Whenever the word “medieval” is mentioned to many of us, the first thing that pops into our minds are epic battles shown in movies – with knight, spears and their stallions – and impossible loves between peasants and those of high class. In a classic by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, we have the perfect representation of what many of us believe love in medieval times was like. Another good example: fairy tales. For some reason they always seem to hold a medieval essence around them, as if fantasy and Middle Ages just went perfectly together – hand in hand. Aside from heart-melting loves and fantastic fairy tales, another common “definition” people will give you for the word “medieval” is violence. “To “get medieval” then is to step outside the Symbolic order into an Imaginary that collapses directly into an unspeakable, even unimaginable Real.” -- Nickolas Haydock's (“The Imaginary Middle Ages, Movie Medievalism”. Page 9, 2-4 lines.)
In Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino we have the best example to show how people seem to think of the middle ages' violence. Here the phrase “getting medieval” stands for a violence and torture that’s far from our powers of imagination. We’ve taken the word “medieval,” and what it stands for, and turned its meaning into a parallel of aggression, cruelty, violence and barbarism. In true reality, do we even remember what “medieval” really means? The long period it describes, and all we owe to that era and time? And if we don't know, then why is it that we lack such knowledge? Is it lack of interest, poor education, or a mixture of both? For the Middle Ages weren’t only violence and war, but it was also the time for many advances and changes that would shape the future we now live in. Instead of me just mentioning all of these, however, we’ll simply take a small walk down memory lane and re-visit once more the history of the Middle Ages.
Though there’s a bit of a fuzz as to when the middle ages really started and ended the dates more commonly used are the following: this period started around the 400-476 AD [when the Romans were sacked by the Visigoths and the deposing of Augustulus] and lasted all the way to the 1453-1517, when Constantinople fell to the Protestant Reformation – which was started by the Ninety-Five Thesis written by no other than Martin Luther. Trapped inside large walls and deprived from most trade points among other things, the civilization of the once known Roman Empire had slowly begun receding. Bishops often played a significant role in governance, thanks to the literacy they possessed. Some of the kings and lords that conquered Catholic-populated regions ended up converting, an example being Clovis I of the Franks.
Clovis I was a barbarian king, who after conquering some of the Catholic regions chose Catholic orthodoxy over Arianism. The Early Middle Ages witnessed a rise of monasticism, the European one determined by many traditions and ideas that had originated in deserts close to Egypt and Syria. Another style of monasticism focused on community experience of the spiritual life, known as cenobitism, and pioneered by the saint Pachomius in the 4th century. Soon, however, the monasticism based upon the Benedictine Rule spread widely across Europe with alarming speed – swallowing the smaller clusters of cenobites along its path. Charlemagne also had his small share in this time, unifying a large portion of Europe with a systematic expansion. Rewarding loyal allies with war booty and command over parcels of lands, it is of no surprise that a vast amount of the High Middle Ages nobility claimed its roots in the Carolingian nobility – generated through that period of expansion.
“Charlemagne's court in Aachen was the center of a cultural revival that is sometimes referred to as the "Carolingian Renaissance". This period witnessed an increase of literacy, developments in the arts, architecture, jurisprudence, as well as liturgical and scriptural studies....
Bibliography: Haydock, Nickolas. Imaginary Middle Ages, Movie Medievalism. North Carolina and London, 2007.
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