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Heloise and Abelard – Middle Ages in Europe

By |2017-09-05T02:42:54+00:00September 5th, 2017|Medieval, Religion|

Heloise and Abelard The story of Peter Abelard and his wife Heloise is one of the saddest love stories of Western history. Abelard, who was born in 1079 AD, came to Paris as a young man and taught classes at the new Christian church school there. (This was just a few years after the Norman Conquest). Abelard [...]

History of Christianity – World Religions

By |2018-04-09T23:07:26+00:00August 21st, 2017|Religion, Romans|

One of the earliest images of Jesus, from St. Callisto catacomb in Rome (ca. 250 AD) Around the time of the beginning of the Roman Empire, a new religion began among the Jews living in Israel: Christianity. People seem to have felt that these new governments - these big empires - needed bigger, more organized religions to stand up [...]

Simone de Beauvoir – European philosophy

By |2018-04-24T09:15:35+00:00August 6th, 2017|Modern Europe, Philosophy|

Simone de Beauvoir Simone de Beauvoir's family lost most of their money after World War I. But by the early 1900s, even struggling families tried to send their daughters to school. De Beauvoir and her sister went to a good convent school. De Beauvoir thought of becoming a nun. But when she was 14 years old, [...]

French Revolution – History of France

By |2017-08-05T15:03:13+00:00August 5th, 2017|History, Modern Europe|

French women revolutionaries march on the king's palace at Versailles All through the 1700s, Enlightenment philosophers in France had been figuring out new ways of thinking about the world. Little by little they rejected religion and inherited power. They invented the idea that people should use logic and reason to make choices, that people - both [...]

Francis of Assisi – Medieval Europe

By |2018-10-02T06:59:07+00:00August 4th, 2017|Medieval, Religion|

Francis of Assisi gives his father back his clothes (Giotto, in Assisi) Who was Francis of Assisi? By 1200 AD, the Catholic Church was very powerful. Bishops and popes were often rich men. They cared more about getting rich collecting tithes than they did about praying or helping poor people. What is a bishop? What is the pope? History of [...]

Christian nuns – Medieval Europe

By |2018-04-24T09:15:23+00:00August 4th, 2017|Medieval, Religion|

Egyptian caves where early monks and nuns lived The first Christian nuns, like the first Christian monks, lived in Africa - they lived alone in the desert in Egypt in the 300s and 400s AD, where they could be alone to pray all day. Like the men, they probably got the idea from earlier Buddhist nuns in India (many traders went back and forth [...]

Eleanor of Aquitaine – Queen of France and England

By |2018-04-12T00:08:02+00:00August 2nd, 2017|History, Medieval|

Eleanor of Aquitaine (Cloisters Museum, New York City) Eleanor of Aquitaine was fifteen years old in 1137 AD, and not yet married, when her father, the Duke of Aquitaine, died suddenly. Eleanor had no brothers, so she inherited her father's duchy, which included most of southern France. Coin minted when Eleanor was ruling [...]

Saladin Tax – Medieval Europe

By |2018-04-24T08:11:08+00:00August 1st, 2017|Economy, Medieval|

Sherwood Forest, where Robin Hood lived In the Early Middle Ages, most people did not pay any money taxes to the king. Instead, they gave chickens, honey, or work days to their own lord. Then in turn their lord passed on services to the king - if the king could make him do it. But in order to [...]

What is a cloister? Medieval architecture

By |2018-03-14T09:21:41+00:00July 30th, 2017|Architecture, Medieval|

Cloister at Moissac (ca. 1100 AD, southern France) Cloisters were a medieval kind of building that developed out of Greek and then Roman peristyles. A cloister is a courtyard garden inside a building. Often people grew herbs or fruit or flowers in the garden. Around the sides of the courtyard there is a covered walkway, with a waist-high wall between [...]

Caen – Abbaye aux Dames

By |2018-04-24T08:00:43+00:00July 29th, 2017|Architecture, Medieval|

Caen - Abbaye aux Dames Matilda of Flanders ordered her architects to build this Christian church about 1050 AD in her capital at Caen. (Find out why.) The Abbaye aux Dames is a great example of the Romanesque style of medieval European architecture. One thing that is typical of Romanesque churches is that the doors have round arches (not pointed [...]