The Early Middle Ages: The Feudal Spirit


The Early Middle Ages: The Feudal Spirit

The Age of Charlemagne

Descended from Franks: valued war and destruction Blend of two cultures during reign of Charlemagne Kingdom: Large European kingdom, from the Rhine to Spain Renewed interest in learning and arts

The Carolingian Renaissance

His interest in culture assembled group of scholars and artists. Favorite book:

The City of God

Imperial ideal from Rome and Byzantium Monks copied manuscripts and painted, learned chants and interpreted the Bible.

Alcuin of York, teacher: revival of learning and literacy. Attempted universal education

The Culture of the Book

Books were expensive Illustrated manuscripts: Hellenistic and Byzantine style, incorporating Anglo Saxon art.

Utrecht Psalter: collection of Psalms Sculpture disappeared. Reliquaries. The cult of relics

Charlemagne’s Court

Pilgrimage to Rome in 800. Crowned emperor. First monarch since Roman times Aachen, Aix-la-Chapelle. Modeled after Byzantine churches Charlemagne’s kingdom only lasted one generation after his death New wave of invasions: Muslims, Hungarians, Vikings

Feudal Europe

France and England brunt of Viking invasions Decentralized system: feudal estates Feudalism: system based on vows of military service and ownership of land.

Based on grant of lands by lords to vassals in return for service Castle: residence of lords family

Refuge for the feudal estate during war Crusaders came back and improved them Fortresses to defend against siege Decoration of castles simple tapestries to protect from cold Pagan rituals and celebrations: mumming Origin of masquerades and masked dances

The Song of Roland

Oral literature of military exploits such as epics.

Battle from Charlemagne’s campaigns in Spain. Hero: Roland who battles Muslim knights Celebrated knights’ bravery in battle and loyalty to his lord No women

Tale of feudal courage, violence and treachery Blows his horn to summon Charlemagne, but dies before king appears Feudal and Christian values are highlighted


Emerged as a way to enforce loyalty.

Loyal to lord, not sleep with his wife, or surrender his castle as well as religious devotion and service to ladies Tournaments: feasting, pageantry and dance Professional warriors emerged

The Bayeux Tapestry

1066: Battle of Hastings William the Conqueror’s victory over the English Tapestry: Embroidered wall hanging recounting the chain of events. 231 feet long linen cloth. Probably embroidered by English women. Influenced by Trajan’s column

Muslim Spain

Cultivated society where Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted.

Influence of architecture, poetry and philosophy 711 Muslims from North Africa conquer Spain. Power declined after 1000 Sephardic Jews had centers of learning Spaniards pushed back Muslims until 1492 they expelled the last from Granada Muslims and Jews forced to convert


Rules of chastity, poverty and obedience Refuge from the barbarians Centers of learning and Evangelizing monks and cloistered monks Guardians of arts and artifacts of Western civilization Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland (c. 820)

The Romanesque Style

Descendants of Otto the Great created Romanesque style of architecture Rounded Roman arches and barrel vaults Massive vaults and piers and decoration Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, France Some elements of the Gothic church

The Pilgrimage Churches

Medieval tourist centers; stopping points during pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela St. Sernin Latin Cross floorplan) chapels off the apse transept( housed the relics) portals ambulatories

Romanesque Sculpture

Relief sculpture: Bibles in stone Portal sculpture on the tympanum Autun: Gislibertus’ lintel sculpture warning of wages of sin Vezelay: relics of Mary Magdalene

Early Medieval Music and Drama

Musical Notation. Initially, chants were taught by oral tradition Guido d’Arezzo: six note scale and solmization: ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti Guidonian Hand Staff: tone; Clef set the tone F or C Invited to Vatican to teach Sacred music passed down

Hildegard of Bingen

German abbess (1098-1179) Composed mystical poetry and music Morality play set to music Women should use Mary as role model and reject Eve the sinner

Drama in the Medieval Church

Medieval theater: representations of Christ’s birth death and resurrection The Three Wise Men, Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents, and the Raising of Lazarus.

Written in Latin; brief Churchgoers followed the scenes throughout the church Moved outside the church in the 13th cent.

Medieval Philosophy

Christian problems: existence of God, relationship between faith and reason Cathedral schools fostered learning; translation of Aristotle’s works Peter Abelard (1079-1142) Tragic love of Heloise.

Sic et Non:

exposed inconsistencies in Church teachings