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Medieval Society & Thought
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During the 11th and 12th centuries, Christians began to engage in violent military campaigns. They were fought against a variety of foes: Muslims, Jews, Mongols, other types of Christians and basically anyone else with different religious beliefs. These violent movements were caused by overzealous Christians wanting revenge for past wrongdoings (in cases like crusades against the Jews) or to take back holy lands such as Jerusalem.
The effects of the Crusades were widely felt, and both good and bad. Old roads coming back into use and new ones being built contributed to a huge increase in trade. Millions of lives were lost, and the Catholic church became more powerful than ever. Knowledge, especially scientific knowledge as well as refinement were things picked up by Europeans in the Middle East. Feudalism became less prevalent because many upper class individuals sold their land in order to help fund the crusades. Even if their lands weren't sold, often they would die in battles and their estates would be taken over by the crown. This gave the serfs of the time a chance to work their way into becoming middle class individuals. Serfs, or peasents, were the people who lived on the lands of the nobility. Though they were technically meant to be employees, nobles often tended to treat them more as commodities.They moved to towns and cities, and became business owners. The fact that people less important then nobles could work their way into a comfortable, non-taxed existance served to greatly undermine feudalism.This turned into both average people and the crown becoming more important in society. The men who left to fight in these crusades became a special kind of hero that followed their own way of living: the Code of Chivalry. Though there was no "official list" the Song of Roland contains the following interpretation of the rules that were supposed to be followed by these men.

  • To fear God and maintain His Church

  • To serve the liege lord in valour and faith

  • To protect the weak and defenceless

  • To give succour to widows and orphans

  • To refrain from the wanton giving of offence

  • To live by honour and for glory

  • To despise pecuniary reward

  • To fight for the welfare of all

  • To obey those placed in authority

  • To guard the honour of fellow knights

  • To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit

  • To keep faith

  • At all times to speak the truth

  • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun

  • To respect the honour of women

  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal

  • Never to turn the back upon a foe


Considering that this was a code followed by men in combat, most of the rules actually don't pertain directly to fighting. The basic principals were politeness, honour, respect and dignity. The reality in Europe though, was that these rules were often not followed. Often, it was more of a glorified ideal to think that most of the men were actually being so entirely gallant and brave.

The Church, especially with all of its newly gained power, was very influential in the lives of Europeans. Tithing to keep up the massive cathedrals was widespread, as the cathedrals were multi-purpose buildings used as town centers. However, the church did not have to buy the land on which to build these massive cathedrals were built and so they gained a lot of wealth. Many parts of people's lives were conducted in and around the church. Things like baptisms and marriages were important parts of life, and the church also provided some education in a largely uneducated society. Churches also drew pilgrims which stimulated the economy of whatever town it was contained in.

Saint Anselm of Canterbury was an Italian philosopher whos views contrasted with those of French philosopher Peter Abelard. Anselm believed that one must "believe in order to understand", while Abelard argued that one must "understand in order to believe". Abelard was an opinionated arguer, and he said that "by doubting we come into question, and by questioning we percieve the truth." Essentially, he is encouraging doubt and questioning which is something the church has not often been a fan of. He was not excommunicated, but he could have easily been. When people began to take on his opinions, education and learning obviously took on a more important role in society. People had a desire to read, and learn, and question things like the church.