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Chapter 17:. The Foundations of Christian Society in Western Europe. The Germanic Successor States, c. 500 CE. Last Roman emperor deposed by Germanic Odoacer, 476 CE Administrative apparatus still in place, but cities lose population Germanic successor states: Spain: Visigoths

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Chapter 17

Chapter 17:

The Foundations of

Christian Society

in Western Europe

The germanic successor states c 500 ce

The Germanic Successor States, c. 500 CE

  • Last Roman emperor deposed by Germanic Odoacer, 476 CE

  • Administrative apparatus still in place, but cities lose population

  • Germanic successor states:

    • Spain: Visigoths

    • Italy: Ostrogoths

    • Gaul: Burgundians, Franks

    • Britian: Angles, Saxons

Chapter 17

Successor States to the Roman Empire c. 500

The frankish empire

The Frankish Empire

  • In the territory known as Gaul, and what is currently the country of France, the Franks emerged as the dominant tribe in the area.

  • In the late 400’s, Clovis was the first king of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler. His conversion to Christianity gained him a great ally in the Roman Catholic Church.

The franks

The Franks

  • Heavy influence on European development

  • Strong agricultural base

  • Shifts center of economic gravity to Europe

  • Firm alliance with western Christian church

Clovis ruled 481 511

Clovis (ruled 481-511)

  • Major Frankish leader

  • Destroyed last vestiges of Roman rule in Gaul

  • Dominated other Germanic peoples

  • Franks establish themselves as preeminent Germanic people

Clovis conversion to christianity

Clovis’ Conversion to Christianity

  • Paganism, Arian Christianity popular among Franks

  • Clovis and army chooses Roman Catholicism

  • Influence of wife Clotilda

  • Political implications:

    • Alliance with western church

The carolingians

The Carolingians

  • Charles “The Hammer” Martel begins Carolingian dynasty

  • Defeats Spanish Muslims at Battle of Tours (732)

    • Halts Islamic advance into western Europe

Chapter 17

Charles de Steuben's Bataille de Poitiers en Octobre 732 depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours.

Chapter 17

The Carolingian Empire

Charlemagne r 768 814

Charlemagne (r. 768-814)

  • Grandson of Charles Martel

  • Centralized imperial rule

  • Functional illiterate, but sponsored extensive scholarship

  • Major military achievements

Chapter 17

Charlemagne’s Empire

Charlemagne s administration

Charlemagne’s Administration

  • Capital at Aachen, Germany

  • Yet constant travel throughout empire

  • Spread Christianity

  • Set Up Education System

    • Increased Scriptoriums

    • Alcuin, the leading scholar and educator under Charlemagne introduced the 7 liberal arts

  • Begins Romanesque Architecture

  • Expansion of Territory

  • Imperial officials: missi dominici (“envoys of the lord ruler)

    • Continued yearly circuit travel

Chapter 17

Romanesque church in Poland

Romanesque church in Normandy

Charlemagne as emperor

Charlemagne as Emperor

  • Hesitated to challenge Byzantines by taking title “emperor”

    • Yet ruled in fact

  • Pope Leo III crowns him as emperor in 800

    • Planned in advance?

    • Challenge to Byzantium

Chapter 17

Pope Crowned CharlemagneHoly Roman Emperor: Dec. 25, 800

Chapter 17

The Carolingian Renaissance

Chapter 17

Carolingian Miniscule

Louis the pious r 814 840

Louis the Pious (r. 814-840)

  • Son of Charlemagne

  • Lost control of courts, local authorities

  • Civil war erupts between three sons

  • Empire divided in 843

Charlemagne crowns Louis the Pious

Chapter 17

Charlemagne’s Empire Collapses:Treaty of Verdun, 843



  • South: Muslims

  • East: Magyars

  • North: Vikings

    • Norse expansion begins c. 800 CE

    • Driven by population pressure, hostility to spread of Christianity

    • Superior seafaring technology

    • Sailed to eastern Canada, northeastern US

Chapter 17

The dissolution of the Carolingian Empire (843 CE – divided amongst Charlemagne’s grandchildren) and the invasions of early medieval Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries

The vikings

The Vikings

  • From village of Vik, Norway (hence “Viking”)

  • Boats with shallow drafts, capable of river travel as well as open seas

  • Attacked villages, cities from 9th century

    • Constantinople sacked three times

  • Carolingians had no navy, dependent on local defenses



  • Viking invasions force consolidation of Angles, Saxons and other Germanic peoples under King Alfred (r. 871-899)

  • Built navy

  • Fortified cities against attack

Germany and france

Germany and France

  • King Otto of Saxony (r. 936-973) defeats Magyars, 955

  • Proclaimed emperor by Pope in 962

  • Establishment of Holy Roman Empire

  • France endures heavy Viking settlement

  • Loss of local autonomy

Early medieval society

Early Medieval Society

  • Concept of Feudalism

    • Lords and vassals

    • Increasingly inadequate model for describing complex society

  • Ad hoc arrangements in absence of strong central authorities

Chapter 17


A political, economic, and social system based on loyalty and military service.

Chapter 17


  • The Armored knight was the pre-eminent weapon in the medieval arsenal. He was worth approx. 50 to 100 common foot soldiers for he could inflict just as much damage.

Organizing in a decentralized society

Organizing in a Decentralized Society

  • Local nobles take over administration from weak central government

  • Nominal allegiances, esp. to Carolingian kings

  • But increasing independence

Lords and retainers

Lords and Retainers

  • Formation of small private armies

  • Incentives: land grants, income from mills, cash payments

  • Formation of hereditary class of military retainers

  • Development of other functions

    • Justice, social welfare

Potential for instability

Potential for Instability

  • Complex interrelationship of lord-retainer relations

  • Rebellion always a possibility

  • Nevertheless, viable large states developed (Germany, France, England)

Origins of serfdom

Origins of Serfdom

  • Slaves, free peasants in both Roman and Germanic societies

  • Heavy intermarriage

  • Appeals to lords, special relationships

  • Mid-7th century: recognition of serf class

    • Midway between slave and free peasant

Serfs rights and obligations

Serfs’ Rights and Obligations

  • Right to pass on land to heirs

  • Obligation to provide labor, payments in kind to lord

  • Unable to move from land

  • Fees charged for marrying serfs of another lord



  • Large, diverse estates

  • Lord provides governance, police, justice services

  • Serfs provide labor, income

Chapter 17

The Medieval Manor

Chapter 17

Life on the Medieval Manor

Serfs at work

Women in the middle ages

Women in the Middle Ages

  • Noblewomen were responsible for the entire running of an estate while her husband was in battle.

  • All women had very limited inheritance rights, as all possessions went to the oldest son.

  • In the Middle Ages, the Church portrayed women as weak and easily tempted into sin. Yet, women were also portrayed as modest and pure in spirit.

  • Learning was generally discouraged for women.

The economy of early medieval europe

The Economy of Early Medieval Europe

  • Agricultural center moves north from Mediterranean

  • 8th century iron-tipped plow introduced in Europe

  • Draft animals bred

  • Water mill technology

  • Agricultural output insufficient to support growth of cities

  • Strong Mediterranean trade despite Muslim domination of sea

Norse merchant mariners

Norse Merchant Mariners

  • Commerce or plunder as convenient

  • Link with the Islamic world for trade

Population growth of europe 200 1000 ce

Population Growth of Europe, 200-1000 CE

The formation of christian europe

The Formation of Christian Europe

  • Clovis’ conversion forms strong alliance with Roman Christianity

  • Church supplies Clovis with class of literate information workers:

    • Scribes

    • secretaries

The franks and the church

The Franks and the Church

  • Protectors of the Papacy

  • Charlemagne destroys Lombards, who threatened Pope, Rome

  • Spreads Christianity in northern areas

  • Support of scholarship, scribal activity

The spread of christianity

The Spread of Christianity

  • Charlemagne fights pagan Saxons (772-804)

    • Saxons later adopt Christianity

  • Scandinavia, other pockets of paganism until c. 1000 CE

Pope gregory i 590 604 ce

Pope Gregory I (590-604 CE)

  • “Gregory the Great”

  • Asserted papal primacy

  • Prominent theologian

    • Sacrament of penance

  • Major missionary activity, especially in England



  • Egyptian origins, 2nd-3rd centuries

  • Monastic lifestyle expands 4th century

  • Large variety of monastic rules

    • Range from extremely ascetic to very lax

St benedict 480 547

St. Benedict (480-547)

  • Established consistent rule for monasteries

    • Poverty

    • Chastity

    • Obedience

  • St. Scholastica (482-543)

    • Sister of St. Benedict

    • Adapts Benedictine Rule for convents

Chapter 17

A late 15th-century Scriptorium by of Jean Miélot

In the strictest definition of illuminated manuscript, only manuscripts with gold or silver would be considered illuminated.

St. Benedict by Fra Angelico, c. 1437-1446

Pope Gregory I, by Francisco de Zurbarán

Monasticism and society

Monasticism and Society

  • Accumulation of large landholdings, serfs

  • Social welfare projects

    • Esp. labor contributions

  • Expansion of literacy

  • Inns, orphanages, hospitals

Chapter 17

The Power of the Medieval Church

  • The church controlled about 1/3 of the land in Western Europe.

  • Tithe  1/10 tax on your assets given to the church.

  • Threat of excommunication and an inderdict gave the church tremendous control over European peasants and nobles.

  • The selling of indulgences, canon law and simony also fortified the church’s power, but led many to recognize these acts as corrupt.

Church secular influence pope innocent iii

Church Secular Influence & Pope Innocent III

  • The Church claimed authority over all secular rulers, many of whom did not recognize this authority, often resulting in power struggles between monarchs and popes.

  • When King John of England challenged Pope Innocent III over the appointment of an archbishop, he was excommunicated in 1209.

Chapter 17

Magna Carta, 1215

  • King John I

  • “Great Charter”

  • Monarchs were not above the law.

  • Kings had to consult a council of advisors.

  • Kings could not tax arbitrarily.

The medieval church

The Medieval Church

  • Reform

    • Church wealth & influence

    • Some clergy corrupted

    • Reformers

  • Nuns & Monks

    • Set up housing, hospitals, schools

    • Missionaries Preservation of learning

  • Everyday Life

    • Christians attend village churches

    • Priests run village churches

    • All Christians pay tithe

  • Power of the Church

    • Pope leads

    • Canon Law

    • Excommunication/ interdict

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