misunderstood middle ages

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A presentation originally given in Powerpoint in 2013 to University of the Third Age members in Sydney .


  • 2. A BAD PRESS ! There is something dark and wintry about the atmosphere of the Middle Ages The obscure and fanatical days of the Middle Ages In the absence of evidence superstition . Its a Middle Ages thing The philosophers of the Middle Ages demonstrated that the Earth did not exist and it was flat
  • 3. HISTORY HAS CONTEXT AND CONTENT Historians often define and give give value laden names to historical periods to give emphasis to their own times , convictions and areas of expertise Thus Renaissance historians in the 16th century talked of The Middle Ages when human consciousness lay dreaming or half awake in their attempt to revive Greek and Latin learning and diminish the achievements of the Middle Ages We shall take a look at some of the major achievements of the Middle Ages and show how they anticipated many modern institutions and thinking
  • 4. THE MIDDLE AGES WHEN WERE THEY ? Early Middle Ages from 500 to 1000 A.D. Barbarian incursions , shift of power from Rome to Constantinople High Middle Ages from 1000 to 1200 A.D . Balance of power back to Western Europe . Economic , social , commercial , intellectual growth Late Middle Ages from 1200 to 1500 A .D . Growth of city states and national monarchies . Inspiration from the Classical era . Development of the Renaissance
  • 5. MAJOR NATURAL EVENTS Mediaeval Cooling 500-900 ,severely affecting agriculture and economic growth Mediaeval Warming 900-1300 giving rise to agricultural , economic and population growth The Little Ice Age 1300+ giving rise to famine , depopulation , war and disease The Black Death 1348-50 , estimated to have killed at least 30% of Europes population .
  • 6. THE TURBULENT MIDDLE AGES The 100 years war Expansion of Islam The Crusades Medieval warming Agricultural growth Economic growth Population growth The Little Ice Age The Black Death The fall of Byzantium The growth of universities The flourishing of art and architecture The growth of philosophy The development of science and technology The creation of capitalism The Papal revolution Geographical exploration The discovery of the New World
  • 7. SOME MEDIAEVAL MYTHS It was believed that the earth was flat and centered on Jerusalem Philosophers debated how many angels could stand on the head of a pin There were massive programmes of witch burning Mediaeval lords had a right to sexual relations with the newly married wives of their serfs Medical dissection was forbidden by the church Interest on money was forbidden Etc , etc
  • 8. THE RENAISSANCE MYTH A construct of the 17th century alleging The sudden dawning of new thinking after 1500 based on that of Greece and Rome after 1000 years of darkness The spread of new ideas , the advance of science the reform of religion , the development of capitalism , the discovery of the New World To include typical Renaissance figures the period was sometimes extended backwards from 1500 by 300 years to include much of the Middle Ages !
  • 11. MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE MIDDLE AGES Architecture Art Literature Philosophy Science and Technology Universities Capitalism Monasticism The Papal Revolution
  • 12. ARCHITECTURE In the early middle ages 800-1100 the Romanesque style was a development of Western Roman and Byzantine architecture Characterised by thick walls , round arches and a general massiveness and symmetry and spreading across Europe Many monasteries (Vezelay),castles(Tower of London) and cathedrals(Durham) were built in this style
  • 13. ARCHITECTURE Increasing wealth both secular and ecclesiastical , the growth of cities and the refinement of theological thinking found expression in the Gothic style of architecture This manifested itself primarily in Gothic cathedrals of which there were hundreds spread throughout Europe They integrated in a monumental framework major architectural and artistic innovations
  • 14. GOTHIC CATHEDRALS The pointed arch and rib vaulting channelled weight onto columns and enabled the vaulting of irregular spaces The flying buttress took load bearing from the walls and enabled infilling of the walls with glass Stained glass was used to create light , colour and an artistic medium on a large scale Height was also a major feature , internally to 50 , externally to 160 metres All features were combined in defined geometric proportions and with extensive use of symbolism and colour All this required near professional architectural and complex logistical and financial planning skills
  • 15. Of all the monuments to human achievement there is none to match these towers of tracery and glass that burst into the light of Northern Europe before the year 1200 There were no further basic principles of architecture until the invention of steel and concrete and reinforced concrete buildings The cathedrals were built by the common consent of the townspeople and for them by common masons
  • 16. THE BEST IN THEIR CLASS A ranking 1 to 20 of the most excellent in major fields of the arts and sciences Based on the combined judgement of a wide variety of the most knowledgeable people in each field Reflects those achievements which have endured across the centuries
  • 17. ART Covered many locations , movements and media Early influences were Byzantine , Germanic and Islamic art Romanesque art was very inventive, vigorous and expressive with a strong religious emphasis Gothic art gradually changed from the 13th century into the expression of religious , natural and personal themes known inappropriately as Renaissance art
  • 18. GIOTTO 1266-1337 8
  • 19. DONATELLO 1386-1466 14
  • 20. JAN VAN EYCK 1395-1441 15
  • 21. MASACCIO 1401-1428 18
  • 22. LEONARDO DA VINCI 1452-1519 4
  • 23. DURER 1471-1528 6
  • 24. RAPHAEL 1483-1520 3
  • 25. LITERATURE Religious and secular , much of it anonymous Courtly love , epics and political content Beowulf 8th-11th century Wolfram von Eschenbach 1170-1220 Dante 1265-1321 3 Boccaccio 1313-1375 15 Geoffrey Chaucer end of 14th century Niccolo Machiavelli 1469-1527 Petrarch 1304-1374 12
  • 26. P PY PP