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The Middle Ages


Title: The Middle Ages Author: Keser, Luke Last modified by: Windows User Created Date: 9/8/2005 11:39:52 AM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Middle Ages

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, 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.

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  • 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.

Becoming a Knight
  • Needed to be a son from a wealthy family (horses
    and armor were expensive
  • At age seven, boys became Pages and began their
  • From ages 14-16, these Pages became Squires, or
    servants to a Knight.
  • When the Squires were ready, about age 20-21,
    they could become Knightsif theyd proved

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.

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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.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

  • 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.

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.

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.

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 Ages http//