Historical and Cultural Context

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E-Mail Doug at mrdoug@aznet.net or Melissa at melissa_mckinstry@hotmail.com

The High Middle Ages (1000-1300) - "The Age of Faith" in Europe

1000-1009 - Olaf I Tryggvesson of Norway, who with the assistance of English monks Christianized Norway, Iceland, and Greenland, dies fighting the forces of the Danish and Swedish Kings. With his death, the Danes conquer and rule Norway (http://www.historychannel.com).

1000-1150 - As a product of improved farming techniques - the iron plow pulled by horses replacing its wooden cousin pulled by oxen and the three-field system replacing the two-field system, scholars estimate that the population of western Europe rose by 40 percent, from around 30 million to about 42 million (WH, p. 224).

1059 - A Church decree declared that all future popes would be chosen at a meeting of leading bishops known as cardinals. No longer could the Roman mob, the local nobles, or even the emperor choose a pope (WH, p. 228)

Basilica, Paray-le-Monial, France - 1090-1110 -
Example of Romanesque architecture prevalent between 1000 and 1100

1100's - Few Europeans lived beyond the age of 50 (WH, p. 223).


1100 - The Chinese invented the magnetic compass (HM, p. 500).

The Last Judgment Relief, west tympanum, Autun Cathedral, Burgundy, France - c.1130-35 -

Notre Dame, Chartres, France, flying buttresses - 1145-1220 -

1145-1220 - After two generations of back-breaking labor, the townspeople of Chartres celebrated the dedication of their new cathedral (WH, p. 223). 

Medieval Cathedral of Notre-Dame, West Facade - Paris, France - 1163-1250 -


Locusts Come upon the Earth - c. 1180 -

1200 - Compared to great cities like Constantinople or Baghdad, European towns were still primitive and tiny. Europe's largest city, Paris, probably had no more than 30,000 people by the year 1200. A typical town in medieval Europe had only about 1,500 to 2,500 people (WH, p. 224).

1200 - According to canon law, bishops were to use at lest one fourth of all tithes to care for the sick and the poor. Orphans, lepers, and beggars received are from Church funds. Most hospitals in medieval Europe were operated by the Church. Around the year 1200, there were 400 hospitals in England and 12 in Paris alone. No needy person could be turned away (WH, p. 230).

1225 - Popes started its war against heresy. The Inquisition was an organization of experts whose job was to find the judge heretics. These men left no stone unturned in their search for heresy, even accepting rumors and gossip. A person who was suspected of heresy might be questioned for weeks and even tortured. It was almost impossible for a suspect to prove his or her innocence (WH, p. 230).


Synagoga (Synagogue), column figure, South Transept Portal, Strasbourg Cathedral - c. 1230 -

Church and Synagogue were common allegorical figures in the Middle Ages. Draped females, they are ways of representing the transition from the Old Law to the New. Synagogue is always a blindfolded figure, the blindfold representing moral or spiritual blindness or darkness, sin, and ignorance. Often a crown falls from the inclined head of Synagogue and the Tables of the Law fall from her hands.

1250 - Notre Dame Cathedral was completed in Paris (HM, p. 500).

Bible - Illuminated Gothic Manuscript - 1252-70 -

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E-Mail Doug at mrdoug@aznet.net or Melissa at melissa_mckinstry@hotmail.com

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