The king owned all the land. He retained 20% for his own use. He allocated the rest of the land to the church or barons.















About 25% of the land was granted to the church. The bishops (tenants in charge) granted land to their under tenants in exchange for military service when needed (knights) and a tax collected by church and king. They also had to pledge their loyalty to church and state.


About 55% of the land was granted to the Barons. The barons (tenants in charge) granted land to their under tenants in exchange for military service when needed (knights) and a tax collected by church and king. They also had to pledge their loyalty to church and state.















Under tenants provided land to the peasants. In exchange, peasants had to supply the labor, and rent.


Under tenants provided land to the peasants. In exchange, peasants had to supply the labor, and rent.
















In return, the peasants provided labor and were the virtual property of the master of the land (serfs).





In return, the peasants provided rent to the master of the property (free serfs).



KNIGHTS AND CHIVALRY- some sites to explore
knight_shield_and_sword_md_wht.gif The Chivalry Code

The Role of the Catholic Church in Middle Ages Europe

Illuminated Manuscripts

The Catholic Church was the only hope that the peasants and many others had in Western Europe. Each cultural group had their own version of what role the Church should play in the world. Some believed that the Church should rule every aspect of everyday life. All were taught that they must be good and do their duty to God to enter heaven. For many who faced starvation, and disaster on a daily basis, as well as death (most families would lose at least half of their children before they reach their teen years). So the idea of paradise was the hope that kept people moving in their lives.


Middle Ages: Age of Feudalism in England

The Lady of Charlotte


This material wealth of the church instigated a problem: Who is superior, pope or king? This question caused a great deal of strife during the Middle Ages, but the pope always had the advantage until the end of the Middle Ages when the state finally triumphed over the pope's powers of interdict and excommunication.


 Under this system, men gave up personal freedom in exchange for protection and security. The King owned all the land except that owned by the church. He leased the land to nobles, who repaid him in homage, taxes, and military service. They, in turn, leased land to lesser nobles, each of whom owed homage, etc., to the next above him on the social scale. This system rested ultimately on the serf or villain. As the Middle Ages progressed and came to depend on men with special skills, there appeared the freeman, the commoner, and the yeoman. No middle class was recognized until the Middle Ages ended.

The Church

     In the meantime, the church had a similar structure, with the pope at the top as the vice-regent of the kingdom of God. The church officials administered the affairs of Christ's kingdom in this world, with each official responsible to the one immediately above him in the hierarchy. Ultimately all were responsible to the pope, who was both the spiritual and temporal sovereign. By the late Middle Ages the church has accumulated vast material possessions.


The practical impact of the church resulted from the general acceptance of its theology. It taught that, by devotion to its prescribed belief and code of conduct, the world would be improved against the Day of Judgment. This belief and code were enforced by strict penalties.

     The kingdom of God was in perpetual warfare--both spiritual and literal--against the kingdom of the devil. (The first crusade, 1095, was for the purpose of clearing the Holy Land of infidels.) This belief in warfare between light and darkness discouraged curiosity about the world and speculation about the unknown.

     People firmly believed that they were on their way to either heaven or hell; life here was just a pilgrimage, the world a testing ground. Human nature was the same then as now; the average man or woman went about daily life dealing with ordinary problems. They were not continually obsessed by the peril of their immortal souls. Nevertheless, medieval teaching emphasized the afterlife much more strongly than any period to follow. The church was the center of the universe, like the hub of a wheel.

 Language & Literature in England during Middle Ages

1066: French was introduced as the normal language of the government. England was a conquered land. The French were there to enrich themselves, not to become a part of a culture that the considered inferior. Most of them owned property in France as well, and residence in England was often just a political and economic necessity, not a matter of choice.

English was spoken by the masses; it was the language of the lower class.

1204: England lost Normandy. There was a growing tendency for nobles with property in both England and France to divide the land geographically among their children.

1244: The kings of both England and France issued decrees making it illegal to own land in both countries. This law helped end the divided loyalty Until about 1250 most of the writing in English was intended for the common people, written by the clergy. It consisted mainly didactic works, efforts to instruct the people in Bible stories and ways to right living.

1250-1350: This century was a period of transition from French to English as the language of the nobility. The large influx of French words into the English language during this time indicates that English was being spoken by people who were accustomed to speaking French. From the early 14th century on, English was universal. A writer of a romance written no earlier than 1325 remarks that now everybody knows English and many a noble can speak on French.

1250-1350: This is a period of both religious and secular literature. The upper classes had begun to adopt English. The object of English writings became entertainment as well as edification. Most of the earliest romances in English belong to this period.

1350-1400: This period is the high point of medieval literature, with several great writers appearing: Geoffrey Chaucer, John Wycliffe, Will Langland, the Pearl Poet, and others. English was once more secure as the language of both the court and the people.

1400-1500: This is a transitional period, dominated by the influence of Chaucer in the early part of the century. There were few major writers, but lyrics, ballads, and drama (mystery and morality plays) were flourishing.

The publication of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte D’Arthur, in 1485, by William Caxton, who had introduced printing by movable type to England, marks the end of medieval literature. Morte D’Arthur is the last great medieval work.

Signs of the End of Feudalism and the Middle Ages

  • Magna Carta, 1215, improved the position of the nobility as opposed to King John, at the same time helping lower classes. It specified that there would be no 
    taxation except by legal means, promised justice for all men, and assured there would be no
    imprisonment without a trial.
  • Battle of Crécy, 1347, introduced the longbow, a method of warfare superior to armored men on horseback.
  • The Bubonic Plague, 1347-49, wiped out the broad base of the system, three fifths of the population of England.
  • The Peasants' Revolt, 1381, led by Wat Tyler and John Ball, gave evidence of the dissatisfaction of the people.
  • John Wycliffe, a church reformer, translated the Bible into English in 1382. He was declared a heretic by the church and it would take over 200 years for the Bible's translation into one's own language to be legally and morally acceptable.
  • William Caxton published Malory's Morte D’Arthur (written in 1474) in England in 1485.

FAMOUS English Literature and Characters


movies with these characters

King Arthur (quite a number)

BEOWULF (pretty scary stuff)

Robin Hood (Starring Russell Crowe April 2010)




IN A BUSY CITY or a quiet village, you saw a lot of your neighbors. You sold to and bought goods from them, and shared wells, streams, and grazing land. Without cars, medieval people walked or rode on horseback; all - passersby could see and be seen. Houses had thin walls, so you could hear your neighbors, too. And anyone's behavior might be criticized at regular meetings of local courts.


DURING THE Middle Ages, today's European languages were taking shape. They developed from four early "families": Latin-based (like Italian or French), Germanic (like German or Dutch), Celtic (spoken in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Brittany), and Slavonic (spoken in Russia and eastern Europe). Gradually, each nation's language became harder for foreigners to understand. 

Villages and Towns

TODAY; IN MANY parts of Europe, most people live in cities or towns. But when you travel back to the Middle Ages, you will find that almost everyone lived in the countryside, in small farming villages. Only merchants, lawyers, doctors, and craft workers lived in towns. Medieval houses were built of local materials: stone and slate in the rocky hills; wood and thatch in the muddy lowlands. 

Your Name

CHRISTIANS named their babies after saints or people in the Bible; Jewish and Muslim people often chose names from the Old Testament or the Koran. Many babies were named after grandparents, or after rich, powerful friends. Parents hoped these “namesakes" would help their children.

Wildlife & Plants  

EUROPE WAS HOME too many more animals, birds, and wildflowers than we see today. Villages were surrounded by woods and commons, which formed ideal wildlife habitats. Vast forests sheltered bears, boars, wolves, and eagles. Chemical sprays had not yet been invented; this helped the environment, though fleas, flies, and poisonous plants sometimes caused serious illnesses.

Lords & Manors  

IF YOU WERE an ordinary peasant in the medieval countryside, your life would be controlled by the local lord.  You had to work for him on his manor (big farm), or else pay him rent. In return, he let you have smaller plots of land to grow food for your family. Many lords had rights to enforce law and order on their lands. Some peasants were not even free to leave their lord's manor.


BACK IN MEDIEVAL times, you would find that there were very few machines. Apart from cloth produced in weaving looms, almost everything was made by hand. Craft workers were very skilled. They learned their craft -anything from stone- carving or gold smithing to saddlery, pottery, or embroidery -during a long apprenticeship. Only then could they set up workshops themselves.


MOST PEOPLE IN medieval Europe were Christians, but there were Jewish and, Muslim minorities. King Edward I drove all the Jewish people out of England in 290, but Jewish communities continued to thrive in many other lands. After around A.D. 800, the inhabitants of southern Spain became Muslims.  There were also groups of pagan peoples in north- Eastern Europe.


COMPARED WITH present- day Europe, your homeland might seem rather empty. Towns were crowded, but much smaller than today. In 1250, Paris, the largest European city, had 160,000 inhabitants. Villages, high in the mountains or in the fertile lowland regions, were much smaller, too. The population of Europe in 1300 was probably 74 million, only 20 percent of what it is today.

Farming and Food

HOW YOU FARMED depended on where you lived. In cold northern parts of Russia and Scandinavia, few crops would grow. People kept sheep and went hunting and fishing for their food. In warmer lands, wheat, peas, and grapes grew well. Farmers also kept cows and goats for milk. There were few machines. Plows were pulled by horses or oxen. Crops were harvested by hand.


LIKE THE EUROPEAN landscape, European weather was, very varied. In Scandinavia and Russia, deep snow lay on the ground all winter; in Spain, Italy, and Greece, the summer sun could be baking hot. Throughout Europe, temperatures were probably a few degrees warmer than they are today. Around 1350, the weather grew cooler and a "little ice age" began. It lasted almost 300 years.


YOUR FAMILY was very important to you. Without their help, you would not survive if you became ill or old. Although religious leaders encouraged people to give to charity, there were no state hospitals or social services. Often, you worked alongside your family -boys helped their fathers in fields and workshops, and girls helped their mothers care for children and run the family home.

   St. Augustine  was a religious Christian leader of Northern Africa (Hippo), and famous for framing the spirit of the Medieval Times.   He said that "Jesus came to earth to make Christians, not mathematicians and scientists." This statement
shaped the future of Europe and the
Western world for almost 1000 years and produced what historians called the Dark Ages. 
     The center of all life after Rome in Europe and much of the Roman world was the Catholic Church. It ruled all parts of everyone's life.To look at math or science or any knowledge without church permission was considered heretical and could make one eligible for torture and painful death. Life was short, especially peasants and women were taught. Why not look to God and heaven as St. Augustine had said?

 ->William the Conqueror 
    In 1066 AD, England had a new king. When Edward the Confessor died, he did not leave an heir. Harold Godwinson, an
Anglo-Saxon noble and distant cousin, became king. His reign did not last for long. William, Duke of Normandy (in France) and cousin of Edward 
the Confessor, challenged the right to the throne. William saw his chance to rule his own kingdom, and attracted a large number of ruthless knights to do his bidding. 

     William brought 4-6,000 knights across the English Channel and promised them land if they would help him fight and defeat Harold and his Anglo-Saxon knights. The Anglo-Saxon knights formed a phalanx of shields, axes and spears against the knights. The Norman knights pretended to retreat. The English broke formation to chase the Normans, and the Norman warhorses and warriors turned on the foot soldiers. By nightfall, Harold was dead and the English defeated. 
     William became William I of England. Many English (Anglo Saxons) opposed William’s claim to the throne. So William seized their land, divided it among Norman knights, and made the English promise homage to the Norman nobles. If they refused, they and their families were killed. He set up a system of law and order which would be extremely loyal to the crown. The name of the local official that reported directly to the king was the sheriff.  
     In 1086 AD, he took a census of the people to tax the property. The information was put into two volumes known as the Domesday Book, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word doom, which means judgment. This allowed William and later historians to see who was exactly living on the land and what role they would play in his feudal kingdom.

->Eleanor of Aquitaine
     Talking about one strong woman, Eleanor takes the cake. She, in a time of no divorce or annulment given permission by the Church, annulled her marriage to one king (husband) 
and married another. She married the first husband, French King Louis VII, shortly after she inherited one of the largest pieces of land in all of Europe. Eleanor's father left most of Southern France, Aquitaine (the largest kingdom in all of Europe at this time), to his daughter, his only child.
    During this time, Eleanor bore two female children but soon tired of the king. She rode with Louis to the Crusades along with 300 ladies in waiting. She too was a good Christian and wanted to participate in this adventure to win the "Holy Land for Christ". Eleanor’s uncle was also there, and when king and her uncle disagreed on battle strategy, Eleanor sided with her uncle. Louis was weak and indecisive, and lost many soldiers to Muslim troops. Eleanor was furious at her husband.
     Angered by his wife's behavior,  Louis ordered her to ride with him and she announced that they were not married in the eyes of God because they were distant relatives. He could force her to do nothing.   Louis was furious, grabbed the reins of her horse and forced her to ride with him. They went home on separate ships. 
     Soon after, Louis had the marriage annulled because Eleanor only bore Louis two female heirs. Eleanor never returned to the tiny kingdom of France, but went back with her knights to her castle in Aquitaine.
       A few months later, Eleanor met a young strong Henry II of England and was swept off her feet. The two married. At
first, the marriage was a happy marriage. They went to the "God forsaken land" as Eleanor would call it later of England and were crowned King and Queen. They had 9 children, 4 daughters and 5 sons. Eleanor, however, caught her husband cheating (very common in this time)  and left him (went back to Aquitaine). 
    Home again in her palace, she set up manners for the court, and encouraged artists. She hired musicians called troubadours who only sang songs of “true love”.  In 1173, Eleanor tried to lead her sons in rebellion against their father who never seemed to keep his promises to them. In the process, her two oldest died.  Eleanor was caught, and imprisoned by Henry for 12 years. Eleanor conspired once again with her surviving sons and one report says that they poisoned Henry. Eleanor was released and permitted to return to her castle. Richard I, her oldest surviving son, became king of England, and later John, another son. In 1204, she died at age 82.

->Richard I or Richard Lionhearted
      Richard I, son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and king of England, fought his father and brothers for the throne. Richard I or the Lionhearted, 
after his father’s death in 1189 AD, was king for only 10 years. Richard was not very good at being king. He was only in England 6 months out of the 10 years he ruled England. He was not a very good son, husband or father. He was promised in marriage but never had any children. He was always fighting in the Crusades (or in his castle in Aquitaine. This  endeavor of constantly going to the Holy Land to fight almost bankrupt England. He left his brother John to collect heavy taxes to pay for his adventures. Fighting is what he was good at. He took great pride in how many he killed and how he killed them. On his way home from the Crusades, he was also captured not by Muslims, but by other Christian Crusaders, and held for ransom.  Richard, the king in the Robin Hood legends, was finally ransomed and returned to his throne. He died shortly thereafter without any apparent heir other than his brother. One other fact little known about Richard was that he spoke only French. 

->King John I
     John was the brother of Richard and the youngest, whining son of Henry II and Eleanor. He became King in 1199.  In 1215, John met with nobles at Runnymede in England, and was forced to sign the Magna Carta. John, who had abused his powers as king found himself trapped by his nobles, and the conditions of the document. This one document changed the world. No longer did every monarch in England have total power to do whatever he chose to do. They must first ask a council. When one reads the Magna Carta, one realizes how this document inspired the Declaration of Independence, and American Constitution. A piece of this document is now part of the national archives in Washington D.C. John also shows up in the Robin Hood legend as “evil Prince John”.

->Dante Alighiery
     This gentleman lived at the end of the Middle Ages (1321 died), yet his writing best describes how medieval man felt about the afterlife and how he would be judged for his deeds on earth. Dante, an Italian from Florence Italy, wrote a book about heaven and hell. Many ideas that modern men have about these places come
from this book. The book written in poem form, Dante’s Divine Comedy, tells the story of a man who has died. The opening of the book begins on Good Friday of the year 1300 AD. It is a jubilee year in the Catholic Church (every 25 years is), and it is a calling for men to return to God. The reason the book is written is to make it clear that all men should do that so they may go to heaven. It was also revolutionary for one more important reason..... he wrote the book in his native Tuscan (form of Italian) instead of Latin. Therefore the common man could read it, if he could read.

      The protagonist’s name in the story is Dante just like the author, and he symbolizes all mankind. He  travels through the three kingdoms of the afterlife to find where his true love, Beatrice, has ended after her death. His guide through the first two places is Virgil, and with Virgil he sees in detail the Inferno (hell), and Purgatory (holding room). The suffering of the souls in these places are almost indescribable. His second guide, Beatrice, the love of his life, leads him into Paridissio or Paradise (heaven) where he can see the happiness that comes from serving God. Dante’s work was widely accepted by the scholars of his day, although Dante was not. Dante, because his politic
al views disagreed with the ruler of Florence Italy, was banished to Ravenna Italy where he died in 1321 AD.

       One of the most beloved historical figures in the Middle East, Saladin did two things that no other Muslim leader had been able to do before him. He united all Muslim tribesmen into a formidable army. In 1187 AD, the Egyptian ruler united the Muslims, and recaptured Jerusalem from the hands of the Crusaders. Many of
Muslim soldiers rode mares (small female horses) that they could wield in and about in battle. They usually used a short bow and arrow and were extremely accurate and deadly. The knights, however, wore wool felt padding, covered by their heavy metal armor, and rode Norman war horses (which were extremely strong and brave). Although the horses were strong, they could not maneuver tightly in a battle situation. These horses were almost unmountable without the help of a squire. The Crusaders wore heavy armor and did not at this point use stirrups.  
     The problems for the Crusaders on the day of battle for the city of Jerusalem were several. First, the Muslim armies
would not fight until the hottest part of the day. The Muslim fighters taunted them to come out from the safety of their castle walls. Many knights died from heat exhaustion. The Muslims, however, were not dressed in heavy armor and
were used to the heat. Second, the Crusaders carried heavy weapons, which became harder to use as the day pressed on. Third, the Muslims pretended to run away. The Crusaders soon found themselves surrounded. Finally, they surrendered and they expected to be slaughtered. Balian, ruler of Jerusalem at the time, brokered a deal with Saladin that saved many lives. Many surviving knights were in shock. The emirs or commanders of the Muslim troops were used to treating their captives with consideration. They did not kill or torture them because they were captives  of another religion. They called Jews and Christians "children of the book". They may have sold captives into slavery, or ask ransom for the captive. The Crusaders, on the other hand, were extremely cruel, and proudly wrote long letters of their conquests of Jerusalem and other places in the Middle East to the Pope. These letters are still in the Vatican archives. They also did not understand why the Muslims did not kill those not of their religion. The Muslims did not believe in forced conversion to the Muslim faith and were extremely tolerant of other religions. This shocked the Crusaders, and in some cases, won their respect. 
     Saladin quickly helped those who needed it, rebuilt religious monuments, and set up government and hospitals in the city. His last battle for the city of Jerusalem was against Richard I, and Richard eventually signed a truce because he realized that he could not win.

->St. Francis Assisi
            When you are from a rich family, it is often expected that you too will be rich and prosperous. This was not the
case with Francis of 
Assisi (1200’s).  When Francis’ father heard that His son wanted to become a monk, he sent Francis’ brothers to kidnap him. Despite his brothers’ efforts, Francis became a monk and started an order that was dedicated to God, poverty, and serving mankind. He and the Brothers of the monastery were known for their cheerfulness, and a deep belief that God would take care of them. Francis was also known for loving all animals.

->Marco Polo
     Marco Polo was born in 1254 AD in Italy. When Marco was six years old, his father Niccolo and uncle Matteo traveled east from Europe to trade for silk and spices. In 1269, they returned with a request from the Kublai Khan, the ruler of the Mongol Empire. The request was for 100 Christian missionaries. Niccolo found his son quite grown up (15 years old) and his wife dead. In 1271, the brothers left again without the 
missionaries but with the 17 year old Marco. The Great Khan liked Marco, and placed him in several positions of power. The
khan would not agree to let the Polos leave his service to go home until 1292, and only if they escorted a princess who was to marry a Persian prince. They left with 600 people, but on the way back, many died. It is said that only 18 survived including the princess.

YouTube Video

            The three Polos finally reached Venice. One account said that at first the city denied that the men were telling the truth, and finally when they were able to show some of the goods they brought back, their story was accepted. Marco was then expected to take part in a battle against the city of Genoa. He was captured and placed in prison for two years. Here he dictated his book, The Travels of Marco Polo. The book sold thousands of copies and made people curious about their world. 

->Joan of Arc
       Joan of Arc was an interesting teenager. She heard voices. In today’s world, Joan would have been to a mental institution. In her day, she was taken to the ruler to help him fight a war. The war was called the Hundred Years War- a war between England and France. The English tried to take over France, and so the French and English had battle after battle over who would rule France. Charles, the oldest son of the French king, was leading the French armies. In 1429, a French farm girl 
appeared. She said that while she was praying, she heard heavenly voices tell her that she must save France.
She convinced Charles that her heavenly order was real, and that if Charles gave her an army, the city of Orleans and much of France would be free of English rule. Joan cut off her long hair, put on a suit of armor, rode and fought with the troops, and led the army to victory. She became known as the “Maid of Orleans”. A few months later, however, Joan was captured by the English, imprisoned for one year, and then put on trial in a church court for witchcraft, and dressing like a boy. She was burned alive at the stake.
        Twenty-four years after Joan’s death, a new church court retried Joan… this time in France. And this time, she is found innocent. A bit too late I fear. In 1920 AD, the Catholic Church made Joan a Saint.

->Thomas Aquinas
       Thomas Aquinas was a scholar and priest. He believed that both reason and faith were gifts from God. In other words, he believed that science and faith could work hand in hand. He wrote a book called Suma Theologica or A Summary of Religious Thought. In the book, he asked deep religious questions and offered possible answers. The Catholic Church used his book for many years. He was the thinking man of the church. 


why we are what we are--> see if you can see cause and effect..

1) Kings, dukes, lords, princes, and even the pope were busy fighting wars over who would have the most power. Thousands of people diedknight_shield_and_sword_md_wht.gif for the noble’s cause; many had no idea why they were fighting. Who had time to read?
2) No one, not even many nobles, could read and write. It was not practical. What these people needed to learn was memorized. Paper was non-existent in Europe, and books were so expensive (because they were hand-written on parchment or dried animal skins) that only the richest and the Church could own them.
3) Paper was also an invention of devil worshipers or so the Church said. Did not the Egyptians first use it with their papyrus scrolls, then the Chinese, and then the Muslim scholars? None of these people were Christian, and at this time in history, items such as paper would have been looked at as evil. Candles for light were a luxury and only used when absolutely necessary.
4)  Viking invaders were constantly coming from the North, Mongols from the East, and Muslims from the South. If people knew of such frightening people, they were terrified and would do anything for protection. There were also constant wars between families, kingdoms, warlords, cities and principalities.  The feudal system or a system very similar to slavery had begun supposedly to protect the poor. There was a price for such protection.
5)  In the Middle Ages, one of the scariest times for humans was during childbirth and childhood. Infant mortality or a baby dying before or at birth was common. Any complications in mother or child (which doctors handle with ease today) usually meant death for mother and or baby. Mothers of the Middle Ages in Paris were warned not to name a baby before age one because the baby had a better chance of dying than living, and not to get too close or emotionally attached to the child until they were age 4. If the child made it to age 4, he stood a better chance of survival. The average life expectancy in Europe at the time was between 28-32 years. LISTEN TO STOLEN CHILD BY LOREENA MCKINNIT.
6)  There was no prenatal care for expectant mothers. Mothers were expected to work in the fields until they delivered, and return soon thereafter, or care for the home and children.  If she died giving birth or shortly thereafter, it was “God’s will”, the people of the time would say.
7)   Since kingdoms could no longer trade as Rome once had (in a “Walmart”-high volume type of way), food and luxury items were scarce and expensive. So all food had to be homegrown, and everything handmade. By the end of the day, no one had time, energy or light to read.
8)   Stories were usually oral tradition, and often the only entertainment after a long day’s work.
9)   Many of the peasants rarely traveled more than a few miles from their home. They knew nothing of the outside world, or what was available to them. Many were expected to do what their family had always done. In other words, if your father were a blacksmith, then you would be a blacksmith. All were expected to obey the authority whether it is the lord and lady of the manor or the priest or bishop of the church. If authorities said reading was forbidden, then there was NO READING. Authority must always be obeyed.

All in all, life in the Middle Ages was gruesome and difficult. People were afraid of devils, spirits, dragons, and monsters that might carry them away. Magicians and fortunetellers worked their magic for the simple-minded peasant and made the peasants goods “disappear”! There was little time (even for children) for play in such a harsh rigid world.

What “woke up” Europe? You may be surprised. Some events took place that shocked and shook Europe. These events opened the doors of knowledge and inquiry that seemed to be sealed shut.


  The Muslims traded with everyone. And if the Christian countries wanted any luxuries from the East such as spices, or silk, they had to trade with the Muslims. The European traders were astonished at how advanced the people of the desert were. The stories that these European traders brought back were often treated as heresy (false statements about the church or religion), and so the trader was in danger of being tortured and imprisoned if he told such stories. One such trader that this happened to was Marco Polo. His stories of the Mongols, and Muslims and their knowledge and technology were at first considered scandalous, and heresy. Polo was imprisoned when they returned to Italy for making such claims. Relatives went to the prisons begging him to recant his statements. He did not. And soon his book made its way into the world and set off an explosion of explorers/traders who tried to make their way to this rich place.

   The pope (and the Catholic Church) became more powerful and showed the power when he crowned Charlemagne king of the Holy Roman Empire. This one act said to the Christian world that the pope had enough power to create kings, or to crush them. In other words, the pope was saying with his actions that he was more powerful than any king or any kingdom. This act made the Byzantines furious. In 1054 AD, the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church split apart forever.

    In the 800’s to the late 1000’s, Muslim scholars copied and recopied ancient manuscripts. This was done in Baghdad. Baghdad opened schools to teach young scholars how to read and speak ancient languages, and how to write so that the scribes could translate and copy manuscripts. These schools later became known as universities. They preserved many of the ancient documents such as the writing of Plato and Aristotle. This idea spread to Europe.

Muslim doctors also thought that there was something in the air that must cause disease. They did not necessarily believe that this disease was a punishment. The West (Europe) had little or no contact with these ideas, and thought all disease to be a punishment from God, or an evil spirit. As a consequence, Europeans lived in fear that any action that they took might be met with God's wrath.


 Before Pope Gregory VII, the pope was known as the "bishop of Rome", In other words, the ruler of the area was the boss. Known as "the DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS", the faithful believed God had chosen the ruler. Therefore the "bishop" or the CEO of this group of Parishes, had to report to the monarch. In 1054, a world event known as "The Great Schism" took place between the leaders in Constantinople (the Orthodox Christian Church) and the pope (Roman Catholic Church). The ruler of Constantinople said that he would never bow to the Catholic Church leader or any leader.  Pope Gregory VII was elected by the Cardinals, became pope,  and was determined to create a firm stand (in 1075 AD)to clean the papal house of all those that were not loyal to the Pope and the Catholic Church. His rules also made all other Christians who did not agree the enemy of the church. He said the following:

1.  No king has power over the pope or any clergy. The Pope has the highest authority and is God’s direct representative.

2.  The Pope was the highest authority over all church officials. The kings or nobles were not.

3.  No ruler could choose a high- ranking church official. Only the pope could do this.

4.  Any government official who disobeyed the pope could be excommunicated (or thrown out of the Church). This meant that the vassals were no longer legally or morally bound to obey the ruler. A German king tested the new ruling. The pope excommunicated him. When the King realized that none of his nobles would obey him, he stood outside the Pope’s window, barefoot in the snow for three days and nights, begging for forgiveness. The Pope had pity, and let the king back into the church. This act showed the growing power of the Catholic Church.  

5. The pope also said that priests and bishops could no longer marry. This rule was interesting because before that time, priests and bishops were allowed to marry. The problem was that when the father died, the oldest son inherited all land and possessions, not the church. Wealth was in land, so this rule was made.

This made a huge change for the Europeans and they were told that any dissent to the new rules (called a papal bull) would be treated as treason by God and man.

     During the Middle Ages, people were land rich, but money poor. The reason is that there were so many kingdoms that people found it easier to barter (trade) for what they needed rather than trade money, for the coins may be worthless if the lord of the manor is killed or dies. So when people of the Middle Ages needed money (or gold), they went to the bankers. Who were the bankers? Usury or lending money with interest was one way of becoming rich. Usury, however, was considered a sin by the church.  So the people who began to hold the job of the banker were those that could hold no other job or own a piece of land…the Jews. Since the Jews were not Christians, they were not held to the laws about lending money, and many became financially successful. When the Crusaders left for the Holy Lands, they knew they needed gold, and they knew where to get it from-the Jews. Many were attacked and killed along the way to the Holy Land.

III.     Many Jews also became successful traders. The Jewish trader had contact with the outside world, and brought much of this knowledge back with him (gathered from the outside world). No one however paid attention to the knowledge at first. Because of these factors, the Jews were looked on with real hatred in Europe. When things went wrong with crops, or people got sick, the uneducated Europeans felt it must be God punishing them for allowing Jews to live among them. The Jew was looking at “God’s secrets” when he studied knowledge. This made God mad, the Christian felt. Knowledge was to be left to God. Man’s job was to serve God. This fueled more anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) among the Europeans.

IV.   In the early 11th century, a fanatical religious leader, a Muslim caliph from Egypt, decided to destroy some non-Muslim sights. The ruler, even among Muslim scholars, was considered unstable and fanatical. He burned down the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Christian). His son, however, rebuilt it better and more spectacular than before. This part was never told in Western Europe. The Europeans wanted to believe that any civilization other than their own was evil. So stories began to circulate about the evil empires and religions to the East and how they were monstrous and dangerous During the 11th century, something strange happened in the Catholic Church. A French cardinal was made pope for the first time, and he moved the papal court to Avignon France, because Rome at this time was smelly and disease was everywhere. Major repairs needed to be made to the Vatican, and the pope needed other quarters until these repairs were finished. The Pope and cardinals got so comfortable in these rich French surroundings that they did not want to move back to Rome. At the time, the pope had his own court of justice, laws, and army, so his power was growing. A large group of Italian cardinals elected a new pope to rule from Rome and for years, the two popes fought for who was the true pope. Finally a decision was made, and one pope ruled from Rome only.

How centuries of war began with one man's LETTER...

by Melissa Snell


The Byzantine (Constantinople)  Empire was in trouble.

   For decades the Turks, fierce nomadic warriors recently converted to Islam, had been conquering outer areas of the empire and subjecting these lands to their own rule. While they treated the Christian residents fairly, they were not so decent to Arab inhabitants. Furthermore, they established their capital a mere 100 miles from Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium. If Byzantine civilization was to survive, the Turks must be stopped.

   Emperor Alexius Comnenus knew he did not have the means to stop these invaders on his own. Because Byzantium had been a center of Christian freedom and learning, he felt confident in asking the Pope for assistance. In 1095 AD he sent a letter to Pope Urban II, asking him to send armed forces to Eastern Rome to help drive out the Turks. The forces Alexius more than likely had in mind were mercenaries, paid professional soldiers whose skill and experience would be more efficient in defending Byzantine lands than that of peasant armies. The emperor did not realize that Urban had an altogether different agenda.

   The Papacy in Europe had acquired considerable power over the preceding decades. Isolated churches and priests that had been under the authority of various secular lords had been brought together under the influence of Pope Gregory VII. Now the Church was a controlling force in Europe in both religious and secular matters, and it was Pope Urban II who succeeded Gregory (after the brief pontificate of Victor III) and continued his work. Although it is impossible to say exactly what Urban had in mind when he received the emperor's letter, his subsequent actions were most revealing.

   At the Council of Clermont in November of 1095, Urban made a speech that literally changed the course of history. In it, he stated that the Turks had not only invaded Christian lands but had visited unspeakable atrocities on Christians (of which, according to Robert the Monk's account, he spoke in great detail). This was absolutely false, but it was just the beginning.

   Urban went on to admonish those assembled for heinous sins against their brother Christians. He spoke of how Christian knights battled other Christian knights, wounding, maiming and killing each other and thus imperiling their immortal souls. If they were to continue to call themselves knights, they should stop killing each other and rush to the Holy Land.

"You should shudder, brethren, you should shudder at raising a violent hand against Christians; it is less wicked to brandish your sword against Saracens."

(from Robert the Monk's account of Urban's speech)

   Urban promised complete remission of sins for anyone killed in the Holy Land or even anyone who died on the way to the Holy Land in this righteous crusade.

One might argue that those who have studied the teachings of Jesus Christ would be shocked at the suggestion of killing anyone in Christ's name. But it is important to remember that the only people who were generally able to study scripture were priests and members of cloistered religious orders. No peasants and few knights could read at all, and those who could rarely if ever had access to a copy of the gospel. A man's priest was his connection to God; the Pope was sure to know God's wishes better than anyone. Who were they to argue with such an important man of religion?

      Furthermore, Urban had been correct when he'd decried the violence going on in Europe at that time. Knights killed each other nearly every day, usually in practice tournaments but occasionally in deadly battle. The knight, it could prudently be said, lived to fight. And now the Pope himself offered all knights a chance to pursue the sport they loved most in the name of Christ.

    Urban's speech set in action a deadly chain of events that would continue for several hundred years, the repercussions of which are still felt today. Not only was the first crusade followed by six other formally numbered crusades and many other forays, but the entire relationship between Europe and the eastern lands was irreparably altered. Crusaders did not limit their violence to Turks, nor did they readily distinguish among any groups not obviously Christian. Constantinople itself, at that time still a Christian city, was attacked by members of the fourth crusade in 1204, thanks to ambitious Venetian merchants.

   Was Urban attempting to acquire an empire in the east? If so, it is doubtful he could have envisioned the extremes to which the Crusaders would go or the historical impact his ambitions eventually had. He never even saw the final results of the first crusade; by the time news of the capture of Jerusalem reached the west, Pope Urban II was dead.

Related Articles

From Military History n magazine come these three articles on the First Crusade:

The Ill-Fated Crusade of the Poor People

by J. Arthur McFall

The First Battle of the First Crusade: Dorylaeum

by Terry L. Gore

The Climax of the First Crusade

by J. Arthur McFall

Online Resources

Sources & Suggested Reading

The links below will take you to mySimon, where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about each book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.

A History of the Crusades: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
by Steven Runciman

Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade
by John France

The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World
edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy P. Mottahedeh

Dungeon Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades
by John J. Robinson

A Short History of Byzantium
by John Julius Norwich

Primary Sources

The Alexiad of Anna Comnena
translated by E. R. Sewter

The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials (Middle Ages Series)
edited by Edward Peters


Dark Legacyis copyright © 1997-2003 Melissa Snell. Permission is granted to reproduce this article for personal or classroom use only, provided that the URL below is included. For reprint permission, please contactMelissa Snell.

The URL for this feature is:













(name them individually if possible)

1. Peasants

2. Children’s

3. French and Norman nobles


Richard the Lionhearted and Saladin

Crusaders of Venice sack Constantinople



1. Peasants killed by time reached Turkey

2. Children all killed or sold into slavery

3. Nobles kill all kinds of groups on their way to Jerusalem, and then in Jerusalem.

Failed to recapture Damascus

Frederick drowned; Philip returned to France to seize English land; Richard rejected chances to get Jerusalem by diplomacy



European feudalism decreased; trade increased between Muslims and Christians


Richard fights instead but does NOT win against Saladin

Weakened the Byzantine Empire



Why did people go on Crusades?

·Why did Pope Urban II call for a Crusade?(what did he hope to gain)

  1. Unite European Christians in a common cause
  2.  Make the kings and noble vassals under his spiritual leadership
  3.   Subject the Eastern orthodox churches to Rome
  4.   Return the Holy Lands to Christian control
  5. ·Religious convictions—Pope’s call to “take up the cross”
  6. They viewed the Holy Lands as rightfully theirs (Christian), and the place where all is forgiven
  7. In a Holy War (Pope Urban said), dying for the cause led to salvation.
  8. ·The kings and nobles saw the opportunity for glory at home and the power of landholdings in the Middle East.
  9. ·Merchants saw a chance for quick gain and a chance for trade expansion.
  10. The lower classes could:
  11. Have their taxes canceled or paid by the church;
  12. Avoid jail by going
  13. Plunder for personal gain.
  14. Have all their sins forgiven


Why Did the Crusades Fail?

1. There was never a supreme commander power struggles between kings, knights, and nobles led to disunity.

2. Poor tactics and strategy and the inability to adapt to military methods suitable for the region and the enemy.

3. Dressed too heavily for climatic conditions.

4. Lack of geographical knowledge.

5. Refusal to swear allegiance to Byzantine emperor and receive his support and information.

6. Refusal to coordinate effort is the glory was not for them.

7. Difficulties in maintaining supplies led to "barbarian' acts by civilized Europeans.

8. They established a castle defense only along the coast and never incorporated the allegiance of the local people.

Social, Economic, and Political Changes

1. Improved prestige of church

2.  Feudalism declined because power became more centralized.

3. Kings or nobles who succeeded in the Crusades became very rich.

4. The power of individual kings increased (richer) and lesser kings decreased.

5. Strengthened the Kings or Centralized Power

a. While kings and their knights were away fighting, their territory was confiscated or conquered and consolidated the territory under a few kings instead of many.

6. Weakened Serfdom

a. Serfs gained their freedom on the crusades and while their masters were away or if master killed, serf moved into the manor or to the new towns

b. New town laws changed the base of power from the nobles to the leaders of the town

c.  Serf had to live in town 1 year and 1 day to gain freedom

7. Cultures mixed and changed.

8. New products were introduced such as fruit, cotton, rice, spices.

9. Reading and writing once again becomes important. Encouraged learning because people became curious.

10.  Stimulated Trade

a. Towns grew in size and importance

b. New products plus greater mobility 


History and the Movies= how real? 




    Last but not least, read how the SILK ROAD CHANGED THE WORLD....


    YouTube Video




    Black Plague Response

    Directions: After reading this document please write a 5 to 7 sentence extended response to the following question. 

    Prompt: This period in history people did not understand modern medicine, how would people today react to disease similar to plague? What steps would be taken to protect those who had not been infected? Be sure to compare and contrast the modern time and the period history we are studying in your answer.




     Make sure you carefully read the selection from the book (p. 108-115). Pay attention to any vocabulary words, information boxes, and picture captions as you read.

    ·      When finished reading, answer the following questions in complete sentences on a separate piece of paper.

    1.     In what year does the author indicate the events of the Black Plague occur?

    2.    How did rats and fleas play a role in spreading the Black Plague or Black Death?

    3.    About how many people died in Europe as a result of the Black Death during the 14th Century (1300s)?

    4.    Why was “bleeding” a popular treatment for the Black Plague? Was it effective?

    5.    Define pandemic. Why was the Black Plague considered a pandemic?

    6.    Describe the meaning behind the nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosey.”

    7.    How did robbers take advantage of the panic caused by the Black Plague?

    8.    Explain (in detail) how fleas spread the plague.

    9.    Look at the picture of the plague doctor on page 113 and read the caption. Why do you think “plague doctors” dressed like this when treating patients?

    10.  How could an infection in a person’s lungs end up being more deadly than when the plague was spread by a flea? 


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