A Chronology of the Central Middle Ages (c.950-c.1350)

three_orders.jpg image by aBlueKnight

Compiled by Dr. Richard Abels 

for HH315: Age of Chivalry and Faith at the United States Naval Academy.

Copyright 2009

(Feel free to use this document for academic purposes, but please provide proper citation)



INDEX (blue indicates it is a hypertext):

Economic developments: c.950-c.1300, c.950, 970, 1050, 1112, 1115, 1130s-1170s, 1155, 1157, 1159, 1184, 1185, 1188, 1237, 1256-1270, 1257, 1258, 1260, 1266, 1281, 1294, c.1300-c.1500, c.1300, 1303, 1311-1315, 1315-1317, 1347-1350, 1350-1355


Political/military history

Kings and kingdoms of England and France

Papacy, Medieval Empire, and Italy

Byzantium:  1025-1081, 1071, 1261

Mongols: 1206, 1237, 1240, 1241-1242, 1258, 1260



The Church, the papacy, and learning:


Foundation for Medieval Genealogy: genealogical information about medieval rulers and noble families organized by region

List of popes and antipopes of the middle ages with links to (the old) Catholic Encyclopedia



The chronology

(Embedded links are, with a few exceptions, to primary sources in translation or to contemporary illustrations)


c.950-1300   Period of steady demographic and economic growth in Western Europe.  The population of Europe (excluding Russia) more than doubled, growing from about 30 million people in A.D. 1000 to about 70-80 million in 1250, after which population growth leveled off until it began to decline in the fourteenth century.  The greatest population growth occurred in western and southern Europe.  Demographic growth was supported by (and, in turn, supported) an expansion of food resources.  European agricultural production increased markedly between c. 900-1300, especially between 1050 and 1250.  This represented both extensive and intensive agricultural growth. Most of the increase in grain production came from expanding the acreage under cultivation. (There is little good evidence for a significant increase in the crop yield to seed ratio, which for wheat remained between 3.5:1 and 4:1.) The increase in arable acreage under cultivation was the result of both natural and human action.  The climate of northern Europe between c.950 and c.1300 climate was warmer than in the early Middle Ages. This Medieval Climate Optimum meant longer growing seasons and the ability to cultivate lands further north and expand the repertoire of crops. Human activity took the form of extensive woodland clearance (assarting) and draining of marshes, both encouraged and funded by nobles who granted freedom to serfs willing to establish new villages in woodland clearances. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries marked the period of the greatest deforestation in Western European history. By 1250 there were few trees left in France large enough for ship masts and cathedral beams. New farming practices also resulted in higher crop yields. The most important of these was the shift from a two field system, in which half the land always lay fallow, to a three-field system of crop rotation.  Closer integration of animal husbandry and cereal agriculture led to more efficient manuring (animal and human manure were the main sources of fertilizer).  More extensive cultivation of beans and peas, nitrogen-fixing crops, not only improved peasant diets but also helped restore the soil’s fertility. Technology also played a role, especially the widespread use of the heavy plow with iron coulter and plowshare and moldboard, which allowed cultivation of the fertile heavy clay lands of northern Europe.  The invention of the horse collar and horseshoes made possible the replacement of oxen with horses for plowing and transport; the latter was especially important in reducing transportation costs for marketing. Underlying all these innovations were improvements in mining and metallurgy that increased the supply and reduced the cost of iron.  The period 950-1300 also witnessed the widespread use of watermills and vertical (post) windmills (introduced, c.1180), not only for grinding grain but for the production of iron, textiles, paper, and beer.

The expansion of agricultural production encouraged and made possible the growth of towns, increased trade, and an integrated European-wide monetized commodity economy. Flourishing textile industries arose in the towns of Flanders (Bruges, Ypres, Brussels) and northern Italy.  Regions became economically interdependent (e.g. in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Flemish cloth makers depended upon English wool grown in Yorkshire.) Between the late twelfth and the late thirteenth centuries, the fairs of Champagne in France served as wholesale markets linking the merchants and cloth makers of Flanders and Italy. During the thirteenth century the growth of international trade led to the emergence of banking houses in Italy which developed instruments of financial exchange that side-stepped the Christian prohibition on money-lending (usury).

c. 950   Revival of Christian trade in the Mediterranean, as Venice, Amalfi, Pisa, and  Genoa successfully confront Arab pirates; long-distance trade routes began to be dominated by Italian and Jewish merchants. Development of merchant guilds as sworn associations/confraternities of merchants to protect, avenge, bury members (artificial kindred).

955-964   Pontificate of John XII.  Octavianus, son of Alberic II, Patrician (secular ruler) of Rome, succeeded his father as Patrician at the age of 17, and was chosen pope by the nobles of Rome in the following year, taking the papal name John, making John both the spiritual and temporal ruler of the Papal States.  Faced with threats by the Lombard King Berengar of Italy to the Papal States (the lands belonging to the papacy, which stretched across Italy from Roman in the west to Ravenna in the east) and political intrigues by the Roman nobility, John XII in 961 turned for protection to King Otto I of Germany, whom he offered to consecrate as “Roman Emperor,” an office that had lain vacant since the death in 887 of the Carolingian King Charles the Fat. Otto came with an army to Rome and was crowned emperor by John XII in 962.  Immediately following the coronation, Otto issued a charter that pledged his and his successors’ protection of papal rule over the Papal States. But John XII soon became uneasy with Otto’s growing power in Italy, and after Otto defeated Berengar, the pope secretly sent emissaries to the Byzantine emperor and the Magyars to form an alliance against Otto. Upon learning of this, Otto returned to Rome (963) and deposed John for gross immorality, replacing him with a new pope of his own choosing, Leo VIII.  The charges against John XII are recorded by Bishop Liudprand of Cremona, a supporter of Otto I:

Then, rising up, the cardinal priest Peter testified that he himself had seen John XII celebrate Mass without taking communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, a cardinal deacon, professed that they themselves saw that a deacon had been ordained in a horse stable, but were unsure of the time. Benedict, cardinal deacon, with other co-deacons and priests, said they knew that he had been paid for ordaining bishops, specifically that he had ordained a ten-year-old bishop in the city of Todi... They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father's concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse. They said that he had gone hunting publicly; that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died; that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him; and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass. All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when playing at dice, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons. They even said he did not celebrate Matins and the canonical hours nor did he make the sign of the cross.

When Otto and his army departed Rome a few months later, John’s supporters recaptured the city and drove Leo VIII into exile. John’s victory was short-lived. He died soon after under uncertain circumstances. (Rumor had it that he was killed by a jealous husband.)   His pontificate is often cited as the nadir of the early medieval papacy.  The Roman nobility’s control over the papacy evidenced in the pontificate of John XII was replicated in other sees and monasteries through tenth-century Western Europe.  Local counts and nobles often regarded the churches and monasteries on their lands as their property, and accordingly appointed their priests and abbots. The majority of priests were illiterate and often married (or lived with concubines). The majority of popes, mostly sons of powerful Roman families, were worldly and/or incompetent. The German bishops, in contrast, were usually men of considerable ability and education, largely because they rose to the rank of bishop by serving first in the courts of the German kings. (See St. Udalrich, s.a. 973.)

955   King Otto I the Great of Germany (king of Germany 936-973) defeats the Magyars (Hungarians) at the Battle of the Lechfeld, ending their threat to Western Europe. The Battle of the Lechfeld secured Germany against further Magyar raiding and led to the settlement of the Magyars and their incorporation into Christendom as the Kingdom of Hungary. Seal of Otto I.)

962   Otto I the Great is crowned emperor (emperor 962-973) by Pope John XII in Rome, reviving the office of “emperor” in the West, which had lain vacant since 888 (the death of Charles the Fat). Historians date the beginning of the so-called “Medieval Empire” (as distinguished from the Carolingian Empire) to Otto’s coronation. From this point on, the kings of Germany would have a de facto monopoly over the imperial dignity in the West, although the crowning of the emperor would always remain a prerogative of the papacy. 


The Ottonian (918-1024) system of royal administration in Germany relied upon dynastic connections between the kings and the dukes, bishops, and counts. Otto and his successors attempted to keep the duchies of Germany and episcopacies in the hands of members of their family. Although German kingship remained technically “elective,” the Ottonian kings and the Salians who succeeded them (see entry for the year 1024) ensured the succession of their sons by having them ‘elected’ and crowned co-rulers with them. The result was a de facto hereditary monarchy. The Ottonians’ control over northern Italy depended upon their physical presence, and Emperor Otto III (r. 983-1002), the son of a Byzantine princess, consciously imitated Roman imperial and Byzantine court customs and made Rome the center of his imperial administration. The Ottonians and their successors the Salians promoted a theocratic ideology of kingship modeled on Byzantium. Otto III seated in majesty receiving tribute from regions of the empire. From Otto III’s gospel book.)

c. 970   Emperor Otto I opens silver mines in Harz Mountains.  Spurs remonetarization--new age of coinage.

973   Death of St. Udalrich (Ulrich), bishop of Augsburg. Udalrich had been bishop of Augsburg since his appointment by King Henry I of Germany in 923. Udalrich is a model of pre-Gregorian piety. He served the German kings not only as a spiritual counselor but as a royal official and military commander. Despite charges of nepotism, he was canonized in 993, the first canonization that followed an established canonical procedure based on evidence of miracles.

973   Edgar the Peace-keeper’s coronation at Bath, marking the emergence of the Kingdom of England from the kingdom of the West Saxons. After reigning 14 years, King Edgar the Peace-keeper (r.959-975) was crowned king of England—probably for a second time—at Bath, an old Roman town on the West Saxon/Mercian border, in a consciously “imperial” ceremony meant to emphasize his rule over a united English people. The coronation service was devised by Archbishop Dunstan and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  Soon after, Edgar held court at Chester, where the Celtic kings and rulers of northern Britain formally submitted to him, pledging to be his faithful men “on land and sea” [in land and naval warfare]. The twelfth-century medieval chronicler John of Worcester preserved a tradition in which eight British kings rowed Edgar's state barge on the River Dee with the king at the rudder. In that same year, Edgar, in a practical demonstration of royal power, reformed the English coinage and ordered scheduled recoinages every six years, a system that survived past the Norman Conquest.

From the Kingdom of Wessex to the Kingdom of England (by way of the Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, 886-973): Edgar’s reign marks the culmination of the efforts of the West Saxon dynasty of King Alfred the Great (r.871-899) to expand its power over the formerly independent kingdom of Mercia and the Danelaw (English territories that had been conquered by the Danes). King Alfred, like his father and grandfather, had been king of the West Saxons, the tribal kingdom in southwestern England. Between 866 and 878, the Danish “Great Heathen Army” had overrun all the kingdoms of England except for Wessex, which had almost succumbed to them in the winter of 877 when its king Alfred was driven to take refuge in the fens of Somerset.  Alfred’s victory in the Battle of  Edington in 878 saved his kingdom and left the House of Wessex as the only remaining native English dynasty still ruling in Britain. Alfred’s treaty with the viking King Guthrum recognized the latter as king of East Anglia and Alfred as king of Wessex and overlord of the western half of the now kingless Mercian kingdom. Alfred’s subsequent military reorganization of his kingdom, based upon the building of fortified towns (burhs), the transformation of the ad hoc levies of the royal army (fyrd) into a mounted standing army, and the building of a small navy, proved its value during the crisis of 893-896 when a second Great Army attempted without success to conquer Wessex.  From 886, when Alfred took control of and restored  Mercian London, until his death in 891, Alfred bore two royal titles: King of the West Saxons and King of the “Anglo-Saxons” [literally the West Saxons and the Anglian Mercians]. To him equally important for the defense of the kingdom was the program he sponsored for reviving Christian learning in England. This entailed the establishment of a court school to promote literacy, the insistence that royal officials be literate in the vernacular, Alfred himself translated several books that he deemed essential for acquiring “wisdom” from Latin into Anglo-Saxon (Pope Gregory I the Great’s Pastoral Care, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Augustine’s Soliloquies, the first fifty Psalms)  His son Edward the Elder (r.899-924) and his grandsons Athelstan (r.924-939), Edmund I (r.939-946), and Eadred (946-955) made the claim of a Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons into a reality by militarily extending West Saxon rule northward into the territories of the “Danelaw” (the northern and eastern regions of England conquered and settled by the Danes}. Edgar, who succeeded after his elder brother Eadwig’s brief reign, consolidated these conquests. By the crowning of 973, the Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons can accurately be called the Kingdom of England.”

Edgar’s nickname Pacificus is usually translated as Peaceable or Peaceful but probably ought to be translated as “Peace Keeper.” Edgar’s reign was characterized by freedom from threats of foreign invasion or viking raiding (due in part to the strong navy that Edgard maintained), prosperity, establishment of uniformity of coinage, weights, and measures, and ecclesiastical reform. Edgar was a strong supporter of monastic reform, lending royal muscle to the efforts of the saints Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury, Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester, and Bishop Oswald of Worcester to replace secular canons at minster churches with monks and to restore the rule of St. Benedict in English monasteries. Among the monasteries either founded or restored during Edgar’s reign were Ely, Ramsey, and Peterborough. One result was that Edgar’s reign was a golden age for Anglo-Saxon art.  A penny issued by Edgar. Miniature of the Baptism of Christ, in Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, folio 25, 971x979; St Æthelthryth, on fols. 90v-91r.. Edgar’s support of the monastic reform, which entailed the forced purchase of lands for monasteries, led to a anti-monastic reaction during the brief reign of his eldest son King Edward the Martyr (r.975-978].

978-1016   Reign of Æthelred II the Unready and the Second Wave of Viking Invasions of England.  Æthelred became king in 978 at the age 10 when his half-brother King Edward the Martyr was murdered, probably by supporters of Æthelred’s mother. His reign was dominated by a renewed wave of viking invasions, beginning with low intensity raiding in the 980s, which intensified in 991 when a large raiding fleet defeated the Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, in the Battle of Maldon. The result was the first of a series of large tribute (gafol) payments to purchase truces. The taxes through which these tributes were raised are popularly known as the “danegeld.”  In 994 a large viking fleet led by King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark and a Norwegian prince Olaf Tryggvason laid siege to London and were bought off with another large tribute payment. Soon after, Æthelred contracted a formal peace treaty with Olaf Tryggvason, who enriched with English silver returned to Norway to seize the throne. Many of his followers, however, settled in England and received employment as royal mercenaries. After three years of peace, the raiding began again in 997 and continued almost annually for the remainder of Æthelred’s reign. In 1002, after having paid a large tribute to a viking fleet, Æthelred boldly ordered a massacre of the remnants of the army of 994, who despite their oaths of the king had aided the raiders (the St. Brice’s Day Massacre, see below). In the same year Æthelred married a Danish princess Emma as part of an Anglo-Norman alliance designed to close Norman ports to viking fleets. The St. Brice’s Day Massacre backfired, as it led King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark to return to England in 1003 with a large fleet, to avenge the massacre. He was joined in 1009 by an independent fleet under the command of the viking adventurer Thorkell the Tall.  Even more tribute payments followed. In 1012 Thorkell’s men disobeyed his orders and murdered the captive Archbishop of Canterbury Ælfheah.  Thorkell, fearing loss of control over his men, entered the employ of King Æthelred as a mercenary captain, just in time (1013) to fight for the king against a full-scale invasion by King Swein Forkbeard.  Despite Thorkell’s loyal service, Swein’s forces intimidated the English ealdormen into submitting to him. With only the city of London remaining loyal to him, Æthelred prudently withdrew to Normandy. Swein was accepted as king by the English nobility in late 1013 but died a few months later. The Danish fleet swore loyalty to Swein’s son Cnut, but the English nobility invited Æthelred to resume his kingship on the understanding that he would rule more justly. Cnut was defeated and returned to Denmark, but in 1015 court intrigues led the king’s eldest son Edmund Ironside to revolt against his father and his favorites. Father and son reconciled when Cnut returned in 1015. Æthelred died on 23 April 1016 while fighting a losing war against Cnut.

          Æthelred the Unready has become a byword for ineffectuality, but this is perhaps unfair to him. His nickname, although critical, is misleading. Æthelræd Unræd is an Anglo-Saxon pun that can be translated as “Noble Counsel, No Counsel,” and refers to Æthelred’s notoriously poor judgment in choosing advisers and generals (notably the treacherous Earl Eadric Streona of Mercia). He has been criticized, especially in the twentieth century, for his policy of buying off viking raiders with tribute (popularly called “danegeld”), which has been characterized as “appeasement.” This is well captured in Rudyard Kipling’s poem of 1911, “Dane-geld (980-1016)”:

 IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:
"We invaded you last night - we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."


And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

 More recently historian Simon Keynes has attempted to balance this criticism by observing that Æthelred’s poor reputation is largely the consequence of his negative portrayal in the main source for the reign, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was written after his defeat and death. Æthelred’s reign was also marked by general economic prosperity (despite the raiding) and cultural accomplishments. The reign witnessed a flowering of manuscript art and literature, represented by the ecclesiastical, political, and historical works of Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham, Archbishop Wulfstan of York, and the monk Byrhtferth of Ramsey. Although Æthelred paid thousands of pounds in tribute to vikings, he also took vigorous measures to improve the civil defense of the realm. The archaeological evidence points toward a major program of refortifying boroughs (sometime replacing earthen and wooden defenses with stone walls). In 1008 he ordered England to be divided into naval ship districts of 300 “hides” (the hide was a unit of taxation based on a notional 120 acres of land] and decreeing that a mail coat and helmet be produced from every eight hides of land. The bottom-line, however, is that none of Æthelred’s measures succeeded and it is difficult to save him from the criticism that he trusted the wrong people and either promoted or allowed political divisions and intrigues within his court that weakened England’s ability to fight off viking invasions. Penny issued by Æthelræd Unræd, 997x1003. King with witan, from illustrated OE Hexateuch, c.1000. Map of viking campaigns, 991-1005.

987   Capetian dynasty of France. Hugh Capet crowned king of France, ending the Carolingian dynasty of West Francia. The Capetian dynasty that Hugh founded ruled France until 1328.  Until 1204, the Capetian kings of France directly ruled over only the Ile-de-France, a region in north central France centered on Paris, and were too weak to have a significant influence on the unification of France. The real power in eleventh-century France was in the hands of dukes, counts, and castellans (barons who possess territory controlled by castles). The great contribution of the early Capetians to the growth of French royal power was their ability to live long enough to crown their sons while they still lived, which transformed the French monarchy from an elective office (i.e. chosen by a consensus of the counts, dukes, and bishops) to a hereditary office. Although the power of the early Capetians was limited, they had considerable authority because of the support given to them by the French episcopacy, which promoted the idea of theocratic kingship.

989   Peace of God. Synod of Charroux (at a Benedictine monastery in La Marche in western France on the border of Aquitaine): beginning of the Christian “Peace of God” movement. Threatens excommunication “for attacking or robbing a church, for robbing peasants or the poor of farm animals—among which the ass is mentioned but not the horse which would have been beyond the reach of a peasant—and for robbing, striking or seizing a priest or any man of the clergy who is not bearing arms. Making compensation or reparations could circumvent the anathema of the Church.” Subsequent peace councils were held at Poitiers (1011-14) and Limoges (994, 1028, 1031, 1033).


  991   The Battle of Maldon.  A large viking raiding fleet was intercepted near Maldon, Essex, by Ealdorman Byrhtnoth and the fyrd [royal military levies] of Essex. Byrhtnoth was killed and the English defeated in the battle that followed. The English were compelled to the pay the vikings tribute (gafol], the first in a series of such payments. The main reason for the fame of the battle, however, is literary rather than historical, owing to a famous Anglo-Saxon heroic poem of 325 lines, The Battle of Maldon, which has been frequently translated and anthologized. The poem, written well after the event, possibly as late as c.1030, is a valuable window on to the heroic values of the late Anglo-Saxon warrior aristocracy. Viking weapons and army (Universitetets Oldsaksamling, Oslo) Danish longship: reconstruction of Skuldelev 2 (c.1042), Roskilde. Viking shield wall (reenactors)

999   Norman mercenaries arrive in southern Italy. (Cf. 1016.) The earliest purported date for the arrival of Norman knights in southern Italy. In that year, according to several sources, Norman pilgrims returning from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by way of Apulia (southern Italy) stopped at Salerno, which they helped defend against an attack by Saracens from northern Africa.  The Lombard Prince Guaimar III was so impressed that he sent to Normandy for mercenaries to help him against the Saracens, Byzantines, and other Lombard princes. An alternate tradition has the Normans arriving in 1016: Norman pilgrims to the shrine of Michael the Archangel at Monte Gargano in Apulia met the Lombard prince Melus of Bari there and were convinced to join him in an attack on the Byzantine government of Apulia.

999-1003  Pontificate of Pope Sylvester II (born Gerbert d’Aurillac), the greatest scholar of his time, who is important in the history of science and mathematics because of his role in introducing to Christendom Arabic astronomy and mathematics, including the abacus. Gerbert also wrote treatises on the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music), and popularizing the teaching of the Seven Lberal Arts.

1002  Moorish Caliphate of Cordova (Spain), al-Andalus, breaks up into warring (“taifa”) principalities.

1002  On St. Brice’s Day Massacre (13 November), King Æthelred the Unready, reacting to rumors of a plot to kill him and his advisers, ordered a massacre of “all the Danish men who were in England (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). Although this sounds like an order for genocide, it’s unlikely that Æthelred’s goal was to kill everyone of Danish descent, which would have been impossible given the density of Scandinavian settlement in the north and east of England (the Danelaw). The more likely target was the bands of Danes who had taken service with Æthelred in 994 and who had settled in England as royal mercenaries. In the previous year (1001), many of them had betrayed their oaths by making common cause with a large viking fleet that was ravaging the southern shires.  Whatever its overall extent, the massacre was real enough. A royal charter issued to a church in Oxford recounts how the Danes of that town took refuge in the church which was then burnt down around their heads in accordance with the king’s decree “that  all the Danes who had sprung up in the island, like cockle among the wheat, were to be destroyed by a most just extermination.” The St. Brice’s Day Massacre was one prong of a two prong strategy to limit England’s vulnerability to viking raiding. The other was Æthelred’s marriage in that same year to a Norman princess, Emma, as part of an Anglo-Norman alliance designed to close the ports of Normandy to Danish raiders. Historians, half facetiously, have remarked that the ability to order a concerted massacre of Danes throughout his realm is testimony to the administrative effectiveness of King Æthelred’s government. Be that as it may, the massacre proved to be a strategic blunder as well as a crime, apparently provoking the Danish King Swein Forkbeard and the Danish viking captain Thorkell the Tall to return to England in the following years to wreak revenge.


1013-1014  King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark conquers England. Abandoned by the English nobility, King Æthelred the Unready takes refuge in Normandy.  Swein is crowned king of England but dies soon after, and Æthelred is restored to the kingship.

1016  Alternate tradition for the arrival of Norman mercenaries in southern Italy.

1016  Cnut the Great, son of King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark and (briefly) England (r.1013-1014), crowned king of England. In 1016 Cnut defeated King Edmund Ironside (r.1016/d.1016) in the battle of Ashingdon, which led to a treaty dividing England in half. When King Edmund died a few months later, Cnut (r.1016-1035) was recognized as king of all of England. Cnut ruled over a northern empire that included Denmark, England, Norway, and southern Sweden. Cnut divided England into four great earldoms, which he entrusted to “new men”: the Englishmen Godwin and Leofric and the Danes Thorkell the Tall and Siward. To shore up his legitimacy, he married Emma, the Norman widow of his predecessor King Æthelred II the Unready (r.978-1014, 1015-1016), whose two sons by the late king, Alfred and Edward, had taken refuge in Normandy. He consciously projected the image of a Christian king, even going on pilgrimage to Rome in 1027 to attend the coronation of the Salian Conrad II as Roman Emperor. As English king he emphasized continuity with the Anglo-Saxon past, reflected in the great law code written for him by Archbishop Wulfstan of York, the author of the law codes issued by Æthelred II the Unready. Cnut, however, recognized that his rule rested upon a foundation of military power and maintained throughout his rule a standing fleet of 40 warships and a large, well organized royal bodyguard (housecarls) paid for by imposing a tax (heregeld) upon his English subjects.  Cnut was succeeded by his sons King Harold Harefoot (r.1035-1040] and King Harthacnut [r.1040-1042]. English penny of King Cnut; Cnut’s remain in Winchester Cathedral; Cnut and Queen Emma present a cross to Winchester Church, from the Liber Vitae of New Minster, Winchester, c.1031

File:Donjon Gisors001.jpg   

1010s-c 1020  Events described in The Agreement of Hugh IV of Lusignan and Count William V of Aquitaine,” a text that relates a dispute between a Poitevin castellan and his lord, the count of Aquitaine, over the former’s claims to castles and lands held by his kinsmen. The text portrays the events from the viewpoint of the “wronged” vassal, who protests his love and loyalty for his lord, despite being repeatedly lied to and betrayed. Hugh eventually is driven to “defy” (i.e. formally withdraw loyalty from) Count William, who responds to Hugh’s threat of war by reconciling with his erstwhile vassal. The “Agreement” should be read as a justification for Hugh’s violation of his oath of loyalty. The political world revealed by the “Agreement” was one in which power derived from the possession of castles and horsemen/knights (at this point serving men rather than nobility). Hugh’s disagreements with Count William were over contested property. Hugh claimed castles that his kinsmen had held from the Count. William insisted that these castles were comital grants, to be given and revoked at the pleasure of the count. The famous “Letter of Bishop Fulbert of Chartres on the duties of faithful men to their lords” written in 1020 in response to a query by Count William V.  Both works serve as invaluable windows on to the value system underlying lordship in early eleventh-century France and on to the political tensions between counts and the castellans who were their “men.”

1024    Salian dynasty begins in Germany: royal administration based upon use of ministeriales and prelates. Because King Henry II of Germany died without a son, his cousin Conrad II was elected king of Germany.  This marks the end the Saxon dynasty (918-1024) and the beginning of the Salian dynasty (1024-1125) of German kings. The great accomplishment of the Salian kings was the development of an effective royal administrative system based upon the use of ministeriales as royal officials. Ministeriales were a peculiar class of “unfree vassals.” They were serfs who served their lords as knights and administrators. Although their lords provided them with land and wealth, they remained unfree in terms of personal status and could not claim hereditary right to either offices or property.  In the tenth century, German bishops and abbots employed ministeriales to administer their properties and to fight for them because they were less likely to lose church lands by granting them to serf-knights than to free knights.  The Salians adapted this system to royal government, employing ministeriales as the backbone of royal administration.  Like their Ottonian predecessors, the Salian German kings used prelates (bishops and abbots) for the higher offices of royal administation. They could safely do this because the crown maintained control over the appointment of bishops and abbots. The Salians in particular used the royal household as a preparatory school for bishops.  When a see fell vacant, the king picked the new bishop from among his royal chaplains upon the basis of proven administrative ability and loyalty. The result was that, with the possible exception of the Anglo-Saxon England which maintained a Carolingian-style government, eleventh-century Germany had the most stable and effective central administration in Western Europe. Manuscript portrait of Emperor Conrad II

   The ideological basis for Salian kingship was theocratic: the Salian kings saw themselves as God’s vicars on earth, responsible to Him for the peace and safety of both the church and the state. As Roman emperors, they also saw themselves as having primacy over the other kings in Christendom, although this was a view not shared by other kings. The greatest constitutional check upon the power of the medieval German monarchy remained the elective character of royal succession, but as long as a king had a son, succession in practice was hereditary.  The greatest practical impediment to royal absolutism was the lack of personal ties of loyalty between the local German aristocracy and the Crown.  And although the Ottonians had established the crown’s right to appoint dukes to four of Germany’s six traditional “tribal” duchies, two—Saxony and Lorraine—remained beyond royal control.

1025-1081   Period of political instability and military weakness in the Byzantine Empire. The reign of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II “the Bulgar Slayer” (r.976- in 1025) marked the high point of Byzantine military expansion and strength. His death in 1025 began a period of political civil instability and declining military capacity in the Byzantine Empire that lasted until the accession of Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118). (Portrait of Basil II from his psalter.)

1027   Truce of God. Council of Toulouges (in eastern Pyrenees) proclaims the “Truce of God,” prohibiting warfare on Sundays and holy days.

1033   Peace of God.  Peace council at Limoges adds merchants to list of noncombatants protected by the Peace of God.

1035-1059   Norman conquest of southern Italy. Brothers from the Hauteville family in Normandy assume leadership of the Norman mercenaries in southern Italy and carve out a duchy in Apulia and Calabria.

1037      Death of Ibn Sina (known in the West as Avicenna), the great Persian physician, scientist, and philosopher who attempted to reconcile Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism, and Islamic theology.

1042-1066  Reign of King Edward the Confessor of England.  Edward, the son of King Æthelred the Unready and the Norman princess Emma, returned from Normandy to succeed his half-brother King Harthacnut. Edward the Confessor was the penultimate Anglo-Saxon ruler of England and the last from the House of Wessex (the dynasty of King Alfred the Great]. Edward’s reign was marked generally by prosperity and peace, though the latter was marred by conflict with the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and with political intrigues and civil war arising from political tensions within Edward’s court, due in large measure to the favoritism that Edward showed toward Norman kinsmen and clerics.  Map of England in the reign of Edward the Confessor.

Anglo-Saxon Government and Law under Edward the Confessor.. The institutions of Anglo-Saxon government and law were precocious by eleventh-century standards. Central administration belonged to the king and his council of advisers, the Witan, made up of the two archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, kinsmen of the king, and great magnates. The king issued his orders to royal officials through a written instrument known as the sealed writ. The realm was divided into administrative districts known as shires (later the counties of England), with each shire being subdivided in hundreds or wapentakes, the latter appearing in the “Danelaw,” areas in the north and east where Danish settlement had been the greatest. Shires, hundreds, and wapentakes had administrative, judicial, military, and financial functions. Local administration was in the hands of earls (previously known as ealdormen), entrusted with rule over several shires each; bishops, who were both spiritual leaders of the church and royal officers in their diocese; shire-reeves (sheriffs), the king’s agents in the shires, who oversaw the king’s lands, conveyed and enforced royal orders, and presided over the public courts of the shire that met twice a year to hear major disputes over land and adjudicate crimes committed by powerful men; borough reeves, who performed a similar function in royal towns (boroughs], including presiding as judges in borough courts; lesser reeves and royal thegns (owners of at least five hides of ‘bookland’  who were responsible for the payment of financial and military dues owed from their land] who attended the courts of the hundred which met monthly and where most local civil and criminal disputes were tried. At the end of the tenth century, juries of twelve leading men in each hundred and wapentake court were tasked with bringing criminal charges against malefactors in the localities, the ancestor of the jury of presentment instituted in the second half of the twelfth century by King Henry II (see under 1154 below). Maintenance of the peace was a duty of the royal reeves and of all free men. Because there was no public police force, all free males over 12 were required to swear public oaths to the king not to be a thief or to aid a thief, and were organized into groups of ten (tithings) that were held responsible for crimes committed by their members. (This system was called frankpledge after the Norman Conquest.] All free men were also responsible for answering a “hue and cry” to pursue thieves and other criminals. In this system bishops were both spiritual leaders of the church and royal officers.  The English aristocracy, known as thegns, legally defined as those owning at least 600 acres of taxable property [five hides of land], were considered to be king’s men responsible for maintaining public peace and enforcing royal orders, regardless whom they took as their personal lords.

               Law was public and royal. Anglo-Saxon kings legislated in consultation with their witans, and royal law codes survive from the seventh century on. The courts of the shire, hundred, and borough were public and presided over by royal officials, and the king’s court served as a court of appeals. Law was a mechanism for raising revenues, as the guilty were compelled to pay fines to the Crown as well as to make restitution. Some monasteries and bishops enjoyed immunities, which meant that the abbot or bishop rather than a sheriff enforced law, presided over the courts, and collected the fines of justice, but such “liberties” were less prominent in England than on the Continent. Legal procedures were traditional and placed a great deal of weight on communal opinion. Proof was established by oaths and ordeals. To clear oneself of an accusation, a defendant was required to produce a specified number of oath-helpers (depending upon his rank and the severity of the accusation0 who were to swear to his innocence. Ordeals placed the determination of guilt or innocent in God’s hand, but whether an ordeal was successfully passed or not was often a matter of communal consensus. For example, in the ordeal of fire the accused had to carry a red-hot iron a specified number of steps, after which his burnt hands would be bandaged. After three days his hands were unwrapped in the presence of the court. If they festered, he was guilty. If they were healing normally, he was innocent. The judgment as to which was the case was left to the suitors of the court.

               The late Anglo-Saxon State was particularly well developed in terms of taxation and military recruitment, both of which were based upon the ownership of land.  The taxable liability of land was assessed in “hides,” a notional 120 acres of land, thought in the eighth century to be the minimum needed to support a free family. Taxes were levied on the basis of hidage, as were military dues. Every five hides of land owed the Crown one armed and provisioned warrior for sixty days of military service in the royal army (fyrd] if the king went on expedition. That meant that landowners were required to recruit and outfit soldiers on the basis of their landed wealth. Landowners with less than five hides were organized into five hide units and were made jointly responsible for producing a soldier. This system was able to function because of written records of the tax liabilities owed by hundreds and shires. The royal administration of Anglo-Saxon England was unique in its use of vernacular written administrative instruments (writs and charters) and records.

   As sophisticated as the Anglo-Saxon State was institutionally, it also had weaknesses, beginning with the power of the earls, especially Earl Godwin of Wessex, the king’s father-in-law. Edward relied upon the earls to do his will, and if an earl refused, he relied upon the other earls for the military power necessary to discipline the recalcitrant magnate. The ultimate mechanism for enforcing the royal will was the threat of ravaging a shire or a borough that resisted royal commands.


 1046   King Henry III of Germany deposes rival popes; beginning of papal reform. Pope Benedict IX reneges on the sale of the papacy a year earlier to his godfather Pope Gregory VI (a reformer) and reclaims the office. The German King Henry III  (r. 1039-1056) arrives in Italy with an army to be crowned emperor, discovers that there are two men claiming to be pope (a third had been deposed the year before) and calls the council of Sutri to resolve the question. Henry III deposed both popes and appointed his a reform-minded German bishop who had accompanied him to Italy as the new pope. (Miniature portrait of Emperor Henry III, c.1040.)

1049-1054   Pope Leo IX launches a papal reform movement against simony and clerical marriage. After the deaths in quick succession of two German popes (to lead poisoning and malaria), Emperor Henry III appoints his kinsman Bishop Bruno of Toul (in what is now northeastern France) pope. Bruno, an ardent church reformer, asks to be canonically elected by the clergy and people of Rome before being consecrated pope.  He takes the name Pope Leo IX (p. 1049-1054). Pope Leo IX was the first in a series of reforming popes who enacted decrees against the clerical abuses of simony (purchase of holy offices) and clerical marriage. The reform movement that Leo IX began would later be called the Gregorian Reforms after his successor Gregory VII [p.1073-1085). It was long thought that the Gregorian Reform was inspired by the monastery of Cluny’s emphasis upon piety but the impetus for purifying the morals of the secular clergy probably derived more from the spiritual anxiety generated by the growing commercialism and wealth in northern Italy and Flanders.       

Leo IX’s reform of the Papal Curia. From Leo's pontificate marks the development of the cardinals and the Roman Curia (the Pope’s Court) into institutions of papal government. Cardinals were the clergy of the cathedral of Rome (the Lateran). In 1073 there were 7 cardinal bishops, 28 cardinal priests, 18 cardinal deacons and possibly 21 subdeacons. Cardinal-bishops had a similar relationship to the pope as great barons did to a king. They held dual sees, one of the titular (nonresidential) churches of Rome and a see outside of Rome; their chief duty was conducting services in the Lateran church. They didn't take part in the routine government of the church, but they acted as advisors and as a council, and after 1059 elected and consecrated pope. Cardinal-priests and cardinal deacons were the personnel of papal government. These served the popes as legates (ambassadors) and as administrators (e.g., chancellor, chamberlain, etc.). Below the cardinals were the lesser papal officials--notaries--and the papal soldiers. (Portrait of Pope Leo IX.)

1049   Council of Reims, first council of the papal reform movement. Pope Leo IX presided over this French ecclesiastical council, which was timed to coincide with the translation of the relics of the diocese patron saint Remigius to a new crypt in the refurbished cathedral. Leo IX used this occasion to launch an attack upon simony, demanding that all the bishops present affirm that they did not purchase their spiritual offices. One bishop was tried and deposed (in absentia] and others who admitted guilt and sought forgiveness were allowed to retain their sees through the authority of the pope.


c.1050   First European ‘Industrial Revolution’ in textiles. Horizontal looms appear in Flemish towns; Flemish cloth trade develops, facilitating the development of towns and cities in Flanders. Similar developments occur in northern Italy.  Merchant and craft guilds develop into specialized, chartered economic association, the purpose of which was to secure a monopoly of town's business for its members and to regulate competition among them. Each trade/profession had own guild (c. 1250 there were 101 guilds in Paris). Not all guilds were created equal. The great merchant guilds, representing the urban patriciate, were usually the dominant political powers in towns. Crafts guilds, in fact, were often formed to guard interest of artisans against the economic and political power of the merchant capitalists. Craft guilds were professional associations more like the American Medical Association (AMA) or plumbers union rather than modern trade unions, which represent the interests of labor against capital. Only “masters” were full members of a guild. Guilds regulated production and limited competition by prescribing prices and quality of goods, and hours and wages of laborers; determined who could practice craft and what training they needed before becoming masters. Guild regulations represented compromise between artisans, looking to their self-interest, and town magistrates (representing the urban patriciate), who insisted on the inclusion of rules to protect the consumer. The master's shop (ideally) was an economic household, with the master filling the role of father, and the journeymen and apprentices, his sons/boys.

1051   Earl Godwin and his sons are exiled from England. Count Eustace II of Boulogne, brother-in-law to King Edward the Confessor, and his men became involved in a brawl with the townspeople of Dover in which several of his entourage were killed. An infuriated King Edward order Earl Godwin of Wessex, within whose jurisdiction Dover lay, to ravage the town in retribution for their mistreatment of his guest and kinsman. Godwin refused, and when summoned by the king to answer for his disobedience, he raised an army. King Edward appealed to Earl Siward of Northumbria and Earl Leofric, who raised armies from their earldoms and brought them south in support of the king. Outnumbered and with his forces melting away, Godwin and his sons went into exile. Godwin and his sons Tostig, Gytha, and Sweyn (the twice outlawed earl of Hereford), took refuge in Flanders, while Godwine’s other two sons, Harold, earl of East Anglia went to Ireland to raise a mercenary fleet. King Edward stripped his wife Edith, Godwin’s daughter, of all her lands and wealth and consigned her to a nunnery. About this time Duke William the Bastard of Normandy (who fifteen years later would become King William the Conqueror) apparently crossed the channel to visit his cousin. Norman tradition has it that Edward promised William the throne if he should remain childless (which with the queen in a convent, seemed likely).

1052   Earl Godwin and his sons return from exile and are restored to offices and power. Earl Godwin and his sons came back at the head of a large fleet. Landing in the south, there forces swelled as they picked up local support from their confiscated lands in Kent and Sussex. This time civil war was averted by Earls Siward and Leofric persuading Edward to reconcile with Godwin. Godwin and his sons were restored to their earldoms and Edith to her lands and queenship. Edward’s Norman favorites, including Earl Eustace and Archbishop Robert of Canterbury, fled to Normandy. For the remainder of Edward’s reign, the House of Godwin held the real power in England.

1053   The Battle of Civitate in southern Italy: Normans defeat papal led army. A Norman army under Humphrey de Hauteville, count of Apulia, defeats a German-Lombard-Italian coalition army sponsored by Pope Leo IX. Pope Leo IX was captured and held for several months in honorable captivity. He was forced to sign a series of treaties favorable to the Normans before they released him.

1054  East-West Schism/death of Pope Leo IX. In 1154 Pope Leo IX sent Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida as papal legate to Constantinople to complain about the Patriarch Michael I Cerularius’s ‘usurpation’ (in Rome’s view) of dioceses in southern Italy and the patriarch’s condemnation of Latin liturgical practices, and about other issues dividing the Latin and Greek Churches, including a theological dispute about the nature of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea in 325 (the “Filioque Controversy’). At bottom the issue was papal claims to supremacy over the entire Catholic Church, including the Patriarch of Constantinople, which the patriarch vigorously rejected.  Humbert was notoriously hotheaded as was Patriarch Michael, and negotiations quickly broke down, with Humbert delivering a bull excommunicating the Patriarch. Michael responded by excommunicating both Humbert and Pope Leo IX, whom unknown to either Humbert or Michael, had died three months earlier. This began a schism between the Latin and Greek Churches that was to last throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times.  (Portrait of Patriarch Michael Cerularius.)

1055  Birth of Guibert of Nogent (d.1125), abbot and intellectual, author of the first autobiography in the West since Augustine. See below under 1115.

1056   Death of Emperor Henry III and succession of his six year old son Henry IV to the throne of Germany (r.1056 until his forced abdication in 1105).

1059   Papal Electoral Decree: cardinals elect popes. Pope Nicholas II (p.1059-1061] presiding over the Synod of the Lateran (in Rome) issued a  Papal Electoral Decree which gave the College of Cardinals (the seven cardinal bishops) the sole right of electing popes: “First, the cardinal bishops, with the most diligent consideration, shall elect a successor; then they shall call in the other cardinal clergy [cardinal priests and cardinal deacons to ratify their choice], and finally the rest of the [Roman] clergy and the people shall express their consent to the new election.” The decree did not allow a direct role for the emperor in choosing a pope, but vaguely mandated that “due honor and reverences shall be shown to our beloved son, Henry [IV], king and emperor elect”—not as a right of the imperial office but, significantly, as a papal grant of privilege. The historical background: the traditional pope-makers, the Roman lay aristocracy, opposed the papal reform movement of Pope Leo IX and when the death of Emperor Henry III in 1056 and the succession of a child, Henry IV to be king of Germany, deprived the papacy of a secular protector, the Count of Tusculum, secular ruler of Rome, engineered the election of an antipope “Benedict X” in 1058. (An antipope is someone whose claim to have been pope is not recognized by the Catholic Church.) Led by the cardinal deacon Hildebrand (the future Pope Gregory VII), the cardinals met and elected the reformer Bishop of Florence as Nicholas II. The Papal Electoral Decree was aimed at freeing the papacy from control by the Roman aristocracy. The imperial claim to appoint/ratify popes was not the target of the Decree but collateral damage. The significance of the Decree was that it excluded the laity, the Roman nobility and the emperor, from the selection of popes.

Ban on lay investiture. The Synod also banned for the first time the practice of lay investiture (laymen giving bishops the symbols of their spiritual offices), as part of a package of church reform that included condemnation, once again, of simony and clerical marriage, and a papal endorsement of the Peace and Truce of God.

Papacy allies itself with the Normans of southern Italy: Robert Guiscard de Hauteville (d. 1085), a Norman adventurer and mercenary who with his brothers conquered southern Italy from the Lombards and the Byzantines and who had defeated Pope Leo IX and taken him prisoner in 1053, makes peace with the papacy, submits to Pope Nicholas II as his vassal, and is recognized by him as the legitimate duke of Apulia and Calabria. (Gold coin of Robert Guiscard.)

1061-1091   Norman conquest of Arab Sicily by Robert Guiscard and his younger brother Roger I.


  1066   Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest of England. After the death of King Edward the Confessor (r.1042-1066), William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, claiming rights of inheritance and citing Edward’s promise that he would succeed him, invades England and defeats the last Anglo-Saxon ruler of England King Harold Godwinson (r.1066] in the Battle of Hastings. Harold’s and his brothers’ deaths in battle remove William’s major rivals. However, the English magnates, led by the brothers Earl Morcar and Earl Edwin and the two archbishops Stigand and Ealdred, proclaimed Edgar Ætheling as the new king. Edgar was only a child and had spent his earliest years in exile in Hungary, but he had the best hereditary claim to the throne, being a grandson of King Edmund Ironside and the last male heir to the House of Wessex. William followed up his victory by reverting to his more usual style of warfare: ravaging and pillaging the counties of the southeast and those surrounding London.  Unable to contain William, the English magnates in London sent a delegation to him at Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire to offer their surrender. Edgar withdrew his claim to the throne, and on Christmas Day, 1066, in Westminster Abbey, William was crowned king by Archbishop Ealdred of York, in a ceremony marred by William’s Norman soldiers setting fire to some buildings, having mistaken the rowdy cheers of the Englishmen in the church for the beginning of an uprising. Duke William the Bastard of Normandy had become King William I the Conqueror (r.1066-1087). Over the next twenty years William would replace the native Anglo-Saxon nobility with his Norman followers. By William’s death in 1087, Englishmen held only 5.5% of the land in England. The Norman Conquest fuses French and English cultures (and ultimately language) because William is both the King of England and the Duke of Normandy.  English kings will continue to hold lands in France as French dukes and counts until the conclusion of the Hundred Years War in 1453. Duke William with his brothers Robert of Mortain and Bishop Odo (Bayeux Tapestry) Bayeux Tapestry (wonderful reproduction). Coin of King William I of England.

1071   The Muslim Seljuq Turks defeat the Byzantines at Manzikert in eastern Anatolia and annex most of Anatolia. This was the culmination of a campaign against Byzantium that the Seljuq sultan Alp Arslan (r.1059-1072) had begun in 1068 when he invaded Cilicia (southwestern coastal Anatolia).  The disaster at Manzikert was exacerbated by the civil war within the Byzantine Empire that followed it, and by a Norman mercenary, Roussel de Bailleul, going rogue and seizing control over Galatia in west-central Anatolia, which he held until driven out by the Seljuqs (at the request of the Byzantine emperor). The desire of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus to overturn the results of Manzikert provided the catalyst that led to the First Crusade (see under 1095). (Miniature of a Seljuq court, Persian, 13th century.)

 1073   Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085) initiates a new conception of the Church and the role of the papacy within it. According to Gregory, the Church is obligated to create "right order in the world" rather than withdraw from it. Gregory seeks to create a papal monarchy with moral authority over the “temporal sword” (secular state) and rule over the clergy. Gregory’s claims are enunciated in the Dictates of the Pope” (Dictatus Papae), a list of 27 assertions recorded in Gregory’s papal register under 1075: a) the supremacy of the Roman pontiff over the entire Church, including the eastern branch ('That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal/That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches') and rule over the episcopate, which entailed the right of deposing and reinstating bishops (a right that could be exercised even by a legate), the power of organizing diocese, the right to be the ultimate judge in ecclesiastical cases, and a claim to be exempt from human judgment); b. The power to issue canon law; c. the sanctity of the pope qua pope (through the merits of St Peter); d. papal supremacy over the princes of the earth ('That he alone may use the imperial insignia/That of the pope all princes shall kiss the feet'), with the practical and revolutionary claim 'that he may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.' [There is an indication here of Gregory's view of the pope as the final judge over the entire feudal system; in his treatment of Henry at Canossa there is some indication that he conceived of himself as being the ultimate feudal overlord. The feudal claims of the papacy is a topic that deserves to be explored in more depth.]

King Henry IV of Germany responds with the traditional theocratic claims for German kingship, including the right to appoint bishops within his realm, thereby inaugurating the Investiture Controversy pitting reformer popes supported by pious laity and monks against traditionalist emperors, kings, and bishops.  The conflict ostensibly concerns the papacy’s attempt to ban the practice of lay investiture, i.e. laymen conferring upon newly consecrated bishops the symbols of spiritual office, but it is really a struggle by the papacy against laymen appointing (and controling) bishops and abbots. The papacy claims that bishops and abbots must be freely elected by the clergy of their diocese or the monks of their monastery; emperors and kings maintain their traditional right to appoint bishops and abbots. The Gregorian reform encourages the practice of Christian warfare in the pursuit of providing "right order in the world,” which forms the basis for the Crusades. Gregory VII encouraged Christian princes to recover lands from Muslims in Spain, over which he claimed papal sovereignty on the basis of ancient right. (Portrait of Pope Gregory VII.)

File:Hugo-v-cluny heinrich-iv mathilde-v-tuszien cod-vat-lat-4922 1115ad.jpg  1077   Submission at Canossa. Henry IV of Germany submits to Pope Gregory VII at Canossa in an act of public humiliation. After two years of harmony with the papacy because he needed the pope’s support against rebellious German princes, Henry IV defied Pope Gregory VII’s ban on lay investiture by appointing and investing the archbishop of Milan in Italy (1075). Gregory VII reprimanded Henry IV, and the latter responded by calling a council of German bishops (1076) which declared that Gregory VII had gained the papacy by illegitimate means and had forfeited the office through his unholy actions. Henry IV deposed Gregory VII, who responded by excommunicating the king and absolving his subjects from their oaths of loyalty to him. The German princes took this as a signal to revolt against Henry IV and prepared to elect a new German king. While Pope Gregory VII was on his way to attend the election, Henry intercepted him at Canossa, a fortress in northern Italy at the mouth of the Alps belonging to Countess Mathilda of Tuscany, a fervent papal supporter. Rather than attack, as Gregory expected, the king surprised the pope by presenting himself as a penitent. Gregory kept the king standing in the snow bareheaded for three days before lifting the excommunication. Henry IV, with Pope Gregory VII maintaining neutrality, wages war against the rebel German princes and their “anti-king” Rudolf of Swabia. (Emperor Henry IV enthroned.)

1078-1093          St. Anselm served as abbot of Bec (Normandy), where he composed several important works of theology, notably the Proslogion which offers a rational argument for the existence of God (the so-called “Ontological Argument”).

1079-1142   Life of Peter Abelard, the father of “scholasticism,” a method of dialectical reasoning in which logic is used to reconcile apparent contradictions between authoritative texts. Peter Abelard contributes to this movement with his great theological work, Sic et Non (see entries for years 1118, 1121).

1080    Pope Gregory VII realizes that King Henry IV has no intention of abiding by his submission to the papacy and declares Rudolf the legitimate king of Germany and excommunicates Henry IV for a second time. Henry IV responds by appointing an antipope. (From this point on, the appointment of antipopes became a major weapon used by emperors in their fights with popes, just as popes used the threats of excommunication and deposition against emperors.]

 1084   Henry IV seizes Rome and enthrones his antipope who crowns him emperor. The Norman duke of southern Italy Robert Guiscard, an ally and vassal of Pope Gregory VII, rescues the pope but the Normans pillage Rome in the process. Gregory VII retires to southern Italy with Robert Guiscard. (Miniature of Henry IV driving Gregory VII out of Rome, 12th-century ms. of the “Life of King Henry IV.)

1084   St Bruno of Cologne founds the Carthusian Order of hermit-monks in the then desolate and deserted valley of La Chartreuse near Grenoble. Bruno, who had been chancellor of the archbishop of Rheims, sought a more ascetic and solitary life than offered by contemporary Benedictine monasticism. Guibert of Nogent writing around 1115 described the monastery at Chartreuse and its way of life: “The church stands upon a ridge . . . thirteen monks dwell there, who have a sufficiently convenient cloister, in accordance with the coenobitic custom, but do not live together claustraliter like other monks. Each has his own cell round the cloister, and in these they work, sleep, and eat. On Sundays they receive the necessary bread and vegetables (for the week) which is their only kind of food and is cooked by each one in his own cell; water for drinking and for other purposes is supplied by a conduit . . . . There are no gold or silver ornaments in their church, except a silver chalice. They do not go to the church as we do [Guibert was a Benedictine], but only for certain of them. They hear Mass, unless I am mistaken, on Sundays and solemnities. They hardly ever speak, and, if they want anything, ask for it by a sign. If they ever drink wine, it is so watered down as to be scarcely better than plain water. They wear a hair shirt next the skin, and their other garments are thin and scanty. They live under a prior, and the Bishop of Grenoble acts as their abbot and provisor . . . Lower down the mountain there is a building containing over twenty most faithful lay brothers [laicos], who work for them. . . . Although they observe the utmost poverty, they are getting together a very rich library.” The Carthusians along with the Cistercians represent an ascetic and puritanical reforming trend within Western monasticism in the late eleventh and early twelfth century.

1085   Pope Gregory VII dies in exile in southern Italy. His last words are a bitter parody of a psalm: ‘I have loved justice and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile.” (Cf. Psalm 45:7 “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”) Robert Guiscard dies while fighting the Byzantines in an attempt to seize Thessaly from the Byzantine Empire. (Miniature of Gregory VII dying in exile, 12th-century ms. of the “Life of King Henry IV.)

1085   Alfronso VI of Léon and Castile takes Toledo from the Muslims, a decisive turning point in the Christian Reconquista of Spain.

            1085/1086   Domesday Book Inquest.  In 1085 England faced invasion by the king of Denmark Cnut IV by right of inheritance from his ancestor Cnut the Great.  William the Conqueror responded by raising a large army of mercenaries, whom he billeted on the estates of his tenants-in-chief throughout England, making each landholder responsible for provisioning a specified number of troops “in proportion to his land” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle}. William, however, only roughly knew who held what, as the Normans had been playing a game of tenurial musical chairs for twenty years in which the real losers were the native landowners. He also wanted to review each estate’s tax assessment (measured in “hides”) to see whether he could extract more revenues out of it. The single largest source of royal revenue in 1085 was the so-called “Danegeld,” a tax instituted by Æthelred the Unready to pay for the services of Thorkell the Tall, and continued by Cnut and his Danish successors to maintain their standing fleets. Edward the Confessor, in a show of confidence in the legitimacy of his kingship, had abolished it, but William revived it after the Conquest. What was needed was a thorough review of the landed resources of the realm, and that is precisely what William order done in midwinter 1085. England was divided into circuits, each consisting of several shires, and royal commissioners were assigned to the each circuit and dispatched to find out the landed resources available to the king in each. Using the shire courts, the commissioners asked a series of standard questions about every estate in that shire: who owned it in 1066 on the day that Edward the Confessor died, to whom was it given after the Conquest, who owned it in 1086, what was its value (estimate of annual revenues) in 1066 and 1086, numbers and types of peasant tenants, agricultural resources, extent of arable land, and the estate’s assessed tax liability in hides or “carucates.” The returns from the shires were subsequently recorded in a giant land register that came to be known as Domesday Book in the months preceding William’s death or, as has been recently argued, during the reign of his son William Rufus (1087-1100). Domesday Book is organized by shire, and within each shire, the estates are listed by landholder rather than geographically. The Domesday Inquest revealed that twenty years after the Conquest the king held 17% of the landed wealth of England; the church, 26.5%; the lay tenants-in-chief (those who held their land directly from the king), 48.5% (top 10 holds 20%); pre-Conquest holders, 5.5%; and royal servants, 2.5%. (Folio from Domeday Book.)

1086   Salisbury Oath. King William the Conqueror summoned “all the landowners who were of any account over all England, no matter which man's men they were” to meet him on Salisbury plain on 1 August “.... and they all bowed themselves before him, and became his men, and swore him oaths of allegiance that they would against all other men be faithful to him.” William drew upon the Anglo-Saxon idea of royal liege lordship, that the king was the primary lord of all men who held land freely. This notion of kingship would be revived by King Henry II (1054-1089).

1087   Death of William the Conqueror/succession of his son King William Rufus to throne of England (r.1087-1100). William died in France fighting against his feudal overlord King Philip of France and his rebellious eldest son Robert Curthose. William’s second son William Rufus (r.1087-1100) succeeded to the throne of England and Robert Curthose, to the duchy of Normandy. This division pleased neither man and, as a result, the brothers fought each other until Robert left on Crusade in 1096. William Rufus was an outstanding military commander. He was also ruthless, greedy, clever, irreverent, blasphemous, and probably homosexual. In need of cash to finance going on the First Crusade, Robert mortgaged the Duchy of Normandy for three years to William in return for a payment of 10,000 marks. Robert’s willingness to entrust his duchy while on crusade to his brother, with whom he had been fighting over the duchy and kingship, and his belief that William would return it to him upon his return has been held as a mark of the chivalrous duke’s naïveté and political incompetence.

       William did not passively ‘hold’ Normandy for his brother. He fought two wars to expand its/his power in France: in the Vexin to the east against his nominal overlord, king Philip I of France; and against the counts of Maine and Anjou to the south. His conquest of Maine in 1098-1099 was a model of medieval military efficiency, as was his suppression of a rebellion by some northern earls in England angered by his extortionate approach to feudal prerogatives (jacking up reliefs as high as possible and demanding large feudal aids from his tenants-in-chief to fight his wars) and his rigorous enforcement of royal forest laws, which were as obnoxious to the local nobility as they were profitable to the Crown. (Think here of “Robin Hood” hunting the king’s deer in the royal forest.) In his never ending quest for revenues, William deliberately left about twenty abbacies and bishoprics vacant, so that he could profit from the revenues generated by their lands.

       The man in charge of overseeing these vacancies was William’s chief financial officer (as well as keeper of the royal seal, treasurer, and chief justiciar),  Ranulf Flambard, a cleric whose loyalty was squarely with the king. Ranulf Flambard was extremely inventive and effective in finding ways to squeeze money out of the king’s subjects. For this he was rewarded by William Rufus with the powerful and wealthy bishopric of Durham. Henry I, immediately after assuming the throne, imprisoned Flambard for embezzlement in the Tower of London (the first prisoner ever held there). Subsequently, Ranulf escaped to Normandy where he became an advisor to Count Robert Curthose, leading to his deposition from his bishopric in England. When Henry defeated and imprisoned his brother, Flambard made his peace with the king and retired into private life.

       William Rufus’ irreverent and blasphemous side came out in his dealings with his pious archbishop of Canterbury, St. Anselm. William had left the see of Canterbury vacant for three years (during which time he had been pocketing the revenues of the see) when suddenly in 1093 he fell deathly ill. Suddenly penitent, William sought the holiest man he knew to become his archbishop, the pious scholar Anselm, the Italian born abbot of Bec in Normandy. Anselm was reluctant to accept the position—the nobles around the king’s sick bed had to forcibly force open Anselm’s clenched fists to invest him with the ring and crozier—and told William that it was a bad match (the metaphor he used was having him as archbishop and William as king was like yoking together an old sheep and an unbroken bull to a plow). Anselm was prophetic. When William recovered, he immediately regretted having given up the revenues from Canterbury and having saddled himself with an archbishop committed to the liberties of the English church and obedient to the dictates of the pope. King and archbishop tangled over several issues, mostly having to do with William’s encroachments upon the property of the Church of Canterbury.  Matters came to a head in 1097 over the issue of lay investiture. Anselm himself seems to have been indifferent to the issue. His mentor Lanfranc had been invested archbishop of Canterbury by the hand of William the Conqueror as had he by William Rufus. (His clenched fist resistance came from his reluctance to assume the office of archbishop rather than the impropriety of having the ring and crozier handed to him by a layman. But in 1095 at the famous Council of Clermont which launched the First Crusade, Pope Urban II prohibited (for the umpteenth time) the practice of lay investiture.  Anselm felt it his duty as bishop to follow the dictates of the pope; William was going to be damned if he gave up the royal right of lay investiture, which to him meant the right to appoint (or not appoint) bishops and abbots. As a result, Anselm spent the final three years of William’s reign in exile in Rome.

       Rufus outraged the monastic chroniclers by protecting Jews against Christian proselytizing, largely because he saw them as a source of revenues. (Jews were moneylenders, and as royal serfs, the king could arbitrarily squeeze them for cash when he needed it.) He was accused of homosexuality by early twelfth-century monastic chroniclers, who decried the long hair and effeminate clothing worn by the young men of his court, and he at one point had an acrimonious exchange with Anselm about the archbishop’s intention to publicly condemn the vice of sodomy. The chroniclers, however, hated Rufus for his rough and arbitrary treatment of the Church, in particular his hounding of Anselm, and his casual impiety, so it is possible that the charge of homosexuality was simply another way of blackening his posthumous reputation. But it is likely that they pegged Rufus’ sexual preferences accurately. He never married despite living into his forties, apparently had no mistresses or concubines, and sired no bastard children, all of which was unusual for a king or noble of the period. Rufus’s court as described in the sources was a “boys club” in which noblewomen were conspicuous for their absence. The only women hanging out in it, apparently, were prostitutes. The king clearly preferred the company of males, and his favorite pursuits were stereotypically ‘masculine’: hunting, hawking, and war.  William Rufus was an avid hunter, a courageous and capable soldier, and a canny military leader. But, even if we take into account the obvious bias of the sources, William Rufus was a king loved only by his household. The great nobles of England hated him for extorting money from them by misusing (in their view) his feudal prerogatives; the clergy loathed him for his willingness to leave sees and abbacies unfilled and his open lack of piety; and the common people feared and hated him for the heavy taxation he imposed upon them in support of his wars.

Almoravids, a fundamentalist Muslim Berber dynasty from Morocco, invade Spain in response to appeal from local Muslim princes for help against Alfonso VI of Léon and Castile, and defeat Christians in battle. They return to Spain in 1090 and depose less stringent local Muslim princes (taifas).

 1093   (St) Anselm, then abbot of Bec in Normandy, is appointed archbishop of Canterbury by a gravely ill King William II Rufus of England. William Rufus recovers and immediately regrets choosing the saintly Anselm, whom he drives into exile in 1097. 

1094   Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid Campeador (c.1040-1099), after being exiled by Alfonso VI of Castile, takes the city of Valencia from the Muslims and rules it .

1095   Council of Clermont. The First Crusade is initiated when Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus requests help in reconquering from the Seljuk Turks the lost territory of Asia Minor. Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont calls upon the princes of Christendom for an armed “pilgrimage” to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims. Among his goals is the strengthening of the Gregorian papacy by bringing the Greek Orthodox Church under papal authority. The response is dramatic with two waves of “crusaders” answering the Pope’s call.  War continues between Pope Urban II and the German Emperor Henry IV, who is forced to flee Italy. (Miniature of Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont.)

Historical definition of crusades: a series of holy wars called by popes with the promise of indulgences for those who fought in them and directed against external and internal enemies of Christendom for the recovery of Christian property or in defense of the Church or Christian people.  Crusades were characterized by the taking of vows and the granting of indulgences to those who participated.  Like going on pilgrimage, to which they were often likened, crusading was an act of Christian love and piety that compensated for and paid the penalties earned by sin.  It marked a break in earlier Christian medieval conceptions of warfare in that crusades were penitential warfare.

1096‑1099: Phases and major events of the First Crusade.

1096: People’s Crusade. About 20,000 lesser nobles and peasants from northern France and Germany, led in part by Peter the Hermit and Walter Sansavoir. Peasants massacred Jews of Rhineland along the way. Many of the crusaders were killed by Hungarians in retaliation for their looting of the countryside. Those that made it to Constantinople were slaughtered by the Turks in Anatolia. Remnant, about 3,000 strong, including Peter the Hermit, joined up with Prince's Crusade. Probably the greatest significance of the People’s Crusade was that it revealed the wide-spread popular appeal of Urban’s call to crusade and that the poor military showing it made against the Turks lulled the Sultan Kilij Arslan to underestimating the threat of the Princes’ Crusade that followed.

1096‑1099: Princes' Crusade. Force of about 50-60,000 (including noncombatants), of which about 7,000 were knights. Led by dukes and counts: Godfrey of Bouillon, Baldwin of Boulogne, Raymond IV of Toulouse, Stephen of Blois, Robert Curthose of Normandy, Hugh of Vermandois, Bohemond of Taranto (Norman of southern Italy), and Robert of Flanders. The crusade did not have a military commander or a chain of command. Its moral leader was Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, the papal legate.  Results: Jerusalem taken and Crusader States established.

1097-1098   Siege of Antioch. The crusaders, after swearing oaths of allegiance to Emperor Alexius and promising to restore to him formerly held Byzantine territory, crossed into Anatolia, the Seljuq Sultanate of Rum ruled by Kilij Arslan. They laid siege to the Seljuq capital city of Nicaea and defeated a relief army led by Kilij Arslan, but were deprived of plunder when the city surrendered to Alexius after secret negotiations. In compliance with their oaths, the crusaders ceded Nicaea to Alexius and marched southeast, but this was the beginning of bad blood between the crusader leaders and the Byzantines. Kilij Arslan’s forces intercepted the army (which was marching in two divisions separated by mile) at Dorylaeum but the crusaders managed to defeat it. They continued marching south through Anatolia meeting little opposition. Baldwin of Boulogne broke off from the main army to take control of the county of Edessa, while the main crusader army marched on to Antioch. The Siege of Antioch (20 Oct 1097-3 June 1098) proved a turning point. This long siege turned into a competitive starving match during which many hungry crusaders deserted.  After beating off several relief attempts from local Turkish rulers, the crusaders took the city by treachery. Bohemond, who wanted Antioch for himself, contacted a disaffected Armenian warden of one of the city’s towers. After forcing the other leaders to agree to give him Antioch (in breach of their agreement with Alexius), Bohemond had his confederate permit the crusaders to enter the city through his now unguarded tower. The crusaders now found themselves starving within the city’s walls and caught between the still untaken city citadel and a large advancing Turkish army commanded by the atabeg (governor) of Mosul, Kerbogha. Stephen of Blois, who had left the crusade just before the city was taken and was on his way back to his mortified wife Adela, convinced Alexius that the crusaders’ situation was hopeless and that there was no point in coming to their rescue. When all seemed lost, a simple soldier in Count Raymond’s southern French army, Peter Bartholomew, had visions in which St. Andrew told him where to find the Holy Lance. The discovery of the “Holy Lance” was greeted with skepticism by Bohemond and Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, but it raised morale in the ranks and was an important factor in the Crusaders victory over Kerbogha’s relief army. (In the following year Peter Bartholomew was to die in an ordeal by fire to prove the authenticity of the Lance.) The Fatimids of Egypt, enemies of the Seljuqs, entered into negotiations with the crusaders, whom they understood to be a Byzantine mercenary army, facilitating their capture of Turkish held towns in Syria and the Levant as they marched south toward Jerusalem. 

1099   The crusaders of the First Crusade, numbering now around 20,000, capture Jerusalem, massacring its inhabitants (Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike). The Crusaders divide their new territories into four principalities. Godfrey of Bouillon is named “defender of the Holy Sepulcher” and ruler of Jerusalem.

1101-1102: the Crusade of the Faint-hearted (coda to the First Crusade). Pope Paschal II, taking up where his predecessor Pope Urban II left off, preached another crusade to aid the fledgling Kingdom of Jerusalem. He called in particular upon those who had taken but failed to fulfill the crusader vow but had not fulfilled it, whom he threatened with excommunication, and those who had left the First Crusade before it reached Jerusalem (the “faint-hearted”).  The result was another large, disorganized crusade, even more heterogeneous and far less successful than the First. The largest contingent were townspeople and peasants from Lombardy (northern Italy). Others came from various parts of France and Germany.  Among the Crusades’ leaders were Count Stephen of Blois and Count Hugh of Vermandois, both seeking to restore the honor they had lost by leaving the First Crusade prematurely. (Stephen’s ignominious flight from the Crusade during the dark days of the siege of Antioch mortified his wife Countess Adela, the daughter of King William the Conqueror; she nagged him into going back to restore her honor.]  The crusade of 1101 was almost annihilated in Asia Minor by the Seljuks.

1098   Founding of the Cistercian Order. Saint Robert abbot of Molesme leaves the abbey of Molesme, which he finds too worldly and wealthy, to found the abbey of Citeaux, in a desolate valley near Dijon (France) and becomes its first abbot.  The monasticism adopted at Citeaux emphasizes asceticism, simplicity, and manual labor, developing into the monastic order of the Cistercians.  The abbeys second and third abbots, St. Alberic of Citeaux (1100-1108)  and St. Stephen Harding (1108-1134), are considered co-founders of the Cistercian order, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux (see, s.a., 1115), the man most responsible for the astounding popularity that the order achieved in the twelfth century. The Cistercians rejected anything smacking of worldliness. Their churches were unadorned and unheated, they remained silent unless it was absolutely necessary to speak, and they ate the plainest of diets. Because of their emphasis upon voluntary renunciation of the world, the Cistercians,  like the Carthusians and unlike traditional Benedictine monasteries, accepted only adults.

1100   Godfrey of Bouillon dies and his brother Baldwin becomes the first Latin King of Jerusalem.

c.1100   The Song of Roland, the oldest chanson de geste (medieval epic poem) is composed by an anonymous poet in Anglo-Norman French. The poem is set in northern Spain during the reign of Charlemagne and is (loosely) based on an historical event, the massacre of Charlemagne's rearguard at Roncesvalles in 778. The poem praises knightly martial values of prowess, courage, and loyalty. The poet uses the story of Ganelon’s plot to kill his stepson Roland by betraying him and Charlemagne’s rearguard to the Saracens to promote the idea that a knight’s loyalty to his lord ought to take precedence over loyalty to kinsmen and even over slights to one’s honor. Roland reveals no knowledge of Islam, representing Muslims as pagans who worship three stone idols and Islam as the inverse of Christianity, as represented by the mantra: “Christians are right and pagans are wrong!” 12th century illustration of Song of Roland

c. 1100-1200   Italian communes seize power from bishops and extend control over countryside (contado). Medieval commune of San Gimignano, freed from bishop 1199.

1100-1135          Reign of Henry I, king of England. When his brother King William II Rufus (r.1087-1100) suddenly died in a hunting accident, Henry quickly took the throne, which ought to have passed to his older brother Duke Robert of Normandy, absent on the First Crusade.  Henry’s first act as king was to issue a “Charter of Liberties” to firm up his support among the English nobility.  In this charter Henry pledged to abolish the unjust customs of his predecessor and to rule justly. Henry I was especially important in establishing a powerful central administration in England. His governmental reforms amounted to a revolution in governance that helped produce an administrative kingship. Henry's goal was to enhance royal power by advancing justice and political stability. Typical was Henry I's order that royal officials and royal servants who abused their offices were to be blinded and mutilated. His harshness extended to his own family. In a dispute over custody of the castle of Ivry, Henry exchanged hostages with his son-in-law Eustace de Bréteuil, giving Eustace the son of the castellan of Ivry and receiving from Eustace two of his daughters, Henry’s granddaughters. When Eustace blinded his hostage and sent him back to his father, Henry turned over his two granddaughters to the wronged castellan, who retaliated by cutting off their noses and blinding them. Their mother, Henry’s illegitimate daughter Juliane tried to kill her father with a crossbow during negotiations over her surrender. Henry’s response was to confiscate Eustace and Juliane’s holdings. Unlike his predecessor William Rufus, Henry’s brutality was seen by contemporary chroniclers as deliberate and just, always with the purpose of maintaining peace and order. Acts such as the above earned him praise as “the lion of justice and the rex pacificus [peace-keeping king].” In this twelfth-century chroniclers loved to contrast him with his impious elder brother and immediate predecessor King William Rufus.  And Henry appears to have promoted the favorable comparison. Whereas William Rufus’ royal household ravaged the countryside as if it were an invading army in the king’s peregrinations around England, Henry carefully arranged his itinerary and gave notice of when and where he was going so merchants could meet the court, sparing the local landowners and their tenants.

Henry’s greatest accomplishment during his long reign was the creation of several institutions of royal governance, in particular the Exchequer, the royal accounting office, which received its name from the large chess-board that was used as an abacus in the settling of accounts. Twice a year, at Michaelmas (Sept 29) and Easter, the king’s court became the Exchequer court; sheriffs and other officials were required to turn in the revenues they collected from the areas within their jurisdiction and provide explanations for shortfalls. Their returns were recorded on parchment sheets, which were sewn together and rolled up for storage. These royal financial records are known as the “Pipe Rolls.” Henry I also instituted a system of itinerant royal justices, sent out from court to localities to hear and judge 'pleas of the Crown' (i.e., serious criminal offenses) in the courts of the shires and the hundreds (see above under Edward the Confessor, 1042-1066). Henry I extended the scope of royal law and is one of the fathers of English Common Law (called this because it was binding upon all free Englishmen).

Henry I reunited the Anglo-French holdings of his father William the Conqueror by seizing Normandy from his older brother Duke Robert Curthose in 1106. Although he had about two dozen illegitimate children, his one legitimate son died in a boating accident in 1120, leaving only one legitimate offspring, his daughter Matilda, the young widow of the German Emperor Henry V. He married her in 1128 to his main continental rival, Geoffrey Plantagenet, son and heir of the Count of Anjou, and compelled the English barons to swear that they would support her succession to the throne. One of them, Henry I’s nephew Stephen of Blois, reneged and claimed the kingship upon his uncle’s death. This led to a civil war that wracked England for a generation. (King Henry I dreams of threats to the throne from peasants, knights, and bishops, from mid 12th-century ms. of Chronicle of John of Worcester.)

c.1100 Carthusian and Cistercian monastic reform movements. Around the same time, a new asceticism is sought for monks who wish to engage in contemplation and self-examination. Two new orders are created: the Carthusian and the Cistercian. Both followed the rule of St. Benedict but placed a greater emphasis upon austerity than practiced in contemporary Benedictine monasteries.  The Carthusians mimicked hermits by living in individual cells; the Cistercians rejected anything smacking of worldliness. Their churches were unadorned and unheated, they remained silent unless it was absolutely necessary to speak, and they ate the plainest of diets. Because of their emphasis upon voluntary renunciation of the world, the Carthusians and Cistercians, unlike traditional Benedictine monasteries, accepted only adults.

1106        Henry I of England and Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury agree on a compromise over the practice of lay investiture. Henry gives up the claimed right to invest bishops with ring and crozier, while Anselm agrees that newly elected bishops should do homage to the king for their lands. This is a dry-run for the compromise that sixteen years later ended the Investiture Controversy in Germany, the Concordat of Worms (1122).

       Following his reconciliation with Archbishop Anselm and now secure in the support of the English Church, Henry invaded Normandy, defeated his brother Robert in the Battle of Tinchebray, and assumed the title of duke of Normandy, reuniting the dominions held by their father William the Conqueror. Henry held Robert in prison for the rest of his life (about twenty years). (King Henry I dreams of threats to the throne from peasants, knights, and bishops, from mid 12th-century ms. of Chronicle of John of Worcester.)

1108-1137   Louis VI “the Fat,” the first important Capetian king of France, consolidates royal power within the Ile-de-France by suppressing the robber barons. He establishes an alliance between the French monarchy and the French church, and promotes the development of towns, using clergy and burghers rather than great nobles as royal administrators. The peace he establishes allows agriculture, trade and intellectual activity to flourish in the Ile-de-France. Paris begins its expansion which will make it by 1200 the greatest Christian city north of the Alps. The reign of Louis VI is detailed (and praised) in Abbot Suger’s The Deeds of King Louis the Fat. (Great Seal of King Louis VI.)

1108   William of Champeaux founds school of theology and philosophy at the Abbey of Saint Victor, Paris.

1112   The commune of Laon rises up against the town’s ruler Bishop Gaudry (r.1107-1112) and kills him (recorded in Guibert of Nogent’s autobiography).


 1113/1129: First Crusading Military Orders founded. “Military Orders” were a hybrid creation combining knighthood and monasticism. The Brother Knights lived under a monastic rule modeled in the case of the Primitive Rule of the Templars upon the Cistercian rule. Their monastic “work” was prayer and warfare. Like the Cistercians, the Military Orders only accepted adults into their ranks.

Knights Hospitaller (“Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem”), founded in 1099 but recognized by papacy as a religious order in 1113. Although founded earlier than the Templars, the Hospitallers became a “military order” later, probably in the middle of the 12th century.

Knights Templar (“Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon”) established c.1119 to protect pilgrims to Jerusalem and confirmed by papacy as a religious order in 1129. Cistercian abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux  popularized the Templars  in his treatise the New Knighthood  (Manuscript illumination of Bernard of Clairvaux writing.) (Great Seal of the Master of the Knights Templar.)

1115  Earliest reference to the fairs of Champagne. See below under 1130s.

 1115   St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) founds the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux. Mystic, theologian, religious enthusiast, St. Bernard was the third son of a Burgundian noble. As a child he was educated in a cathedral school, an indication that his family may have intended him to enter the Church. Nonetheless, it was not until 1113 that he entered the fledgling Cistercian Order, one of thirty young Burgundian noblemen to do so. Tradition has it that Bernard’s decision was the result of a vision he had of the Virgin Mary soon after the death of his devout mother. Bernard’s influence was such that all five of his brothers, his sister, and his father all ended up following him into the monastic profession. St. Bernard was to become the spiritual leader of Europe and an adviser to kings and popes. He is largely responsible for making the new Cistercian Order the most popular religious movement of the early twelfth century and for popularizing the cult of the Virgin Mary (all Cistercian churches were dedicated to the Virgin). In 1115 the monastery of Citeaux had four “daughter houses” (dependent monasteries); by the time of his death, the order had grown to 343 houses. Bernard opposed the Gothic style of Abbot Suger as idolatrous; opposed Cluny as too formalistic and wealthy; and opposed Abelard and the new scholastic movement. (Ruins of 12th-century Cistercian abbey at Boyle, Ireland.)

1115   Guibert, abbot of Nogent completes his autobiography (entitled Monodiae, i.e. Songs in One Voice).


 1118-1119   Abelard and Heloise.  Abelard teaches in Paris; tutors, seduces, impregnates, and marries Heloise. When he places her in a convent, Heloise’s uncle Canon Fulbert (of Notre Dame), believing that Abelard was repudiating the marriage, defends his family honor by hiring men to castrate Abelard.  Abelard survives and becomes a monk at St. Denis, the royal monastery near Paris; Heloise enters a convent at Argenteuil, also near Paris. They give their son Astrolabe into the care of relatives. Abelard subsequently writes about the events in an open letter, The History of My Calamities. Abelard ended up as a monk of Cluny after being driven from one place to another and suffering condemnation of his teachings. (Abelard and Heloise from a 14th-century illuminated ms.)

1120   Wreck of the White Ship. King Henry I of England’s only legitimate son drowns, leaving Henry’s daughter the Empress Matilda (wife of Emperor Henry V of Germany) as his only legitimate offspring (he has dozens of bastards). In 1125 the Emperor Henry V died leaving a Matilda a young widow. She returned to England and Henry compelled his barons—including her cousin Stephen of Blois—to take an oath that they would support her succession to the throne. To secure peace between Normandy and Anjou (the greatest threat to Normandy), Henry arranged a marriage in 1128 to his 26 year old daughter to the 15 year old Geoffrey Plantagenet, then count of Maine and heir apparent to his father the count of Anjou. This is the back story to the King Stephen-Queen Matilda civil war that would wrack England between 1137 and 1153.

1121   Abelard [1079-1142] writes Sic et Non (“Yes and No”), the first great scholastic treatise which juxtaposes apparently contradictory statements about theology from Scripture and the Church Fathers and provides a logical method for reconciling the contradictions (e.g. the multiple meanings of words, scribal errors in transmission of texts). St. Bernard of Clairvaux engineers the condemnation of Peter Abelard for heresy at council of Soissons. Although the formal accusation is that Abelard denied the unity of the Trinity, St. Bernard of Clairvaux underlying objection is to Abelard’s scholasticism, which he pronounces to be “fool-ology” rather than theology. Abelard, the son of a Breton nobleman who had become a cleric and teacher of philosophy and theology, had pioneered a dialectical method of inquiry in which apparently contradictory but equally authoritative texts would be weighed against one another. He argued that with reason one could reconcile all the apparent contradictions. He explained his goal in his treatise Sic et Non:  “We have undertaken to collect various sayings of the Fathers that gave rise to questioning because of their apparent contradictions. ... This questioning excites young readers to the maximum of effort in inquiring into the truth, and such inquiry sharpens their minds. Assiduous and frequent questioning is indeed the first key to wisdom. .... For by doubting we come to inquiry; through inquiry we perceive the truth, according to the Truth Himself. ‘Seek and you shall find,’ He says.” Abelard never really doubted the truth of Revelation, and insisted that all revealed knowledge, if understood properly, is true and mutually consistent. The trick was to use reason and logic to understand that truth.  Abelard’s emphasis upon the critical importance of inquiry and knowledge in the pursuit of the Truth underlies his ethical philosophy as well (see below 1138), which emphasizes the importance of introspection for moral development.

1120s-1200   Historical study flourishes in England and Normandy.  Chronicles based upon historical evidence and written in classically influenced Latin were written by Orderic Vitalis (1075-1142), William of Malmesbury (c.1090-1143), Henry of Huntingdon (1080-1160), William of Newburgh (c.1135-c.1200), Roger of Howden (1174-1201).  A notable exception to this program of attempting to depict the past accurately is the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1100-c.1155), who eschewed historical research into sources and oral testimony in favor of inventing good stories based upon a legendary past that included King Arthur (see under 1136-1138).

1122   Concordat of Worms formally ends the Investiture Controversy. A compromise is reached in a meeting at Worms, Germany, between pope and emperor over the issue of investiture: bishops will invest newly consecrated bishops with the religious symbols of their office, while the emperor invests them with the symbols of their temporal rule. This acknowledges the dual office of bishop. Insofar as the bishop is spiritual, he belongs to the clergy alone. Insofar as he is an earthly ruler endowed with jurisdictional rights, he is a subject of the emperor from whom he has received these rights.


 c. 1120-1303    Papal Monarchy. The resolution of the Investiture Controversy facilitated the development of the Papal Monarchy, which realized many of the claims to papal supremacy over the Church made by Pope Gregory VII in the Dictatus Papae of 1075. The pope emerged as the head of a hierarchical, institutional Church with a sophisticated administrative system that relied upon written records. In a sense, the twelfth-century Church became the most administratively advanced “state” in Western Europe, with the pope serving as its ruler and the Papal Curia as his central administration.  The Papal Monarch possessed all the attributes of a sovereign state: it legislated, taxed, maintained order within the church, and even raised armies to defend its interests (the crusades). The twelfth century witnessed the development of a codified body of canon law that asserted the papacy’s supremacy over the clergy, from archbishops down to subdeacons; regular use of papal legates to assert the pope’s control over regional churches; a series of ecumenical councils called by the pope; and the extension of papal oversight over canon law courts that head disputes not only between clerics and monastic houses but those involving rights of inheritance, marriage, and the rights of widows and orphans, and the establishment of the pope’s authority to make new canon law. An extensive system of canon law courts developed in which the papal curia serves as a supreme court of appeals.  Because of this, it became necessary for popes to be trained as legal experts, rather than as monks. It also necessitated the papacy’s search for increased revenues. The regular revenues of the papacy in the twelfth century came from a hodgepodge of sources. The most important of these were the feudal revenues the pope drew from the Papal States. This was supplemented by the “census,” annual payments by churches and monasteries directly subject to the papacy; Peter’s Pence, a land tax from England; charitable bequests from pious laymen; occasional income taxes and charitable subsidies taken from the clergy; payment by archbishops for the scarf-like vestment known as a pallium that indicated their rank and which could only be given by the pope; and, increasingly, by servitia, gratuities paid by bishops and abbots installed in their offices by the pope. To defray the cost of the growing judicial business heard by the Papal Court, attorney and chancery fees were charged. Given to great abuse were the fees charged by papal judges and court attendants to hear the suits, which could easily become extortionate.  Finally, the personnel of the Papal Curia, in particular the cardinals, expected and sometimes demanded gifts from those who appealed to the papacy for justice. As a result, criticism of the wealth and greed of the Papal Curia grew in the twelfth century among the lesser clergy outside of Rome, and gave rise to pointed satires and parodies such as “The Gospel according to the Mark of Silver” (a “mark” was a unit of money].

The development of the Papal Monarchy is reflected in the explosion in the number of ecumenical councils and in the number of papal bulls issued annually. Between 650 and 1000 there were only three ecumenical councils, two in Constantinople and one in Nicaea. Between 1123 (1st Lateran) and 1274 (2nd of Lyons) there were six ecumenical councils, all in the west. In addition there was an explosion of local legatine councils during this same period. In England there were 20 such councils between 1050 and 1300. Papal bulls (sealed letters) were the popes’ mechanism for conveying orders, resolving disputes, issuing decisions on doctrine, etc. Annual average of papal letters in first half of eleventh century was 1-10. Under Leo IX it rose to 35 and stayed at this level until 1130. Innocent II (1130-43) issued annually 72; 130 under Hadrian IV (1154-9), 179 under Alexander III (1159-81), 280 under Innocent III (1198-1215), and 730 under Innocent IV (1243-1254). The papal chancery, in which copies of all papal bulls were kept, became the model for record keeping offices instituted by secular rulers in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

1122-1151   Suger abbot of St. Denis. Abbot Suger was a statesman-prelate who served as adviser and confidant to the French kings Louis VI and Louis VII.  He is credited with introducing the architectural style known as “Gothic” (emphasis on stained glass windows, arched vaults, and flying buttresses) with the building of the Abbey Church of St. Denis (1137-1144), about which he wrote in his tracts Liber de Rebus in Administratione sua Gestis and Libellus Alter de Consecratione Ecclesiae Sancti Dionysii.  Suger also wrote several works of history, including a panegyric for King Louis VI (the Fat), The Deeds of King Louis the Fat.

1125   Reaffirmation of electoral character of German monarchy. Death of Emperor Henry V brings the Salian dynasty to an end. German princes meet at Mainz and create an electoral college of forty magnates (lay and clerical), ten from each of Germany’s four main tribes (Franconians/Lotharingians, Swabians, Saxons, Bavarians), who disregard hereditary claims and elect Lothar (III) of Supplinburg, duke of Saxony. The German monarchy had always been elective in theory but before this the principal of hereditary succession had largely determined who would be king.

1125   St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes “On Love of God,” in which he posits “four degrees of love of God”: “At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself. Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. That is the second degree, to love God, not for God's sake, but selfishly. … He advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God. Surely he must remain long in this state; and I know not whether it would be possible to make further progress in this life to that fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God's sake.”

1129  At the Council of Troyes in France, the Knights Templar receive a rule modeled on that of the Cistercian Order. The main author of the rule, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, follows up on this by composing a tract praising the military order, De laude Novae Militiae ad Milites Templi (“In Praise of the New Chivalry”)

1130    Disputed papal election: Pope Innocent II vs. (antipope) Anacletus II. “In 1130, Pope Honorius II lay dying and the cardinals decided that they would entrust the election to a commission of eight men, led by the papal chancellor Haimeric, who had his candidate Cardinal Gregory Papareschi hastily elected as Pope Innocent II. He was consecrated on February 14, the day after Honorius' death. On the same day, the other cardinals announced that Innocent had not been canonically elected and chose Cardinal Pietro Pierleoni, a Roman whose family were the enemy of Haimeric's supporters the Frangipani. Anacletus' supporters were a mixture of anyone opposed to Haimeric making him powerful enough to take control of Rome while Innocent was forced to flee North; legally speaking Anacletus was the canonically elected Pope and Innocent was the anti-Pope.

       However, north of the Alps, Innocent gained the crucial support of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny, and other prominent reformers who personally helped him to gain recognition from European rulers such as Lothair III, Holy Roman Emperor, leaving Anacletus with few patrons. Anacletus had been a relatively acceptable candidate for the Papacy, being well-respected, so rumors centering on his descent from a Jewish convert were spread to blacken his reputation. Among Anacletus' supporters were duke William X of Aquitaine, who decided for Anacletus against the will of his own bishops, and the powerful Roger II of Sicily, whose title of "King of Sicily" Anacletus had approved shortly after his accession. By 1135 Anacletus' position was weak despite their aid, but the schism only ended with his death in 1138, after which Innocent returned to Rome and ruled without opposition. Innocent II quickly convened the Second Lateran Council in 1139 and resolidified the Church's teachings against usury, clerical marriage, and other problems.” (from Wikipedia) The accusation against Anacletus II that the Perleoni family was of Jewish descent, although the family was unimpeachably Catholic in 1130, is often cited as a significant event in the history of antisemitism (as opposed to anti-Judaism).

1130   Chivalry: tournaments banned by the Council of Clermont, canon 9: “We completely forbid those detestable fairs or festivals where knights customarily gather by agreement and heedlessly fight among themselves to make show of their strength and bravery, whence often result men's deaths and souls' peril. Should any knight die on such an occasion he should not be denied penance and the last rights if he asks for them; yet let him not enjoy Church burial.” This provides evidence for the growing popularity of tournaments in France. The Church saw tournaments as places in which all of the seven deadly sins flourished and forces of disorder. They also feared that tournaments distracted knights who might otherwise go on crusade. The ban, however, proved completely ineffective, as did subsequent conciliar prohibitions of tournaments (1148, 1179, 1215, 1245, 1279, and 1313). Finally, in 1316 Pope John XXII gave up the fight and bestowed his blessings on tournaments.

1130   Nephew of Robert Guiscard Roger II the Great crowned king of Sicily with approval of pope, establishing the Norman kingdom of Sicily. Roger rules a kingdom that stretches from Naples to Sicily.

1130s-1170s    Fairs of Champagne become meeting place of merchants from Italy with those of Flanders (wholesale trade: Italian cloth, swords, warhorses; silks, sugar, spices from east/Flemish cloth and English tin); cycle of 6 trade fairs in four cities. The Champagne fairs remain central to the European commercial economy until the late thirteenth century.

1133/1134   Abelard writes The History of My Calamities (Historia Calamitatum).

1135   Henry I of England dies and his nephew Stephen of Blois renounces his oath to support his cousin Matilda’s succession and claims the throne of England. Matilda and her husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet, count of Anjou, respond with an invasion in 1137, and England is embroiled in civil war (“The Anarchy”) until 1153, when a compromise is reached: Stephen will remain king for the rest of his life (d. 1154) and Matilda’s son Henry (II) will succeed him as king. During this time of turmoil, the English Crown loses many of its traditional prerogatives over the Church. Barons throughout England build private castles to protect their lands or to threaten the lands of their neighbors.


 1136-1138 Geoffrey of Monmouth composes his “History of the Kings of Britain” in which he invents much of the framework for the story of King Arthur. (For online medieval texts dealing with King Arthur, see the Camelot Project of the University of Rochester.) Manuscript of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum (Harley 225, fol.3, British Library, 2nd half 12th century).

1137        Conrad (III), duke of Franconia becomes the first Hohenstaufen (or Staufer) king of Germany. The dynastic name Hohenstaufen comes from family’s main castle in Swabia (southwestern Germany). The family was also known by the name of another castle, Waiblingen. In Italy the pro-imperial party was called the Ghibellines.

1138   Abelard writes his treatise on ethics, entitled Know Yourself (Scito te ipsum). Abelard’s theory of ethics is radically intentionalist, that is he posits that the moral quality of an action is defined solely by the intention of the actor and that the consequences of the action are ethically irrelevant. Sin, according to Abelard, is inner consent to an action that one knows to be evil. Typically, Abelard illustrates this with the most provocative example possible: the Jews who called for Jesus’s crucifixion were not guilty of sin because they did so in ignorance of his divinity and out of an inner belief that they were upholding the dignity of God against blasphemy. Abelard, however, was not a moral relativist. He maintained that there is a right and a wrong, but he separated objective right and wrong from the intentions of the actor to do right and wrong. Abelard’s ethics emphasizes the importance of introspection and self understanding (hence the title). It also relates closely to developments in the theology of the sacrament of confession and reconciliation which at this time was being transformed from public group admissions of sin to private and personal individual confessions to a priest who assigned penance in accordance with the individual’s spiritual need.

1139   Second Lateran Council (tenth ecumenical council). The main business of this council, called in the wake of the death of the antipope Anacletus II, was to affirm Pope Innocent II, condemn Anacletus posthumously as a schismatic, excommunicate his greatest supporter King Roger II of Sicily, and restate the condemnation of church abuses from the Councils of Clermont (1095) and Council of Reims (1049). Several lesser heresies were anathematized.  Arnold of Brescia’s anticlerical teachings were condemned and Arnold himself banished from Italy.

 c.1140   Canon law codified. Gratian, a canon lawyer from Bologna, compiles a handbook of canon law from councils and papal decrees, reconciling apparent contradictions by using Abelard’s scholastic method. His Decretum  or Concord of Discordant Canons was incorporated into the official Catholic Church Corpus Juris Canonici and was used as a canon law textbook until 1917. 12th century copy of Gratian’s Decretum; glossed Gratian’s Decretum, early 13th century, Stowe 378, British Library.

1141        Council of Sens condemns Abelard and Arnold of Brescia for heterodox teaching. The condemnations were engineered by Bernard of Clairvaux. Abelard was condemned (again) for heterodox propositions about the Trinity. His student Arnold was condemned for teaching that clerics who own property, bishops who hold regalia [tenures by royal grant], and monks who have possessions cannot possibly be saved. All these things belong to the [temporal] prince, who cannot dispose of them except in favor of laymen.” Both are condemned to life imprisonment in separate monasteries, although the sentence is not carried out.

1144   Gothic architecture. Abbot Suger abbot of St. Denis, a burial shrine for French saints and kings, orders the Romanesque of the abbey to be torn down and replaced with one in the new Gothic style. Suger’s conception is to fill the church with light, which he sees as divine illumination. Gothic architecture is the result. In order to have “walls of glass” the architects replace the rounded arches and vaults of Romanesque churches with pointed arches and ribbed vaulting, and build external “flying buttresses” to support thin outer walls (as compared with Romanesque churches) dominated by stained glass windows.  (Stained glass window from Abbey of St. Denis.) (Abbey Church of St. Denis.)

1144-1187   Recovery of Aristotle. Gerard of Cremona translates from Arabic into Latin the Classical Greek scientific and mathematical works by Ptolemy, Euclid, and Aristotle.

1146-1155  Republican commune governs Rome led by Arnold of Brescia. Commune drives Pope Eugenius III from Rome; urban and religious revolution led by Arnold of Brescia, a deposed abbot and a student of Abelard who condemned popes and bishops “for their avarice and their shameful money-grubbing, for leading sin-stained lives and for trying to build God’s Church through the shedding of blood” (John of Salisbury). Ironically, Arnold was in Rome on pilgrimage by order of Pope Eugenius III to do penance for his heterodox teaching when the communal revolt broke out. The communal revolt was political and economic rather than religious. The lay leaders of Rome were intent on reestablishing the rule of the Senate in place of the temporal rule of the Pope. Arnold, however, saw the revolt as a religious movement against the wealth and worldliness of the papacy and the clergy.

1146‑1174   Nur‑al‑Din, Turkish ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, unites Moslem Syria under his rule. Reintroduces idea of Jihad. Coin of Nur al-Din

 1147-1148   Second Crusade called by Pope Eugene II, preached by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and led by King Louis VII of France and King Conrad of Germany, to recover the city of Edessa, which had been taken by the Muslims in 1144. Accomplishes nothing. 

1147   Crusade: capture of Lisbon. A fleet filled with English, Flemish, Frisian, and Scottish crusaders bound for the East were forced by storms to put into port in Portugal, where King Alfonso of Portugal persuaded them to aid him besiege Moorish held Lisbon. They took the city and expelled the Moors from it. Lisbon became part of the Christian kingdom of Portugal. The Capture of Lisbon (eyewitness account by Osbernus).

1147   Wendish Crusade: first of the Northern Crusades.  Pope Eugene extends crusading privileges to Germans campaigning against the pagan Wendish Slavs settled around the Elbe River.

1147-1219  Chivalry. William Marshal, the “flower of English chivalry.” William was the fourth son of John fitz Gilbert, royal marshal to the kings of England and a local magnate in southwestern England. He began his career as a royal household knight and rose to become one of the greatest landholders in Ireland and Wales and regent for the young King Henry III (r.1216-1272) after King John’s death in 1216. William Marshal is a good example of “practical” chivalry during the second half of the twelfth century. William leveraged a reputation for loyalty and exceptional skills as a tournament knight and soldier achieved while a household knight of the Young King Henry and, later, his father King Henry II of England into marriage with a royal ward that brought him extensive lands, wealth, and the title of earl.


 c. 1150-1200   Chivalry: emergence and development of French chivalric literature and courtly society. The second half of the twelfth century witnessed the flowering of French vernacular courtly literature: romances, chansons de geste, and troubadour love poetry.  The French poet Chrétien de Troyes (flourished c.1160-x.1190) recast Welsh traditions about King Arthur and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s imaginative History of the Kings of Britain (see above 1138) as chivalric Arthurian Romances. Chrétien’s contributions to the Arthurian legend include Lancelot, the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere (Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, dedicated to Countess Marie de Champagne), the stories of Eric and Enide and of Cligès and Fenice, and the quest for the Holy Grail, introduced in his last work, Perceval, the Story of the Grail, an unfinished poem written c.1190 for Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders. (Several continuations of Chrétien’s Perceval were written in the first half of the thirteenth century.) Chrétien was the first writer to advance the idea of romantic love within marriage (e.g. in his poem Yvain, The Knight with the Lion). Thomas of Britain (c.1160) and Beroul (c.1190) wrote early treatments of the story of Tristan and Iseult. Their contemporary Marie de France, writing in England in the late twelfth century, composed a series of twelve “lais” (short narrative poems) in rhymed French that focus on chivalry, in particular, love and courtliness. Chivalry, the literal meaning of which is "horsemanship," was transformed by the troubadours at the behest of their noble patrons into an aristocratic ethos that includes not only martial qualities (prowess in combat, demonstrated in tournaments; loyalty to lords and friends, courage) but also the newer qualities of courtliness (courtoisie) required by life within baronial households: affability, largesse, skill in languages and music, self-restraint, elegant manners, knowing how to romance women. 

       Courtliness and chivalric romances were products of French courtly society; one might almost call them a design for living within a court. By the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries feudal society revolved around the courts of kings, counts, and other barons. These courts moved with the lord as he peregrinated through his various estates and castles (a necessity for 1) keeping order and control, and 2) for feeding a household that could number in the hundreds). A lord's court included his close kin (wife, children, brothers--those who slept in the chambers of the castle), other members of his household (bachelor knights, chaplains, domestic servants), and landed vassals whom he had summoned to escort or serve him. Courts were supposed to reflect the power and glory of a lord; the honor of a lord was reflected by the size and magnificence of his household. Those who entered a noble's household came within the sphere of his protection. To injure one under a lord's protection was to insult that lord. The problem faced by lords was how to maintain peace and order within large households, filled with belligerent young men competing with one another for favor. One solution was to punish harshly those who broke the peace. Another was to foster a code of behavior that was conducive to the maintenance of peace. Courtliness was a set of behaviors that permitted constant competition among young knights while restraining them from killing each other. It moderated the ethos of revenge. It served to domesticate the knights while preserving their martial values.

       Medieval illuminated manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes Perceval and Yvain. Perceval: opening of poem (BNF fr. 12577, fol. 1, c.1340); Perceval arrives at the Graal Castle, BNF fr. 12577; Chretien de Troyes' Perceval: Arthur and Guinevere welcome Perceval’s return (BNF fr. 1453, fol. 27); early 13th-century manuscript of Perceval;  Chretien’s Yvain: Calogrenant fights d'Esclados le Rouxr, from Yvain, BNF, fr. 1433 (c.1340) ; Scenes from Yvain: Yvain fights two demon brothers; Yvain and Gawain unknowingly fight, BNF. fr. 1433 (c.1340); Yvain: Lunette reconciles Yvain with the Lady Laudine, BNF, fr. 1433,(c.1340). “In Parenthesis,” an online collection of texts maintained by York University, has several Old French medieval romances in translation.

c.1150   Peter Lombard, theologian and later bishop of Paris (1159-1160), compiles his Four Books of Sentences, a collection of scriptural and Patristic texts arranged topically and treated systematically. Peter Lombard, a student of Abelard, used Abelard’s scholastic method to reconcile apparent contradictions. Peter Lombard’s Sentences became the most widely used textbook of theology in the Middle Ages.

 1152-1190   Frederick I “Barbarossa” (“Red Beard”), Hohenstaufen emperor and the greatest medieval king of Germany.  Frederick coined the title Holy Roman Empire as a response to papal claims to superiority over emperors. Frederick created a firm foundation for a feudal monarchy in Germany and direct imperial rule over Italy. Although he was defeated in the battle of Legnano (1176) by a coalition of Lombard city-states and the papacy, he salvaged a political victory through the negotiated Peace of Constance (1183), in which the Lombard communes agreed to pay him an annual recognition fee in return for their rights of self-rule. Frederick imposed his direct authority over Tuscany (central Italy), maintained tight control over the German episcopacy by controlling appointment of bishops, increased royal authority over the German dukes and princes by asserting feudal overlordship and by encouraging them to increase their own power and the expense of lesser nobles, and fostered the expansion of German political and ecclesiastical power east to the Oder River (at the expense of the Slavs). In 1180 he broke the power of his greatest rival in Germany, the powerful Duke of Saxony and Bavaria Henry the Lion, by calling him to answer charges in a feudal court and confiscating his domains when he refused the summons. There remained, however, two critical flaws in Barbarossa’s German-Italian polity: 1) the kingship remained elective, which meant that candidates for the throne needed to make deals to secure the votes of the dukes and bishops who were the electors; and 2) the hostility of the papacy to German political control over central Italy and, in particular, Rome. His defeat at Legnano forced Frederick to abandon the antipopes he had appointed and to recognize his enemy Pope Alexander III as the legitimate pope. Frederick died in 1190 while leading a large German army during the Third Crusade. He drowned in a river near Antioch before ever engaging Saladin. Portrait of Frederick I Barbarossa. Marriage of Henry the Lion to Matilda, daughter of Henry II, from Gospel Book of Henry the Lion. Frederick Barbarossa with his sons King Henry VI and Duke Frederick of Swabia.


 1154-1189   King Henry II, son of Count Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou and the Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England and widow of Emperor Henry V, assumes the throne of England after a generation of civil war (1137-1153) between his uncle King Stephen of Blois and his mother. By inheritance, Henry II was 1) king of England, 2) duke of Normandy, 3) Count of Anjou. (Together Henry II’s holdings are called “The Angevin Empire.”) Through his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine (in 1152) he also holds (very loosely) the duchy of Aquitaine. By the time of his death in 1189 Henry's dominions will include England, Ireland, and the western half of France. The king of France's domain, in comparison, was a territory about the size of Vermont extending from a little north of Paris to Orleans. Henry II is considered one of England's greatest kings due to his judicial reforms and legal innovations. His most important contribution to English governance was to increase the king’s financial and judicial rights over his free subjects. Henry II and his counselors advanced a doctrine of royal liege lordship that asserted the king to be the primary lord of all free Englishmen, whosoever their immediate lord might be. Henry's basic policy in England was to increase the power of the Crown over his lay and ecclesiastical barons (or, as he put it, to recapture the royal powers and customs that had belonged to his grandfather Henry I which the barons had usurped during the anarchy). Henry II's innovative mind led him to create an English 'common law,' binding upon all free men, and led him to embrace such novel experiments as the 'Saladin Tithe,' an income and property tax invented to help finance a crusade against the Sultan Saladin.

a. Initial moves: ordered that all private castles be 'justified' by license of the Crown, confiscated, or razed. If he deemed a castle to be dangerous, he disregarded whether the castellan had a proper franchise or not. He also appointed his own followers to royal offices, ignoring claims of those who had held these offices prior to his accession.

b. Long term "domestic" policy: to use his feudal prerogatives as king and duke to increase royal revenues, extend royal justice over all freemen in England, so that it would become the ‘common law’ of the realm, and strengthen the Crown’s military power by relying on mercenaries rather than feudal levies. 

c. Long term "foreign" policy--to maintain and increase control over continental possessions and to minimize the rights and authority of his feudal overlord the king of France.

In a series of assizes (royal councils in which the king and his barons modified customary legal practices) Henry translated his view of kingship into a royal legal system, the Common Law, royal lord that extended to all free men in the realm, which found its roots in the Anglo-Saxon past and in the legal reforms of is grandfather King Henry I. Juries of free men in the localities were now held responsible for indicting and trying criminals before itinerant royal justices. Disputes over the legal possession of land, which had been formerly been heard in honourial courts (the private jurisdictional courts of barons), were now brought into royal courts presided over by royal judges who decided upon the evidence adduced by local juries. This meant that the Crown’s courts superseded the private baronial courts. (He tried to do the same with ecclesiastical courts but lost.) It also meant the king’s revenues grew, since litigants had to pay for the king to issue a writ for the case to be heard, and the losing party had to pay a fine to the Crown.  The king claimed the right to judge disputes not only between his own landed vassals (tenants-in-chief) but between his vassals and their free men! This swelled the royal coffers by taking "business" away from feudal baronial courts (the king was paid for the issuance of writs and fined the loser of the suit—he profited no matter who won). Henry’s assizes established as an underlying principle that gave preference to those in possession of property over those who claimed it or tried to take it from them.

Politically, Henry’s reign was marked by wars against his feudal overlord, the king of France (Louis VII and then his son Philip Augustus) and against his great vassals on the Continent. His Achilles heel was his sons and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. On and off from 1173, Henry faced rebellions by one of more of his sons, often supported by his wife and by the French king looking to make mischief. In 1173 Henry the Younger, tired of being a bachelor knight with a titular crown, demanded that his father give him the rule of either Normandy, Anjou, or England. Spurred on by his father-in-law King Louis VII and with the support of the counts of Flanders and Boulogne and some English earls (Hugh Bigod, earl of Norfolk; Robert, earl of Leicester; Hugh, earl of Chester), Henry the Younger and his teen-age brothers Richard (15) and Geoffrey (14) waged war against Henry, and came close to unseating the father. He rebelled again in 1182, and died a rebel in 1183. In 1188 Richard, fearing that his father might pass him over in favor of John, rebelled with the aid of Philip Augustus (to whom he had done homage and fealty for Normandy and Aquitaine, "against all men save only the fealty wh he owed to his father the king"). Henry was defeated by Richard, largely because few barons chose to resist the heir to the throne. Henry, sick and dying, was forced to acknowledge Richard as heir to all his lands and to pay Philip an indemnity of 20,000 marks. Henry II died on 6 July 1189 at Chinon, deserted by all his barons and kin, including John. Tomb effigies of Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Fontevraud Abbey.

1155   Roman Commune led by Arnold of Brescia overthrown. Emperor Frederick I and Pope Hadrian IV join forces to suppress the commune of Rome. Its leader, the religious reformer Arnold of Brescia, is hanged, his body burned, and his ashes scattered in the Tiber River to prevent his bones becoming popular relics.

1155   King Louis VII of France grants Charter of Lorris, which becomes a widely imitated model for subsequent charters of urban liberties (royal grants of economic and judicial privilege to towns and cities). The issuance of the Charter of Lorris is indicative of royal support for town foundation and urban development in northern France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The alliance of the French Crown with a growing prosperous urban middle class provides French kings with increased revenues and non-aristocratic royal officials, which become twin engines for the development of royal power in France, c.1150-1300.

1157   Diet of Besançon.  At the Diet of Besançon (a “diet” was an assembly of the German nobility) Frederick Barbarossa’s chancellor Rainald of Dassel read aloud a letter from Pope Hadrian IV letter, translating it from Latin into German as he read. In it Pope Hadrian declared that he as pope had conferred on Frederick the “emblem of the imperial crown,” adding that he would be willing to bestow even greater “benefits” (beneficia) on the emperor in the future. Rainald chose to translate beneficia as dependent tenures (fiefs) rather than the more neutral “benefits.” The German nobility loudly protested the implication that Frederick held the Roman Empire as a fief/benefice from the papacy. It is possible that Frederick engineered the dispute at Bescancon in order to make clear his position that he was emperor by grace of God and not by grace of the pope.  It is also possible that Rainald got it right. Twelfth-century popes had claimed that Western Emperors held their imperial dignity from the papacy, citing for this the so-called “Donation of Constantine,” a forged imperial decree in which the Emperor Constantine before relocating to Constantinople supposedly transferred authority over the entire Western Empire to Pope Sylvester I and his successors. This document was concocted by a papal scribe in the middle of the eighth century to justify the papacy’s claims to the Papal States in Italy. Lorenzo Valla proved it to be a forgery in 1440. A Constantine conveying the Western Empire to Pope Sylvester, painting hung in the Lateran Palace in the thirteenth century.

1157   King Henry II of England grants to merchants of Cologne the right to their own gild hall in Upper Thames Street, London. This marks the beginning of a commercial connection between England and the Baltic which grew in importance in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

1159   Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony rebuilds the port city of Lübeck, which quickly becomes a center of German merchant trade in North Sea and Baltic. This is the seed from which the Hanseatic League would grow a century later.

c.1160-c.1250   First universities emerge from cathedral schools.   Bologna (by tradition founded in 1080 but chartered in 1158), Paris (c. 1160, but chartered by King Philip Augustus in 1200), Oxford (1167), Cambridge (1209), Salamanca (1218), Montpellier (1220), Padua (1222), Naples (1224), Toulouse and Angers (1229) and Orleans (1235). The  “University” developed from cathedral schools when these schools began to offer permanent positions to itinerant scholars and began to establish standardized curricula. The word “university” meant “guild” in the twelfth century, i.e. a corporation with the legal status to regulate itself and establish standards of practice for its members, and medieval universities were “guilds” of learning. Two separate models emerged. In Italy the early universities were the creation of students, who elected student rectors and a student council for day to day governance; students chose, paid, and disciplined the professors, who could be fined for meeting classes late or failing to cover the agreed upon syllabus. North of the Alps, universities were organized from above, by the bishop’s chancellor and by an association of “masters” (accredited teachers), who functioned as a guild, who established the curriculum as well as rules and regulations for examining, passing, or refusing students seeking the status of “master” (the license to teach was given separately by the bishop’s chancellor).

          By the thirteenth century the legal independence of universities from the town authorities and from episcopal authority was secured through charters granted, respectively, by a king or a pope. The papacy accredited universities as studium generale, which meant that its degrees would be recognized by other universities. The undergraduate curriculum remained the traditional Seven Liberal Arts, consisting of the literary subjects (the Trivium: grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the technical subjects (the Quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). Each subject was taught through prescribed Classical Greek or Roman textbooks. Areas of graduate study included: theology (the “queen of sciences”), for which Paris was famous; canon law; Roman law (Bologna’s specialty), and medicine (Salerno). At Paris in the 13th century, students began their studies in their early to mid teens, spent four to six years attending lectures on the trivium and quadrivium, and, when they reached the age of 20, would take a set of oral exams lasting the whole period of Lent (40 days) to earn a bachelor’s degree. That student would then spend several more years studying a specialized subject such as law, while teaching as an assistant to a master, until he was ready for inception into full mastership. This involved another set of oral examinations, a public lecture, and a public disputation in which he would argue against a panel of masters, justifying his theses with quotations and detailed citations to the recognized authorities.

The standard teaching method was for the master to read aloud from the authoritative textbook for the subject, explaining difficult or disputed passage. (This is called “glossing.”) Students, meanwhile, would write down everything the professor said, a necessity since books were too expensive for students to purchase. A premium was placed upon the ability to memorize long passages or even whole books. The approach to analyzing texts was derived from Peter Abelard and came to be known as scholasticism (i.e. the method of the ‘schools’). It was characterized by the employment of logic to understand and reconcile apparent contradictions between authoritative texts.

University students lived together in “colleges” for their mutual protection and to get better prices for lodgings and food) and were grouped by national origin. Because they were young males far from home, students often drank too much, and brawls between Town and Gown and between students from different Nations were common. Since students came from all other Europe, university life could be disrupted by international political conflicts. Oxford was founded when English students fled from Paris in 1167 when the conflict between King Henry II of England and King Louis VII of France resulted in attacks upon the “English Nation” at the University of Paris. (Students at Bologna listening to lecture by John of Legnano, from tomb of John of Legnano, 1383.)


 1164   Outbreak of the Becket Controversy. Henry II issues the Constitutions of Clarendon in an attempt to regain power for the royal courts that had been lost to ecclesiastical courts during the civil war.  Citing the customs of the realm in the time of his grandfather King Henry I, Henry II declared that clerics who commit crimes were first to be tried in an ecclesiastical court and, if found guilty, were to be stripped of holy orders, rearrested, and brought to answer in a royal court where they were to be treated like laymen, subject to the penalties of royal law. Clerical appeals to the pope and excommunications by bishops were to be subject to royal approval. The Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket, the king’s former chancellor, initially accepted the Constitutions but then reneged. The result was a furious quarrel between the king and the archbishop, the former citing the “ancient customs of the realm” and the latter, “the liberty of the Church.” Becket fled to France, where he received support from King Louis VII in a move meant to embarrass King Henry II. Kings of England were traditionally crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury.

1166   Assize of Clarendon and the Cartae Baronum: King Henry II establishes juries of presentment in England to make criminal accusations before itinerant royal judges on circuit. Henry also conducts an inquest into number of knights' fees in England (asking his barons how many they owed to the king on the death of Henry I in 1135, and how many they had enfeoffed since). Henry attempted to claim that his tenants-in-chief owed him the service of all knights holding fiefs from them. In this Henry could no better than get a compromise: he could only collect from knight's fees created before the death of his grandfather, Henry I. The findings of the inquest were recorded in the Cartae Baronum: 318 tenants in chief reported 7,525 knights' fees representing owed service to crown of 5,000 knights. The information of the Cartae Baronum of 1166 was preserved by the English clerk Alexander of Swereford in 1206 in a handbook of information for the Exchequer called the Little Black Book; Alexander arranged the material by shire and barony, a la Domesday Book. Sometime before 1250 he compiled the Red Book of the Exchequer, in which he recopied the inquest of 1166 and added to it the inquest of 1172. Philip Augustus ordered his own feodaries to be prepared for Normandy in 1207, to account for confiscated honors.



 1169    Kurdish general Saladin (r. 1169-1193) rules Egypt in the name of Nur-al-Din but establishes an independent sultanate. (Portrait of Saladin.)

1170   King Henry II of England orders an Inquest of Sheriffs to investigate the alleged corruption of royal officials and landlords in England. It results in Henry replacing the sheriffs of 20 of England’s 30 shires (counties).

  1170   King Henry II of England elevates his eldest son Henry the Younger to the dignity of king, but keeps all power in his own hands. Henry II keeps his son on a generous allowance, and tries to control his household (mesnie) by appointing the household officers and clerics. Henry the Younger, without responsibilities, surrounds himself with young, 'chivalrous' knights, and spends his days going to tournaments, hunting, and spending money recklessly. In the terms of the age, Henry the Younger, despite his anointing as king, remains a "youth" (landless knight). What Henry wants is rule of either Normandy, Anjou, or England. Henry tells him to be content with the title. Henry II, impressed with the knight William Marshal's service in the recent war, appoints him tutor in chivalry to the Young King Henry. The Marshal joins Henry the Younger’s mesnie (i.e. household) and soon becomes young his devoted retainer.

1170   Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket. When Henry II had his eldest son Henry the Younger crowned king by the archbishop of York, Becket excommunicated the archbishop, and after six years of exile returned to England to uphold the privilege of Canterbury. The points of contention, however, remained.  Neither Henry nor Becket would budge, which led to an exasperated Henry blurting out on to his household on Christmas Day something along the lines of, ‘Will no one rid me of this pestilent priest?” Four of the king’s household knights took this as a royal order, went to Canterbury to arrest Becket and force him to submit to the king’s will. They broke into the Cathedral and found Becket conducting Mass. When Becket ignored them, they grew enraged and murdered him. Becket had never been popular with the clergy and monks of Canterbury when alive. Now, however, he was perceived as a martyr for the “liberty of the Church.” Pope Alexander III had him canonized in 1173, and Henry, facing a rebellion by his son and wife, aided by the king of France, went to Canterbury to admit his (unwitting) guilt in instigating the murder and to do penance before the tomb of the saint. Henry had to concede the immunity of clergy to royal criminal justice and the rights of clergy to freely elect their bishops and abbots (although Henry kept a veto right). None of the murderers were punished officially, although miracle stories arose in which they all suffered divine retribution. Becket became the most revered English saint and Canterbury became a favorite site for pilgrimages. Manuscript illumination of Henry II and Becket. Reliquary casket depicting Becket’s martyrdom, French, commissioned by prior Benedict of Peterborough Abbey to hold Becket’s bones (c.1180).

1170        Almohad dynasty establishes Seville as its capital.  Between 1130 and 1170, the Almohads, a Berber family from Morocco who promoted a puritanical and fundamentalist brand of Islam, ousts Almoravid rulers of north Africa and Spain. Out of reforming zeal initially oppress Spanish Jews and Christians who take refuge in Christian Portugal, Aragon, and Castille. In 1195 the Almohads defeated King Alfronso VIII of Castile in the Battle of Alarcos, temporarily halting the Reconquista, but the Christians recover and in 1212 a Christian coalition from Leon/Castile, Navarra, and Aragon defeat the Almohads in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. With this, the Almohads were forced back to Africa.  Almohads rule in Morocco comes to an end 1269.

1170s-1198   Writings of Ibn Rushd (1126-1198), known in the West as Averroes, the greatest Muslim Aristotelian philosopher of the Middle Ages. Ibn Rushd was to medieval Islamic philosophy what Thomas Aquinas, upon whom he had a great influence, was to medieval Christian theology.  Judge, official, jurist, scientist, physician, and philosopher, Ibn Rushd sought to reconcile Islamic beliefs with the natural philosophy of Aristotle, whom he regarded embodying the highest development of the human intellect. His greatest works were commentaries upon Aristotle. “Ibn Rushd maintained that the deepest truths must be approached by means of rational analysis and that philosophy could lead to the final truth. He accepted revelation and attempted to harmonize religion with philosophy without synthesizing them or obliterating their differences. He believed that the Qur'an contained the highest truth while maintaining that its words should not be taken literally. He argued that as the milk-sister of religion, philosophy confirms and does not contradict the sharî'ah (revelation). To Ibn Rushd, the supremacy of the human intellect did not allow for the possible contradiction between science and revelation. He gives religion an important role in the life of the state, considering that the scriptures when philosophically understood are far more superior to the religion of pure reason. Striving to bring the two together, he wrote that in case of differences, provided scriptural language does not violate the principles of reason, that is, it does not commit a contradiction, science should give way.” (Habeeb Salloum).

1170s-1204   Writings of Moses Maimonides, the greatest Jewish theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, who was born in Cordoba, Sapin, in 1135, and died in Egypt in 1204. Maimonides’ family fled Spain and later Morocco because of persecution from the puritanical Almohades, who threatened Jews with conversion to Islam, death, or exile. His reputation as a physician brought him to the notice of the Fatimid Grand Vizier Alfadhil, who made him his court physician, a position he continued to hold under Saladin. Maimonides greatest work of philosophy is The Guide to the Perplexed, which he wrote in Arabic. As with Ibn Rushd and Aquinas, Maimonides’ underlying assumption is that there can be no contradiction between the truths which God has revealed, and the findings of the human mind in science and philosophy. Maimonides primarily followed Aristotle’s natural philosophy (although not slavishly) and attempted to show that it was consistent with the teachings of the Talmud. Maimonides’ work exerted a great influence upon thirteenth-century Christian theologians and philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas.

1172   Henry II, in his capacity as duke of Normandy, ordered an inquest in 1172 into the owed service from Normandy. (Again, he asked two questions: how many knights are owed the king? how many knights are in your service?) From the written returns one can calculate that Henry was owed the service of 581 knights from about 1500 enfeoffments.

1173-4   Rebellion of King Henry II’s eldest son, King Henry the Younger (supported by Henry II's overlord King Louis VII of France—a reminder of the feudal paradox that Henry II's role as a French baron made him a vassal of a king less powerful than himself). Despite the support of a number of powerful earls in England and barons in France, Henry the Younger’s rebellion fails.

1175-1202   The period covered in the Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk, England) by the monk Jocelin of Brakelond who began writing it in the 1190s. Jocelin’s Chronicle, which focuses on the charismatic and strong willed Abbot Samson, is a valuable window on to the practical aspects of twelfth-century Benedictine monasticism: the often contentious relationship between the monks and their abbots, priors, and cellarers; the factions that formed within monastic communities; the difficulties of monasteries in keeping control over and getting service from lands held from the monastery fiefs by knights; the relationship between abbots and kings. The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds possessed by royal grant rights of jurisdiction over the town and surrounding countryside. It also enjoyed an exemption from the authority of the local bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury by a privilege from the Pope. Jocelin details Abbot Samson’s struggles to maintain these privileges.

1176   Assize of Northampton confirms the edicts of the Assize of Clarendon (1166) and establishes legal actions at law in disputes over the possession of land, the writs of mort d'ancestor, novel disseisin, which establish the principle that those in possession in property should remain in possession until their right to the land is disproved.

1176   The German troops of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa are defeated decisively by the Italian Lombard League at Legnano (29 May). This ends Frederick I’s attempt to impose direct imperial rule over Lombardy and the Papal States. Frederick holds the Welf Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, responsible because of his refusal to provide Frederick military aid for the campaign. This led to the Peace of Venice

1177      Peace of Venice: peace treaty between Pope Alexander III, the allies of the papacy (the north Italian city-states of the Lombard League and King William II of Sicily), and the Emperor Frederick I. The emperor acknowledged Alexander as pope and abandoned his own antipope (Calixtus III). In return, the papacy lifted the excommunication placed upon Frederick. The emperor recognized the temporal rights of the popes over the city of Rome, although the city did not surrender to the pope and forced him to leave in 1179. A fifteen-year peace was concluded between Frederick I and King William II of Sicily, and a six-year truce was concluded with the Lombard League, but negotiations were to continue, and the emperor finally recognized the independence of the Lombard cities in the Peace of Constance of 1183.



 1177-1179   Chivalry: William Marshal is on the tournament circuit as partner to another “bachelor” (i.e. landless knight} in Henry's household, Roger de Gaugie; for two years they go from tourney to tourney. According to list kept by Wigain, the young king's clerk, they captured 103 knights in the course of 10 months.

     Tournaments were a staple of chivalric literature. All of the Arthurian romances depict their heroes as champions at tourneys (e.g., YWAIN). Although there were probably similar sorts of war games in the 10th century, tournaments as such seem to have arisen toward the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th century. By 1125 the growing popularity of tournaments in France (especially northern France) provoked a papal denunciation by Innocent II in 1130. By 1200 the popularity of tournaments had spread throughout Western Europe, although France was still known as the home of the best and greatest tourneys. (English chroniclers called the tournament "the Gallic battle.") William Marshal's career reflects the importance of tournaments for knights. Great French lords, such as the counts of Champagne and Flanders, gained reputation and prestige from their patronage of tournaments, while ordinary knights gained—or forfeited—fame, glory, possibility of material gain in the form of horses, trappings, armor, and ransom). The tournament was the arena in which a landless knight could prove his worth to potential lords (for which read: 'employers'). Tournament served as training grounds for warfare, as opportunities for knight to obtain booty and prestige, as social gatherings of the aristocracy, and, generally, as arenas for chivalric theater, ceremony, and ‘play.’ In essence, the tournament helped the nobility to define itself, and changed as the nobility's self image changed.  The tournament at Lagny-sur-Marne, from the History of William the Marshal (poem, c. 1225).

1179   Third Lateran Council (eleventh ecumenical council). Called by Pope Alexander III in the wake of his reconciliation with the Emperor Frederick Barbaross and attended by 302 bishops, the council affirmed the legitimacy of Pope Alexander III and condemned the antipopes whom Barbarossa had appointed to oppose him. The council also condemned the Cathars and Waldensians as heretics, stressing the duty of secular rulers to repress heresy, required a two-thirds majority of cardinals for the election of a pope, established 25 and 30 as the minimum ages for priests and bishops, forbade priests charging for sacraments and burials, ordered every cathedral to have a school to teach clerics and poor scholars, deposed married clergy and clergy guilty of sodomy, forbade Jews and Muslims from having Christian servants.

1180-1182   Fall of Henry the Lion (Welf family), duke of Saxony and Bavaria. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa held Duke Henry the Lion responsible for his defeat at the hands of the Lombard League at Legnano in 1176. After making peace with the papacy and the Lombard League, Frederick decided in 1180 to break Henry the Lion. He summoned him to the imperial court to answer for his refusal to to fulfill his feudal obligation by sending the troops he owed the emperor as duke. Henry refused the summons and was convicted of insubordination in absentia by a court of bishops and princes. Declaring that Imperial law overruled traditional German law, the court stripped Henry of his lands and declared him an outlaw. Frederick invaded Saxony with an Imperial army. Outmatched militarily, Henry's allies deserted him, and the duke was forced to submit in November 1181. He was exiled from Germany in 1182 for three years, during which time he was a guest in the Norman court of his father-in-law, Henry II of England.  He returned to Germany in 1185, only to be exiled once again in 1188. After Frederick departed on crusade in the following year, Henry returned to Saxony to wage war against the allies who had deserted him. He was finally defeated by Frederick’s son and successor Henry VI in 1194, who permitted him to retain the duchy of Brunswick (Braunschweig). Marriage of Henry the Lion and Matilda, daughter of King Henry II of England, Gospel Book of Henry the Lion.


File:Sceau Philippe Auguste.jpg 1180-1223   Reign of Philip II Augustus of France, Louis VI's grandson. Philip, pragmatic and clever (if uneducated), increased the royal domain to the north through marriage and to the west through war against King John of England, from whom he took Normandy, Anjou, and Maine in 1203-1204. His foreign policy aimed at breaking the power of the Plantagenet kings of England in France, and his main weapon was the internal rivalries in the English royal family. He consolidated royal power by improving the royal. The French king's bureaucracy was transformed from one based on a) the five traditional court/domestic offices held by magnates and b) local prévôts (forty-five in 1202, presiding over sixty-two prévôtés) responsible for collecting the king’s revenues from his demesne lands and disbursing alms to churches and money annuities (fief-rentes) to knights, to a far more sophisticated one (permanent treasury/Norman exchequer, royal justices, baillis and seneschals) modelled on the Angevin institutions of government and staffed by men drawn from castellan families. He created the offices of baillis and seneschals to serve as his chief local officials, supervising the prévôts and ensuring obedience to royal edicts, and gave them financial, judicial, and military authority in the duchies and counties that they administered. Drawn from the bourgeois and gentry of the Ile-de-France, many of them were trained in Roman law. They were appointed by the king, served at his pleasure, and were regularly rotated so as not to form local affiliations.  Philip’s reformed his central government by establishing a permanent treasury in Paris (1190), an accounting bureau in Paris to review the payments owed by baillis and seneschals, an exchequer of Normandy, to do the same thing for revenues from Normandy, and by replacing the great barons with castellans and lesser knights from the Ile-de-France in the five great royal household offices: seneschal (provisions); chamberlain (bedchamber); butler (drink); chancellor (chapel); mashall/constable (stables). The king's bureaucracy was transformed from one based on a) the five traditional court/domestic offices held by magnates and b) local prevots, to a far more sophisticated one (permanent treasury/Norman exchequer, royal justices, baillis and seneschals) modeled on the Angevin institutions of gov't and staffed by men drawn from castellan families. Even more basic administrative change was the transformation of the royal court from an itinerant court to one based in Paris. This was a long process which had been largely completed by the accession of Philip Augustus. Whereas King Philip I (c.1100) was constantly traveling through the royal domain, in Philip Augustus’s reign Paris and Fountainbleau had become the center of royal activity. The king spent between 48% and 55% of his time in the Paris region.

Philip is one of the founders of the medieval French state. During his reign he quadrupled the revenues of the Crown of France. He did so largely by increasing the royal domain through marriage and war. His first wife Isabella of Hainault (married 1180-1189, died in child birth), daughter of Baldwin V Count of Hainault and niece of Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders, brought with her the county of Artois as the queen's dowry and a claim to her family's other lands, including part of Vermandois, both on the northern borders of the royal domain, the Ile-de-France. He successfully pressed his claim to his deceased wife’s lands by defeating Philip of Hainault in battle in 1186. The king received the city and county of Amiens and 65 castles, the county of Mondidier and reversion of Philip of Alsace's share of Vermandois. Philip gained even more territory and revenues by seizing Normandy, Maine, and Anjou from King John of France in 1203-1204, using John’s refusal to answer a feudal summons as a pretext. Philip Augustus and King Richard receive surrender of Acre. Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century. Philip Augustus penny 1180x1201

1181   Assize of Arms. King Henry II of England orders that all free men possess weapons appropriate to their rank, status, and wealth. The reason for this is so that Henry could call upon the entire free male population to defend his realm, and so that the localities could be adequately policed. (England had no police force, so the pursuit and capture of criminals was the responsibility of local men, in particular members of the “tithing” to which the accused man belonged, led by the sheriff.)

1181-1226   Life of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant, would renounce his father’s wealth, embrace the ideal of apostolic poverty, and become the founder of the most popular order of “friars” (wandering monks) of the Middle Ages, the “Little Brothers” or Franciscans. (See under years 1206-1208, 1209.)

1182   Philip Augustus expels the Jews from France after confiscating their property. He readmits them in 1198, imposing upon them royal taxes and regulations that guarantees the Crown’s financial profit from their money lending. (Jews being persecuted, from Chronicle of Matthew Paris, c.1260.)

1182-1184   Joachim of Fiore, Cistercian abbot and mystic from Calabria (southern Italy), devises a new schema for providential history. Joachim, citing the “eternal gospel” mentioned in Revelations 14:6, proposed Three Ages of God’s dispensation, corresponding to the three Persons of the Trinity. The first was the Age the Father, representing God’s rule through power and awe, to which the Old Testament dispensation corresponds; in the second, the Age of the Son, hidden wisdom was revealed in the Son, represented by the New Testament and the Catholic Church; in the third, the Age of the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit will be established on earth based on a new dispensation of universal love, which will proceed from the Gospel of Christ but transcend the letter of it. In this third age there will be no need for the disciplinary institutions of the Church, which will disappear; the “reign of justice” will be replaced with the “reign of freedom.” Joachim held that the second period was drawing to a close, and that the third epoch would actually begin after some great cataclysm which he tentatively calculated as happening in 1260. The Franciscan Gerardo of Borgo San Donnino (see 1257 below) identified the Franciscan Order with Joachim’s “Order of the Just” who were to succeed the Catholic Church. This led Pope Alexander IV to set up a commission to review Joachim’s works, which were condemned as heretical in 1263 at the Synod of Arles 

1183   Emperor Frederick Barbarossa agrees to the Peace of Constance with the Lombard League, granting the cities of northern Italy rights of self government in return for annual payments in recognition of the emperor’s ultimate jurisdiction over them.

King Henry II of England’s eldest son King Henry the Younger dies in the midst of rebellion against his father. Henry the Younger’s loyal household knight and master of arms, William Marshal, goes on crusade to fulfill an oath taken by his dead lord. When he returns in 1186 he enters the service of King Henry II of England.

1184   Waldensians condemned as heretics. In the 1170s a wealthy merchant of Lyon, France, Peter Waldo (Pierre Valdes), was converted to a life of apostolic poverty by hearing the story of St. Alexis and discovering that Christ had counseled a rich young man to give all that he owned to the poor and to follow him (Matthew 19:16-22). Waldo gave his real estate to his wife and distributed his moveable wealth as alms to the poor and began to preach in the streets of Lyon. He soon attracted followers who became known as the Poor Men of Lyon or the Waldensians. In 1179 Waldo and his followers went to the Third Lateran Council to seek approval for their Order from Pope Alexander III. Alexander was impressed by their piety but was made nervous by their lack of theological learning, and forbade them from preaching without a bishop’s permission.  Waldo and his followers continued to preach, which led Pope Lucius III to excommunicate Waldo and his followers as heretics at the Council of Verona in 1184. The Waldensians responded by becoming increasingly anti-clerical, condemning the papacy, bishops, and clergy for their wealth and worldliness. The movement in northern Italy became even more radical, as the Poor of Lombardy rejected the Church’s teaching that only priests could perform the Mass and claimed that all men in a state of grace could had sacramental power. By the mid thirteenth century both the Poor of Lyon and the Poor of Lombardy had repudiated the Roman Church, calling it the Whore of the Apocalypse (Revelation), and had proclaimed the Waldensians as the “true Christian church.” The Church responded with further persecution. The Waldensians were one of several urban religious movements of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries that preached apostolic poverty, a reflection of the spiritual anxiety produced by the growth of the commercial economy and the wealthy urban middle class it created. The most successful of these movements were the Franciscans, who, unlike the Waldensians whom they resemble in many ways, gained papal approval and sanction as an orthodox religious order (see 1209).

1184 Philip Augustus orders the streets and roads of Paris paved. The chronicler Rigord reports: “It happened after a few days that king Phillip "semper Augustus" staying for a while in Paris was walking about the royal hall deep in thought about the affairs of the realm, when he came to palace windows from which he was accustomed sometimes to look out at the river Seine for the refreshment of his soul. Horse-drawn carriages crossing through the city churned up the mud. The king walking about his hall could not bear the intolerable stench they caused. He therefore took on a hard but very necessary task which none of his predecessors had dared to attempt because of its great expense and difficulty. He called together the burgesses and prévôt of the city and ordered by royal authority that all the streets and roads of the whole city of Paris should be covered with hard and strong stones. The most Christian king was trying to take away from the city its ancient name; for it had been called "Lutea" from the stink of the mire (a luti fetore).”

c.1185   Chivalry.  Composition of existing rhyming section of the chanson de geste Raoul de Cambrai. Raoul de Cambrai, an epic poem about honor and revenge in which the courtly attribute of mesure, self restraint and moderation, is represented as a necessary complement to qualities of prowess, honor, and loyalty.

1185        First known reference to a post windmill (vertical windmill) (occurs in a rental note to property in Yorkshire, England).  By 1195 windmills were sufficiently numerous to be the subject of a special tithe imposed by the pope. (Illustration of a 14th-century post windmill.)


 1187   The entire army of the kingdom of Jerusalem is wiped out by the sultan of Egypt Saladin (1137-1193) in the battle of Hattin. The king of Jerusalem Guy of Lusignan is taken prisoner and the True Cross is captured. In the months following Hattin, Saladin conquers all the cities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem south of Tyre, including Jerusalem itself. News of the fall of Jerusalem leads to the pope calling for the Third Crusade. The call will be answered by the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, French King Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionheart.

1188   Saladin Tithe. Upon hearing of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin, King Henry II of England and King Philip Augustus of France both took the Cross and vowed to liberate the Holy City.  To raise money for the expedition, they devised what might be the first national income tax. The Saladin Tithe was, as its name implies, a tax of a tenth of the value of all moveable properties and revenues upon all those not going on crusade. The edict issued by Henry and Philip declared: "This year each man shall give in alms a tenth of his revenues and movables with the exception of the arms, horses and garments of the knights, and likewise with the exception of the horses, books, garments and vestments, and all appurtenances of whatever sort used by clerks in divine service, and the precious stones belonging to both clerks and laymen." In France the resistance to the Tithe was so great that King Philip was not only forced to suspend it but apologized for having proposed it. In England, where royal power was stronger, the Tithe was collected and raised £70,000 from Christians and approximately another £10,000 from the Jews. In England, the Saladin Tithe was collected with ruthless efficiency. Because it was a “tithe” rather than a royal secular exaction, the money was collected by parish priests, bishops, deans of the local churches, local barons, and royal sergeants rather than by sheriffs, and turned over to a special office with ten tellers set up in Salisbury rather than to the Exchequer. Henry II used the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller to help organize the collection.  Anyone who joined the crusade was exempt from the Tithe. This was meant to encourage participation, and many did indeed join in order to avoid the tallage. All other landowners, both clerics and laymen, had to pay; if anyone disagreed with the assessment of their property, they were imprisoned or excommunicated. The procedures established for the Saladin Tithe formed a model for future English royal exactions, such as those used to ransom Richard in 1194 and to pay for John’s Continental wars in 1207.

1188-1189   Revolt of Richard the Lionheart. Richard, duke of Aquitaine, Henry II's eldest son and heir presumptive, rebels against his father with the aid of Henry's feudal overlord, King Philip Augustus of France (1180-1223). Richard had long been angered--since 1184--by Henry's stated plan to take the duchy of Aquitaine away from him and to transfer it to his brother John (of Robin Hood and Magna Carta fame) in return for acknowledging Richard as heir to the Crown. In 1188 Henry, in negotiations with Philip Augustus over Richard’s invasion of the county of Toulouse, found himself outmaneuvered by the French king. Philip proposed to allow Richard to retain the lands he had taken in the Toulousain if Henry allowed Richard to marry Philip’s sister Alice and require the barons throughout his lands to swear fidelity to Richard as his heir. Henry refused to confirm that Richard would succeed him, which led Richard to defect to the side of King Philip and to do homage to the French king for Normandy and Anjou. In the civil war that ensued, the ailing Henry was abandoned by most of his barons. William Marshal, however, remained loyal to King Henry II, who rewarded him with the promise of marriage to the wealthy heiress Isabel de Clare, daughter of Earl Richard of Clare, known as “Strongbow,” Earl of Pembroke in Wales and conqueror of Leinster in Ireland. On July 4, 1189 Henry met with King Philip and Richard and agreed to all their terms. By this time, Henry was very ill and could barely stay on his horse. Two days, just after learning that his beloved youngest son John had gone over to Richard, Henry died at his castle at Chinon.

 1189-1199   Reign of Richard the Lionheart. In his ten year reign Richard spends a total of six months in England. The majority of his reign is taken up by planning and going on Crusade (1189-1192), captivity in Germany (1192-1194), and campaigns to recover French lands seized by King Philip Augustus during his captivity (1194-1199). His rule exemplifies the strength of the governmental foundations set up by Henry II. During Richard's absence, ministers take care of administration and help to raise taxes for the support of the crusades.  (Richard the Lionheart, late 12th-century codex.) Great Seal of Richard the Lionheart

Impressed by William Marshal’s loyalty to his father in the recent civil war, Richard allowed him to marry Isabel de Clare, the heiress whom Henry II had promised William. By right of his wife, William becomes Lord of Striguil and Pembroke. (Striguil consisted of 65.5 knights' fees, and a large demesne in southeast Wales; Pembroke was an earldom in southwest Wales.) William also received his wife's claim to a great lordship in Ireland, Leinster (in theory a great prize, but in practice held firmly by Richard's brother, John), and the lands of Orbec and Longueville in Normandy. Richard allowed William to buy control of the office of sheriff of Gloucester, and to purchase half of another lordship, the lordship of Giffard.)

1189-1192   Third Crusade: Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin. Call to crusade answered by German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, French King Philip Augustus and English King Richard the Lionheart. Frederick drowned in Cilicia; Philip returned after the capture of Acre (1191), and Richard campaigned until 1192, when he made peace with Saladin, a compromise which left the Christians in control of the coast down to Ascalon and Saladin as ruler of Jerusalem, with Christian pilgrims allowed free access to the Holy City.

1190   Massacre of the Jews of York.  Richard the Lionheart’s preparations for going on crusade entailed demanding money from the Jews, who were officially serfs of the Crown. Jewish moneylenders, in turn, raised the required money by calling in debts.  This exacerbated the Christian hostility toward the Jews which had already been stirred up by crusading fervor. In 1189-1190 there were a series of attacks upon Jewish communities across England, including the massacre of thirty Jews who tried to bring gifts to Richard during his coronation at Westminster by a mob responding to a (false) rumor that the new king had ordered the extermination of the Jews.  The new king responded by having the ringleaders hanged. The most notorious event was the massacre of the Jewish community of York.  A local noble Richard Malebrisse, who was deeply in debt to the wealthy banker Aaron of York, took advantage of a fire that broke out in town to incite the local population against the Jews. A mob broke into the home of a recently deceased agent of Aaron, sacked the premisses and killed his widow and children. The town’s Jews, about 150 men, women, and children, sought refuge with the royal warden of Clifford’s Tower. He agreed, but when the Jews refused to readmit him after he had left the castle, the warden asked the sheriff of Yorkshire to raise the forces of the shire to evict the Jews. This swelled into a mob that set fire to the castle. Rather than surrender, the Jews inside decided to kill themselves. The rioters then went to the cathedral of York, where the records of debt owed to Jewish moneylenders were kept, and burned the accounts. The king’s chancellor William de Longchamp, bishop of Ely, regarded this as an attack upon the royal dignity and fired the sheriff and constable for dereliction of duty and confiscated the estates of the instigator, Richard Malebrisse.

1190    King Philip II Augustus of France established the Temple in the Ile de Cite in Paris as the permanent royal treasury. Revenues were to be brought to the Temple three times a year and handed over to 6 Parisian burghers and to the royal Marshal. The treasurer was a Templar, Brother Haimard, who was in charge of receiving surplus revenues and paying out sums for operations of gov't and costs of war. Between 1190 and 1203 PA also introduced a royal accounting bureau consisting of 6 bourgeois of Paris and the marshal at Paris. The accounts would be presented by prevots and baillis and recorded on rolls of parchment (like the English pipe rolls). This was the beginning of what was to be called the Chambre of Comptes in the beg. of the 14th century. Accounts were to be rendered during 3 terms: 1) All Saints (1 Nov), 2) 2 Feb (Purif. of the Virgin, 3) Ascension (May and June). Norman Exchequer was biannual. Each prevot accounted for his farm, deducted expenses, and handed over balance to the treasurer. The model for this system is clearly the English.

1190   Frederick I Barbarossa drowns in Cilicia on the Third Crusade. Although many in his army, estimated to be as large as 20,000 knights and 80,000 foot soldiers, return to Germany, his younger son Frederick leads what remains to Acre. In Germany his elder son Henry is crowned as King Henry VI (r.1190-1197). Frederick Barbarossa with his sons King Henry VI and Duke Frederick of Swabia.

1191-1192   Richard the Lionheart leads the Third Crusade. The arrival at Acre of King Philip II Augustus of France in April and King Richard I of England in early June with about 18,000 soldiers between them proved decisive in the siege of Acre, which fell to the crusaders in early July after a siege of two years. In the aftermath of the victory Richard made a mortal enemy of Duke Leopold of Austria when he ordered the Duke’s banner, which had been raised beside his and King Philip’s, removed from the city’s walls. When Philip Augustus decided to return to France because of illness and political concerns, Richard assumed sole command of the crusading army, including the French and German contingents. After massacring 2,700 Muslim captives when Saladin missed the deadline for ransom, Richard began a march down the coast. Richard secured the coast by marching from Acre to Jaffa, taking each port city along the way. This march was among Richard’s most impressive military feats. The crusaders marching in close formation were under constant attack, as Saladin tried to lure Richard into a set battle. Richard, intent on securing the port cities as a necessary prelude to taking Jerusalem, refused to get drawn into battle. Using Cyprus (which he had taken on his way to the Holy Land in 1191) as a supply depot and Acre as a logistical base, Richard ordered his fleet to follow along the coast, so that they could bring supplies and reinforcements to the troops and take away the wounded and sick. When the crusaders’ patience finally gave out near Arsuf, just shy of Jaffa, and the Hospitallers in the rearguard decided to charge the Saracens, Richard quickly deployed his troops from line of march to line of battle using prearranged trumpet signals, and attacked. Although victorious in the battle, Richard chose not to pursue Saladin’s army but instead continued his march to Jaffa. Richard, however, came to recognize that although he could take Jerusalem, because it was inland he would not be able to hold it. His best chance was to attack the capital of Saladin’s empire, Egypt, but the army balked and insisted on marching to Jerusalem. Faced with news that his brother Prince John with the support of Philip Augustus was attempting to seize the English throne (the historical setting for most modern versions of the Robin Hood story), Richard negotiated a three year truce with Saladin and a settlement that allowed Christian pilgrims access to Jerusalem, although the city remained under Muslim control. Saladin, fearful of the threat posed to Egypt, required also that the walls of Ascalon, the southern most port in Palestine, be leveled. Richard was unsuccessful as well in his attempt to preserve the kingship of Jerusalem for his Poitevin vassal King Guy of Lusignan.  Faced with an unanimous vote by the barons of the Kingdom, Richard reluctantly accepted Conrad of Montferrat, a supporter of Philip Augustus, as King of Jerusalem. He sold Guy the lordship of Cyprus as a consolation prize. Before he could be crowned Conrad was assassinated by two members of the Ismali Shiite sect the Hashshashins. Suspicion immediately fell on Richard. Conrad belonged to a well connected family, having been a cousin of the Emperor Henry VI of Germany, King Philip Augustus of France, and Duke Leopold of Austria. All of them held Richard responsible for his murder.

1192-1194   Richard the Lionheart in captivity in Germany. Attempting to return to England by sea, Richard was shipwrecked near Aquileia at the shores of the northern Adriatic and was forced to travel overland through the territory of his enemy Duke Leopold of Austria. Richard and his small entourage traveling in disguise were discovered and captured near Vienna. Accusing him of the murder of Conrad of Montferrat (and getting personal revenge as well for the slight to his honor at Acre), Leopold imprisoned Richard despite his the immunity from prosecution he was guaranteed by his status as crusader. A few months later Leopold turned him over to another of Richard’s enemies, King Henry VI of Germany (r.1190-1197), also a cousin of Conrad, who held a political grudge against Richard for his support of the Welfs—Henry the Lion had been Richard’s brother-in-law—and for placing Tancred into the kingship of Sicily against the claims of Henry’s wife. (Pope Celestine III  excommunicated both Leopold and Henry for violating Richard’s crusader immunity.) While in captivity Richard wrote a song Ja nus hons pris or Ja nuls om pres ("No man who is imprisoned"), addressed to his half-sister Marie de Champagne, in which he accused his friends and kinsmen of abandoning him. But they hadn’t. Despite a civil war arising from Prince John’s attempt to usurp his brother’s throne, Richard’s mother Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and his supporters managed raise the150,000 marks Henry demanded in ransom (about three times the annual revenues Richard enjoyed as king) by heavily taxing both the clergy and the laity.  Philip Augustus offered Henry VI 80,000 marks more to keep Richard imprisoned for a few months more, but Henry turned the offer down. Philip let John know in a terse message: “The Devil is loose. Look to yourself!”

1193   Teutonic Order established as a new Military Order, grew out of a German order of monks who ran a hospital in Acre. Modelled on Hospitallers. Pope Celestine III calls for a crusade against pagans of the Baltic.

1194   King Henry VI of Germany obtains the throne of Sicily in right of his wife, the Norman princess Constance. He inherits with it the Norman Sicilian dream of a Mediterranean Crusader kingdom, but the papacy is less than thrilled by the idea of an emperor who controls all the lands to the north and the south of the Papal States.

1194   King Richard the Lionheart of England pays his full ransom to King Henry VI of Germany and is released after two years of captivity. His brother John goes into hiding until ensured that Richard would forgive him. Richard spends the next five years fighting to recover lands in France that had been taken by King Philip Augustus in his absence.


 1195-1260   Chartres Cathedral rebuilt in Gothic style. The Romanesque Cathedral of Chartres burnt down in 1194. The new church, begun in 1195 and dedicated in 1260, is one of the early masterpieces of the new Gothic style of architecture.

1197-1215   Political conflict between Hohenstaufens and Welfs in the Medieval Empire. King Henry VI of Germany dies leaving an infant as his heir (Frederick) and no clear successor. Because of his mother, Frederick is made king of Sicily, but in Germany where kings are chosen by election, a dispute breaks out between supporters of Philip of Swabia (Hohenstaufen), Henry VI’s younger brother, and the Welf Otto of Brunswick.

 1198-1216   Pope Innocent III, the apex of the medieval papacy. Lothar de Conti, who was trained in both canon law and theology, was elected pope in 1198 at the age of 37 and took the papal name Innocent III. Innocent III’s agenda was to protect the Church against heresy, promote crusading to recover Jerusalem, improve the morals and behavior of the Catholic clergy, and to protect the political independence of the Papal States against encroachment by the kings of Germany. His primary concern was to unify all Christendom under the papal monarchy, and maintained that as vicar of Christ on earth, he was the ultimate judge of all Christians, including kings. In his view popes had greater authority than kings: “Now just as the moon derives its light from the sun and is indeed lower than it in quantity and quality, in position and in power, so too the royal power derives the splendor of its dignity from the pontifical authority.” This conception of papal authority is sometimes called “Caesaropapism,” pope as world ruler. But Innocent III did not claim to wield the temporal sword himself (except over the Papal States). Rather, he saw himself as responsible to God for the actions and performance of all Christian kings. Pope Innocent III refused to recognize King Philip Augustus of France’s annulment of his marriage to Ingeborg of Denmark and nullified the king’s marriage to Agnes of Meulan and ordered him to separate from her.  When he refused, Innocent placed France under interdict (1199). When King John of England refused to accept Innocent’s choice of Stephen Langton to be archbishop of Canterbury, Innocent placed England under interdict (1207). When John ignored this, Innocent upped the ante by deposing John in 1212 and encouraging Philip Augustus (who had since taken Ingeborg back) to launch a ‘crusade’ against England. This led John to submit to the pope in 1213 and declare himself as a vassal of the Church.  When the English barons revolted John and forced him to issue Magna Carta, Innocent III nullified it on the grounds that John, as a vassal of the pope, could not make such concessions without his lord’s consent. He also interfered in the election of German kings, giving and withdrawing his support for claimants according to how it would affect papal control over the Papal States.  He organized four crusades, two to the East (the Fourth Crusade, which resulted in the capture of the Christian city of Constantinople, and the Fifth, which began only after his death), the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics of southern France, and a political crusade against a Hohenstaufen loyalist in Sicily. He presided over the Fourth Lateran Council (see under 1215), the most important Church council of the Middle Ages and the culmination of his ecclesiastical agenda.  (Innocent III, fresco portrait, early 13th century.)

1198-1212   Livonian Crusade in present-day Latvia.

1199   Crusade. Pope Innocent III calls a crusade against Markward of Anweiler, Margrave of Ancona and Count of Abruzzo in central Italy and lord of Palermo in the kingdom of Sicily. Markward was a supporter of Innocent’s enemy the Hohenstaufen claimant to the German throne Philip of Swabia, and posed a threat both to the Papal States and to the pope’s claim to supremacy over Sicily. This was the first “political crusade.”

 King John of England (r.1199-1216). When Richard the Lionheart died besieging the castle of Chalus-Chabrol in Limoges, France, his younger brother John took the throne with the support of the English nobility. The French nobility, however, supported the claim to the throne of his nephew Arthur, the twelve year old count of Brittany. In 1200 Philip Augustus formally acknowledged John as duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, count of Anjou and Poitou, and overlord of Brittany, dealing a major blow to Arthur’s position. Two years later King Philip reversed his position when John refused to answer a feudal summons to Paris to answer charges made against him by Count Hugh de Lusignan of Le Marche; he confiscated the lands in France that John held as a vassal of Philip, and transferred them to Arthur. By this time, however, Arthur’s military position had become precarious. Tomb effigy of Richard the Lionheart, Fontevraud abbey.

c. 1200   Philip Augustus, sometime between 1190 and 1220, ordered a new wall constructed around Paris because of the phenomenal growth in the city’s population and area of settlement. Philip Augustus’ wall ran for 2800 meters on the right bank and 2600 meters on the left bank. It was three meters thick at the base, nine meters high, and had a fourteen meter high tower every seventy meters.  Philip ordered the Louvre built to reinforce the western defenses. (The wall’s primary purpose at this time was still military defense.) Paris’s Roman wall enclosed 25 acres (the island in the Seine River known as the Ile-de-Paris); Philip Augustus’s wall enclosed 640 acres. According to the chronicler Rigord, Philip Augustus also was responsible for paving the streets of Paris. See under 1184. (Remnant of Philip Augustus’s walls around Paris.)


c. 1200-c.1220   Chivalry: Gottfried von Strassburg and Wolfram von Eschenbach.  German chivalric literature, which drew upon French models, came into its own in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The three most important German romances were the anonymous Nibelungenlied (c.1190) (translation online in the Medieval German Series on “In Parenthesis”), Gottfried von Stassburg’s Tristan (c.1210) and Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Pazifal (before 1220). Gottfried’s and Wolfram’s contemporary, Walther von der Vogelweide, was the greatest of the German minnesingers (composers of courtly love poetry). The most interesting—and weirdest—minnesinger of the next generation was undoubtedly the Bavarian knight and royal minister Ulrich von Liechtenstein (c.1200-1278), who wrote a pseudo-autobiography “The Service of Ladies” (1255) in which he described his Venusfahrt (a jousting tour that he undertook in drag) (1226) and his Artusfahrt (another jousting tour, but this time dressed as King Arthur) (1240). For Ulrich, see under 1226 and 1255. Walther von der Vogelweide from the Codex Manesse, c.1304.

1202   King John of England defeats and captures his nephew Count Arthur of Brittany at Mirabeau, securing his throne. This is the highpoint of John’s kingship. John imprisons Arthur, who “disappears” from history. (The smart money is on John having ordered the kid killed.)

1203-1204   Philip II Augustus of France takes Normandy, Maine, and Anjou from King John of England. Three years earlier John for political reasons had broken up the impending marriage between his vassal Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of Le Marche, and Isabelle, the twelve year old daughter and heir of the Count of Angoulême, and married Isabelle himself. This led Hugh and his Poitevin allies to rise in rebellion. Unable to match John militarily, Hugh appealed to their mutual overlord, King Philip Augustus, for justice. In 1202 Philip summoned John to answer the charges in his court at Paris. When John ignored the summons, Philip formally confiscated the counties and duchies that John held in France (Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Brittany, and Aquitaine). Philip systematically took everything John held in France except for Poitou and Aquitaine, aided by the disaffection of the French nobility toward John. Expansion of French royal domain under Philip Augustus, 1180-1223

Crusaders1203-1204   Fourth Crusade: Innocent III calls for a crusade to liberate Jerusalem. The Fourth Crusade starts with Venetians diverting crusaders to Yugoslav city of Zara, which they take for Venetians to pay for ships to take them to the Holy Land. Crusade is then diverted to Constantinople, where crusaders support pretender to the imperial throne. When their candidate is killed, they sack Constantinople and found Latin Kingdom of Constantinople. The crusaders divide up Greece into vassal fiefs: the Kingdom of Thessalonica, the Principality of Achaea, the Duchy of Athens, the Duchy of the Archipelago and the short-lived duchies of Nicaea, Philippopolis, and Philadelphia. The Byzantines retain control over the Despotate of Epirus (western Greece) and the Empire of Nicaea and the Empire of Trebizond in Anatolia.

Innocent III establishes new German Military Order, the Brothers of the Sword, to aid in the establishment of Christian rule in Livonia and the pagan Baltic.

1205-1212   King John of England builds a large royal fleet (an antecedent to the Royal Navy) in preparation against a threatened invasion by King Philip Augustus of France.

1206   Genghis Khan.  Mongol chief Temüjin, having united or subdued the Merkits, Naimans, Mongols, Keraits, Tatars, Uyghurs and disparate other smaller tribes under his rule, is recognized by a council of Mongol chiefs as the “Great Khan” (ruler) of the Mongol tribes.  He assumes the title of "Genghis Khan” (“Resolute Ruler”). (Portrait of Genghis Khan.)

 1206-1208   The religious conversion of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).  Following a serious illness in 1204 and a mystical vision, Francis, the son of a wealthy Italian merchant and would be knight, experienced a religious conversion that led him to renounce his father’s wealth and worldly things. A bleeding crucifix at the local church of San Damiano spoke to him to ordered him to “build my church.” Francis initially took this literally and physically repaired churches in the area. (including the still surviving Porziuncola chapel, now housed within a huge basilica church).  In 1208 Francis, having heard a sermon about Christ sending his apostles to preach in the world, became a wandering preacher. Barefoot and clad only in a rough cloak without a staff or purse, he emulated the apostles by preaching a doctrine of apostolic poverty:  “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Matthew 19,21); “Take nothing for your journey” (Luke 9,3); “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me” (Luke 9,23). Other wealthy young men began to join him as a wandering preacher.  Thus began the Franciscans  or Order of Friars Minor. (The term “friars” refers to wandering monks who preached, as opposed to the traditional monastic model of separation from the world and prayer. Franciscans were a mendicant (begging) order because Francis believed that he and his friars should obtain the necessities of life by begging and charity rather than by secular labor or the ownership of property. (Miracles of St. Francis, mid 13th century.)

1207-1213   Pope Innocent III and King John of England fight over the archbishopric of Canterbury. In 1207 Pope Innocent III appointed the English cardinal-priest Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury to resolve a disputed election (King John of England forced the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury to “elect” his favorite, John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich, while some of the younger monks secretly elected the subprior of Christ Church. Pope Innocent received a delegation of 16 monks from Canterbury, deposed both claimants, and ordered the delegation to elect an archbishop in his presence, suggesting Stephen Langton as an obvious candidate. The monks elected Langton and Pope Innocent III consecrated him as archbishop. A royally pissed King John responded by closing the ports of England to the new archbishop, pronouncing as a public enemy anyone for upheld Stephen Langton’s claim, and expelling the monks of Canterbury, who now unanimously supported Stephen, from Christ Church, taking possession of the lands of the monastery and the archbishopric. Pope Innocent III responded in 1208 by placing England under interdict and excommunicating John in 1209. John ignored the papal pressure placed upon him and simply seized all the revenues from the bishoprics since they were no longer performing sacraments, and Innocent, faced with John’s recalcitrance, allowed in 1212 last rites to performed in England and masses to be held in some churches, as long as the doors remained closed. In early 1213 Pope Innocent III went one step further and formally deposed King John, asking King Philip Augustus to invade in a papal sanctioned war. John responded by submitting to Innocent’s demands. Not only did he accept Stephen Langton as archbishop, he formally gave his kingdom to “St. Peter” and received it back as a papal fief.  In recognition of Pope Innocent III’s lordship, John agreed to pay the papacy 700 marks a year from England and an additional 300 marks a year from Ireland. This was John’s “Canossa” (see above 1077). By becoming the vassal of the papacy, John had insured Pope Innocent III’s and the English church’s support against the threatened invasion from France.

1209   Pope Innocent III approves St. Francis’ rule marking the foundation of the Franciscan Order (Order of Friars Minor).  Sponsored by the bishop of Assisi and Cardinal Ugolino, the nephew of Pope Innocent III and the future Pope Gregory IX, Francis and his original eleven followers, who like him had come from the merchant class, went to Rome to ask the pope for recognition as a new monastic order. Pope Innocent III, who was then combating a number of heresies, including the Cathars and the Waldensians, both of whom rejected wealth and things of this world, was initially wary of the young layman (whom he told to preach to the pigs—which Francis immediately did) but recognized his piety and saw in him a possible weapon against the heretics. (The story is that Innocent III had a dream in which he saw the Lateran church begin to tumble down until Francis pushed it upright. Giotto did a famous painting of this scene.) Innocent III gave him permission to preach and recognized the new order and its primitive rule. Among Francis’ early converts was a young woman, Clare of Assisi, who would found the female analogue to the Franciscans, the Poor Clares. Earliest portrait of St. Francis, before 1228. Thomas of Spalato, a non-Franciscan, saw Francis preach in 1222 and described him as ugly and dirty but a charismatic preacher: “His tunic was filthy, his figure contemptible and his face far from handsome. … The reverence and devotion of people towards him was so great that men and women rushed upon him, trying to touch the hem of his garment and carry off pieces of his clothing” (Thomas of Spalato). (Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi, begun in 1228.)

   The Franciscans became an extremely popular order. In the thirteenth century they served as missionaries (including to the Mongols), inquisitors, and university professors (despite the wishes of their founder). By 1316 there were over 1400 Franciscan convents.


 1209-1229   Albigensian Crusade against the ‘Cathar’ heretics of southern France/Cathar heresy. After the murder of the Cistercian monk and papal legate (St) Peter of Castelnau following a stormy meeting with Count Raymond VI of Toulouse (1156-1222) over the count’s supposed protection of heretics, Pope Innocent III calls for the Albigensian Crusade against the dualist Cathar heretics (Albigensians) and their supporters in Languedoc (“land of the language of ‘oc’ [yes]”=southern France, as opposed to ‘Langedoïl,’ northern France where people used “oïl”/oui to say yes). Although King Philip II Augustus of France, faced with enemies to his west (King John) and east (Emperor Otto IV) showed no interest in leading this crusade, he gave permission to his barons in the Ile-de-France to answer the summons. The northern French crusading army was led by the pious, sanctimonious, and brutal Count Simon de Montfort (c.1165-1218), lord of Montfort l’Amaury in the Ile-de-France, and father of the English Earl Simon de Montfort (see below 128/1259). Montfort had gone on the Fourth Crusade but had left in disgust when the crusaders attacked Christian Zara to pay the Venetians for transport to the Holy Land. This ferociously brutal war began with a massacre in the southern French city of Béziers in 1209, after which crusaders and southern French defenders exchanged atrocities. Montfort’s army of northern French crusaders proved initially successful, and apparently “won” the war when they defeated King Pere II of Aragon in the Battle of Muret in 1213, after which Montfort styled himself Count of Toulouse and Narbonne. Montfort’s brutality, however, led to renewed support for Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Montfort died besieging Toulouse in 1218, crushed by a rock thrown by a mangonel. Count Raymond VI died in 1222, and his capable son Count Raymond VII took up the fight. The turning point in the war came in 1226 when King Louis VIII of France (r.1223-1226) brought the full military weight of the French Crown to bear against the southern French. In 1229 the Albigensian Crusade came to an end. Count Raymond VII was allowed to retain his county, but it was to pass after his death to his daughter and her husband, Alphonse of Artois, the younger brother of King (St) Louis IX. The ultimate political consequence of the Albigensian Crusade was that Languedoc became part of the French king’s royal domain.  Siege of Carcassonne, early 13th-century carving.  Walls of Carcassonne

The Cathars were dualists who believed that there were two gods, the good god of the New Testament who created the world of spirit and the evil god of the Old Testament who created the material world. They believed that the evil god had imprisoned the souls of men into prisons of flesh, and that unless released by the sacrament of the Consolamentum (akin to baptism but without the use of water), the soul upon the physical death of a person would transmigrate to a new “prison of flesh.”  The Cathar clergy, known as “Perfects” (also as the Good Men and the Good Women), lived lives of purity, abstaining from meat, fish, sex, or any worldly pleasures or luxuries, and conceived of themselves to be living vessels of the Holy Spirit. Upon death their souls would be released to go back to heaven. There were few Perfects. There were many more who were “Believers,” Cathar laity, who lived lives much like their Catholic neighbors but hoped to receive the Consolamentum upon their deathbeds. Of course, the Cathars rejected completely the Catholic Church, its clergy, and its sacraments. Even in southern France Cathar believers made up only a small minority of the population. But they were disproportionately well represented among the lesser nobility and were tolerated—and sometimes protected—by Catholic nobles, including the count of Toulouse, Raymond VI. The religion originated in the East, perhaps Bulgaria, and spread to the West in the middle of the twelfth century via Constantinople. It took root in southern France, in part because of the weakness of the institutional church in that region. In the first decade of the thirteenth century (St.) Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish Augustinian canon, and the Diego, bishop of Osma, conducted a preaching mission against the Cathars, debating them in public. The failure of this preaching movement led to the Albigensian Crusade and, later, to the Papal Inquisition. The Church regarded the Cathars as the most serious of the various heretical movements of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

1212      Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. Combined army of the Christian kingdoms of Spain led by King Alfonso VIII of Leon/Castile and King Pere II of Aragon-Catalonia decisively defeats the Almohads at Las Navas de Tolosa (northeast of Cordoba), driving the Almohads back to Morocco. Turning point in the Christian Reconquista of Spain.

1212   Children’s Crusade    This actually refers to two separate peasant movements. One was led by a German shepherd who led about 7,000 peasants of all ages across the Alps to Genoa, believing that the sea would part so that they could walk to Jerusalem. It didn’t, and the “crusade” evaporated.  The other wasn’t a crusade at all. A twelve year old peasant boy named Stephen of Cloyes claimed to have a letter from Jesus to King Philip Augustus of France. Thousands followed him to St. Denis, where he supposedly worked miracles. King Philip, after consulting with the faculty of the University of Paris, dispersed the crowds and sent them home. The idea of an actual popular “crusade” of children was the result of medieval chroniclers writing several decades after these events misinterpreting the characterization of the crowds as pueri, a Latin word that literally means “boys” but which was also slang for peasants of all ages.

1212    Pope Innocent III pronounces Frederick, the fifteen year old son of King Henry VI (d. 1197) who was then king of Sicily, to be the legitimate king of Germany. Frederick responds by promising to keep the Crowns of Germany and of Sicily separate. He later reneges.

1213   Battle of Muret. Decisive victory in southern France by Simon de Montfort, leader of the Crusading army in the Albigensian Crusade, over (ironically) King Pere II of Aragon-Catalonia, hero of the Christian victory at Las Navas de Tolosa a year earlier.

1213        Frederick II issues the Golden Bull of Eger which acknowledges the pope’s authority over the Papal States, repudiates the traditional imperial claim to revenues from vacant bishoprics, and concedes to the German Church the free election of bishops and the right of clergy to appeal to the papal curia.

 1214   Philip Augustus of France wins the Battle of Bouvines (in northern France on the border with Belgium) against a coalition of forces organized by King John of England that includes King Otto IV of Germany and the counts of Flanders and the Lowlands. The result is Philip retains possession of Normandy and Anjou, Otto IV is deposed, and King John is discredited, leading to the barons from whom he extracted money for the campaign to rebel (the “Magna Carta” rebellion). In terms of political significance, Bouvines is one of the few truly decisive medieval battles.

 1215    Magna Carta. As a consequence of the Battle of Bouvines, rebel English barons impose the "Magna Carta" (Great Charter) on King John in response to his demands for money from the nobility to conduct wars on the Continent.  The Magna Carta establishes that the king can only “tax” (actually take feudal “aids” from) his barons with their consent, requires judgment by a jury of peers, and regulates feudal exactions (reliefs, i.e. inheritance payments; aids; and wardship and marriage) that the king could take from his tenants-in-chief. The Magna Carta placed the king under his own Common Law. (Copy of Magna Carta.)

Also as a consequence of Bouvines, Innocent III’s candidate for the kingship of Germany, Frederick II (r.1215-1250), son of King Henry VI, is accepted in place of King Otto IV by the princes of Germany. To win the Pope’s support, Frederick promises Innocent that he will give up the Kingdom of Sicily; he reneges on the promise.

 1215   Fourth Lateran Council.  The Fourth Lateran Council, the twelfth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, was the most important ecumenical council of the Central Middle Ages.  Held in the pope’s Lateran palace in Rome, it represents Pope Innocent III's most lasting contribution to ecclesiastical reform.  Attended by over 400 bishops, 800 abbots, thousands of lesser clergy and laity, and representatives of all the great princes. Even Byzantium was represented (because of Latin kingdom created in 1204 [lasted until 1261] result of 4th Crusade). The mass of people in the Lateran was so great that an eyewitness commented that he could hear very little of the sermon over the 'tumult of the people.' As one eyewitness described the pageantry: “The greatest Roman noblemen, swathed in silk and purple, preceded him to the accompaniment of drum and chorus, strings and organ, and the resounding harmonies of trumpets, and an infinite multitude of clerics and people followed. Roman boys, raising olive branches, met the lord pope with shouts and, as is their custom, kept saying Kyrieleyson and Christeleyson without interruption. Right away, at the other end of the bridge across which one approaches the church, uncounted lanterns, suspended on ropes throughout the streets  and alleys, strove to make the brightness of that day succumb to the brilliance of their own light. The number of banners and pieces of purple cloth, which were unfolded on the houses and high towers of the Romans cannot be estimated at all.”   (Miniature of Fourth Lateran Council by Matthew Paris, c.1260.)

          Issues of the Fourth Lateran: The council dealt with a variety of issues, ecclesiastical, doctrinal, and even political. The deposed emperor Otto IV sent ambassadors to seek reconciliation with the pope, the rebel English barons fighting against King John were excommunicated, a Latin patriarch of Constantinople was established, and quarrels among bishops (Compostella and Toledo) over precedence were sorted out. The most important issues were

1. Planning for a new crusade (Innocent III’s most fervent desire)

2. Purification of the morals of the clergy and improved instruction of clergy in matters of faith and religious rites.  The secular clergy were to be sober and celibate. Clergy are to abstain from drunkenness and to be celibate, canon 15; shall not visit taverns or play games of chance, or dress unsuitably, canon 16; and clergy shall not participate in judicial duels or ordeals--a revolutionary canon, no. 18, that altered the whole judicial system of Christian Europe, led increasingly to use of jury trials in England and Inquisitorial procedure on continent; no. 6, that provincial synods are to be held annually to ensure enforcement of canonical enactments for the correction of abuses; no. 27--only those prepared and instructed in the faith are to be elevated to the priesthood: 'it is better to have a few good ministers than many who are no good'; no. 11 all diocese are to have masters to teach gratis priests and poor students),

3. Suppression of heresy (to which end a lengthy profession of orthodox faith was issued, canon 1; and an order that bishops and rulers suppress heresy in their domains, canon 3)

4. Clarification of doctrine on the sacraments (transubstantiation was established as Church doctrine, canon 1; confession and communion to a parish priest at least once a year was ordered for every adult layman, canon 21; priestly monopoly on the sacrament of the mass was reaffirmed)

 5. Separation of Jews and Muslims from Christians. Jews and Muslims were to dress in a manner that would distinguish them from Christians. Jews were forbidden to go out in public during Easter, in particular on Good Friday. Jews were to be punished by secular authorities for blaspheming Christ.


    1216   The “Order of Preachers” commonly called the Dominican Order is founded by St. Dominic of Spain (1170-1221) and is authorized by Pope Honorius III. Its purpose is to convert Muslims, Jews, and pagans and to combat heresy. In the thirteenth-century the Dominicans become the main personnel for the papal Inquisition, missionaries to Africa, Asia, and the Baltic, and teachers of theology in universities, where they become associated with Aritotelianism. Death of Pope Innocent III.

French invasion of England/death of King John. English rebel barons offer crown to Louis (VIII), the eldest son of King Philip Augustus of France. Louis accepts and invades England with an expeditionary force. King John dies and his nine year old son is crowned King Henry III. The dying John names William Marshal as his son’s regent.

1218‑1221   Fifth Crusade directed against Egypt. Gets bogged down in a siege of port city of Damietta and ends in complete failure.

1219   St. Francis of Assisi leads a small party of Franciscans to Cairo intending to convert the Sultan Melek el-Kemal. He impresses the sultan with his piety (after offering to prove his faith by walking their fire) but fails to convert him. Francis spends the next year touring the Frankish Levant.

 1219   Death of William Marshal, earl of Pembroke and regent of England for the child King Henry III.

1223-1226   Reign of King Louis VIII of France. Louis VIII, Philip Augustus' son, rules for three years and brings the military operations of the Albigensian Crusade to an end by conquering most of southern France.

1223   Chivalry: on the Crusader state of Cyprus was held the first Arthurian themed tournament (described by Philip of Novara), marking the growing importance of the Arthurian legend in the ideology of chivalry. Around this time, the earliest extant handbook of chivalry was also composed. The anonymous poem L’Ordene de Chevalerie (The Ordination of Chivalry, trans. William Morris) is a fictional account of how the captive Hugh of Tiberias, in lieu of ransom, explained to the noble sultan Saladin the ritual of the knighting ceremony and the meaning of Christian knighthood. In this account Saladin is not actually knighted, since the order of knighthood is reserved for Christians. The poem’s description of the ritual of dubbing probably follows actual early thirteenth-century practice, and its explanations of the symbolism of the objects used in the ceremony (e.g. sword, gown, spurs) were repeated in many subsequent medieval and renaissance chivalric treatises

1225   Birth of St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), the most influential Scholastic theologian of the Middle Ages. Thomas, against the wishes of his family, will join the Dominican Order and become a professor of theology at the University of Paris, where he will teach the contemplation of God through the rational understanding the natural order, though ultimate truths are revealed only by studying the revelations of the Bible. His two greatest works are the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa Theologica, both of which attempt to found the Christian faith on rational principles. His philosophy emphasizes human reasoning, life in the material order, and the individual's participation in personal salvation.

 1226   Chivalry: Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s “Venus tour” (Venusfahrt). In his poetic autobiography (see under 1255), the Bavarian knight Ulrich von Liechtenstein describes his undertaking of a tourneying journey in honor of "Frau Venus" and his lady love. Dressed in full armor covered by a plus size woman's dress and wearing a blond woman's wig, Ulrich rode from Italy to Bohemia, issuing a general challenge to all knights to joust with him. To each knight who broke three lances with him he gave a gold ring, but if the challenger was defeated, he was to bow to the four corners of the earth in honor of Ulrich's lady. He tells us that he “broke” 307 lances in a month's jousting, sometimes engaging in up to eight matches a day. An interesting sidelight is that Ulrich was married and took time out to visit his wife during the Venusfahrt. His unnamed lady love, meanwhile, was a married woman, whom he fell in love with when he served as a twelve-year old page in her husband’s household. Ulrich’s Venusfahrt illustrates the artificiality and playfulness of “courtly love” in the thirteenth century. Ulrich von Liechtenstein on his Venusfahrt (Codex Manesse, c.1304).

1216-1272   Reign of King Henry III of England. Henry became king at the age of nine. His fifty-seven year reign was marked by military failures in France that left English kings with only a fraction of Aquitaine. During the early years of his reign England was governed by the king’s regent William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, the John’s justiciar Hubert de Burgh (before 1180 –1243), and a baronial council. The baronial regents reissued Magna Carta in 1217 under Henry III name. After Marshal’s death in 1219, Hubert de Burgh effectively ruled England until Henry III came of age in 1227. Henry III named Hubert earl of Kent in 1227 and justiciar for life in the following year, but removed him from power in 1232 when he felt strong enough to do so. Henry had chafed under the guardianship of Hubert and his policies upon reaching majority were to restore his personal royal authority.  Resenting the native baronage who controlled the kingdom during his minority, Henry III appointed his Lusignan half-brothers and his wife Eleanor of Provence’s Savoyard cousins to the major royal offices in England, making them men of power and wealth. Henry III consistently favored Poitevins over native English nobles, relying on men such as his favorite Peter des Riveaux, who held the offices of Treasurer of the Household, Keeper of the King's Wardrobe, Lord Privy Seal, and the shrievalties (office of sheriff) of twenty-one English counties simultaneously. Henry's tendency to govern for long periods with no publicly-appointed ministers who could be held accountable for their actions and decisions and his patronage of foreigners created baronial resentment, culminating in the issuance of the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster in 1258 and 1259 as an attempt to place the king under the control of a baronial council. This, in turn, led to a fierce civil war, in which the baronial party was led by a former royal favorite, the Frenchman Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Henry III was captured by Simon in the Battle of Lewes (1265), although he was freed and restored to power the following year when his son Prince Edward (later Edward I) won the Battle of Evesham (1265) in which Simon de Montfort was killed.  Baronial opposition continued until 1266, when the rebels and Henry III agreed to a formal reconciliation (the Dictum of Kenilworth) that recognized the supremacy of the king. The last baronial hold-outs were brought to heel in the following year. The full restoration of royal authority was commemorated with Parliament’s issuance of the Statue of Marlborough in 1267.

     Henry III was noted for his piety. He was a firm supporter of the papacy, providing money and resources to popes to support their wars in Sicily and Italy.  He ordered Westminster Abbey to be lavishly rebuilt along Gothic lines (1245-1265), and established his royal court in Westminster Hall. His piety also manifested itself in a series of anti-Jewish edicts, forcing Jews to identify themselves with special badges in the shape of the Two Tablets.


1217   Magna Carta reissued. The regent William Marshal and the baronial council that ruled England reissued Magna Carta in the name of the child king Henry III. Magna Carta had been quashed by Pope Innocent III; its free reissuance in 1217 made it the law of the land.

1223-1226   Louis VIII, Philip Augustus' son, rules for three years and concludes the military operations of the Albigensian Crusade by conquering most of southern France.

1226-1270   Reign of Louis IX (St. Louis) of France. King Louis IX succeeded to the throne at the age of twelve, with his very capable and strong-willed mother Queen Blanche of Castile assuming the role of regent (1226-1234). Louis’s minority was dominated by a series of baronial revolts led by his bastard half-brother Philip Hurepel, Peter Mauclerc count of Brittany, Hugh de Lusignan XI count de la Marche, and, initially, Count Thibault IV of Champagne. The first rebellion occurred in 1227. A second occurred three years later when King Henry III of England invaded to recover the lands his father John had lost in France. Henry III landed in Brittany, where he was supported by its count Peter Mauclerc, but Louis Queen Blanche was able to defeat the coalition with military aid from Count Thibault of Champagne (rumored to be in love with Blanche) and the papal legate Frangipani. Raymond VII of Toulouse, threatened by Blanche with a renewed crusade, submitted to the Crown in 1229, ending the Albigensian Crusade. Henry III invaded again in 1242, this time in league with the Poitevin count of La Marche, Hugh de Lusignan XI, but was defeated by Louis and forced to agree to a treaty on French. Hostilities between England and France would come to a formal end in 1258 with the Treaty of Paris, by which Henry III renounced claims to Normandy and Anjou and did homage to King Luis IX for the duchy of Guyenne (a portion of the old duchy of Aquitaine).

Louis was probably the greatest medieval king of France. The leader of two (unsuccessful) crusades (1247-1251 and 1270), Louis is the exemplar of Christian royal piety in the Middle Ages. During the last two decades of his reign France experienced peace, prosperity, and brilliant cultural advances (Gothic churches, University of Paris, a literary flowering). Louis increased royal power vis-à-vis the French nobility; increased the royal domain to include Languedoc; rooted out corruption in royal administration by sending out itinerant investigators to oversee the local royal officers (baillis and seneschals); issued royal edicts that outlawed private warfare, trial by combat in royal courts, and made the king’s currency run throughout France; helped make his brother king of Sicily; defeated King Henry III of England and made peace with him (highly favorable to France); negotiated a settlement between King Henry III of England and rebel barons; promoted the Franciscan Order; and persecuted the Jews. In 1297 he was canonized by the Church for his piety (and because Pope Boniface VIII wished to placate King Philip IV “the Fair” of France, Louis’s grandson, with whom he had been fighting over taxation of the clergy). (Louis IX with his mother Blanche of Castile.)

1228‑1229   Sixth Crusade. Emperor Frederick II, under excommunication by the pope, retakes Jerusalem through negotiations rather than force, and agrees to dismantle its defences. Frederick II, claiming the throne of Jerusalem by right of his second wife Yolande of Brienne, has himself crowned King of Jerusalem in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The pope and much of Christendom are appalled at his willingness to deal with infidels.  The Latins will continue to hold Jerusalem until 1244.

1229    Albigensian Crusade formally ends. The papal legate Frangipani had persuaded Pope Gregory IX not only to support Blanche of Castile’s regency of France but also to allow her to collect tithes from all French dioceses in support of a renewed crusade in southern France. This was forestalled by the submission of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. The treaty ending the Albigensian Crusade included an agreement on part of Raymond VII that his daughter and heiress should marry Louis IX’s younger brother Alphonse of Poitiers and if the couple should die childless, Languedoc would escheat to the Crown and become part of the royal domain—which is what happened.

1231   Frederick II issues the “Constitutions of Melfi” (Liber Augustalis), a 253 clause legal code for the Kingdom of Sicily (Italy south of the Papal States and the island of Sicily). The “Constitutions of Melfi” emphasizes the theocratic basis of Frederick’s kingship and recalling Roman precedent, strengthened the central power of the king vis-à-vis the powers of the rural feudal baronage, bishops, and the cities of the kingdom. Bearing weapons and building castles without royal permission were banned; cities were forbidden to elect consuls or rulers (since they were to be under the direct rule of royal officials); internal tariffs within the Kingdom were abolished, while royal monopolies were established for the silk, iron, and grain trade; the king and his officials alone were to have rights of justice; established equality of justice under royal law for nobles and commoners alike; abolished ordeals and trial by combat as methods of judicial proof, and insisted upon judicial inquiry based upon evidence. The “Constitutions of Melfi” established the closest thing in the middle ages to an “absolute monarchy.” The great twentieth-century history Ernst Kantorowicz characterized it as “the birth certificate of the modern administrative state.”

   Frederick’s policy toward the German dukes and bishops was very different. In order to secure their support (or non-interference) for his policy of placing northern Italy under direct imperial rule, Frederick offered the German princes virtual autonomy within their territories. In the same year he issued the “Constitutions of Melfi” (1231) Frederick also issued the “Constitution in Favor of the Princes,” which had the result of making the German magnates practically independent and even placed the towns under their rule. When his son Henry, whom he had appointed King of Germany in 1228, objected to this and revolted, Frederick suppressed his rising, threw him into prison, where he died, and replaced him as king in 1238 with his second son, Conrad. From this time on he made little attempt to exercise any real authority in Germany, whose princes, satisfied with their status, caused him no trouble. (Frederick II with imperial eagle.)

St Peter Martyr by Lawrence OP. 1233   Papal Inquisition established. Because the Albigensian Crusade had failed to root out the Cathar heresy, Pope Gregory IX establishes the Papal Inquisition. The Inquisition is entrusted initially to the Franciscans and Dominicans, but increasingly becomes dominated by the latter. Pairs of inquisitors are sent to regions known for heretical activity with orders to take testimony from all adults. This testimony is systematically recorded, which allows the inquisitors to cross-check testimonies and confessions. Those who confess freely receive light penance; those who resist are punished more harshly, usually through imprisonment. Only Cathar “perfects” (clergy) who refuse to recant are turned over to the secular authorities for punishment (usually burning). No torture is used for the first couple of decades, but the technology of written records proves effective in stamping out the Cathar heresy without it. St. Peter of Verona, Grand Inquisitor in Italy, martyred 1252.

1235        Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253), University Chancellor of Oxford, is appointed bishop of London.  Grosseteste, a brilliant theologian and scholar, translates Aristotle's Ethics and makes advances in the science of optics (producing the first accurate description of the color spectrum), mathematics and astronomy.

1237   Mongol invasion of Russia. The Mongols, under the leadership of Batu, cross the Urals from Asia into Russia. Prior to the thirteenth century, Russia is ruled by westerners who found the Kievan state. During the thirteenth century Russia retreats from the West, partly due to the distance between Moscow and the rest of Europe.

1237   Frederick II wins a victory over the Milanese at Cortenuova, and the Lombard League collapses. This is the high point of Frederick’s power in northern Italy.

1237   King Henry III of England grants merchants from Gotland (island off the eastern coast of Sweden) safe conduct and exemption from all taxes on merchandise bought and sold in England.

1238-1250   Frederick II at war in Italy against the papacy and Lombard League. The successors of Pope Innocent III are involved in a political struggle with Emperor Frederick II, who attempts to take control in central Italy. They order a crusade against him, the second time a crusade is called for political reasons. Frederick loses, weakening the power of the king in Germany and of the emperor in Italy. As a consequence neither Germany nor Italy will be united until the 19th century.

1239        Pope Gregory IX excommunicates the Emperor Frederick II (for the second time), which leads to Frederick II invading the Papal States in the following year.

1239-1242   Crusade of Theobald IV of Champagne, king of Navarre, and Earl Richard of Cornwall. This crusade was timed to coincide with the expiration of Emperor Frederick II’s ten year truce with the sultan of Egypt al-Kamil which had given the Christians control over Jerusalem. The result was actually two sequential crusades, the first a French crusade in 1239 led by Theobald (Thiabault) IV, count of Champagne and King of Navarre, which included a number of important French barons; the second an English crusade, 1240-1242, led by Richard, earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of King Henry III of England and brother-in-law of Emperor Frederick II (who claimed to king of Jerusalem). Theobald with a minimum of military activity managed to persuade the sultan of Egypt, who was at war with his uncle the sultan of Damascus, to extend Frederick II’s treaty and to restore additional territory in Palestine. He and much of the French crusading army departed the Holy Land just about the same time that Richard of Cornwall’s army arrived. Richard, again with a minimum of military actions, also negotiated a treaty with the sultan of Egypt, which was slightly more favorable than Theobald’s. The sultan agreed to return the remainder of Galilee, including Mount Tabor, and the castle and town of Tiberias to the Christians and to free some French knights who had been taken captive at Gaza in a failed raid during Theobald’s crusade. This odd little crusade turned out to be the most successful since the First, with the possible exception of Frederick II’s equally odd crusade of 1228-1229.  The gains of the crusaders were reversed two years later when the princes of Outremer contracted what proved to be a disastrous alliance with the sultan of Damascus against the sultan of Egypt.

1240   Mongol conquest of Russia. Mongols enter the state of Kiev and create a new state on the Volga River, from where they rule Russia for two centuries. Over these two centuries, the Grand Duchy of Moscow emerges and eventually defeats the Mongol Khans.

1241-1242   Mongol invasion of Hungary. Mongols under Batu invade Hungary, defeat King Bela IV in battle at Mohi. After destroying the armies of Hungary and devastating its lands, the Mongols suddenly withdraw, either because Batu receives news of the death of the Great Khan Ogedei and returns in hopes of succeeding him, or because they discover that the Hungarian plains cannot support the number of horses that their military machine requires. Description of Mongol warfare from Friar John of Plano Carpini (King Bela IV of Hungary flees the Battle of Mohi.)

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1244   Jerusalem lost to Muslims (again). Jerusalem is sacked by the Muslim Turkic Khwarezmian mercenaries. The Ayyubid Sultan as-Salih Ayyub of Egypt hired these Turkic warriors (whose empire had extended over Iran and Iraq until destroyed by the Mongols) to fight against his uncle as-Salih Ismail, sultan of Damascus. The Khwarezmiyyas, heading south from Iraq towards Egypt, took Christian-held Jerusalem along the way.  Jerusalem was not to be recaptured again by the West until 1917. Perhaps even more disastrously, the sack of Jerusalem led the barons of the Latin Kingdom and the Military Orders to join forces with the Ayyubid emir al-Mansur of Damascus in opposition to the common threat posed by the Sultan of Egypt as-Salih Ayyub and his Khwarezmian allies. The two armies met at La Forbie near Gaza on October 17, 1244. The result was the complete destruction of the military forces of the Latin Kingdom (about 5,000 killed and another 800 captured). Of the knights of the Military Orders, only 33 Templars, 27 Hospitallers, and 3 Teutonic Knights survived.

1244   Having fallen deathly ill, King Louis IX takes the crusader vow to recover Jerusalem. Louis spent the next four years raising 1.5 million livre, most of which came from taxing French churches, to conduct this crusade.

1244    Montsegur, the last Cathar stronghold, surrenders. 220 Cathar perfects are burnt. Marks the effective end of organized Catharism in Languedoc.

1245        Pope Innocent IV at the First Council of Lyon (thirteenth ecumenical council) declares Emperor Frederick II deposed and absolves his subjects from their oaths of fidelity, charging him with oath breaking, committing sacrilege by imprisoning cardinals and bishops, violating the peace between himself and the Church, showing contempt for the papacy, sacrilege, heresy, and “joining in odious friendship with the Saracens.” The German princes elect an ‘anti-king’ and Frederick finds himself fighting rebels in Germany and Italy. His control over northern Italy is shattered by the Battle of Parma in 1248. The Council of Lyon also established a three year tax of a 20th of the revenues from every clerical benefice for the support of crusades. (This was the council that also established the tradition of cardinals wearing red hats.)

1248‑1254   Seventh Crusade. (St.) King Louis IX of France, having organized the best funded crusade to date and having taken Damietta without opposition (1249), decides to march down the Nile to take Cairo and gets himself and his entire army captured (1250). He spends the next four years in Outremer rebuilding the Latin Kingdom’s fortifications. Circumstances favored Louis. The Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, al-Salih Ayyud, was in Syria fighting his uncle when Louis and his army gathered in Cyprus. The sultan, who was ill from a leg infection, died soon after arriving in Egypt, and his widow, the formidable Shajar al-Durr, with the support of the emir Farris ad-Din, leader of the Bahri Mamluks of Egypt, concealed the fact of her husband’s death, stalling for time until his heir, Turanshah, could be fetched from Syria.  Meanwhile, Louis landed on the mouth of the Nile and took the city of Damietta without opposition. Rather than taking Alexandria, as many of his barons urged, Louis listened to the advice of his brother Robert of Artois and began a march down the Nile to take Cairo, leaving a garrison behind in Damietta and arranging for supplies to be brought to him from the city. The Mamluk defenders responded by cutting canals in the crusaders’ path and by hurling Greek fire into their camp at night.  The crusaders initially defeated the Mamluks at Mansourah, in a battle that was precipitated by a rash—and fatal—attack launched by Louis’ impetuous brother Robert of Artois, but the victory was short-lived, as the Mamluks, commanded by the future Mamluk sultan Baybars, trapped the French within the town. The French fought their way out, but were now in retreat. The new sultan Turanshah arrived from Syria and went directly to Mansourah. He ordered ships to be transported overland and placed in the Nile between the crusader army and Damietta, thus cutting off Louis’s supplies and line of retreat. Louis and much of his army was now suffering from dysentery. Louis offered to swap Damietta for Jerusalem, but Turanshah, confident of victory, refused. Hungry and sick, the crusader army now attempted to retreat up the Nile to Damietta but were pursued by the Mamluks who inflicted a decisive defeat upon them at Frariskur (6 April 1250].  Louis IX and his entire army surrendered. During the surrender negotiations, the sultan Turanshah began to replace the Bahri Mamluks, whom he thought too loyal to the sultana Shajar al-Durr, with Syrian Mamluks. The result was a coup d’etat in which Turanshah was killed and the sultana elevated to rule over Egypt. It was with the Mamluks that Louis agreed to a ransom of 400,000 dinars (50,000 gold bezants) for himself and 12,000 troops, along with the condition of leaving Egypt. After Louis’s wife Margaret in Damietta came up with half of that sum, the king, his queen, and his brothers were allowed to leave for Acre. Oddly, Louis in Acre entered into an alliance with the sultana and the Mamluks against the emirs of Syria and the caliph of Baghdad, who refused to acknowledge the rule of Shajar al-Durr. (St. Louis buries the dead after Battle of Mansourah, Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century.)

1250   Emperor Frederick II dies. He assumes the habit of a Cistercian monk on his deathbed.

1252   Inquisitors are allowed to employ torture. The papal bull “Ad extirpanda” allows Inquisitors to order the torture of suspected heretics, almost twenty years after the establishment of the Inquisition and the successful rooting out of the Cathar heresy in southern France and northern Italy. The use of torture reflects the influence and spread of Roman law and Roman legal procedures.

1252-1284   Reign of Alfonso X “the Wise” (or “the Learned”), king of Leon-Castile (Spain). Alfonso X is credited with either writing or, more probably, commissioning the Siete Partidas (Seven Part Code), a comprehensive law code and treatise on medieval legal theory infused by Roman law. Alfonso X established a school of translation at Toledo, in which mainly Jewish translators were set to work translating Arabic works on astronomy and astrology into Castilian. His intellectual interests were eclectic. He himself wrote a history of the world and a history of Spain up to the reign of his father, a compilation of observations about astronomy, a book of troubadour poems in praise of the Virgin Mary, and a book about games, including discussions of chess and backgammon. Alfonso wrote in the vernacular rather than in Latin and is sometimes called the “Father of Castilian.” (In this he presents an interesting parallel with Alfred the Great of England, r.871-899). Alfonso X was a Hohenstaufen by marriage and after the death of his cousin Frederick II briefly—and unsuccessfully—claimed the imperial title.

1255   Chivalry: Ulrich von Liechtenstein writes his autobiographical poem “Frauendienst” (“The Service of Ladies”) describing two tourneying journeys that he undertook, the Venusfahrt (Venus tour) (1226) and the Artusfahrt (King Arthur tour) (1240). For the former, he dressed up as "Frau Venus", donning a plus plus size woman’s dress over his armor and wearing a blond woman's wig. He travelled from Italy to Bohemia, issuing a general call in advance to all knights to joust with him along the way. To each knight who broke three lances with him he gave a gold ring, but if the challenger was defeated, he was to bow to the four corners of the earth in honor of Ulrich's lady. He tells us that he “broke” 307 lances in a month's jousting, sometimes engaging in up to eight matches a day. The Artusfahrt saw him doing the same thing, but now disguised as King Arthur and accompanied by six companions.  Ulrich’s Frauendienst is seriously weird at times. Ulrich relates in it how he risked his life undergoing medieval plastic surgery (without anesthesia) to correct a harelip that repelled his lady. When she still rejected him, he took to the tournament circuit, publicly proclaiming that he jousted to win her love, and wrote poems and songs praising her beauty. When she doubted his claim to have ruined a finger in a joust fought in her honor, he cut off the finger and sent it to her in a box. She was touched by the gesture, but still resisted his overtures, which led him to make an even grander gesture, the Venusfahrt.  This appears to have done the job. When he returned, she sent word that she wanted to see him, but insisted that he visit her disguised as a leper and that he sit outside the castle gate with the other lepers begging for alms. After he did that, she sent word that he should climb through her bedroom window the next night, but when he was half way up the rope, she unhooked it, send him tumbling into the moat. Finally, he persuaded her to profess her love for him by swearing to undertake a crusade on her behalf. One should note that both Ulrich and his unnamed lady love were married, and that she was considerably older than him: he tells us that he fell in love with her when he was a twelve year old page serving in her husband’s household. It is unclear how seriously Ulrich intended his audience to take his adventures.  They underscore the artificiality and game-like qualities of fin amour. Ulrich’s lady love seems to have served more as an excuse for chivalric achievement than as an object of love or even lust.   Ulrich von Liechtenstein on his Venusfahrt (Codex Manesse, c.1304).

1255   “Martyrdom” of Little St. Hugh of Lincoln: beginning of the antisemitic ‘blood libel.’ The body of a little boy named Hugh was found in a well in Lincoln.  When a Jew confessed under threat of torture to murdering the boy as part of an annual ritual in which Jews supposedly kidnapped and crucified Christian boys, King Henry III of England saw an opportunity to make some money.  Having sold his rights over the Jews to his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, he leaped upon the story so that he could arrest and confiscate the property of eighteen Jews who were accused of participating in the ‘crucifixion.’ 

1256-1270   Crusades: War of Saint Sabas. a commercial war between the Mediterranean maritime republics of Genoa (aided by Philip of Montfort, Lord of Tyre; John of Arsuf; and the Knights Hospitaller) and Venice (aided by the Count of Jaffa and the Knights Templar). The war began with the murder of a Genoese by a Venetian in a dispute over land owned by the monastery of Saint Sabas in the city of Acre but claimed by both Genoa and Venice.

1257   First naval combat between Genoese and Venetians.

1257-1274   St. Bonaventura and the Conventual Franciscan Order.  In 1257 Bonaventura became the seventh Minister General of the Franciscan Order shortly after he and his friend, the Dominican Thomas Aquinas, had been awarded the status of “Doctor of Theology” at the University of Paris. Bonaventura, who had taught theology at Paris since 1248, appreciated Aristotle’s natural philosophy but rejected its utility for understanding theology. He turned instead to the Neoplatonic school of Plotinus. For Bonaventura, the path to God was mystical rather than rational.  Man is brought to God not by knowledge and reasoning but by love of God and desire for His grace. (His skepticism of the value of human reason for understanding God led him to forbid the Franciscan Roger Bacon to continue teaching at Oxford.)

In his capacity as Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Bonaventura steered a middle ground between the “relaxed” Franciscans, who accepted that the Order could own property, and the strict Spirtuals, who adhered rigidly to Francis’s doctrine of apostolic poverty and to the ideal of the wandering mendicant preacher.  The compromise was based on Pope Gregory IX’s decretal of 1230 which allowed friends of the friars to hold and receive property and money on their behalf and for their use—the beginning of trust law. Franciscans and the Franciscan Order would not own any property but would be the beneficiary of property held for them in trust. Bonventura essentually founded what was to become meanstream Franciscanism: the Conventual Franciscan Order.  He assert that the vow of poverty should be carried out within a “conventual frmaework harnessed to learning, buildings, papal privileges, and stability” (Leff, Heresy in the Later Middle Ages, 1:84-5). Bonaventura contended that friars were permitted moderate use of goods and should be given sufficient funds to study in universities as well as for the necessities of life. He also steered a middle path on what was becoming a truly contentious issue: the relationship between the Franciscans and the teachings of Joachim of Fiore (above 1182). A Pisan Franciscan Gerardo da Borgo San Donnino in 1254 published a treatise (“Introduction to the Eternal Gospel”) in which the advent of the Franciscans was identified with Joachim’s prophesied new age of the Holy Spirit (in opposition to the carnal Church). The secular masters at the University of Paris charged Gerardo with heresy and denounced the mendicants as pseudo-prophets of a false apocalypse. Bonaventura was a moderate Joachimite. For him St. Francis had achieved the highest union with good—full illumination—and thus achieved the “Seraphic Order.” Francis, Bonaventura contended, was the Angel of the Sixth Seal of Revelation, the harbinger of the perfection that was to come in the seventh age, pointing the way to the nature of the final order (mendicancy) and to the final illumination. Just as the Apostles had destroyed idolatry and the Church Fathers and Doctors had destroyed heresy, so in the last age God would bring forth men who by voluntary mendicancy would destroy avarice.  Nonetheless, the Franciscans still belong to the sixth age, the final period of the Age of the Son, and had not superseded the institutional Church.

1258   Mongols destroy Baghdad and end the Abbasid caliphate. The Mongol Ilkhanate ruler Hulagu Khan, leading a massive composite army of Mongol, Turkic, Persian, Chinese, and Georgian troops, took the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate after a two week siege and destroyed it. Among the casualties was the Grand Library of Baghdad. The sacked city lay depopulated and in ruins. The economic impact of the Mongol invasion has been debated among historians . Some think that the Mongols destroyed the irrigation infrastructure of Mesopotamia by cutting channels for military purposes and by driving away the labor required to maintain the canal system. As a result, the irrigation canals silted up.

1258    Treaty of Paris. After Louis IX gave Henry III all the fiefs and domains belonging to the King of France in the Dioceses of Limoges, Cahors, and Périgueux; and in the event of Alphonse of Poitiers dying without issue, Saintonge and Agenais would escheat to Henry III. On the other hand Henry III renounced his claims to Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Poitou, and promised to do homage for the Duchy of Guyenne. Joinville reports that the French barons thought Louis IX had been far too generous to Henry III, whom he had defeated several times, and that Louis should not have made any territorial concessions to Henry III.

1258/1259  Provisions of Oxford/and Westminster. In April 1258 King Henry III of England (r.1216-1272) called a Great Council (i.e. a Parliament) to raise the money he had promised to Pope Innocent IV in support of the pope’s Sicilian War against the Hohenstaufen Manfred. The decision to call Parliament backfired. The kingdom had been suffering from poor harvest, torrential rains, and cattle murrain, and the barons were in no mood to fund the king’s foreign adventures. Disgusted by the vast sums of money wasted on unsuccessful wars in France and in Henry’s futile attempt to gain the Sicilian throne for his younger son Edmund, and chafing at the favoritism the king showed his French maternal relatives, the barons demanded that Henry dismiss all aliens from royal offices and create a council of twenty-four barons, twelve chosen by the barons and twelve by the king, to draw up a plan for governmental reform. That plan was the Provisions of Oxford, presented to the king when the Great Council next met at Oxford in June. The Provisions of Oxford limited the power of the monarchy by creating a council of fifteen barons and bishops to supervise ministerial appointments, local administration, and the custody of royal castles. This council was to be augmented three times a year by a committee of twelve drawn from the Great Council to deal with matters of national importance. A council of twenty-four was also constituted to handle all royal finances. To drive the point home, the barons also forced Henry III to reissue Magna Carta.  In the following year the baronial council issued the Provisions of Westminster, which reaffirmed the Provisions of Oxford and enacted a series of judicial reforms that limited the competency of feudal courts and continued the process of making royal Common Law the law of the land. The reforms had remade England into a baronial oligarchy; the king was now little more than a figurehead. Henry III responded as his father John had done when rebellious barons had forced him to issue Magna Carta in 1215: he appealed to the pope for relief. The precedent of 1215 held: the pope released Henry III from his oaths to accept the two Provisions on grounds that his consent had been coerced. The barons rejected the papal decision and prepared to go to war against the king. To forestall the looming civil war, the barons and Henry III agreed to allow the French king (St.) Louis IX to arbitrate the dispute. In the Mise of Amiens (1264) King Louis IX unsurprisingly found in favor of royalty. Although King Louis held that Henry III was bound by Magna Carta, which he had reissued under his name twice, he annulled the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster as offensive to royal dignity. The result was not peace but the Second Barons War (see 1264-1267). The baronial party throughout all this was led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester (youngest son and namesake of the leader of the Albigensian Crusade, see above 1209), who, ironically, had come to England in 1230 as a landless French noble with a claim to the earldom of Leicester, and who had risen as a favorite of King Henry III, whose sister he married in 1238.

1260      Hanseatic League. The merchant gilds (hansa) of the north German trading cities of Lübeck, Hamburg, and Cologne form a commercial alliance that dominates the salt-cod and herring fishing trade of the North Sea and the Baltic. This is the beginning of what will be called the Hanseatic League.” The League would begin regular meetings of its members (Diets of the Hansa) and acquire an official structure and general policies in 1356.

1260   Battle of Ain Jalut, 3 September 1260.  Victory of the Egyptian Mamluks over the Mongols in Palestine, just south of the sea of Galilee. Receiving news of the death of the Great Khan Mongke and a summoned to a gathering of Mongol khans to select his successor, the Mongol Ilkhanate leader Hulagu Khan withdrew from Syria with the majority of his army, leaving his designated commander the Armenian Christian Kitburqa Noyan to continue the invasion of Palestine with an army of about 20,000 men. The Egyptian Mamluk sultan Qutuz and the Mamluk emir Baybars. This battle proved to be decisive, marking the end of the Mongol expansion into the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt and Syria. The Mongol Ilkhanate leader Hulagu Khan was not able to advance into Egypt, and the Khanate he established in Persia was only able to defeat the Mamluks once in subsequent expeditions, briefly reoccupying Syria and parts of Palestine for a few months in 1300.

c.1260   Aristotle translated. The Dominican William of Moerbecke (c.1215-1286) at the request of Thomas Aquinas translates Aristotle’s Politics  from Greek into Latin.  This period sees the translations of many Greek texts into Latin (usually from earlier Arabic translations but sometimes from the Greek), including many of the treatises of Aristotle.

1261   Fall of the Latin Empire of Constantinople established by the Fourth Crusade as Nicaean Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII regained control over Constantinople. The Franks continued to rule in southern Greece (the duchy of Achaea) and Venice maintained its control over the island of Crete.

1260-1291   Fall of the Crusader States to the Egyptian Mamluk dynasty. Led by Sultan Baybars (reigned 1260-1277), the Mamluks systematically reduce crusader castles in Palestine. The last crusader stronghold, Acre, falls in 1291, ending the Latin Kingdom. (Sultan Baybars’ Qu’ran, British Library.) (Sultan Baybars’ palace and mosque in Cairo.)

 1264-1267   Second Barons War: English civil war between royalist forces led by Prince Edward (later King Edward I), son of King Henry III and rebel barons led by Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. De Montfort captured both Henry III and Edward in the Battle of Lewes (1264), leading to the (temporary) establishment of baronial rule in England.

1265        First elected English Parliament  Having captured and imprisoned King Henry III and his son Edward, Simon de Montfort set up a government with a three-person executive (himself, the Earl of Gloucester, and the Bishop of Chichester) in which he himself held the greatest power. To bolster the legitimacy of the new government, de Montfort called a meeting of an assembly of representatives from the shires and boroughs, i.e. a Parliament. De Montfort asked each shire to elect two knights and a select number of royal boroughs (towns) to elect two burgesses to serve as representatives. (The franchise in the shires was limited the small percentage who owned land in freehold worth at least 40 shillings a year.] English kings had summoned representative assemblies or Great Councils before this, but De Montfort’s Parliament was the first in which the representatives were elected. Ten years were to pass before the next Parliament was summoned by King Edward I (1272-1307), and it was not until the Model Parliament of 1295, which also had elected representatives from the shires and boroughs, that Parliament was to become a regular feature of English royal government.

1265            Battle of Evesham. At Evesham in Worcestershire, a royalist army led by Prince Edward defeated a baronial army led by Simon de Montfort. Simon de Montfort was killed and the baronial cause was fatally weakened. Two years later, the rebel barons submitted to King Henry III (the Dictum of Kenilworth) ending the war.

File:St-thomas-aquinas.jpg1265   Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest scholastic theologian of the Middle Ages, began writing his most famous work, the Summa Theologica (a summary of all theological knowledge), in 1265. The fullest expression of the scholastic method, the Summa reconciles Aristotelian “natural philosophy” with Catholic doctrine and the teachings of Church Fathers (notably Augustine), and provides a rational basis for Christian faith.  Thomas organizes the Summa into three parts. The first addresses questions of theology (the existence and nature of God); the second, the theological basis for ethics (Aristotle’s ethics modified by the Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin, in which moral and intellectual virtues can be developed through human reason but can only be completed through God’s grace and His gift of the spiritual virtues of faith, hope, and love); and the third, on the nature of Christ and the sacraments.  Thomas had a mystical vision in 1272 that led him to declare “All that I have written seems to me like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.” He ceased working on the Summa, which remained unfinished at his death.  His attempt to reconcile Christian doctrine and pagan philosophy, in particular Aristotle’s, was controversial in his day and several of his conclusions were condemned as heretical in 1277 (see below). Thomas was canonized by the Church in 1323.

1265   Roger Bacon. Pope Clement IV champions the studies of the Franciscan scholar Roger Bacon (1214-1292), a student of Robert Grosseteste, and commissions him to write a summa of all scientific knowledge. Bacon approach to the study of nature was based upon logical deductions based upon empirical observation.  Roger believed that God had established an underlying unity in nature that could be discovered through man’s reason. Among Bacon’s discoveries are the optics of the telescope and eyeglasses (described in 1268), the principle for the thermometer, and the formula for gunpowder.

1266   King Henry III of England grants merchants of Hamburg and Lübeck the right to form a merchants’ association (Hansa) in London. The trade between England and the Baltic revolved around the importation into England of herring (the main import), furs, wood, masts, spars and oars, wax for candles, pitch, and tar, and the export of wool. This trade was controlled by German rather than English merchants.

1266-1270   Charles of Anjou, younger brother of King (St) Louis IX of France, having been granted the Hohenstaufen controlled kingdom of Naples and Sicily by the pope, conquers it militarily, signaling the final papal victory over the dynasty of Frederick I and Frederick II.

1270   [St] King Louis IX dies from dysentery while on crusade in Tunis.

 1272-1307   Reign of Edward I of England, Henry III's son. Edward I, the “English Justinian,” reissued Magna Carta, promulgated statute law (first time in England since the Norman Conquest), and established Parliament, a body representing the nobility and communities of the realm, as a regular institution of government. Originally the king’s court, Parliament’s purpose was to grant the king taxes. It gradually developed a legislative element through the bargaining process that accompanied its grants of taxes to successive medieval kings. Edward claimed that all justice flows from the king and that baronial courts can only sit if they have written royal license. He also issued a statute prohibiting any further subinfeudation of land. Militarily, Edward conquered Wales and consolidated the conquest through the construction of a network of castles. He also extended his overlordship to Scotland, initially through diplomacy, and later militarily. His military campaigns were costly and Edward relied greatly on loans from the Riccardi, an Italian banking family from Lucca, Italy. The revenues he used to repay them came largely from the customs tax on exported wool that he levied in 1275. (Portrait of King Edward I.) (Conwy Castle, Wales.)

1273-1291   Rudolph I of Hapsburg, Holy Roman Emperor. Rudolph was the first Hapsburg to be elected King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor. He made little attempt to impose his rule over the dukes and imperial bishops of Germany. His reign was marked by persecution of the Jews.

1274   Second Council of Lyon (France). Fourteenth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church attended by 500 bishops, 60 abbots, 1000 other clerics including representatives from all the universities, and representatives of the kings of Christendom and a delegation from the Mongol Khan of the Persian Ilkhanate. The Council attempted to resolve the schism between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches. One of the Council’s other major points of business was to deal with complaints about the mendicant orders of friars from secular clerics and Benedictine monks. The attack on the mendicant movement resulted in formal approval of the four major mendicant orders of friars, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians, and suppression of other, lesser mendicant orders. St. Thomas Aquinas died travelling to Lyon to represent the Dominicans.

1277   Bishop of Paris, asked by the pope to investigate accusations of heretical propositions being taught at the University of Paris, condemned a list of 219 theses suspected of heterodoxy, several of which were drawn from Boethius and, especially, Aristotle, including some found in Aquinas’ works. The penalty for teaching or listening to the listed errors was excommunication, "unless they turned themselves in to the bishop or the chancellor within seven days, in which case the bishop would inflict proportionate penalties.” The Condemnation of 1277 is generally interpreted as a reactionary attack against Aristotelianism in the universities and the application of reason and philosophical argumentation to theology. A subsequent bishop of Paris annulled the condemnation in 1325 because of  its implied attack upon Aquinas who had become a saint two years earlier.

c.1280   Chivalry. Catalan knight turned Franciscan missionary, philosopher, and mystic Ramon Lull (1232-1315) composes Libre de ordre de cavayleria (Book of the Order of Chivalry), an account of the origins of Christian chivalry and the qualifications, qualities and training required of a chivalric knight, emphasizing wisdom, charity, loyalty, courage, generosity, humility, honor, and prowess. The right reason to become a knight, Lull writes, is to do right; the wrong reason is for advantage and rank.

       Qualities of a chivalric knight (Lull). A proper chivalric knight MUST be 1.able-bodied; 2. of good lineage; 3. sufficiently wealthy to support his rank; 4. wise (to judge his inferiors and supervise their labors; to advise his lord); 5. generous (holds open house within the limits of his means); 6. loyal; 7. courageous; 8. honorable.

       Ethical duties of the knight (Lull): 1. to defend the Christian faith, 2. to defend his lord, 3. to protect the weak (women, children); 4. to exercise constantly by hunting and jousting in tournaments; 5. to judge the people and supervise their work (the knight acts here as a royal agent and servant); 6. to pursue robbers and evil-doers. A chivalrous knight must avoid 1) pride, 2) lechery, 3) false oaths, 4) and especially treachery (=betraying one's lord, sleeping with his wife, or surrendering his castle).

      Lull’s Libre de ordre de cavayleria became one of the most popular handbooks of chivalry of the later medieval and Renaissance periods, and was often incorporated into other handbooks and romances.


1281   Hanse of Allmain (compromising all German merchants) were allowed a gild hall in London, and self-government under their own alderman. Essentially, German merchants in the Hanseatic League were permitted to establish a self-governing enclave—a state within a state—in London.

1282-1302   War of the Sicilian Vespers. Charles of Anjou’s efforts to tax Sicily provokes the "Sicilian Vespers" revolt. The rebels turn to King Peter of Aragon, connected through marriage to the Hohenstaufens.

1283-1300   The admiral of the Catalan-Aragonese fleet Roger of Lauria engages in six major naval engagements in the western Mediterranean. These battles exemplify galley warfare in the Mediterranean in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. All occurred in sheltered waters and were fought as land battles on the sea. Roger of Lauria’s tactics typically involved lashing his ships together in line to block harbors, the use of crossbowmen and stone throwers as anti-personnel weapons as the fleets approached, and the use of light, non-noble ‘marines’ (almugavars) to board enemy galleys after the ships grappled. Ramon Muntaner’s Chronicle (written 1325-1328)

1284   Crusade: Papacy calls for a crusade against King Peter of Aragon in response to King Peter’s support of the Sicilian rebels against King Charles of Anjou.

c.1285   Eyeglasses invented in Pisa or Venice.

1285-1314   Philip IV the Fair of France. France becomes the strongest power in Europe under the rule of St. Louis' grandson, Philip the Fair (i.e. handsome). Philip reformed and improve royal administration in France, relying on middle-class officials rather than nobles. He established a royal financial accounting office modeled on the English Exchequer and a high court for royal justice, the Parlement of Paris. To increase his revenues and royal authority, Philip attempts to gain full control over the French Church from Rome, which leads him into conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. (King Edward I of England does homage to King Philip the Fair, Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century.) (Effigy of Philip the Fair.)

1286   Emperor Rudolph I declares German Jews to be “serfs of the treasury,” negating their political liberties.

1290   Jews expelled from England. After levying heavy taxes on them, King Edward I of England confiscates the property of his Jewish subjects and orders them expelled from England.

“Bastard Feudalism.” In the same year Edward I issued the statute Quia Emptores which is sometimes seen as marking the end of “feudalism” in England. Quia Emptores prohibited new subinfeudation. From this point on land could be sold or given away but could not be transferred to others to be held as fiefs. The purpose of the legislation was to simplify landholding to ensure that the Crown received all the dues owed it by tenants-in-chief. The result was that lords increasingly retained men through the use of money fiefs (annual payments of cash) and promises of “good favor” (i.e. patronage and support), a system known as “bastard feudalism.”

1291   The fall of Acre to the Muslim Mamluks marks the end of the Crusader States in the Levant.

1292-1294   Cardinals deadlocked in attempts to elect a pope. They finally turn to a “dark horse,” a pious hermit Pietro da Morrone who was living secluded in a cave. He took the name Pope Celestine V. He reigns for five months and eight days before abdicating to return to his cave. His successor, Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303), orders him imprisoned in the castle of Fumone until his death in 1296. Celestine V favored the Spiritual Franciscans, who sought permission from him to refound the true Franciscan Order. Boniface VIII hated the Spirituals, and the Spirituals returned the sentiment, denouncing him as a worldly pseudo-pope presiding over a carnal church. They expected the imminent appearance of an Angelic Pope and World Emperor (a third Frederick) who would usher in the new Age of the Spirit.

1294   Pope Boniface VIII (p. 1294-1303) opposes the kings of France and England over the taxation of the clergy for support of war. Boniface VIII claimed the full powers of the papal monarchy but would run into political problems with King Philip IV of France.

1294        Bankruptcy of the Riccardi bank.  King Edward I of England had used the Riccardi family of Lucca as the official bankers of the English Crown, and their loans (repaid by granting them right to collect custom taxes on wool) had financed his Welsh and Scottish wars. In 1294 Edward turned to them for an enormous sum of money to fight against King Philip IV of France. When Philip got wind of this, he confiscated all Riccardi assets in France. At the same time, Pope Boniface VIII, who opposed a war between England and France, demanded repayment of monies the Riccardi owed the papacy. As a consequence, the Riccardi experienced a disastrous liquidity problem and were unable to come up with the enormous advances required by Edward. Edward responded by angrily excluding them from collection of the English wool customs which sent the banking family into irremediable decline. Important as an example of the inadequacy of the international financial system in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

1295   Edward I’sModel Parliament  Needing money to fight wars in Wales, Scotland, and France, King Edward I summoned Parliament to consent to new taxes. Edward proclaimed in his writ of summons, “what touches all, should be approved of all, and it is also clear that common dangers should be met by measures agreed upon in common.” Following the precedent of De Montfort’s Parliament (1265), Edward I ordered each shire to elect two knights, each borough to elect two burgesses, and each city to elect two citizens to represent their communities. Edward I’s Parliaments and those of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were not legislative bodies but representative assemblies empowered to grant the king new taxes. The legislative function came as a byproduct of the negotiations between these Parliaments and the kings in which the redress of grievances became a quid pro quo for the granting of money.

 1296-1328   The First War of Scottish Independence. In 1289 the Guardians of Scotland, a council of Scots nobles and bishops, the de facto rulers of Scotland, turned to King Edward I of England to arbitrate between the claims of John de Balliol and Robert the Bruce to the Scottish throne. Before doing so, Edward I demanded that the Guardians and the claimants acknowledge his overlordship of Scotland, which they did. Edward I in 1292 found in favor of John de Balliol, but immediately pressed his asserted rights as overlord of Scotland. When in 1294 he demanded military support against King Philip the Fair of France, Balliol responded by making an alliance with France. In 1296 the Scots crossed into England to take Carlisle, but were driven back by Edward who defeated them in battle at Dunbar, and campaigned as far north as Elgin. He seized the Scottish coronation stone (the Stone of Destiny), deposed Baliol, and claimed direct rule over Scotland, which would become a province of the English kingdom. The response was the First War of Scottish Independence, initially led by William Wallace and Andrew de Moray (d.1297), who defeated an English army at Stirling Bridge in 1297.  Edward I struck back, defeating Wallace decisively at Falkirk (1298). The Scottish nobility capitulated to Edward I in 1304, but by 1307, as Edward lay dying, the war was being renewed by Robert the Bruce, who would win a decisive victory over King Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314 and would force the English to recognize the independence of Scotland in the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northhampton in 1328..

c. 1300-1500   The Late Middle Ages.  Period of crisis, marked by famine, demographic decline, plague, endemic warfare, peasant revolts, challenges to papal authority, the Great or Papal Schism (rival popes between 1378 and 1417), growing anti-clericalism, and the unraveling of the medieval intellectual synthesis. On the other hand, the Late Middle Ages witnessed technological advances, including the invention of the magnetic compass and the adoption of the the pintle-and-gudgeon rudder, hung from the sternpost, both of which greatly facilitated overseas expansion and commerce in the North Sea and Atlantic, and the development of stronger institutions of government, including representative political bodies. The economy of Europe remained largely agricultural, although towns and cities remained engines for economic development. Medievalist J. K. Russell estimated that approximately 5%-10% of the total population of Western Europe lived in towns and cities c. 1340. The data for this is poor and incomplete and the figures can only be taken as very rough estimates. There were more than 6000 'towns' in western and central Europe on the eve of the Black Death. Most, however, were tiny. Only a handful had populations in excess of 50,000. Germany had about 3000 “towns”; of these about 50 had populations in excess of 2,000; 150 were small towns with populations of around 1,000; the rest were settlements with a few hundred people. The Black Death hit towns and cities hardest, but rather than destroy industry and international trade, it forced the development of more efficient financial and commercial instruments and techniques (e.g. double entry book keeping and “bills of exchange”)

1300   First Christian Jubilee Year. Pope Boniface VIII grants "great remissions and indulgences for sins" for pilgrims "visiting the city of Rome and the venerable basilica of the Prince of the Apostles.” To earn the indulgence pilgrims must be truly penitent, confess their sins, and visit the basilicas of St Peter and St Paul on at least fifteen days. The Jubilee recognizes the renewed importance of pilgrimages to Rome now that Jerusalem was no longer accessible to the West. Boniface VIII by Giotto (c.1300)

c.1300 Popularity of the Franciscans and Dominicans. By 1300 the Franciscans had 1400 houses with approximately 28,000 brothers; the Dominicans, 600 houses with around12,000 brothers.

c. 1300   Decline of Champagne fairs (reflects the growing maturity of the European international commercial economy; use of resident agents in foreign cities by merchant houses and rise of professional carter to transport goods make fairs unnecessary). (Lendit Fair, Saint-Denis. 15th century ms.)

1302   King Edward I of England issues commercial privileges to the Hanse (association of German merchants) established in London. In return for paying custom duties on exports of wool and hides, the Hanse was freed from all other taxes and allowed to trade freely throughout England.

1302   Boniface VIII issues the papal bull Unam Sanctam” which declares papal supremacy over both Church and State. The political reality of the pope’s position, however, is made clear the next year, when King Philip the Fair charges Pope Boniface VIII with heresy and crimes that render him unfit to be pope and sends an army into Italy to seize him.


1302  Battle of Courtrai (in Belgium), a.k.a the Battle of the Golden Spurs. In 1297 King Philip IV of France imprisoned Count Guy de Dampierre of Flanders for entering into an alliance with King Edward I of England. King Philip ended Flemish independence and made the county part of the royal domain. The townsmen of Flanders, who had chafed under Count Guy’s taxation, found Philip’s direct rule even more oppressive and revolte Philip sent his brother Count Robert II of Artois to put down the revolt with an army of about 8,000 men, 2,500 of whom were men-at-arms (heavily armored men on horseback), supported by 1,000 crossbowmen, 1,000 spearmen, with the remainder light infantry. In response, the towns of Flanders gathered their combined militias in the city of Courtrai. The largest contingent was the militia of Bruges, about 3,000 strong, led by William of Jülich, grandson of Count Guy, and Pieter de Coninck, a rebel leader from Bruges. This was joined by another army of about 2,500 men from the coastal areas of Flanders, led by Guy of Namur, son of Count Guy, with the two sons of Guy of Dampierre. Ghent supplied an additional 2,500 men, and Ypres and Zeeland, another 1,000. Altogether the Flemish forces numbered about 9,000 men, of whom about 400 were nobles. The Flemish town militias were highly disciplined infantry, and were armed with pikes and Goedendags (a 4-6 foot club with a spike on top). They numbered about 9,000, including 400 nobles. Before the battle began, the Flemish leaders gave the order that no prisoners were to be taken. This was to be a fight to the death. The Flemish lined up outside of the town of Courtrai in a strong position. Their flanks were protected by the town and a river, and to their front were a number of small brooks. Robert of Artois, thinking the Flemings to be a rabble, ordered a cavalry attack without support from his archers or infantry. Slowed to a trot by the streams the French charge was unable to build up momentum, and the Flemings held their ground. The result was a slaughter. The French lost at least 1,000 nobles, whose golden spurs were hung in the church of Courtrai as a thanksgiving. Military historians sometimes regard Courtrai as evidence for the superiority of well trained infantry over heavy cavalry, but the victory had at least as much to do with the particular terrain. Twenty-six years later at Cassels, French cavalry was to score an equally decisive victory over Flemish infantry.

1303   Boniface VIII is captured in Anagni by an army sent by King Philip IV of France with a warrant for his arrest and dies a month after his release from the mistreatment he had suffered.  (Tomb of Pope Boniface VIII.)

 1304   Chivalry: Codex Manesse. The Codex Manesse or Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift is an illuminated manuscript collection of the songs of the German minnesänger, compiled for the Manesse family of Zürich. The main section was completed in 1304, with an additional material added c.1340. The manuscript contains not only the fullest collection of love poetry in Middle High German, it also has 137 portraits of the poets, each in a representative pose. (Ulrich von Liechenstein, for example, is shown dressed as “Frau Venus,” see above 1226.)

1306   Expulsion of the Jews from France. King Philip IV orders the arrest of all the Jews in France, confiscates their property and expels them from his realm—sixteen years after Edward I had expelled them from England.

1307-1312   Suppression of the Knights Templar. In 1307 King Philip IV ordered the arrest of all the Knights Templar in France, charging them with heresy (including rites of spitting on the cross and worshipping the head of an idol called “Baphomet”), sodomy, and witchcraft. Under torture, Templars confessed, which King Philip used to pressure the pope to suppress the Order.  Philip’s motivation was probably financial. Threatened with military force by King Philip, Pope Clement VI dissolved the order in 1312. In 1314 the last Grand Master of the order, Jacques de Molay, and Geoffrey de Charny, Preceptor of Normandy, faced with life imprisonment, recanted their confessions and were burnt at the stake.

Portrait1308-1321   Dante Alighieri writes the Divine Comedy—perhaps the greatest literary expression of the Middle Ages—in Italian verse. Born in Florence, Dante was extensively educated in literature, philosophy and scholastic theology. His "Comedy" is saturated with the belief of earthly immortality through worthy deeds and the preparation of life everlasting and shows the theological influence of St Thomas Aquinas. (Botticelli’s portrait of Dante.)

1309   Avignon Papacy. Because of political disruption in Rome, Pope Clement V, a Frenchman, moves the Papal Curia to the French-speaking city of Avignon (within the borders of the Empire), beginning the so-called "Babylonian Captivity" of the Church (1309-1377) For most of the fourteenth century, the papacy remained subordinate to French authority with the majority of cardinals and popes being French. The French based papacy in Avignon centralizes the Church government and establishes a system of papal finance but weakens the prestige of the papacy.

1309   Crusade. Papacy preaches a crusade against Venice in a dispute over Ferrara.

1311-1315   Crop failures in southern Europe lead to famine in the Mediterranean region.

1312   Council of Vienne   Fifteenth ecumenical church council. Pope Clement V called the council to discuss the problem of the Templars and to plan a new crusade. Although the council could find no convincing evidence for the guilt of the Templars, Pope Clement V, bowing to pressure from King Philip IV of France, suppressed the Order for the general welfare of the Church, allowing former Templars to enter into other Military Orders. The council, while refusing to condemn Pope Boniface VIII for heresy, absolved King Philip IV of any guilt for his prosecution of the late pope. Perhaps most importantly, the council, upon the recommendation of Ramon Lull who thought it critical for successful missions to the Jews and Muslims, ordered that professorships of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic be set up at the universities of Oxford, Paris, Bologna, and Salamanca. (The chairs in Arabic were never implemented.)

File:Bannockburn.jpg1314   Battle of Bannockburn. Decisive victory of the Scots under King Robert I the Bruce (r.1306-1329) over the English under King Edward II (r.1307-1327).  Bannockburn secured the independence of Scotland from English rule, although the English did not formally acknowledge Scottish independence until the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328.

1314   Election of Louis IV (of Bavaria) as king of Germany. Louis, the duke of Upper Bavaria, was elected king of Germany by a 4-3 vote over his Habsburg cousin Frederick the Handsome, duke of Austria and Styria. Frederick contested the election militarily.

1315-1317   The Great Famine. Bad weather and crop failure result in famine across northwestern Europe. The Great Famine affected approximately 400,000 square miles. The Mediterranean famine and the Great Famine probably affected thirty to forty million people. Unsanitary conditions and malnutrition increase the death rate and make the population more susceptible to epidemic diseases. Even after the revival of agricultural conditions, weather disasters reappear. A mixture of war, famine and plague in the Late Middle Ages reduces the population by one-half.

1322-1326   Louis IV defeated Duke Frederick the Handsome near Mühldorf, and Frederick and 1300 nobles from Austria and Salzburg were captured. He was held for three years in captivity until released with the promise that he would persuade his brother and co-ruler of Austria Leopold to acknowledge Louis IV as king. When he failed, he offered to return to captivity. Louis was so impressed with the gesture and remembering his childhood friendship with Frederick, agreed to share rule with him Frederick would rule Germany as King of the Romans while Louis would rule Italy as King of the Romans. This arrangement only lasted a few months. When Leopold died, Frederick abdicated and returned to rule Austria.

1323   Condemnation of apostolic poverty as heretical/Spiritual Franciscans pronounced heretics. Pope John XXII, who in 1296 had condemned the Fraticelli (proponents of a strict interpretation of St. Francis’ doctrine of apostolic poverty), issued the bull “Cum inter nonnullos,” in which he declared it heretical to deny that Christ and the Apostles owned and used property. In the following year he condemned as heretics Spiritual Franciscans who insisted on maintaining the doctrine of apostolic poverty. John XXII’s attack on the Spiritual Franciscans was in part generated by their criticism of the wealth of the Church and their adoption of a Joachimite (see 1182-1184) interpretation of the Franciscan Order in which friars would replace the Church. He was also probably motivated by the Emperor Louis of Bavaria’s championship of the Spiritual Franciscans and their support for him in his war against the papacy. The Spirituals respond by denying that John XXII papal legitimacy: since a true pope cannot err and the rule of St. Francis cannot be modified, a pope who modifies the Rule must be in error and hence cannot be a true pope.

1324   Defender of the Peace. Marsilius of Padua argues that all earthly authority derives from the consent of the people and for the separation of Church and state.  Marsilius, rector of the University of Paris, wrote Defensor Pacis in support of the Emperor-elect Louis (Ludwig) IV the Bavarian against the Caesaropapal claims of Pope John XXII. The papacy and the clergy in general, he argued, had no authority in temporal matters and no right to property. Marsilius wouldn’t even concede to the pope the right to interpret scripture or define dogma, which he saw as belonging to church councils, the true representative of the body of the faithful. In Defender of the Peace (the name refers to the State) Marsilius turned the medieval political paradigm on its head. He argued that all earthly power and authority, whether political or ecclesiastical, derives from the will and consent of the “people.”  Civil governments received their authority to govern from the citizenry as a whole; the leaders of the Church, similarly, received their authority from the whole body of the faithful, whose representatives are the church councils. The people delegated the power that God gave them to a king to rule their temporal lives, and to a pope to direct their spiritual lives. Sovereignty for both State and Church resides in the people and their representative bodies.  Just as Jesus and the Apostles were subject to Roman authority, all clergy should be subject to political authority. The Church, properly, Marsilius argued, is a spiritual body without any right to property other than that which is delegated to it by a king for its use. “Legislators or rulers,” Marsilius contended, can lawfully, in accordance with divine law, seize and use on their own authority all goods which remain over and above the needs of the gospel ministers. … For with food and clothing the priests should be content.” In other words, kings can tax the clergy at will.

c.1324-1360   Ottoman Turks expand into north-west Anatolia under their first sultan Orkhan.

1327   German Dominican Master Eckhart defines the individual soul as a "spark" of the divine at its most basic element. By renouncing all knowledge of the self, one is able to retreat into that "spark" and reach God. Most of his teachings are condemned by the papacy. Two bands of mysticism arise from Eckhart's theories: heterodox, the belief in the unification of God and man on earth without the aid of priests as intermediaries, and orthodox, the belief in the possibility of joining the soul with God and the awareness of divine presence in everyday life.

1328   King Louis IV of Germany is crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In1327, Louis, having made peace with the Hapsburgs, crossed the Alps into Italy.  He was crowned king of Italy in Milan, but Pope John XXII continued to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of his royal election. This was, in part, a result of Louis IV’s support of the Spiritual Franciscans, and, in part, due to an outbreak of political warfare within Rome between the Guelphs (papal supporters) and the Ghibellines (imperial party). Louis IV marched into Rome and had himself crowned emperor by a distinguished Roman senator, a cardinal, and an archbishop. Louis IV also set up an antipope, who ruled only for the year that Louis IV was actually in Rome.

1328   The last heir of the Capetian dynasty dies and is replaced by the first ruler of the Valois dynasty. The young King Edward III of England is more directly descended from the Capetian line but he does homage for his French county of Gascony to the Valois King Philip VI (r. 1328-1350).  He will later lay claim the French crown to justify a war (The Hundred Years War, see 1337) to preserve his control over Gascony.

1328   Battle of Cassels. At Cassels (about 14 miles south of Dunkirk), King Philip VI of France defeated a Flemish rebel army led by Nikolaas Zannekin and restores Louis I as count of Flanders. Politically, the Battle of Cassels placed Flanders for the time being under the control of the French crown. Militarily, it represents a reversal of the Battle of Courtrai (1302).


 1337-1453   The Hundred Years' War, a series of wars (broken up by periods of truce) between the kings of England and the kings of France that begun over English claims to sovereignty over Gascony and, subsequently, evolved into a dispute over the claim by the English kings to be the rightful rulers of France. The main military activities of the Hundred Years War were raiding, pillaging, and sieges. The English favored the chevauchée, a rapidly moving mounted raid, the purpose of which was to harm the French economy, undermine French morale, enrich the participants, and (perhaps) to lure the enemy into a battle on favorable terms to the invader.  There were few major battles, most of which were won by the English, largely because of the effectiveness of their longbowmen. The most famous of these were Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). The war waxed and waned. The successes of King Edward III (r.1327-1377) and his eldest son Edward the Black Prince in the first two decades of the war and the capture of King John II of France at Poitiers led to the Peace of Bretigny (1360-1369), which acknowledged the English king as possessing virtual sovereignty over an expanded duchy of Aquitaine. Between 1369 and 1380, however, the French King Charles V (r.1364-1380) and his Constable Bertrand du Guesclin regained through Fabian tactics all the territory ceded by the Peace of Bretigny. Under King Henry V (r.1413-1422), the English conquered Normandy (1417-1419) in a series of sieges, and with the aid of the disaffected Burgundians, was able to compel the French king Charles VI to give him a daughter in marriage and to recognize him as his heir (the Treaty of Troyes, 1420), . Nonetheless, the French regrouped under King Charles VII (r.1422-1461) and, after a reconciliation with the Burgundians, Charles recovered all the lands lost to the English. Joan of Arc (d.1431) helped inspire the French to take up the fight once more against the English, but the ultimate French victory owed more to Charles VII investment in the new gunpowder technology, which resulted in an effective artillery train, and a standing army.

1338   The Declaration of Rhense (or the Treaty of Rhense) was a decree issued by six of the seven prince-electors of Germany that established the principle that the election by all or the majority of the German electors automatically conferred not only the royal title but also rule over the empire, without papal confirmation. The convened prince-electors decided that "Louis is the rightfully elected King of the Romans, and his legitimate power (in the German kingdom) is not dependent upon the pope's will".


1340 Battle of Sluys. An English fleet of 250 ships under the command of King Edward III won a decisive victory off the coast of the town of Sluys (now in Zeeland, Netherlands) over a French fleet of 190 ships.  The battle, one of the first military actions of the Hundred Years War, resulted in the destruction of most of France's fleet, making a French invasion of England impossible, and ensuring that the war would be fought mostly in France.

1346   Battle of Crecy (Hundred Years War). English victory over the French at Crecy. Although outnumbered (about 15,000 to 35,0000), the English under King Edward III defeated a French army through a combination of the longbow and dismounted men-at-arms. The English are reputed to have used cannons during the battle, but if they did, the cannons played little role in the victory. Crecy allowed the English to take the port city of Calais, which gave the English a secure base in northern France.


Illustration of the Black Death from the Toggenburg Bible, 1411. (Wikipedia)1347-1350   The Black Death appears during a time of economic depression in Western Europe and reoccurs 1361-1362, 1369, 1374-1375, 1379, 1390, and throughout the fifteenth century. The Black Death was long thought to have been a combination of bubonic but recent research into the spatial diffusion and virulence of the plague suggests that it was spread from person to person rather than through fleas as is bubonic plague. About a third of the population of Europe was killed in the initial outbreak. The plague had a major impact on social and economic conditions, including the ending of serfdom and the outbreak of a number of revolts by peasants and urban workers. Religious flagellation appears among lay groups in order to appease the divine wrath.

1348  English Franciscan theologian and philosopher William of Ockham dies. He teaches that God is free to do good and bad on earth as He wishes and develops the philosophical position known as "nominalism," which asserts that only individual things exist and that Platonic “universals” are fictive. “Universals” rather than having a real existence apart from individual representatives are simply “names” given to groups of objects because of perceived similarities. This was a radical attack upon both Aristotelian Thomism (thought of Thomas Aquinas] and medieval neo-Platonism. Politically, William of Ockham was a supporter of the Emperor-elect Louis (Ludwig) IV the Bavarian in his conflict with the papacy. Like Marsilius of Padua, Ockham advocated a separation between Church and State, and asserted that the right of monarchs to rule arose from the consent of their subjects. William of Ockham’s quest for certainty in human knowledge is one of the foundations of the scientific method. He is known for “Ockham’s razor,” that the simplest explanation for natural phenomena is to be preferred. (William of Ockham, 14th century ms.)

1348      Chivalry: Order of the Garter. Probable date for King Edward III of England’s foundation of the Order of the Garter. The Order of the Garter was either the second or third of the secular orders of chivalry that various European kings instituted in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although characterized by elaborate ritual, ceremony, and pageantry consciously drawn from Arthurian romance, the chivalric societies had also practical political puproses: the “recruitment and consolidation of political loyalty; the quest for diplomatic alliance and advantage; the maintenance of legal and social status and privilege; the promotion of activities such as tourneying which had strong tones of upper-class exclusiveness” (Maurice Keen, Chivalry 190). (Manuscript illustration of Edward III granting the duchy of Aquitaine to his son Edward the Black Prince. Sir Geoffrey Lutrell on horseback assisted by his wife and daughter, from the Lutrell Psalter, c.1330)

c.1350  The French knight Geoffrey de Charny composes the Livre de chevelarie (The Book of Chivalry), a treatise on chivalry, the guiding principle of which is “he who achieves more, the more worthy.” Geoffrey de Charny’s focus is the quest for earthly honor achieved through deeds of arms, though the entire work is infused with Christian religious feeling.

1350-1355  First Genoese-Venetian commercial war: naval war in eastern Mediterranean over control of trade and shipping.


1356   Golden Bull of 1356 issued by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and the Reichstag at the Diet of Nuremberg fixed into constitutional law the basic electoral procedures for the Holy Roman Empire. The Golden Bull explicitly named the seven prince-electors who were to choose the King of the Romans, who would then usually be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope later. The seven prince-electors were, "Three prelates were archchancellors of Germany (Mainz), Gaul and Burgundy (Trier), and Italy (Cologne) respectively : the Bohemia cupbearer, the Palgrave seneschal, Saxony marshal, and Brandenburg chamberlain.” The Bull refers to the rex in imperatorem promovendus, the "king to be promoted emperor. Even though the practice of election had existed earlier and most of the dukes named in the Golden Bull were involved in the election, and although the practice had mostly been written down in an earlier document, the declaration at Rhense from 1338, the Golden Bull was more precise in several ways. For one, the dukedoms of the Electors were declared indivisible, and succession was regulated for them to ensure that the votes would never split. Secondly, the Bull prescribed that four votes would always suffice to elect the new King; as a result, three Electors could no longer block the election, and the principle of majority voting was explicitly stated for the first time in the Empire. Finally, the Bull cemented a number of privileges for the Kurfürsten to confirm their elevated role in the Empire. It is therefore also a milestone in the establishment of largely independent states in the Empire, a process to be concluded only centuries later, notably with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. (Taken from Wikipedia.)

1355   Edward, the Black Prince (eldest son of King Edward III) conducted a devastating and highly profitable chevauchée (raid) throughout Languedoc (southern France).

1356   Battle of Poitiers (Hundred Years War). On 6 July 1356, Edward, the Black Prince began a great chevauchée (mounted raid) north from English held Bordeaux, in an effort to relieve allied garrisons in central France, as well as to raid and ravage the countryside. His Anglo-Gascon forces (about 7,000 mounted troops) burned numerous towns to the ground and living off the land, until they reached the Loire River at Tours. His army was unable to take the castle nor could they burn the town, due to a heavy downpour. His delay there allowed John II, King of France, at the head of an army of at least 10,000 men, many of them heavily armored men-at-arms, to catch Edward's army. The battle took place on 19 September. After attempting unsuccessfully to negotiate a withdrawal, the Black Prince drew up his troops in a strong position, deploying most of them on a hill protected in the rear by woods and in the front by a hedge and marshes. He ordered all but 200 of his men-at-arms to dismount; the 200 mounted men-at-arms under the command of the Captal de Buch were hidden in the woods behind the hill. The French arranged their troops into four battalions. The first was a small force of about 300 cavalry tasked with riding down the English archers; the other three were dismounted (apparently drawing the wrong lesson from Crecy). The English archers mowed down the cavalry as it charged; the second battalion was beaten back, while the third, dissolved in confusion. King John led the fourth battalion which reached the English lines and almost overwhelmed the English forces. The Captal de Buch, however, swept around the hill and fell on John’s rear. The panicked army disintegrated and King John was captured. The capture of King John of France made this battle particularly significant. It not only resulted in the payment of a huge royal ransom but also to the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360, which left the English in possession of an expanded duchy of Aquitaine.