The Song of Roland

The Song of Roland (written after 1095) is a heroic epic about an honorable knight, Roland, and his king, Charlemagne, who are fighting against the invading Muslims in Spain.

The thrilling story begins with the advisor of the Muslim King Marsilie, wanting to deceive Charlemagne, the Frankish Holy Roman Emperor, into leaving Spain. When the Islamic king agrees, Blancandrin (the king’s advisor) goes to tell Charlemagne, who in turn asks advice from his closest men: Roland, Ganelon (Roland’s father) and the prominent Barons. Roland strongly advises against accepting the offer but a duke and Ganelon convince the King otherwise.

When Ganelon goes to the Islamic camp to tell Blancandrin of the Franks’ decision, the two wicked advisors plot against Roland and decide to kill him. When Charlemagne and his troops leave Spain, Roland is left behind in the rearguard with twenty thousand troops.

The Muslims attack Roland with 400,000 troops. After a heroic and amazingly even-sided battle, Continue reading

The Hundred Years War

The useless, boring, nerve wrecking, futile Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) was between the rival kingdoms of England and France. The cause of this ridiculous war was a feud over the land of Aquitane, France. The English ruled Aquitane but because it was located in France, the English had to pay allegiance to the French monarch. They refused to do so.

The English king, Edward III, also laid a claim to the throne of France. He argued that his mother was the daughter of the French king, Philip IV. Therefore he was the grandson of Philip IV. However, the French refuted this by saying that because Edward’s lineage was through a woman, it was illegitimate.

Finally, the French and English kings decided upon war, as the nobles thought it was the best and easiest method of gaining the rival’s kingdom. So the House of Plantagenet (English) and the House of Valois (French) embarked upon a war that would last over a hundred years. Continue reading

Pope Boniface VIII vs. King Philip IV

Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294 – 1303) was elected pope after the resignation of Pope Celestine V in December 1294. An amusing disagreement the pope had with Dante Alighieri was over the Divine Comedy. Dante had placed the pope in the eighth circle of hell along with those who had committed simony (see this article). The pope was outraged, but Dante refused to change the text!

Pope Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII

Boniface is best remembered for his conflict with the arrogant King Philip IV of France (also known as Philip the Fair–not due to his fairness but because of his apparent good looks). This conflict began in 1296 because the king, wanting revenue for war, taxed the French clergy without first getting permission from the Pope. However, the true cause of this conflict, and many others to come, was that the secular rulers were gaining too much power over the Church and the popes wanted to prevent this. Continue reading

Gothic Cathedrals

Gothic architecture developed in the High Middle Ages from the Romanesque style. It had originated in twelve-century France. The largest number of surviving Gothic architectural works are cathedrals, although the Basilica of Saint Denis (Paris, France) is typically acknowledged to be the first Gothic building. Continue reading

The Gregorian Reform

The Gregorian Reform of the ninth and tenth centuries dealt with the critical issue of lay investiture, the practice through which the laypeople, mainly monarchs, appointed priests and bishops to positions of ecclesiastical power. When doing this, they invested them with two symbols of office. Continue reading