Chapter 10 The Changing Life of the People in the High Middle Ages

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Chapter 10

The Three Orders of Society (fourteenth century)

  • This book illustration shows the most common image of medieval society: those who fight, those who pray, and those who work. The group of clergy shown here includes a veiled nun; nuns were technically not members of the clergy, but most people considered them as such.

Boarstall Manor, Buckinghamshire

  • In 1440 Edmund Rede, lord of this estate, had a map made showing his ancestor receiving the title from King Edward I (lower field). Note the manor house, church, and peasants’ cottages along the central road. In the common fields, divided by hedges, peasants cultivated on a three-year rotation cycle: winter wheat, spring oats, a year fallow. Peasants’ pigs grazed freely in the woods, indicated by trees. We don’t know whether peasants were allowed to hunt the deer.

Man Stomping on Grapes

  • Before the invention of the winepress in 1526, grapes were crushed by human power— people treading on them in barrels. The French province of Poitou, the region of Bordeaux, and the Rhine and Moselle Valleys supplied wine to an expanding European market. The staple drinks for peasants and monks were ale, beer, and cider; wine was considered an aristocratic drink.

The Eucharist

  • The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 encouraged all Christians to receive the Eucharist at least once a year after confession and penance. Here a priest places the consecrated bread, called a host, on people’s tongues.

Foolish Maidens on a Wedding Door of the Cathedral in Strasbourg (thirteenth century)

  • Medieval cathedrals sometimes had a side door depicting a biblical story of ten young women who went to meet a bridegroom. Five of them were wise and took extra oil for their lamps, and five were foolish and did not (Matthew 25:1–13). In the story, which is a parable about always being prepared for the end of the world, the foolish maidens were out of oil when the bridegroom arrived and missed the wedding feast. The “maidens’ door” became a popular site for weddings, which were held right in front of it.

Jewish Cemetery

  • Tomb in Worms of a thirteenth-century German Jewish rabbi who was imprisoned by the emperor and died in prison. Jewish and Christian cemeteries were separated in medieval Europe, with Christian cemeteries generally next to churches and Jewish ones often outside town walls.

Monastery of Saint Martin de Canigou

  • The Benedictine monastery of Saint Martin de Canigou was constructed in 1009 in the eastern Pyrenees by a nobleman from one of the small Christian kingdoms in northern Spain. Like hundreds of other monasteries, it came under the influence of the abbey of Cluny. With its thick walls and strategic position, it served as a Christian defensive fortress against the Muslims in battles of the reconquista.

Beekeeping at Monte Cassino

  • In this painting, lay brothers and peasants gather honey for the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy. Monasteries were important producers of agricultural products as well as spiritual services. Because of the scarcity and expense of sugar, honey was the usual sweetener for pastries and liquids throughout the Middle Ages. This illustrator had clearly never seen the process, for medieval beekeepers used veils, nets, and gloves to keep from getting stung, just as modern beekeepers do.

Cistercian Expansion

  • The rapid expansion of the Cistercian order in the twelfth century reflects the spiritual piety of the age and its enormous economic vitality. Use the map and the information in your text to answer the following questions:•1 What economic activities were especially developed by the Cistercians? How did these influence medieval economic development?•2 The Cistercians originally intended to live far from existing towns and villages and to not be involved in traditional feudal-manorial society. Does this map suggest they were successful in their aims?

Pilgrim’s badge from Santiago de Compostela

  • Pilgrim’s badge from Santiago de Compostela. Enterprising smiths began making metal badges for pilgrims to buy as proof of their journey and evidence of their piety. The scallop shell became particularly associated with Saint James and eventually with pilgrimages in general. Pilgrims who had visited many shrines would clink from the badges worn on their hats or capes, sometimes becoming objects of satire just as tourists laden with souvenirs are today.

Pilgrims’ routes

  • Pilgrims’ routes: monasteries in Cluny, Vézelay, Saint-Gilles, and Moissac served as inns for pilgrims.

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