Middle Ages  

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This page Middle Ages is part of the Middle Ages series. Illustration:"Hell" detail from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1504)
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This page Middle Ages is part of the Middle Ages series.
Illustration:"Hell" detail from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1504)

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
medieval culture

The Middle Ages (adjectival form: medieval, mediaeval or mediæval) is a periodization of European history, encompassing the period from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classical, Medieval and Modern. The term "Middle Ages" first appears in Latin in the 15th century and reflects the view that this period was a deviation from the path of classical learning, a path that was later reconnected by Renaissance scholarship.

In the Early Middle Ages the trends of the Late Antiquity (depopulation, deurbanization, and increased barbarian invasion) continued. North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire, became Islamic. Later in the period, the establishment of the feudal system allowed a move away from subsistence agriculture. There was sustained urbanization in Northern and Western Europe.

During the High Middle Ages (c. 1000–1300), Christian-oriented art and architecture flourished and Crusades were mounted to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim control. The influence of the emerging nation-state was tempered by the ideal of an international Christendom. The codes of chivalry and courtly love set rules for proper behavior, while the Scholastic philosophers attempted to reconcile faith and reason. Outstanding achievement in this period includes the Code of Justinian, the mathematics of Fibonacci and Oresme, the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, the paintings of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, and the architecture of Gothic cathedrals such as Chartres.

Contents

Art and architecture of the Early Middle Ages

Few large stone buildings were attempted between the Constantinian basilicas of the 4th century, and the 8th century. At this time, the establishment of churches and monasteries, and a comparative political stability, brought about the development of a form of stone architecture loosely based upon Roman forms and hence later named Romanesque. Where available, Roman brick and stone buildings were recycled for their materials. From the fairly tentative beginnings known as the First Romanesque, the style flourished and spread across Europe in a remarkably homogeneous form. The features are massive stone walls, openings topped by semi-circular arches, small windows, and, particularly in France, arched stone vaults and arrows

In the decorative arts, Celtic and Germanic barbarian forms were absorbed into Christian art, although the central impulse remained Roman and Byzantine. High quality jewellery and religious imagery were produced throughout Western Europe; Charlemagne and other monarchs provided patronage for religious artworks such as reliquaries and books. Some of the principal artworks of the age were the fabulous Illuminated manuscripts produced by monks on vellum, using gold, silver, and precious pigments to illustrate biblical narratives. Early examples include the Book of Kells and many Carolingian and Ottonian Frankish manuscripts.

Science and technology of the High Middle Ages

During the early Middle Ages and the Islamic Golden Age, Islamic philosophy, science, and technology were more advanced than in Western Europe. Islamic scholars both preserved and built upon earlier Ancient Greek and Roman traditions and also added their own inventions and innovations. Islamic al-Andalus passed much of this on to Europe (see Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe). The replacement of Roman numerals with the decimal positional number system and the invention of algebra allowed more advanced mathematics. Another consequence was that the Latin-speaking world regained access to lost classical literature and philosophy. Latin translations of the 12th century fed a passion for Aristotelian philosophy and Islamic science that is frequently referred to as the Renaissance of the 12th century. Meanwhile, trade grew throughout Europe as the dangers of travel were reduced, and steady economic growth resumed. Cathedral schools and monasteries ceased to be the sole sources of education in the 11th century when universities were established in major European cities. Literacy became available to a wider class of people, and there were major advances in art, sculpture, music, and architecture. Large cathedrals were built across Europe, first in the Romanesque, and later in the more decorative Gothic style.

During the 12th and 13th century in Europe, there was a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. The period saw major technological advances, including the invention of cannon, spectacles, and artesian wells, and the cross-cultural introduction of gunpowder, silk, the compass, and the astrolabe from the east. There were also great improvements to ships and the clock. The latter advances made possible the dawn of the Age of Exploration. At the same time, huge numbers of Greek and Arabic works on medicine and the sciences were translated and distributed throughout Europe. Aristotle especially became very important, his rational and logical approach to knowledge influencing the scholars at the newly forming universities which were absorbing and disseminating the new knowledge during the 12th Century Renaissance.

Culture

medieval culture

See also

Middle Ages related pages:




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