Life in Italy During the Middle Ages

Life in Medieval Italy

Castle Nuovo, Middle Age fortress and its Arc of Triumph, Naples

In the time after Rome known popularly as the Dark Ages, Italy faced great hardship due to the Byzantine and Lombard struggles for the Italian penninsula and the collapse of Mediterranean trade. Town life in early medieval Italy consisted of basic houses and with the town dwellers growing their own food, which helped towns and administrative centers maintaining a level of civilization in a dark time.

However as the so-called Dark Ages wore on, Italy emerged as a key player as civilization across Europe began to flourish once again. The centuries that cover this period, between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, are known as the High Middle Ages, otherwise known as Medieval Italy.

The End of the Dark Ages

The 11th century realized the hope of better times with the arrival of the middle ages. Trade gradually rose, particularly on the seas where the four cities of Italy Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice became major trading cities. Papal authority was regained by the medieval popes and started the extensive fight with the empire for both religious as well as secular power.

Palermo - The Cathedral

Eleventh Century

During the eleventh century Lombard and Byzantine possessions in south Italy was taken over by Normans, who arrived in the area as hired mercenaries. Although the Normans were hired by Lombard and Byzantine rulers, they eventually decided to take the land for themselves. The Norman conquest of Southern Italy had finished off nearly six hundred years of Lombard and Byzantine rule as well as absorbing the remaining independant cities. The Normans then set their sights on Muslim Sicily and began the Christian reconquest of the island under the leadership of

. The conquest of Sicily was long and difficult and in the end created a political entity that was essentially multicultural in nature.


The classic movies "Brancaleone" and "Brancaleone alle crociate" by Monicelli show the life of a poor group of misfits during the 12th Century. Monicelli did quite a bit of research before producing the movie and the characters are quite believable. The language used in the movie is not indeed modern Italian but Italian very close to what was used at the time.To see more go on youtube and search for "Brancaleone"

Twelfth Century

The twelfth century saw the Normans continue their conquests under powerful leaders such as Roger I and Roger II of Sicily. It was Roger II who consolidated all the Norman territories into the new Kingdom of Sicily, with himself declared its first king. The assumption of such power by Roger was not approved of by both the Pope and the local population in Southern Italy. With the Pope's death, Roger helped elect and Antipope who in exchange crowned him King of Sicily in 1130. Shortly thereafter, the offical Pope, backed with Imperial armies began a campaign to take Southern Italy in a series of battles where in the end the Normans would eventually gain acceptance from Pope Innocent II.

Roger receiving the keys of Palermo

After the death of Roger II, Emperor Manuel I Komnenos made an attempt to regain the lands taken by the Normans in 1155. Generals Michael Palaeogus and John Doukas along with a Byzantine army and hefty amount of gold to attack Apulia and take advantage of the untested new King, William.

During the twelfth century the Italian cities belonging to the Holy Roman Empire put a collective effort to gain their independence. These acts set the stage in Northern Italy as a land of self-determining city-states until the nineteenth century. These fights were funded by the Byzantine Empire since they wanted to push out the Germans from Italy, wanting to regain the power they had on peninsula during the period of Justinian.

Robert Guiscard

Sicily and Southern Italy had been invaded by the Normans, first as hired mercenaries and eventually conquerors. These descendants of Vikings took over the Byzantine and Arab lands of Sicily and Southern Italy.

 

Thirteenth Century

During the thirteenth century, many parts of Europe were experiencing good economic growth. The trade routes on land and sea linked Italy’s Mediterranean ports to the Hanseatic League of Germany and other trade networks in Europe.


The classic movies "Brancaleone" and "Brancaleone alle crociate" by Monicelli show the life of a poor group of misfits during the 12th Century. Monicelli did quite a bit of research before producing the movie and the characters are quite believable. The language used in the movie is not indeed modern Italian but Italian very close to what was used at the time.To see more go on youtube and search for "Brancaleone"

The city-states of Italy widely expanded during the renaissance period and grew in terms of power to become fully independent from Holy Roman Empire. Apart from Naples, all the other city-states had kept the foreign powers out of Italy. It was in this period that the new infrastructure and commerce methods developed in the country along with various new concepts being launched in the country like international banks and foreign exchange markets.

Fourteenth Century

During the fourteenth century, Italy experienced a series of natural catastrophes, causing the economy of Italy as well as that of several other countries in Europe to experience a set back. The Little Ice Age began in Europe resulting in climatic changes. The agricultural output declined and several famines resulted in the next few years.

The war between France and England had disrupted trade in many parts of North West Europe, mainly in 1345. However the most devastating event of all was the infamous Black Death which hit Italy’s cities very hard, before decimating Europe’s population.

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Comments

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Friday, May 24TH, 2013 by Guest

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