The High Middle Ages From Beowulfs World to Dante and Chaucers Universe
When people discuss the Dark Ages, they typically mean the Low Middle Ages. (That means the crazy centuries just after the fall of Rome in 455.)
However, the late medieval world is quite strikingly different from the earlier one. 800 CE = the time of the Charlemagnes Empire, which unifies France and Germany under his kingdom 1066 CE = the time of William the Conquerors conquest of England
On the continent, this later period is called The High Middle Ages to contrast it with the earlier Low Middle Ages. In England, scholars may use the term Anglo-Saxon period to refer to the Low Middle Ages and the termMiddle English period to refer to the High Middle Ages.
The Low Middle Ages is a time of Germanic tribes sweeping across Europe, of Viking invasions, of small tribal kingdoms fighting in war bands. Its a chaotic, lawless time. Here, we have the mast of a Viking longboat. Note the dragon imagery, O ye readers of Beowulf!
Roman architectural technology is lost. Many early churches are simply crammed into ruins of old Roman temples. Temple of Clitumnus,a Christian church established about the year 650 in northern Italy.
The architecture was in a style called Romanesque. It had some superficial Roman features, but short and squat. The Tomb of King Theodoric, barbarian ruler over Italy, built before 526 C.E. Ravenna, Italy.
So how do we get from this.... The Tomb of King Theodoric, barbarian ruler, built before 526 C.E. Located in Ravenna, Italy.
…to this? Lincolnshire Cathedral, England, c. 1200
Or this? Choir at Canterbury Cathedral. Note the Roman arches combined with gabled ceilings. Note how tall it is!
From Anglo-Saxon manuscripts like this.... First page of the Nowell Codex (the Beowulf manuscript) Cotton Vitellius A.xv, produced circa 800 CE,
To gold-encrusted books like this? Gold-illuminated lettering for Psalm 1:1 Beatus Vir,from Dagulfs Psalter. Created in the court school of Emperor Charlemagne. Östreichische National Bibliothek, Vienna, Codex 1861, fol. 25 r, 9th century.
Or rubricated books like this one? Illuminated initial E depicting the prophet Ezekiel, eating the bitter scroll from the angel before his vision.
Or artistic talent like this monks? Illumination for Psalm 23. From ninth-century Psalter, from Saint-Germain- des-Prés. Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, Bibl. Fol. 23.
To texts that combine all these lovely techniques in a riot of detail? Unicorn Psalter, circa 1200 from France. Note the detail in the historiated initial and the babuins or grotesques in the margins.
We move from an age of Anglo-Saxon war chiefs and Viking pirates... The Sutton Hoo helmet of an Anglo-Saxon cyning or thegn, dating to early 600, found near Suffolk, England.
To the romanticized glory of late feudal monarchy. Statuary over Sarcophagus of King Henry IV and his wife, Joan of Navarre, from Canterbury Cathedrals crypt.
That is the question for today. Display armor from Belvoir Castle in England.
We start with these contrasts-- Religion? (Paganism fades) Tripartite Social Structure? Technology? (moldboard plow, better timber production) Population Growth? Carolingian Development? Politics? (Tribal-->Feudal)
Rise of The Knight Vassalage Cavalry and stirrups Lance Charge Crossbow leads to Platemail armor Courtly Love--code of polite behavior amidst the court Chivalry--code of behavior on the battlefield