The Middle Ages: Myth and Reality - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

1 / 93
About This Presentation

The Middle Ages: Myth and Reality


The Middle Ages: Myth and Reality The Middle Ages: The Myth We think of knights in shining armor, lavish banquets, wandering minstrels, kings, queens, bishops, monks ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:415
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 94
Provided by: anderson3
Tags: ages | middle | myth | reality


Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: The Middle Ages: Myth and Reality

The Middle AgesMyth and Reality
The Middle Ages The Myth
  • We think of knights in shining armor, lavish
    banquets, wandering minstrels, kings, queens,
    bishops, monks, pilgrims, and glorious pageantry.
  • In film and in literature, medieval life seems
    heroic, entertaining, and romantic.

The Middle Ages The Reality
  • In reality, life in the Middle Ages, a period
    that extended from approximately the 5th century
    to the 15th century in Western Europe, could also
    be harsh, uncertain, and dangerous.

The Lord of the Manor
  • For safety and defense, people in the Middle
    Ages formed small communities around a central
    lord or master.

The Manor
  • Most people lived on a manor, which consisted of
    the castle (or manor house), the church, the
    village, and the surrounding farm land.

(No Transcript)
  • Each manor was largely self-sufficient, growing
    or producing all of the basic items needed for
    food, clothing, and shelter.
  • To meet these needs, the manor had buildings
    devoted to special purposes, such as
  • The mill for grinding grain
  • The bake house for making bread
  • The blacksmith shop for creating metal goods.

  • These manors were isolated, with occasional
    visits from peddlers, pilgrims on their way to
    the Crusades, or soldiers from other fiefdoms.

The Feudal System
  • Under the feudal system, the king awarded land
    grants or fiefs to his most important nobles,
    barons, and bishops, in return for their
    contribution of soldiers for the king's armies.

Nobles and Vassals
  • Nobles divided their land among the lesser
    nobility, who became their vassals. Many of these
    vassals became so powerful that the kings had
    difficulty controlling them.

The Magna Carta
  • In 1215, the English barons formed an alliance
    that forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. It
    limited the king's powers of taxation and
    required trials by jury. It was the first time
    that an English monarch was subject to the law.

The Peasants
  • At the lowest level of society were the peasants,
    also called serfs or villeins.
  • The lord offered his peasants protection in
    exchange for living and working on his land.

Hard Work High Taxes
  • Peasants worked hard to cultivate the land and
    produce the goods that the lord and his manor
  • They were heavily taxed and were required to
    relinquish much of what they harvested.

Bound by law and custom
  • It is the custom in England, as with other
    countries, for the nobility to have great power
    over the common people, who are serfs. This means
    that they are bound by law and custom to plough
    the field of their masters, harvest the corn,
    gather it into barns, and thresh and winnow the
    grain they must also mow and carry home the hay,
    cut and collect wood, and perform all manner of
    tasks of this kind. -- Jean Froissart,

(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
Women Household Chores
  • Whether they were nobles or peasants, women held
    a difficult position in society.
  • They were largely confined to household tasks
    such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving,
    and spinning.

Hunting Fighting
  • However, they also hunted for food and fought in
    battles, learning to use weapons to defend their
    homes and castles.

Other Occupations
  • Some medieval women held other occupations. There
    were women blacksmiths, merchants, and

Midwives, Farmers, Artists
  • Others were midwives, worked in the fields, or
    were engaged in creative endeavors such as
    writing, playing musical instruments, dancing,
    and painting.

Witches Nuns
  • Some women were known as witches, capable of
    sorcery and healing. Others became nuns and
    devoted their lives to God and spiritual matters.

The Catholic Church
  • The Catholic Church was the only church in Europe
    during the Middle Ages, and it had its own laws
    and large income.
  • Church leaders such as bishops and archbishops
    sat on the king's council and played leading
    roles in government.

  • Bishops, who were often wealthy and came from
    noble families, ruled over groups of parishes
    called dioceses.
  • Many times, they were part of the feudal system
    and in exchange for a fief and peasants had to
    provide homage and military aid to a leige lord.

Parish Priests
  • Parish priests, on the other hand, came from
    humbler backgrounds and often had little
  • The village priest tended to the sick and
    indigent and, if he was able, taught Latin and
    the Bible to the youth of the village

  • Monasteries in the Middle Ages were based on the
    rules set down by St. Benedict in the sixth
    century. The monks became known as Benedictines
    and took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience
    to their leaders.

(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
  • Monks were required to perform manual labor and
    were forbidden to own property, leave the
    monastery, or become entangled in the concerns of
  • Daily tasks were often carried out in silence.

  • Monks and their female counterparts, nuns, who
    lived in convents, provided for the
    less-fortunate members of the community.
    Monasteries and nunneries were safe havens for
    pilgrims and other travelers.

Monastic Life
  • Monks and nuns went to the monastery church eight
    times a day in a routine of worship that involved
    singing, chanting, and reciting prayers from the
    divine offices and from the service for Mass.

The Divine Office
  • The first office, Matins, began at 2 AM and the
    next seven followed at regular intervals,
    culminating in Vespers in the evening and
    Compline before the monks and nuns retired at

  • Between prayers, the monks read or copied
    religious texts and music. Monks were often well
    educated and devoted their lives to writing and

  • Pilgrimages were an important part of religious
    life in the Middle Ages. Many people took
    journeys to visit holy shrines such the
    Canterbury Cathedral in England and sites in
    Jerusalem and Rome.

The Canterbury Tales
  • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a series of stories
    told by 30 pilgrims as they traveled to

  • Most medieval homes were cold, damp, and dark.
    Sometimes it was warmer and lighter outside the
    home than within its walls.

  • For security purposes, windows, when they were
    present, were very small openings with wooden
    shutters that were closed at night or in bad
    weather. The small size of the windows allowed
    those inside to see out, but kept outsiders from
    looking in.

Peasants Homes
  • Many peasant families ate, slept, and spent time
    together in very small quarters, rarely more than
    one or two rooms. The houses had thatched roofs
    and were easily destroyed.

House Construction
Medieval Village
(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
Homes of the Wealthy
  • The homes of the rich were more elaborate than
    the peasants' homes. Their floors were paved, as
    opposed to being strewn with rushes and herbs,
    and sometimes decorated with tiles. Tapestries
    were hung on the walls, providing not only
    decoration but also an extra layer of warmth.

(No Transcript)
(No Transcript)
Fenestral Windows
  • Fenestral windows, with lattice frames that were
    covered in a fabric soaked in resin and tallow,
    allowed in light, kept out drafts, and could be
    removed in good weather. Only the wealthy could
    afford panes of glass sometimes only churches
    and royal residences had glass windows.

The Kitchens of Peasant Homes
  • In simpler homes where there were no chimneys,
    the medieval kitchen consisted of a stone hearth
    in the center of the room. This was not only
    where the cooking took place, but also the source
    of central heating.

The Peasant Diet
  • In peasant families, the wife did the cooking and
    baking. The peasant diet consisted of breads,
    vegetables from their own gardens, dairy products
    from their own sheep, goats, and cows, and pork
    from their own livestock.

Herbs Pottage
  • Often the true taste of their meat, salted and
    used throughout the year, was masked by the
    addition of herbs, leftover breads, and
    vegetables. Some vegetables, such as cabbages,
    leeks, and onions became known as "pot-herbs."
    This pottage was a staple of the peasant diet

The Kitchens of Manor Houses
  • The kitchens of manor houses and castles had big
    fireplaces where meat, even large oxen, could be
    roasted on spits. These kitchens were usually in
    separate buildings, to minimize the threat of

Sources of Meat
  • Pantries were hung with birds and beasts,
    including swans, blackbirds, ducks, pigeons,
    rabbits, mutton, venison, and wild boar. Many of
    these animals were caught on hunts.

Woolen Linen Clothing
  • Most people in the Middles Ages wore woolen
    clothing, with undergarments made of linen.
    Brighter colors, better materials, and a longer
    jacket length were usually signs of greater

Clothing of the Wealthy
  • The clothing of the aristocracy and wealthy
    merchants tended to be elaborate and changed
    according to the dictates of fashion. Towards the
    end of the Middle Ages, men of the wealthy
    classes sported hose and a jacket, often with
    pleating or skirting, or a tunic with a surcoat.

(No Transcript)
Womens Clothing
  • Women wore flowing gowns and elaborate headwear,
    ranging from headdresses shaped like hearts or
    butterflies to tall steeple caps and Italian

(No Transcript)
Monks Clothing
  • Most of the holy orders wore long woolen habits
    in emulation of Roman clothing. One could tell
    the order by the color of the habit the
    Benedictines wore black the Cistercians and
    Dominicans, undyed wool or white, and the
    Franciscans, brown. St. Benedict stated that a
    monk's clothes should be plain but comfortable
    and they were allowed to wear linen coifs to keep
    their heads warm.

Nuns Clothing
  • The Poor Clare Sisters, an order of Franciscan
    nuns, had to petition the Pope in order to be
    permitted to wear woolen socks.

Peasant Clothing
  • Peasant men wore stockings and tunics, while
    women wore long gowns with sleeveless tunics and
    wimples to cover their hair. Sheepskin cloaks and
    woolen hats and mittens were worn in winter for
    protection from the cold and rain. Leather boots
    were covered with wooden patens to keep the feet

Outer and Under Garments
  • The outer clothes were almost never laundered,
    but the linen underwear was regularly washed. The
    smell of wood smoke that permeated the clothing
    seemed to act as a deodorant. Peasant women spun
    wool into the threads that were woven into the
    cloth for these garments.

Fur and Jewelry
  • Fur was often used to line the garments of the
    wealthy. Jewelry was lavish, much of it imported
    and often used as security against loans. Gem
    cutting was not invented until the fifteenth
    century, so most stones were not very lustrous.
    Ring brooches were the most popular item from the
    twelfth century on.

Love Conquers All
  • Chaucer's prioress in the Canterbury Tales wore a
    brooch with the inscription Amor vincit omnia
    (Love conquers all), not a particularly
    appropriate slogan for a nun.

Laws Governing Jewelry
  • Diamonds became popular in Europe in the
    fourteenth century. By the mid-fourteenth century
    there were laws to control who wore what jewelry
    , and knights were not permitted to wear rings.
    Sometimes clothes were garnished with silver, but
    only the wealthy could wear such items.

Health Hygiene
  • As the populations of medieval towns and cities
    increased, hygienic conditions worsened, leading
    to a vast array of health problems.

  • Medical knowledge was limited and, despite the
    efforts of medical practitioners and public and
    religious institutions to institute regulations,
    medieval Europe did not have an adequate health
    care system. Antibiotics weren't invented until
    the 1800s and it was almost impossible to cure
    diseases without them.

Myths and Superstitions
  • There were many myths and superstitions about
    health and hygiene as there still are today.
    People believed, for example, that disease was
    spread by bad odors. It was also assumed that
    diseases of the body resulted from sins of the
    soul. Many people sought relief from their ills
    through meditation, prayer, pilgrimages, and
    other nonmedical methods.

Four Humors
  • The body was viewed as a part of the universe, a
    concept derived from the Greeks and Romans. Four
    humors, or body fliuds, were directly related to
    the four elements.
  • Fire yellow bile or choler
  • Water phlegm
  • Earth black bile
  • Air blood.
  • These four humors had to be balanced. Too much of
    one was thought to cause a change in
    personality--for example, too much black bile
    could create melancholy.

  • Medicine was often a risky business. Bloodletting
    was a popular method of restoring a patient's
    health and "humors." Early surgery, often done by
    barbers without anesthesia, must have been

Medical Treatment
  • Medical treatment was available mainly to the
    wealthy, and those living in villages rarely had
    the help of doctors, who practiced mostly in the
    cities and courts. Remedies were often herbal in
    nature, but also included ground earthworms,
    urine, and animal excrement.

  • Many medieval medical manuscripts contained
    recipes for remedies that called for hundreds of
    therapeutic substances--the notion that every
    substance in nature held some sort of power
    accounts for the enormous variety of substances.

Lay Medical Judgments
  • Many treatments were administered by people
    outside the medical tradition. Coroners' rolls
    from the time reveal how lay persons often made
    sophisticated medical judgments without the aid
    of medical experts. From these reports we also
    learn about some of the major causes of death.

  • Performed as a last resort, surgery was known to
    be successful in cases of breast cancer, fistula,
    hemorrhoids, gangrene, and cataracts, as well as
    tuberculosis of the lymph glands in the neck
    (scrofula). The most common form of surgery was
    bloodletting it was meant to restore the balance
    of fluids in the body.

Arts Entertainment
  • Art and music were critical aspects of medieval
    religious life and, towards the end of the Middle
    Ages, secular life as well. Singing without
    instrumental accompaniment was an essential part
    of church services. Monks and priests chanted the
    divine offices and the mass daily.

Musical Instruments
  • Some churches had instruments such as organs and
    bells. The organistrum or symphony (later known
    as a hurdy gurdy) was also found in churches. Two
    people were required to play this stringed
    instrument--one to turn the crank and the other
    to play the keys.

  • Medieval drama grew out of the liturgy, beginning
    in about the eleventh century. Some of the
    topics were from the Old Testament (Noah and the
    flood, Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lion's
    den) and others were stories about the birth and
    death of Christ.

  • These dramas were performed with costumes and
    musical instruments and at first took place
    directly outside the church. Later they were
    staged in marketplaces, where they were produced
    by local guilds.

Town Life
  • After 1000, peace and order grew. As a result,
    peasants began to expand their farms and villages
    further into the countryside. The earliest
    merchants were peddlers who went from village to
    village selling their goods.

  • As the demand for goods increased--particularly
    for the gems, silks, and other luxuries from
    Genoa and Venice, the ports of Italy that traded
    with the East--the peddlers became more familiar
    with complex issues of trade, commerce,
    accounting, and contracts.

  • They became savvy businessmen and learned to deal
    with Italian moneylenders and bankers. The
    English, Belgians, Germans, and Dutch took their
    coal, timber, wood, iron, copper, and lead to the
    south and came back with luxury items such as
    wine and olive oil.

  • With the advent of trade and commerce, feudal
    life declined. As the tradesmen became wealthier,
    they resented having to give their profits to
    their lords.

  • Arrangements were made for the townspeople to pay
    a fixed annual sum to the lord or king and gain
    independence for their town as a "borough" with
    the power to govern itself. The marketplace
    became the focus of many towns.

Town Governments
  • As the townspeople became "free" citizens,
    powerful families, particularly in Italy,
    struggled to gain control of the communes or
    boroughs. Town councils were formed.

  • Guilds were established to gain higher wages for
    their members and protect them from competitors.
    As the guilds grew rich and powerful, they built
    guildhalls and began taking an active role in
    civic affairs, setting up courts to settle
    disputes and punish wrongdoers.

The Merchant Class
  • The new merchant class included artisans, masons,
    armorers, bakers, shoemakers, ropemakers, dyers,
    and other skilled workers.

  • Of all the craftsmen, the masons were the highest
    paid and most respected. They were, after all,
    responsible for building the cathedrals,
    hospitals, universities, castles, and guildhalls.

  • Masons learned their craft as apprentices to a
    master mason, living at lodges for up to seven
    years. The master mason was essentially an
    architect, a general contractor, and a teacher.

The First Companies
  • The population of cities swelled for the first
    time since before the Dark Ages. With the new
    merchant activity, companies were formed.
    Merchants hired bookkeepers, scribes, and clerks,
    creating new jobs.

The Printing Press
  • Printing began in 1450 with the publication of
    the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg. This
    revolutionized the spread of learning. Other
    inventions of the time included mechanical
    clocks, tower mills, and guns.

The Birth of the Renaissance
  • The inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and the
    voyages of discovery in the fifteenth century
    contributed to the birth of the Renaissance.

Urban Life
  • Few serfs were left in Europe by the end of the
    Middle Ages, and the growing burgher class became
    very powerful. Hard work and enterprise led to
    economic prosperity and a new social order. Urban
    life brought with it a new freedom for

  • Adapted from the Annenberg Media/
    website The Middle Ageshttp//
Write a Comment
User Comments (0)