12th Century TimelinesEpisode Two: Century of the Axe (1100-1200) • http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/millennium/learning/timelines/
The Larger Twelfth-Century World ContextLarger and more fundamental global phenomena underlay the boom of twelfth-century building. These factors included a global population increase, widespread land clearances, heightened trade activity, rising populations of religious observers, and growing urbanization.
The Earth's PeoplesIn the second century of this millennium, agricultural production increased. In Europe, the population doubled. China's population grew to 100 million out of a world population of 330 million. Though cities were increasing in importance, only a small percentage of the earth's peoples lived in cities. Most of the world's people were peasant farmers or nomads. Some hunters and gatherers, like the Aborigines, were so isolated from contact with other societies, that they continued their rich cultural traditions uninterrupted by other twelfth-century changes.
Clearing the LandWorldwide, more and more land was cleared for agriculture. Chinese peasants moved south where they constructed paddies and planted a new, fast-ripening rice from Southeast Asia that could be harvested twice a year. Europeans cleared away much of their forests for farms and drained swamps. They adopted the moldboard plow and draft harnesses and thus could use horses for agricultural labor. They molded the heavy clay of Northern Europe into fields suitable for planting.
Clearing the LandAn unusually warm climate in the far North insured that the harvests were plentiful. Farther east, Islamic civilizations planted Indian sugar, Chinese citrus and Indian cotton in pioneering efforts that eventually led to plantations and commercial agriculture. As Islamic civilizations spread to span Africa, Asia and Europe, crops like eggplant, mangoes, plantains, sorghum were shuffled back and forth across the continents. New ideas for irrigating, producing, and processing crops passed from one Islamic society to another
Clearing the LandAs populations expanded around the world, agriculturists developed new irrigation systems to bring water to the land. Islamic peoples in Spain adopted the underground water canals used in Southwest Asia and the Ancient Pueblo people diverted water to irrigate thousands of acres in what is now the Southwestern region of the United States.
Trade and TravelFlourishing agriculture bolstered local economies. As peasants produced more crops than they needed, they were able to trade whatever was extra. Changes in commercial practices encouraged more trade. Villages became trading centers and grew into cities. Just as trade from Mexico expanded into North America, overland trade routes linked markets across Eurasia. Water routes connected ports along the China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and Atlantic Europe. More people traveled than had previously - some for profit, some for adventure, and others as religious pilgrims. Often traveling merchants converted their local trading partners and new religions spread across Africa and Eurasia.
Religious ShrinesThe faithful traveled trade routes to religious shrines beside merchants and soldiers. Wealthy traders donated money to build sanctuaries along the way. Suger's Abby of St. Denis sanctified the route of pilgrims in France; in Cairo the al-Azhar Mosque and University became an important stopping point for African pilgrims to on their way to Mecca. Buddhists constructed Angkor Wat in Southeast Asia as a religious and political center. As trade routes and pilgrims multiplied, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam spread far beyond the lands of their origin.
CitiesThe privileged lived comfortable, cosmopolitan lives in cities like Hangchou, Baghdad, Cairo, Delhi, and Cordoba. Hangzhou had a million inhabitants, and its visitors were amazed to find drinking water and pest control. River water circulated through a city system that constantly removed waste. Chinese cities had theatres, restaurants, parks, bookstores, and teahouses. The new Korean invention of moveable type enabled Chinese to print books and then paper money. In European cities like the Italian city-states, newly-built town halls began to replace palaces as symbols of civic pride for merchants and bankers
AMERICA - Summary In North America, a civilization arose which transformed a semi-desert into a cultivated landscape. The Ancient Pueblo peoples of the Southwest imposed a new geometry on the landscape.
At Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, stand the ruins of what was once a complex of structures with more than 800 rooms. The rooms were stacked on top of one another in a huge semi-circle, a plan that the Pueblo people devised and kept to for 200 years.
The timbers that supported the vast roofs of the dwellings were brought by hand from forests over 60 miles away. Around the buildings lay carefully cultivated fields with crops of maize and squash. To allow crops to grow in such an arid environment, the Pueblo people created an ingenious system of irrigating channels.
Dug deep into the rocks and dirt of the surrounding mesa tops, these channels captured droplets of rain from passing storms or melting snow. The water then fed into fields where it was retained by built-up earth around eachplant. This "waffle" irrigation system sustained a growing population for several hundred years.
But after a series of persistent droughts towards the end of the twelfth century, even these levels of ingenuity could not help the settlement. It was eventually abandoned.
FRANCE - Summary In northern France, forests were cleared at faster and faster rates. As the population grew, the pressure for land increased. Churches and houses were usually made of timber, but as the number of suitable trees dwindled the structures had to change.
At St. Denis in Paris, Abbot Suger dreamed of rebuilding the old abbey. His inspiration was a mystical vision of heaven. He envisioned slender stone columns, huge windows, and a mighty roof that would draw the eye upward toward heaven.
Skeptics told Abbot Suger he would never find trees large enough to stretch across such an expanse, but he persevered. He finally found twelve trees tall enough to span the roof and was able to build his dream cathedral. St. Denis, a mixture of stone and wood, was completed in Suger's lifetime.
However,it would go through several renovations; as cathedrals continued to expand, more and more stone was used. The construction of St. Denis sparked the beginning of the new style of "Gothic" architecture. Over the next 150 years, cathedrals sprang up throughout Europe.
ETHIOPIA - Summary While churches sought to rise to the sky in Europe, in Africa they were being carved out of the earth. In the highlands of Ethiopia during twelfth century, a man called Lalibela rose to power, was crowned King, and went on to establish a Christian empire spanning the highlands and stretching to the sea.
His ambition was to build a religious state and a spiritual center to rival Jerusalem. He claimed to have been shown - in a vision - the most holy of churches in Heaven. He ordered tools be made to carve temples out of the rock like those he had seen.
Craftsmen toiled in the stony mountains for over twenty-fouryears to create these unique rock churches. Some of Lalibela's motivation to build these unusual structures stemmed from a desire to claim legitimacy. He belonged to a dynasty that had seized the throne and the churches helped him gain acceptance.
His efforts paid off: today he is revered as a saint and his shrine attracts a continuous flow of pilgrims. While all religions at one time or another have constructed shrines and physical symbols to serve an ideological purpose, striking awe into to the layman and establishing the clergy's direct connection to the power of God, Lalibela clearly lacked legitimacy and used these temples to insure his leadership.
ITALY - Summary In the twelfth century, cities grew worldwide. In Italy, a booming economy and population explosion meant increased demand for goods and space. People gathered in cities to trade and settled in increasingly cramped spaces. Despite feuding between factions within cities, a spirit of citizenship emerged.
In many towns and cities republics were established, consuls were elected, and citizens assigned rights. Residents were proud of their cities and strove to make them more glorious than their neighbors'. In Sienna, in Tuscany, an event known as the Palio originated and became a tradition.
This bi-annual bareback horse race round the central piazza celebrated the city spirit while also serving as a peaceful outlet for the rivalries among different quarters of the town.
AUSTRALIA - Summary In Australia in the twelfth century, the Aboriginal culture flourished. Though they did not build, the Aboriginal' creativity centered around art: they endowed every landmark with sacred significance and celebrated it with rituals.
The journeys of ancestors were retraced again and again over centuries; a physical pilgrimage through artistic celebrations. The Aborigines' universal language was art. For forty thousands of years they created paintings in galleries of rock intended to be overlaid by other artists over time.
Aborigines left their mark on the land in other subtle ways. Fire was a core technology, and they used it to modify the wilderness by burning sections and clearing it for grazing animals. Fire sticks were used to chase animals out of their burrows.
They did not cultivate crops, but instead gathered foodstuffs offered up by the land. Aboriginal culture developed a detailed and crucial knowledge of what was edible and exactly where it was to be found. Aboriginal society survived in isolation until Europeans began to colonize in the 18th century.
Zhu Xi 1130 - 1200 • One of China's most influential philosophers, Zhu Xi recast Confucius's teachings in more than 100 works, including commentaries on most of the Confucian classics. His teachings -- emphasizing morality and logic, condemning popular religion and denying the existence of a personal deity -- were a challenge to the spread of Buddhism in China. Zhu's neo-Confucian writings became required reading for China's civil service exams for the next 600 years.
12th Century Segments • America • France • Ethiopia • Italy • Australia
Present-Day Legacies12th Century • Muslims borrowed the Hindu concept of zero and the decimal system, which made Muslim bookkeeping with debits and credits possible. • Trade revived in the Mediterranean basin. Jews, often excluded from owning land, became money changers, goldsmiths, or traders transporting goods from European trade fair to trade fair. • The Chinese established the practice of hiring a qualified bureaucracy determined by what they knew rather than who they knew. College admissions tests and civil service exams are reminiscent of that 1000 year old tradition. • Crusades
Present-Day Legacies12th Century • European city-states and the beginnings of nation states marked the beginning of a new era in the West. • An extensive knowledge of plants and animals by hunters and gatherers like the Aborigines that is still being used to develop new medicines and conduct other scientific research. • Architectural expression such as the medieval cathedrals and the sculpted churches of the Ethiopia are lasting monuments of religious expression exemplifying the period. • Rise of Universities