Brief History of Europe/High Middle Ages

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The High Middle Ages was circa AD 1000–1300, or 1000–1250.

See also Wikipedia:High Middle Ages.

States and territories of the High Middle Ages[edit]

Europe in 1190
Eurasia c. 1200, on the eve of the Mongol invasions

States and territories of the High Middle Ages included:

Northern Europe
Britain Isles included England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Nordic countries included Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and lands of the Sami and Finns. Valdemar I of Denmark saw his country becoming a leading force in northern Europe.
Western and Central Europe
Consisted of the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire.
Eastern Europe
In the Kingdom of Poland (1025–1569), Casimir III of Poland doubled the size of kingdom by the end of his reign (1333–1370) and considerably strengthened the nation. Around the Baltic Sea there were Finnic Estonians and Livonians; and Baltic Tribes, composed of Balts, including Old Prussians, Lithuanians, and Latvians. Further east was Kievan Rus' (882–1240; founded by the Rus' people), and the Novgorod Republic (1136–1478). The Balkans were dominated by five states: Hungary (which gained hegemony over Croatia, Bosnia, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Transylvania); Grand Principality of Serbia (1091–1217, which expanded over what is today Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and southern Dalmatia); the Second Bulgarian Empire; and the Byzantine Empire (which included Greece and some of Anatolia); and the Cuman-Kipchak confederation (a Turkic state also known as Cumania, of the 10th century to 1241).
Iberian Peninsula
Included the Christian kingdoms of Castile, León, Navarre, Aragon, Portugal. The Muslim Caliphate of Córdoba was, after 1031, replaced by taifa (independent Muslim states). The Reconquista (722–1492) was the reconquest of Iberia by Christians.
Italian Peninsula
Included the Kingdom of Sicily, which was under Norman rule from 1091, which included southern Italy by 1130. The Republic of Venice, Papal States, and the Holy Roman Empire were in the north.


Normans: came from Normandy, a northern region of France, and were descended from Vikings and indigenous Gallo-Romans and Franks. They gained gained political legitimacy in 911 when the Viking leader Rollo agreed to swear allegiance to King Charles III of West Francia, in exchange for ceding them lands. Culturally, they were known for their Norman architecture (also known as Romanesque architecture); they adopted a Gallo-Romance language called Norman French.

From the 11th century onwards they conquered the Kingdom of England, and the Kingdom of Sicily (which was mainly in southern Italy and Sicily), as well as other territories, including in the Middle East. The Norman conquest of England, under William the Conqueror, began with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Later on their influence would spread to the rest of the British Isles (Wales, Scotland, and Ireland).

The Kingdom of Sicily (1130–1816) was formed, between 999 and 1139, as a Norman kingdom in southern Italy, Sicily, northern Africa and Malta. Conquered territories in southern Italy included (based on Italy at around 1000 AD): territory held by the Byzantine Empire (roughly modern day Calabria and Apulia); Salerno (roughly Basilicata); Benevento (except for the city); Capua; Amalfi; the southern region of Spoleto; and the Muslim-held Emirate of Sicily. Later on southern Italy would cede from Sicily to form the Kingdom of Naples (1282–1816).

England and the Angevin Empire[edit]

Territorial conquests of Philip II of France, with the Angevin Empire empire in red

After the Norman conquest of England, which began with the Battle of Hastings (1066), England was ruled by the House of Normandy; the reign of William the Conqueror (1066–1087), was followed by that of his sons William II (1087–1100) and Henry I (1100–1135). But after the death of Henry I, a succession crisis between the Empress Matilda (Henry I's daughter), and Stephen of Blois (Henry I's nephew), brought about the Anarchy (1135–1153), a period of civil war between the claimants. The Anarchy was ended by the Treaty of Wallingford (1153), where Stephen recognized Matilda's son Henry II as heir to the crown.

King Henry II (who reigned 1154–1189) was the first of the Plantagenet dynasty of English kings (1154–1485), named after his father Geoffrey Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou. Henry II would inherit the Kingdom of England from his mother's claim; and Anjou, Touraine, Maine, and the Duchy of Normandy from his father. From his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II became Duke of Aquitaine; after the Norman invasion of Ireland (1169–1171), Henry II became Lord of Ireland; he also partially controlled Scotland, Wales and the Duchy of Brittany.

Henry II's empire became known as the Angevin Empire (1154–1214), named after the county of Anjou. The Angevin kings of England were the kings who ruled the Angevin Empire, the first three Plantagenets: Henry II, and his sons King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) and King John. Capetian–Plantagenet rivalry (1159-1259), between the French House of Capet and the English House of Plantagenet, resulted from the Angevin Empire, and a series of wars over the territory is sometimes considered to be the "First Hundred Years War".

King John (who reigned 1199–1216) lost control of most of his French possessions to King Philip II of France (Philippe Auguste), who reigned 1180 to 1223; only Gascony in southern Aquitaine would remain. The Anglo-French War of 1213 to 1214 culminated in French victory at the Battle of Bouvines, confirming English losses. John was then forced to agree to the Magna Carta ("Great Charter") at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215, which guaranteed certain rights to the barons and others. This was followed by the First Barons' War (1215–1217), after John reneged on the Great Charter, which he had annulled by Pope Innocent III. The future Louis VIII of France backed the rebellious barons, and claimed the English throne between 1216 and 1217. In 1216 John was succeeded by his son Henry III, who reissued a modified Great Charter in 1216 to try to appease the rebellion. There were also Great Charters of 1217, 1225, and 1297.

Henry III was succeeded by his son Edward I (also called Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots); and then by his son Edward II (also called Edward of Carnarvon). Power was wrestled from Edward II by his son Edward III (1327–1377), backed by Edward III's mother Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer. During the reign of Edward III, the loss of Gascony (1337), and Edward's rival claim to the French crown, triggered the Hundred Years' War.

Holy Roman Empire[edit]

Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor

Holy Roman Empire (962–1806), of Emperor Otto I the Great, was a union of East Francia and Italy. Otto was a Saxon, and Duke of Saxony and King of East Francia from 936; King of Italy from 961; and Holy Roman Emperor between 962–973, after a large interregnum (gap) between 924–962 (38 years). The Nazis considered it to be the first German Reich (Deutsches Reich), where reich is roughly comparable to "realm". Before their coronation as emperors, or as heir-apparents, their rulers were designated as kings, most commonly as "King of the Romans".

By 947, the former Francia had divided into four kingdoms: West Francia; East Francia; Kingdom of Italy; Kingdom of Arles. East Francia and the Kingdom of Italy initially formed the Holy Roman Empire; later on Bohemia (which was never part of Francia) and the Kingdom of Arles joined. West Francia would go on to form the Kingdom of France.

1. East Francia by 962 had six stem duchies: (i) Franconia; (ii) Swabia (former Alamannia); (iii) Saxony; (iv) Bavaria; (v) Upper Lorraine (in south); (vi) Lower Lorraine (in north). It remained the centre of the Holy Roman Empire for its lifetime, and is sometimes considered as the Kingdom of Germany.
2. The Kingdom of Italy was roughly the Italian Republic north. At about 1000 it included Lombardy, the March of Verona and Aquileia, the March of Tuscany, and the Duchy of Spoleto; but excluded Venice and the Papal States. Holy Roman Emperors were also kings of Italy between 962–1493 and 1519–1556 (Charles V). After that Italy was nominally within the Holy Roman Empire until 1801, but power was lost.

Later territories gained by Holy Roman Empire (East Francia and Italy) were Bohemia and the Kingdom of Arles:

3. Duchy/Kingdom of Bohemia, a Holy Roman Empire state between 1002–1806. Now roughly the Czech Republic (with Moravia and Silesia). Raised to a kingdom between 1198–1918; sometimes the Emperor was also king.
4. Kingdom of Arles/Arelat of 933–1378; part of the Holy Roman Empire between 1032–1378. The Kingdom of Upper Burgundy established from 888, was composed of Transjurania and the County of Burgundy. The Kingdom of Lower Burgundy, which was composed of Cisjurania and Provence, joined in 933 to form Arles. Now partly Swiss, French and Italian. Distinct from the French Duchy of Burgundy, which was a separate territory.

Also, the Kingdom of Sicily (of southern Italy and Sicily) was in personal union with the Holy Roman Empire between 1194–1254.

The Holy Roman Empire achieved its greatest extent during the Hohenstaufen dynasty of kings, who were emperors between 1155–1250, except for 1198–1215. Frederick I Barbarossa (Emperor 1155–1190) held great power, despite defeats by the Lombard League. But under Frederick II (Emperor 1220–1250), the rule of the emperor was weakened with the Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis ("Treaty with the princes of the church") of 1220, and the Statutum in favorem principum ("Statute in favour of the princes"), confirmed in 1232. Frederick II was also king of Sicily (1198–1250).

Later, large interregnums (gaps) of Emperors occurred between the years of 1245–1312 (67 years) and 1378–1433 (55 years). The Golden Bull of 1356 named seven Prince-electors who chose the Emperor: Archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier; King of Bohemia; Count Palatine of the Rhine; Duke of Saxony-Wittenberg; Margrave of Brandenburg.

Christianity and the Great Schism[edit]

Great Schism of 1054

Christianity: is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament. Christians, the members of the faith, believe that Jesus is the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament; and, apart from Nontrinitarians, that God is a Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son of God (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Early Christianity was from its origins (c. 30–36) until the First Council of Nicaea (325); this created the Nicene Creed and was the first ecumenical council. Constantine the Great (who reigned East 306–324, and East and West 324–337) was the first Christian Roman Emperor. By the time of the 6th century, Christianity was dominate throughout Europe, but not including northern and eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. By the time of the 11th century, the majority of Europe was Christianised, with the exception of some Baltic states and eastern Scandinavia, and Islamic Iberia.

Great Schism, or East–West Schism, of 1054: the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches separated, after the mutual excommunication of the Michael I Cerularius (the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople) and Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, papal legate of Pope Leo IX. There were many reasons for the schism, including doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographical reasons. A particular issue was the question of the authority of Constantinople and Rome over the other three seats of the Pentarchy; that is, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria.

Since that time the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have remained separate. The Roman Catholic Church consists of the western Latin Church, and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Holy See is the jurisdiction of the pope, and includes the Diocese of Rome (as the Bishop of Rome), the worldwide Roman Catholic Church (as leader in full communion with), and the Vatican City state (as sovereign). During the pre-Protestant Bohemian Reformation (after the Hussite Wars, 1419–1434) and the Protestant Reformation (1517 onwards), some churches in the west seceded from the Catholics.

The present-day Eastern Orthodox church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is a communion that includes many Orthodox churches. The Greek Orthodox Church includes the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the Churches of Greece, Albania, Crete and Sinai. Other major Orthodox Churches include those of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has the status of primus inter pares (first among equals) among the other Eastern Orthodox prelates (bishops and patriarchs).

Oriental Orthodoxy has been separate to Eastern Orthodoxy since the Council of Chalcedon (451), and includes churches in Alexandria (the Coptic Orthodox Church), Antioch (Syriac Orthodox), Armenia (Apostolic), India (Malankara Orthodox Syrian), and the Orthodox Tewahedo Churches of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Crusades, and the Seljuk and Byzantine empires[edit]

Conquest of Jerusalem, 1099

The Great Seljuk Empire (1037–1194) was a medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire; at its height it covered a vast area, including Palestine, and much of Anatolia, the Levant, Persia and beyond. The Battle of Manzikert (1071) was decisive in their capture of much of Anatolia from the Byzantines. The Sultanate of Rum (1077–1308) developed in Anatolia after divisions in the Seljuk Empire.

The crusades were a series of holy wars, predominantly Christians against Muslim-held territories. The immediate cause was the Byzantine–Seljuk wars (1048–1308), an ongoing conflict over Anatolia, and in 1095 the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested military aid from Pope Urban II; Urban II responded by calling for war against the Seljuk Turks in the Holy Land. The Seljuks held Jerusalem, from 1073–1098; before that it had been held by the Byzantines (to 638) and the Caliphates. After that, Jerusalem was held by the Fatimid Caliphate (1098–1099); Crusaders (1099–1187); the Ayyubid Sultanate (of Saladin), Christians and Khwarezmian Tatars (at various times between 1187 and 1260); the Mamluk Sultanate (1260–1517); the Ottoman Empire (1517–1917).

The Crusaders opened trade routes which enabled the merchant republics of Genoa and Venice to become major economic powers. It led to the establishment of diverse religious-military orders; they included the the Knights Templar (the Order of Solomon's Temple); the Knights Hospitaller (the Order of Saint John, and later the Sovereign Military Order of Malta); the Teutonic Order (the German Order); and the Livonian Brothers of the Sword (later merged with the Teutonic Order as the Livonian Order).

As well as the Crusades to the Holy Land (1095–1291), crusades continued (1343–1510) to lands other than the Holy Land. They included crusades during the Reconquista of Iberia (718–1492). Crusades against Christians occurred 1235 to 1434: they included the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) against Cathars in southern France. The Northern Crusades (1147–1410) were primarily against pagans, from the Baltic, Finnic and West Slavic peoples; Baltic states that resulted included the State of the Teutonic Order (Prussia) and Terra Mariana (of present day Estonia and Latvia).

Crusades to the Holy Land and Sack of Constantinople[edit]

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople (1204)

There were nine numbered Crusades to the Holy Land (1095–1291). But there was additional crusades to the Holy Land, such as the successful Barons' Crusade (1239–1241) which enlarged the territory controlled by the crusaders; the popular crusades (1096–1320) were crusades unsanctioned by the Church, and included the People's Crusade (1096) and Children's Crusade (1212).

The Holy Land fell to the First Crusade (1095–1099), and crusader states established included the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli and the County of Edessa. The fall of Edessa led to the unsuccessful Second Crusade (1147–1149). Jerusalem was retaken by Muslims led by Saladin in 1187. The Third Crusade (1189–1192) failed to retake Jerusalem, but it reclaimed crusader territory, including the key towns of Acre and Jaffa; it also established the crusader state of the Kingdom of Cyprus. A treaty provided that unarmed Christian pilgrims and traders could visit Jerusalem.

Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) primarily resulted in the Sack of Constantinople (1204) by crusaders. After that the Byzantine Empire was partitioned: the Latin Empire (also called the Empire of Romania) was controlled by crusaders: it included fiefs such as Thessalonica, Achaea, Athens, and the Archipelago. Greek successor states were established in Nicaea, Epirus, and Trebizond; also Venice took control of some areas. Reconquest of Constantinople: Nicea was later able to recapture much of the Latin Empire and Epirus, including Constantinople in 1261, and the Byzantine Empire continued as a Greek state. Later on a Byzantine civil war (1341–1347) further weakened the state. Eventually Constantinople would fall to the Ottomans in 1453.

The Fifth Crusade (1217–1221) was an unsuccessful attempt to regain Jerusalem; but the Sixth Crusade (1228–1229) resulted in a diplomatic Crusader victory, who gained control of Jerusalem for many of the ensuing years. The Seventh (1248–1254), Eighth (1270), and Ninth (1271–1272) Crusades had varying degrees of success, but didn't retake Jerusalem.

Mongol Empire and the Golden Horde[edit]

Expansion of the Mongol Empire 1206–1294

Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire in 1206; it eventually covered most of central Asia from the west to east. The Mongols were a group of steppe nomads. Khan is a title for a sovereign or a military ruler, used by Mongols living to the north of China. An estimated 30 to 80 million people were killed under the rule of the Mongol Empire.

By c. 1294, with the death of Kublai Khan, it had fractured into independent states:

  • Golden Horde khanate in the north-west, north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.
  • Ilkhanate in the south-west, across the Middle East and Persia.
  • Chagatai Khanate in central Asia, centered on present-day Kyrgyzstan.
  • Yuan dynasty in the east, based in modern-day Beijing; it included much of present-day China and Mongolia.

Golden Horde (1242–1502), or Kipchak Khanate, was originally a Mongol, and later Turkicized, khanate founded by Batu Khan; it originated as the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire. It included much of Eastern Europe and north-western Asia. With the Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus' (1237–1242), the last vestiges of the state finally disintegrated, and its principalities became Mongol vassals. The "Tatar Yoke" is a phrase often used to express their rule, as many of the rulers were Tatars, who were Turkic peoples who adopted the Kipchak language as a common tongue.

With the breakup of Kievan Rus', the East Slavic peoples would eventually evolve three separate nations: modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Russia would develop from the rise of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, also called Muscovy. The Golden Horde would eventually disintegrate into a number of Turkic-speaking khanates: Tyumen Khanate (1468), later Khanate of Sibir; Khanate of Kazan (1438) – Qasim Khanate (1452); Khanate of Crimea (1441); Nogai Horde (1440s); Kazakh Khanate (1465); and Khanate of Astrakhan (1466). These would all fall to Russian expansion. See also the Rise of Muscovy for more about Kievan Rus' and Muscovy.

Medieval renaissances and cultural changes[edit]

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Medieval renaissances can refer to various movements in the latter half of the Early Middle Ages, and during the High Middle Ages.

  • Carolingian renaissance, of the 8th and 9th centuries, was a period of renewed cultural and intellectual movements associated with the rise of the Carolingian Empire, and the Carolingian court.
  • Ottonian renaissance, of the 10th and 11th centuries, was a similar phenomenon associated with the Ottonian period of the Holy Roman Empire. Otto I, Otto II and Otto III ruled the culturally Germanic empire between 936–1002, and created a revival particularly in arts and architecture.
  • Renaissance of the 12th century: included social, political and economic transformations; intellectual revitalization (philosophical and scientific). It included Latin translations of Arabic sources.

In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas developed scholasticism (early critical thought in a religious context) with his Summa Theologica; written between 1265 and 1274, it was a treatise on theology that drew from a wide range of philosophical sources. It attempted to reconcile the philosophy of Aristotle with the theology of Augustine of Hippo, using both reason and faith. In 1202, in his Book of Calculation, the Italian mathematician Fibonacci helped to populise Arabic numerals.

Romanesque architecture (also known as Norman architecture) dominated 11th and 12th centuries; earlier architecture was known as Pre-Romanesque. Later on Gothic architecture was used widely between the 12th and 16th centuries.

The High Middle Ages was accompanied by a rapid increase in population; this would grind to a halt in the 14th century, as Europe would enter a period of crisis.

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