What was life in during the medieval period? This is a journey that will take you through the Middle Ages and get you up, close and personal with the kings, their castles, the lives they led and the cultures and traditions of that era.
The Medieval period is divided into three ages which are The Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages. A look at some of the highlights of that era.
The Beginning of the Middle Ages
It was after the third century, when the tribal groups - Avars, Bulgars, Huns, Slavs, and Magyars got some land in exchange for peace by the Romans. But they turned hostile towards them later on. It was the barbarians that truly changed the course of history and almost destroyed the Western Roman Empire. The Goths deposed the last western Roman Emperor (Romulus Augustus) and it was this episode that witnessed the beginning of the Middle Ages.
The Early Middle Ages
This era saw a lot of social problems like illiteracy and economic problems too. It was only in the beginning of the 8th century that the economy improved. One also saw the sustenance of law and order in the various kingdoms. Feudalism got a strong foothold as the knights offered protection for the landlords in exchange of land.
Spain was invaded by the Muslims because Islam had become a very powerful religion by then. But it was owing to the efforts of Charles Martel, Europe saw itself being freed from the Muslim invasion.
One of the most important events that brought about this age was the Great Schism of 1054. It also saw the separation of the Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church.
The High Middle Ages
This was the time when gunpowder was incorporated into the Asian and European warfare. It also saw the division of The Carolingian Empire. It was divided in France, Germany under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy.
The year 1066 saw William the Conqueror being crowned as the king. He brought about a relative change in the situation. The Vikings were defeated and stability existed. This period also saw Dante writing The Divine Comedy.
The Late Middle Ages
This era began in the 14th century. Destroyed harvests and uprisings were witnessed all across Europe. The continent took a long time to recover after all these events.
Kings in Medieval Period
William I (1066-1087) is also known as the Conqueror was known to have built 40 magnificent castles during his reign. He was crowned at the Westminster Abbey on December 25, 1066.
William II (1087-1100) faced major rebellions in 1088 and 1095. He was crowned as king on September 26, 1087. Outrageous costumes were witnessed during his era.
Henry I (1100-1135) ensured that he built a lot of castles during his reign. The great tower was the most crucial point. He brought about a lot of cooperation between the Normans and Anglo-Saxon people. He was crowned at the Westminster Abbey on August 6, 1100.
Stephen (1135-54) was considered too soft hearted to rule. His rule saw the emergence of private castles.
Henry II (1154-1189) was known for his fiery nature. He dominated western Christendom and destroyed many private castles during his period. He was crowned on December 19, 1154, and was the first king to add Ireland to his province.
Henry IV (1399-1413) was crowned on October 13, 1399. This period saw a lot of corruption. A lot of chaos spread, and Henry IV was thus considered to be a weak ruler.
Edward I (1272-1307) got the finances back on track and began building castles. By April 1283 he conquered Wales. He devised a lot of plans and imposed heavy taxes on the people. He was crowned on August 19, 1274.
Richard II (1377-1399) was crowned on July 16, 1377. The year 1381 saw the peasant revolution. Richard made various promises to the peasants but did not keep his word. He was always in conflict with the Parliament. He even executed some of the opposing barons of his time.
Henry VIII (1509-1547) faced an invasion scare during his rule. As a measure of protection, he built a lot of coastal castles to guard against possible invasions. He was crowned as a king on June 24, 1509.
The medieval times also saw castles dominating the landscapes. Some of these castles were unfortunately destroyed but there are quite a few that have been restored even today. Let us take a look at some of the medieval castles that have mesmerized us for years.
Castles in Medieval Period
An important part of the country's heritage and culture, these stunning structures have dotted the hillsides for years. Although built to prevent raids from enemies, today you can find a lot of myths and false belief like ghosts inhabiting these fortifications.
This castle unfortunately has had a very repugnant past. It has witnessed murder, violence, and suffered gruesome attacks. It underwent remodeling in the late 14th century. In 1604, Sir Fulke Greville transformed this castle into a palace. During the Civil War, this castle again faced numerous attacks. There was also a period when the castle proved to be a great setting for entertainment. It was in 1978, the Tussaud's Group took over the restoration work. They used wax figures to give history a touch of realism.
It was only till the Civil War, that the Stafford castle was actually known as the silent castle. Till then it suffered no major attacks. The Gallant Lady Isabel defended this magnificent fortification during the war. The parliamentarians ultimately destroyed it. Although it was rebuilt in 1813, it again fell to ruins a few years later. The structure holds almost 900 years of glorious stories and secrets, some of which we may not even know about in our lives. An interesting fact discovered through archaeological excavations, have revealed 15th century style herb garden.
German castles sometimes can take you through a trip filled with fantasy and interspersed with romance. They have a gruesome history as well as a glorious past full of elegance and splendor.
Wartburg - Eisenach
Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, it was modified during the 1700s after it was almost destroyed. More than 1300 feet high, it houses the best-preserved Romanesque halls till date. These halls were from the Hohenstaufen period. The beautiful frescoes had their own little stories to tell.
The Alpine region mesmerized King Ludwig II and this is where the Neuschwanstein Castle ultimately stood. The first plan to design this castle was on the lines of a gothic style. But Ludwig II who was also immersed in this designing had a difference of opinion with the architect. 1869 saw the adaptation of Christian Jank's design for the Neuschwanstein Castle. This design also included a stage for Wagner's opera. The design used references from German mythology.
Construction of the castle was painstakingly slow. The Grotto was one of the elaborate rooms being planned replete with artificial waterfalls and caves. The construction of this castle continued after the untimely death of King Ludwig II at the age of 41. This was indeed tragic as King Ludwig II barely lived in the castle for 11 nights.
Such was the majestic power of the castle that the Abodrite Prince Nicolet, Lord of Schwerin Castle, preferred to set alight this beautiful structure when he was attacked. Despite many efforts, this castle was finally captured. It was then turned into a palace. But an unfortunate fire destroyed a third of this massive structure in 1913. Finally by 1921, the castle was turned into a museum.
The French castles were first designed for basic protection and hence incorporated the towers (donjons). But it was William the Conqueror who made a tremendous contribution towards the design of French castles. France was then known as the 'Country of Castles'.
The best of the medieval times, this castle was built in the 11th century. Its strategic location on a rock made it inaccessible for attacks. Considered to be the most dangerous assault on a castle, it ultimately succumbed to King Philip the Bold in 1272. It was even used a prison until the 1950s. Post this era, it was finally turned into a museum.
Built in the 14th Century, this spacious castle was a residence for all the royalties over the years. The primary design of the castle was based on mathematics. It was even surrounded by a strong wall but ultimately faced destruction in the later years.
The castles in Spain were built primarily to oppose the attacks from the Arabs. There was a time when one had seen more than 10,000 Spanish castles, but today only a few remain.
Alcazar of Segovia
Constructed by King Alfonso VI , this was one of the most famous castles. It even had an artificial moat around it. Alcazar actually means castle and the design truly represents a good amalgamation of Spanish architecture. Today, it has been successfully restored as it had faced a massive fire that almost destroyed it.
Castillo de Coca - Coca Castle
This castle has the reputation to be one the most famous and beautiful castles in Spain. Although attacked in 1521, it was only taken over by Napoleon in 1808. The beautiful castle is built of brick and stone and formed a strategic part of a 'square' with three other castles. It also saw a lot of modifications in order to increase the elements that provide a good defense.
One can still come across many more kings and castles from the historic texts of the Middle Ages. If one could somehow travel back into past, it would probably give us a better insight into the glorious history.