Medieval Times Article: Life in the Middle Ages
Today, as we discuss life in the Middle Ages, you will learn about a variety of topics including the church, Feudalism, the Manor system, and the role of women. While reading, keep in mind that this time period is not that long ago, especially when we compare it to other civilizations we have learned about this year such as Mesopotamia and Egypt. There are some themes that go throughout the great civilizations such as religion. In Medieval Europe, Christianity was a very important part of life. Christians would show devotion to God by going to Jerusalem or Rome. Each of those places is very sacred to the religion of Christianity. Jerusalem is where Jesus spent most of his time teaching and Rome is where the Pope lives. Christians would not go to Mecca, however, because Mecca is the sacred place for another major religion that was growing at the same time: Islam. Islam will be discussed in depth in the future. As was mentioned earlier, Rome is the home of the Pope. Not all Christians are Catholics. Some Christians are known as protestant, which means they believe in Christianity but do not follow the Pope. Both Catholics and non-Catholics are all considered Christians. It may seem confusing, if so, we can discuss it further in class. Jerusalem is known as the Holy City for Christians.
There are a certain group of people that do more than the average Christian when it comes to being devoted. Some people that believe in Christianity go to church once a week and there are other people who totally devote their lives everyday to Christianity. Young men who devote their lives to Christianity are called Monks. Monks do not live like the average Christian. They only eat one meal per day. They give up all their earthly possessions except for their begging bowl which they use to eat their soup. Monks do not get married and spend many hours each day praying to God. Monks do not need to spend much time deciding what to wear because they only wear one thing their whole life: a robe. Young women who devote their lives to Christianity are called nuns. Monks live in a building called a Monastery. Nuns live in a building called a convent. Monks and nuns did many different things while living in their buildings. Each group would definitely pray a lot, they would study, cultivate crops, and help the poor. It was very important for them to farm because they never left their monastery or convent, which meant they must grow their own food to sustain life. Missionaries are people who go out to teach people that are non-believers about a religion. Monks, nuns, and missionaries are all still in society today.
One of the most major aspects of Medieval Europe is Feudalism. During the 800’s, there was a system of political, social, and economic aspects known as Feudalism. This totally formed and shaped society of the Medieval Times. Like other social pyramids we have learned about, Feudalism also had a hierarchy, which means not everybody was equal. At the top of the Feudalism hierarchy was the Monarch, who was the supreme ruler. Basically the King and/or Queen. Right below the Monarch was the Lords. These people pledged their loyalty to the monarch and provided their military support as long as the King would give them land. Lords did many things such as granted estates, owned land, collected taxes, maintained the order, enforced laws, and protected the peasants. Though not as powerful as the King, the Lords were very powerful however because they controlled the military. Below the Lords came the Knights. These people are trained warriors on horseback. They have a celebrity-like status. They are the rock stars of the Medieval Times. Knights are brave, courageous, and muscular. They wear shiny armor and ride around on horses. Knights always display chivalry, which is a code of behavior including deep faith, ready to die for the church, giving to all, and standing against injustices. Knights had a distinct look. Besides their shiny armor and beautiful swords, they also wore a white belt around their waist as a symbol of their status. Lowest in the feudalism hierarchy at the bottom were the serfs or farmers. Though the lowest as far as status, these people numbered the greatest and were very important because they did all the food growing. The lords and knights would protect the serfs so they could continue to farm and provide food. Feudalism is shaped like a pyramid because at the bottom, there are a lot of serfs/farmers. As you go up to the knights, then lords, then King at the top, each level has fewer and fewer people, ending with the Monarch with just one person. We will be constructing something in class to help you visualize the Feudalism pyramid better. Like all systems, they soon end. Feudalism began to decline because lords had many faithful knights, giving the lord a lot of military power. The result of this was lords becoming independent from the king.
Along with Feudalism, the Manor system was also a popular thing during the Medieval Times. The manor system was a way to organize the farm labor. There were four parts to the Manor system. First, there was a Manor house. This was the lord’s home. Included with the manor house was a village for the serfs to live. The farmers did not go home after their day of work. They lived at the farm. The second part of the manor system was the farmland. This is obviously important because without farm land, there would be no farming. Third, there was the meadowland. Again, very important to have meadowlands for the animals to graze. Fourth, the manor system had a wasteland. With so many people and animals living together, there is a lot of waste material. There needs to be some place for all that waste to go, so again, the wasteland was very important. There were many other things included in the Manor system such as: church, mill, gardens, orchards, and farm buildings. The farming method was known as a “Three Field Rotation.” Things would be grown on one field, and then rotated to another field the next year. This would help maintain the quality of the soil and not wear out the land. In the first field, rye and wheat would be grown. In the second field, oats and barley. The third field would typically be open, so it would rest for the next year. This method of rotating crops from field to field helped keep the soil fertile. Guilds are a group of people that are united by a common interest.
Women in the medieval times had few rights. It was actually better for women to not get married because unmarried women had rights. Once the woman got married, she would give up her rights. Married women had no rights. The father or husband controlled what the lady would do in life. Sounds depressing, right girls?
Rulers and Invaders
We have covered many years this year in 6th grade. We have covered many topics and learn
many interesting things. We started with the Stone Age, which is roughly 10,000 years ago. Now, we
have made it all the way up the Medieval Times, which takes place roughly between 500 AD and 1500
AD. This time period is often referred to the Middle Ages. It is called this because it comes between
the Dark Ages and Modern times. (Right in the middle!) Anyway, the Medieval times has some
differences between it and the other units we’ve studied. For example, the Medieval Times is not a
country or a city. It is simply an area of land, specifically, the continent of Europe. Some of our
ancestors have come from Europe. In the Medieval Times, there were a few large cities. One of them
is called England. This was the place to be. This was the home of the medieval times royalty. As
England grew, there arose a need for a better way to keep track of all the people living in England. So,
the Domesday Book was created. This book helped keep track of the people living in England.
One significant ruler of the Medieval times is a person named Charlemagne. He conquered
many lands and forced people to become Christians. Was this a good thing? Some people would
answer, “yes, its good that he forced people to become Christians.” However, I would say no, it wasn’t
a good thing because of the word “force.” It’s never good to force people to do things. Teach them
about something and let them decide for themselves. Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the
Roman Empire in West Europe. This was a very large empire that promoted culture and learning.
Charlemagne worked hard to improve the lives of his people.
Sadly, Charlemagne died, which caused the empire to fall apart. Once this happened, a new
group of people came down from the Scandinavia countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark) and
attacked Charlemagne’s kingdom. The Vikings invaded all over. They pillaged and plundered England,
France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and Spain. Once specific group of Vikings were called the
Normans. They settled in northern France and became Christians. The most famous Norman leader
was William the Conqueror who actually was the one who founded Feudalism.
Throughout the Medieval Times, most kings governed fair and justly. However, King John came
along and changed everything. King John used more force, military power, and money than any other
king. According to King John, he was above the law. The law didn’t apply to him. For example, if King
John was low on cash, he could and would simply raise the taxes on the farmers for no reason, which
would line his pockets with lots of money. Basically, King John was running around doing whatever he
wanted. This type of leadership made the Lords very angry. Since the Lords control the Knights, they
had some fighting power. War and battle then broke out across the land. After a period of fighting, a
document was written to not only stop the fighting but also to control the King. It was called the
Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was an extremely important document. It helped everybody from the
King down to the lowliest peasant. The Magna Carta stated that the king could not make special
demands for money without the consent of the Lords. This meant no more raising taxes unless the
Lords approved it. Also, the Magna Carta said that no free man could be imprisoned, exiled or
deprived of property except by law. The great value of the Magna Carta was that it limited royal
power. Now, the king had to obey the same laws as everybody else. Our government frame work is
based on the Magna Carta’s principle of checks and balances.
The medieval times witnessed a major clash of religions. The clash of religions, this “holy” war, was called the Crusades. In discussing and learning about what the Crusades were, let us look at the Five W’s: Who, what when, why, where, and how. In this article, propaganda of the Crusades will also be discussed. Propaganda is exaggerating or twisting the truth to persuade someone to do something, essentially giving false information. Throughout this article, there will be a very striking picture on the board. The picture symbolizes this holy war known as the Crusades and I want you to think about the picture and how it represents the Crusades. I want you to think about each “face” and the stereotype of the two sides. At the end of your notes, you will be asked to explain how and why the picture symbolizes the Crusades. Let us begin.
First of all, lets get something straight: the crusades were a series of wars fought between two religions that began around 1076 AD. It was Muslims vs. Christians. Muslims believe in the religion of Islam, which was started by Muhammad. Christians believe in the religion of Christianity, which was started by Jesus. Though both religions worship the same God, they have very different views and beliefs, thus causing them to run into major conflicts. Plus, both religions wanted the same piece of land.
What are the Crusades, you ask? The crusades were a series of wars initiated by the Christians, known as the crusaders. Yes, the Christians started this long, brutal war. The Christians, led by the King and the Pop, wanted to win back the Holy Land. This holy land that I speak of is Jerusalem and it was very sacred to both religions which will be discussed later. At the beginning, it was the Christians who initiated the Crusades because at the time, the Holy land was controlled by the Muslims. The Muslims had something the Christians wanted and instead of diplomatically trying to get Jerusalem, the Christians went to war with the Muslims. Now, diplomacy, which is non-violent methods, perhaps was not possible between these two religions. If you haven’t already figured this out, the “where” is Jerusalem. All this is taking place in the holy land known as Jerusalem.
A key question to ask when learning about any new topic, especially wars, is the “why?” question. Both religions felt very strongly about the holy land. They both wanted it badly, for their own reasons. Jerusalem was very important to both Christians and Muslims. Jerusalem was considered to be the holy land for both, as has been pointed out already. On the Christian side, Jerusalem was very important because of three main factors. First, Jesus was born nearby in Bethlehem. Second, Jesus lived most of his life there and third, Jesus was crucified there. Essentially, Jesus, the founder of this religion, spent the vast majority of his life there and that made Jerusalem very sacred to the Christians. For the Muslims, Jerusalem was very important to them because their founder, Muhammad, spent most of his life there as well. So, essentially, both religions were fighting over the same land because of how sacred it was to them.
Now, let’s take a look at how this all came about. First, it is important to point out that the Christians fighters, mostly knights, were called Crusaders. Being that the Muslims already had control of the Holy Land, it was the Christian crusaders that had to make the long journey from England to Jerusalem to fight the Muslims. The king sent these Crusaders to fight the Muslims. One other factor that played into the decision to fight for the Christian crusaders was propaganda and the chance at glory. Pop Urban told people the Muslims were robbing and torturing Christians making a pilgrimage, or trip, to the Holy land to worship. This may or may not have been true, but the Pope used it because he knew that when the Knights heard this, they would be enraged and go off to fight. For the knights, the Crusades offered a chance for glory and wealth if they were able to fight bravely and survive. In all, seven crusades were waged between the Christians and the Muslims. The possession of the Holy land went back and forth, until finally, the Muslims gained control for good, thus winning the Crusades.