Life In Medieval England 1066 - 1485

The castles, cathedrals and parish churches of England are the most impressive visible legacies of the Middle Ages. Almost all of them date from the period after 1066, when England was conquered by the Norman invaders from France. The buildings remain, but what of the life that went on inside them? They liked to extravagant feasts, toumaments between armoured knights, courtly rituals, and displays of fanatical piety. The colours may have faded, but the romance lingers still...

Barons and knights

Next in rank to the king in mediaval society were barons, including a handful of earls. These powerful and wealthy men were the king´s tenants-in-chief, controlling large armies of knights loyal to their lord and king. The first dukedoms were created in the 14th century, for the sons of Edward III. Through most of the medieval period, great men were content to be known by their own names and referred to as 'my lord', without the need for fussy titles and forms of address. Although many prominent baronial families were wiped out during the Wars of the Roses (1455-85), some still flourish today. Their ancestors came from France in some cases but others are of English origin. Below the barons in rank were the few thousand members of the knightly class ar gentry, whose representatives in the Commons were deseribed as 'knights of the shire'. At the time of the Norman Conquest, knighthood was associated less with nobility than with violence and terror.

Bishops, abbots and monks

To medieval Christians, a life of self-denial in a monastery seemed like the surest route to Heaven. The numerous monastic buildings that have survived in England, induding some spectacular ruins, bear witness to the immense popularity, wealth and prestige of the medieval monasteries, which Henry VIII was to dissolve in the 1530s. Bishops and abbots (the heads of monasteries) were treated no differendly from ordinary landowners, and, indeed, were in every way the equals of the barons, attending the councils of the king. The foundation of the Cistercian Order was an attempt to retum to the purer form of religious life. The favourite retreats of these 'White Monks' were in remote, underpopulated regions, as far as possible from human habitation. The aim of these monks was not only to be self-sufficient but also to be free from the problems ofdependent tenants. The Cistercians availed the lands around them as a pastures for sheeps. The business with wool them do great fortune. But they lost it for ransom Richard the Lionheart from his captivity in Germany 1194. By that time the Cistercians had already become a by-word for avarice.

Castles and cottages

Many houses and castles of the rich and powerful survive from the Middle Ages. Very often there would be more than one great chamber and chapel, some lesser halls and one great hall about two storeis hight with central hearth. The household or 'family' of lord amounted to 200 people, while that of the king would usually be at least twice that size. Even in the largest palaces, it would not have been possible to provide so many people with individual accommodation, and only the most senior among them could have expected the luxury of a bed and chamber of their own. Everyone else would have to lay down his pallet on the floor of the great hall or in any other convenient space. Peasant housing typically took the form of a long-house, with accommodation for the family at one end, and a byre for the cattle at the other.

Life in towns and education

People in the Middle Ages lives mainly in willages, only about five per cent of the population lived in towns. Mediaval cities were very small, for example London had only about 50 thousand people and York 8000. There aren´t any shops, which we know, but only a weekly market. The streets of the medieval town were invariably narrow and dirty, with open drains, and the houses mostly wooden. Stone houses were symbol of fortunes. The towns were also the centres of education. The main language of business, government and culture was French. And students was learned Latin too. The peasant is likely to have gained his education from his parish priest.


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Přidal: jenikkozak 5. 1. 2013
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