5a – The European Age: 1000-1500 AD

Notes Outline


    1. The Great Schism (1054)
      1. Division between Eastern and Western churches, based on language, liturgy, theology and culture continued to escalate, especially after the Photian Schism in the 860s.  However, increasing claims of universal supremacy over the Church by the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch in Constantinople, combined with disputes over jurisdiction and conflicting claims on property, ultimately came to a climax in the 11th century.
      2. In 1054, Roman emissaries of Pope Leo IX, led by Cardinal Humbert, traveled to Constantinople to insist that the Patriarch, Michael Cerularius, recognize the Church of Rome’s claim to be the head and mother of all the churches.  Cerularius refused, so Humbert excommunicated him.  In return, Cerularius then excommunicated Cardinal Humbert and the other legates, a breach that was never mended.
    2. The Crusades (1095-1291)
      1. Since the time of Constantine, Christians had gone on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Even though Muslims had ruled Jerusalem since 638, Christians were still allowed to visit the city, but during the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks took over control of Jerusalem and prevented pilgrimages.
      2. At the request of Eastern Emperor Alexus I, Pope Urban II called on Christian princes in Europe at the Council of Clermont in France (27 November 1095) to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to wage a holy war against the infidels.  Thus, the first crusade was something of an armed pilgrimage, accompanied by a multitude of unarmed civilians.  Moreover, the pope decreed a plenary indulgence for anyone who died on the Crusade (i.e. forgiveness of all of one’s time in purgatory).  
      3. From a military perspective, the first crusade was the most successful with the recapturing of Jerusalem and most of the Holy Land.  However, instead of returning the territories to the Eastern Empire, the Crusaders established four independent Latin kingdoms, which only furthered the break between the East and the West.  With the devastation of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, the break was permanent.
      4. For 200 years, the Crusades dominated Western European and Middle Eastern history, and the spirit of the Crusades lived on through institutions such as the Inquisition in France and military monastic orders, including the Teutonic Knights, the Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Order of Christ.  Moreover, war as a means of mission gained general acceptance in the public mind, resulting in the unquestioned accompaniment of Christians during the Age of Exploration.  
      5. The Crusades marked the downfall of feudalism and the rise of the middle class through increased trade with the Middle East.  Moreover, contact with Middle Eastern universities led to the renewal of Greek and Roman culture, which ultimately played into the Italian Renaissance (c.1350).  
    3. The Rise of Scholasticism (c.1100-1350)
      1. Under the direction of Charlemagne, schools were established in every abbey in the Carolingian Empire (thus known as the “Carolingian Renaissance”).  These schools, from which the name scholasticism is derived, became centers of medieval learning.
      2. With an increase of trade with North Africa and the East also came an influx of ancient Greek and Latin texts from Arabic universities.  This led to a resurgence of Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle, in both thought and method, which in turn led to the exaltation of human reason and argumentation.
      3. As universities began to develop in the large cities of Europe, rival clerical orders (esp. Franciscan and Dominican) began to battle for political and intellectual control over these centers of educational life.  
        1. The chief Dominican scholastic was Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), whose life goal was the synthesis of Christianity and Aristotelianism (cf. Summa Theologica), resulting in the rise of “natural theology.”  
        2. Aquinas’ Franciscan counterpart, Bonaventure (1221-1274), was master of theology at the University of Paris and tried to incorporate Neoplatonism into the movement, vehemently defending the doctrines of Augustine.
        3. Another Franciscan, known as the father of modern epistemology, William of Occam (c.1285-1349) sealed natural theology in the Western mind, arguing that platonic universals had no real existence and were simply abstractions of the human mind (i.e “nominalism”).
    4. The Black Plague (c.1350)
      1. Transmitted from Central Asia along the Silk Road by Mongol armies and traders, the “Black Death” spread from Caffa to Sicily in 1347 and then throughout southern Europe.  It is variously estimated, depending on the area, to have killed 30% to 70% of Europe’s population.  Likewise, Africa, the Middle East, and China are estimated to have lost 1/3 to 1/2 of their populations.
      2. Monasteries and priests were especially hard hit since they cared for the victims of the plague, and disillusionment with the Church abounded since they had no answer for why it happened, nor a cure for it.  In the wake of the plague, religious extremism exploded, expressing itself in the flagellant movement (i.e. whipping of oneself) and the persecution of suspected causes of the plague.
      3. The plague also caused a severe economic depression and dealt the final blow to European feudalism.  Because the population had been decimated, labor was scarce, which led to a rise in demand and wage for peasants.  The lack of labor threatened manorial holdings throughout Europe, and as the nobility grasped to hang on to power, the peasant often revolted.
    5. The Italian Renaissance (c.1350-1550)
      1. As feudalism declined, a merchant class arose, often seeking independence from their feudal lords and the Church, which were thoroughly interconnected.  Moreover, the Church was going through great upheaval and turmoil due to the Avignon Papacy (1309-1376) and the Western Schism (1378-1417), which greatly diminished common support and following.
      2. This resulted in a widespread renewal of interest in ancient culture and learning in contrast to traditional powers.  The word renaissance (Rinascimento in Italian) actually means “rebirth”, in accord with the renewed interest in the culture of classical antiquity after the period that Renaissance humanists labeled the “Dark Ages”.
      3. The Renaissance began in Italy and eventually spread throughout Europe, in large part due to the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1445.  Combined with naval and weaponry innovations, this all helped usher in the “Age of Discovery.”