Building a house in the middle age in europe (specifically germany)

Building a house in the middle age in europe (specifically germany)

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How was is to build a house in the middle age in europe? Where did people get the materials from? How long did it take? What were the differences between building outside the city and in the city? How many people did it take to build a house?

First of all, most people didn't really live in a house. Mud huts more like it. Cities were more likely to have wood houses. If you were powerful you lived in a stone house. There were no wood treatments back then and wood rotted if used in a structure. So although wood was used extensively in buildings, they didn't last as long as they do today. The exception is certain military and religious buildings made out of stone in basilica or roman styles. Construction took from a few months to years, involving a couple to hundreds of people, depending on the size.

As Christianity grew people moved away from Roman arch architecture to simple Gothic styles for churches. The main feature of Gothic architecture is the triangular shape of the structure rather than the arch shape used by Romans. This saved on materials and time. There was also Arab and Chinese architecture, which is a whole different story.

Fire was a major problem in cities and everything was crammed together and unsanitary. Cities like London held up to 300,000 people per square mile, and without modern skyscrapers and so forth to make the space problem easier. There was some limited urban planning, mostly by the people who had power in the city- guilds, monarchs, and merchants. However nobody ever solved the human waste problem.

Middle Ages Architecture

Middle Ages Architecture
Architecture during the Middle Ages saw many innovative changes from the Romanesque style of architecture to the Gothic style of architecture.

Romanesque architecture was the name given to the style of architecture used in very early Middle Ages when much of these developments were pioneered by the Normans and their prolific castle building. Romanesque Architecture was succeeded by Gothic, or Perpendicular style of architecture of the later Middle Ages (1066 - 1485) To appreciate the full extent of the changes in Middle Ages Architecture it is helpful to understand its fore-runner - Romanesque Architecture

Why Were Castles Built In The Middle Ages ?

There were some fabulous castles built throughout the Europe in the Middle Ages. The strategy and technology used to build these architectures were splendid. As if now, today also these architectures are standing tall bringing pride and wealth to their respective locations.

The castles in the Middle Ages were built for protection. The main purpose behind building a castle was originally protection from foreign invaders. Most of the castles were mainly built during the wars. The castles were originally built for protection and were having simple construction. But as the attacks grew more and more strong, the need for improved protection arose and the construction of castles became sophisticated. The need for more sophisticated castles augmented more technological advancements to construct. The simple construction of castle started with a wooden structure on the top of a stack completely bordered by a ditch. On flat surfaces, a wide water ditch called as moat was constructed. At a later phase, the moat formed was divided from the real castle by a sequence of elevated walls. The space created between the castle and the moat was called as bailey. This form of castle became fashionable throughout the Europe by the 11th century.

Enhancements took place in the development of these castles and the walls of castles were constructed thicker crowned with battle parapets. On arrival of the Normans, the castles were added with dungeon or masonry keeps in the confines of bailey. These keeps were normally forty to fifty feet high in altitude with thick walls and windows of small size. Moat ditches became a substitute for the rudimentary ditches, which were usually filled with water. Water predators such as the crocodiles were kept in these moats for protection. Most of the moats nearby castles were kept dry. Drawbridges were used to cross the moats which could be opened and closed just from inside of the castle. There were also well for water, public housing and anything else required for survival.

Arts and entertainment were regarded amongst the most important aspects of the Middle Ages in terms of the religious life as well as the secular life which was more prevalent during the end. As far as the entertainment part is concerned, music formed one of the basic sources of entertainment while on the other hand it was also being used for religious devotions. The priests and monks were known to chant such divine offices on daily basis. There were several different musical instruments placed in the church itself which helped in innovating new music prices to devote their worship to the God. More..

The Look

Half-timbering was a popular European construction method toward the end of the Middle Ages and into the reign of the Tudors. What we think of as Tudor architecture often has the half-timbered look. Some authors have chosen the word "Elizabethan" to describe half-timbered structures.

Nevertheless, during the late 1800s, it became fashionable to imitate Medieval building techniques. A Tudor Revival house expressed American success, wealth, and dignity. Timbers were applied to exterior wall surfaces as decoration. False half-timbering became a popular type of ornamentation in many nineteenth and twentieth-century house styles, including Queen Anne, Victorian Stick, Swiss Chalet, Medieval Revival (Tudor Revival), and, occasionally, on modern-day Neotraditional houses and commercial buildings.

Where Are the Most Historical Sites in Europe?

Photo credit: Prof Saxx on Wikimedia

Lascaux, France

Located deep inside the caves found throughout the Vézère Valley in Dordogne, often described as the cradle of human art, as it holds the highest concentration of Stone Age art found in Europe, the Lascaux UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous across the world for its impressive collection of 500+ wall paintings dating back to the Upper Palaeolithic age, i.e., around 20,000 years ago. Indeed, the interior walls and ceilings are dotted with excellently preserved paintings of large animals which were found in the area at the time and which are consistent with fossils also found by archaeologists over the past centuries.

The actual cave was open to the public for a few decades after its accidental discovery by four local teenagers, but the carbon dioxide released by visitors considerably damaged the paintings therefore, visitors are now taken to Lascaux II, a meticulous and extremely faithful reproduction of the cave created by using exactly the same techniques and pigments used by the Cro-Magnon men and women who so profusely adorned the original Lascaux.

Plan your trip to France with flights to Bordeaux

Colosseum, Italy

Emblem of not only Italy but also the powerful Roman empire that once had a hold on the vast majority of the European continent, making Rome the largest city in the world at the time, the Colosseum requires very little presentation.

It’s the largest amphitheatre ever built calculations suggest that it could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, seated according to rank, who would have gathered there to watch gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, mythology-related plays and re-enactments of various kinds. Impressively enough, the massive structure was built in just eight years after construction began in AD 72. Useful tip: skip the inevitable queue (this is one of the most visited historical sites in Europe after all) by purchasing your ticket online prior to your visit.

Plan your trip to Italy with flights to Rome

Photo credit: Marie-Ève Vallières

Anne Frank’s House, Netherlands

Perhaps one of the most illustrious victims of the Holocaust, Anne Frank was a Jewish teenage girl living in hiding, along with her immediate family and a few relatives, inside the building where Anne’s father used to work on the Prinsengracht. This now oddly famous shelter is often referred to as “The Annex” by Anne in her Diary of A Young Girl and is now open to the public, which is guaranteed a highly emotional visit within one of the most notable locations related to the horrors of World War II.

Anne Frank gained fame posthumously when her father Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, published her diary which thoroughly documents their quiet, isolated life in hiding until they were arrested by the Gestapo sometime in 1944 and sent to concentration camps unbeknownst to him, it would go on to become one of the world’s most widely read books. Additionally, Anne Frank’s House is located in the charming Jordaan district of Amsterdam, giving visitors an excellent reason to venture out to the quieter canals.

Plan your trip to the Netherlands with flights to Amsterdam

Stonehenge, Britain

Was it a burial mound or a pagan prayer site? How did the Druids transport these massive sarsen stones all the way from a quarry 40 kilometres away with their primitive Neolithic equipment? Why are these exceptional monolithic stones laid out in that very specific concentric manner? Even 5,000+ years after construction, archaeologists can’t seem to agree on what the standing stones of Stonehenge were used for nor how exactly they came to be.

What they do know, however, is that it’s clearly not a coincidence that the stones are perfectly laid out to catch the powerful sun rays of the winter and summer solstice, which suggests that they would have been at the centre of massive twice-yearly celebrations.

Today, Stonehenge is perhaps not only Britain’s, also but the world’s most famous and well-preserved prehistoric monument and, consequently, welcomes millions of visitors every year. Insider’s tip: visitors should book private sunset or sunrise visits of Stonehenge, which will allow them to actually set foot within the stone circle for an intimate, up close viewing of the mythical stones – the absolute best way to visit this historical sites in Europe.

Plan your trip to England with flights to London

Photo credit: Marie-Eve Vallieres

Acropolis, Greece

Welcome to the world’s greatest heritage from the Greek Antiquity! The former citadel, built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city of Athens, is precisely where visual arts, architecture, philosophy and democracy flourished tremendously in the thriving post-Persian war era around year 500 BC. As such, it holds several noteworthy and invaluable ruins such as the iconic Parthenon, as well as the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Propylaia.

The Acropolis is often regarded as one of the world’s most precious monuments as well as an enduring symbol of the early stages of western civilisation and the apotheosis of Ancient Greece. History buffs will be particularly pleased to visit the nearby Acropolis Museum, an architectural masterpiece dedicated to the archaeological discoveries on and around the Acropolis of Athens.

Lübeck, Germany

While not a whole lot of people would know where to locate Lübeck on a map, much explain why it’s one of the most overlooked historical sites in Europe, the modest northern German town played an influential role in the economic prosperity of the Old Continent during the Middle Ages. Founded in the 12th century, Lübeck was, in fact, the capital of the pragmatic Hanseatic League, a mercantile, defensive association of merchant guilds which monopolised market towns throughout the Baltic trade routes, and as such quickly became a centre for maritime commerce.

This was where most of the trading routes started from or ended at for over four centuries, particularly as far as the Nordic countries were concerned. Although it was badly damaged during World War II, Lübeck still holds several unaltered medieval sites such as the town hall, the four distinctive town gates, historic warehouses and a maze of narrow cobblestone streets.

Plan your trip to Lübeck with our flights to Europe

Newgrange, Ireland

The peculiar prehistoric monument in County Meath just outside of Dublin may not look like much at first sight, but perhaps what would make it more impressive is the fact that predates not only Stonehenge but also Egypt’s great pyramids of Giza — downright spectacular! Indeed, the large circular mound is part of Ireland’s Ancient East and also acts as Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art.

It served a variety of purposes in its glory days, from funerary rites to economic functions as well as astronomical and religious places. Newgrange impresses by its sheer age and also by its brilliant layout. Truly one of the most mind-boggling historical sites in Europe.

Plan your trip to Ireland with flights to Dublin

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Building a house in the middle age in europe (specifically germany) - History

Medieval and Middle Ages History Timelines

or kids and adults alike. Explore the history of the Medieval period from the time of Alfred the Great through the Norman Conquest and up to the start of the Tudor Age. Detailed Timelines contain events for years between 800 and 1547. Maps show the locations of castles, abbeys and cathedrals in England, Scotland and Wales. Every person and building on this site has a timeline and links to related subjects.

This site was last updated on 11th of June 2021.

ncover the lives of the hundreds of kings, queens, lords, ladies, barons, earls, archbishops and rebels who made the medieval people an exciting period of history to live through.

castle is a fortified building or set of buildings used to provide permanent or temporary protection and accomodation for kings and queens or important noblemen and their families. The term castle usually refers to stone buildings constructed during the Medieval period. The castle provided the centre for political and administrative power for the region.

bbeys and Monasteries were populated by many different religious orders with their own beliefs, rules and restrictions. The medieval period saw the foundation of a wide number of religious orders including the popular Benedictines and Cistercians.

3D Virtual Reconstructions

ransport yourself back up to a thousand years and explore historical buildings as they may have appeared in the past. Built using the popular game development tool Unity 3D, these reconstructions will run in the most of the popular web browsers on your desktop or laptop computer.

Primary Sources

(Source 1) John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, the man blamed for the Poll Tax (c. 1620)

(Source 2) King Edward I introduced a movable property tax of 15%. A song called, Against the King's Taxes, was written about the tax and sung by wandering minstrels (c. 1300)

It obliges the common people to sell cows, vessels, and clothes. Half of what is raised in the kingdom does not come to the king Since he has not the whole, as it is given to him, the people is obliged to give more. For the taxes which are raised are not all given to the king.

(Source 3) Richard FitzNeal, Dialogue Concerning the Exchequer (c. 1180)

Money is necessary, not only in time of war, but also in time of peace. For. revenue is spent on the fortification of towns, the payment of wages to the soldiers. for the maintenance of the realm, weapons of war. churches are also built by devout kings.

(Source 4) John Wycliffe, sermon (c. 1380)

Lords do wrong to poor men by unreasonable taxes. and they perish from hunger and thirst and cold, and their children also. And in this manner the lords eat and drink poor men's flesh and blood.

(Source 5) Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Payment of the Tithes (c. 1620)

(Source 6) Details of some of the amounts in shillings and pence that people had to pay as a result of the Poll Tax in 1379.

Duke of Lancaster (133s 4d)
Archbishops (133s 4d)
Bishops, Abbots and Priors (80s)
Barons and Knights (40s)
Alderman (40s)
Great Merchants (20s)
Squires (20s)
Monks and Canons (3s 4d)
Lesser Merchants (2s)
Men and Women over 16(4d)

(Source 7) Rolls of Parliament (1380)

The lords and commons are agreed that. three groats should be given from each lay person of the realm. who have reached the age of fifteen - except for genuine beggars who will be charged nothing. each person shall be charged equally.

(Source 8) Extract from poem about the 1380 Poll Tax (c. 1381)

A man with goods worth forty pounds has to pay twelve round pence. And another, brought to the ground by poverty, has to pay as much.

(Source 10) J. F. C. Harrison, The Common People (1984)

From about 1369 the war went increasingly badly for the English, producing little to show for its enormous expense. Indeed, the enemy was now able to raid and loot towns on the south coast, and there was fear of a French invasion. The government, hard-pressed to know where to turn for money to continue the war, levied three poll-taxes in 1377, 1379 and 1381. When the returns for the 1381 poll-tax were in, it was apparent that there had been widespread tax-evasion, and commissioners were therefore appointed to enforce payment of the full tax.

(Source 11) Dan Jones, Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt (2009)

In the Parliament. held in Westminster in January and February 1377, they proposed a poll tax. Four pence was to be taken from every man and woman over the age of fourteen. This was a huge shock: taxation had never before been universal, and four pence was the equivalent of three days' labour to simple farmhands at the rates set in the Statute of Labourer.

(Source 12) Charles Poulsen, The English Rebels (1984)

There was a maximum payment of twenty shillings from men whose families and households numbered more than twenty, thus ensuring that the rich paid less than the poor. A shilling was a considerable sum for a working man, almost a week's wages. A family might include old persons past work and other dependents, and the head of the family became liable for one shilling on each of their 'polls'. This was basically a tax on the labouring classes.

Questions for Students

Question 1: Study source 4. Select a passage where Wycliffe expresses an opinion on taxation. Explain how Wycliffe attempted to persuade people that it was wrong to tax poor people.

Question 2: Give as many reasons as you can why the king and his parliament imposed taxes. Which of these reasons do you think the king thought was the most important?

Question 3: What kind of different taxes were imposed during the Middle Ages? Explain the type of taxes that would have been particularly disliked by the following groups: (a) large landowners (b) wool merchants (c) poor peasants.

Question 4: Explain the differences between the poll tax of 1379 and the poll tax of 1380.

Question 5: What did the author of source 8 think about the 1381 poll tax? Would everyone in England have agreed with him?

Question 6: "Change always means progress." Is this statement always true? Answer this question with reference to the introduction of the Poll Tax.

Question &: Select sources from this unit that helps to explain why the poor hated having to pay taxes. What other types of sources might help you answer this question? Comment on the advantages and disadvantages of using the sources you have suggested.

The "document" at the Neupfarrplatz in Regensburg

The first Jewish community in Bavaria was based in Regensburg. In the Middle Ages it was one of the most important in Europe. The first synagogue, which was destroyed in 1519, is today commemorated by a work of art in white stone marking the outline of the synagogue. In 1995, during excavation work, the old remnants were found, leading to the creation of an underground information center.

Synagogues in Germany

Moors, Saints, Knights and Kings: The African Presence in Medieval and Renaissance Europe

The study of the African presence in history, whether in the African Diaspora or Africa itself, is a richly rewarding endeavor. In this study we realize that slavery alone is not African history and that African history is everybody’s history. The history of African people — Black people — is rich and comprehensive, inspiring and, often, little known. Nowhere is this more the case than the African presence in Medieval and Renaissance Europe.

The Moors: Light of Europe’s Dark Age

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Moors, as early as the Middle Ages and as late as the 17th century, were “commonly supposed to be black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for Negro.”

Early in the eighth century, after a grim and extended resistance to the Arab invasions of North Africa, the Moors joined the triumphant surge of Islam. Following this, they crossed over from Morocco over to the Iberian Peninsula where their swift victories and remarkable feats soon became the substance of legends.

In July 710, Tarif, with 400 foot soldiers and 100 horses, all Berbers, successfully carried out a mission in southern Iberia. Tarif, an important port city in southern Spain, is named after him.

It is clear, however, that the conquest of Spain was undertaken upon the initiative of Tarik ibn Ziyad. Tarik was in command of an army of at least 10,000 men.

In 711, the bold Tarik crossed the straits and disembarked near a rock promontory, which from that day since has borne his name — Djabal Tarik (“Tarik’s Mountain”), or Gibraltar. In August 711, Tarik won paramount victory over the opposing European army. On the eve of the battle, Tarik is alleged to have roused his troops with the following words:

“My brethren, the enemy is before you, the sea is behind whither would ye fly? Follow your general I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on the prostrate king of the Romans.”

Wasting no time to relish his victory, Tarik pushed on with his dashing and seemingly tireless Moorish cavalry to the Spanish city of Toledo. Within a month’s time, General Tarik ibn Ziyad had effectively terminated European dominance of the Iberian Peninsula.

In the aftermath of these brilliant struggles, thousands of Moors flooded into the Iberian Peninsula. So eager were they to come that some are said to have floated over on tree-trunks. Tarik himself, at the conclusion of his illustrious military career, retired to the distant East, we are informed, to spread the teachings of Islam.

There is really no need to speculate on the ethnicity of these early invaders of the conquest period. Primary Christian sources relating to the conquest, particularly the Primera Cronica General of Alfonso X, make the following observation regarding the Moors: “Their faces were black as pitch, the handsomest amongst them was as black as a cooking pot.”

The Black Saint Maurice: Knight of the Holy Lance

Of all the many Black men in the history of Europe, few have excited the imagination more than Saint Maurice. He was a Black saint in an area then and now that has very few Black inhabitants. He was also a Black knight. Indeed, we could call him a knight in shining armor. He is no less than remarkable.

The name Maurice is derived from Latin and means “like a Moor.” The Black Saint Maurice (the Knight of the Holy Lance) is regarded as the great patron saint of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire. He is also known, especially in Germany, as Saint Mauritius. The earliest version of the Maurice story and the account upon which all later versions are based, is found in the writings of Bishop Euchenus of Lyons, who lived more than 1500 years ago. According to Eucherius, Saint Maurice was a high official in the Thebaid region of Southern Egypt — a very early center of Christianity.

Specifically, Maurice was the commander of a Roman legion of Christian soldiers stationed in Africa. By the decree of Roman emperor Maximian, his contingent of 6,600 men was dispatched to Gaul and ordered to suppress a Christian uprising there. Maurice disobeyed the order. Subsequently, he and almost all of his troops were martyred when they chose to die rather than persecute Christians, renounce their faith and sacrifice to the gods of the Romans. The execution of the Theban Legion occurred in Switzerland near Aganaum (which later became Saint Maurice-en-Valais) on Sept. 22, either in the year 280 or 300.

In the second half of the fourth century, the worship of St. Maurice spread over a broad area in Switzerland, northern Italy, Burgundy, and along the Rhine. The major cities of Tours, Angers, Lyons, Chalon-sur-Saone, and Dijon had churches dedicated to St. Maurice.

By the epoch of Islamic Spain, the stature of St. Maurice had reached immense proportions. Charlemagne, the grandson of Charles Martel and the most distinguished representative of the Carolingian dynasty, attributed to St. Maurice the virtues of the perfect Christian warrior. In token of victory, Charlemagne had the Lance of St. Maurice (a replica of the holy lance reputed to have pierced the side of Christ) carried before the Frankish army. Like the general populace, which strongly relied on St. Maurice for intercession, the Carolingian dynasty prayed to this military saint for the strength to resist and overcome attacks by enemy forces.

In 962, Otto I chose Maurice as the title patron of the archbishopric of Magdeburg, Germany. By 1000 C.E. the worship of Maurice was only rivaled by St. George and St. Michael. After the second half of the 12th century, the emperors were appointed by the pope in front of the altar of St. Maurice, in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

In Halle, Germany, a monastery with a school attached to it was founded and dedicated to St. Maurice in 1184. In 1240, a splendid Africoid statue of St. Maurice was placed in the majestic cathedral of Magdeburg — the first Gothic cathedral built on German soil. I was actually able to visit this cathedral and photograph the statue in 2010. The facial characteristics of the statue are described by historian Gude Suckale-Redlefsen in his classic work, The Black Saint Maurice, as follows:

“The relatively small opening in the closely fitting mail coif was sufficient for the Magdeburg sculptor to produce a convincing characterization of St. Maurice as an African. The facial proportions show typical alterations in comparison with European physiognomy. The broad, rounded contours of the nose are recognizable although the tip has been broken off.

“The African features are emphasized by the surviving remains of the old polychrome. The skin is colored bluish black, the lips are red, and the dark pupils stand out clearly against the white of the eyeballs. The golden chain mail of the coif serves, in turn, to form a sharp contrast with the dark face.”

A center of extreme devotion to St. Maurice was developed in the Baltic states, where merchants in Tallin and Riga adopted his iconography. The House of the Black Heads of Riga, for instance, possessed a polychromed wooden statuette of St. Maurice. Their seal bore the distinct image of a Moor’s head.

In 1479, Ernest built several castles, one of which he named after St. Maurice — the Moritzburg. Under a banner emblazoned with the image of a Black St. Maurice, the political and religious leaders of the Holy Roman Empire battled the Slavs. The cult of St. Maurice reached its most lavish heights under Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg (1490-1545), who established a pilgrimage at Halle in honor of the Black saint.

From the early 16th century, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hangs a magnificent painting by Lucas Granach, the elder of St. Maurice, resplendent as a knight in shining armor. In the Alta Pinakothek in Munich hangs the painting by Matthias Grunewald of St. Maurice and St. Erasmus in heaven. Grunewald was the greatest painter of the German Renaissance. And in the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin is the painting by Hans Baldung Grien of St. Maurice under the banner flag of the German imperial eagle on one side, a painting of the adoration of the magi (with a Black king, the youngest of the three magi), in the center, and St. George and the dragon on the opposite side. I have seen and photographed all four of these magnificent art objects.

Between 1523 and 1540, people from throughout the empire journeyed to Halle to worship the relics of St. Maurice. The existence of nearly 300 major images of the Black St. Maurice have been catalogued, and even today the veneration of St. Maurice remains alive in numerous cathedrals in eastern Germany.

The Black King in the Art of the European Renaissance

One of the most fascinating aspects of the African presence in Europe is the wide collection of images of the Black Magus/King in European art. Although sometimes identified as a Moor, he is not a Muslim. Such paintings adorn the galleries and museums throughout Europe and the United States. These are wonderful images of the wise and distinguished African king who followed a star and came to pay homage and provide rich treasures to the Christ child in the time of Herod in the manger in Bethlehem as described in the Gospel of Matthew.

The appearance of the Black king in European art appears at least by the 14th century and probably earlier. The Moors were a fixture in Europe at this time. By the 15th and 16th centuries, thousands of paintings depicting the Adoration of the Black Magus or King had been made.

The Black magus is the youngest of the three kings and traditionally he is said to come from Ethiopia. He is sometimes called a Moor and he is, interestingly enough, the king who stands farthest away from the Christ child. His name is Balthazar and his present to the Christ child is the gift of myrrh.

Sometimes, particularly in the Dutch world, another of the kings is identified as Black. This is Gaspar, identified as a king from Asia and he is also credited sometimes as bringing myrrh, and sometimes frankincense.

Sir Morien: Black Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table

Few documents portray the ethnicity of the Moors in medieval Europe with more passion, boldness and clarity than Morien. Morien is a metrical romance rendered into English prose from the medieval Dutch version of the Lancelot.

Morien is the adventure of a splendidly heroic Moorish knight (possibly a Christian convert), supposed to have lived during the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Morien is described as follows:

“He was all black, even as I tell ye: his head, his body, and his hands were all black, saving only his teeth. His shield and his armour were even those of a Moor, and black as a raven.”

Initially in the adventure, Morien is simply called “the Moor.” He first challenges, then battles, and finally wins the unqualified respect admiration of Sir Lancelot. In addition, Morien is extremely forthright and articulate. Sir Gawain, whose life was saved on the battlefield by Sir Morien, is stated to have “harkened, and smiled at the black knight’s speech.” It is noted that Morien was as “black as pitch that was the fashion of his land — Moors are black as burnt brands. But in all that men would praise in a knight was he fair, after his kind. Though he were black, what was he the worse?” And again: “his teeth were white as chalk, otherwise was he altogether black.”

“Morien, who was black of face and limb” was a great warrior, and it is said that: “His blows were so mighty did a spear fly towards him, to harm him, it troubled him no whit, but he smote it in twain as if it were a reed naught might endure before him. Ultimately, and ironically, Morien came to personify all of the finest virtues of the knights of medieval Europe.

“It should be noted that for a very long period the Dutch language used Moor and Moriaan for Black Africans.”

Among the Lorma community in modern Liberia, the name Moryan is still prominent.

The Expulsion From Spain and the Dispersal of the Moors

In Iberia, Christian pressures on the Moors grew irresistible. Finally, in 1492, Granada, the last important Muslim stronghold in al-Andalus, was taken by the soldiers of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and the Moors were expelled from Spain. In 1496, to appease Isabella, King Manuel of Portugal announced a royal decree banishing the Moors from that portion of the peninsula. The Spanish king Philip III expelled the remaining Moors by a special decree issued in 1609. Fully 3,500,000 Moors, or Moriscos, as their descendants were called, left Spain between 1492 and 1610.

An estimated million Moors settled in France. Others moved into Holland. A very curious story in the Netherlands is that of Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). By some accounts Zwarte Piet, the companion to Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), was a Moorish orphan boy whom Sinterklaas adopted and trained as his assistant.

By 1507, there were numerous Moors at the court of King James IV of Scotland. One of them was called Helenor in the Court Accounts, possibly Ellen More. There were at least two other Black women of the royal court who held positions of some status, and they are stated as having had maidservants dress them in expensive gowns.

In 1596, Queen Elizabeth, highly distressed at the growing Moorish presence in England, wrote to the lord mayors of the major cities that:

“There are of late divers blakamores brought into this realm, of which kinde of people there are already too manie.”

Viking Expansion

Facilitated by advanced seafaring skills, Viking activities at times also extended into the Mediterranean littoral, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Following extended phases of exploration on seas and rivers, expansion, and settlement, Viking communities and polities were established in diverse areas of northwestern Europe, European Russia, and the North Atlantic islands, and as far as the northeastern coast of North America. During their explorations, Vikings raided and pillaged, but also engaged in trade, settled wide-ranging colonies, and acted as mercenaries. This period of expansion witnessed the wider dissemination of Norse culture while simultaneously introducing strong foreign cultural influences into Scandinavia itself, with profound developmental implications in both directions.

Vikings under Leif Ericsson, the heir to Erik the Red, reached North America and set up a short-lived settlement in present-day L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Longer and more-established settlements were formed in Greenland, Iceland, Great Britain, and Normandy.

Viking expansion into continental Europe was limited. Their realm was bordered by powerful cultures to the south. Early on it was the Saxons, who occupied Old Saxony, located in what is now northern Germany. The Saxons were a fierce and powerful people and were often in conflict with the Vikings. To counter the Saxon aggression and solidify their own presence, the Danes constructed the huge defense fortification of Danevirke in and around Hedeby. The Vikings soon witnessed the violent subduing of the Saxons by Charlemagne in the thirty-year Saxon Wars from 772–804. The Saxon defeat resulted in their forced christening and the absorption of Old Saxony into the Carolingian Empire.

Fear of the Franks led the Vikings to further expand Danevirke, and the defense constructions remained in use throughout the Viking Age and even up until 1864. The south coast of the Baltic Sea was ruled by the Obotrites, a federation of Slavic tribes loyal to the Carolingians and later the Frankish empire. The Vikings, led by King Gudfred, destroyed the Obotrite city of Reric on the southern Baltic coast in 808 and transferred the merchants and traders to Hedeby. This secured their supremacy in the Baltic Sea, which endured throughout the Viking Age.

Viking expeditions (blue line)
Light blue: Itineraries of the Vikings, depicting the immense breadth of their voyages through most of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, the Arctic, and North America. Light green: main settlement areas, in the first millennium

The Printing Press

Unlike the other items on this list, the origins of the modern printing press can easily be tracked to one man and one place — Johannes Gutenberg from Mainz, Germany. Around 1440, Gutenberg developed his now famous press, which allowed, for the first time, industrial-scale printing. It's hard to emphasize how important the invention of the Gutenberg press was to the development of the modern world. The press meant ideas could be spread through books and pamphlets, newspapers and journals. Science, technology and history all saw great leaps as institutional knowledge began to accrue around the world. Without Gutenberg, there would be no Internet. And without the Internet, you wouldn't be reading this article right now. (Also, no pictures of funny cats and bacon. The horror.)

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