Part 8 out of 13
In this way were Church and State, all classes of society from the
wealthiest suzerain to the humblest tenant, bound together by feudal ties.
Everything was impressed with the stamp of Feudalism.
CLASSES OF FEUDAL SOCIETY.--Besides the nobility, or the landed class,
there were under the Feudal System three other classes, namely,
_freemen_, _serfs_ or _villeins_, and _slaves._ These lower classes made
up the great bulk of the population of a feudal state. The freemen were
the inhabitants of chartered towns, and in some countries the yeomanry, or
small farmers, who did not hold their lands by a regular feudal tenure.
The serfs, or villeins, were the laborers who cultivated the ground. The
peculiarity of their condition was that they were not allowed to move from
the estate where they lived, and when the land was sold they passed with
it just like any fixture. The slaves constituted a still lower class made
up of captives in war or of persons condemned to bondage as a penalty for
crime. These chattel slaves, however, almost disappeared before the
thirteenth century, being converted into the lowest order of serfs, which
was a step toward freedom.
CASTLES OF THE NOBLES.--The lawless and violent character of the times
during which Feudalism prevailed is well shown by the nature of the
residences of the nobles. These were strong stone fortresses, usually
perched upon some rocky eminence, and defended by moats and towers.
France, Germany, Italy, Northern Spain, England, and Scotland, in which
countries the Feudal System became most thoroughly developed, fairly
bristled with these fortified residences of the nobility. One of the most
striking and picturesque features of the scenery of many districts of
Europe at the present time is the ivy-mantled towers and walls of these
feudal castles, now falling into ruins.
CAUSES OF THE DECAY OF FEUDALISM.--Chief among the various causes which
undermined and at length overthrew Feudalism, were the hostility to the
system of the kings and the common people, the Crusades, the revolt of the
cities, and the introduction of fire-arms in the art of war.
[Illustration: FEUDAL CASTLE AT ROUEN.]
The Feudal System was hated and opposed by both the royal power and the
people. Kings opposed it and sought to break it down, because it left them
only the semblance of power. The people always hated it for the reason
that under it they were regarded as of less value than the game in the
The Crusades, or Holy Wars, that agitated all Europe during the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries did much to weaken the power of the nobles; for
in order to raise money for their expeditions, they frequently sold or
mortgaged their estates, and in this way power and influence passed into
the hands of the kings or of the wealthy merchants of the cities. Many of
the great nobles also perished in battle with the Infidels, and their
lands escheated to their suzerain, whose domains were thus augmented. The
growth of the towns also tended to the same end. As they increased in
wealth and influence, they became able to resist the exactions and tyranny
of the lord in whose fief they happened to be, and eventually were able to
secede, as it were, from his authority, and to make of themselves little
republics (see p. 464).
Again, the use of gunpowder in war hastened the downfall of Feudalism, by
rendering the yeoman foot-soldier equal to the armor-clad knight. "It made
all men of the same height." as Carlyle puts it.
But it is to be noted that, though Feudalism as a system of government
virtually disappeared during the latter part of the medi�val age, it still
continued to exist as a social organization. The nobles lost their power
and authority as rulers and magistrates, as petty sovereigns, but retained
generally their titles, privileges, and social distinctions.
DEFECTS OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.--Feudalism was perhaps the best form of
social organization that it was possible to maintain in Europe during the
medi�val period; yet it had many and serious defects, which rendered it
very far from being a perfect social or political system. Among its chief
faults may be pointed out the two following. First, it rendered impossible
the formation of strong national governments. Every country was divided
and subdivided into a vast number of practically independent
principalities. Thus, in the tenth century France was partitioned among
nearly two hundred overlords, all exercising equal and coordinate powers
of sovereignty. The enormous estates of these great lords were again
divided into about 70,000 smaller fiefs.
In theory, as we have seen, the holders of these petty estates were bound
to serve and obey their overlords, and these great nobles were in turn the
sworn vassals of the French king. But many of these lords were richer and
stronger than the king himself, and if they chose to cast off their
allegiance to him, he found it impossible to reduce them to obedience.
A second evil of the institution was its exclusiveness. It was, in theory,
only the person of noble birth that could become the holder of a fief. The
feudal lords constituted a proud and oppressive aristocracy. It was only
as the lower classes in the different countries gradually wrested from the
feudal nobility their special and unfair privileges, that a better form of
society arose, and civilization began to make more rapid progress.
GOOD RESULTS OF THE SYSTEM.--The most noteworthy of the good results
springing from the Feudal System was the development among its privileged
members of that individualism, that love of personal independence, which
we have seen to be a marked trait of the Teutonic character (see p. 369).
Turbulent, violent, and refractory as was the feudal aristocracy of
Europe, it performed the grand service of keeping alive during the later
medi�val period the spirit of liberty. It prevented Royalty from becoming
as despotic as it would otherwise have become. Thus in England, for
instance, the feudal lords held such tyrannical rulers as King John in
check, until such time as the yeomen and the burghers were bold enough and
strong enough alone to resist their despotically inclined sovereigns. In
France, where, unfortunately, the power of the feudal nobles was broken
too soon,--before the common people, the Third Estate, were prepared to
take up the struggle for liberty,--the result was the growth of that
autocratic, despotic Royalty which led the French people to the Revolution
and the Reign of Terror.
Another of the good effects of Feudalism was the impulse it gave to
certain forms of polite literature. Just as learning and philosophy were
fostered by the seclusion of the cloister, so were poetry and romance
fostered by the open and joyous hospitalities of the baronial hall. The
castle door was always open to the wandering singer and story-teller, and
it was amidst the scenes of festivity within that the ballads and romances
of medi�val minstrelsy and literature had their birth.
Still another service which Feudalism rendered to civilization was the
development within the baronial castle of those ideas and sentiments--
among others, a nice sense of honor and an exalted consideration for the
female sex--which found their noblest expression in Chivalry, of which
institution and its good effects upon the social life of Europe we shall
now proceed to speak.
CHIVALRY DEFINED: ORIGIN OF THE INSTITUTION.--Chivalry has been, aptly
defined as the "Flower of Feudalism." It was a military institution, or
order, the members of which, called _knights_, were pledged to the
protection of the church, and to the defence of the weak and the
oppressed. Although the germs of the system may be found in society before
the age of Charlemagne, still Chivalry did not assume its distinctive
character until the eleventh century, and died out during the fifteenth.
[Illustration: A KNIGHT IN FULL ARMOR. (Drawing by Alphonse de Neuville.)]
Chivalry seems to have had France for its cradle. That country at least
was its true home. There it was that it exhibited its most complete and
romantic development. Yet its influence was felt everywhere and in
everything. It colored all the events and enterprises of the latter half
of the Middle Ages. The literature of the period is instinct with its
spirit. The Crusades, or Holy Wars, the greatest undertakings of the
medi�val ages, were predominantly enterprises of the Christian chivalry of
TRAINING OF THE KNIGHT.--When Chivalry had once become established, all
the sons of the nobility, save such as were to enter the holy orders of
the Church, were set apart and disciplined for its service. The sons of
the poorer nobles were usually placed in the family of some superior lord
of renown and wealth, whose castle became a sort of school, where they
were trained in the duties and exercises of knighthood.
This education began at the early age of seven, the youth bearing the name
of page or varlet until he attained the age of fourteen, when he acquired
the title of squire or esquire. At the age of twenty-one the squire became
a knight, being then introduced to the order of knighthood by a peculiar
and impressive service. After a long fast and vigil, the candidate
listened to a lengthy sermon on his duties as a knight. Then kneeling, as
in the feudal ceremony of homage, before the lord conducting the services,
he vowed to defend religion and the ladies, to succor the distressed, and
ever to be faithful to his companion knights. His arms were now given to
him, and his sword was girded on, when the lord, striking him with the
flat of his sword on the shoulders or the neck, said, "In the name of God,
of St. Michael, and of St. George, I dub thee knight: be brave, bold, and
[Illustration: CONFERRING KNIGHTHOOD ON THE FIELD OF BATTLE.]
Sometimes knighthood was conferred with less ceremony upon the battle-
field, as the reward of signal bravery or address.
THE TOURNAMENT.--The tournament was the favorite amusement of the age of
Chivalry. It was a mimic battle between two companies of noble knights,
armed usually with pointless swords or blunted lances. In the universal
esteem in which the participants were held, it reminds us of the Sacred
Games of the Greeks; while in the fierce and sanguinary character it
sometimes assumed, especially before it was brought fully under the spirit
of Chivalry, it recalls the gladiatorial combats of the Roman
[Illustration: A TOURNAMENT.]
DECLINE OF CHIVALRY.--The fifteenth century was the evening of Chivalry.
The decline of the system resulted from the operation of the same causes
that effected the overthrow of Feudalism. The changes in the mode of
warfare which helped to do away with the feudal baron and his mail-clad
retainers, likewise tended to destroy knight errantry. And then as
civilization advanced, new feelings and sentiments began to claim the
attention, and to work upon the imagination of men. Governments, too,
became more regular, and the increased order and security of society
rendered less needful the services of the gallant knight in behalf of
INFLUENCE OF CHIVALRY.--The system of Chivalry had many vices, chief among
which were its exclusive, aristocratic tendencies. An indignant writer
declares that "it is not probable that the knights supposed they could be
guilty of injustice to the lower classes." These were regarded with
indifference or contempt, and considered as destitute of any claims upon
those of noble birth as were beasts of burden or the game of the chase. It
is always the young and beautiful lady of gentle birth whose wrongs the
valiant knight is risking his life to avenge, always the smiles of the
"queen of love and beauty" for which he is splintering his lance in the
fierce tournament. The fostering of this aristocratic spirit was one of
the most serious faults of Chivalry.
But to speak of the beneficial, refining influences of Chivalry, we should
say that it undoubtedly contributed powerfully to lift that sentiment of
respect for the gentler sex that characterized all the Northern nations,
into that reverence for womanhood which forms one of the distinguishing
characteristics of the present age.
Again, Chivalry did much towards producing that type of manhood among us
which we rightly think to surpass any ever formed under the influences of
antiquity. Just as Christianity gave to the world an ideal manhood which
it was to strive to realize, so did Chivalry hold up an ideal to which men
were to conform their lives. Men, indeed, have never perfectly realized
either the ideal of Christianity or that of Chivalry; but the influence
which these two ideals have had in shaping and giving character to the
lives of men cannot be overestimated. Together, through the enthusiasm and
effort awakened for their realization, they produced a new type of
manhood, which we indicate by the phrase "a knightly and Christian
[Illustration: LANDING IN ENGLAND OF WILLIAM OF NORMANDY. (From the Bayeux
THE NORMAN CONQUEST OF ENGLAND.
INTRODUCTORY.--The history of the Normans--the name, it will be recalled,
of the transformed Scandinavians who settled in Northern Gaul (see p.
4l3)--is simply a continuation of the story of the Northmen. The most
important of the enterprises of the Normans, and one followed by
consequences of the greatest magnitude not only to the conquered people,
but indirectly to the world, was their conquest of England. [Footnote: Not
long before the Normans conquered England, they succeeded in gaining a
foothold in the south of Italy, where they established a sort of republic,
which ultimately included the island of Sicily. The fourth president of
the commonwealth was the celebrated Robert Guiscard (d. 1085), who spread
the renown of the Norman name throughout the Mediterranean lands. This
Norman state, converted finally into a kingdom, lasted until late in the
twelfth century (1194).]
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE CONQUEST.--In the year 1066 Edward the Confessor
died, in whose person, it will be recalled, the old English line was
restored after the Danish usurpation (see p. 412). Immediately the Witan,
that is, the assembly of the chief men of the nation, in accordance with
the dying wish of the king, chose Harold, Earl of the West Saxons, son of
the famous Godwin, and the best and strongest man in all England, to be
When the news of the action of the Witan and of Harold's acceptance of the
English crown was carried across the channel to William, Duke of Normandy,
he was really or feignedly transported with rage. He declared that Edward,
who was his cousin, had during his lifetime promised the throne to him,
and that Harold had assented to this, and by solemn oath engaged to
sustain him. He now demanded of Harold that he surrender to him the
usurped throne, threatening the immediate invasion of the island in case
he refused. King Harold answered the demand by expelling from the country
the Normans who had followed Edward into the kingdom, and by collecting
fleets and armies for the defence of his dominions.
While Harold was watching the southern coasts against the Normans, a
Danish host appeared in the north, led by Tostig, the traitor brother of
the English king, and Harold Hardrada, king of Norway. The English army in
that quarter, attempting to withstand the invaders, was cut to pieces; and
the important city of York fell into the hands of the Northmen. As soon as
news of this disaster was borne to King Harold in the south, he instantly
marched northward with his army, and at Stamford Bridge met the invaders,
and there gained a decisive victory over them.
THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS (1066).--The festivities that followed the victory
of Stamford Bridge were not yet ended, when a messenger from the south
brought to Harold intelligence of the landing of the Normans. Hurrying
southward with his army, Harold came face to face with the forces of
William at Senlac, a short distance from the port of Hastings.
The battle soon opened--the battle that was to determine the fate of
England. It was begun by a horseman riding out from the Norman lines and
advancing alone toward the English army, tossing up his sword and
skilfully catching it as it fell, and singing all the while the stirring
battle-song of Charlemagne and Roland (see p. 405). The English watched
with astonishment this exhibition of "careless dexterity," and if they did
not contrast the vivacity and nimbleness of the Norman foe with their own
heavy and clumsy manners, others at least have not failed to do so for
The battle once joined, the conflict was long and terrific. The day
finally went against the English. Harold fell, pierced through the eye by
an arrow; and William was master of the field (1066).
The conqueror now marched upon London, and at Westminster Abbey, on
Christmas Day, 1066, was crowned and anointed king of England.
[ILLUSTRATION: BATTLE OF HASTINGS. (From the Bayeux Tapestry.)]
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE LAND.--Almost the first act of William after he
had established his power in England was to fulfil his promise to the
nobles who had aided him in his enterprise, by distributing among them the
unredeemed [Footnote: "When the lands of all those who had fought for
Harold were confiscated, those who were willing to acknowledge William
were allowed to redeem theirs, either paying money at once, or giving
hostages for the payment."--Stubbs, Const. Hist. I. 258.] estates of the
English who had fought at Hastings in defence of their king and country.
Large as was the number of these confiscated estates, there would have
been a lack of land to satisfy all, had not subsequent uprisings against
the authority of William afforded him an opportunity to confiscate almost
all the soil of England as forfeited by treason.
Profiting by the lesson taught by the wretched condition of France, which
country was kept in a state of constant turmoil by a host of feudal chiefs
and lords many of whom were almost or quite as powerful as the king
himself, William took care that in the distribution no feudatory should
receive an entire shire, save in two or three exceptional cases. To the
great lord to whom he must needs give a large fief, he granted, not a
continuous tract of land, but several estates, or manors, scattered in
different parts of the country, in order that there might be no dangerous
concentration of property or power in the hands of the vassal. He also
required of all the sub-vassals of the realm, in addition to their oath of
allegiance to their own lord, an oath of fealty to the crown. This was a
most important modification of feudal custom. On the Continent, the sub-
tenant swore allegiance to his own lord simply, and was in duty bound to
aid him in all his wars, even in one against the sovereign. But the oath
of allegiance to himself exacted by William of all holders of fiefs, just
reversed this, and made it the first duty of the sub-vassal, even in the
case of a war between his lord and the king, to follow and obey the king.
Furthermore, William denied to his feudatories the right of coining money
or making laws; and by other wise restrictions upon their power, he saved
England from those endless contentions and petty wars that were
distracting almost every other country of Europe.
THE NORMAN SUCCESSORS OF THE CONQUEROR.--For nearly three-quarters of a
century after the death of William the Conqueror, England was ruled by
Norman kings. [Footnote: William II., known as Rufus "the Red" (1087-
1100); Henry I., surnamed Beauclerc, "the good scholar" (1100-1135); and
Stephen of Blois (1135-1154). William and Henry were sons, and Stephen a
grandson, of the conqueror.] The latter part of this period was a
troublous time. The succession to the crown coming into dispute, civil war
broke out. The result of the contention was a decline in the royal power,
and the ascendency of the Norman barons, who for a time made England the
scene of the same feudal anarchy that prevailed at this time upon the
Continent. Finally, in 1154, the Norman dynasty gave place to that of the
Plantagenets. Under Henry II., the first king of the new house, and an
energetic and strong ruler, the barons were again brought into proper
subjection to the crown, and many castles which had been built without
royal permission during the preceding anarchical period, and some of which
at least were little better than robbers' dens, were destroyed.
ADVANTAGES TO ENGLAND OF THE NORMAN CONQUEST.--The most important and
noteworthy result of the Norman Conquest of England, was the establishment
in the island of a strong centralized government. England now for the
first time became a real kingdom.
A second result of the Conquest was the founding of a new feudal
aristocracy. Even to this day there is a great preponderance of Norman
over English blood in the veins of the nobility of England.
A third result was the bringing of England into more intimate relations
with the nations of continental Europe, by which means her advance in art,
science, and general culture was greatly promoted.
[Illustration: CRUSADERS ON THE MARCH.]
1. INTRODUCTORY: CAUSES OF THE CRUSADES.
GENERAL STATEMENT.--The Crusades were great military expeditions
undertaken by the Christian nations of Europe for the purpose of rescuing
from the hands of the Mohammedans the holy places of Palestine. They were
eight in number, the first four being sometimes called the Principal
Crusades, and the remaining four the Minor Crusades. Besides these there
were a Children's Crusade, and several other expeditions, which, being
insignificant in numbers or results, are not usually enumerated.
CAUSES OF THE CRUSADES.--Among the early Christians it was thought a pious
and meritorious act to undertake a journey to some sacred place.
Especially was it thought that a pilgrimage to the land that had been trod
by the feet of the Saviour of the world, to the Holy City that had
witnessed his martyrdom, was a peculiarly pious undertaking, and one which
secured for the pilgrim the special favor and blessing of Heaven.
The Saracen caliphs, for the four centuries and more that they held
possession of Palestine, pursued usually an enlightened policy towards the
pilgrims, even encouraging pilgrimages as a source of revenue. But in the
eleventh century the Seljukian Turks, a prominent Tartar tribe, zealous
proselytes of Islam, wrested from the caliphs almost all their Asiatic
possessions. The Christians were not long in realizing that power had
fallen into new hands. Pilgrims were insulted and persecuted in every way.
The churches in Jerusalem were destroyed or turned into stables.
Now, if it were a meritorious thing to make a pilgrimage to the Holy
Sepulchre, much more would it be a pious act to rescue the sacred spot
from the profanation of infidels. This was the conviction that changed the
pilgrim into a warrior,--this the sentiment that for two centuries and
more stirred the Christian world to its profoundest depths, and cast the
population of Europe in wave after wave upon Asia.
Although this religious feeling was the principal cause of the Crusades,
still there was another concurring cause which must not be overlooked.
This was the restless, adventurous spirit of the Teutonic peoples of
Europe, who had not as yet outgrown their barbarian instincts. The feudal
knights and lords, just now animated by the rising spirit of chivalry,
were very ready to enlist in an undertaking so consonant with their
martial feelings and their new vows of knighthood.
PREACHING OF PETER THE HERMIT.--The _immediate_ cause of the First
Crusade was the preaching of Peter the Hermit, a native of Picardy, in
France. Having been commissioned by Pope Urban II. to preach a crusade,
the Hermit traversed all Italy and France, addressing everywhere, in the
church, in the street, and in the open field, the crowds that flocked
about him, moving all hearts with sympathy or firing them with
indignation, as he recited the sufferings of their brethren at the hands
of the infidels, or pictured the profanation of the holy places, polluted
by the presence and insults of the unbelievers.
THE COUNCILS OF PLACENTIA AND CLERMONT.--While Peter the Hermit had been
arousing the warriors of the West, the Turks had been making constant
advances in the East, and were now threatening Constantinople itself. The
Greek emperor (Alexius Comnenus) sent urgent letters to the Pope, asking
for aid against the infidels, representing that, unless assistance was
extended immediately, the capital with all its holy relics must soon fall
into the hands of the barbarians.
Urban called a great council of the Church at Placentia, in Italy, to
consider the appeal (1095), but nothing was effected. Later in the same
year a new council was convened at Clermont, in France, Urban purposely
fixing the place of meeting among the warm tempered and martial Franks.
The Pope himself was one of the chief speakers. He was naturally eloquent,
so that the man, the cause, and the occasion all conspired to achieve one
of the greatest triumphs of human oratory. He pictured the humiliation and
misery of the provinces of Asia; the profanation of the places made sacred
by the presence and footsteps of the Son of God; and then he detailed the
conquests of the Turks, until now, with all Asia Minor in their
possession, they were threatening Europe from the shores of the
Hellespont. "When Jesus Christ summons you to his defence," exclaimed the
eloquent pontiff, "let no base affection detain you in your homes; whoever
will abandon his house, or his father, or his mother, or his wife, or his
children, or his inheritance, for the sake of my name, shall be
recompensed a hundred-fold, and possess life eternal."
Here the enthusiasm of the vast assembly burst through every restraint.
With one voice they cried, _Dieu le volt! Dieu le volt!_ "It is the
will of God! It is the will of God!" Thousands immediately affixed the
cross to their garments, [Footnote: Hence the name Crusade given to the
Holy Wars, from old French _crois_ cross.] as a pledge of their sacred
engagement to go forth to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre. The fifteenth
day of August of the following year was set for the departure of the
2. THE FIRST CRUSADE (1096-1099).
MUSTERING OF THE CRUSADERS.--All Western Europe now rang with the cry, "He
who will not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me." The
contagion of enthusiasm seized all classes; for while the religious
feelings of the age had been specially appealed to, all the various
sentiments of ambition, chivalry, love of license, had also been skilfully
enlisted on the side of the undertaking. The council of Clermont had
declared Europe to be in a state of peace, and pronounced anathemas
against any one who should invade the possessions of a prince engaged in
the holy war. By further edicts of the assembly, the debtor was released
from meeting his obligations while a soldier of the Cross, and during this
period the interest on his debt was to cease; and the criminal, as soon as
he assumed the badge of the crusader, was by that act instantly absolved
from all his sins of whatever nature.
Under such inducements princes and nobles, bishops and priests, monks and
anchorites, saints and sinners, rich and poor, hastened to enroll
themselves beneath the consecrated banner. "Europe," says Michaud,
"appeared to be a land of exile, which every one was eager to quit."
THE VANGUARD.--Before the regular armies of the crusaders were ready to
move, those who had gathered about Peter the Hermit, becoming impatient of
delay, urged him to place himself at their head and lead them at once to
the Holy Land. Dividing command of the mixed multitudes with a poor
knight, called Walter the Penniless, and followed by a throng of about
80,000 persons, among whom were many women and children, the Hermit set
out for Constantinople by the overland route through Germany and Hungary.
Thousands of the crusaders fell in battle with the natives of the
countries through which they marched, and thousands more perished
miserably of hunger and exposure. Those that crossed the Bosporus were
surprised by the Turks, and almost all were slaughtered. Thus perished the
forlorn hope of the First Crusade.
MARCH OF THE MAIN BODY.--Meanwhile there were gathering in the West
disciplined armies composed of men worthy to be champions of the holy
cause they had espoused. Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine, and
Tancred, "the mirror of knighthood," were among the most noted of the
leaders of the different divisions of the army. The expedition numbered
about 700,000 men, of whom fully 100,000 were mailed knights.
The crusaders traversed Europe by different routes and reassembled at
Constantinople. Crossing the Bosporus, they first captured Nic�a, the
Turkish capital, in Bithynia, and then set out across Asia Minor for
Syria. The line of their dreary march between Nic�a and Antioch was
whitened with the bones of nearly one-half their number. Arriving at
Antioch, the survivors captured that place, and then, after some delays,
pushed on towards Jerusalem. When at length the Holy City burst upon
their view, a perfect delirium of joy seized the crusaders. They embraced
one another with tears of joy, and even embraced and kissed the ground on
which they stood. As they passed on, they took off their shoes, and
marched with uncovered head and bare feet, singing the words of the
prophet: "Jerusalem, lift up thine eyes, and behold the liberator who
comes to break thy chains."
The first assault made by the Christians upon the walls of the city was
repulsed; but the second was successful, and the city was in the hands of
the crusaders (1099). A terrible slaughter of the infidels now took place.
For seven days the carnage went on, at the end of which time scarcely any
of the Moslem faith were left alive. The Christians took possession of the
houses and property of the infidels, each soldier having a right to that
which he had first seized and placed his mark upon.
FOUNDING OF THE LATIN KINGDOM OF JERUSALEM.--No sooner was Jerusalem in
the hands of the crusaders than they set themselves to the task of
organizing a government for the city and country they had conquered. The
government which they established was a sort of feudal league, known as
the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. At its head was placed Godfrey of
Bouillon, the most valiant and devoted of the crusader knights. The prince
refused the title and vestments of royalty, declaring that he would never
wear a crown of gold in the city where his Lord and Master had worn a
crown of thorns. The only title he would accept was that of "Defender of
the Holy Sepulchre."
Many of the crusaders, considering their vows fulfilled, now set out on
their return to their homes, some making their way back by sea and some by
land. Godfrey, Tancred, and a few hundred other knights, were all that
stayed behind to maintain the conquests that had been made, and to act as
guardians of the holy places.
3. THE SECOND CRUSADE (1147-1149).
ORIGIN OF THE RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD.--In the interval between the
Second and the Third Crusade, the two famed religious military orders,
known as the Hospitallers and the Templars, [Footnote: The Hospitallers,
or Knights of St. John, took their name from the fact that the
organization was first formed among the monks of the Hospital of St. John,
at Jerusalem; while the Templars, or Knights of the Temple, were so called
on account of one of the buildings of the brotherhood occupying the site
of Solomon's Temple.] were formed. A little later, during the Third
Crusade, still another fraternity, known as the Teutonic Knights was
established. The objects of all the orders were the care of the sick and
wounded crusaders, the entertainment of Christian pilgrims, the guarding
of the holy places, and ceaseless battling for the Cross. These
fraternities soon acquired a military fame that was spread throughout the
Christian world. They were joined by many of the most illustrious knights
of the West, and through the gifts of the pious acquired great wealth, and
became possessed of numerous estates and castles in Europe as well as in
PREACHING OF ST. BERNARD; FAILURE OF THE CRUSADE.--In the year 1146, the
city of Edessa, the bulwark of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem on the side
towards Mesopotamia, was taken by the Turks, and the entire population was
slaughtered, or sold into slavery. This disaster threw the entire West
into a state of the greatest alarm, lest the little Christian state,
established at such cost of tears and suffering, should be completely
overwhelmed, and all the holy places should again fall into the hands of
The scenes that marked the opening of the First Crusade were now repeated
in all the countries of the West. St. Bernard, an eloquent monk, was the
second Peter the Hermit, who went everywhere, arousing the warriors of the
Cross to the defence of the birthplace of their religion. The contagion of
the holy enthusiasm seized not only barons, knights, and the common
people, which classes alone participated in the First Crusade, but kings
and emperors were now infected with the sacred frenzy. Conrad III.,
emperor of Germany, was persuaded to leave the affairs of his distracted
empire in the hands of God, and consecrate himself to the defence of the
sepulchre of Christ. Louis VII., king of France, was led to undertake the
crusade through remorse for an act of great cruelty that he had
perpetrated upon some of his revolted subjects. [Footnote: The act which
troubled the king's conscience was the burning of thirteen hundred people
in a church, whither they had fled for refuge.]
The strength of both the French and the German division of the expedition
was wasted in Asia Minor, and the crusade accomplished nothing.
4. THE THIRD CRUSADE (1189-1192).
THE THREE LEADERS.--The Third Crusade was caused by the capture of
Jerusalem (1187) by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt. Three of the great
sovereigns of Europe, Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Philip Augustus of
France, and Richard I. of England, assumed the Cross, and set out, each at
the head of a large army, for the recovery of the Holy City.
The English king, Richard, afterwards given the title of _Coeur de
Lion_, the "Lion-hearted," in memory of his heroic exploits in Palestine,
was the central figure among the Christian knights of this crusade. He
raised money for the enterprise by the persecution and robbery of the
Jews; by the imposition of an unusual tax upon all classes; and by the
sale of offices, dignities, and the royal lands. When some one
expostulated with him on the means employed to raise money, he declared
that "he would sell the city of London, if he could find a purchaser."
DEATH OF FREDERICK BARBAROSSA: SIEGE OF ACRE.--The German army, attempting
the overland route, was consumed in Asia Minor by the hardships of the
march and the swords of the Turks. The Emperor Frederick, according to the
most probable accounts, was drowned while crossing a swollen stream, and
the most of the survivors of his army, disheartened by the loss of their
leader, returned to Germany.
The English and French kings finally mustered their forces beneath the
walls of Acre, which city the Christians were then besieging. It is
estimated that 600,000 men were engaged in the investment of the place.
After one of the longest and most costly sieges they ever carried on in
Asia, the crusaders at last forced the place to capitulate, in spite of
all the efforts of Saladin to render the garrison relief.
RICHARD AND SALADIN.--The knightly adventures and chivalrous exploits
which mark the career of Richard in the Holy Land read like a romance. Nor
was the chief of the Mohammedans, the renowned Saladin, lacking in any of
those knightly virtues with which the writers of the time invested the
character of the English hero. At one time, when Richard was sick with a
fever, Saladin, knowing that he was poorly supplied with delicacies, sent
him a gift of the choicest fruits of the land. And on another occasion,
Richard's horse having been killed in battle, the sultan caused a fine
Arabian steed to be led to the Christian camp as a present for his rival.
For two years did Richard the Lion-hearted vainly contend in almost daily
combat with his generous antagonist for the possession of the tomb of
Christ. He finally concluded a truce of three years and eight months with
Saladin, which provided that the Christians during that period should have
free access to the holy places, and remain in undisturbed possession of
the coast from Jaffa to Tyre.
5. THE FOURTH CRUSADE (1202-1204).
CAPTURE OF CONSTANTINOPLE BY THE LATINS.--None of the Crusades after the
Third effected much in the Holy Land; either their force was spent before
reaching it, or they were diverted from their purpose by different objects
The crusaders of the Fourth expedition captured Constantinople instead of
Jerusalem. The circumstances were these: A usurper had seized upon the
Byzantine throne. The rightful claimant, Alexius, besought the aid of the
Frankish warriors to regain the sceptre. The Christian knights listened
favorably to his appeals. The Venetians, in consideration of a share of
the conquests that might be made, also joined their forces to those of the
crusaders. Constantinople was taken by storm, and Alexius was invested
with the Imperial authority.
Scarcely was Alexius seated upon the throne, before the turbulent Greeks
engaged in a revolt which resulted in his death. The crusaders now
resolved to take possession of the capital, and set a Latin prince on the
throne of Constantine. The determination was carried out. Constantinople
was taken a second time by storm, and sacked, and Baldwin, Count of
Flanders, was crowned Emperor of the East.
The Latin empire thus established lasted only a little over half a century
(1204-1261). The Greeks, at the end of this period, succeeded in regaining
the throne, which they then held until the capture of Constantinople by
the Turks in 1453.
6. CLOSE OF THE CRUSADES: THEIR RESULTS.
THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE (1212).--During the interval between the Fourth and
the Fifth Crusade, the epidemical fanaticism that had so long agitated
Europe seized upon the children, resulting in what is known as the
The preacher of this crusade was a child about twelve years of age, a
French peasant lad, named Stephen, who became persuaded that Jesus Christ
had commanded him to lead a crusade of children to the rescue of the Holy
Sepulchre. The children became wild with excitement, and flocked in vast
crowds to the places appointed for rendezvous. Nothing could restrain them
or thwart their purpose. "Even bolts and bars," says an old chronicler,
"could not hold them."
The movement excited the most diverse views. Some declared that it was
inspired by the Holy Spirit, and quoted such Scriptural texts as these to
justify the enthusiasm: "A child shall lead them;" "Out of the mouth of
babes and sucklings thou hast ordained praise." Others, however, were
quite as confident that the whole thing was the work of the Devil.
The great majority of those who collected at the rallying places were boys
under twelve years of age, but there were also many girls. The German
children, 50,000 in number, crossed the Alps, and marched down the Italian
shores, looking for a miraculous pathway through the Mediterranean. From
Brundusium 2000 or 3000 of the little crusaders sailed away into oblivion.
Not a word ever came back from them.
The French children--about 30,000 in number--set out from the place of
rendezvous for Marseilles. Those that sailed from that port were betrayed,
and sold as slaves in Alexandria and other Mohammedan slave markets.
This remarkable spectacle of the children's crusade affords the most
striking exhibition possible of the ignorance, superstition, and
fanaticism that characterized the period. Yet we cannot but reverence the
holy enthusiasm of an age that could make such sacrifices of innocence and
helplessness in obedience to what was believed to be the will of God.
The children's expedition marked at once the culmination and the decline
of the crusading movement. The fanatic zeal that inspired the first
crusaders was already dying out. "These children," said the Pope,
referring to the young crusaders, "reproach us with having fallen asleep,
whilst they were flying to the assistance of the Holy Land."
THE MINOR CRUSADES: END OF THE KINGDOM OF JERUSALEM.--The last four
expeditions--the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth--undertaken by the
Christians of Europe against the infidels of the East, may be conveniently
grouped as the Minor Crusades. They were marked by a less fervid and holy
enthusiasm than that which characterized the first movements, and exhibit
among those taking part in them the greatest variety of objects and
ambitions. [Footnote: The _Fifth Crusade_ (1216-1220) was led by the
kings of Hungary and Cyprus. Its strength was wasted in Egypt, and it
resulted in nothing The _Sixth Crusade_ (1227-1229), headed by Frederick
II. of Germany, succeeded in securing from the Saracens the restoration of
Jerusalem, together with several other cities of Palestine. The _Seventh
Crusade_ (1249-1254) was under the lead of Louis IX. Of France, surnamed
the Saint. The _Eighth Crusade_ (1270-1272) was incited by the fresh
misfortunes that, towards the close of the thirteenth century, befell the
Christian kingdom in Palestine. The two principal leaders of the
expedition were Louis IX. of France, and Prince Edward of England,
afterwards Edward I. Louis directed his forces against the Moors about
Tunis, in North Africa. Here the king died of the plague. Nothing was
effected by this division of the expedition. The division led by the
English prince, was, however, more fortunate. Edward succeeded in
capturing Nazareth, and in compelling the sultan of Egypt to agree to a
treaty favorable to the Christians (1272).] The flame of the Crusades had
burned itself out, and the fate of the little Christian kingdom in Asia,
isolated from Europe, and surrounded on all sides by bitter enemies,
became each day more and more apparent. Finally the last of the places
(Acre) held by the Christians fell before the attacks of the Mamelukes of
Egypt, and with this event the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem came to an end
(1291). The second great combat between Mohammedanism and Christianity was
over, and "silence reigned along the shore that had so long resounded with
the world's debate."
RESULTS OF THE CRUSADES.--The Crusades kept all Europe in a tumult for two
centuries, and directly and indirectly cost Christendom several millions
of lives (from 2,000,000 to 6,000,000 according to different estimates),
besides incalculable expenditures in treasure and suffering. They were,
moreover, attended by all the disorder, license, and crime with which war
is always accompanied.
On the other hand, the Holy Wars were productive indirectly of so much and
lasting good that they form a most important factor in the history of the
progress of civilization. To show this to be so, we will speak briefly of
their influence upon the Church, and upon the political, the social, the
intellectual, and the material progress and development of the European
The Crusades contributed to increase the wealth of the Church and the
power of the Papacy. Thus the prominent part which the Popes took in the
enterprises naturally fostered their authority and influence, by placing
in their hands, as it were, the armies and resources of Christendom, and
accustoming the people to look to them as guides and leaders. As to the
wealth of the churches and monasteries, this was augmented enormously by
the sale to them, often for a mere fraction of their actual value, of the
estates of those preparing for the expeditions, or by the out and out gift
of the lands of such in return for prayers and pious benedictions. Again,
thousands of the crusaders, returning broken in spirits and in health,
sought an asylum in cloistral retreats, and endowed the establishments
that they entered with all their worldly goods. Besides all this, the
stream of the ordinary gifts of piety was swollen by the extraordinary
fervor of religious enthusiasm which characterized the period into
enormous proportions. In all these ways, the power of the Papacy and the
wealth of the Church were vastly augmented. [Footnote: It should be said
in regard to this increase in the riches of the Church and the authority
of the Popes, that while Catholics count this as one of the good results
of the Holy Wars, Protestants consider it as one of the evils of the
movements, urging that it led to papal tyranny and to the corruption of
As to the political effects of the Crusades, they helped to break down the
power of the feudal aristocracy, and to give prominence to the kings and
the people. Many of the nobles who set out on the expeditions never
returned, and their estates, through failure of heirs, escheated to the
Crown; while many more wasted their fortunes in meeting the expenses of
their undertaking. At the same time, the cities also gained many political
advantages at the expense of the crusading barons and princes. Ready money
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was largely in the hands of the
burgher class, and in return for the contributions and loans they made to
their overlords, or suzerains, they received charters conferring special
and valuable privileges. And under this head of the political effects of
the Crusades, it should be noticed that, in checking the advance of the
Turks, they postponed the fall of Constantinople for three centuries or
more. This gave the young Christian civilization of Germany time to
acquire sufficient strength to roll back the returning tide of Mohammedan
invasion when it broke upon Europe in the fifteenth century.
The effects of the Crusades upon the social life of the Western nations
were marked and important. Giving opportunity for romantic adventure, they
were one of the principal fostering influences of Chivalry; while by
bringing the rude peoples of the West in contact with the culture of the
East, they exerted upon them a general refining influence.
The influence of the Crusades upon the intellectual development of Europe
can hardly be overestimated. Above all, they liberalized the minds of the
crusaders. Furthermore, the knowledge of the science and learning of the
East gained by the crusaders through their expeditions, greatly stimulated
the Latin intellect, and helped to awaken in Western Europe that mental
activity which resulted finally in the great intellectual outburst known
as the Revival of Learning (see p. 471).
Among the effects of the Holy Wars upon the material development of Europe
must be mentioned the spur they gave to commercial enterprise, especially
to the trade and commerce of the Italian cities. During this period,
Venice, Pisa, and Genoa acquired great wealth and reputation through the
fostering of their trade by the needs of the crusaders, and the opening up
of the East. The Mediterranean was whitened with the sails of their
transport ships, which were constantly plying between the various ports of
Europe and the towns of the Syrian coast. Moreover, various arts,
manufactures, and inventions before unknown in Europe, were introduced
from Asia. This enrichment of the civilization of the West with the
"spoils of the East" we may allow to be emblemized by the famous bronze
horses that the crusaders carried off from Constantinople, and set up
before St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice.
Lastly, the incentive given to geographical discovery led various
travellers, such as the celebrated Italian, Marco Polo, and the scarcely
less noted Englishman, Sir John Mandeville, to explore the most remote
countries of Asia. Even that spirit of maritime enterprise and adventure
which rendered illustrious the fifteenth century, inspiring the voyages of
Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Magellan, may be traced back to that lively
interest in geographical matters awakened by the expeditions of the
SUPREMACY OF THE PAPACY: DECLINE OF ITS TEMPORAL POWER.
INTRODUCTORY.--In a previous chapter we traced the gradual rise of the
spiritual and temporal power of the Papacy, and stated the several
theories respecting its relation to secular rulers. In the present
chapter, we purpose to follow its increasing power to the culmination of
its authority in the thirteenth century, and then to speak of some of the
circumstances that caused, or that marked, the decline of its temporal
POPE GREGORY VII. (HILDEBRAND) AND HIS REFORMS.--One of the greatest
promoters of the papal fortunes was Pope Gregory VII., perhaps better
known as Hildebrand, the most noteworthy character after Charlemagne that
the Middle Ages produced. In the year 1049 he was called from the
cloisters of a French monastery to Rome, there to become the maker and
adviser of Popes, and finally to be himself elevated to the pontifical
throne, which he held from 1073 to 1080. Being a man of great force of
character and magnificent breadth of view, he did much towards
establishing the universal spiritual and temporal sovereignty of the Holy
In carrying out his purpose of exalting the Papal See above all prelates
and princes, Gregory, as soon as he became Pope, set about two important
reforms,--the enforcement of celibacy among the secular clergy, and the
suppression of simony. By the first measure he aimed to effect not only a
much-needed moral reform, but, by separating the clergy from all the
attachments of home and neighborhood and country, to render them more
devoted to the interests of the Church.
The second reform, the correction of simony, had for its ultimate object
the freeing of the lands and offices of the Church from the control of
temporal lords and princes, and the bringing of them more completely into
the hands of the Roman bishop.
The evil of simony [Footnote: By simony is meant the purchase of an office
in the Church, the name of the offence coming from Simon Magus, who
offered Paul money for the gift of working miracles.] had grown up in the
Church in the following way: As the feudal system took possession of
European society, the Church, like individuals and cities, assumed feudal
relations. Thus, as we have already seen, abbots and bishops, as the heads
of monasteries and churches, for the sake of protection, became the
vassals of powerful barons or princes. When once a prelate had rendered
homage for his estates, or temporalities, as they were called, these
became thenceforth a permanent fief of the overlord, and upon the death of
the holder could be re-bestowed by the lord upon whomsoever he chose.
These Church estates and positions that thus came within the gift of the
temporal princes were often given to unworthy court favorites, or sold to
the highest bidder. So long as a considerable portion of the clergy
sustained this vassal relation to the feudal lords, the Papal See could
not hope to exercise any great authority over them.
To remedy the evil, Gregory issued a decree that no ecclesiastic should do
homage to a temporal lord, but that he should receive the ring and staff,
the symbols of investiture, from the hands of the Pope alone. Any one who
should dare disobey the decree was threatened with the anathemas of the
Such was the bold measure by which Gregory proposed to wrest out of the
hands of the feudal lords and princes the vast patronage and immense
revenues resulting from the relation they had gradually come to sustain to
a large portion of the lands and riches of the Church. To realize the
magnitude of the proposed revolution, we must bear in mind that the Church
at this time was in possession of probably one-half of the lands of
EXCOMMUNICATIONS AND INTERDICTS.--The principal instruments relied upon by
Gregory for the carrying out of his reforms were Excommunication and
The first was directed against individuals. The person excommunicated was
cut off from all relations with his fellow-men. If a king, his subjects
were released from their oath of allegiance. Any one providing the
accursed with food or shelter incurred the wrath of the Church. The
Interdict was directed against a city, province, or kingdom. Throughout
the region under this ban, the churches were closed; no bell could be
rung, no marriage celebrated, no burial ceremony performed. The rites of
baptism and extreme unction alone could be administered. These spiritual
punishments rarely failed during the eleventh and twelfth centuries in
bringing the most contumacious offender to a speedy and abject confession.
This will appear in the following paragraph.
GREGORY VII. AND HENRY IV. OF GERMANY.--The decree of Gregory respecting
the relation of the clergy to the feudal lords created a perfect storm of
opposition, not only among the temporal princes and sovereigns of Europe,
but also among the clergy themselves. The dispute thus begun distracted
Europe for centuries.
Gregory experienced the most formidable opposition to his reforms in
Germany. The Emperor Henry IV. refused to recognize his decree, and even
called a council of the clergy of Germany and deposed him. Gregory in turn
gathered a council at Rome, and deposed and excommunicated the emperor.
This encouraged a revolt on the part of some of Henry's discontented
subjects. He was shunned as a man accursed by heaven. His authority seemed
to have slipped entirely out of his hands, and his kingdom was on the
point of going to pieces. In this wretched state of his affairs there was
but one thing for him to do,--to go to Gregory, and humbly sue for pardon
and re-instatement in the favor of the Church.
Henry sought the Pontiff at Canossa among the Apennines. But Gregory
refused to admit the penitent to his presence. It was winter, and for
three successive days the king, clothed in sackcloth, stood with bare feet
in the snow of the court-yard of the palace, waiting for permission to
kneel at the feet of the Pontiff and to receive forgiveness. On the fourth
day the penitent king was admitted to the presence of Gregory, who re-
instated him in favor--to the extent of removing the sentence of
Henry afterwards avenged his humiliation. He raised an army, invaded
Italy, and drove Gregory into exile at Salerno, where he died. His last
words were, "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, and therefore I die
in exile" (1085),
But the quarrel did not end here. It was taken up by the successors of
Gregory, and Henry was again excommunicated. After maintaining a long
struggle with the power of the Church, and with his own sons, who were
incited to rebel against him, he at last died of a broken heart (1106).
THE POPES AND THE HOHENSTAUFEN EMPERORS.--In the twelfth century began the
long and fierce contention--lasting more than a hundred years--between the
Papal See and the emperors of the proud House of Hohenstaufen (see p.
504). It was simply the continuation and culmination of the struggle begun
long before to decide which should be supreme, the "world-priest" or the
"world-king." The outcome was the final triumph of the Roman bishops and
the utter ruin of the Hohenstaufen.
THE PAPACY AT ITS HEIGHT.--The authority of the Popes was at its height
during the thirteenth century. The beginning of this period of papal
splendor is marked by the accession to the pontifical throne of Innocent
III. (1198-1216), the greatest of the Popes after Gregory VII. Under him
was very nearly made good the papal claim that all earthly sovereigns were
merely vassals of the Roman Pontiff. Almost all the kings and princes of
Europe swore fealty to him as their overlord. "Rome was once more the
mistress of the world."
POPE INNOCENT III. AND PHILIP AUGUSTUS OF FRANCE.--One of Innocent's most
signal triumphs in his contest with the kings of Europe was gained over
Philip Augustus (1180-1223) of France. That king having put away his wife,
Innocent commanded him to take her back, and forced him to submission by
means of an interdict. "This submission of such a prince," says Hallam,
"not feebly superstitious like his predecessor Robert, nor vexed with
seditions, like the Emperor Henry IV., but brave, firm, and victorious, is
perhaps the proudest trophy in the scutcheon of Rome."
POPE INNOCENT III. AND KING JOHN OF ENGLAND.--Innocent's quarrel with King
John (1199-1216) of England will afford another illustration of the power
of the Popes. The See of Canterbury falling vacant, John ordered the monks
who had the right of election to give the place to a favorite of his. They
obeyed; but the Pope immediately declared the election void, and caused
the vacancy to be filled with one of his own friends, Stephen Langton.
John declared that the Pope's archbishop should never enter England as
primate, and proceeded to confiscate the estates of the See. Innocent III.
now laid all England under an interdict, excommunicated John, and incited
the French king, Philip Augustus, to undertake a crusade against the
The outcome of the matter was that John, like the German Emperor before
him, was compelled to yield to the power of the Church. He gave back the
lands he had confiscated, acknowledged Langton to be the rightful primate
of England, and even went so far as to give England to the Pope as a
perpetual fief. In token of his vassalage he agreed to pay to the Papal
See the annual sum of 1000 marks. This tribute money was actually paid,
though with very great irregularity, until the seventeenth year of the
reign of Edward I. (1289).
THE MENDICANTS, OR BEGGING FRIARS.--The authority of the immediate
successors of Innocent III. was powerfully supported by the monastic
orders of the Dominicans and Franciscans, established early in the
thirteenth century. They were named after their respective founders, St.
Dominic (1170-1221) and St. Francis (1182-1226). The principles on which
these fraternities were established were very different from those which
had shaped all previous monastic institutions. Until now the monk had
sought cloistral solitude in order to escape from the world, and through
penance and prayer and contemplation to work out his own salvation. In the
new orders, the monk was to give himself wholly to the work of securing
the salvation of others.
Again, the orders were also as _orders_ to renounce all earthly
possessions, and, "espousing Poverty as a bride," to rely entirely for
support upon the alms of the pious. Hitherto, while the individual members
of a monastic order must affect extreme poverty, the house or fraternity
might possess any amount of communal wealth.
The new fraternities grew and spread with marvellous rapidity, and in less
than a generation they quite overshadowed all of the old monastic orders
of the Church. The Popes conferred many and special privileges upon them,
and they in turn became the staunchest friends and supporters of the Roman
See. They were to the Papacy of the thirteenth century what the later
order of the Jesuits was to the Roman Church of the seventeenth (see p.
REMOVAL OF THE PAPAL SEAT TO AVIGNON (1309).--Having now noticed some of
the most prominent circumstances and incidents that marked the gradual
advance of the bishops of Rome to almost universal political and
ecclesiastical sovereignty, we shall next direct attention to some of the
chief events that marked the decline of their temporal power, and prepared
the way for the rejection, at a later date, by a large part of
Christendom, of their spiritual authority.
One of the severest blows given both the temporal and the spiritual
authority of the Popes was the removal, in 1309, through the influence of
the French king, Philip the Fair, of the papal chair from Rome to Avignon,
in Provence, near the frontier of France. Here it remained for a space of
about seventy years, an era known in Church history as the Babylonian
Captivity. While it was established here, all the Popes were French, and
of course all their policies were shaped and controlled by the French
kings. "In that city," says Stille, "the Papacy ceased, in the eyes of a
very large part of Christendom, to possess that sacred cosmopolitan
character which no doubt had had much to do with the veneration and
respect with which the Catholic authority had been regarded."
THE GREAT SCHISM (1378).--The discontent awakened among the Italians by
the situation of the papal court at length led to an open rupture between
them and the French party. In 1378 the opposing factions each elected a
Pope, and thus there were two heads of the Church, one at Avignon and the
other at Rome.
The spectacle of two rival Popes, each claiming to be the rightful
successor of St. Peter and the sole infallible head of the Church, very
naturally led men to question the claims and infallibility of both. It
gave the reverence which the world had so generally held for the Roman See
a rude shock, and one from which it never recovered.
THE CHURCH COUNCILS OF PISA AND CONSTANCE.--Finally, in 1409, a general
council of the Church assembled at Pisa, for the purpose of composing the
shameful quarrel. This council deposed both Popes, and elected Alexander
V. as the supreme head of the Church. But matters instead of being mended
hereby were only made worse; for neither of the deposed pontiffs would lay
down his authority in obedience to the demands of the council, and
consequently there were now three Popes instead of two.
In 1414 another council was called, at Constance, for the settlement of
the growing dispute. Two of the claimants were deposed, and one resigned.
A new Pope was then elected,--Pope Martin V. In his person the Catholic
world was again united under a single spiritual head. The schism was
outwardly healed, but the wound had been too deep not to leave permanent
marks upon the Church.
THE REVOLT OF THE TEMPORAL PRINCES.--Taking advantage of the declining
authority of the Papal See, the temporal rulers in France, Germany, and
England successively revolted, and freed themselves from the authority of
the Papacy as touching political or governmental affairs. But it must be
borne in mind that the princes or governments that at this time repudiated
the temporal authority of the Papal See, did not think of challenging the
claims of the Popes to recognition as the supreme head of the
_Church_, and the rightful arbiters in all _spiritual_ matters. At the
very time that they were striving to emancipate themselves from papal
control in temporal matters, they were lending the Church all their
strength to punish heresy and schism. Thus the Albigenses [Footnote: See
p. 493.] in Southern France, the Lollards [Footnote: See p. 491.] in
England, and the Hussites [Footnote: See p. 506.] in Bohemia, were
extirpated or punished by the civil authorities, acting either in
accordance with the then universal idea of how heresy should be dealt
with, or in obedience to the commands of the Roman See.
CONQUESTS OF THE TURANIAN TRIBES.
THE HUNS AND THE HUNGARIANS.--The Huns, of whom we have already told, were
the first Turanians that during historic times pushed their way in among
the peoples of Europe (see p. 345).
The next Turanian invaders of Europe that we need here notice were the
Magyars, or Hungarians, another branch of the Hunnic race, who in the
ninth century of our era succeeded in thrusting themselves far into the
continent, and establishing there the important Kingdom of Hungary. These
people, in marked contrast to almost every other tribe of Turanian origin,
adopted the manners, customs, and religion of the peoples about them--
became, in a word, thoroughly Europeanized, and for a long time were the
main defence of Christian Europe against the Turkish tribes of the same
race that followed closely in their footsteps.
THE SELJUKIAN TURKS.--The Seljukian Turks, so called from the name of one
of their chiefs, are the next Tartar people that thrust themselves
prominently upon our notice. It was the capture of the holy places in
Palestine by this intolerant race, and their threatening advance towards
the Bosporus, that alarmed the Christian nations of Europe, and led to the
The blows dealt the empire of the Seljuks by the crusaders, and disputes
respecting the succession, caused the once formidable sovereignty to
crumble to pieces, only, however, to be replaced by others of equally
rapid growth, destined to as quick a decay.
THE MONGOLS OR MOGULS.--While the power of the Seljukian Turks was
declining in Western Asia, the Mongols, or Moguls, a fierce and utterly
untamed Tartar tribe that first issued from the easternmost part of
Chinese Tartary, were building up a new dynasty among the various tribes
of the central portion of the continent. In the year 1156 was born their
greatest chieftain, Temujin, afterwards named Genghis Khan, or "Universal
Sovereign," the most terrible scourge that ever afflicted the human race.
At the head of vast armies, made up of numerous Turanian hordes, he
traversed with sword and torch a great part of Asia. It is estimated that
his enormous empire was built up at the cost of fifty thousand cities and
towns and five millions of lives,--a greater waste, probably, than
resulted from all the Crusades.
The successors of Genghis Khan still farther enlarged and strengthened the
monarchy, so that it came to embrace, besides the best part of Asia, a
considerable portion of Europe as well. At length the immoderately
extended empire fell into disorder, and became broken into many petty
states. It was restored by Tamerlane, or Timour the Lame (born about
1336), a descendant of Genghis Khan. With his wild Mongolian hordes he
traversed anew almost all the countries that had been desolated by the
sanguinary marches of his predecessors. The route of the barbarians was
everywhere marked by ruined fields and burned villages.
Asia has never recovered from the terrible devastation of the Mongol
conquerors. Many districts, swarming with life, were entirely swept of
their population by these destroyers of the race, and have remained to
this day desolate as the tomb.
The immense empire of Tamerlane crumbled to pieces after his death. One of
its fragments had a remarkable history. This was the dynasty established
in India, which became known as the Kingdom of the Great Moguls. This
Mongol state lasted upwards of 300 years,--until destroyed by the English
in the present century. The magnificence of the court of the Great Moguls
at Delhi and Agra is one of the most splendid traditions of the East.
THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.
FOUNDING OF THE EMPIRE.--The latest, most permanent, and most important of
the Tartar sovereignties was established by the Ottoman Turks, who were an
offshoot of the Seljukians. Gradually this martial race seized province
after province of the Asiatic possessions of the Byzantine emperors.
Through the quarrels that were constantly distracting Constantinople, they
at last gained a foothold in Europe (1353). During the reign of Amurath I.
(1360-1389), a large part of the country known as Turkey in Europe fell
into their hands.
CONQUESTS OF BAJAZET (1389-1403).--Amurath was followed by his son Bajazet
who, by the rapid advance of his arms, spread the greatest alarm
throughout Western Europe. The warriors of Hungary, Germany, and France
united their armies to arrest his progress; but their combined forces,
numbering 100,000 men, were cut to pieces by the sabres of the Turks on
the fatal field of Nicopolis, in Bulgaria (1396). Bajazet now vowed that
he would stable his horse in the Cathedral of St. Peter at Rome, and there
seemed no power in Christendom to prevent the sacrilege.
Before proceeding to fulfil his threat, however, Bajazet turned back to
capture Constantinople, which he believed in the present despondent state
of its inhabitants would make little or no resistance. Now it happened
that just at this time Tamerlane was leading the Mongols on their career
of conquest. He directed them against the Turks in Asia Minor, and Bajazet
was forced to raise the siege of Constantinople, and hasten across the
Bosporus, to check the advance in his dominions of these new enemies. The
Turks and Mongols met upon the plains of Angora, where the former suffered
a disastrous defeat (1402). The battle of Angora checked for a time the
conquests of the Ottomans, and saved Constantinople to the Christian world
for another period of fifty years.
THE CAPTURE OF CONSTANTINOPLE (1453).--The Ottomans gradually recovered
from the blow they had received at Angora. In the year 1421 they made
another attempt upon Constantinople, but were unsuccessful. Finally, in
the year 1453, Mohammed II., the Great, sultan of the Ottomans, laid siege
to the capital, with an army of over 200,000 men. After a short
investment, the place was taken by storm. The Cross, which since the time
of Constantine the Great had surmounted the dome of St. Sophia, was
replaced by the Crescent, which remains to this day.
CHECK TO THE OTTOMAN ARMS.--The consternation which the fall of Byzantium
created throughout Christendom was like the dismay which filled the world
upon the downfall of Rome in the fifth century. All Europe now lay open to
the Moslem barbarians, and there seemed nothing to prevent their marching
to the Atlantic. But the warriors of Hungary made a valiant stand against
the invaders, and succeeded in checking their advance upon the continent,
while the Knights of St. John (see p. 443), now established in the island
of Rhodes, held them in restraint in the Mediterranean. Mohammed II. did
succeed in planting the Crescent upon the shores of Italy--capturing and
holding for a year the city of Otranto, in Calabria; but by the time of
the death of that energetic prince, the conquering energy of the Ottomans
seems to have nearly spent itself, and the limits of their empire were not
afterwards materially enlarged.
The Turks have ever remained quite insensible to the influences of
European civilization, and their government has been a perfect blight and
curse to the countries subjected to their rule. They have always been
looked upon as intruders in Europe, and their presence there has led to
several of the most sanguinary wars of modern times. Gradually they are
being pushed out from their European possessions, and the time is probably
not very far distant when they will be driven back across the Bosporus, as
their Moorish brethren were expelled long ago from the opposite corner of
the continent by the Christian chivalry of Spain.
GROWTH OF THE TOWNS: THE ITALIAN CITY-REPUBLICS.
RELATION OF THE CITIES TO THE FEUDAL LORDS.--When Feudalism took
possession of Europe, the cities became a part of the system. Each town
formed a part of the fief in which it happened to be situated, and was
subject to all the incidents of feudal ownership. It owed allegiance to
its lord, must pay to him feudal tribute, and aid him in his war
enterprises. As the cities, through their manufactures and trade, were the
most wealthy members of the Feudal System, the lords naturally looked to
them for money when in need. Their exactions at last became unendurable,
and a long struggle broke out between them and the burghers, which
resulted in what is known as the enfranchisement of the towns.
It was in the eleventh century that this revolt of the cities against the
feudal lords become general. During the course of this and the succeeding
century, the greater number of the towns of the countries of Western
Europe either bought, or wrested by force of arms, charters from their
lords or suzerains. The cities thus chartered did not become independent
of the feudal lords, but they acquired the right of managing, with more or
less supervision, their own affairs, and were secured against arbitrary
and oppressive taxation. This was a great gain; and as, under the
protection of their charters, they increased in wealth and population,
very many of them grew at last strong enough to cast off all actual
dependence upon lord or suzerain, and became in effect independent states
--little commonwealths. Especially was this true in the case of the
Italian cities, and in a less marked degree in that of the German towns.
RISE OF THE ITALIAN CITY-REPUBLICS.--The Italian cities were the first to
rise to power and importance. Several things conspired to secure their
early and rapid development, but the main cause of their prosperity was
their trade with the East, and the enormous impulse given to this commerce
by the Crusades.
[Illustration: A MEDI�VAL SIEGE, SHOWING BALLISTAE, ETC. (By Alphonse de
With wealth came power, and all the chief Italian cities became distinct,
self-governing states, with just a nominal dependence upon the pope or the
emperor. Towards the close of the thirteenth century, Northern and Central
Italy was divided among about two hundred contentious little city-
republics. Italy had become another Greece.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF TYRANNIES.--Just what happened among the contending
republics of Greece took place in the case of the quarrelling city-
commonwealths of Italy. Their republican constitutions were overthrown,
and the supreme power fell into the hands of an ambitious aristocracy, or
was seized by some bold usurper, who often succeeded in making the
government hereditary in his family. Before the close of the fourteenth
century almost all the republics of the peninsula had become converted
into exclusive oligarchies or hereditary principalities.
We shall now relate some circumstances, for the most part of a commercial
character, which concern some of the most renowned of the Italian city-
VENICE.--Venice, the most celebrated of the Italian republics, had its
beginnings in the fifth century, in the rude huts of some refugees who
fled out into the marshes of the Adriatic to escape the fury of the Huns
of Attila (see p. 346). Conquests and negotiations gradually extended the
possessions of the island-city until she came to control the coasts and
waters of the Eastern Mediterranean in much the same way that Carthage had
mastery of the Western Mediterranean at the time of the First Punic War.
Even before the Crusades her trade with the East was very extensive, and
by those expeditions was expanded into enormous proportions.
[Illustration: PALACE OF THE DOGES. (From a photograph.)]
Venice was at the height of her power during the thirteenth, fourteenth,
and fifteenth centuries. Her supremacy on the sea was celebrated each year
by the brilliant ceremony of "Wedding the Adriatic," by the dropping of a
ring into the sea.
The decline of Venice dates from the fifteenth century. The conquests of
the Turks during that century deprived her of much of the territory she
held east of the Adriatic, and finally the voyage of Vasco da Gama round
the Cape of Good Hope (1497-8), showing a new path to India, gave a death-
blow to her commerce. From this time forward, the trade of Europe with the
East was to be conducted from the Atlantic ports of the continent instead
of from those in the Mediterranean.
GENOA.--Genoa, on the western coast of Italy, was the most formidable
commercial rival of Venice. The period of her greatest prosperity dates
from the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins by the Greeks in
1261; for the Genoese had assisted the Greek princes in the recovery of
their throne, and as a reward were shown commercial favors by the Greek
The jealousy with which the Venetians regarded the prosperity of the
Genoese led to oft-renewed war between the two rival republics. For nearly
two centuries their hostile fleets contended, as did the navies of Rome
and Carthage during the First Punic War, for the supremacy of the sea.
The merchants of Genoa, like those of Venice, reaped a rich harvest during
the Crusades. Their prosperity was brought to an end by the irruption of
the Mongols and Turks, and the capture of Constantinople by the latter in
1453. The Genoese traders were now driven from the Black Sea, and their
traffic with Eastern Asia was completely broken up; for the Venetians had
control of the ports of Egypt and Syria and the southern routes to India
and the countries beyond--that is, the routes by way of the Euphrates and
the Red Sea.
FLORENCE.--Florence, although shut out, by her inland location upon the
Arno, from engaging in those naval enterprises that conferred wealth and
importance upon the coast cities of Venice and Genoa, became,
notwithstanding, through the skill, industry, enterprise, and genius of
her citizens, the great manufacturing, financial, literary, and art centre
of the Middle Ages. The list of her illustrious citizens, of her poets,
statesmen, historians, architects, sculptors, and painters, is more
extended than that of any other city of medi�val times; and indeed, as
respects the number of her great men, Florence is perhaps unrivalled by
any city, excepting Athens, of the ancient or the modern world. [Footnote:
In her long roll of fame we find the names of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio,
Macchiavelli, Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Amerigo
Vespucci, and the Medici.]
THE HANSEATIC LEAGUE.--From speaking of the Italian city-republics, we
must now turn to say a word respecting the free cities of Germany, in
which country, next after Italy, the medi�val municipalities had their
most perfect development, and acquired their greatest power and influence.
[Illustration: ROBBER KNIGHTS.]
When, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the towns of Northern Europe
began to extend their commercial connections, the greatest drawback to
their trade was the general insecurity and disorder that everywhere
prevailed. The trader who entrusted his goods designed for the Italian
market to the overland routes was in danger of losing them at the hands of
the robber nobles, who watched all the lines of travel, and either robbed
the merchant outright, or levied an iniquitous toll upon his goods. The
plebeian tradesmen, in the eyes of these patrician barons, had no rights
which they felt bound to respect. Nor was the way to Italy by the Baltic
and the North Sea beset with less peril. Piratical crafts scoured those
waters, and made booty of any luckless merchantman they might overpower,
or lure to wreck upon the dangerous shores. This state of things led some
of the German cities, about the middle of the fourteenth century, to form,
for the protection of their merchants, an alliance called the Hanseatic
League. The confederation eventually embraced eighty-five of the principal
towns of North Germany. In order to facilitate the trading operations of
its members, the League established in different parts of the world
trading-posts and warehouses. The four most noted centres of the trade of
the confederation were the cities of Bruges, London, Bergen, and Novgorod.
The League thus became a vast monopoly, which endeavored to control, in
the interests of its own members, the entire commerce of Northern Europe.
Among other causes of the dismemberment of the association may be
mentioned the maritime discoveries of the fifteenth century, which
disarranged all the old routes of trade in the north of Europe as well as
in the south; the increased security which the formation of strong
governments gave to the merchant class upon sea and land; and the heavy
expense incident to membership in the association, resulting from its
ambitious projects. All these things combined resulted in the decline of
the power and usefulness of the League, and finally led to its formal
dissolution about the middle of the seventeenth century.
INFLUENCE OF THE MEDI�VAL CITIES.--The chartered towns and free cities of
the medi�val era exerted a vast influence upon the commercial, social,
artistic, and political development of Europe.
They were the centres of the industrial and commercial life of the Middle
Ages, and laid the foundations of that vast system of international
exchange and traffic which forms a characteristic feature of modern
Their influence upon the social and artistic life of Europe cannot be
overestimated. It was within the walls of the cities that the civilization
uprooted by the Teutonic invaders first revived. With their growing wealth
came not only power, but those other usual accompaniments of wealth,--
culture and refinement. The Italian cities were the cradle and home of
medi�val art, science, and literature.
Again, these cities were the birthplace of political liberty, of
representative government. It was the burghers, the inhabitants of the
cities, that in England, in France, and in Germany finally grew into the
Third Estate, or Commons, the controlling political class in all these
countries. In a word, municipal freedom was the germ of national liberty.
THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING.
By the Revival of Learning, in the most general sense, is meant the
intellectual awakening of Europe after the languor and depression of the
first medi�val centuries. In a narrower sense, however, the phrase is used
to designate that wonderful renewal of interest in the old Greek and Latin
authors which sprung up in Italy about the beginning of the fourteenth
century. We shall use the expression in its most comprehensive sense, thus
making the restoration of classical letters simply a part of the great
Revival of Learning.
SCHOLASTICISM AND THE SCHOOLMEN.--One of Charlemagne's most fruitful
labors was the establishment of schools, in connection with the cathedrals
and monasteries, throughout his dominions. Within these schools there grew
up in the course of time a form of philosophy called, from the place of
its origin, Scholasticism, while its expounders were known as Schoolmen.
This philosophy was a fusion of Christianity and Aristotelian logic. It
might be defined as being, in its later stages, an effort to reconcile
revelation and reason, faith and philosophy. Viewed in this light, it was
not altogether unlike that theological philosophy of the present day whose
aim is to harmonize the Bible with the facts of modern science.
The greatest of the Schoolmen appeared in the thirteenth century. Among
them were Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus.
The most eminent of these was Thomas Aquinas (died 1274), who was called
the "Angel of the Schools." He was the strongest champion of medi�val
orthodoxy. His remarkable work, entitled the _Summa Theologica_, outlines
and defends the whole scheme of Roman Catholic theology.
The Schoolmen often busied themselves with the most unprofitable questions
in metaphysics and theology, yet their discussions were not without good
results. These debates sharpened the wits of men, created activity of
thought and deftness in argument. The schools of the times became real
mental gymnasia, in which the young awakening mind of Europe received its
first training and gained its earliest strength.
THE UNIVERSITIES.--Closely related to the subject of Scholasticism is the
history of the universities, which, springing up in the thirteenth
century, became a powerful agency in the Revival of Learning. They were
for the most part expansions of the old cathedral and abbey schools, their
transformation being effected largely through the reputation of the
Schoolmen, who drew such multitudes to their lectures that it became
necessary to reorganize the schools on a broader basis. Popes and kings
granted them charters which conferred special privileges upon their
faculties and students, as, for instance, exemption from taxation and from
the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts. The celebrated University of
Paris was the first founded, and that of Bologna was probably next in
The usual course of study in the universities was divided into what was
known as the _trivium_ and the _quadrivium_. The trivium embraced Grammar,
Logic, and Rhetoric; the quadrivium, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and
Music. These constituted the seven liberal arts. Greek, Hebrew, and the
physical sciences received but little attention. Medicine had not yet
freed itself from the influence of magic and astrology, and alchemy had
not yet given birth to chemistry. The Ptolemaic theory of the universe
still held sway. However, in all these matters the European mind was
making progress, was blindly groping its way towards the light.
INFLUENCE OF THE SARACENS.--The progress of the Christian scholars of
Europe in the physical sciences was greatly accelerated by the Saracens,
who, during the Dark Ages, were almost the sole repositories of the
scientific knowledge of the world. A part of this they gathered for
themselves, for the Arabian scholars were original investigators, but a
larger share of it they borrowed from the Greeks. While the Western
nations were too ignorant to know the value of the treasures of antiquity,
the Saracens preserved them by translating into Arabic the scientific
works of Aristotle and other Greek authors; and then, when Europe was
prepared to appreciate these accumulations of the past, gave them back to
her. This learning came into Europe in part through the channel of the
Crusades, but more largely, and at an earlier date, through the Arabian
schools in Spain. Two of the greatest scholars of the thirteenth century,
or perhaps of all the medi�val ages, Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus, owed
very much of their scientific knowledge to the Arabians.
EFFECTS OF THE CRUSADES.--Having in a previous chapter dwelt on the
effects of the Crusades upon the intellectual development of the European
peoples (see p. 449) there is no need that we here do more than refer to
the matter, in order that we may fix in mind the place of the Holy Wars
among the agencies that conspired to bring about the Revival of Learning.
The stimulating, quickening, liberalizing tendency of these chivalric
enterprises was one of the most potent forces concerned in the mental
movement we are tracing.
RISE OF MODERN LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES.--Between the tenth and the
fourteenth century the native tongues of Europe. began to form literatures
of their own. We have already spoken of the formation and gradual growth
of these languages (see p. 386). As soon as their forms became somewhat
settled, then literature was possible, and all these speeches bud and
blossom into song and romance. This formation of modern European languages
and birth of native literatures, was one of the greatest gains in the
interest of general intelligence; for the Schoolmen used the Latin
language, and their discussions and writings consequently influenced only
a limited class; while the native literatures addressed themselves to the
masses, and thus stirred the universal mind and heart of Europe.
THE REVIVAL OF CLASSICAL LEARNING.--About the beginning of the fourteenth
century there sprung up in Italy a great enthusiasm for Greek and Latin
literature and art. This is what is generally known as the Italian
Renaissance, or the New Birth.
The Renaissance divides itself as follows: 1. The revival of classical
learning; 2. The revival of classical art. It is with the first only, the
intellectual and literary phase of the movement, that we are now
concerned. This feature of the movement is called _Humanism_, and the
promoters of it are known as _Humanists_. [Footnote: That is, students of
the _humanities_, or polite literature.] The real originator of the
humanistic movement was Petrarch [Footnote: The great Florentine poet,
Dante (1265-1321), was the forerunner of Humanism, but was not, properly
speaking, a Humanist. His Divine Comedy is the "Epic of Medi�valism."]
(1304-1374). His love for the old Greek and Latin writers was a passion
amounting to a worship. He often wrote love-letters to his favorite
authors. In one to Homer he laments the lack of taste among his
countrymen, and declares that there are not more than ten persons in all
Italy who could appreciate the Iliad. Next to Petrarch stands Boccaccio
(1313-1375), as the second of the Humanists.
[Illustration: DANTE. [Footnote: The great Florentine poet, Dante (1265-
1321), was the forerunner of Humanism, but was not, properly speaking, a
Humanist. His Divine Comedy is the "Epic of Medi�valism."] (From Raphael's
Just as the antiquarians of to-day search the mounds of Assyria for relics
of the ancient civilizations of the East, so did the Humanists ransack the
libraries of the monasteries and cathedrals, and all the out-of-the-way
places of Europe, for old manuscripts of the classic writers. The precious
documents were found covered with mould in damp cellars, or loaded with
dust in the attics of monasteries. This late search for these remains of
classical authors saved to the world hundreds of valuable manuscripts
which, a little longer neglected, would have been forever lost. Libraries
were founded in which the new treasures might be stored, and copies of the
manuscripts were made and distributed among all who could appreciate them.
It was at this time that the celebrated Vatican Library was established by
Pope Nicholas V. (1447-1455), one of the most generous promoters of the
This reviving interest in the literature of ancient Greece was vastly
augmented by the disasters just now befalling the Greek empire (see p.
462). From every part of the crumbling state scholars fled before the
approach of the barbarians, and sought shelter in the West, especially in
Italy, bringing with them many valuable manuscripts of the old Greek
masters, who were almost unknown in Western Europe, and always an
enthusiasm for Greek learning. There was now a repetition of what took
place at Rome upon the conquest of Greece in the days of the Republic.
Italy was conquered a second time by the genius of Greece.
Before the close of the fifteenth century, the enthusiasm for classical
authors had infected the countries beyond the Alps. The New Learning, as
it was called, found a place in the colleges and universities of Germany,
France, and England. Greek was added to Latin as one of the requirements
in a liberal education, and from that day to this has maintained a
prominent place in all our higher institutions of learning. In Northern
Europe, however, the humanistic movement became blended with other
tendencies. In Italy it had been an exclusive passion, a single devotion
to classical literature; but here in the North there was added to this
enthusiasm for Gr�co-Roman letters an equal and indeed supremer interest
in what we have called the Hebrew element in civilization (see p. 368).
Petrarch hung over the pages of Homer; Luther pores over the pages of the
Bible. The Renaissance, in a word, becomes the Reformation; the Humanist
becomes the Reformer.
EVIL AND GOOD RESULTS OF THE CLASSICAL REVIVAL.--There were some serious
evils inherent in the classical revival. In Italy, especially, where the
humanistic spirit took most complete possession of society, it was
"disastrous to both faith and morals." The study of the old pagan writers
produced the result predicted by the monks,--caused a revival of paganism.
To be learned in Greek was to excite suspicion of heresy. With the New
Learning came also those vices and immoralities that characterized the
decline of classical civilization. Italy was corrupted by the new
influences that flowed in upon her, just as Rome was corrupted by Grecian
luxury and vice in the days of the failing republic.
On the other hand, the benefits of the movement to European civilization
were varied and positive. The classical revival gave to Europe, not only
faultless literary models, but large stores of valuable knowledge. As
Woolsey says, "The old civilization contained treasures of permanent value
which the world could not spare, which the world will never be able or
willing to spare. These were taken up into the stream of life, and proved
true aids to the progress of a culture which is gathering in one the
beauty and truth of all the ages." And to the same effect are the words of
Symonds, who closes his appreciative review of the Italian Revival of
Letters as follows: "Such is the Lampadephoria, or torch-race, of the
nations. Greece stretches out her hand to Italy; Italy consigns the sacred
fire to Northern Europe; the people of the North pass on the flame to
America, to India, and the Australasian Isles."
[Illustration: JOHN GUTENBERG.]
PRINTING.--One of the most helpful agencies concerned in the Revival of
Learning, was the invention of printing from movable blocks, or type,--the
most important discovery, in the estimation of Hallam, recorded in the
annals of mankind. For this improvement the world is probably indebted to
John Gutenberg of Mentz (1438).[Footnote: Dutch writers maintain that the
honor of the invention belongs to Costar of Haarlem.]
The new art would have been much restricted in its usefulness had it not
been for the bringing to perfection about this time of the art of making
paper from linen rags. This article took the place of the costly
parchment, and rendered it possible to place books within the reach of all
The first book printed from movable types was a Latin copy of the Bible,
issued at Mentz, in Germany, between the years 1450 and 1455. The art
spread rapidly, and before the close of the fifteenth century presses were
busy in every country of Europe, multiplying books with a rapidity
undreamed of by the patient copyists of the cloister.
It is needless to dwell upon the tremendous impulse which the new art
gave, not only to the humanistic movement, but to the general intellectual
progress of the European nations. Without it, the Revival of Learning must
have languished, and the Reformation could hardly have become a fact in
history. Its instrument, the _press_, is fitly chosen as the symbol
of the new era of intelligence and freedom which it ushered in.
GROWTH OF THE NATIONS.--FORMATION OF NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS AND LITERATURES.
INTRODUCTORY.--The most important movement that marked the latter part of
the Middle Ages was the grouping, in several of the countries of Europe,
of the petty feudal states and half-independent cities and towns into
great nations with strong centralized governments. This movement was
accompanied by, or rather consisted in, the decline of Feudalism as a
governmental system, the loss by the cities of their freedom, and the
growth of the power of the kings.
Many things contributed to this consolidation of peoples and governments,
different circumstances favoring the movement in the several countries. In
some countries, however, events were opposed to the centralizing tendency,
and in these the Modern Age was reached without nationality having been
found. But in England, in France, and in Spain circumstances all seemed to
tend towards unity, and by the close of the fifteenth century there were
established in these countries strong despotic monarchies. Yet even among
those peoples where national governments did not appear, some progress was
made towards unity through the formation of national languages and
literatures, and the development of common feelings, sentiments, and
aspirations, so that these peoples were manifestly only awaiting the
opportunities of a happier period for the maturing of their national life.
This rise of Monarchy and decline of Feudalism, this substitution of
strong centralized governments in place of the feeble, irregular, and
conflicting authorities of the feudal nobles, was a very great gain to the
cause of law and good order. It paved the way for modern progress and
GENERAL STATEMENT.--In preceding chapters we have told of the origin of
the English people, and traced their growth under Saxon, Danish, and
Norman rulers (see pp. 375, 411, 433). We shall, in the present section,
tell very briefly the story of their progress under the Plantagenet kings,
thus carrying on our narrative to the accession of the Tudors in 1485,
from which event dates the beginning of the modern history of England.
The era of the Plantagenets, which covers three hundred and thirty-one
years, was a most eventful one in English history. The chief political
matters that we shall notice were the wresting of Magna Charta from King
John, the formation of the House of Commons, the Conquest of Wales, the
Wars with Scotland, the Hundred Years' War with France, and the Wars of
the Roses. [Footnote: The name Plantagenet came from the peculiar badge, a
sprig of broom-plant (_plante de genet_), adopted by one of the early
members of the House. Following is a table of the sovereigns of the
Henry II.. . . . . . . 1154-1189
Richard I. . . . . . . 1189-1199
John . . . . . . . . . 1199-1216
Henry III. . . . . . . 1216-1272
Edward I . . . . . . . 1272-1307
Edward II. . . . . . . 1307-1327
Edward III . . . . . . 1327-1377
Richard II . . . . . . 1377-1399
HOUSE OF LANCASTER.
Henry IV . . . . . . . 1399-1413
Henry V. . . . . . . . 1413-1422
Henry VI . . . . . . . 1422-1461
HOUSE OF YORK.
Edward IV. . . . . . . 1461-1483
Edward V . . . . . . . 1483
Richard III. . . . . . 1483-1485]
MAGNA CHARTA (1215).--Magna Charta, the "Great Charter," held sacred as
the basis of English liberties, was an instrument which the English barons
and clergy forced King John to grant, in which the ancient rights and
privileges of the people were clearly defined and guaranteed.
King John (1199-1216), the third of the Plantagenet line, was as
tyrannical as he was unscrupulous and wicked. His course led to an open
revolt of the barons, who were resolved upon the recovery of their ancient
liberties. The tyrant was forced to bow to the storm he had raised. He met
his barons at Runnymede, a meadow on the Thames, and there affixed his
seal to the instrument that had been prepared to receive it.
Among the important articles of the paper were the following: No freeman
should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, "save by legal judgment
of his peers." No taxes (save several feudal aids specified) should be
imposed "save by the Common Council of the realm." [Footnote: This article
respecting taxation was suffered to fall into abeyance in the reign of
John's successor, Henry III., and it was not until about one hundred years
after the granting of _Magna Charta_ that the great principle that the
people should be taxed only through their representatives in Parliament,
became fully established.]
Besides these articles, which form the foundation of the English
Constitution, there were others abolishing numerous abuses and confirming
various time-honored rights and privileges of the towns and of different
classes of freemen.
The Great Charter was often disregarded and broken by despotic sovereigns;
but the people always clung to it as the warrant and basis of their
liberties, and again and again forced tyrannical kings to renew and
confirm its provisions, and swear solemnly to observe all its articles.
Considering the far-reaching consequences that resulted from the granting
of _Magna Charta_,--the securing of constitutional liberty as an
inheritance for the English-speaking race in all parts of the world,--it
must always be considered the most important concession that a freedom-
loving people ever wrung from a tyrannical sovereign.
BEGINNING OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS (1265).--The reign of Henry III. (1216-
1272), John's son and successor, witnessed the second important step taken
in English constitutional freedom. This was the formation of the House of
Commons, Parliament having up to this time consisted of a single House,
made up of nobles and bishops. It was again the royal misbehavior that led
to this great change in the form of the English national assembly. Henry
had violated his oath to rule according to the Great Charter, and had
become even more tyrannical than his father. The indignant barons rose in
revolt, and Henry and his son being worsted in a great engagement, known
as the battle of Lewes (1264), were made prisoners.
Simon de Montfort, a Frenchman, whom Henry had given a prominent position
in the government, now assumed control of affairs. He issued, in the
king's name, writs of summons to the nobles and bishops to meet in
Parliament; and at the same time sent similar writs to the sheriffs of the
different shires, directing them "to return two knights for the body of
their county, with two citizens or burghers for every city and borough
contained in it." This was the first time that plain untitled citizens or
burghers had been called to take their place with the knights, lords, and
bishops in the great council of the nation, to join in deliberations on
the affairs of the realm. [Footnote: At first the Commons could only take
part in questions relating to taxation, but gradually they acquired the
right to share in all matters that might come before Parliament.] The
Commons were naturally at first a weak and timorous body, quite overawed
by the great lords, but were destined eventually to grow into the
controlling branch of the British Parliament.
CONQUEST OF WALES.--For more than a thousand years the Celtic tribes of
Wales maintained among their mountain fastnesses an ever-renewed struggle
with the successive invaders and conquerors of England--with Roman, Saxon,
and Norman. They never submitted their necks to the Roman yoke, but they
were forced to acknowledge the overlordship of some of the Saxon and
Norman kings. They were restless vassals, however, and were constantly
withholding tribute and refusing homage.
When Edward I. came to the English throne in 1272, Llewellyn, the overlord
of the Welsh chiefs, with the title of Prince of Wales, refused to render
homage to the new king. War followed. Llewellyn was slain, and the
independence of his race forever extinguished (1282). The title of the
Welsh chieftain has ever since been borne by the eldest son of the English
WARS WITH SCOTLAND (1296-1328).--In 1285 the ancient Celtic line of
Scottish chiefs became extinct. Thirteen claimants for the vacant throne
immediately arose. Chief among these were Robert Bruce and John Balliol,
distinguished noblemen of Norman descent, attached to the Scottish court.
King Edward I. of England, who claimed suzerain rights over the Scottish
realm, was asked to act as arbitrator, and decide to whom the crown should
be given. He decided the question of the succession in favor of Balliol,
who now took the crown of Scotland as the acknowledged vassal of the
Edward's unjust demands on the Scottish king led him to cast off his
feudal allegiance. In the war that followed, the Scots were defeated, and
Scotland now fell back as a fief forfeited by treason, into the hands of
Edward (1296). As a sign that the Scottish kingdom had come to an end,
Edward carried off to London the royal regalia, and with this a large
stone, known as the Stone of Scone, upon which the Scottish kings, from
time out of memory, had been accustomed to be crowned. Legend declared
that the relic was the very stone on which Jacob had slept at Bethel. The
block was taken to Westminster Abbey, and there made to support the seat
of a stately throne-chair, which to this day is used in the coronation
ceremonies of the English sovereigns. It is said that the stone once bore
"Should fate not fail, where'er this stone be found,
The Scot shall monarch of that realm be crowned,"
which prophecy was fulfilled when James VI. of Scotland became James I. of
England. [Footnote: "Whether the prophecy was actually inscribed on the
stone may be doubted, though this seems to be implied, and on the lower
side is still visible a groove which may have contained it; but the fact
that it was circulated and believed as early as the fourteenth century, is
certain."--Dean Stanley's _Memorials of Westminster Abbey_.]
The two countries were not long united. The Scotch people loved too well
their ancient liberties to submit quietly to this extinguishment of their
national independence. Under the inspiration and lead of the famous Sir
William Wallace, an outlaw knight, all the Lowlands were soon in
determined revolt. It was chiefly from the peasantry that the patriot hero
drew his followers. Wallace gained some successes, but at length was
betrayed into Edward's hands. He was condemned to death as a traitor, and
his head, garlanded with a crown of laurel, was exposed on London Bridge
(1305). The romantic life of Wallace, his patriotic service, his heroic
exploits, and his tragic death, at once lifted him to the place that he
has ever since held, as the national hero of Scotland.
The struggle in which Wallace had fallen, was soon renewed by the almost
equally renowned hero Robert Bruce (grandson of the Robert Bruce mentioned
on p. 482), who was the representative of the nobles, as Wallace had been
of the common people. With Edward II. Bruce fought the great _Battle of
Bannockburn_, near Stirling. Edward's army was almost annihilated (1314).
It was the most appalling disaster that had befallen the arms of the
English people since the memorable defeat of Harold at Hastings.
The independence of Scotland really dates from the great victory of
Bannockburn, but the English were too proud to acknowledge it until
fourteen years more of war. Finally, in the year 1328, the young king
Edward III. gave up all claim to the Scottish crown, and Scotland with the
hero Bruce as its king, took its place as an independent power among the
nations of Europe.
The independence gained by the Scotch at Bannockburn was maintained for
nearly three centuries,--until 1603,--when the crowns of England and
Scotland were peacefully united in the person of James Stuart VI. of
Scotland. During the greater part of these three hundred years the two
countries were very quarrelsome neighbors.
_The Hundred Years' War_ (1336-1453).
CAUSES OF THE WAR.--The long and wasteful war between England and France,
known in history as the Hundred Years' War, was a most eventful one, and
its effects upon both England and France so important and lasting as to
entitle it to a prominent place in the records of the closing events of
the Middle Ages. Freeman likens the contest to the Peloponnesian War in
The war with Scotland was one of the things that led up to this war. All
through that struggle, France, as the jealous rival of England, was ever
giving aid and encouragement to the Scotch rebels. Then the English lands
in France, for which the English king did homage to the French king as
overlord, were a source of constant dispute between the two countries.
Furthermore, upon the death of Charles IV., the last of the Capetian line,
Edward III. laid claim, through his mother, to the French crown, in much
the same way that William of Normandy centuries before had laid claim to
the crown of England.
THE BATTLE OF CR�CY (1346).--The first great combat of the long war was
the memorable battle of Cr�cy. Edward had invaded France with an army of
30,000 men, made up largely of English bowmen, and had penetrated far into
the country, ravaging as he went, when he finally halted, and faced the
pursuing French army near the village of Cr�cy, where he inflicted upon it
a most terrible defeat; 1200 knights, the flower of French chivalry, and
30,000 foot-soldiers lay dead upon the field.
The great battle of Cr�cy is memorable for several reasons, but chiefly
because Feudalism and Chivalry there received their death-blow. The
yeomanry of England there showed themselves superior to the chivalry of
France. "The churl had struck down the noble; the bondsman proved more
than a match, in sheer hard fighting, for the knight. From the day of
Cr�cy, Feudalism tottered slowly but surely to its grave." The battles of
the world were hereafter, with few exceptions, to be fought and won, not
by mail-clad knights with battle-axe and lance, but by common foot-
soldiers with bow and gun.
THE CAPTURE OF CALAIS.--From the field of Cr�cy Edward led his army to the
siege of Calais. At the end of a year's investment, the city fell into the
hands of the English. The capture of this sea-port was a very important
event for the English, as it gave them control of the commerce of the
Channel, and afforded them a convenient landing-place for their
expeditions of invasion into France.
THE BATTLE OF POITIERS (1356).-The terrible scourge of the "Black Death,"
[Footnotes: The Black Death was so called on account of the black spots
which covered the body of the person attacked. It was a contagious fever,
which, like the pestilence in the reign of Justinian, entered Europe from
the East, and made terrible ravages during the years 1347-49. In Germany
over 1,000,000 persons fell victims to the plague, while in England,
according to some authorities, one-half of the population was swept away.
The pestilence was also especially severe in Florence, in Italy. Under the
terror and excitement of the dreadful visitation, religious penitents,
thinking to turn away the wrath of heaven by unusual penances, went about
in procession, lacerating themselves with whips (hence they were called
_flagellants_). This religious frenzy had its most remarkable
manifestation in Germany.] which desolated all Europe about the middle of
the fourteenth century, caused the contending nations for a time to forget
their quarrel. But no sooner had a purer atmosphere breathed upon the
continent than the old struggle was renewed with fresh eagerness.
Edward III. planned a double invasion of France. He himself led an army
through the already wasted provinces of the North, while the Black Prince
with another army ravaged the fields of the South. As the Prince's army,
numbering about 8000 men, loaded with booty, was making its way back to
the coast, it found its path, near Poitiers, obstructed by a French army
of 50,000. A battle ensued which proved for the French a second Cr�cy. The
arrows of the English bowmen drove them in fatal panic from the field,
which was strewn with 11,000 of their dead.
[Illustration: CHARGE OF FRENCH KNIGHTS AND FLIGHT OF ENGLISH ARROWS.]
BATTLE OF AGINCOURT (1415).--For half a century after the Peace [Footnote:
The Treaty of Br�tigny (1360).] that followed the battle of Poitiers there
was a lull in the war. But while Henry V. (1413-1422) was reigning in
England, France was unfortunate in having an insane king, Charles VI.; and
Henry, taking advantage of the disorder into which the French kingdom
naturally fell under these circumstances, invaded the country with a
powerful army, defeated the French in the great battle of Agincourt
(1415), and five years later concluded the Treaty of Troyes, in which, so
discouraged had the French become, a large party agreed that the crown of
France should be given to him upon the death of Charles.
JOAN OF ARC.--But patriotism was not yet wholly extinct among the French
people. There were many who regarded the concessions of the Treaty of
Troyes as not only weak and shameful, but as unjust to the Dauphin
Charles, who was thereby disinherited, and they accordingly refused to be
bound by its provisions. Consequently, when the poor insane king died, the
terms of the treaty were not carried out, and the war dragged on. The
party that stood by their native prince, afterwards crowned as Charles
VII., were at last reduced to most desperate straits. A great part of the
northern section of the country was in the hands of the English, who were
holding in close siege the important city of Orleans.
But the darkness was the deep gloom that precedes the dawn. A strange
deliverer now appears,--the famous Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans. This
young peasant girl, with imagination all aflame from brooding over her
country's wrongs and sufferings, seemed to see visions and hear voices,
which bade her undertake the work of delivering France. She was obedient
unto the heavenly vision.
The warm, impulsive French nation, ever quick in responding to appeals to
the imagination, was aroused exactly as it was stirred by the voice of the
preachers of the Crusades. Religious enthusiasm now accomplished what
patriotism alone could not do.
Received by her countrymen as a messenger from heaven, the maiden kindled
throughout the land a flame of enthusiasm that nothing could resist.
Inspiring the dispirited French soldiers with new courage, she forced the
English to raise the siege of Orleans (from which exploit she became known
as the Maid of Orleans), and speedily brought about the coronation of
Prince Charles at Reims (1429). Shortly afterward she fell into the hands
of the English, and was condemned and burned as a heretic and witch.
But the spirit of the Maid had already taken possession of the French
nation. From this on, the war, though long continued, went steadily
against the English. Little by little they were pushed back and off from
the soil they had conquered, until, by the middle of the fifteenth
century, they were driven quite out of the country, retaining no foothold
in the land save Calais (see p. 553).
Thus ended the Hundred Years' War, in 1453, the very year which saw
Constantinople fall before the Turks.
EFFECTS UPON ENGLAND OF THE WAR.--The most lasting and important effects
upon England of the war were the enhancement of the power of the Lower
House of Parliament, and the awakening of a national spirit and feeling.
The maintaining of the long and costly quarrel called for such heavy
expenditures of men and money that the English kings were made more
dependent than hitherto upon the representatives of the people, who were
careful to make their grants of supplies conditional upon the correction
of abuses or the confirming of their privileges. Thus the war served to
make the Commons a power in the English government. Again, as the war was
participated in by all classes alike, the great victories of Cr�cy,
Poitiers, and Agincourt roused a national pride, which led to a closer
union between the different elements of society. Normans and English were
fused by the ardor of a common patriotic enthusiasm into a single people.
The real _national_ life of England dates from this time. (For the
effects of the war on France, see p. 494.)
_The Wars of the Roses_ (1455-1485).
GENERAL STATEMENT.--The Wars of the Roses is the name given to a long,
shameful, and selfish contest between the adherents of the Houses of York
and Lancaster, rival branches of the royal family of England. The strife,
which was for place and power, was so named because the Yorkists adopted
as their badge a white rose and the Lancastrians a red one.