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Life in Medieval Britain

Medieval Life

Medieval Life was dictated by wealth, power and status and the feudal
system. The Feudal System was sustained by the rights and privileges given
to the Upper Classes. The high ranking nobles lived in castles with their
knights and ladies. Others enjoyed their Life on their manors. The peasants,
including serfs, freeman and villeins spent their life on a manor or
surrounding village life.

Medieval Religion

In Europe during the Medieval times the only recognised religion was
Christianity, in the form of the Catholic religion. The life was dominated by
the church. Monasteries and convents, became both important, rich and
powerful. This was also a period of great change in the Christian church.
Disputes of the Crusades led to the split between the Eastern and
Western Christian Churches, called the Great Schism. The practises of the
Catholic religion were questioned and the beliefs of men such as Martin Luther
prompted a new religion called Protestantism which led to a further split in
the Christian Church referred to as the Protestant Reformation.

Medieval Entertainment

Types of Medieval Entertainment varied according to status but included


feasts, banquets, Mystery Plays, fairs, games and sports, hunting,
hawking, animal entertainment using dogs, bears and monkeys,
festivities at Christmas, Easter, and May Day, at the end of ploughing
and the completion of harvest. The Medieval entertainers of the Middle
Ages included Jesters (a buffoon at medieval courts), Mummers (Masked
dancers at festivals),acrobats and jugglers.

Medieval Art

Art during the Middle Ages saw many changes.Early art subjects were initially
restricted to the production of Pietistic painting (Christian art) in the
form of illuminated manuscripts, mosaics and fresco paintings in
churches. There were no portrait paintings in the art of the Middle Ages.
The Later Middle Ages saw the emergence of Gothic Art.During this period
artists broke away from the influences of the Byzantium and
Romanesque art style. It developed into Gothic highly visual art. The
artists and painters were founders of the movement towards greater realism
which culminated in the Renaissance art style. The most important and
famous artists and sculptors of the Middle Ages included Donatello,
Giotto, Leon Battista, Fra Angelico.

Medieval Education
Medieval Education in England was the only for the rich. It had to be paid for
and medieval peasants could not afford the fees. The most educated people
were those who worked in the church. As Medieval England developed so did
the need for a more educated population. Important trading towns set up
grammar schools funded usually by wealthy local merchants. All lessons
taught in a grammar school were in Latin. Lessons frequently started at
sunrise and finished at sunset. For those who excelled at a grammar
school, university followed. Medieval England saw the founding of
Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The sons of the peasants could only
be educated if the lord of the manor had given his permission. Any
family caught having a son educated without permission was heavily
fined. Very few girls went to school. Some girls from noble families were
taught at home and some went abroad to be educated. Regardless of
where they went, the basis of their education was the same how to
keep a household going so that their husband was well kept.

Medieval Justice and Law

Medieval Justice and Law in England was first dominated by the rights given
to feudal lords under the feudal system and then by Magna Carta and
the formation of a parliament.

The social structure of the Middle Ages was organized round the system of
Feudalism. Feudalism in practice meant that the country was not
governed by the king but by individual lords, or barons, who
administered their own estates, dispensed their own justice.

The Magna Carta is a document that King John of England was forced to sign
because it greatly reduced the power he held as King and allowed the
formation of a powerful parliament. The purpose of the Magna Carta was
to curb the King and make him govern by the old English laws that had
prevailed before the Normans came. The Magna Carta is considered to be
the beginning of constitutional government in England.

King Henry II was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford which


abolished the absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy and gave power to a
council of fifteen barons to govern England and a parliament.
Representatives of the towns and boroughs were invited to attend the Parliament
thereby instituting the House of Commons. The House of Commons is
regarded as the bulwark of civil and political liberty.

The decline of the Feudal system led to courts being established in large
towns. The members of the Guilds became very important members of the
Medieval town community of the Middle Ages. The introduction of the guilds in a
town or city lead to its own hierarchy and involvement in civic duties.
Magisterial courts were introduced into the towns.

By the time of Henry II, the system of law in England had been improved
because Henry sent out his own judges from London to listen to cases throughout
all Englands counties. Each accused person had to go through an ordeal. There
were three ordeals:

1.Ordeal by fire. An accused person held a red hot iron bar and walked three
paces. His hand was then bandaged and left for three days. If the wound was
getting better after three days, you were innocent. If the wound had clearly not
got any better, you were guilty.

2.Ordeal by water. An accused person was tied up and thrown into water. If you
floated you were guilty of the crime you were accused of.

3.Ordeal by combat. This was used by noblemen who had been accused of
something. They would fight in combat with their accuser. Whoever won was
right. Whoever lost was usually dead at the end of the fight.