Portal:Middle Ages

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The Middle Ages Portal

The fortified town and abbey of Mont Saint-Michel off the northern coast of France is an iconic image of the Middle Ages that remains little changed since it was painted by the de Limbourg brothers in the 1430s

The Middle Ages is a period of European history that lasted from the 5th until the 15th centuries. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, and was followed by the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the traditional division of Western history into Classical, Medieval, and Modern periods. The period is subdivided into the Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages, and the Late Middle Ages.

In the Early Middle Ages, depopulation, deurbanization, and barbarian invasions, which began in Late Antiquity, continued. The barbarian invaders formed new kingdoms in the remains of the Western Roman Empire. In the 7th century North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire), became an Islamic Empire after conquest by Muhammad's successors. Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, the break with Antiquity was not complete. The still sizeable Byzantine Empire survived and remained a major power. The empire's law code, the Code of Justinian, was widely admired. In the West, most kingdoms incorporated extant Roman institutions, while monasteries were founded as Christianity expanded in western Europe. The Franks, under the Carolingian dynasty, established an empire covering much of western Europe; the Carolingian Empire endured until the 9th century, when it succumbed to the pressures of invasion — the Vikings from the north; the Magyars from the east, and the Saracens from the south.

During the High Middle Ages, which began after AD 1000, the population of Europe increased greatly as technological and agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish and crop yields to increase. Manorialism — the organization of peasants into villages that owed rent and labor services to the nobles; and feudalism — the political structure whereby knights and lower-status nobles owed military service to their overlords, in return for the right to rent from lands and manors - were two of the ways society was organized in the High Middle Ages. The Crusades, first preached in 1095, were military attempts, by western European Christians, to regain control of the Middle Eastern Holy Land from the Muslims. Kings became the heads of centralized nation states, reducing crime and violence but making the ideal of a unified Christendom more distant. Intellectual life was marked by scholasticism, a philosophy which emphasized joining faith to reason, and by the founding of universities. The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, the paintings of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, and the architecture of Gothic cathedrals such as Chartres are among the outstanding achievements of this period.

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A Seal of the Knights Templar, with their famous image of two knights on a single horse, a symbol of their early poverty. The text is in Greek and Latin characters, Sigillum Militum Xpisti: followed by a cross, which means "the Seal of the Soldiers of Christ".
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), commonly known as the Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple (French: Ordre du Temple or Templiers), were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders.The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages. It was founded in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096, its original purpose to ensure the safety of the many Europeans who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem after its conquest.Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favored charity across Europe and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles quartered by a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades.Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building many fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.The Templars' success was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded. Rumors about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, began pressuring Pope Clement V to take action against the Order.


Selected biography

Coat of Arms of Vladislav Jagaila as king of Poland

Jogaila, later About this sound Władysław II Jagiełło [nb 1] (ca. 1351/1362 – 1 June 1434) was Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377–1434), jure uxoris King of Kingdom of Poland (1386–1399), and sole King of Poland (1399–1434). He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis. In 1386 in Kraków he was baptized as Władysław, married the young queen regnant Jadwiga of Poland, and was crowned King of Poland as Władysław II Jagiełło. In 1387 he converted Lithuania to Christianity. His own reign in Poland started in 1399, upon death of Queen Jadwiga, and lasted a further thirty-five years and laid the foundation for the centuries-long Polish–Lithuanian union. Władysław II was the founder of the Jagiellon dynasty that bears his name, while pagan Jogaila was an heir to the already established house of Gediminids in Grand Duchy of Lithuania; the royal dynasty ruled both states until 1572,[nb 2] and became one of the most influential dynasties in the late medieval and early modern Central and Eastern Europe. During his reign Polish-Lithuanian state was the greatest Kingdom of the Christian world.[1]

Jogaila was the last pagan ruler of medieval Lithuania. After he became King of Poland, as a result of Union of Krewo, the newly formed Polish-Lithuanian union confronted the growing power of the Teutonic Knights. The allied victory at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, followed by the Peace of Thorn (1411), secured the Polish and Lithuanian borders and marked the emergence of the Polish–Lithuanian alliance as a significant force in Europe. The reign of Władysław II Jagiełło extended Polish frontiers and is often considered the beginning of Poland's Golden Age. (Read more. . .)

  1. ^ He is known under a number of names: Lithuanian: Jogaila Algirdaitis; Polish: Władysław II Jagiełło; Belarusian: Jahajła (Ягайла). See also: Jogaila (Władysław II Jagiello): names and titles.
  2. ^ Anna Jagiellon last member of royal Jagiellon family died in 1596.

Did you know...

  • ...that a paillasse is a thin mattress filled with hay or sawdust and was commonly used in the middle ages?
  • ...that a barbican is a tower or other fortification defending the drawbridge, usually the gateway?
  • ...that a coif is a type of armored head-covering made out of chain-mail and worn under the helmet for extra protection?
  • ...that a heriot is a payment owed to the lord of the manor by a serf’s family upon the serf’s death; usually the family’s best animal, such as a cow, horse or most commonly ox?
  • ...that before 1066, it was noted in the Domesday Book, if one Welshman killed another, the dead man’s relatives could exact retribution on the killer and his family (even burning their houses) until burial of the victim the next day?
  • ...that buboes are pus-filled egg-sized swellings of the lymph glands of the neck, armpits, and groin; typically found in cases of bubonic plague?
  • ...that laws passed in the late 1300s aimed at maintaining class distinctions by prohibiting lower classes from dressing as if they belonged to higher classes?
  • ...that Pier Gerlofs Donia, a 15th century Frisian freedom fighter of 7 feet tall was alleged to be so strong that he could lift a 1000 pound horse?
  • ...that Edgar the Ætheling was the last of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England, but was only proclaimed, never crowned?

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Emperor Constantine Tikh Asen and his wife Irina.
Credit:

A 13th century fresco of the Bulgarian Emperor Constantine Tikh and his wife Irina from the Boyana Church.

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  1. ^ Anna Boczkowska, Sarkofag Władysława II Jagiełły i Donatello, Gdańsk 2011, p. 27.
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