Medieval England was a European nation that was very strong and advanced, however the Normal Conquest in 1066 brought massive changes and the Feudal system to medieval England. Read more about the Medieval England >>
Medieval Spain was often under Muslim rule, towards the end of the medieval period Spain became very powerful militarily and they had a large network of impressive medieval castles. Read more about the Medieval Spain >>
Medieval history of continental Europe began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Roman Empire’s final decline began in the latter part of the 4th century and was precipitated to a conclusion by the 5th century.
Fall of Rome
This left many fragmented political entities in its wake. At the same time, the influence of Christianity was on the rise. These circumstances marked the start of the middle ages in continental Europe.
Mass Migrations into Europe
One of the early events of continental Europe during the medieval period was mass migrations from the east. These migrations poured many Germanic tribes into Western Europe. Many of these tribes such as the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons would later establish their own kingdoms and become a permanent part of Europe.
Umayyad Invasion of Spain
Islam had emerged as a huge power in the 7th century, with Muhammad’s followers conquering the Persian Empire as well as North African territories of the former Roman Empire in a sweeping advance.
In the early part of the 8th century, Muslim Moors under Umayyad Caliphate launched an invasion of Iberia (Spain). These Muslim forces brought an end to the Lombard kingdom in Spain and replaced it with Moorish rule and a new Muslim culture. The conquest of Spain continued unabated until it was stemmed at the Battle of Tours in 732.
The Moorish conquest of Spain and Europe lasted around 700 years
The Rise of the Franks
Since the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire in the 4th century, continental Europe had become a patchwork of various kingdoms and smaller principalities. The first major political power to emerge out of this chaos was the Frankish kingdom.
Although its roots went back to the 5th century, Franks steadily gained territories and power through subsequent centuries. This culminated in Charlemagne, who united modern-day France, Germany, Italy, and other territories. He was the first monarch to be crowned the emperor since the end of the Roman Empire.
Charlemagne King of the Franks
Feudalism as a System
During the High Middle Ages from 1000 onwards, continental Europe saw important agricultural innovations. These allowed for better cultivation of larger lands. The lands were also organized largely under the barons or nobles of each monarch. Each monarch would then hire peasants to cultivate and till the land, in return for a minor recompense.
This established feudalism as the mainstay of the European economy during the period. The system maintained its strength until new towns and cities, with burgeoning trade profits, became the centers of commerce.
Feudalism *Mainland Europe
Feudalism in mainland Europe (also known as continental Europe) came into being during the 9th and 10th centuries.
Feudal System *Medieval Europe
It had its origins under the Frankish Empire where it borrowed from Roman and Germanic traditions. Initial feudal structures comprised of the king handing out land grants to the nobles who in turn gave land to lords – Lords then hired peasants, bonded or free, to cultivate the land.
Serfs *Medieval Europe
In return, nobles and lords provided aid to the king during wars and owed their allegiance to him. Eventually, economic changes caused changes in the social structures of the society which rendered feudalism unsustainable.
By the 15th century, feudalism ended in England, by the 18th century its death knell was sounded in France and Russia was among the most belated European countries to abolish feudalism in the mid-19th century.
Soon after the emergence of Islam, Muslims were able to take control of the city of Jerusalem in 637. The conquest occurred during the reign of Caliph Umar the Just. Towards the 11th century, Christian kingdoms of Continental Europe sought to wrest back the holy city from Muslims.
This led to several Crusades, which were religiously motivated wars backed by the Papacy and jointly organized by several Christian kingdoms. The Crusades became the stuff of myth and legend. They also caused Jerusalem to change hands several times before it was finally secured by the Muslim commander Saladin.
Saladin the Great Muslim leader
The Late Middle Ages were largely marked by rapid changes in the social, political, and economic structures of continental Europe. These changes were catalyzed by events like the Black Death which killed off nearly one-third of Europe’s population in the 14th century.
Black Death *Medieval Europe
From Papacy to Monarchy
Middle Ages saw the centralization of temporal power, first in the hands of the Papacy, and then in the hands of the individual kings. Papacy reached the zenith of its power in the 14th century. At the time, the Pope could interfere in a kingdom’s affairs and even decide to contest its king. Towards the 15th century, Papal powers began to decline and individual heads of the state became more powerful.
By Sémhur – Own work, from Image: Frankish empire.jpg, itself from File: Growth of Frankish Power, 481-814.jpg, from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd (Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.), CC BY-SA 3.0
Medieval France *Medieval Europe
Feudalism was used by the Normans in France from the time they first settled in the region and it was a simple and effective system of control.
William The Conqueror *Duke of Normandy France
All the lands were owned by the King and some were given to the church while the rest were leased out to Barons and Lords under the strict agreement that they will provide services to the king in exchange for the lands leased out to them. A quarter of the land was kept by the King as his personal property and he has complete control over the system.
When the Roman Empire collapsed, France was entirely unlinked to the European economy. There was a great decline in trade and manors became more self-sufficient than progressive. During the 13th century, catastrophes and famines plagued the French people.
Fall of Rome – Medieval Europe
The economy of France during the early Renaissance period was marked by growth and developments in agriculture. France was the most populated country in Europe and the most populous in the world until 1795.
Medieval France *Paris
In the 18th century, Paris became world-famous becoming the capital for trade and consumerism. Paris also had social priority and economic force. Upscale arcades, luxury shops, and department stores were built around the city and France set the standards for the world’s consumption of fine products.
The medieval age of Italy began during the last days of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Italy fell under the rule of the Byzantine Empire.
By Sono io l – Carta storica elaborata da me su base di una mappa Commons, CCo
This rule was taken away by Charlemagne who invaded Italy in the 8th century. Subsequently, the Papacy came to assert immense influence in Italy between the 9th and 11th centuries. From the 11th century onwards, a number of powerful city-states emerged in Italy, notable among these Florence. These states ultimately led the way to the Italian Renaissance.
Charlemagne King of the Franks Carolingian Empire
Italy was an intermingling of different cultures and empires which ruled over Italy at different times. These included the Frankish Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire.
Flags of The Holy Roman Empire ruled by King Frederick Barbarossa
Charlemagne’s reign was very significant in the history of the Carolingian Empire. He was the first Frankish king who united most of the territories of Western Europe into a single entity, something which hadn’t been accomplished since the fall of the Roman Empire. His reign was marked by many battles, constant patronage of the Church, and expansion of Christendom by the subduing of many territories and peoples.
*Charlemagne annexed Italy to his Empire and defined the kingdoms of Germany and France. It was also during his reign that European attempts to wrest back Muslim control of Spain began. He died in 814 and was succeeded by his son, Louis the Pious.
The Italian peninsula was under the control of the Byzantine Empire after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. The Byzantine Empire was located in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman empire in Western Europe in the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire continued its existence in one way or the other until the 15th century.
Byzantine Empire *Medieval Europe
Medieval Italy was influenced by a number of cultures including Roman, Byzantine, and Norman. While Italy continued to be invaded by different forces during the early medieval period, in the later periods many different city-states emerged which enjoyed extraordinary independence and were able to become commercial hubs of trade.
Trade and the subsequent prosperity lead to a rich aristocracy and a prosperous middle class. Both played a very significant role in the Italian Renaissance.
Medieval Italy *Holy Roman Empire
Medieval Spain started with the arrival of the Visigoths in the late 5th century to the end of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella in the 16th century.
Medieval Spain by Nicolaes Visscher II – This media file is from the collections of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek
However, its roots can be traced back to medieval countries and kingdoms including Galicia, Leon, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, and Granada. These countries all contributed to what has been known as the Spanish language as well as the country itself.
The Reconquista is a very important period in Spain’s history and refers to a period of nearly 750 years stretched between the earliest resistance to the expanding Moorish rule in the Iberian region and the eventual end of all Muslim rule in Iberia with the fall of Granada in 1492.
The Omayyad Caliphate rapidly expanded its reign into the Iberian region during the early 8th century under the Moorish leader Tariq ibn Ziyad. Ziyad was successful in overrunning the Visigothic Hispania but the Muslim armies were successfully halted in northern Iberia.
Martel was able to check the Moorish advance by routing the Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732.
They were first defeated at the Battle of Covadonga in 718 and subsequently routed at the Battle of Tours by the Frankish military leader, Charles Martel, in 732. This was followed by the establishment of different Christian kingdoms on the border of the Muslim-controlled regions. These kingdoms would then continue to push into Muslim territories, eventually taking back control of the whole of Iberia by 1492.
Moorish conquest areas of Spain highlighted in green
There was quite a debate whether feudalism existed in Spain or not. Historians believed that feudalism can be traced back to the height of the dark ages, especially when dealing with the history of Spain. However, English scholars had the tendency of downplaying feudalism with its application to the early Middle Ages.
This was in contradiction to the more recent trends in Spanish historiography where feudalism was pushed back to the time of the Visigoth Kingdom, which is called protofeudalism. French historians believed that protofeudalism did not exist in medieval Spain as sworn by the public instead of individuals.
Reconquista Armies Alfonso VI Reconquista Toledo
After the last reigning Gothic king, Pelayo become one of the earliest Spanish heroes who reigned after the Muslim role. These refugees had lain the foundation for modern Spain. The second kingdom of Navarre which was founded by Guarcias Iniguez entered and subdued the realm.
The Spanish people regained Spain back and conquered even more colonies after. They began with the northern part of the peninsula, close to France moving towards the south.
Spain has gone through a lot since. After several years of fighting, Spain finally reunited under the rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella when they united forces and took back Grenada from the Moors in 1492, thereby ending the Reconquista.
The first recorded instance of successful resistance to the Moorish conquest of Iberia was the Asturian rebellion led by Pelagius.
Right after the Reconquista, the Muslims and Jews who lived in Spain were converted to Christians. Otherwise, they were expelled from the country.
Mainland Europe in medieval times was a mix of different kingdoms and empires and the area known as Germany was a very large area that was controlled by different groups during the medieval period.
Merovingian Empire in c. 481 – 751
Frankish Empire: c. 751 – 840
East Frankish Kingdom c. 843 – 880
Holy Roman Empire c. 962 – 1806
Over time, the Church came to play a very significant role and became one of the key power-brokers, others being the princes of various Germanic states. Medieval Germany played an important role in contributing to the traditions of Europe, particularly the tradition of building castles.
Castle Hohenzollern at Sunrise Medieval German Castles
Feudalism in Germany
Feudalism in Medieval Germany was a mixture of Roman and Frankish traditions. It emanated from an aristocratic hierarchy in which the King or the Duke stood at the top of the order, followed by the Princes who in turn granted portions of their lands to faithful nobles.
Serfs were required to offer up a portion of their labor to the landowning aristocracy whereas peasants, in contrast, handed over a portion of their annual harvest to their local noble.
This page is being re-designed *Thank you for your patience
Medieval Europe knights
The most recognizable symbol in Europe during medieval times was probably the medieval knight in full plate armor who represented bravery, honor, and chivalry!
European knights had a very strict Code of Chivalry *rules that governed their conduct *militarily trained in order to protect their Lord and his lands* The Code of Chivalry grew the most in France where it was popularized the most*
The Code of Chivalry *Knights
European knights started their training at a young age as a pageboy and then as a squire.