Three major religious groups all claimed Jerusalem in the land of

The Middle Ages in Europe
The western portion of the Roman Empire fell to Germanic invaders. The Byzantine Empire or
eastern portion of the former Roman Empire continued for 1,000 years. Western Europeans were
Roman Catholics while Eastern Europeans were mainly Eastern Orthodox. The center of the
Byzantine Empire was the city of Constantinople. It was near the dividing area between Europe
and Asia. Justinian, a Byzantine emperor, established the Justinian Code which was a simple
legal system or set of rules that could be easily be understood and followed.
People were afraid of the Vikings and other invaders, so they turned to the nobles for protection.
Under feudalism, landowning nobles governed and protected the people in return for services
such as fighting in a noble’s army or farming the land.
Kings and Queens
Lords and Ladies
Peasants and Serfs
Refer to Flip Chart notes for the specifics of each group.
The land granted to a vassal was a fief.
Remember to study Vocabulary Terms as well.
Fiefs were called manors. Lords ruled manors, and peasants farmed the land. Some peasants were
free, had rights, and could move. Most peasants were serfs which meant that they could not
marry without the Lord’s approval, could not leave the manor or own property.
Feudalism was really made a part of England when William the Conqueror took over in 1066.
William the Conqueror ordered a census called the Domesday Book that counted people, manors
and animals in England.
The Magna Carta is considered one of the most important democratic documents in history as it
established the basic rights of the English people. King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta,
which greatly limited his powers, by powerful Lords or Barons. These rights were originally
established for the nobles, but eventually became for all people. Our ideas of trial by jury can be
traced to this document. It also put an end to burdensome taxes. The Magna Carta ended the
absolute power of the king.
The Role of the Church
The Roman Catholic Church was very important during the Middle Ages. Monks and
monasteries helped spread Christianity, and they also provided help to those in need. Monasteries
were centers of learning. Monks preserved Christian writings by producing hand made copies of
the Bible and other Christian works. Monasteries had some of the few libraries or schools in this
period of time that is often referred to as the Dark Ages. Actually some of the first universities
were established by the church. Missionaries such as St. Patrick traveled to spread Christianity
throughout Europe. Art was also evident in the beautiful churches or cathedrals that had
spectacular stained glass windows.
The Crusades
There were about eight Crusades over a 200 year period. The Crusades were considered holy
wars. Christians wanted to reclaim the Holy Land or Palestine from the Turks, free it from
Muslim rule, and to limit the Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire.
Three major religious groups all claimed Jerusalem in the land of Palestine as their holy city.
To Christians, it was the place where Jesus was crucified and ascended to heaven
To Muslims, it was the place where Muhammad ascended to heaven
To Jews, it was the site of the ancient temple built by Solomon
The Crusades
For knights, this was a chance to use their fighting skills, something they enjoyed
and did well. They were delighted to have such a worthy battle to fight.
For peasants, this was a chance to escape from their dreary life in the feudal
system. The pope promised that if they died while fighting a holy crusade, they
would automatically be welcomed into heaven.
For others, it was a chance to have an adventure, and perhaps even to get rich.
The crusades did limit the spread of Islam, while Christianity spread. The crusades also led to
increased trade between Europe and the Middle East. The crusades increased the spread of ideas
and inventions from various cultures. It weakened the feudal system because the lords lost some
of their power while monarchies (kings and queens) became stronger.
The Black Death or Bubonic Plague
A plague is a disease that spreads quickly and kills many people. The Black Death was a plague
that spread throughout Europe and Asia in the late Middle Ages. The Mongols were partly to
blame for the rapid spread because they opened up trade between China, India the Middle East
and Europe. The disease spread rapidly from fleas, rats and people. Rats carrying the disease
were brought in on trading caravans. The first outbreak began in China. The European Outbreak
began in Caffa. About 38 million Europeans did of the Black Death between 1347 and 1351. It
spread rapidly. It hit major cities like Constantinople, Venice, Cologne and London eventually
reaching the Baltic Sea. It is estimated that ½ of the people in London died from this disease.
Medical practices of the time did not help stop the spread of the disease.
It really had a major effect on the feudal system and the economy. Fewer workers caused wages
to increase and the demand for food to decrease. Prices for food fell, so farmers could not make
enough money to pay their rent. Landlords had to pay workers more and charge less rent for the
farms they owned. Some peasants convinced their landlords to let them pay rent with money
instead of services. Serfs could buy their freedom.
People saw death everywhere. Art reflected death, despair, and sadness. (Ring around the Rosy