Early Middle Ages 800 - 1200
Illustration on top: Citywall Visby, Gotland in Sweden
The Middle Ages is a term that covers a significant period of time in European history, spanning from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD to the beginning of the Renaissance in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. This period is generally considered to be from 465 to 1500 AD. The Middle Ages are divided into three main periods: the Early Middle Ages (also known as the Dark Ages) from 476-1000 AD, the High Middle Ages from 1000-1300 AD and the Late Middle Ages from 1300-1500 AD.
In Scandinavia, the Middle Ages are said to begin with the end of the Viking Age around the year 1000/1050. The period is further divided into the Early Romanesque Middle Ages (1000-1200) and the Late Middle Ages (1200-1450) which are marked by Gothic architectural and artistic styles.
The early European Middle Ages, specifically from the year 800 when Charlemagne was crowned emperor of Western Europe, to about 1200, saw the emergence of a distinct European culture after the confusion and turmoil of the previous centuries. This can be observed in the development of unique architectural styles, fashion, and jewelry design. From 1000-1200, there was relative political and economic stability in Europe and the art of jewelry was heavily influenced by Byzantine culture. The motif above and the image on the next page of the Pope from Byzantium demonstrate the contrast between the closed, heavy and monopolized urban life in the north and the open, rich and exclusive culture of the south.
During this time, Europe also saw the rise of feudalism, the growth of towns and cities, and the emergence of a new class of merchants and artisans. The period also saw the growth of the Catholic Church, which played a significant role in shaping the cultural and political landscape of Europe. The Church became a powerful institution and many of the Kings and rulers of the time were under the Church's influence. The High Middle Ages also saw important events such as the First Crusade, the Magna Carta and the establishment of the first universities.
The Late Middle Ages were marked by political instability and economic difficulties. The Black Death, a devastating pandemic that killed a significant portion of the population, had a profound impact on society, as did the Hundred Years' War between England and France. But despite the challenges, this period also saw the emergence of new forms of art and literature such as the works of Chaucer, Dante and Boccaccio.
The Middle Ages was a time of great change and development in Europe, laying the foundation for the Renaissance and the modern world. The cultural, political and economic developments of this period continue to shape the world we live in today.