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Welcome to the Paradoxplace Chronology Pages

Part One - The Middle Ages  (476 - 1348)

About Paradoxplace

First there is a list of the various entries on this page - click on the one that interests you to link to the detail.  If you are looking for a particular person or place, there is an Alphabetical Master Listing of all entries in the chronologies as well as a Master Timeline and a Map of Central Italy.  The Insight Pages bring together interesting subjects, groups of people and events that shaped the course of history and how we live.  More about many of the movers and shakers is to be found in the Italy Photo and History pages, and Paradoxplace has now been enriched with major sections covering Spain, France and Britain.

 

             

 

LINKS TO

Artists of the Italian Renaissance

CHRONOLOGY PART TWO (1350 - 1600)   INSIGHT PAGES

ITALY, FRANCE, SPAIN, PORTUGAL & BRITAIN PAGES   PORTRAITS   BOOKS

FOOD WINE AND RESTAURANT PAGES

 

THE EARLY POST ROMAN CENTURIES

 

11 HUNDREDS

     

Saint Augustine of Hippo

354

 

 

 

 

Atilla the Hun

406

Knights Templar

1118

Wool and Weaving

 

Western Roman Empire Ends

476

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

1120

Gold Florin

1252

San Benedict (& Montecassino)

480

Eleanor of Aquitaine

1122

Fresco

 

Boethius

480

Saladin

1137

Marco Polo

1254

Justinian I

483

Genghis Khan

1160

Duccio di Buoninsegna

1260

Tribal Europe in 500

 

Pope Innocent III

1161

Battle of Montaperti

1260

Pope Gregory I

540

San Domenico

1170

Dante Alighieri

1265

Muhammad

570

Leaning Tower of Pisa

1173

Giotto del Bondone

1266

Firenze Baptistery

600

Fibonacci

1175

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

1278

Iconoclasts

726

Eremo di San Galgano

1181

Simone Martini

1284

Charlemagne

742

San Francesco

1182

Siena Palazzo Pubblico

1288

Harun al-Rashid

763

The Saladin Tithe

1188

Santa Croce

1294

Cluny

910

Frederick II

1194

Firenze Duomo

1296

Via Francigena

 

12 HUNDREDS

 

 

 

Guido di Arezzo

990

Guilds

 

 

 

 

 

Monteriggione

1213

 

 

10 HUNDREDS

 

Roger Bacon

c1214

13 HUNDREDS (to 1350)

 

Lanfranc

c1007

Magna Carta

1215

Banking

 

Anselm of Canterbury

1033

Kublai Khan

1216

Gunpowder, Seige Engines and Chinese Inventions

 

Badia a Passignano

1049

Nicola Pisano

1220

Francesco Petrarch

1304

The Great Schism of 1054

1054

Thomas Aquinas

1226

Giovanni Boccacio

1313

Pisa Duomo

1063

Siena Duomo

1229

Sir John Hawkwood

1320

Peter Abelard

1079

Giovanni Cimabue

1240

Francesco Landini

1335

The Domesday Book

1087

Eleanor of Castile

1244

Francesco di Marco Datini

1335

St Bernard of Clairvaux

1090

Giovanni Pisano

1245

100 Year's War

1337

King Roger II of Sicily

1093

Santa Maria Novella

1246

Geoffrey Chaucer

1340

The Crusades

1095

 

 

Santa Caterina (da Siena)

1347

Cistercian Order

1098

 

 

The Black Death

1348

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now the stories behind the names .......

THE EARLY CENTURIES

 

 

LINK TO AN EXCELLENT AND MORE DETAILED SUMMARY TIMELINE

FROM MOLLOY COLLEGE (NEW YORK STATE)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

354

-430

(76)

Philosopher, Bishop of Hippo The most influential early Christian philosopher and the outstanding figure in philosophy between Aristotle and Aquinas.  Son of a Roman family living in North Africa, he studied and taught rhetoric in Carthage, Rome and Milan, where he was baptised by Ambrose (then Bishop of Milan).  Augustine returned to Africa and eventually became Bishop of Hippo (modern Annaba in Algeria) in 395.  A prolific writer and proactive refuter of early heresies, his autobiographical book "Confessions", universally regarded as one of the all time "great books",  is a good way of getting into very early medieval times and the life of an unusual and outstanding man.

Atilla the Hun

c406

-453

(47)

King of the Huns from 434

Called "The Scourge of God" - All round pillager and conqueror, ranging both East to Persia, and West to i) Gaul in 451, where his army of as many as a few hundred thousand was stopped near Troyes by a Roman / Visigoth alliance, and ii) Rome in 452,  where he arrived at a bad time - both famine and plague were around and he had to retire to regroup.  But there was to be no more campaigning - Atilla died of a haemorrhage after a heavy round of drinking on the night of his seventh wedding (yes wedding, not wedding anniversary) in 453 and the Huns evaporated into other Germanic tribes.

Western Roman Empire Ends

476

  Roman General and leader Orestes is defeated and executed by Odoacer (433 - 493 (60)), a Barbarian chief who had joined the Roman army.  Orestes' young son, briefly Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus, is deposed by Odoacer, who takes over and lasts a surprisingly successful 17 years till being defeated at Ravenna by Ostrogoth King Theoderic the Great in 493, after which Theoderic asked him to a banquet and killed him.  Theoderic was in Italy with the support of the Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno, who thus successfully sidetracked Theoderic from any designs he might have had on Constantinople!  Anicius Boethius, sole translator of Aristotle in the Medieval West, was for a time advisor to Theoderic (see below).
San Benedict

and Montecassino

 

PHOTO AND HISTORY PAGE

 

INSIGHT PAGE: WW II IN ITALY

 

ABBEYS OF CENTRAL ITALY

 

ABBEY OF FLEURY, SAN BENOÎT SUR LOIRE

480

-547

(67)

 

Norcia,

Saint

 

St Benedict founded monasteries at Subiaco and Montecassino (529), and wrote a Monastic Rule (regula monachorum) for use within each monastery. The Rule of Benedict was one of several used in monasteries in his time, but over time began to be adopted by other monastic establishments.

 

Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious, King of Aquitaine and Emperor from 814 - 840, passed a law in 816 making the Rule of Benedict, by now in wide use, the only one allowed in Frankish monasteries.  From this time on the monks and nuns started developing a sense of belonging to a community stretching beyond the walls of their individual monasteries, and this community became known as the Order of St Benedict (hence it is not correct to say that Saint Benedict founded the Benedictines - he wrote the Rule, and the Benedictines evolved over several centuries as very loosely connected congregations ruled by powerful independent abbots, not a head office with subsidiary priories order like Cluny, or a multi-abbey federal show like the Cistercians).

 

Interestingly, the good Saint's remains (and those of his twin sister S Scholastica) are to be found in France - in L'Abbaye de Fleury, St Benoît sur Loire, SE of Orléans.

 

Montecassino was within 50 years (577) destroyed by the Longobards.  It was later rebuilt more splendidly and given "vast privileges" after a 787 visit from the Emperor Charlemagne, destroyed by the Saracens (Arabs) in 883 and destroyed again 500 years later in 1349 by an earthquake (also the time of the Black Death - in fact the thirteen hundreds were a bad bad time all round for Europe). This time the great rebuilt buildings lasted nearly 600 years before, in late 1943, the site found itself at the centre of the German "Gustav Line" defending the approaches to Rome against the advancing Allied forces, and, even though it was not linked at all to the German military, it was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid at the particular urging of the NZ General Freyberg.  It has since been rebuilt along the lines of the earlier buildings. 

Anicius

Boethius

 

BOOK

c480

-524

(44)

Rome / Ravenna

Philosopher  & Advisor to Theodoric the Ostrogoth King

Boethius was one of the last major figures from the Classical World.  A member of one of the ruling Roman families, he became the trusted advisor of King Theoderic the Great (c455 - 526) who had invaded Italy in 488, killed Odoacer, and established the Ostrogoth Kingdom with its capital in Ravenna.   Boethius wrote about arithmetic, music, Cicero and God, including a book called "The Consolation of Philosophy" which is still available today (link).  More importantly, he translated Aristotle - in fact he did the only translation of Aristotle known to the Western World, until the translations done by the Arabs became available hundreds of years later, and thus can genuinely lay claim to having been the key player in "keeping the flame alight" during the "dark ages".  He himself was executed by Theoderic when he became untrusted.

Justinian I

 

INSIGHT PAGE

c483

-565

(82)

Emperor of Byzantium,

Constantinople

Emperor  of Byzantium  at the height of its power for 35 years from 527 to 565.  Based in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, he was supported by a brilliant General, Belisarius, who recovered N Africa from the Vandals and Italy from the Ostrogoths (establishing Ravenna as the Byzantine Capital in Italy) and even a small bit of Southern Spain from the Visigoths (MAP).  (Shades of a similar pairing to the ones between the Norman Sicilian King Roger II and Ammiraglio (Admiral) Giorgio di Antiochia in the first half of the eleven hundreds, and Sultan Suleiman I and Barbarossa in the first half of the fifteen hundreds).  Justinian also had time to build "the Greatest Church in Christendom" (Santa Sophia in Constantinople) and other imperially impressive places, codify Roman Law, and marry Theodora - an attractive courtesan who according to the court historian Procopius - who "told all" after a falling out with his boss - had a neat trick involving geese and corn and a lack of clothing .....

 

 

Tribal Europe in 500     MAP
Pope Gregory I ("Gregory the Great")

MEDIEVAL POPES

540

590

604

(64)

Pope

Pope for 14 years from 590 to 604, who devoted countless hours of work (and his name) to the Gregorian Chant. These chants were designed to replace a huge variety of local chants and music forms which had evolved over time, with a uniform musical form for each of the church services in the Christian churches of Europe.  This was a major challenge at a time when no effective musical notation system existed (a situation which persisted until Guido d'Arrezzo invented "modern" musical notation around 1020) and everything had to be committed to memory!  It was Gregory who labelled Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, despite there being not a shred of evidence for this.  The slander was never accepted by the Eastern church, and was in fact formally withdrawn by the Vatican in the 1960s having been allowed to stand by them for nearly 1,400 years.

 

Gregory sent Saint Augustine (of Canterbury) - not to be confused with the earlier and more widely known church doctor one (from Hippo in North Africa) to convert the Brits to Christianity in 597 - and later refused to let him come back when the going got tough.  Augustine converted Aethelbert, the Anglo-Saxon King of Kent, which triggered a rolling conversion across Kent and the the other Anglo_Saxon kingdoms.  He then produced the first English codified laws.

 

Muhammad

570

-632

(62)

Mecca,

Founder of Islam

Around 616 had the Koran revealed to him by God.  Fled to Medina from persecution in Mecca in 622, the flight "Hegira" marking the "year 0" of Islam.  Later retook Mecca, after which 200 years of explosive growth saw Moslem control established in the lands from Spain, along the Southern Mediterranean and through to the Indus river on the Western border of India.  It also saw the emergence of the great centres of learning of Baghdad and Cordoba (in Spain).

Battistero di San Giovanni, Firenze

PHOTO PAGE

C600

Florence,

Baptistery

One of the oldest buildings in Florence, the Baptistery dates from C600 and was clad in green and white marble in the 10 / 11 hundreds. The South door (1336) is by Andrea Pisano, the North door (1403 - 24) is by Lorenzo Ghiberti, who then spent most of the rest of his life (1425 - 52) on his masterpiece, the East door - called by Michelangelo "The Gates of Paradise" (with the original panels now to be found in the Cathedral Museum).  Inside, the  dazzling and distinctively Byzantine  mosaic dome was completed by Venetian artists in the 12 hundreds.  The only tomb in the Baptistery is that of Baldassare Cossa (1370 - 1419)  - condottiere, lawyer, Cardinal and latterly the "Antipope" John XXIII, friend of and giver of church business to Giovanni di Bicci - who founded the Medici bank in 1397 - and his son Cosimo.  The tomb, organized by the Medicis to say "thank you", was sculpted by Donatello (the figure of Cossa) and Michelozzo (the surrounding drapery and tabernacle).

Iconoclasts

726

 

Byzantine Emperor Leo III initiates the destruction of religious images - a movement which destroys much of the art of Byzantium over the following century despite the fact that Pope Gregory excommunicates supporters of iconoclasm in 731. 

Charlemagne

(aka Charles the Great)

 

CHARLEMAGNE'S TRAVELS &

EMPIRE MAP

 

EQUESTRIAN STATUE

BOOKS

742-

768

-814

(72)

King of the Franks

 

LINK TO EARLY FRENCH KINGS AND SAINTS

 

Becomes Frankish (=German, lowlands and French) King in 768 and later has himself crowned "Holy Roman Emperor" in Rome on Christmas Day 800.  This title, which had been in hibernation since the end of the real Western Roman Empire in 476, was attractive because of its historical cachet.  However, although Charlemagne was the first European ruler since the real Roman Emperors to "pull it all together", he and subsequent Holy Roman Emperors had little connection with Rome and none with a Roman Empire. 

 

By 804 Charlemagne ruled much of Western Europe, having early on defeated the Lombards in Northern Italy, and later bloodily subjugated the Saxons in what is now Northern Germany (see map).   During his 46 year reign he travelled often and widely and established schools, reformed and developed legal, administrative, agricultural and commercial systems, promoted the arts and enforced Christianity.  It is interesting that his long reign was paralled by two outstanding and long reigned Popes - Hadrian I (Pope 772 - 795) and S Leo III (Pope 795 - 816), and indeed by a long reigning Caliph, Harun al-Rashid (see below).

 

Sadly, Charlemagne's patchwork quilt Kingdom of small towns and lanes was not a lasting legacy, and after his death the wheels fell off again.    Notwithstanding this, the institution and position of Holy Roman Emperor lasted for another thousand years (until 1806).

 

Harun al-Rashid

BIOGRAPHY

763-

786

-809

(46)

Baghdad,

Abbasid Sultan, 

The legendary Caliph and Sultan (at age 23) who ruled for 23 years from the new Abbasid capital of Baghdad at the height of the Abbasid Empire.  As well as successful soldier (mainly against the Byzantines) he was a lavish patron of music, poetry, letters, and also parties, and was immortalized through the "Tales from a Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights".  It was Harun who sent the Emperor Charlemagne an elephant (named Abul Abbas) as a present. 
Abbey of Cluny

PHOTO PAGE

MORE HISTORY

910 Burgundy The first of the major monastic reform movements, Cluny (to the West of Macon in Burgundy) was established by Duke William the Pious in 910 and placed under the direct protection of the Pope.  The Abbey exerted huge influence in the ten hundreds, particularly through the Abbots Odilo and Hugh,  and several of its Abbots became Popes.  It was rebuilt twice to accommodate more monks - Cluny II in 981 and Cluny III  - said to cover a bigger area than the present day Pentagon -  between 1088 and 1130.  Sadly, hardly any of the buildings remain today. 

At its height the Abbey had over 1,000 dependencies, but they were run from the centre on rigid authoritarian lines, and it is easy to see how the participative governance systems set up by the Cistercians proved more attractive and effective, particularly when Cluny fell into the incompetent hands of Abbot Pons between 1109 and 1122. Whilst the Cistercians and then the mendicant orders took over the religious running.  Interestingly, the Cistercians had to pay Cluny a franchising fee for the first decades of their existence.

Cluny steamed on as an abbey under the momentum of its huge endowments, and in fact had almost completed another major rebuild in the seventeen hundreds when the French Revolution led to the abbey (but not the new monastic buildings) being sold and broken up ..... with just one end if the huge abbey transept eventually saved for posterity.

 

Via Francigena

MAP

 

"Route" from France to Rome

A "safe road" (avoiding Byzantine territory), based on a route developed in the 5 hundreds by the Lombards, further improved by Charlemagne in the late 7 hundreds when he became interested in Rome (and, on the way, in the site where the Abbazia di Sant'Antimo now stands). Documented in 990 in the diary (to be found in the British Museum) of Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury in the days of King Aethelred the Unready.  Sigeric was travelling back to Canterbury (with 80 overnight stops en route) after seeing the Pope in Rome to get his pallium and cope.

 

Not an "intercity route" for wagons and legions like the great straight European roads built by Rome, but a windy collection of paths, trails and roads maintained by local rulers who benefited greatly as it became the main drag for commerce, pilgrims (especially in Jubilee years) and armies travelling from England and France to the Eternal City (Rome), or connecting with the other two great medieval pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostela (in Spain), and Jerusalem.

 

In Tuscany the road descended across the Apennines via the Cisa Pass and past the famous marble mountains near Carrara to Lucca, then followed the valleys of the Elsa, Arbia and Orca to the Abbadia San Salvatore in the shadow of the great volcanic mountain Monte Amiata (go there in late October to see the Autumn leaves on the Chestnut and Beech trees). In central Tuscany it passed through Certaldo, San Gimignano, Monteriggione, Siena, Buonconvento, Montalcino (with its nearby Abbazia di Sant'Antimo) and wandered into Lazio at Radicofani. Note the absence of Florence, which did not get a good North-South road (the reconstituted Via Cassia) until the 12 hundreds, and the Chianti area which "evolved" from a series of frontier Florentine and Sienese garrison towns through feudalism and the mezzadrei system into a very poor depopulated area for the first two thirds of the 20th century, and was better known for brigands than roads for most of this time.

Guido Monaco

(Guido d' Arezzo)

C990

-1033+

Arezzo,

Musician

Inventor of modern musical notation c1020.  Before then it was not possible for musician A to send a piece of paper to musician B containing information that would enable B to know how to play a piece of music accurately.

10 HUNDREDS

 

 

To eliminate an unnecessary mental gymnastic, the Italian form "the 10 hundreds" has been used throughout in preference to the English expression "the 11th Century" or "11C".

Lanfranc

 

Canterbury, Lanfranc and Anselm

C1007

-1089

(82)

Pavia, Bec and Canterbury,

Lawyer, Monk and Church Leader

In the 1030s a Norman knight named Herluin founded the Abbey of Bec, on the river Bec in Normandy.  Bec became one of the earliest intellectual power houses of Europe under the guidance of Lanfranc (born in Pavia in northern Italy in 1005) who joined up in 1042.   Lanfranc became the first Norman appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070 after the last Anglo Saxon Archbishop, Stigand, was  deposed by a great council meeting at Winchester.  He proceeded to get rid of all but one (Wulfstan of Worcester) of the Saxon bishops and shift the centre of power of the church firmly from York to Canterbury.  His power was underpinned by an excellent relationship with William I (The Conqueror) and after his death Lanfranc was instrumental in ensuring the succession of William Rufus - one of his less clever contributions.

Saint Anselm of Canterbury

 

BOOK

 

Canterbury, Lanfranc and Anselm

 

Reform movements and Bec Abbey

 

 

1033

-1109

(76)

Italian,

Scholar, Abbot and

Archbishop of Canterbury

Born in Aosta, at the head of the north east Italian valley leading to Monte Bianco and the Gran San Bernardo pass, Anselm made his mark as a student of Lanfranc (above) at the Abbey of Bec in Normandy, and from 1078 to 1093 was its Abbot, building on Lanfranc's base to make it on of the centres of scholarship in Europe.  Anselm reluctantly accepted appointment as Lanfranc's successor as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, a post he held for 16 years until his death in 1109.  Unlike Lanfranc, his relationships with Kings were not good, and he spent a significant amount of this time in exile from England and the unattractive sons of William the Conqueror - first William II (Rufus) and then his successor Henry I - mainly over disputes over the relative powers of Church and State.  One suspects that he was quite happy being away from England - he was reluctant to take on the position in the first place, and later explained to Eulalia, the Abbess of Shaftesbury, how harassed he felt by it.  His real love was philosophy - he is regarded, along with Augustine (354 - 430) and Erigena (an Irish philosopher of the 800s) who preceded him, and Abelard (1079 - 1142) and Roger Bacon (1214 - 1292), who came later, as one of the leading medieval philosophers and a major contributor to the development of Scholasticism.  This was the theological and philosophical system of the medieval church of Europe, which sought to integrate Christian teaching with Aristotelian (and to a lesser extent Platonic) philosophy and which reached its apex in the works of Thomas Aquinas (1226 - 1274).

Badia a Passignano

PHOTOS

1049

Chianti,

Monastery

A daughter house of the Abbazia di Vallombrosa a large monastery high in the Apennine foothills to the south east of Florence.  Vallombrosa was set up by St. John Gualbert (995 - 1073) around 1028.  The Vallombrosans were one of the early monastic reform movements and were dedicated to a very harsh living regime for themselves and to the elimination of simony - the practice of selling church livings, indulgences etc.  Gaulbert died and lies buried in Badia a Passignano, which was formed as a daughter house of Vallombrosa in 1049. 

 

Like many others the Monastery was later secularized (and in this case crenellated) in the 19 hundreds, but has now been returned to a small group of monks and remains, along with the valleys and ridges around nearby Panzano, one of the most photographable places in the generally photographable area of central Chianti.  It also contains a Last Supper frescoed by the brothers Domenico and Davide Ghirlandaio in 1476.  By the end of the 1100s there were 50 or so Vallombrosan monasteries, mostly in Tuscany.  Most of them were older Benedictine foundations who had switched "allegiance", and the order never had a distinctive architecture like the Cistercians.  In Florence one was attached to what is now SS Trinita, the seat of the present Abbot General of the Order.  The monastery of San Salvi in Florence was full of Vallombrosan nuns for 300 years, just to the west of Siena the Torri cloisters were part of a large Vallombrosan monastery, and in Rome the ancient Esquiline Hill church of Santa Prassede, built by Pope Hadrian I c780, also became Vallombrosan.

 

The Great Schism of  1054

1054

 

After 600 years of escalating relationship problems, the church of Constantinople splits with the church of Rome, never to rejoin.  

Pisa Duomo

 

PHOTO PAGE

1063

-C1150

Pisa,

Cathedral

Bankrolled by serious plunder from the twilight years of the Saracens (Arabs) in Sicily, the Duomo was started under Architect Buscheto in 1063 and completed 90 years later under Architect Rainaldo.  The Baptistry followed between 1152 and 1400 - much longer but with the reward of  a perfect acoustic!  The Tower (which leant from an early stage), was built between 1173 and 1350 (see below).

 

Peter Abelard

 

BOOK

1079

-1142

(63)

French Philosopher

One of the most significant philosophers of the middle ages, though better known for his love affair (and secret marriage with) his student Heloise (whose love letters still survive), as a result of which he was forcibly castrated and despatched to a monastery.  Their child was christened Astrolabe.  Peter was hounded mercilessly by Saint Bernard (below), who was eventually given the power to imprison him after a Papal enquire.  However Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny, whom San B also hated with a passion, whisked Abelard away to the safety of the all powerful Cluny, and took care of him for the final two years of his life. The lovers were finally laid to rest side by side in Pere Lachaise, Paris in 1817.

The Domesday Book

1087

First Census of England

Early timeline link with the England of Norman King William the Conqueror (1066 and all that) - amongst other things showed that slavery had effectively disappeared and that there were 5,624 watermills south of the River Trent!  The entire book is now published as a Penguin Classic.

 

St Bernard of Clairvaux

INSIGHT PAGE

1090

-1153

(63)

France,

Cistercian Abbot

Driving force behind the huge expansion of the Cistercians, and latterly one of the most influential men in Europe.  He was lumbered (unfairly) by posterity with responsibility for the disastrous Second Crusade, but there is much much more to his life than that .... READ MORE.   

King Roger II of Sicily

PHOTO PAGE

1093

-1154

(61)

Sicily

Norman King from 1113

The most outstanding of the Norman Kings of Sicily, whose dazzling court during his 41 year reign was an exciting fusion of European, Byzantine and Arab cultures and the happening place of Europe .....  READ MORE

The Crusades

INSIGHT PAGE

BOOKS

1095

First Crusade

The 1st Crusade was launched with a fiery speech by Pope Urban I (1042-1088-1099) on Nov 27 1095 in a field in Clermont (France) (where there was an Ecumenical council going on). In it he promised participants remission of all past and future(!) sins, and that, in a nutshell, is why many people went.  A large rabble of Germans, followers of Peter the Hermit, jumped the gun and, pausing only to kill all the Jews they could find, headed south leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.  They were eventually lured into a trap and slaughtered by the Turks after they had crossed the Bosphorus into Asia.  Meantime the main armoured columns had also got their pillaging act into gear as they moved south and joined up, and on July 15 1099 the 1st Crusade took Jerusalem, indiscriminately slaughtering nearly all of the inhabitants - Moslem, Christian and Jewish - and establishing a tradition of mindless violence maintained by later generations of crusaders. 

LINK TO INSIGHT PAGE AND THE OTHER CRUSADES

Cistercian Order

INSIGHT PAGE

ABBEY PHOTO PAGES

BOOKS ABOUT CISTERCIAN ABBEYS

Link to Wikipedia page

1098

Monks, Master Abbey Builders, Inventors of the first private sector Multinational Management System.

The Cistercian order (the "White Monks" from their habits of coarse bleached wool, contrasting with Benedictine black) was established at Citeaux (Latin Cistercium), Burgundy, in 1098 by Benedictines who had had enough of the wealth and corruption that had overtaken the Benedictine order itself, and had spread to the supposedly reformed Cluny.  The Cistercian were the first order to have a constitution ("The Charter of Love" drawn up by English Saxon Nobleman, Monk, third Abbot of Citeaux and Saint, Stephen Harding c1060 - 1133), which inter alia laid down that their abbeys were to be sited in isolation - away from towns and villages and "far from the concourse of men",  and also covered many governance issues like who got to boss who around and how did they get elected.  However, it was the energy, inspiration and writings of St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) which propelled the Cistercians from being a good idea into a major pan European Abbey Movement during an extraordinary period of expansion, which resulted in the existence of 530 Cistercian abbeys by the end of the eleven hundreds.

 

LINK TO PHOTOS OF MORE THAN 40 CISTERCIAN ABBEYS

 

The White Monks enjoyed two hundred yesrs in the sun, but by the end of the twelve hundreds their place had been ceded to the mendicant orders of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, who aimed to put their buildings in, rather than out of, towns and villages.  Apart from building many beautiful abbeys, including San Galgano (chronology entry) in Tuscany, Fossanova and Casamari in Lazio, Fontenay in Burgundy, Noirlac in Central France, and Santes Creus and many others in Spain, Cistercians led Europe in the development of land clearance and drainage projects, and of new agricultural techniques through their large landholdings which were usually worked by Cistercian "lay brothers" who were sort of "non-commissioned monks".  Other orders relied on feudal tithes, rents etc and did not get near to actually managing or working their lands, neither in general were they interested in improved land management or the introduction of new agricultural technologies. The Cistercians' agricultural expertize (including wool growing) was complemented by architectural, engineering (especially water, wool and iron production) and other professional skills.

 

By the end of the 12 hundreds, the corruption and debilitating internal power struggles which the Cistercians had been set up to escape were infiltrating their own organization. The magnificent abbey sites and agricultural ventures entered a long term decline, accelerated by the rise in power of nation states and their monarchs, and the appointment by the latter of Commendatory Abbots who were allowed to rip off monastic incomes into their personal funds.  This ended finally with the suppression of Cistercian and other monasteries in the reformation movements of the 15 hundreds (including Henry VIII's dissolution of some 800 religious "houses" between 1536 and 1540) and later the French revolution at the end of the 1700s (which overflowed to Northern Italian areas controlled by Napoleon such as Lombardy, where several Cistercian monasteries were destroyed, and Venice), and in the monastic closures in Spain in the 1830s.

 

11 HUNDREDS

 

 

 

Knights Templar

BOOKS

 

 

TEMPLAR TOMBS:

 

Italy

England

Spain

 

Templar Church of Ognissanti in Trani (Puglia)

Templar Church of San Bevignate in Perugia

 

The Crusades - Insight Page

1118

-1312

Jerusalem,

Knights

Knights of the Temple (of Solomon in Jerusalem) with a regime drawn up partly by St Bernard and based on the Cistercian one of poverty, chastity, and obedience (and including the odd injunction that they were never to wash, which would have added to the aromatic elegance of their compulsory raw sheepskin underwear).  Over the sheepskin underwear they wore the famous uniform of a white tunic with a large red cross on it.

 

 

The Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem) - Photo taken in 1940 by Clare Sproule, Adrian Fletcher's maternal grandmother.

 

The Templars were originally formed after the first Crusade for the defence of Jerusalem, but after its fall in 1187 their network of fortresses stretching as far as Scotland and Spain were used amongst other things for money movement and they then invented bills of exchange (or else the Florentine bankers did or else the Arabs of glittering Abbasid Baghdad did, depending on whose account you read) so the money did not have to be physically moved.  They had by this time forgotten about the poverty etc bit (and hopefully abandoned sheepskin underwear and reverted to washing).

 

But power corrupts and ...... and by September 1307 King Philip IV of France had had enough of the knights, and mounted an extraordinary operation which in just 24 hours rounded up some 15,000 Templars and Templar retainers.  There followed the full medieval sequence of property confiscations, trials, confessions and burnings - including that of James of Molay, the last Templar Grand Master.  Outside France, other monarchs seized the moment (or rather the loot which was considerable, though some of the assets somehow slid seamlessly to other knightly orders like the Knights Hospitallers, the (Portuguese) Knights of Christ, etc).  The formal closure came from Pope Clement V who dissolved the Templars in March 1312.

 

This book is described correctly as scholarly, authoritative and readable.  It's A-Z encyclopaedia format means that one can join in on any page as time and interest dictate, rather than having to follow through a book length narrative.  And it's good to read a well researched historian rather than a conspiracy speculationist on the subject of the Templars.

 

 Buy from Amazon .com

 

 Buy from Amazon.co.uk

 

In Portugal King Dinis (1279 - 1325) created a "Templar lookalike" called the Knights of Christ, and the vast Portuguese Templar assets and personnel morphed into this without a ripple.   Tomar, where one can (except on the day we chose when its staff were on strike) visit the Templar's Portuguese headquarters in a Castle / Convent complex on top of the hill, promotes itself as "The Templar Town".  The Portuguese Prince Henry "the Navigator" (1394 - 1460 (66)) was Grand Master of the order for 40 years, and the vast wealth this put at his disposal was ploughed into Portuguese exploration, his passion.

 

In the 21st Century the Knights Templar are still a powerful "brand" - a rich source for stories and all manner of conspiracy theories.

 

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

MORE PHOTOS

1120

Abbey South of Siena

 

 

 

The original Benedictine abbey (contrary to what some guide books tell you, Tuscany's most beautiful abbey was never Cistercian), built on a site south of Siena / Montalcino where the Emperor Charlemagne was restored to health after falling sick on the way back from Rome in 781.  The apse of the original (800s) abbey still stands alongside, and is dwarfed by, the new 1100s apse.  The abbey became the most powerful monastic landowner and foundation in Tuscany, via its imperial connections and gifts from those travelling the nearby via Francigena, the pilgrims "road" to Rome.  So powerful was it that the Abbot had the title of "Conte Palatino" and at its height it owned a large slab of Eastern Tuscany from Lucca in the Noth to Orbitello in the South. Then a big gift from Count Bernardo degli Ardengheschi in 1117 enabled them to build a new abbey, which is still there and in perfect nick - the most beautiful abbey in the most beautiful pastoral setting.

 

The plays of light (particularly in the morning through the large apse window) on the translucent onyx, alabaster and local travertine stones used in the interior of the abbey, produce a light quality in the nave which is a "must experience" - especially when there is a bit of incense smoke around the place.  The impact is accentuated by the nave floor which slopes slightly upwards towards the focus of the dramatic primitive 1200s wooden carving (life sized) of Christ crucified behind the altar.  Note also some of the intricate capitals and some very primitive (pagan?) stuff dotted around the outside walls.

 

Back in the mid 1100s, the expense of the new building proved too heavy a burden.  Building work stopped and the unfacaded abbey and its monastery  went into decline - which paradoxically is the reason that it retained its original unity and beauty - there was no money to "improve" it.  It was entrusted into the hands of Guglielmite Friars in 1291 and then suppressed in 1462 by Sienese Pope Pius II (Piccolomini) and placed under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Montalcino, who had the good sense to convert the ladies gallery into a personal apartment!  By the 1800s a tenant farmer was living in Bishop's the apartment and his animals enjoyed the space downstairs.  In 1870 the site was taken over by the state (in the nick of time), and over the next twenty years the abbey was restored to its former glory with the help of funds from the new Kingdom of Italy.

 

Today it is the home of a small community of French Augustinian Canons, whose daily services are based on Gregorian chant settings.  Get there some time after midday in order to have time to wander around and then just sit and experience the space and the short Gregorian Sesta service at 12.45.  Afterwards an excellent lunch spot is the Antica Osteria del Bassomondo which is just behind the T junction off the main road.  Good casalinga country food - you can't do much better than asking for the pasta and caserole of the day (but you'll have to do it in Italian) - washed down with their own Vino di Casa, Rosso di Montalcino, or Brunello if you are feeling more fiscally expansive.

 

Eleanor of Aquitaine

BOOKS

 

TOMB IN THE ROYAL ABBEY OF FONTEVRAUD

 

PLANTAGENET DYNASTY

 

2nd CRUSADE

 

Link to detailed Eleanor of Aquitaine timeline by Robert Fripp

c1122

-1204

(82)

French Queen,

English Queen (Regent)

Eleanor, granddaughter of the famous troubadour Duke William (Guillaume) IX of Aquitaine, and Duchess of medieval Aquitaine in her own right, made an early statement of individuality by accompanying then husband French King Louis VII, along with 300 women attendants dressed in armour (and no doubt with matching chastity belts), on the Second Crusade.

 

Louis VII of France was known as Louis the Monk - which maybe explains in part why Eleanor got a divorce (on the technical grounds of consanguinity) after sticking out the marriage for 15 years.  Shortly afterwards she married Henry, who was ten years her junior and with whom she was actually more consanguine, and two years later Henry was Henry II - the first Plantagenet King of England - and Eleanor was a Queen Consort for a second time round.  She gave the world 10 children: two daughters by Louis, and 5 sons and 3 daughters by Henry (including Eleanor Jr (or Leonora) who became Queen Leonora of Castille and founded the Convent of Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas in Burgos, where she is buried and Joan, who ended up as Queen Consort of Sicily and later Countess of Toulouse).  But Henry was a player and amidst numerous affairs and illegitimate offspring fell deeply in lust with the beautiful "masterpiece of nature" Rosamond, daughter of Welshman Walter de Clifford, whom Henry kept (so legend has it) in a tower in the middle of a maze at Woodstock on the River Thames (you can go and have a drink at the "famous" Trout Inn overlooking the spot!).

 

Eleanor retired to Aquitaine and presided over a dazzling court at Poitiers which amongst other things promoted the art of courtly love and the troubadour, and the memory of the lusty Duke William IX.  She supported some of her sons in a rebellion against Henry in 1173 (three years after the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral), lost, was imprisoned for 15 years until Henry's death in 1189, then got to manage England when son Richard the Lionheart (who was really French - he could hardly speak any English and spent a mere four months of his ten year reign in the Country) was off at Crusade number 3 eyeballing Saladin.

 

Richard negotiated the capture of Acre, by then one of the richest trading centres in the Middle East, then ensured that the ethical traditions of the Christian forces were maintained by beheading the 2,700 unarmed and surrendered Muslim garrison.  But it was increasingly apparent, even to the nasty and belligerent Richard, that there was no point in capturing Jerusalem, even if he could, because it would not be possible to provide a viable ongoing garrison.  So he headed home, and was famously shipwrecked, captured, imprisoned by Emperor Henry VI, discovered by the troubadour Blondel (maybe), ransomed for 150,000 marks (30 tons of silver) (definitely) which the treasury of England could not afford (very definitely), and eventually escorted "home" by the (by then) seventy year old Eleanor.  Some of the major contributors to the rescue fund were the Cistercian Abbeys of England and Wales, who were ordered to hand over in advance the monetized value of their entire year's wool clip to the cause, one of the beginnings of the wool futures market.

 

After the death of Richard in 1199, Eleanor retired to the nunnery at Fontevraud Abbey, which sported the unusual arrangement of an Abbess controlling both a nunnery and a monastery.  Fontevraud (near Saumur) had been founded by Robert d'Arbrissel in 1099, who used to sleep in the nuns' quarters to test his resolve (to do what?) and soon spawned a few dozen daughter houses.  Eleanor was the most famous of a number of royal women (including discarded royal mistresses) who were in residence there.  Fontevraud became the burial place of the Plantagenet dynasty, at one stage containing 15 of their tombs.  Today just 4 are still there - Henry II, Eleanor, Richard I and (maybe) Isabella (John's Queen Consort - John's tomb is to be found in Worcester Cathedral).

 

Saladin

(Salah el-Din Yusuf)

BOOK

PORTRAIT

1137

-1193

(56)

Muslim Leader

 

The 'usurper' Muslim leader who recaptured Jerusalem in 1187. Whilst generally regarded as one of the greatest Muslim leaders, he was strangely more of a hero in the West - Boccacio wrote 150 years later of Saladin as "a man of humble birth …. but of great and loftiest spirit .. he was munificent in giving ... a pious man and he marvellously loved and honoured good men." All agreed that he was generous - at his death his coffers were said to contain only one piece of gold and forty-seven drachmas of silver !

Genghis Khan

BIOGRAPHY

INSIGHT PAGE

1160

-1227

(67)

Mongol conqueror

 

An all-round conqueror whose conquests, stretching from the Yellow Sea to the Black Sea, became the biggest empire that the world has ever known.   Grandfather of Kublai and great great great etc etc grandfather of an amazing number of people alive today.

Pope Innocent III

PORTRAIT

1161

-1216

(55)

Rome,

Pope (1198)

Born just a year after Genghis, he was elected Pope in 1198 (he was at the time a 37 year old deacon and had to be ordained as a priest before he could become Pope).  At a time of weak monarchies he wielded enormous power - both destructively and constructively (the paradox of many successful lives in the middle ages!). His crusades (the 4th (launched in Orvieto), Cathars, etc) left the mighty Christian city of Constantinople with half a million inhabitants destroyed, and overall killed more people than all the earlier crusades combined, but the victims were all Christians - not a single one of his crusaders entered Moslem territory.  Amongst other things, Innocent supported and protected S Francis - arguably the greatest and most institutionally unsettling figure of the church, and S Dominic, and he also banned the hitherto thriving trade in relics.

Dominic Guzman

(Saint Dominic)

1170

-1221

(51)

Languedoc,

San Domenico

Saint

San Domenico founded the Dominican order ("Order of Preachers") and it became "official" in 1216. The new order was used in a last ditch and unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Cathars of SW France to repent their heresy (which was basically a belief in themselves, in simplicity and poverty and against any sort of violence - threatening stuff!) but to no avail and they were exterminated in various massacres under the umbrella descriptor of "The Albigensian Crusade" under the orders of Pope Innocent III and his successors. Like the Franciscans the Dominicans were Mendicant Friars, and also influenced the former with their emphasis on the importance of education.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

PHOTOS

1173

-1350

Pisa

Bell Tower

Started tilting before the first storey was finished.  Left to settle for 100 years at the third storey level then completed. Reopened to the public in December 2001 after  responding favourably to untilting through removal of soil under the high side - the brainchild of Imperial College, London.

Leonardo di Pisa

("Fibonacci")

1175

-1250

(75)

Pisa,

Man of Numbers

Fibonacci was the son of the Pisan merchants’ representative in the Algerian port of Bugia (now Bejaia).  He quickly picked up on Arab (originally Hindu) numerals, and was instrumental in their introduction, complete with the decimal point and zero, into Europe - just imagine, up to the year 1200 the Europeans were still trying to multiply Roman Numerals via an abacus.  And even in 1200 the new math did not sweep through renaissance northern Italy like a breath of fresh air - in that year Florence enacted a law preventing its use!

Interestingly the Church in Rome had had at least one earlier opportunity to go with Arab numerals when the French Pope Sylvester II (999 - 1003), who was a bit of a polymath and had spent time in Moorish Spain, brought an earlier version (without a zero) to Rome with him from Spain - but he was dismissed as a French fruitcake.

In 1202 Fibonacci published a major mathematical work, Liber Abaci, introducing Arab numerals, but also traversing simultaneous linear equations, “Fibonacci Numbers” – 0,1,1,2,3,5,8 etc ... then keep adding the previous two numbers to get the next in the series, the “Golden Ratio" (aka Phi) (a number in the sequence divided by its predecessor - equals 1.61803 or (√5 +1)/2) - a proportion found in many well proportioned buildings, and then a whole lot of ideas for merchants – calculating profits, foreign exchange conversions etc (double entry book keeping came a bit later).  Fibonacci Numbers and Phi have been linked closely to many natural phenomena.

A Google search for Fibonacci will provide more than everything else you want to know!

Eremo di San Galgano

PHOTOS

HERMITAGE

ABBEY

1181

-1185

San Galgano

(SW of Siena),

Hermitage

 

Unique Etruscan influenced domed rotunda protecting San Galgano's sword in the rock he plunged it into in 1180 (truly - it's still there and here's the photo to prove it!). The inside dome ceiling is constructed with 24 concentric circles of alternating white stone and terracotta - a different and very beautiful small space.  Nearby in the valley is the huge (now roofless) Cistercian abbey of San Galgano, built (1224 - 1288) right at the (Gothic) end of the Cistercian abbey building boom in Europe. Tuscany's first Gothic church, and later the model for some of Siena Cathedral (started in 1229). These were also a later breed of Cistercians - organizers of trade fairs (their site was the last overnight stop before Siena), managers of the Sienese treasury and engineers for its public (water) works.

San Francesco

BOOKS

ASSISI PHOTOS

PORTRAIT

1182

-1226

(44)

Assisi,

Saint & Writer

Founder of the Franciscan Order ("Friars Minor" et al) and Patron Saint of Italy (Saints' Day October 4th).  Unlike Benedict, Bernard and others Francis was no intellectual or bureaucrat, but a member of the merchant class who became a radical reformer and whose personality and magnetism towered above his contemporaries (and indeed those who went before and came after him).  

 

The lower Basilica at Francesco's Assisi was built between 1228 and 1253 (25 years - an amazing feat. Siena's Duomo, which started at the same time, took over 150 years!). To find peace from the often overpilgrimed Basilica, drive up to the Eremo delle Carceri in the green oak woods high above. Also away from the crowds is the beautiful little Porziuncula chapel (the first Franciscan Church, courtesy the Benedictines) - a building now sitting oddly within the massive Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli on the plain below. Franciscans were, with the Dominicans, the first Mendicant Friars - renouncing (in the very early stages anyway) collective proprietorship (unlike monks) as well as individual property. Also unlike previous orders (eg Benedictine / Cistercian) who sought isolation, the Mendicants chose to locate in the rapidly developing towns to serve (and be supported by) their populations.

The Saladin Tithe

1188

England's first secular tax

England's first secular tax, imposed by Henry II to finance the Third Crusade (which in the end was the one that his son Richard I went on). "Each person (in England) shall give one tenth of his rents and moveable goods for the taking of the land of Jerusalem" - i.e. a 10% tax on income and some possessions! Exceptions were the gear of knights and clerics.  Also, anyone who had "taken the cross" (i.e. joined up for the crusade) got a full refund - another powerful incentive to crusade!

Frederick II

MORE BIOGRAPHY AND CASTEL DEL MONTE PHOTOS

FREDERICK'S THREE WIVES

 

1194

-1250

(56)

King, Emperor (from 1215), Scholar, Excommun-

icant (twice), Crusader and Crusadee

Norman Sicilian King, German (Swabian) King, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Jerusalem ….. In the words of Jones and Ereira in "Crusades" ….. "Frederick was a very odd Christian. It was odd to find a European ruler who spoke six languages including Arabic, who had read the Koran, who enjoyed philosophy and sciences. It was odd to find any European who had put his wife in a harem, who openly enjoyed extravagant eroticism and who had no hesitation in making outrageous comments on morals and religion. He was a true product of Sicily, the cultural mix that had been created by Greeks, two Arab regimes and the Norman conquest of the ten hundreds.  To Europeans, he was stupor mundi, the amazement of the world.  Islamic observers, who heard him comment that while the Caliph was a descendant of the Prophet, the Pope had been found on a dung heap, decided he was an atheist." 

 

Frederick led the 5th Crusade which regained Jerusalem by treaty in 1228, but this just made the Pope and Knights more angry because "the purpose of a Crusade was to shed (infidel) blood, not do deals with them". Ten years later, excommunicated again, Frederick had a Crusade (complete with forgiveness of sins indulgences) declared against him, a move which eventually destroyed the civilization of Sicily.... MORE

 

NORMAN & HOHENSTAUFEN KINGS OF SICILY       HOHENSTAUFEN FAMILY TREE

 

12 HUNDREDS

 

 

 

Guilds

 

 

Trades Guilds in Italy had histories stretching back hundreds of years and, particularly in Florence, were the basis of civic government in the 12 and 13 hundreds until superceded by the Medici dynasty. One had to be a guild member to either vote or hold office. In the early days the largest and most wealthy were the Leading Merchants Guild ("Calimala", after the name of the street where they did business) and the Wool Merchants' Guild (who ran the Duomo project).

 

By the late 12 hundreds there were also guilds of silk workers, doctors and apothecaries, money changers (later to become bankers!), furriers, leading merchants, and magistrates and lawyers which were called "major guilds". There were five "middle guilds" - swordsmiths, locksmiths, shoemakers, saddlers. and tanners. Bringing up the rear were nine "minor guilds" - linen drapers, blacksmiths, masons and carpenters, joiners, bakers and oven-men, butchers, wine merchants, oil merchants and hoteliers. An interesting snapshot of the day to day economics of mediaeval life (question - where did goldsmiths fit in?). All the guilds were forced by Cosimo I to relocate into the newly built Uffizi in the late 15 hundreds.

 

Monteriggione

PHOTOS

1213

Hill fort

near Siena

One of a series of Sienese Ghibelline hill fort outposts confronting Florence's Chianti League frontier hill towns like Castellina and Radda, and the only one to remain today in a recognizable form.  Dante, in the "Divine Comedy" describes how he and Virgil enter hell via the Monteriggione well.   The Monteriggionians  claim to have had the novel defence technology of filling their moat with coal and setting it on fire (plenty of advance warning and stocks of bistecca for "alla fiorentina" needed).  Today, you can get to it from the 4-coursie Firenze-Siena motorway - not forgetting that one of the best "panino lunch spots" - the Bar dell'Orso - is the pub at the Monteriggione motorway junction, and that there is also an outstanding restaurant (Il Pozzo - the well) in the fort itself.

Roger  Bacon

1214

-1292

(78)

Oxford and Paris, Philosopher / Scientist

A Franciscan Friar, Roger Bacon lectured in Paris on Aristotle until about 1251, later moving to Oxford to teach at the new university there.  In broad terms he espoused the possibility of a unified science based on mathematics but making use of observation and experiment as well as abstract reasoning.  Specifically he worked on optics, probably invented gunpowder (1267), and foresaw the possibilities of mechanical cars, boats and flying machines.  He completed a major compendium of all branches of knowledge (Opus Majus) which he sent off to the Pope in 1268.  A silly move, because in 1277 he  was condemned of "certain novelties" (=heresy) by the church and thrown into prison, where he stayed for nearly the rest of his life (15 years) - such was the occupational hazard faced by someone whose maxim was "cease to be ruled by dogmas and authorities - look at the world>!"

 

Magna Carta

1215

Charter

Seminal charter of rights forced on King John of England  by his Barons (including Archbishop Langton) - one of the four existing copies can be seen in the Chapter House of Salisbury Cathedral.  The others are in Lincoln Castle and the British Library (2).  It's principles have informed the development of laws and constitutions ever since.

 

Interestingly, 1215 was also the year of the most important Church Council of the Middle Ages - the Fourth Lateran Council under Pope Innocent III

 

Kublai Khan

BIOGRAPHY

INSIGHT PAGE

1216

-1294

(78)

Peking,

Emperor

Grandson of Genghis. Completed the Mongol conquest of China, and on the death of brother Mungo, set himself up in Peking as the first Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty which then ruled China for a hundred years (1259 - 1368), developing a sophisticated economy dwarfing that of Europe in both size and technology (and including paper money and silk). Befriended Marco Polo (according to the latter) and his Dad, giving them a one foot by three inch inscribed gold tablet as a "VIP Passport" to facilitate their travels

Nicola Pisano

1220

-1284

(64)

Puglia,

Pisa,

Sculptor

Pulpit man (Pisa baptistery pulpit in 1260 then Siena in 1266) and initiator of "new sculpture".

St Thomas Aquinas

BOOK

1226

-1274

 (48)

Naples - Philosopher and Theologian

 

Dominican philosopher of comparable stature to Abelard who had done his thing 150 years earlier, but Thomas ("the Angelic Doctor") was a more sophisticated political operator, and avoided the scandals and charges of heresy as he successfully (and selectively) harmonised the philosophy of Aristotle, the giant of western philosophy, and Christian doctrine - work to be known as "Scholasticism" and accepted much later in 1879 as the basis of Catholic theology.  He died at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova in Southern Lazio.  He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Saint Pius V in 1567.

Siena Duomo

PHOTOS

1229

-c1390

Siena

Cathedral

The 150 year building period spanned both Romanesque (see e.g. lower facade by Pisano between 1284 & 1299 and the Campanile built in 1313.) and Gothic (see e.g. upper facade by Giovanni di Cecco begun in 1376 after the grand plan for the new cathedral had been killed off by the 1348 black death) - the Gothic predominating during the completion thought to have been supervised by Cistercian monk-engineers from San Galgano. Look down at the floor and up at the busts of Popes, and make sure to visit the Piccolomini Library to the left of the Nave, and the baptistery underneath the apse. 

 

The museum is housed in a spacious building which in fact would have been one of the aisles in the gigantic new cathedral.  Apart from sitting with the masterpieces in the Maesta room, search out a little doorway at the back of the top floor.  This leads via a narrow spiral stone staircase to the top of what would have been the facade of the new cathedral, with the most spectacular views over the Campo and the ancient medieval city to the Chianti countryside beyond.

Giovanni Cimabue

1240

-1302

(62)

Florence

Artist

"The father of Italian painting". Worked with Giotto on the upper Basilica in Assisi.

Eleanor of Castile

ELEANOR CROSSES

1244

-1290

(46)

Queen of England

Queen of Edward 1 of England ("Longshanks") (1239 - 1272 - 1307 (68))  - not your historically important figure, but she none the less left more visible and long lasting marks on England than the earlier much much more significant Queen Eleanor - Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 - 1204 (82)).  Queen Eleanor of Castile is remembered because she is the Eleanor of "Eleanor Crosses" fame - the large stone crosses on plinths having been erected by command of her grieving King at each of the overnight stops of her 1290 funeral procession from Lincoln to Westminster.  The stopping places were Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, GEDDINGTON, HARDINGSTONE (Northampton), Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, WALTHAM, West Cheap (= Cheapside), and Charing (= Charing Cross) - much restored crosses are still to be found at the places written in capital letters, with Geddington being by far the most viewable.  Eleanor's tomb can be found in Westminster Abbey.  The original tombs for her entrails (Lincoln) and heart (Blackfriars) no longer exist, although there is a replacement tomb in Lincoln.  Eleanor was a popular name for Angevin and Plantagenet Queens - in addition to the two above there was Queen Eleanor of Provence (1217 - 1291 (73)), Edward I's mum.

 

Giovanni Pisano

1245

-1320

(75)

Pisa,

Sculptor

Son of Nicola, responsible for the lower facade of the Siena Duomo and pulpit in Pisa Duomo, the greatest of the many Pisanos.

Santa Maria Novella

PHOTOS

1246

Firenze,

Dominican church

In 1219 the Dominican Fra Giovanni di Salerno and a small group of followers took up residence in the church of Santa Maria della Vigne outside the walls of Florence.  Later in the century ambitious expansion plans drawn up by Fra Sisto Ristoro led eventually to an early and magnificent urban presence in the renaissance building boom in Florence. Based on the Cistercian Burgundy tradition, maybe the best example around of late Gothic. The soaring quality of the inside space is breathtaking - enjoy also the artificially created space in Masaccio's Trinity.  Leon Battista Alberti designed the upper facade.  Sadly the new name was not as attractive as the original one!

Wool and Weaving

 

 

Florence's march to wealth and power resulted largely from the success of the wool processing industry pioneered by Umiliati monks in the mid 12 hundreds. Using English wool from monasteries in the Cotswolds, the cloths produced in the town were the most desirable (and expensive) in Europe, and the wool merchant's guild the wealthiest and most powerful in Florence.

Gold Florin

1252

Firenze

Coin

First gold Florin minted (there had previously been a silver one), followed by the first Bills of Exchange (1269 - unless you believe that the Templars invented them - see above).  The Florin became the most ubiquitous of several gold coins (including the Ducat of Venice) minted by Italian city states.  The first known foreign exchange contract predates this by 100 years - it was a promise made in 1156 to pay 460 bezants (the gold coin of Byzantium) back at a fixed future date in return for an advance of 115 Genoese pounds.  Forward dated foreign exchange contracts became a popular way of circumnavigating laws against usury because the fee and interest components were hidden.  Meantime the Chinese had had bank issued paper money since 950 (they then abandoned it in 1455).  

 

Fresco

 

 

Technique for wall painting dating from Egyptian and Minoan (eg Thera / Santorini) times and also used by the Etruscans and Romans.  Lasted as the dominant form in central Italy into the 15 hundreds when oil paintings took over. Buon fresco involved medium-fine plaster (the intonaco) onto which a sinopia was drawn or traced. The final fresco was then painted in daily 'chunks' onto fine wet plaster applied over the intonaco.  The rich blues seen in eg Giotto's work in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova, were derived from extremely expensive ground lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and had to be applied after the plaster had dried.   Many frescoes have been stripped off their original walls (using glued paper) and remounted on freestanding panels. This usually reveals the sinopia which can be stripped and remounted in the same way.

 

Marco Polo

"The Travels"

INSIGHT PAGE

VENICE LINK

1254

-1324

(70)

Venice,

Silk Road traveller

First went east to China (Cathay) at the age of six with his father and uncle. Their second trip in 1271 resulted in a 17 year stay and (according to him but not any Chinese records) Marco becoming a member of Kublai Khan's Privy Council. His later book ("The Travels") dictated to a romance writer called Rustichello di Pisa whilst a war prisoner in Genoa, was a best seller (and is still available in Penguin Books). Nicknamed "il Millione" (the million lies) by a sceptical but fascinated Italian public, it raised questions as to whether he had gone to China at all - still a subject of academic debate (see "Did Marco Polo Go to China?" by Frances Wood and "Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World" by John Larner).  Wherever he was during those 17 years is really of secondary importance to the impact his book had as a catalyst for firing up the imaginations of future generations of would be travellers.  He was buried in the Venetian church of San Lorenzo, but his remains and tomb mysteriously disappeared without trace during some later renovations.

Duccio di Buoninsegna

EXHIBITION

1260

-1319

(59)

Siena,

Painter

First of the new breed of Sienese painters.  See especially his Maesta in the Museum next to Siena Duomo, and go to the the other side of the piazza to see the ultimate display of sublime Etruscan faced Madonnas .... (2003!)

ARTISTS OF THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE

Battle of Montaperti

1260

Battle to 

the E of

Siena

Siena beats Florence decisively (with the help of others including Florentine Ghibellines) in the battle of Montaperti, which was said to involve over 100,000 men.   Today there is a monument amidst the cypress trees on the very visible hill to the East of Siena which was the centre of a battle which caused the waters of the little Arbia river to run red with blood.   Buoyed by success, the Sienese / Ghibelline faction met at Empoli with the aim of raising Florence to the ground (which they were strong enough to do), but were persuaded by one Farinata degli Uberti just to do a straightforward plunder of shops, houses and towers before installing Guido Novello - commander at Montaperti - as top dog (Podestà) of a reconstituted Florence.

 

In the end it was the Black Death, nearly a hundred years later, which stopped Siena dead in its tracks, never to recover, though the final and absolute Florentine takeover was only achieved by the Medici Duke Cosimo I / Emperor Charles V team a further two hundred years later in 1554-7, and it was only then that the Chianti League towns like Castellina and the opposing Sienese garrison towns like Monteriggione lost their military frontier importance.

 

Dante Alighieri

PORTRAITS

1265

-1321

(56)

Firenze,

Poet

Pre-Renaissance genius and greatest poet of the Middle Ages.   "The Divine Comedy" and other works were written in the (Tuscan) vernacular for the first time.  Dante's tomb is at the back of the Franciscan convent in Ravenna.  He had been exiled from Florence, but this did not stop the latter glossing over this minor blip by putting up their own much bigger "tomb" in Santa Croce in florence.

 

Giotto del Bondone

PORTRAIT

1266

-1337

(71)

Firenze,

Artist

Giotto led the way out of the formalized Byzantine painting style and into the excitement of Renaissance humanist art - revealing depth, human interest and emotion.  In Florence his "Death of San Francesco" can be seen in Santa Croce, but to see his masterpiece and the Aladdin's cave of fresco cycle painting you will have to go to the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Padova) - thirty miles south west of Venice - whose 40 or so frescoes completed around 1306 established Giotto as the leading artist of the pre Renaissance.  The Chapel has recently (2002) been restored and advance booking to get in is essential - phone 049 201 0020 or go to their web site.

 

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

1278

-1348

(70)

Siena

Artist

Best known for his frescoes of The Common Good, and the Results of Good and Bad Government in Town and Country in the Sala della Pace of the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena (also a rare source of what urban landscapes looked like in the early thirteen hundreds).

Simone Martini

PORTRAIT

1284

-1344

(60)

Siena,

Artist

Pupil of Duccio. Painted huge and famous Guido Riccio da Fogliano fresco (1330) (Sala di Mappamondo, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena) - one of the earliest medieval landscape and non-religious pieces - and many more heavenly things.

Siena Palazzo Pubblico

PHOTOS

1288

-1320

Siena,

Town Hall

Prime example of the Tuscan Gothic style and built with better project management than the Duomo (32 years v 160 years - the triumph of the temporal over the spiritual). The tower ("Torre del Mangia" after the first bellringer Mangiaguadagni ("he who eats all he earns")) was built in 1338-48 and finished just before the black death hit Siena. At 88m (286ft), it is the second highest tower in Italy.  The Campanile in the Piazza San Marco, Venice, is 99m (325ft), but not built as well -  the original fourteen hundreds model fell down in 1902, and had to be replaced with a copy!  For those who like an English perspective, the tallest cathedral tower there (and indeed in Europe) is the main tower of Lincoln Cathedral which is 83m (271ft).  The better known "Bell Harry" Tower of Canterbury Cathedral in England is just under 72m (235ft).  The spire of Salisbury Cathedral is 123m or 404ft - but a spire that can only be accessed from the outside is not the same as a bell tower!!

 

Santa Croce

1294

-1385

Firenze, 

Franciscan church

The church to visit above all the others in Florence (and a church best seen from the inside!). Built on the site of a 1220 Franciscan monastery (set up under the new (Mendicant) policy of locating in towns). Wonder at the painted beamed roof, the tombed floor, the monumental tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo, Donatello's crucifix, Giotto's "Death of St Francis" and "Crowning the Virgin" - and visit the leather school at the back!

Firenze Duomo - Santa Maria del Fiore

PHOTOS

PORTRAITS OF BRUNELLESCHI

1296

Firenze,

Cathedral

Florence's new Duomo was a very long term project which started under Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296.  It had to survive numerous plagues and wars - in 1401 for example the masons were rounded up and dispatched to Castellina in Chianti and other Florentine frontier towns for a bout of town wall building.

 

A church best seen from Pz Michelangelo or, as in the Paradoxplace photo page, from San Miniato, to appreciate Giotto's campanile and the awesome dimensions of the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 - 1446 (69)) and topped by Verrocchio's lantern.  At 142ft diameter it is the highest and widest masonry dome ever constructed.  The Roman Pantheon is also 142ft but is made of concrete and being a spherical section is not nearly as high, Michelangelo's St Peter's is 132ft, Wren's St Paul's 112ft and Justinian's "greatest church in Christendom" - Santa Sophia in earthquake prone Constantinople - is 107ft and still standing after nearly 1,500 years.

 

The starting point was a huge roofless hole at the crossing point of the church - left there optimistically when the drum was completed in 1421, until someone could invent a way of covering it.  Nobody (except, as it turned out, Filippo Brunelleschi) had any idea how because this had never been done before, but Florence was in a confident mood.

 

Unbelievably, Brunelleschi's dome was built in the mid 1430s without centering (internal scaffolding and support). Three new crane designs (also by Brunelleschi) were needed, including the main ox driven hoist which incorporated the first known clutch and gear reversing mechanism, so the oxen kept going round and round in the same direction whilst the clutch and gear could be used to sent the brick hoist up and down - a huge saving in time. A gripping non-technical account of all this and the surrounding mediaeval political thrills and spills is to be found in the paperback "Brunelleschi's Dome" by Ross King.

 

The lantern and bronze ball topping the dome (completed in 1461) were designed by Andrea del Verrocchio (1435 - 1485 (50)), and form a beautiful structure in their own right.  Verrocchio is one of the lesser known Renaissance Artists, but was obviously an outstanding workshop entrepeneur and teacher, numbering Leonardo, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Perugino amongst his pupils and the Medici as his main customer.  Today he is most widely remembered for the equestrian statue of Condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice.

 

13 HUNDREDS

 

 

Note that the people listed below survived the Black Death of 1348-50 which killed over half of the population of Europe

Banking

Illustrations - Bankers at Work in the 1300s

 

 

 

Through the thirteen and first half of the fourteen hundreds Italian (and especially Florentine) bankers had an absolute domination of banking in Europe, dealing with monarchies, the church, producers and merchants. They invented new instruments for money transfer, trade finance, currency conversion and insurance as well as lending money and collecting debts. To overcome being accused of usury, transaction charges substituted for interest in the roll-over of short term loans, or loans were described as temporary gifts, repayable with a "thank you component." Other ways of getting around this included forward dated foreign exchange contracts

 

Banks were also general trading houses, active in importing exporting and trading grain, wool and silk cloth, spices, books and indeed anything else that seemed a good idea. The first wave of Florentine banks included names like Frescobaldi, Peruzzi and Bardi, but the last two and others bit the dust in the banking crises of the 1340s when Edward III and others overborrowed to prosecute the Hundred Years' War (not that it was called that when it started!!) and defaulted, and over ambitious position taking in the grain market went pear shaped.  Interestingly, this was around the time that  double entry bookeeping - another Italian invention - was introduced.

 

The Medici bank emerged in 1397 and, in great part through winning the business of most of the (Roman) Christian Church (no one had had a monopoly on this before), became the biggest and most successful of them all.  Its huge wealth was also directed towards the commissioning of artworks and architecture, and supporting the intellectual life of Florence - in other words the Renaissance - which is why "Medici" is the only one that is remembered of the many larger European banks that have come and gone over the years since then (such as the Fugger bank 100 years later which was many times bigger than the Medici bank at its peak!).

Gunpowder, Siege Engines and Chinese Inventions

 

 

The ancient siege weapons were the Ballista and Catapult - designed respectively to fire arrows and missiles like rocks using spring loading of various sorts. The Trebuchet, looking a bit like an over-engineered see-saw, was an invention of the early middle ages, and became the siege engine of choice for slinging all sorts of stuff, including executed prisoners, until Gunpowder came along in the early 13 hundreds. The earliest European gunpowder recipe is attributed to Englishman Roger Bacon (1267) - Saltpetre / Sulphur / Charcoal in the proportions 41.2 / 29.4 / 29.4.  Cannons were in use in Europe from the 1320s, the first formal evidence being from a Florentine arms inventory of 1326.  However, it was another 300 years before the trusty Trebuchet was completely replaced by guns.

 

As with most things, gunpowder had been around in China for some 300 years before it was "discovered" in Europe.  Perhaps it is a reflection of practical priorities that Chinese inventions in warfare typically took only a few hundred years to appear in Europe, whereas many other ideas took one to two thousand years.  Some interesting time lags in years - iron ploughs (2,200), horse collars (1,000), cast iron (2,000), suspension bridges (2,000+), paper (1,400), paper money (850), movable type printing (400), decimal system (2,300), compass (1,500), first law of motion (2,000), parachute (2,000)  - for more examples and fascinating descriptions get hold of "The Genius of China" by Robert Temple.

 

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On the other side of the coin (inert liquid containers, windows etc), glass was a late developer in China, possibly because they were too focussed on drinking tea rather than wine and beer ?

 

Francesco Petrarch

BOOK

Portrait

1304

-1374

(70)

Poet

Poet, letter writer, calligrapher, traveller, humanist - pursued the rediscovery of the literary glories of ancient Greece and Rome, and the promotion of the importance of teaching the humanities - grammar; then eloquence or rhetoric, which in turn led to philosophy. 

Giovanni Boccacio

BOOK

PORTRAIT

1313

-1375

(62)

Certaldo,

Writer

Courtier, ambassador, scholar, writer. Of his huge work output he is mainly remembered as the author of "The Decameron".

Sir John Hawkwood

 

BIOGRAPHY

 

INSIGHT

PAGE

1320

-1394

(74)

Condottiere

The last of the great (foreign) Condottieri - "guns for hire", looters, generals and diplomats with attendant armies employed by Italian City States on a needs basis, originally in order to avoid the large fixed costs of standing armies  - Hawkwood spent the last 17 years of his life in the service of Florence.  He had  joined the mercenary (i.e. paid) army of Edward III at the beginning of the 100 Years' War against France, and was knighted in the field by him (or so he claimed, or by his son the Black Prince, as writer Richard Condon would have it in his factional book "A Trembling upon Rome", or by himself as was widely practised in the free companies). A lull in fighting caused several "free companies" to move south in search of work, and Hawkwood's military skills - good generalship backed by long bows, cavalry with light armour, and trained disciplined troops, saw him quickly rise to the top of his company and profession.  He also must have been blessed with 1348 plague immunity! 

 

Known by Italians as Giovanni Acuto because they could not pronounce his name.  See his monument by Uccello in the Firenze Duomo.

 

Francesco Landini

1335

-1397

(62)

Firenze,

Musician

Blind organist of San Lorenzo (Firenze), the first Italian to take over the lead from the musical innovators of Northern Europe, especially remembered for his secular madrigals.

Francesco di Marco Datini

BOOK

1335

-1410

(75)

"The Merchant of Prato"

"The most intimately accessible figure of the late Middle Ages" - via the discovery in 1870 of a cache of 140,000 letters (11,000 being private correspondence), 500 account books (each prefaced by the mantra of the successful merchant "in the name of God and of Profit"), partnership agreements, insurance policies etc, and Iris Origo's widely read 1957 book based on these - "The Merchant of Prato - Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City" (available in Penguin Books).

100 Years' War

LINK TO INSIGHT PAGE

MAP

1337

England v France

Edward III (1312 - 1327 - 1377 (75)) invades France to pursue his claim to the French throne and is bankrolled by huge amounts of money from Florentine bankers, many of whom ended up being bankrupted as a result of later royal defaults.  The  first important battle, the battle of Crecy, in which Edward's forces (one third commanded by his son the 16 year old Black Prince) beat those of Philip VI, took place in 1346.  It was the first time that the longbow had been used as a major weapon against the French cavalry, and this tactic was so successful that battle strategies changed for ever.  

       

MORE ABOUT THE 100 YEARS' WAR

 

Shortly afterwards things quietened down for a bit when the Black Death of 1348 knocked off over half the population of Europe. Edward had another go, then went back to England in 1360 after signing the Treaty of Brétigny, leaving behind hundreds of unemployed of English soldier-thugs (including Sir John Hawkwood) who formed the basis of the so called "free companies" who pillaged much of northern Italy and later became Condottieri serving the interests of whichever Italian city state bid the highest. 

 

The tide of the 100 Years' War went first in favour of the English, then the French, then back to the English with the Battle of Agincourt won by Henry V in 1415.  As Florence was driving the great awakening of the Renaissance, the English and French were still at it - this time Joan of Arc was raising the Siege of Orleans in 1429.  "The war" did not end until 1453, at which stage the English were left with only Calais and several old Florentine banking names had disappeared, to be replaced by other much richer banking dynasties like the Medici.

 

Geoffrey Chaucer

1340

-1400

(60)

English Writer

Author of "The Canterbury Tales" and along with Dante one of the great break through writers in vernacular, as opposed to Latin, Greek or Arabic - the formal written languages of the Middle Ages.

Santa Caterina

1347

-1380

(33)

Siena,

Saint & dictator of letters

24th (yes 24th) child of a wealthy Sienese wool dyer's wife.  Patron Saint of Siena, Italy (1939) (alongside S Francesco), Europe (1999) (alongside S Benedict) who persuaded the Pope back to Rome from Avignon in 1377.  A powerful, uncompromising, down to earth intellect who, despite the fact that she could not write, and essentially starved herself to death at the age of 33,  bequeathed a legacy of 373 dictated letters to "Popes, Kings, Princes and Common People".  Still a very real figure in the life of women particularly in today's Siena and Italy.

 

The Black Death

BOOKS

1348

 

Brought to Italy in the Autumn of 1347 by Genoese ships from the East, where the disease - carried by fleas on rat hosts - had savagely depopulated vast areas. Thinking that it was the doing of Europeans, the local populace attacked the Genoese trading city of Caffa, catapulting diseased corpses into the city. Escape was short lived for most, with boats arriving back at Genoa with most crew dead or dying and the stench of the disease everywhere.

 

Florence was the first big European city to suffer, losing probably 60,000 of its 90,000 population. Spreading throughout Europe as it had before in the East, probably two thirds of the entire population of cities and towns were dead by 1350. The catastrophic depopulation caused dramatic changes.  Villages were deserted, capital works projects abandoned, slavery reappeared, etc.  Some towns, like Siena, never regained momentum - it spelt the end of their golden years and their dreams of a mega-cathedral (started in 1339, and you can still climb the facade and enjoy the beautiful medieval view from the Duomo that never was). Florence, however, kept on to bigger and better things, even though it experienced further outbreaks of the plague in 1363, 74, 83 and 90, and in the next centuries.

 

In fact the plague kept breaking out again in various parts of Europe every decade or so until, some 300 years later, it just disappeared for no obvious reason.  Pre Black Death Europe was suffering from chronic overpopulation and the inability of the then food technologies to cope.  After the Black Death it took nearly 400 years for Europe's population to regain the levels of the early 1300s, by which time life support systems like food and sanitation were much more effective.

Back to TOP OF PAGE   ON TO PART TWO - The Renaissance and Early Modern Europe 1350-1600

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