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HIST302: Medieval Europe

Unit 6: Medieval Society   Medieval society was characterized by three “estates:” the nobles, the clergy, and the commoners.  As one author of the time put it: “some pray, others fight, still others work.”[[1]*](#_ftn1)  This ideal often masked deep inequities, but medieval estates were not social classes in the modern sense.  They represented status and rights rather than wealth so that there were wealthy commoners and poor nobles, rich clergy, and poor clergy.  Social mobility was limited by modern standards, but estates were not fixed and many people of high ability were able to better themselves and their families through luck and hard work.

Chivalry—the culture of knighthood—became an important component of medieval society.  And feudalism—a hierarchical system of lords, vassals, and serfs—became a more formal socio-political regime in Europe during this time.  Faith played a central role in the lives of medieval men and women.  The Cluny reforms stimulated a growth in lay piety that was reflected in new cultural forms such as Gothic art and architecture as well as an intellectual flowering.  For example, scholasticism, the attempt to reconcile Christian theology with ancient classical philosophy, emerged in the twelfth century.  

In this unit, we will study the rise of feudal society in many European kingdoms.   We will also consider the cultural renaissance of the High Middle Ages.
 
[1] Bishop Adalbero of Laon, qtd. in Dr. Steven Kreis’s “The History Guide*”
 
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Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 3.5 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and define the three “estates” which composed medieval society.
  • Identify, compare, and contrast the social status, duties, and privileges of the three medieval estates in the political and economic affairs of the period. 
  • Describe some of the general conditions of life in medieval European towns and villages as well as contemporary conceptions of gender roles and responsibilities.
  • Identify and describe the values and customs of contemporary European nobilities.
  • Describe some of the ways in which religion was transmitted and practiced among the larger public and the manner in which medieval society policed religious deviance.

6.1 Lords and Peasants   6.1.1 Medieval Society   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "European Society in the High Middle Ages" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "European Society in the High Middle Ages" (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read "European Society in the High Middle Ages."  As you read, consider what political institutions emerged during the high Middle Ages, and how did they shape the ways in which rulers made decisions?  What are the main characteristics of urban culture?  In what ways did urban populations express religious devotion?
 
Reading the text and answering the questions above should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

6.1.2 The Medieval Manor   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Medieval Manor” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Medieval Manor” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire text.  As you read, answer the following questions: what did the lord provide to laborers?  What did laborers provide to the lord?  Describe the relationship between landlords and laborers on a manor.  What physical and geographical features were included on a manor?
 
Reading the text and answering the questions above should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

6.1.3 Peasants   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Peasants” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Peasants” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read "Peasants."  As you read, consider following questions: what were the various statuses among the peasantry and what rights did each have?  What factors influenced the ways in which peasants organized their daily lives and labor?
 
Reading the text and answering the questions above should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

6.1.4 Knighthood   - Reading: Middle-Ages.org: “Steps to Knighthood” Link: Middle-Ages.org: “Steps to Knighthood
 
Instructions: Read the brief article “Steps to Knighthood” to understand the process of becoming a knight.
 
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6.1.5 Chivalry   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Andreas Capellanus’s “On the Art of Courtly Love” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Andreas Capellanus’s “On the Art of Courtly Love” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Andreas Capellanus’s “On the Art of Courtly Love” to learn about chivalry and the development of noble mannerisms in the twelfth century.  Andreas Capellanus wrote this work for Marie de Champagne, the daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a guide to manners at court.
 
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6.1.6 Women   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Peter of Blois’s “Letter to Queen Eleanor” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Peter of Blois’s “Letter to Queen Eleanor” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Peter of Blois’ “Letter to Queen Eleanor” to understand women’s legal position in the twelfth century and how important Eleanor’s divorce and remarriage were to the political climate of northern Europe.  Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, lived from 1122 to 1204 and was perhaps the single most powerful person in Europe in the twelfth century. She was definitely the wealthiest.  She inherited a third of France from her father, and in 1137, she married the future Louis VII, King of France.  In 1152, Eleanor met Henry, Count of Anjou, the heir apparent to the English throne, and divorced Louis to marry Henry, taking the Aquitaine and all of her other feudal possessions with her.  In this letter, Peter of Blois tries to dissuade Eleanor from divorcing Louis.
 
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6.2 Faith and Reason   6.2.1 Popular Piety   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Jacques de Vitry, Étienne de Bourbon, and Caesar of Heisterbach’s “Tales of the Virgin” and “Tales of Relics” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Jacques de Vitry, Étienne de Bourbon, and Caesar of Heisterbach’s “Tales of the Virgin” (HTML) and “Tales of Relics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “Tales of the Virgin” and “Tales of Relics” to learn how people saw religion and religious belief in the high middle ages.
 
Jacques de Vitry (c. 1180-1240) was a French Dominican who wrote exempla for preachers to use in sermons.  Exempla are examples, stories meant to be used to illustrate a point of religious belief or practice. 
 
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6.2.2 Sacramentalism   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Seven Sacraments” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Seven Sacraments” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “The Seven Sacraments” to gain an understanding of the sacramental system developed by the medieval Catholic Church.
 
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6.2.3 Philosophy and Faith   - Reading: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “Medieval Philosophy” and Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Thomas Aquinas’ “Reasons in Proof of the Existence of God” Link: The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “Medieval Philosophy” (HTML) and Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Thomas Aquinas’ “Reasons in Proof of the Existence of God” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Lynn Nelson’s “Medieval Philosophy” for an overview of the development of philosophy in the middle ages.  Then, read Thomas Aquinas’ “Reasons in Proof of the Existence of God” for an example of mature scholasticism.
 
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6.2.4 Universities   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Robert de Courçon’s “Statutes for the University of Paris” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Robert de Courçon’s “Statutes for the University of Paris” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Robert de Courçon’s “Statutes for the University of Paris” in conjunction with the map below to understand the spread and organization of medieval universities.
 
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  • Web Media: The Mapping History Project: “Centers of Learning in the Middle Ages” Link: The Mapping History Project: “Centers of Learning in the Middle Ages” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: View this map in conjunction with the reading above.
     
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6.3 Critics of Medieval Society   6.3.1 Emergence of Heresy   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Caesarius of Heisterbach’s “Medieval Heresies” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Caesarius of Heisterbach’s “Medieval Heresies” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Caesarius of Heisterbach’s “Medieval Heresies” for a medieval definition of heresy.
 
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6.3.2 Intellectual and Popular Heresy   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Fourth Lateran Council: Canon 3 on Heresy (1215)” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Fourth Lateran Council: Canon 3 on Heresy (1215)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the Fourth Lateran Council’s canon on heresy to understand why heresy was such a problem for the Catholic Church and what steps they took to end it.
 
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6.3.3 The Cathars and Waldensians   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Conversion of Peter Waldo” and Bernard Gui’s “Manual of the Inquisitor: On the Cathars” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of “The Conversion of Peter Waldo” (HTML) and Bernard Gui’s “Manual of the Inquisitor: On the Cathars” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read “The Conversion of Peter Waldo” and Bernard Gui’s “On the Cathars” to learn about the difference between a practical heresy, Waldensianism, and a doctrinal heresy, Catharism.  In the middle ages, the Catholic Church defined two major types of heresy, practical and doctrinal.  Practical heretics differed from the Church on matters of practice, and doctrinal heretics differed from it on matters of belief.
 
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  • Web Media: Mark Harden's Artchive: Albrecht Dürer's "Lamentation for Christ" Link: Mark Harden's Artchive: Albrecht Dürer's "Lamentation for Christ" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: View Dürer's "Lamentation for Christ" in conjunction with the reading above.
     
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6.3.4 Friars: Dominicans and Franciscans   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of St. Francis of Assisi’s “Testament” and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Mendicant Friars” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of St. Francis of Assisi’s “Testament” (HTML) and The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: Lynn Nelson’s Lectures for a Medieval Survey: “The Mendicant Friars” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Francis of Assisi’s “Testament” and Lynn Nelson’s “The Mendicant Friars” for an overview of the mendicant movement in the thirteenth century.
 
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6.3.5 The Inquisition   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Bernard Gui’s “Inquisitorial Technique” (HTML) Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s version of Bernard Gui’s “Inquisitorial Technique” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Bernard Gui’s “Inquisitorial Technique” to learn how the medieval inquisition was organized and the strategies it used to find heretics.
 
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  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundations “Unit 6 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundations “Unit 6 Assessment” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please download the quiz linked above, and answer each question before checking your answers against The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 6 Assessment Answer Key” (PDF).