THE MIDDLE AGES – NOTES MRS. ROSSILLO Foundations: The Middle Ages (300-1350) bridged the gap between the collapse of Rome and the modern world. This era was man’s effort in establishing a new system of life; building a bridge. 2 institutions held power over the individual man: 1. the Holy Catholic Church = spiritual 2. the Feudal System = secular The Church was the greater power b/c it partook of feudalism, yet rose above it Authoritarianism is the leading motif in medieval culture and learning 395 – Emperor Theodosius makes Christianity the sole and official religion of Western Europe The Church is the sole means of furthering God’s plan on the earth. No other plan is possible! Salvation could only be obtained through the offices of the Church and as an active participant Sacraments were necessary to achieve happiness in the afterlife The Devil, or Antichrist, was the adversary (the world was a battleground between the forces of good vs. forces of evil) [i.e. Beowulf vs. Grendel] The Hierarchy of the Church: 1. God 2. Pope 3. Cardinals 4. Archbishops 5. Bishops 6. Priests 7. …etc. (monks, nuns, friars, …) The Hierarch of the State – Feudal system based on agriculture: 1. King or Emperor 2. Duke 3. Earl or Count 4. Baron 5. Knight 6. Serfs/Villains The King owns all the land except the Church’s land The Dukes lease land to the Earls; the Earls lease land to the Barons, etc……. Serfs were bound to the noble’s land and owned a ½ acre while they tended and tilled the noble’s land Medieval Thought and Philosophy: Bases: -the world is dominated by the struggle between God and the Devil -the focus of everyone is on Judgement Day (the return of Jesus to judge all souls) Thus, the Church’s function is to enforce a code of conduct – strict penalties were reserved for: 1. lack of faith or disobedience 2. re-interpretations (heresy) Teachings: 1. this world is at best, temporary 2. humanity is on its way to either Heaven or Hell 3. the world is a pilgrimage 4. the afterlife is far more important and meaningful than this life (it’s a privilege) 5. man is born with original sin (Adam & Eve) 6. life on earth is a purgatory (a test) 7. if a man is “saintly” he will go directly to Heaven (a few saints and prophets) Medieval Literature: Phase 1: 400-800, England – poetic epics and sagas flourished in an oral tradition Anglo-Saxon epic poetry is superior Bards or scops developed the old Germanic alliterative verse into a superior art form *all literary works prior to 400 were highly ecclesiastical or academic in nature Phase 2: Emperor Charlemagne creates a Frankish empire which became, in a way, a brand new “Roman” Empire recognized by the Church Charlemagne encouraged learning in all of its accepted forms – he founded Palace School which later lead to the University of Paris Phase 3: 800-1200 Evolution of monasticism and Scholasticism – stricter obedience of monastic rules – revival of the Rule of St. Benedict “Age of Teaching” was done through catechistic devices, dialogues, and debates Application of logic, dialects, and practical persuasion Friars roamed the land and helped to found seats of learning – Bologna, Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. Phase 4: 13th century – “peak of medieval culture” Unrest: 1. feudal system was under strain 2. barons were restive 3. full prerogatives of the sovereign were in question 4. Magna Carta (1215) was signed by King John – it opened the wedge that began to weaken and destroy royal privilege 5. struggle of power between Pope and Emperor Scholastics argued that salvation could be attained through human reason Man was truly blessed only when he withdrew himself from the world’s temptations Thus, man regarded the present world as evil in contrast to Heaven 12th-13th centuries – The Chivalric movement – the aristocratic lady was paid reverence and homage --- love = heavenly bliss 13thc. – the rise of the Guildsmen (ancestor of the modern middle class, or bourgeoise) Due to weaknesses and power struggles w/in the Church (i.e. French papacy vs. Roman papacy), guildsmen began to rise into positions of importance John Wycliffe was one of England’s first heretics Dante was truly medieval in many ways (rigidity and exactness) Early Medieval Epics: The epic hero, 800-900: Masculine, typifies the ideals of his tribe/nation, performs marvelous feats, dies in the order of sanctity The epic hero, 11th-12th c.: Medieval romances (French influence)Hero was now a lover and warrior, a feudal servant to his lady and love, and followed the code of chivalry ---- the feudal world was represented as glamorous, the literature appealed to the emotions of both men and women The Church did not approve of the eroticism and sinful behavior in the literature. Thus, the Church began to either have the clergy write these romances or they would tell the writers what to write about. Thus, you now have medieval romances with moral preachment that also utilized allegory (ex. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 1370) By the 15th c. the romances were now being written in prose composition rather than verse Commoners were exposed to short oral tales: 1. fabliau – anecdotal based on sex intrigue or practical jokes 2. exempla – moral teachings 1400 or later: Popular ballads, narrative – which represent the people as a whole, not just aristocracy Native dramas, miracle plays, and mystery plays were being produced by guilds. Such plays often depicted saints and their miracles. Morality plays emerged in the latter half of 15th c. Such plays often centered on human morals; the human soul in peril or inner conflict (good vs. evil) [Ex. “Everyman”] **It is pertinent to remember that the Church, in the Middle Ages had stewardship over all writings.