The Middle (Dark) Ages

Paper #5 – March 22nd, 2017 || Track 1, Month 7 || Assignment #6

The Medieval Ages: 500 CE – 1500 CE

This period is also known as the Dark Ages in Europe due to the loss of infrastructure and classical Greco-Roman knowledge after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE. Europe was largely based on a system on ‘fuedalism’. The characteristic settlement became the modest market town. Over time kingdoms emerged. The Papacy in Rome attempted to retain authority over the kings that included political, religious and warring tactics. There was theological debate, mostly centered on how the divinity and humanity of Christ were joined together, predestination and the presence of Christ in communion.

476 CE – Western Roman Empire Falls to Germanic tribes. The Eastern Roman Empire continues as the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Constantinople until 1453 CE.

480 CE – St. Benedict, founder of of Western European monasticism.

5th-10th Centuries – Tribal peoples of Eastern Europe and Central Asian steppes push westward.

5th – 11th Centuries – Slavic peoples in central Europe are pushed into Western Europe.

5th – 16th Centuries – Trade from East Africa to the Middle East and India flourished.

527 CE – Justinian Byzantine emperor (until 565 CE). Rebuilds Constantinople. Five Patriarchates: Constantinople, Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch.

590 CE – Pope Gregory (until 604 CE) introduces concepts of purgatory, penance and mass. Sends Augustine to England, the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

622 CE – Islam established. Over the next one hundred years Islam becomes the main religion in the Middle East, North Africa and into the Iberian Peninsula. All of the Christian Patriarchates (except Rome) come under Muslim rule.

800 CE – Charlemagne crowned by Pope Leo III. Carolingian Empire (until 888 CE) in France, Germany, Spain, Italy. Popes ally themselves with Frankish or Germanic warlords. Charlemagne seeks to reform the church. The controversy over the concept of “transubstantiation” in communion begins.

800 CE – Vikings (until 1100) trade across Europe and into the Middle East. By the 11th century they were exploring westward, across the Atlantic.

800 CE – West & North Africa Empires (until 1500 CE): Ghana, Kanem-Borno, Mali and Songhay. These empires, via trade, convert to Islam. Trade across the Sahara.

1054 CE – East-West Schism (until 1960s and Vatican II). The break between Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox and Latin-speaking Roman Catholic churches over doctrine and papal authority.

1095 CE – Christian Crusades to reclaim the Holy Lands (until 1291 CE). They became a mindset of warring and conquering that set a precedent for later conquests, slaughter and destruction in the Americas. The first of five crusades was launched by Pope Urban II. The Crusades were largely a failure and are regarded as evidence of Western Christian Imperialism by Muslims to this day. Contact with the Muslim world reintroduced Aristotalian thought, which began to influence Christianity.

1000 CE – A massive reform of the corrupted church emerges from the monastic movement beginning with the Cluniacs and the Cistercians. Simony, celibacy and absenteeism withing the clergy emerged as topics of debate and reform.

1093 CE – Period of Christian scholastic theology (until 1293 CE). Begins with Anselm of Canterbury who applies reason to questions of faith. Aristotelian philophies enter into Christian theology. Attempts are made to explain faith in God by reason. The concept of penal substitutionary atonement emerges.

1118 CE – Knights Templar (until 1307), Crusaders & pioneers of our modern banking system.

1161 CE – Pope Innocent III (until 1216 CE). Called the Fourth Crusade which weakened Constantinople with its sacking in 1204. Approves the Franciscan monastic movement. Calls Fourth Lateran Council (1215 CE) for reformation of the church and promulgates the doctrine of transubstantiation.

1181 CE – St. Francis of Assisi (until 1226 CE). Founds Franciscan monastic movement.

13th Century – Mongols conquer lands from Asia to East Europe; becomes world’s largest empire.

1216 CE – St. Dominic. Founds the Dominican monastic movement.

1274 CE – Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, scholastic theologian– some truths are within reach of reason, others are beyond it. Promotes Artistotelian examination of theology. Sin is a debt of punishment we owe to God.

1250 CE – Pope Innocent IV enacts canon law; legal precedence for modern concept of corporations: an immortal person, who sues and is sued, owns property. Applied to monastaries, universities, churches, municipalities and guilds.

1309 CE – Papacy’s “Babylonian Captivity” in France by King Philip. In 1377 CE, Pope Gregory XI returns to Rome, urged by Catherine of Siena.

1324 CE – Mansa (King) Musa, Mali Empire in West Africa, makes his Islamic pilgrimage to Cairo and Medina, spreading his fabulous wealth throughout the region.

1337 CE – The Hundred Years’ War begins between England & France (until 1453 CE).

1347 CE – Black Death (until 1352 CE) reaches Western Europe. A quarter to a half of the population of Europe dies. Kingdoms at war, until the 16th C with papal involvement.

1378 CE – Western Schism (until 1423 CE). Disputes over papal election after the return to Rome by Pope Gregory XI and his death.

15th C – 80 universities have been founded in Europe. Fosters scholastic humanism.

1453 CE – Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Turks. Trade via the Silk Road effectively stops. Europeans begin the search for routes via oceans.

1439 CE – Johan Gutenberg invents the moveable type printing press. By 1450 CE printing presses spread to 200 towns in Latin Christendom.

1492 CE – Spanish take back Grenada from Muslims. Columbus sails to the New World.

1493 CE – (until 1510 CE) Papal Bulls issued by popes Alexander VI and Julius II gave authority over the church in the new lands to the Spanish Crown. The Doctrine of Discovery.

1494 CE – Treaty of Tordesillas divides the world in two between Spain and Portugal.

The period could be considered being a period of initial global trade and exploration. Food production and populations dramatically increased resulting in new organizational structures of cities, states, empires, religions and trade on almost every continent. There were also heavy losses in population also due to war and disease. Within Christianity, by the late Middle Ages, “reason” was beginning to question the authority of the church, and the tendency of Western theology to make salvation a goal to be attained by human efforts. All of this turmoil paves the way for the Reformation and the Renaissance that begins in the following century.