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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Medieval History

- The Middle Ages -
The Roman Catholic Church
The Crusades and The Inquisition


Role of the Roman Catholic Church
During the Middle Ages

During the fragmented times, the only universal institution was the Church. The Bible was at the center of any learning activity.

Terms used by the Roman Catholic Church:
Mass: worship service
Sacraments: rituals
Holy Communion: sacrament reminding people that Christ died for them.

Medieval Stained Glass
The fish vomits out Jonah upon the dry land.
Detail of a stained-glass window in Colgne Cathedral. 1280

Role of the Church in Government
Often, in the Middle Ages, the churches and governments ruled together. Bishops and Abbots would read and write for kings and often became vassals. Local priests were appointed by local lords, and so were expected to uphold their wishes. Thus, the role of the church and rulers was interconnected.


The Crusades
The Crusades were wars between Christians and Muslims, fought in Palestine. In 1071, Turkish Muslims captured Jerusalem. The Muslims stopped the Christians from visiting the holy places in Palestine. Naturally, Christian rulers in Europe were very angry about this.

The Byzantine emperor in Constantinople asked the Pope to help him drive the Turks from the Holy Land. Peter the Hermit and the Pope started the first Crusade. Cleverly, Pope Urban II said that he would forgive the sins of all people who went and fought in the Holy Land.

Pope Urban at 1st Crusade
Pope Urban II preaches the First Crusade at the Council of Clemont in 1095. In order to join the crusade, William I's eldest son, Robert, pawned Normandy to his brother William II.

Christians killed thousands of Hungarians - then, for the heck of it, Germans - then Greeks. Christians also killed Jews. (This is the Crusade that was supposed to be a success.) The armies of the first Crusade were successful and took Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099. The Crusaders set up Christian kingdoms along the coast of Palestine and Syria, and built strong fortresses to defend their new lands.

Fortress at Sidon, Lebanon
This fortress at Sidon, Lebanon was built during the Crusades.

There were seven more Crusades after the first one. Many of them failed because the Crusaders quarreled with each other. The Muslims took back much of the Holy Land. When the Muslims took Jerusalem in 1187, the third Crusade set off from Europe. Richard Lion Heart massacred 3,000 innocent Muslim villagers. When they got to the Holy Land, the Crusaders were defeated by the Muslim general, Saladin.

3rd Crusade, Richard Lion Heart
A grim scene of Richard Coeur de Lion massacring his Saracen hostages in the Holy Land. From his balcony, Richard complacently observes the gruesome spectacle. Headless corpses are piled up beneath a platform on which two blindfolded men are about to be beheaded. Others await their turn, while soldiers lead the next victims to the ladder. Click painting for an enlargement.

During the 4th Crusade, the Christians sacked Constantinople, but during the 5th Crusade, the Crusaders got caught in the flooding Nile and had to go home. The Children's Crusade took place between the 4th and 5th Crusades. More than 30,000 French and 20,000 German children were sent to the Crusades. French kids got to Alexandria and were sold into slavery. The German kids got across the Alps, got homesick and deserted. Many died.

Later, the Crusaders forgot that they were fighting for their religion. Knights had good reason to go. Going was a good career move. Hop on a horse, kill a few hundred people, and come home a hero. Times were different. If you died, so what? Also, they got paid, and most knights were broke. In medieval times, the eldest son inherited the family's wealth, and this left the younger sons in the poorhouse.

Temple of Solomon
Construction of the gilded edifce at the ancient Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
(As conceived by French court painter Jean Fouquet in the 15-century,
its portaled facade bears a striking resemblance to the cathedral of Paris.)

Many of them went to Palestine hoping to take the land and become rich. the Christians got tired of it and went home, and the Holy Lands reverted back to Muslim control The Crusaders stole their food from local farmers, ran around in mobs, and brought thousands of mistresses and prostitutes with them. By 1291, the Muslims had taken the last remaining Christian city at Acre.

Map of the Crusades
A 15th-century map depicting the saintly King Louis IX of France
on the Seventh and Eighth Crusades. Louis IX stops at various cities in
his pursuit of the infidel, finally succumbing to plague at Tunis.
Click the map for an enlargement.

During the Crusades, European people learned more about the eastern parts of the world. When they returned to Europe, they took back with them many new things including foods, spices, silk, and paper. They learned about medicine, mathematics, and astronomy from the Arabs, and trade between east and west began to grow.


The Inquisition
In 1233 a church court, or Inquisition, was set up by Pope Gregory IX to end heresy, or beliefs that the church thought was wrong. It was primarily in response to heresy of the Albigenses, a religious sect of southern France. They were Christian heretics who believed in the coexistence of two ultimate principles, good and evil. They held that matter was evil and that Jesus only seemed to have a body. Over the next 100 years the Inquisition slowly brought the sect to an end.

People suspected of heresy had one month to confess; those accused came before the Inquisition until they confessed. They were punished by being whipped or sent to prison, but were welcomed back into the Church.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire was built in the 1200s.
It is an example of the Early English Gothic style.
The spire is the tallest in England, 404 feet (123m).


Need for Reform

Tithes, offerings worth 10% of income, were used to build monasteries.

Monks and bishops became more and more careless about religion.

Worried nobles founded strict monasteries. One of the most famous was the Benedictine monastery in (Cluny) France.

The church again became committed to religious ideas.


German Castle
Castle in southern Germany

Gregory VII vs. King Henry IV
Gregory VII, formerly a Benedictine monk, became a very powerful Pope. He wanted to be above all kings and feudal lords, so he sent out a decree saying so. King Henry IV of Germany resented this and didn't obey it. After much feuding, they settled their disagreements. The Concordat of Worms in 1122 allowed both the king and Pope choose new bishops. It also increased the Popes power by letting him have final say about high church offices.

Back to Top of Page


1. Early Middle Ages: Dark Ages and Feudalism

2. Clovis, Charles the Hammer, Charlemagne,
Magyars, Vikings / The Life of a Serf

3. The Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages

4. High Middle Ages / National Monarchies

5. The Black Death

6. Knights, Heraldry, and Medieval Warfare

7. The Hundred Years War

8. Medieval Culture

8th- to 15th-Century Poems and Prose
Dante Alighieri, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland & more.

Including: Divine Comedy, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales...
Medieval Poetry I
Medieval Poetry & Prose II

More Information
The Entire Bayeux Tapestry

Mr. Sedivy's Tour of Medieval Rothenburg

Medieval Penalties of Shame and Honor -
Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages


Historical Periods of
World History Class Study

| Prehistory | Mesopotamia & Phoenicians |
| Ancient Egypt | Greece | Rome |
| Medieval History | The Renaissance and Reformation |
| Exploration | National Monarchies |
| The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment |
| Colonial America and American Revolution |
| The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era
|

 

   
 

Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Modern European History | Advanced Placement European History | Rise of England | World History |
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