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France at the beginning of the second millennium

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From the middle of the tenth century, some signs indicate a plan to revive the chaotic life of the territory of the Western French Empire. The wave of invasions subsided, the feudal rule between the Loire and Rhine rivers was strengthened, many castles were built (these castles were often made of wood and from the late 10th century onwards, was made of stone in Lange), new landscaping was well done and new cities that was the gathering place for merchants were built and came into being. The Cluny Monastery, which had a lot of authority and influence and was considered a symbol of a kind of spiritual renewal, was founded in 910 AD. These signs of awakening appeared in the first decades of the eleventh century and spread significantly from 1070 to 1080. (Reviewer, 1390: 81)

A fragmented country with many governments

As we approach the end of the first millennium, all central government was abolished. The king of the Franks (his official title until the end of the twelfth century), who was in fact the ruler of a small territory, merely exercised apparent power over a vast country with many forests and unsuitable and unsafe roads. The country was divided into about twelve states (Duchy of Normandy, Aquitaine, Burgundy, Duchy of Flanders, Champagne, Brittany, Anjou, Belva, Toulouse, etc.) Each of their rulers, in turn, controlled only a part of it. A lord with a limited group of experienced and young warriors could force others to obey him for one or even two or three days of horse riding, otherwise he would have had to delegate his power to a “Vassal” called the little lord to act in his name; But in reality, this little master acted independently. Thus, the country was divided into a series of small nuclei, in each of which the castle dwellers exerted power over the farmers from the government, judged, taxed them heavily, confiscated their property, and forced them to do arduous work, etc. (The same: 82)

The foundation of feudal rule was based on relations between individuals, and this naturally led to the formation of a pyramidal structure. An aristocrat or an experienced warrior declared his allegiance to the great lord or ruler by performing the swearing-in ceremony and was known as his “Vassal”.

 In return, the lord offered him a piece of land as a reward (Feudum (Thiol) or gift in the past) in which he could in turn exerted power over the lord. At the inauguration ceremony, Vassal knelt before the lord and put his hands in his hands, while the lord lifted him off the ground. To express their solidarity, the two men kissed each other on the lips, Vassal swore to the sacred objects left by the saints, and then the lord gave him something like a handful of dust, a tree branch, etc., as a symbol of the gift of the thiol. As a father defends his children, the master was committed to defending his vassal, accepting him at his table food and raising his children if necessary. Instead, Vassal had responsibilities to his master. Respect, counseling (participating court meetings), and military assistance (fortress patrols, cavalry patrols with a group of warriors under his command) were among the tasks that Vassal undertook to perform and, if necessary, to free his master when he was taken captive, he did all his effort to pay the ransom. Vassal also had to provide financial assistance to provide dowry for the lord’s daughter or to provide military equipment for his warrior son. But in reality, the order structure of the feudal state with a formal class system collapsed in favor of the vassals. In the 11th century, inheritance rights were recognized on the thiol. Vassal’s salary and service reward were considered as his family assets. Vassal could sell part of his thiol or pass it on to someone else. The vassals gradually refused to fully fulfill the above obligations. Military aid did not exceed forty days a year, and it was accepted that Vassal could have several masters. Vassal took advantage of the rivalry between his masters and acted according to his own opinion. By the middle of the eleventh century, the situation had become so complicated that a special ceremony had to be held to pay homage and surrender to a master that was called the Vassal swearing-in ceremony (The same: 82-84).

The country, like chess houses, was divided into several castles built on a natural or artificial height (mud hills). In the 11th century, this checkered division was not entirely clear; one castle was often considered for 20 to 30 rural communities and about 10 castles for one county. This forts, which consisted of moats, fences, large enclosures with small huts, stables, barns, and sometimes a small church and a tower in the center of them (the main tower), were  a safe havens for farmers in times of danger. The main tower consisted of large halls that housed with little furniture such as a number of chests, tables, mats, a bed with curtains, etc., in which the owner of the castle lived with his family and his young warriors. These castles were often made of materials such as wood, which were abundant everywhere and easily fragmented. In the eleventh century, and especially in the twelfth century, numerous local wars and fires led to the construction of stone castles. These castles had rectangular towers (Langé and Nogent-le-Rotrou castles) and later circular towers (Fréteval Castle, built around 1050), which allowed for a better defense of the castle. Wooden fences were turned into stone fortifications. In the twelfth century, some castles (Château Gaillard Castle on the banks of the Seine and built in 1196) had fortifications of great complexity. In Midi region, the number of castles was smaller due to the slight flourishing of feudal rule and the adherence of the aristocracy to the habit of urban life (The same: 84-85).

A group of young warriors lived in the castle, helping the castle owner defend their thiol, and taking part in military campaigns. The hard and long military training of these ruthless and brutal men, often illiterate, made them skilled warriors. They wore helmets, leather combat uniforms, and covered with small iron plates or rings (armor). These warriors were skilled in the use of spears and long swords, and with the help of circular saddles and bony pedals, they quickly mastered in rider swordsmanship. At a time when iron and good horses were relatively scarce, such equipment was expensive (in 1200, the price of a war horse was 5 livres). After accolade ceremony, young warriors became knights. They often competed in fun, yet fierce, battles under the command of a senior knight, such as William Marshal (French: Guillaume le Maréchal) in the twelfth century. In these combat competitions, the knight took ransom from the losers. The knight would later acquire a small plot of land and then marry. The ancient Frankish aristocracy quickly adopted the knighthood, and during the twelfth century there was a tendency to merge the nobility with the knights. The division of the country into numerous castles and the existence of militant and active youth groups is the cause of many local wars. Every great lord tried to increase his power by destroying his neighbor. The owner of the castle and his cavalries looted and conquered the neighboring lands to the detriment of the neighboring farmers. The assailant retaliated. As the millennium year approached, insecurity seen everywhere. Robbery, rape, massacre, revenge, arson and destruction spread throughout the land (The same: 85 & 86).

Repelling Violence by the Church

From the late tenth century (the Bishops Council of Charroux in Poitou in 989), the Christian community, often associated with The Cluny Monastery, promoted the divine peace movement. In such a turbulent area, the church organized Christian mourning ceremonies and formed an assembly for peace. At that meeting the knights were invited to swear to the saints to restricting the use of their violence, not impinge and respecting the property of God’s men, and not attacking defenseless farmers, vineyards and mills. From 1020, the Divine Peace Movement spread in north of the Loire River.

The church even went so far as to impose another movement called the Divine Abandonment (its laws were enacted in the Arles bishops council from 1037 to 1041), which banned fighting from Wednesday evening until Monday morning. It was very difficult to force the knights to abide by these laws, but they were not indifferent to some of the threats, such as excommunication and deprivation of Christian burial. Around 1025, the bishop of Laon, Adalberon, explained the theory of dividing society into three classes. According to this theory, feudal society was carefully divided into three groups. Those who worshiped became the leaders of this community, followed by two other groups: those who fought and those who worked. (The same: 86 & 87).

Gradually, the church succeeded in changing part of the knighthood combat competitions. From the middle of the 11th century, knighthood ceremony became a Christian religion. The church encouraged riotous and anarchist knights to use their power and energy to serve Christianity and to take part in the war against Muslim Spain (this brought with them many ransoms of gold). In 1095, at the Clermont bishops’ council, Pope Urban II called on the Western aristocracy to wage a crusade to liberate the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. This recall, which had become more and more widespread with the fiery sermons of famous monks such as the monk Pier was very successful. More than 60,000 infantry (poor farmers who were soon killed by the Turks) and 4,000 to 5,000 knights (that was a significant number at the time) took part in the First Crusade, many of them French. Jerusalem was attacked on July 15, 1099. In 1146, with the preaching of Saint Bernard in Vézelay, the Second Crusade was launched, but this war in 1148, in Damascus, led to the defeat of Crusaders. Gradually, these efforts paid off, and at least the violence in France was pushed back (The same: 85 & 86).Source: Reviewer, Daniel (2011). History of France: From the Beginning to the Renaissance, translated by Shahnaz Salami, Tehran: Information.

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