Sei sulla pagina 1di 4




1. Summary.
With the collapse of the Roman Empire along the V century, Mediterranean
cultural unity fragmented. In the west, the Roman Empire disappeared as a
result of the barbarian invasions (Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi,
Burgundians, Alemanni, Goths, Angles, Saxons), emerging new Germanic
kingdoms. The city of Rome fell in 476, beginning the historical period we
call Middle Ages, that ends in the fifteenth century (Columbus arrived in
America in 1492). Thus the Middle Ages take approximately 1,000 years.
The eastern part of the Roman Empire was more populated and richer, and
survived the attacks of the Germanic peoples. This part is known as
Eastern or Byzantine Empire, Byzantium was its capital and held for nearly
1,000 years.
The element of continuity and cultural cohesion between the ancient and
medieval world was Christianity and the Church.

2. Germanic Kingdoms. (Centuries V, VI, VII, VIII)

They occupied the space of the Western Roman Empire and formed
independent kingdoms: the Visigoths in Hispania, the Angles and Saxons in
Britain, Ostrogoths in Italy, Franks in Gaul, etc. They had a very primitive
customs although Latin remained the official language. Christianity finally

The demise of the Roman Empire imposed a climate of insecurity in the

West. The war became a common economic activity, setting a feeling of
fear among the population. In this situation Western Europe ruralized.

3. The Byzantine Empire. (Between 476 and 1453)

It was the former Eastern Roman Empire. In the sixth century Emperor
Justinian was proposed to restore the old empire with military conquests on
the Dalmatian coast, Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, North Africa and southern
Hispania. Roman laws were compiled in the Code of Justinian and the
emperor beautified the city of Constantinople: among other buildings, he
ordered to build the Hagia Sophia, in a time of economic prosperity. In the
following centuries Byzantium lost some of the gains. The Greek remained
the official language.
After several centuries of religious tensions, in 1054 Schism occurred, ie
the separation of Eastern Christians called Orthodox and Western
Christians called Catholics. The Pope lived in Rome, outside of Byzantine
Empire, and they didnt want to obey him.
Important elements of Byzantine art are the domes (eg Hagia Sophia in
Constantinople) and mosaic (eg representing Justinian with his court that is
in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna -Italy-).

4. Visigoths. (Visigothic Hispania)

In 409, during the crisis of the Roman Empire, several barbarian peoples
penetrated in Hispania: Swabians, Vandals, Alans and later the Visigoths.
The Franks wanted to expand their territory and defeated the Visigoths in
Vouill in 507, expelling them from Gaul. They later settled in Hispania,
locating their capital in Toledo.

The Visigoths were able to control the peninsula and established a strong
and hereditary monarchy. Some particularly important kings were:
Leovigild, which repealed the law forbidding intermarriage between
Visigoths and Hispanics; Reccared, that in 589 got religious unification; and
Recesvint, who achieved the unification of law (called Fuero Juzgo, 654).
Among the contributions of Visigothic art are: the horseshoe arch and
jewellery. An example of Visigothic architecture is the church of San Pedro
de la Nave (Zamora).

5. Carolingian Empire. (Charlemagne)

Charlemagne was King of the Franks. He created an empire at the beginning
of the ninth century and it was the last attempt to reconstruct the ancient
unity of the Western Roman Empire.
The territory under his authority was very extensive: France today, part of
Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands. He managed to
stop the advance of Islam and reinforced the connection between political
and religious power. He was crowned emperor in 800 by Pope Leo III and
set his capital in the city of Aachen (now Aachen, Germany). Under his
government peace was ensured and culture reborn (building of schools,
Latin was taught again, monks copied texts of Greco-Latin authors).
At his death, the crown passed to his son Louis the Pious, who later divided
the lands of the Empire among his three sons (Treaty of Verdun, 843). And
so the last attempt to reconstruct the unity of the Western Roman Empire


Schism. - In 1054 there was the separation of the Eastern and Western
churches. In the West the supreme ecclesiastical authority belonged to
the Pope, Bishop of Rome, which had been legitimized through the apostle
Peter by the mouth of Christ. By contrast, in the East the authority was
shared between an episcopate composed of all the bishops.

Mosaic. - Pictorial work made with small pieces of stone, ceramic, glass or
other similar materials of various shapes and colors, called tesserae, joined
by decorative plaster to form geometric or figurative compositions.

Dome. - It is an architectural element that is used to cover an area of

circular, square, polygonal or elliptical shape. A dome is half an orange.

Treaty of Verdun. - Treaty agreed at Verdun in 843 by which the empire of

Charlemagne was dismembered. The Empire was divided among the three
grandsons of emperor: Charles the Bald accounted for France, Louis the
German received Germany and Lothario a territorial strip between France
and Germany.

Middle Ages. - Historic period extending from the end of the Roman
Empire (V century) until the beginning of the Modern Age (XV century).