The Middle Ages was an era that could be described several different ways. Like all spans of time they had their downfalls, victories, different views of faith, and different forms of government. The Middle Ages span from 500 to 1500 in Europe. This is a very extensive period of time, and it is difficult to label it with one name. So many different events and themes took place. Nevertheless, the labels that best describe this era would have to be The Dark Ages, The Age of Feudalism, and The Age of Faith. The Middle Ages could be referred to as the Dark Ages for several reasons. In this time period there were a lot of wars and raids taking place, especially Viking raids. “846 According to their custom the Northmen plundered… and burned the town of Dordrecht… the Northmen, with their boats filled with immense booty, including both men and goods, returned to their own country….” (Doc.3). Often times there was nothing that people could do to prevent these raids because they happened so quickly. The Vikings were not at all like the people they were used to fighting for the object of land.
The Vikings only wanted money and prisoners, and that made them harder to stop. There were also barbarians like The Moors, and The Hungarians who brought terror with them wherever they wandered. “They burned down the churches and then departed with a crowd of captives… there is no longer any trade, only unceasing terror….” (Doc. 1). Some people would say that you should focus on the accomplishments of the era, and not on the negative. There is just so much negative that it tends to outshine the positive. This document tries to show you the side of the Middle Ages, “It flourished in the midst of rude surroundings, fierce passions, and material ambitions…” (Doc. 7). The era did continue amidst these things, but that does not make it a good age to live in. It makes it a dark age just because of its rude surroundings, and fierce passions. Feudalism was the social system in Europe in the Middle Ages. Nobility would hold land from the Crown and in return offer military service. “I will aid the count of Champagne in my own person, and I will send to the countess of Champagne the knights whose service I owe to them for the fief which I hold of them….” (Doc. 2). This age could be named The Age of Feudalism because it was the dominant social structure of the time period. This is also the only age when we really see Feudalism play a strong role in society.
To understand the structure of it more completely take a look at the next document. “Vassal to Lord -Loyalty –Military Service –Ransom, if needed; Lord to Vassal -Protection –Land (fief)” (Doc. 4). The vassal was the name that was given to the person who was granted the land. Feudalism was a major part of everyday life for people who lived in Europe during The Middle Ages. The Catholic Church had a lot of power in all aspects of life in this era. The Pope even had the power to ask people to fight for God, and they would do just that. In this document Pope Urban 11 is calling for a crusade or holy war to recapture the Holy Land. “Your brethren who live in the [Middle] East are in urgent need of your help….” “All who die by the way, whether by land or sea, or in the battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins” (Doc. 9).
Many people heard this and obeyed risking their lives for the church. The power the church had was even visible as you can tell from Document 10 which is a picture of a Gothic cathedral. It’s standing high above the people, and even above the buildings surrounding it. More examples of what people would do for the church come from documents 5 and 8. Document 5 is a Church council calling for the observance of the Truce of God. “…so that no one may commit murder, arson, robbery, or assault, no one may injure another with a sword, club, or any other kind of weapon….” (Doc. 5). This showed the Church’s power to even make laws that people would obey. Document 8 is adapted from the fourteenth-century monastic vows of Brother Gerard. The document show what some people would give up to be a monk in the Church.
“I hereby renounce my parents, my brothers and relatives, my friends, my possessions…and the vain and empty glory and pleasure of this world. I also renounce my own will, for the will of God” (Doc. 8). This is why the title The Age of Faith belongs to The Middle Ages. An additional document would be helpful to make this essay better. If I had been given a document on the serfs lives I could’ve used it for The Dark Ages, and the Age of Feudalism. The Middle Ages are a very interesting time period to write about due to the many different aspects of the period that come to play. Even though it was such a dark time there are always some bright things in the dark. For this time period it was the Church, and the inventions and knowledge that were gained. The labels The Dark Ages, the Age of Feudalism, and the Age of Faith are truly the best ways to describe The Middle Ages.
Courtney from Study Moose
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