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.
Renaissance, literally “rebirth,” the period in European civilization immediately following the Middle Ages and conventionally held to have been characterized by a surge of interest in Classical scholarship and values. The Renaissance also witnessed the discovery and exploration of new continents, the substitution of the Copernican for the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the decline of the feudal system and the growth of commerce, and the invention or application of such potentially powerful innovations as paper, printing, the mariner’s compass, and gunpowder. To the scholars and thinkers of the day, however, it was primarily a time of the revival of Classical learning and wisdom after a long period of cultural decline and stagnation.
Hundred Years’ War, an intermittent struggle between England and France in the 14th–15th century over a series of disputes, including the question of the legitimate succession to the French crown. The struggle involved several generations of English and French claimants to the crown and actually occupied a period of more than 100 years. By convention it is said to have started in 1337 and ended in 1453, but there had been periodic fighting over the question of English fiefs in France going back to the 12th century.
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Europe in the years 1346–1353. Although there were several competing theories as to the cause of the Black Death, analyses of DNA from people in northern and southern Europe published in 2010 and 2011 indicate that the pathogen responsible was the Yersinia pestis bacterium, resulting in several forms of plague.
The Black Death is thought to have originated in the arid plains of Central Asia, where it then travelled along the Silk Road, reaching Crimea by 1343. From there, it was most likely carried by Oriental rat fleas living on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships. Spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, the Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60% of Europe's total population. In total, the plague may have reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century. The world population as a whole did not recover to pre-plague levels until the 17th century. The plague recurred occasionally in Europe until the 19th century.
The plague created a series of religious, social, and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history.
In 1419, Prince Henry started the first school of navigation at Sagres, Portugal. The goal of the school was to train people in navigation, map-making and science to prepare them to sail around the west coast of Africa.
The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 15th through the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported to the New World, mainly on the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, were Africans from the central and western parts of the continent who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders (with a small minority being captured directly by the slave traders in coastal raids), and brought to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economic system centered on producing commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell in Europe, and increasing the numbers of African slaves brought to the New World. This was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. Typically used for texts, the invention and spread of the printing press was one of the most influential events in the second millennium revolutionizing the way people conceive and describe the world they live in, and ushering in the period of modernity.
The printing press was invented in the Holy Roman Empire by the German Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, based on existing screw presses. Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession, developed a complete printing system, which perfected the printing process through all of its stages by adapting existing technologies to the printing purposes, as well as making groundbreaking inventions of his own. His newly devised hand mould made for the first time possible the precise and rapid creation of metal movable type in large quantities, a key element in the profitability of the whole printing enterprise.
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was established in 1478 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Christian Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The "Spanish Inquisition" may be defined broadly, operating "in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America."
The Inquisition was originally intended primarily to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. The regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1502 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave Spain.The Inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the preceding century.
The Spanish Inquisition is often stated in popular literature and history as an example of Catholic intolerance and repression. Modern historians have tended to question earlier accounts concerning the severity of the Inquisition. Henry Kamen asserts that the 'myth' of the all-powerful, torture-mad inquisition is largely an invention of nineteenth century Protestant authors with an agenda to discredit the Papacy. Although records are incomplete, about 150,000 persons were charged with crimes by the Inquisition and about 3,000 were executed.
From the Spanish port of Palos, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sets sail in command of three ships—the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina—on a journey to find a western sea route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.
On October 12, the expedition sighted land, probably Watling Island in the Bahamas, and went ashore the same day, claiming it for Spain. Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China, and in December the expedition landed on Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan. He established a small colony there with 39 of his men. The explorer returned to Spain with gold, spices, and “Indian” captives in March 1493 and was received with the highest honors by the Spanish court. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century.
During his lifetime, Columbus led a total of four expeditions to the New World, discovering various Caribbean islands, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South and Central American mainland, but never accomplished his original goal—a western ocean route to the great cities of Asia. Columbus died in Spain in 1506 without realizing the great scope of what he did achieve: He had discovered for Europe the New World, whose riches over the next century would help make Spain the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.
Studied: Noli Me Tangere. Giotto di Bondone, known mononymously as Giotto and Latinized as Giottus, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the transition to the Renaissance. Famous for Noli me tangere.
Studied: The Anolfini Wedding Portrait. Jan van Eyck was a Flemish/Netherlandish painter active in Bruges. He is often considered one of the founders of Early Netherlandish painting school and one of the most significant representatives of Northern Renaissance art. Famous for the Anolfini Wedding Portrait.
Studied: The Mona Lisa. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.
Leonardo was, and is, renowned primarily as a painter. Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and most parodied portrait and The Last Supper the most reproduced religious painting of all time.
Studied: St. Jerome in His Study. Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528) was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties, due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by emperor Maximilian I.
The Expulsion From Paradise by Albrecht Dürer
His vast body of work includes engravings, his preferred technique in his later prints, altarpieces, portraits and self-portraits, watercolours and books. The woodcuts, such as the Apocalypse series (1498), retain a more Gothic flavour than the rest of his work. His well-known engravings include the Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia I (1514), which has been the subject of extensive analysis and interpretation. His watercolours also mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium.
Dürer's introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, has secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance.
Studied: Pieta. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered to be the greatest living artist during his lifetime, he has since been described as one of the greatest artists of all time. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man.
A number of Michelangelo's works of painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in every field of interest was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century.
Part of the Canterbury Tales, A Knights Tale is one of the most famous. "The Knight's Tale" is the first tale from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The story introduces various typical aspects of knighthood such as courtly love and ethical dilemmas. The story is written in iambic pentameter end-rhymed couplets.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Middle English: Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt) is a late 14th-century Middle English chivalric romance. It is one of the best known Arthurian stories, with its plot combining two types of folklore motifs, the beheading game and the exchange of winnings. The Green Knight is interpreted by some as a representation of the Green Man of folklore and by others as an allusion to Christ. Written in stanzas of alliterative verse, each of which ends in a rhyming bob and wheel, it draws on Welsh, Irish, and English stories, as well as the French chivalric tradition. It is an important poem in the romance genre, which typically involves a hero who goes on a quest which tests his prowess, and it remains popular to this day in modern English renderings from J. R. R. Tolkien, Simon Armitage, and others, as well as through film and stage adaptations.
It describes how Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table, accepts a challenge from a mysterious "Green Knight" who challenges any knight to strike him with his axe if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts and beheads him with his blow, at which the Green Knight stands up, picks up his head, and reminds Gawain of the appointed time. In his struggles to keep his bargain, Gawain demonstrates chivalry and loyalty until his honour is called into question by a test involving Lady Bertilak, the lady of the Green Knight's castle.