The Middle Ages - Ohio County Schools

The distinction “The Middle Ages” comes from the middle period
between the decline of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. The
early Middle Ages are often referred to as the Dark Ages. The Middle
Ages are also referred to as the Medieval era.
There is some difference of opinion about the dates which
encompassed the Middle Ages. Events in England from the Battle of
Hastings in 1066 and ending in the emergence of the English
Renaissance period with the Tudor dynasty in 1485 have been included.
The Middle Ages was one of the most turbulent times in English
history. It began with the Battle of Hastings and the Norman
Conquest. William the Conqueror effectively took all of the lands from
the Saxon English and gave them to French nobles. The English Middle
Ages then saw the building of the great English castles, including the
Tower of London, which helped the Normans to retain their hold on
England. The start of the Crusades and the knights of the Middle Ages,
including the founding of the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar History started with the crusades of the Middle Ages.
This was a holy war that began after Muslims had supposedly overtaken the
city of Jerusalem. In a Crusade there were pilgrims who were going to pray in
Jerusalem, groomers that cleaned the horses, wives and children of the
knights, and two kinds of knights: a mounted knight who rode on a horse and
a foot soldier who walked on foot. Some of the knights went on Crusades to
get rich or to steal a new home from the people they were fighting, but most
of the knights went to get healed of their sins. Richard the Lion Heart (or
Richard the I of England) was a famous general in the Crusades. The fourth
Crusade (1199-1204) started off with a tournament against the Turks in
France but the Crusade ended in tragedy. Most of the armies that went were
already half destroyed by the Turks. They didn't reach Jerusalem. All together
there were six Crusades in a period of 176 years. The Crusades lasted from
1095 until 1271.
Religion was important to the knights in the Middle Ages. One of the results
of the Crusades was the founding of new Christian religious orders. Most of
the monks were former knights who fought against each other in the
Crusades. The knights did capture Jerusalem for a short period of time, but
the Muslims kept on re-taking Jerusalem. The knights gained temporary
power, but lost many soldiers during the deadly Crusades, not to mention
causing the death of many innocent Muslims. The Crusades is a violent
reminder of the greed of Middle Ages.
The Knights Templar went on to be involved in many various battles
throughout the Middle Ages. Their ultimate defeat came at Acre in 2191.
King Philip IV of France (1268-1314) who was already heavily in debt to the
Knights Templar requested a further loan. The Knights Templar refused his
request. King Philip IV subsequently ordered the arrest of all Knight
Templars in France. The order to arrest the Templars was sent out several
weeks before the date possibly giving the Templars time to hide their
wealth. On 11 October, two days before the arrest of many Templar Knights,
it is recorded in French Masonic history that Templar ships left La Rochelle,
heading to Scotland.
On the night of October 13, 1307, all of the Templars' castles in France were
surrounded by large bodies of men that were led by small parties of priests
and noblemen. When the unsuspecting knights were ordered to open their
gates in the name of the king, they immediately complied. Taken completely
by surprise, about 900 knights were arrested, and all their property and
holdings in France were seized. When word of the arrests reached other
countries, other nobles and priests quickly followed suit and imprisoned the
Templars wherever they might be found. The knights were accused of many
crimes from heresy to homosexuality. Before it was over the Knights had gone
into hiding and two were eventually burned at the state. These Knights of
Templar are the foundation of an organization that still thrives today—The
For safety and defense, most communities centered around one master or
central lord. Most of the people lived on the manor. The manor consisted of
the castle, the church, the village, and the surrounding farm land. These
manors were very isolated and received few outsiders save for the occasional
pilgrims passing through on their way to the Crusades, peddlers, or soldiers
from other fiefdoms.
A king (or lord) ruled large areas of land. To protect his land from invasion, the
king gave parts of it to local lords, who were called vassals. In return, his vassals
promised to fight to defend the king's land.
Vassals ruled lands granted to them by their king. Those lands were called fiefs.
Within a fiefs, a vassal acted as a local lord and could give portions of it to vassals
of his own. Someone might be the vassal of one person, but the lord of another.
Knights were warriors who fought on horseback. In return for land, they pledged
themselves as vassals to the king. Only the sons of lords could become knights.
Candidates for knighthood began training as pages at the age of 7, learning social
graces and skills such as fencing and hunting. At 13 or 14 they became squires and
began to practice fighting on horseback. Squires served as assistants to knights
both in the castle and on the battlefield. At 21 a squire could become a knight
himself, kneeling before the lord of the manor to be "dubbed" on the shoulder
with a sword. Kings, local lords, and knights were all part-of a ruling class that
called itself noblemen.
Noblewomen were the wives and daughters of noblemen. They were in charge of
the household servants and supervised the upbringing of children. They also
helped take care of the sick and the poor. In certain cases, noblewomen
themselves could own land. They could inherit it from their parents or from their
husbands. When a nobleman was away, his wife ruled the manor. This meant that
the noblewoman, if called upon by her lord, could send knights into battle, just as
a man would.
Bishops were the leaders of the church, serving under the pope, the bishop of
Rome. Most bishops were noblemen. Bishops supervised the church's priests,
monks and nuns and administered its business. In many parts of Europe the
church owned vast areas of land and commanded a large number of knights. In
the early Middle Ages, it was not unusual for a bishop to lead his own knights into
Priests provided spiritual instruction and conducted religious ceremonies in local,
or parish, churches.
Monks and nuns were men and women who gave up their possessions and left
ordinary life to live in monasteries and convents. They lived very simply, could not
marry and devoted themselves to prayer, study, and helping the poor. They also
served as doctors.
Frairs were traveling preachers who lived by begging and spread the teachings
of St. Francis of Assisi (see Medieval Voices on p. 34).
Serfs lived in small communities called manors that were ruled by a local lord
or vassal. Most peasants were serfs. They were bound to the manor and could
not leave it or marry without the manor lord's permission. Serfs did all the
work on the manor farm: they worked the fields, cared for the livestock, built
and maintained the buildings, made the clothing, and cut firewood. Men,
women, and children worked side by side. Serfs had small plots of land they
could work for themselves; sometimes a serf saved enough money to buy his
freedom and became a freeman.
Servants were peasants who worked in the lord's manor house, doing the
cooking, cleaning, laundering, and other household chores.
Merchants set up businesses in the towns that began to grow in the later
Middle Ages. The most commonly traded items were salt, iron, and textiles.
There were also rarer items, such as silk and spices, that came from the trade
with China and the Middle East. As trade grew, a new class of highly skilled
crafts- people developed. These artisans produced cloth, shoes, beer, glass and
other goods that required more expertise than was available on many manor
farms. Women plied several of these crafts, and in some, like weaving and
brewing, they played the leading role. Traveling merchants brought muchdesired items to small towns and villages far from the major trade routes.
Minstrels were entertainers who traveled from town to town, often in groups.
Most minstrels were singers or musicians, but some had other skills as well.
They juggled, did acrobatics, or danced. Minstrels were known by different
names in different parts of Europe. In Germany minstrels were called
minnesingers, in France jongleurs, in Ireland bards. The most famous
minstrels were those of southern France. They were called troubadours, from
the Latin word that means "to compose." Many of the love poems they
composed in the local language, Provencal, are still read and admired today.
The troubadours were so famous that we know 500 of them by name.
Almost everyone has heard of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round
Table. The Knights were men of courage, honor, dignity, courtesy, and
nobleness. They protected ladies and damsels, honored and fought for kings,
and undertook dangerous quests. These were some of the most famous of
the knights besides King Arthur: Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, and Sir Galahad.
During the ceremony that accompanied each man’s becoming a knight, King
Arthur gave each a medallion to wear around his neck. This was called the
“The Emblem of the Knights.” The Order's dominant idea was the love of
God, men, and noble deeds. The cross in the emblem was to remind them that
they were to live pure and stainless lives, to strive after perfection and thus
attain the Holy Grail.
The Red Dragon of King Arthur represented their allegiance to the King. The
Round Table was illustrative of the Eternity of God, the equality, unity, and
comradeship of the Order, and singleness of purpose of all the Knights.
This is the charge that King Arthur gave each knight:
“God make you a good man and fail not of beauty. The Round Table was founded in patience,
humility, and meekness.Thou art never to do outrageousity, nor murder, and always to flee
treason, by no means to be cruel, and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentle women succour.
Also, to take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law nor for no world's goods.
Thou shouldst be for all ladies and fight for their quarrels, and ever be courteous and never
refuse mercy to him that asketh mercy, for a knight that is courteous and kind and gentle has
favor in every place. Thou shouldst never hold a lady or gentle woman against her will.
Thou must keep thy word to all and not be feeble of good believeth and faith. Right must be
defended against might and distress must be protected. Thou must know good from evil and the
vain glory of the world, because great pride and bobauce maketh great sorrow. Should anyone
require ye of any quest so that it is not to thy shame, thou shouldst fulfil the desire.
Ever it is a worshipful knights deed to help another worshipful knight when he seeth him a great
danger, for ever a worshipful man should loath to see a worshipful man shamed, for it is only he
that is of no worship and who faireth with cowardice that shall never show gentelness or no
manner of goodness where he seeth a man in any danger, but always a good man will do another
man as he would have done to himself.
Continuation of The Charge
It should never be said that a small brother has injured or slain another brother. Thou
shouldst not fail in these things: charity, abstinence and truth. No knight shall win
worship but if he be of worship himself and of good living and that loveth God and
dreadeth God then else he geteth no worship here be ever so hardly.
An envious knight shall never win worship for and envious man wants to win worship
he shall be dishonoured twice therefore without any, and for this cause all men of
worship hate an envious man and will show him no favour.
Do not, nor slay not, anything that will in any way dishonour the fair name of
Christian knighthood for only by stainless and honourable lives and not by prowess
and courage shall the final goal be reached. Therefore be a good knight and so I pray
to God so ye may be, and if ye be of prowess and of worthiness then ye shall be a
Knight of the Table Round.”
The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood.
The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and
gallantry toward women.
The Knights Code of Chivalry was part of the culture of the Middle Ages and
was understood by all. A Code of Chivalry was documented in 'The Song of
Roland' in the Middle Ages Knights period of William the Conqueror who ruled
England from 1066. The 'Song of Roland' describes the 8th century Knights of
the Dark Ages and the battles fought by the Emperor Charlemagne. The code has
since been described as Charlemagne's Code of Chivalry. The Song of Roland was
the most famous 'chanson de geste' and was composed between 1098-1100,
describing the betrayal of Count Roland at the hand of Ganelon, and his resulting
death in the Pyranee Mountains at the hands of the Saracens. Roland was a loyal
defender of his liege Lord Charlemagne and his code of conduct a description of
the meaning of chivalry.
Knights Code of Chivalry
A knight was expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat
in the violent Middle Ages but was also expected to temper this aggressive
side of a knight with a chivalrous side to his nature. There was not an
authentic Knights Code of Chivalry as such - it was a moral system which
went beyond rules of combat and introduced the concept of Chivalrous
conduct - qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor,
and gallantry toward women.
The Knights Code of Chivalry and the vows of Knighthood
The Knights Code of Chivalry described in the Song of Roland and an
excellent representation of the Knights Codes of Chivalry are as follows:
To fear God and maintain His Church
To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
To protect the weak and defenceless
To give succour to widows and orphans
To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
To live by honour and for glory
To despise pecuniary reward
To fight for the welfare of all
To obey those placed in authority
To guard the honour of fellow knights
To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
To keep faith
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
To respect the honour of women
Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
Never to turn the back upon a foe
Of the seventeen entries in the Knights Codes of Chivalry, according to
the Song of Roland, at least 12 relate to acts of chivalry as opposed to
The chivalric virtues of the Knights
Code of Chivalry were described in
the 14th Century by the Duke of
Burgandy. The words he chose to
use to describe the virtues that
should be exhibited in the Knights
Code of Chivalry were as follows: