripts

2. Gothic churches and

related art

a) Origins and evolution

(1) Early Gothic style, 1145–1194:

Notre Dame, Paris

(2) High Gothic style, 1194–1300:

Amiens and Chartres

b) Illuminated manuscripts

D. Music

1. Innovations on the Gregorian chants

2. Liturgical drama

3. Secular music
V. The Legacy of the Christian Centuries



In Africa, Bantu, Arab, and

Indian cultures blend in

Swahili civilization on

eastern African coast,

1110–1500; rise of the

kingdom of Mali, after

1200; Benin becomes the

richest Nigerian forest

kingdom, after about 1100;

in Nigeria, the terra-cotta

art of the Yoruba people

In Andean culture, Late

Intermediate period,

900–1400; rise of the Chimú

peoples; the Chimú capital,

Chan Chan, with its

palaces, offices, and graves,

built largely of adobe

In China, Northern Sung

dynasty, 960–1126; in

eleventh century, women’s

status declined as result of

foot-binding, a practice

continued among the

upper classes until the

twentieth century; the

founding of the Imperial

Academy of Painting, 1101;

Chang Tse-tsuan’s (1085–

1145) scroll painting of the

Northern Sung capital of

Kaifen; the “Ying Tsao Ea

Shih,” a building manual,

1103; Southern Sung

dynasty, 1127–1279;

landscape painting at its

height, 1141–1279; Neo-

Confucianism, 1130–1200;

explosive powder used in

weapons, 1150; Yüan

dynasty, 1260–1368;

Mongols found Yüan

dynasty and make Beijing

their capital; Kublai Khan,

1260–1294, extends Mongol

empire to southern China

and Southeast Asia; high

level of religious tolerance

as Kublai recruits

bureaucrats from all faiths

and Buddhist, Taoist, and

Confucian temples,

Christian churches, and

Muslim mosques are tax-

exempt; drama flourishes;

Wang Shih-fu’s Pavilion

of the West, one of

China’s most popular

dramas, thirteenth century;

Marco Polo in China,

1275–1292; the Tibetan-style

Miao-ying-ssu pagoda in

Peking, 1271

In Himalayan region, in

Kashmir, the temple of Siva

at Pandrenthanm, twelfth

century; in Nepal, Malla

dynasty, 1200–1768;

founding of three great

capitals, Katmandu, Patan,

and Bhadgaon; in Tibet,

revival after 1100 under

Indian influence; conquest

by Mongols, thirteenth


In India, gradual Muslim

dominance, after 1000;

invasions of Muslims from

central Asia lead to Muslim

dominance in north India

and introduction of Persian

culture and Islamic religion

into south Asia; Jayadeva’s

Gitagovinda, an erotic poem

about the god Krishna, in

Sanskrit, twelfth century;

two large rock-cut

sangharama, monasteries, at

Ellora, eleventh to twelfth

centuries; Delhi sultanate,

1192–1526; famous iron- and

steelwork, especially

swords, eleventh century

In Indochina, in Burma, stable

and centralized rule under

Anawrahta, 1044–1077, and

Kyanzittha, 1084–1112;

great building program,

including the cave-

buildings of Ananda, 1091,

and Thatbyinnyu, 1144; the

stupa of Mingalazedi,

begun 1274; conquest by

the Mongols led by Kublai

Khan, in 1287 and end of

Burmese dynasty; in Siam,

freedom from Khmer rule

and founding of first

independent state at

Sukhodaya, under King

Ram Kamheng, 1281–1300;

this dynasty lasts until 1767;

Brah Prang Sam Yot, a

Khmer sanctuary in the

Lop Buri region; Wat

Kukut at Lamphun, a

Buddhist monument, 1218

In Japan, Heian period, 794–

1185; Hachiman sanctuary

at Tsurugaoka, twelfth

century; the Jingoji temple,

Kyoto, early twelfth

century; The Pillow-Book of

Sei Shonagon, the diary of a

lady-in-waiting to an

empress, early eleventh

century; The Tale of Genji

by Lady Murasaki, a

classic of world literature,

1015; the Great Buddha,

Kamakura, Honshu, in

about 1250; acme of

swordmaking, 1185–1333;

the first instance of a ritual

suicide (seppuku) by a

feudal warrior, 1170; Kyoto

in 1185 has 500,000 people,

larger than any city in the

West, except perhaps

Córdoba and

Constantinople; Shogunate

established, 1192;

Kamakura period, 1185–

1333; start of military rule,

as samurai warriors replace

nobles as actual rulers;

“warrior style” architecture,

as seen in use of narrow

moats or stockades and

grouping buildings to

ensure defense and

replacing gardens with

training grounds; Buddhist

religious architecture

included the Indian style,

as in the reconstructed

Todaiji, Kyoto, the Chinese

style, as in the Kenninji

monastery, Kyoto, and the

Wayo, the national style

of Japan; imperial court

remains in Kyoto but

shogun’s governing

organization is based in

Kamakura, south of Tokyo;

Zen Buddhism in Japan,

1200; Sanjusangendo

Temple, Kyoto, 1266;

Toshio starts porcelain

manufacture, 1227; The

Confessions of Lady Nyo, a

novel of a court lady’s love

affairs, thirteenth to

fourteenth centuries; “An

Account of My Hut,” by

Kamo no Chomei, a

Buddhist poet disenchanted

with the world, 1212

In Korea, Koryo Kingdom,

918–1392; successive

invasions by the Bitan, the

Jurchen, and the Mongols;

the nine-story pagoda of

Wol-chong-sa at P’yong-

ch’ang Kun, eleventh

century; the temple of

Keuk-nak Chon of the

Pong-chong-sa at An-dong

Kun, twelfth to thirteenth

centuries; the capital of

Song-do (Kaesong), with

its palaces, gardens, and

staircases, is destroyed

during these invasions

In Mesoamerica, Historic

period, 900–1521; rise of

Toltec culture and the

founding of Tula in the

Valley of Mexico and the

revitalization of Tajín in

Veracruz and Xochicalco,

near Cuernavaca, about

1000; bloodthirsty rituals,

demanded by the god of

war, practiced at Tajín and

depicted in the stone

reliefs; great temple at

Tajín; Toltec stone caryatids

from the temple at Tula;

introduction of the Toltec

warrior code; the Great

Chac-Mool, reclining

limestone figure from

Maya-Toltec culture, 1100

(an influence on Henry

Moore’s modern

sculpture); Toltec defeated

in 1160, though the capital

of Tula remained inhabited

until 1224, when it was

destroyed by the

Chichimecs; Toltecs built

a new city at Chichén Itzá,

in the Yucatán, which was

filled with buildings,

figures of chac-mool, and

a sacred well; decline of

Mayan culture in the

thirteenth century and

continual warfare among

the rival cities; Mixtecs

dominate the Puebla-

Oaxaca regions; the Mixtecs

produce several books in

pictographic writing,

including the Codex

Nuttall, the Codex

Vindobonensis, the Codex

Bodleian, and the Codex

Colombino; Mixtec

decorative art; Mixtec

additions to the Zapotec

temple-city of Monte

Albán; the architecture of

Mitla near Oaxaca

In Muslim world, expansion

of Islam, 1000–1500;

Firdausi (about 940–about

1020), The Book of Kings,

the Persian epic, a poetic

chronicle of the entire

history of Persia, from the

creation to the Sasanian

Empire, about 1010; Rumi,

1207–1273, Persian poet,

founder of the Order of

Dancing Dervishes,

considered the greatest

mystical poet of Persia;

Rumi’s fame rests on the

Mathnawi, a collection of

poems; Sadi, a didactic

poet, about 1213–1292,

author of the poem

collection called Rose

Garden, 1258; Avicenna,

Arab philosopher, d. 1037;

Averroes, Arab

philosopher, 1126–1198;

Omar Khayyam, d. 1123,

Persian poet, author of the


In Native North America, in

American Southwest, trade

in cotton yarn; trade in jade

with Mexico; in Alaska,

ivory figurines in the

Punuk culture; Cahokia in

Illinois becomes largest town

(10,000) in North America,

about 1050

In Polynesia, Easter Island,

one of the last unsettled

areas of the world, is

colonized, about 600; the

erection of rows of giant

statues, after 1000

In Southeast Asia, spread of

Buddhism from India,

adoption of Sanskrit, the

Indian script

Learning Objectives

To learn:

1. The origins, evolution, and spread of feudalism

2. The impact of the chivalric code on feudal society and how it helped shape relationships between men and women

3. The rise, characteristics, and impact of courtly love

4. The nature of peasant life

5. The way of life in medieval towns

6. The similarities and differences among the feudal monarchies

7. The reasons for the successes and failures of feudal monarchies, including the papacy

8. How the church maintained its dominance of society and culture

9. The origins and influence of the new monastic orders for both men and women

10. The development and impact of lay piety

11. The sources of the heresies and the fate of the Albigensians

12. The nature and characteristics of scholasticism

13. The issues involved in the medieval intellectual debates and how they were resolved

14. The medieval synthesis of Thomas Aquinas

15. The characteristics of monastic writing and a representative example of this literary genre

16. Examples of feudal writing and its themes

17. The characteristics of courtly romances and examples of this literary genre

18. The importance of Dante and examples of his writings, in particular the structure and meaning of the DivineComedy

19. The development of Romanesque architecture and its main features

20. The transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style

21. The Gothic cathedral styles, including different phases with examples, chief features, and

decorative principles

22. The role, evolution, and impact of music in the High Middle Ages

23. Historic “firsts” achieved in the High Middle Ages that became legacies for later Western developments: the writings of Dante; the theology of Thomas Aquinas, or Thomism; Romanesque and Gothic artistic styles; the epic, the romance, and the chivalric tale; courtly love with its shared social roles for men and women; the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table; the basic theoretical system for composing music; and the love song

24. The role of the High Middle Ages in transmitting the heritage from earlier civilizations: redefining the liberal arts curriculum within the context of Catholic faith; rediscovering ancient Classical philosophy and science from Muslim scholars; and reviving Aristotelianism and the rationalist tradition and integrating it with the teachings of the Christian faith

Suggestions for Films, videos, and cd-roms

Christian, Jews, and Moslems in Medieval Spain. Films for the Humanities, 33 min., color.

The Circles of Light: The Divine Comedy. Films for the Humanities, 50 min., color.

The City of God. Films for the Humanities, 39 min., color.

Civilisation: The Great Thaw. Films for the Humanities, 50 min., color.

Cluny: A Light in the Night. Films for the Humanities, 53 min., color.

Crescent and Cross: Rise of Islam and the Age of Crusades. Films for the Humanities, 59 min., color.

Crusader: By Horse to Jerusalem. Films for the Humanities, 54 min., color.

Crusaders and Schism in the East: Christianity in the 11th and 12th Centuries. Films for the Humanities, 40 min., color.

Europe in the Middle Ages. Films for the Humanities, 7 part series, 31–43 min. each.

The Feudal System. Films for the Humanities, 36 min., color.

Gothic Cathedrals of Europe. Films for the Humanities, CD-Rom.

Great Castles of Europe--Chambord and Chenonceau. Films for the Humanities, 47 min., color.

Highlights of the York Mystery Plays. Films for the Humanities, 57 min., color.

Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum. Films for the Humanities, 70 min., color.

The Luttrell Psalter: Everyday Life in Medieval England. Films for the Humanities, 22 min., color.

The Medieval Mind. Films for the Humanities, 5 part series, 50 min. each.

Medieval Philosophy: Thomas Aquinus. Films for the Humanities, 45 min., color.

Medieval Warfare., 2 3/4 hrs. on 3 videos, color.

Mystic Women of the Middle Ages. Films for the Humanities, 6-part series, 24 min. each, color.

Sibyls! An Interactive Exploration of Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—on CD-ROM. Films for the Humanities.

Voices from Heaven: The Religious Music of Europe in the Middle Ages. Films for the Humanities, 54 min., color.

A World Inscribed: The Illuminated Manuscript. Films for the Humanities, 24 min., color.

Suggestions for Music

German Plainchant & Polyphony. Schola Antiqua. Elektra/Nonesuch H-71312; 71312-4 [cassette].

Gregorian Chant. Deller Consort. Harmonia Mundi 234.

The Memory of Thomas à Becket. (twelfth-century Mass). Schola Hungarica. Hungaroton SLPD-12458 (D); MK-12458 [CD].

The Play of St. Nicholas. (twelfth-century liturgical drama). New York Ensemble for Early Music. Musicmasters 20001X; 20001 W [cassette].

Songs of Chivalry. Martin Best Medieval Ensemble. Nimbus NI-5006 [CD].

Troubadours, Trouveres and Minnesingers (Songs and Dances of the Middle Ages). Augsburg Ensemble for Early Music. Christophorus CD-74519 [CD].

Suggestions for Further Reading

Agius, D. A., and Hitchcock, R., eds. The Arab Influence on Medieval Europe. Reading, England: Ithaca Press, 1994. Seven essays dealing with Arabic influences on medieval European culture.

Aries, P., and Duby, G., eds. A History of Private Life. Vol. II, Revelations of the Medieval World. Translated by A. Goldhammer. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988. Groundbreaking work that deals with ordinary life, particularly that of often neglected groups, such as women and homosexuals.

Barraclough, G. The Medieval Papacy. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968. Still the standard in the field, with many well-chosen illustrations.

Bloch, M. L. B. Feudal Society. Translated by L. A. Manyon. London: Routledge, 1989. Bloch’s study, first published in France in 1961, is regarded today as the standard treatise on European feudalism.

Cantor, N. F. The Civilization of the Middle Ages. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. A completely revised and expanded edition of Cantor’s highly respected work, Medieval History, the Life and Death of a Civilization.

Duby, G. The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined. Translated by A. Goldhammer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. A learned study by one of France’s leading scholars.

Ennen, E. The Medieval Town. Translated by N. Fryde. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1979. First published in Dutch in 1972, this translation is the best general account in English of the flourishing cities of Europe’s Middle Ages.

Grape, W. The Bayeux Tapestry: Monument to a Norman Triumph. New York: Prestel USA, 2000. A clear and beautifully illustrated analysis.

Herlihy, D. Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978–1991. Providence, R.I.: Berghahn Books, 1995. Interpretive essays on medieval society by an acknowledged expert in feminist and family history.

Jackson, W. T. H. Medieval Literature: A History and a Guide. New York: Collier Books, 1966. Still the best survey in this field; covers both Latin and vernacular writings.

Kaufmann, J. The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages. New York: Da Capo, 2001. Shows that the medieval fortress combined both Roman and barbarian features, with some influences from as far away as China.

Kirshner, J., and Wemple, S. Women of the Medieval World. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985. A good introduction to the study of women in medieval Europe.

Knowles, D. The Evolution of Medieval Thought. London: Longman, 1988. An update by D. E. Luscombe and C. N. L. Brooke of Knowles’s popular study, so that it remains a serviceable guide to the main currents of European thought in the Middle Ages.

Labarge, M. W. Women in Medieval Life: A Small Sound of the Trumpet. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986. A survey of the activities of several women from various social groups.

Lewis, C.S. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994 reprint. Lewis’s last book describes the “image” as “the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe.”

_____. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Contains book reviews, lectures, and articles by an influential scholar who helped the twentieth-century reader comprehend Medieval texts.

Orme, N. Medieval Children. Yale, 2000. Challenges earlier interpretation by arguing that Medieval culture differentiated between childhood and adult experience and that children occupied a special place in society.

Pernoud, R. Those Terrible Middle Ages! Debunking the Myths. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. The author is an archivist at the French National Archives.

Reston, J.R. Jr. The Last Apocalypse: Europe in the Year 1000 A.D. New York: Anchor, 1999. Lively, accessible narrative that describes a Europe just emerging from the violence of the Early Middle Ages.

Snyder, J. Medieval Art. Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. 4th–14th Century. New York: Abrams, 1989. An authoritative survey of a thousand years of medieval art; especially good discussions of architectural types and symbols; divided into five parts, one of which deals with Byzantium.

Stokstad, M. Medieval Art. New York: Harper & Row, 1986. A readable guide based on recent scholarship.

Wilson, C. The Gothic Cathedral: The Architecture of the Great Church, 1130–1530. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1990. A handsome survey of Gothic cathedral architecture with the focus on the “Great Churches” built for wealthy corporate patrons, such as monasteries, collegiate foundations, and city parishes.
key cultural terms

chivalric code






via media


chanson de geste

vernacular language






terza rima

stained glass

Romanesque style

Gothic style




ribbed vault


flying buttress


rose window

blind arcade






liturgical drama





Windows on the World Background



West Africa Yoruba culture: Ife. The city of Ife, which flourished from the eleventh to fifteenth centuries, was the first major state to arise in Yorubaland. The political capital first, it later became a holy city for the Yoruba. A group of city-states and isolated villages ruled by kings; a pantheon of divinities; and divination using sacred chants. Later Yoruba states established their authority by claiming descent from Ife.


Andes Sicán style, 700–1400. Developed by peoples centered in the North Andes; eventually conquered by the Chimú, who absorbed the Sicán style. Outstanding metalworkers of the region; perhaps developed the area’s only metal currency, made of copper. Worked with gold, silver, copper and produced large array of ornaments, tools, and weapons.

Mesoamerica Mayan culture. Chichén Itzá, one of the chief Mayan cities; built near natural wells (cenotes); temples, pyramids, ballcourt, observatory; rich sculptural program; human sacrifice.

Native North America Mississippian culture, ca. 700–1500. The last major prehistoric cultural period in North America before the coming of the Europeans. Priest-rulers; artist and crafts guilds; farming (maize, beans, squash); each town grouped around a plaza with a pyramidal or oval earth mound, topped by a temple or residence for the ruler.


China Sung Dynasty, ended 1279. A time of aesthetic refinement, especially until the conquest of north China (1127) by Turkic invaders (the Chin). Sung technology surpassed that of Europe: making firearms and bombs, printing books with movable type, using the compass, shipbuilding, clockmaking, and devising a type of vaccination (variolation). Yuan Dynasty, began 1260. Mongols denied Chinese the right to marry Mongols or to learn Mongol language. Pax Mongolica or Mongolian Peace, a policy that led to growth of international foreign trade and renewed China’s link to the West via the Silk Road.

India Chola (or Cola) Dynasty, about 200–1279. An expansionist family; defeated the Pallavas and the Pandyas (942); annexed modern Sri Lanka (ca. 1000) and Malay Archipelago (1014). Revived worship of Shiva and Vishnu. Birth of classic Tamil literature. Delhi Sultanate, began 1192. First Muslim kingdom in India; ruled North India and Coromandel Coast. Muslim styles of art and architecture introduced, reflecting origins of varied dynasties, such as Afghan style of the Tughluqs (1320–1413).

Japan Heian Period, 194–1185. During the so-called Fujiwara Regency, 897–1185, the Fujiwa clan ruled Japan and the imperial family was reduced to impotence. Feudalism; warrior families ran their tax-free estates and treated peasants as they pleased. Kamakura Period, 1185–1333. Pattern of government set for Japan until 1867: civil (ornamental) power held by emperor; military (actual) power held by shogun. Shogun ruled from desolate coast of Kamakura, the emperor lived on his estates in Kyoto.



West Africa Yoruba culture: Ife An Oni (Local Priest-King) of Ife. Ife is the only African culture besides the Nok to develop an ancient artistic tradition of representing human figures in an almost life-size scale. This statuette of an Oni, or king, is typical of the Ife style, with its extreme naturalism and the heavy use of beading around the neck, ankles, and arms.


Andes Sicán style Ceremonial Tumi Knife. This knife was made from gold, silver, and turquoise. Topping the bimetal blade is an image of the Sicán Lord, a local god. The knife was probably made for a high official, as gold and silver were the most prestigious metals.

Mesoamerica Mayan culture The Caracol (Astronomical Observatory). The Caracol (“snail”) had window openings oriented toward the movements of the planet Venus—the basis of the Mayan calendar. Knowledge of Venus’ position was essential to priests, among whose duties was maintenance of the calendar.


China Sung Dynasty. Northern Sung art: dominant art subject was mountain landscape, a choice dictated by nearby mountains and Taoist ideals that stressed harmony of humans with nature; artists perfected perspective in mountain landscapes so that the composition caused the viewer’s eye to be raised upward in a continuous motion; imperial control of art encouraged a uniform style; Guo Xi, noted court painter and head of imperial academy. Southern Sung art: two painting schools, the official school that focused of romantic landscapes reflective of the tame terrain near the capital Hangzhou (Ma Yuan, a major artist) and the ch’an school, based on Buddhist ideas whereby monk painters created simple and witty designs—with the purpose of instant enlightenment. Liao Dynasty, 907–1125, a state north of Manchu border that served as a bridge between Chinese and Korean culture.

India Chola Dynasty Shiva Nataraja. The Lord of the Dance is one of the most famous works of Hindu art. The god Shiva is depicted dancing his dual cosmic role, both creating the universe, symbolized by the encircling ring, and destroying the world, symbolized by the flames on the ring and the flame held in his left hand.

Japan Heian Period Amida, Buddha of the Western Paradise. This statue is the only surviving work by the famed artist Jocho (d. 1057), who worked mainly for the Fujiwara regent, the virtual ruler of Japan, and his clan. Assembled using the joined-wood method, this statue shows the quiet grace and elegant simplicity that are associated with the Buddha Amida cult. Buddha Amida is worshipped in Pure Land Buddhism, a cult that grew in popularity in the Heian period. Its appeal sprang from the belief that Buddha Amida saved the dying and ensured their rebirth in the Western Paradise, or Pure Land. View of the Phoenix Hall. The regent’s private chapel, the Byodoin, was inspired by the extremely popular Buddhist Amida cult. The chapel’s simple and elegant design was based on a Chinese painting depicting the cult’s vision of the Pure Land Paradise. Jocho’s statue of Buddha Amida (see above) is housed in the Phoenix Hall of the Byodoin.

personal perspective background

Abelard and Heloise

Pater Abelard (1079-1142) and Heloise (c. 1088-1164) are best remembered as tragic lovers, but both were giants of French intellectual life. A philosopher and theologian, Abelard was one of the most renowned figures of the twelfth century. He was born in Brittany but gained his fame in Paris. He was a Neo-Platonist in theology who emphasized Aristotle's dialectic. He was governed by the following dictum: “By doubting, we come to inquire and by inquiry we arrive at truth.” In 1123 he published his most influential and controversial book, Sic et Non (yes or no). He maintained that truth could be found by carefully considering all sides of an issue. He utilized the writings of the church fathers to illuminate 158 theological and philosophical questions. The result was an array of contradictory statements which demonstrated that the most respected theological authorities were hopelessly at odds. Because he left fundamentally important issues open, he left himself open to charges of heresy, and Sic et Non was placed on the Roman Catholic Index of Prohibited Books. Nonetheless, Abelard anticipated the debate over faith and reason a century before Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics.

A man of surpassing intellect, he was a magnificent lecturer who drew young men from across Europe to Paris. He and a number of his contemporary lecturers are recognized as the founders of the University of Paris. Abelard was a man of faith and served as a canon at Notre Dame Cathedral, but he was also a passionate man subject to the dictates of the flesh. He became enamored of Heloise, the beautiful young niece and ward of Canon Fulbert of the Cathedral of Note Dame in Paris. He joined the household of Fulbert as boarder and tutor to the seventeen year old Heloise. An ardent sexual relationship ensued between tutor and student. Heloise conceived, secretly bore a son; and, though she feared marriage would jeopardize Abelard’s career, agreed to marry him.

Theirs was truly a love match as confirmed by their voluminous correspondence; however, their time together was short. An enraged Canon Fulbert was convinced that he and his niece had been betrayed. On his orders Abelard was attacked and castrated. The victim was humiliated and insisted that he and his beloved take up residence in a monastery and nunnery. He entered the Abbey at St. Denis, explaining his decision thus: “It was, I confess, confusion springing from shame rather than devotion or the result of conversion which drive me to the refuge of the monastic cloister.”

After quarreling with St. Bernard of Clairvaux over the relative merits of faith and reason as the avenues to truth, Abelard left his monastery and resumed hs teachings. Abelard founded a chapel and oratory, which he called the Paraclete. Later he presented it to Heloise who as abbess proved to be an able administrator and one of the most literate women of the age. She wrote and spoke Latin, spoke Greek, and had a commanding knowledge of the classics and scriptures. For his belief that faithful reason was as good a guide to truth as faith, in 1140 Abelard was prosecuted for heresy by St. Bernard before a church council. He was convicted and condemned by Pope Innocent II. He spent the last years of his life under the protection of Peter the Venerable of Cluny. While he was not greatly influential among his contemporaries, his system of theology and thought were widely known in the thirteenth century.

The correspondence Abelard and Heloise began about 1132 was notable for its literacy and for the continuing devotion to each other it reveals. Upon his death in 1142, Abelard, a man of deep personal faith despite his troubled life, was interred at the Paraclete. When Heloise died in 1164, she was buried next to him. Now they share a single tomb in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, achieving the union in death denied them in life.

Pagan Vikings versus Christian Europeans.

During the Early and High Middle Ages, Christianity spread gradually to Western and Northern Europe, eventually replacing polytheistic pagan religions by the twelfth century. Manyremnants of paganism are still to be found in European culture, however. For instance, one town in Belgium has celebrated the conversion to Christianity every year since 960. The festivities include cats being tossed out of the town belltower to their deaths, symbolizing the rejection of pagan nature spirits in favor of Christianity. (Stuffed animals now take the place of live cats.)

Remnants of Viking paganism can be discovered in the well-preserved stave churches that dot the fjordland of southern Norway. These architecturally unique wooden churches were erected beginning in the twelfth century, often at or near former sites of pagan worship. In them, pagan images are intertwined with the symbols of Christianity. Dragon heads loom from the gables; real and mythical animals and spirits are carved into the walls, columns, portals, and altars. These fascinating churches testify to the lateness and unevenness of conversion to Christianity in Scandinavia.
Discussion/Essay questions

1. What do you think were the three most important ways that the Christian church influenced civilization during the High Middle Ages?

2. Was feudalism an attempt to make life more settled and organized in western Europe?

3. What was the chivalric code, and how did it manifest itself in feudal society?

4. What were the separate roles that men and women played in the feudal aristocracy?How did these roles affect their relationships with each other?

5. Compare and contrast the life of a peasant on a manor with that of a town merchant.

6. Discuss the characteristics of medieval secular monarchy. What were some problems that they had in common, and how did they deal with those problems? Use as your examples two of the following: France, England, or the Holy Roman Empire.

7. Compare and contrast the papal monarchy with the medieval secular monarchy.

8. Discuss the impact of new religious orders and the lay piety movements on the medieval church.

9. Discuss the life of Hildegard of Bingen. What was her impact on medieval literature and religious thought?

10. What is meant by the term medieval synthesis? How do Dante’s Divine Comedy and Notre Dame cathedral, Paris, respectively express the ideal of medieval synthesis?

11. Was monasticism a key cultural institution inthe early High Middle Ages (1000 to 1150)? Explain your answer with examples.

12. What was the impact of the towns and the middle class on the culture of the late High Middle Ages (1150 to 1300)?

13. What is meant by the term scholasticism? What does the style of scholastic reasoning reveal about the nature of medieval intellectual life?

14. Explain the differences between Realism and Nominalism. Who were the major supporters, and what were their basic arguments for each of these philosophical positions?

15. How did Thomas Aquinas reconcile faith and reason?

16. What was Thomas Aquinas’s most important contribution? Explain.

17. How does The Song of Roland express the ideals of feudalism?

18. What were the origins and characteristics of courtly romances?

19. Compare The Song of Roland with the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, showing how they reflected the changing nature of feudal society.

20. In what ways does Dante’s Divine Comedy summarize medieval thought?

21. Identify the major characteristics and features of Romanesque architecture, and show how they are evident in the church at Vézelay.

22. How does Notre Dame cathedral, Paris, manifest the Early Gothic style?

23. How does Amiens cathedral express the High Gothic Style?

24. Trace the evolution of music in the High Middle Ages. How did the church use it?

25. Name at least three legacies from the High Middle Ages, and show how they are still part of the Western tradition.

Multiple-Choice Questions

1. During the High Middle Ages:

a. The Christian church suffered many setbacks and lost its followers.

* b. Feudalism emerged as a stabilizing influence in society. (p. 224)

c. Town life continued to stagnate with no growth.

d. The class structure was the same as in Roman times.

2. The feudal system rested primarily on:

a. economic coercion by the wealthy

b. the moral foundations of the church

* c. personal loyalty and kinship (p. 224)

d. the lingering influence of Charlemagne’s kingdom
3. Feudalism evolved into a set of relationships between:

a. lords and peasants

b. lords and clerics

* c. lords and vassals (p. 224)

d. popes and kings
4. The chivalric code can be best described as:

a. a set of feudal regulations for peasants

b. the guidelines for new monastic orders

* c. an unwritten code of conduct for vassals (p. 224)

d. the business charters for towns
5. True or false? In the medieval legal system, women were recognized as roughly equal to men. (F, p. 224)

6. The Peace of God was:

a. a call by the French clergy for an end to fighting at specific times (p. 224)

b. a truce between medieval French and English armies

c. the notion that men and women were equal and should live in peace with each other

d. the specified periods of prayer in monastic daily life

7. Peasant life in medieval Europe usually involved:

a. living in towns and clerking in the lord’s shop

*b. working in the lord’s fields in exchange for living on his land (p. 225)

c. living in monasteries and serving in the church

d. fighting for the lord and working his fields
8. During the High Middle Ages, the population in Europe:

a. declined

b. remained stationary

c. grew at a slow rate

* d. nearly doubled (p. 225)
9. Medieval townspeople protected themselves from the feudal system by:

a. forming alliances with the Muslims

b. appealing to the pope for divine help

* c. forming guilds to regulate and to improve the local economy (p. 225)

d. rebelling against the feudal lords
10. One of the outgrowths of the feudal system was the:

a. creation of Christendom

* b. feudal monarchy (p. 226)

c. unification of Europe

d. further fragmentation of feudalism
11. The major domestic problem facing medieval monarchs was:

a. how to keep the peasants happy

b. what to do about the rise of the chartered towns

c. the need to protect Europe against Muslim invasion

* d. how to build a centralized rule (p. 227)
12. Which of the following was a key event in England during the High Middle Ages?

a. the granting of the Magna Carta

b. the Norman invasion

c. the summoning of the first parliament

* d. all of the above (pp. 227-228)
13. The lay investiture controversy centered on the question of:

a. who possessed the power to control the fief—the lord or vassal

* b. whether local lords or the church should appoint certain bishops to their office (p. 229)

c. when a vassal should become a lay leader

d. whether or not it was legal to give fiefs to subvassals
14. The major church reform that began in the tenth century started at:

a. the castle of Louis the Pious

* b. the Benedictine monastery at Cluny (p. 229)

c. Rome under Pope Zacharius

d. the church at Vézelay
15. One of the most powerful popes in the High Middle Ages was:

a. Gregory VII

b. Boniface VIII

c. Urban II

* d. Innocent III (p. 230)
16. By taking part in the Church’s seven sacraments, medieval Christians hoped:

a. to gain the approval of the feudal monarchs

b. to achieve a sense of social peace with one another

*c. to achieve spiritual salvation and eternal life (p. 231)

d. to gain the attention of the priests and ultimately the Pope
17. Which part of Europe did the Vikings come from?

a. Christian Ireland

*b. Pagan Scandinavia (231)

c. Pagan Russia

d. Christian Italy
18. The Christian practices of confession and penance meant that:

a. A sinner could sin without fear of punishment.

* b. A sinner could be absolved from sins and penalties could be erased. (p. 232)

c. A sinner would be allowed into heaven.

d. A sinner would automatically go to hell.
19. The medieval church taught that purgatory was a place where:

a. the sinful dead were punished eternally

* b. those who died in a state of grace were purified from all stain of sin (p. 232)

c. children that were born dead spent eternity

d. heretics suffered before going to heaven
20. Which is correct for the new religious orders of the High Middle Ages?

a. They were originally created to work among the urban poor.

b. They later became involved in higher education.

c. They often began as mendicant, or begging orders.

* d. All of the above. (pp. 232–233)
21. Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias may be best described as:

a. a treatise on political thought

b. a comprehensive summary of theology

* c. a visionary tract (p. 232)

d. an allegorical romance
22. Which of the following were achievements of Hildegard of Bingen?

a. composer of a morality play to be sung

b. correspondent with major figures of her time

c. author of works on the medical arts and science

* d. all of the above (p. 232)
23. Which was NOT a Muslim influence on medieval culture? [chapter 8??]

*a. stained glass windows in churches copied from Muslim mosques

b. Arabic versions of Aristotle’s writings and Arabic philosophical works translated into Latin

c. crusades against Muslims, leading to militant themes in European literature

d. the Muslim pointed arch adapted to Gothic architecture
24. True or false? Medieval church schools appealed mainly to the middle class. (F, p. 235)
25. Scholasticism’s primary goal was to:

a. Reconcile the state-versus-church controversy.

* b. Bring Aristotle’s ideas into accord with Christian doctrine. (p. 235)

c. Reconcile Platonism with Christian beliefs.

d. Discover new areas of knowledge.
26. Peter Abelard’s theological goal was to:

a. Undermine the morals of his day.

* b. Use reason to reconcile differences between church doctrine and biblical writings. (p. 235)

c. Attack church dogma.

d. Find proofs for the existence of God.
27. The debate between the Realists and Nominalists:

a. was settled by a church council in 1215

* b. centered on the issue of universals (p. 236)

c. arose from attempts to reconcile Arabic thought and Christian beliefs

d. was fought between the papacy and scholarly monks
28. The Greek philosopher whose works became the heart of Scholasticism was:

a. Protagoras

* b. Aristotle (p. 235)

c. Zeno

d. Empedocles
29. The educational revolution, which occurred in the High Middle Ages, was made possible by more accurate Latin versions of Aristotle’s writings made from:

*a. Arabic translations (p. 236)

b. Greek originals

c. Persian translations

d. Hebrew translations
30. Thomas Aquinas in his writings about faith and reason:

a. adopted the same position as the medieval thinker Bonaventure

* b. tried to reconcile Aristotelian thought and Christian doctrine (p. 236)

c. agreed with Averroes’s teachings

d. rejected Abelard and his tradition
31. Thomism might be best described as a:

a. thought process that reconciled Greek and Arabic philosophy

* b. synthesis of the faith-versus-reason debate (p. 236)

c. failure to reconcile the dispute between the popes and the secular monarchs

d. last effort in philosophy to prove the existence of God
32. The goliards are best known for their:

a. lectures in the universities

* b. songs and poems performed at aristocratic courts (p. 237)

c. contributions to the faith-versus-reason debate

d. etiquette books aimed at middle-class readers
33. Which medieval ideal is found in The Song of Roland?

a. allegiance to the chivalric code

b. support for Christianity against Islam

c. loyalty to one’s king

*d. All of the above (pp. 237-238)
34. What were the chansons de geste?

a. short lyric or narrative poems, usually about adulterous love

* b. long narrative poems about the chivalric and sentimental adventures of knights and ladies (p. 238)

c. comprehensive summaries of Christian thought

d. manuals for teaching acting
35. The most popular subject of medieval romances focused on:

a. King Henry II and his wife Eleanor

* b. King Arthur and his knights (p. 238)

c. the Capetian dynasty

d. ancient Greek myths
36. Which is correct regarding Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur ?

* a. He blames Lancelot and Guinevere’s love for the collapse of King Arthur’s court. (p. 233)

b. He identifies the suffering of Lancelot with that of Christ.

c. He combines aristocratic, courtly, and religious themes.

d. He portrays Lancelot as undergoing humiliation in order to earn Guinevere’s love.
37. True or false? The literary genre lay was usually sung to a court audience. (T, p. 238)
38. True or false? In the Divine Comedy, Dante claims that earthly fame is the only way to achieve eternal life (F, p. 239)
39. Besides Dante himself, the two main figures in the Divine Comedy are:

a. Ganelon and Roland

* b. Vergil and Beatrice (p. 239)

c. Thomas Aquinas and the Virgin Mary

d. Plato and Aristotle
40. The dominant visual art of the medieval ages was:

* a. architecture (p. 240)

b. fresco painting

c. portrait painting

d. sculpture
41. The arts in the High Middle Ages were:

a. treated separately, each being judged by different standards

b. dominated by painting

* c. subservient to religion and had no independent status (p. 240)

d. used to entertain the public
42. In medieval art the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are represented as:

a. a winged lion, a dog, a fox, and a serpent, respectively

* b. a man, a lion, a winged bull, and an eagle, respectively (caption for Fig. 9.10, pp. 237, 243)

c. a book, a fiery sword, a cross, and a banner, respectively

d. a woman, an angel, a child, and a winged horse, respectively
43. Which of the following applies to Romanesque architecture?

a. It grew out of the basilica tradition.

b. It reflected the needs of monastic life.

c. It appeared to be a spiritual fortress in an unsettled period.

*d. All of the above (pp. 225-228)
44. Romanesque religious architecture:

*a. was a synthesis of Roman and Christian formal elements (p. 240)

b. was a direct copy of the Roman basilica.

c. had little to do with the Christian religion

d. has been very well preserved since the Middle Ages
45. The Gothic cathedral was identifiable by its:

* a. flying buttresses, ribbed vaulting, stained glass windows (p. 245)

b. ribbed vaulting, rounded arches, thick walls

c. flying buttresses, domed ceiling, many statues

d. ribbed vaulting, stained glass windows, and simple decorations
46. True or false? Notre Dame cathedral integrates sculptural details into the actual structure of the building. (T, p. 247)
47. Which of the following statements about the differences between Early and High Gothic is true?

a. Early Gothic used rounded arches; High Gothic employed pointed arches.

b. Early Gothic had simple apses, while High Gothic used massive choirs.

c. Early Gothic was practically devoid of sculpture, while High Gothic used rich decorative schemes, including sculpture.

*d. All of the above (p. 234)
48. Which of the following cathedrals is known for containing the finest examples of High Gothic stained glass?

a. Amiens

b. Notre Dame

*c. Chartres (p. 251)

49. What were the two major innovations in music during the High Middle Ages?

a. monophony and Gregorian chants

b. syncopation and atonality

c. the sonata and program music

*d. tropes and polyphony (p. 253)
50. True or false? Western music can be said to descend in an unbroken line from the music of the High Middle Ages. (T, p. 253)

Selections from the Song of Roland

Chrètien de Troyes, Selection from Arthurian Romances

Marie de France, Lanval

St. Thomas Aquinas, Selection from Summa theologica

Dante Alighieri, Selections from The Divine Comedy

Hildegard of Bingen, Selections from Scivias

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