In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or Medieval Period lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The catholic church had a huge influence on art in the Middle Ages. The church had much influence and power in this period. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
Population decline, counterurbanisation, invasion, and movement of peoples, which had begun in Late Antiquity, continued in the Early Middle Ages. The large-scale movements of the Migration Period, including various Germanic peoples, formed new kingdoms in what remained of the Western Roman Empire. In the seventh century, North Africa and the Middle East—once part of the Byzantine Empire—came under the rule of the Umayyad Caliphate, an Islamic empire, after conquest by Muhammad's successors. Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, the break with classical antiquity was not complete. The still-sizeable Byzantine Empire survived in the east and remained a major power. The empire's law code, the Corpus Juris Civilis or "Code of Justinian", was rediscovered in Northern Italy in 1070 and became widely admired later in the Middle Ages. In the West, most kingdoms incorporated the few extant Roman institutions. Monasteries were founded as campaigns to Christianise pagan Europe continued. The Franks, under the Carolingian dynasty, briefly established the Carolingian Empire during the later 8th and early 9th century. It covered much of Western Europe but later succumbed to the pressures of internal civil wars combined with external invasions—Vikings from the north, Hungarians from the east, and Saracens from the south.
During the High Middle Ages, which began after 1000, the population of Europe increased greatly as technological and agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish and the Medieval Warm Period climate change allowed crop yields to increase. Manorialism, the organisation of peasants into villages that owed rent and labour services to the nobles, and feudalism, the political structure whereby knights and lower-status nobles owed military service to their overlords in return for the right to rent from lands and manors, were two of the ways society was organised in the High Middle Ages. The Crusades, first preached in 1095, were military attempts by Western European Christians to regain control of the Holy Land from Muslims. Kings became the heads of centralised nation states, reducing crime and violence but making the ideal of a unified Christendom more distant. Intellectual life was marked by scholasticism, a philosophy that emphasised joining faith to reason, and by the founding of universities. The theology of Thomas Aquinas, the paintings of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, and the Gothic architecture of cathedrals such as Chartres are among the outstanding achievements toward the end of this period and into the Late Middle Ages.
The Late Middle Ages was marked by difficulties and calamities including famine, plague, and war, which significantly diminished the population of Europe; between 1347 and 1350, the Black Death killed about a third of Europeans. Controversy, heresy, and the Western Schism within the Catholic Church paralleled the interstate conflict, civil strife, and peasant revolts that occurred in the kingdoms. Cultural and technological developments transformed European society, concluding the Late Middle Ages and beginning the early modern period.
Basil II was a Byzantine Emperor from the Macedonian dynasty who reigned from 10 January 976 to 15 December 1025. He was known in his time as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from his supposed ancestor, Basil I the Macedonian.
The early years of his long reign were dominated by civil war against powerful generals from the Anatolian aristocracy. Following their submission, Basil oversaw the stabilization and expansion of the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire, and above all, the final and complete subjugation of Bulgaria, the Empire's foremost European foe, after a prolonged struggle. For this he was nicknamed the Bulgar Slayer, by which he is popularly known. At his death, the Empire stretched from southern Italy to the Caucasus and from the Danube to the borders of Palestine, its greatest territorial extent since the Muslim conquests four centuries earlier. His reign is therefore often seen as the medieval apogee of the Empire.
Despite near-constant warfare, Basil also showed himself a capable administrator, reducing the power of the great land-owning families who dominated the Empire's administration and military, while filling the Empire's treasury. Of far-reaching importance was Basil's decision to offer the hand of his sister Anna to Vladimir I of Kiev in exchange for military support, which led to the Christianization of the Kievan Rus' and the incorporation of later successor nations of Kievan Rus' within the Byzantine cultural and religious tradition.
The East–West Schism, also called the Great Schism and the Schism of 1054, was the break of communion between what are now the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, which has lasted since the 11th century. It is not to be confused with the Western Schism (which is also sometimes called the "Great" Schism).
The ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes between the Greek East and Latin West pre-dated the formal rupture that occurred in 1054. Prominent among these were the issues of the source of the Holy Spirit, whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, the Bishop of Rome's claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of the See of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy.
In 1053, the first step was taken in the process which led to formal schism: the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Michael I Cerularius ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople, in response to the Greek churches in southern Italy having been forced either to close or to conform to Latin practices.
Several attempts at reconciliation did not bear fruit. In 1965, Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras I nullified the anathemas of 1054, although this nullification of measures taken against a few individuals was essentially a goodwill gesture and did not constitute any sort of reunion. Contacts between the two sides continue: every year a delegation from each joins in the other's celebration of its patronal feast, Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) for Rome and Saint Andrew (30 November) for Constantinople, and there have been a number of visits by the head of each to the other. The efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchs towards reconciliation with the Catholic Church have often been the target of sharp criticism from some fellow Orthodox.
The Norman conquest of England was the invasion of the Kingdom of England by William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy), in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings and the subsequent Norman control of England. It is an important watershed event in English history for a number of reasons. The conquest linked England more closely with Continental Europe through the introduction of a Norman aristocracy, thereby lessening Scandinavian influence. It created one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe and engendered a sophisticated governmental system. The conquest changed the English language and culture, and set the stage for rivalry with France, which would continue intermittently until the nineteenth century. It remains the last successful military conquest of England. It introduced Feudalism into England.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of recovering the Holy Land from Islamic rule. The term "Crusades" is also applied to other church-sanctioned campaigns fought to combat paganism and heresy or to resolve conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or to gain political or territorial advantage. The term Crusades itself is early modern, modelled on Middle Latin cruciatae, and has in more recent times been extended to include religiously motivated Christian military campaigns in the Late Middle Ages.
The First Crusade arose after a call to arms in a 1095 sermon by Pope Urban II. Urban urged military support for the Byzantine Empire and its Emperor, Alexios I, who needed reinforcements for his conflict with westward migrating Turks who were colonising Anatolia. One of Urban's stated aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Eastern Mediterranean that were under Muslim control, but scholars disagree whether this was the primary motivation for Urban or most of those who heeded his call. Urban's wider strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since their split in the East–West Schism of 1054, and establish himself as head of the unified Church. The response to Urban's preaching by people of many different classes across Western Europe established the precedent for later Crusades. Volunteers became Crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church. Some were hoping for apotheosis at Jerusalem, or forgiveness from God for all their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, gain glory and honour, or find opportunities for economic and political gain.
The Crusades had a profound impact on Western civilisation: they reopened the Mediterranean to commerce and travel (enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish); consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership; and were a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry and piety. These tales consequently galvanised medieval romance, philosophy and literature. But the Crusades also reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.
Beowulf is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative lines. It may be the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. A date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".