Medieval Europe

Karlee Scheib


Feudalism was based around the rights of the people. The loyalty and service of others was proven through feudalism. The feudal system consisted of three major terms, including a lord, a vassal and a fief. The lord would grant a fief or a piece of land to a vassal, which was the term used to identify the person who received the land. In return the vassal or the receiver of the land would give the lord military protection and other services if needed. Anybody could be a lord as long as they owned land. There were also knights who were classified as the people who fought in exchange for the fiefs, therefore they could also be known as vassals. The feudal pyramid has four main parts. At the top ruled the king. Next came the nobles and the bishops who were known as wealthy landowners. Just below the nobles and bishops (or vassals) were the knights who fought for lords in exchange for land. Lastly were the peasants who worked in the fields. Some peasants were also known as serfs, who were people that were born to the land and felt like it was their duty to stay on the land and care for it since they were given it to begin with. Serfs were also given protection and housing in return for labor.

Manor System

In the Middle Ages the manor was the Lord's property of land (estate). The serfs were born to the land so they tended the fields and performed other important tasks to maintain the land and care for the estate. They also tended to the animals when needed. In return for their work, the serfs were given protection, housing and farmland from the lord. Eventhough the serfs earned their land and protection, not everything was given freely. For example, all of the peasants and serfs whether they were paid or not, had to give the lord a portion of the grain that they had harvested. But that was not enough, the peasants were also expected to work a few days of labor each week. Also the peasants were not able to grind their own grain, but rather had to pay a tax to the lord so they could grind their grain using his mill. They also had to pay a tax to the lord if they wanted to get married because he only aloud marriage ceremonies to take place after he had agreed to it. The layout of the manor consisted of a few square miles of land which held a workshop, the manor house of the lord and a church. Roughly 15-30 families lived in a village on the manor. The manor was a very self-sufficient community. For example, the peasants produced or raised everything that themselves and their lord needed daily. The only things that were purchased outside of the estate included unusual objects, iron and salt.

Life on a Manor

The role of a Knight

The knights were able to devote their lives to war because they made money off of the land that they were given by the lord. With the money they received, they were able to pay for weapons in battle such as warhorses and armor, along with necessities. They spent most of their pastime training for war by wrestling and hunting. They also were required to fight forty days out of a year in combat. Due to the code of chivalry knights ultimately fought to defend three different masters: the feudal lord, heavenly Lord and their chosen lady. At the age of 7 boys were sent off as a page and they had to wait on hosts, attend to lords and practice their fighting skills. Next they became a squire at age 14 and were servants to knights. Lastly they became knights at age 21. The decline of knights began when the crossbow was invented. Many knights had trained there whole life to become what they were. But they could easily lose their position to someone of little training just because that person knew how to shoot a bow. Next knights completely vanished after the gun was created. Knights were soldiers who wore armor, and since there was no armor to protect against a bullet, knights were replaced all together.

Medieval Warfare


Stirrups and leather saddles played a key role in warfare because they helped the horsemen sit firmly on top of the horse during combat so they wouldn't fall off so easily during warfare. The stirrups allowed the horsemen to be able to carry heavier weapons because they helped hold the soldier in place so they didn't fall off the horse when charging. Castles also played a big part in medieval warfare due to their defenses when being attacked. For example a castle's first defense was a drawbridge that could be opened and closed when needed. Without the drawbridge their was no way for the enemy to get across the water. Next, castles had at least two sets of heavy doors placed in strategic spots after the drawbridge that also could keep enemies from entering. The doors were specifically made with holes in them so soldiers could pour boiling hot water or oil on enemies who were trying to attack. Next, murder holes were cut in ceilings so soldiers could throw missiles or pour oil on soldiers below and still be protected by the walls. Also arrow slits were made on the roof of the castle so that soldiers could fire arrows at enemies and have a wall to hide behind when being attacked. Another important component to the outfit of a soldier was the plate armor. This armor was used to shield soldiers from crossbows which were also a knew type of technology used in warfare. Crossbows were almost like a gun in a sense that all you had to do was aim and pull the trigger, but they shot an arrow instead of a bullet. Longbows were also used when soldiers needed to shoot a long distance. Siege weapons used when surrounding cities consisted of trebuchets and mangonels. Trebuchets worked like a giant sling shot in the sense that they could propelled any object up to about 1000 feet. But they were mainly used for launching dead animals, boiling liquids and boulders. Mangonels were used mainly to send huge boulders crashing onto city walls destroying them (could launch up to 1300 feet). Soldiers used 2main different types of defenses or shields when attacking castles. These consisted of tortoises, mantles and battering rams. Tortoises sheltered soldiers from flying arrows and they were able to push them because they were on wheel. Mantlets also shielded soldiers but they were immovable.

Catholic Church

The Roles

The Catholic Church played a huge role in the Middle Ages. For example, the Catholic Church was the only place that people felt like they could always go to when everything else around them seemed to be falling apart. The Catholic Church started to become secular or worldly after Gregory I became the pope. He wanted the church to become more involved in politics and things beyond just the church walls. The church started to unite with the government or the empire. For example, later the church united with The Holy Roman Empire. The church also started to make consequences for the actions of Christians including kings. For example the canon law or church law was created and used in religious practices and marriage for every medieval Christian. Next, excommunication and interdict threatened kings who didn't obey the pope. For example if the King got in a big enough dispute with the pope, the pope had the ability to excommunicate the pope, or banish him from the church, meaning that he would be denied salvation. If the King continued to disobey the pope then he could suffer interdict, meaning that he lost the privilege of having any religious services or sacraments within his kingdom.

The Problems

The church was faced with various problems throughout the Middle Ages. One of the problems was lay investiture. The church wanted to be able to elect their own officials but this law made it so that the kings and nobles had this ability and the church did not find this fair. The church was also faced with many internal problems. First, the clergy were illiterate therefore they were unable to read the prayers and intersperse them correctly. Next, the clergy were more concerned about their position and about land then about doing their duties. They also went against the beliefs of the church and married and started a family. Also bishops were involved in simony which was the selling of positions within the church.

The Crusades

Causes and Effects

The cause of the first crusade is owed to the Muslims for threatening to take over Constantinople. The Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus became worried and wrote asking for help. Pope Urban II was the one to issue the crusade. In the end, the crusaders did end up winning and claiming the territories between Edessa and Jerusalem. Next, the crusaders settled in the lands that they had captured before and the defense was not very strong, therefore the Turks reclaimed Edessa and the second crusade started because the crusaders wanted to reclaim their territory. The result of this crusade was not beneficial. The crusaders ended up failing and not regaining Edessa. The Muslim leader Saladin ended up capturing Jerusalem leading to the start of the third Crusade. Robert the Lionhearted was the leader of this crusade and he ended up coming to an agreement with Saladin. This agreement stated that Jerusalem would stay Muslim territory but unarmed Christians could visits the holy place freely. The children's crusade started in the hopes that the children could regain Jerusalem with the help of God. But sadly the children failed, many dyed from the cold and starvation while others drowned or were sold into slavery. Only two thousand children out of twelve thousand made it back alive. Lastly, the Spanish crusade started because the spanish wanted to drive the Muslims out of Spain. The result of this crusade was a victory by the spanish after the last small portion controlled by the Muslims was captured by the spanish. The overall effects of the crusades were limited. People were faced with new challenges such as leaving their homes to fight in the crusades and many women had to manage the estates. Also trade increased for the Muslims and for the Christians. Consequently, the power of kings increased and the power of the pope decreased due to the crusades. Also many knights and crusaders lost their lives fighting for their country.



England started off in the Middle Ages ruled by a monarchy or a King, but that belief began to decline as time went on. The start of the decline started with the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was a document that was signed by John Softsword and guaranteed certain basic political rights to the people and limited the power of a King. Some of these rights included: protection of law, given a jury trial and no taxation without representation. Another key component to the decline of a monarchy was a parliament. A parliament was a legislative group that consisted of bishops and knights. The job of the parliament was to keep the kings in line and make sure that they were not over taxing the people, but it ultimately led to the decline of the power of the lords. The people were also given more power in the government in the way that they were included in some decisions that were made dealing with the process of the government.

Hundred Years' War

Causes and Effects

The cause of this war was the fact that the last Capetian King died without someone in his bloodline to take over after him. Edward III of England was the grandson of Philip IV and wanted to be the French King. Edward launched the war between England and France in order for him to become the King. Little victories were received by both sides but France ended up completely defeating England. The war had brought a change in the warfare style due to the realization of some soldiers that chivalry was no longer an important idea in fighting.