Feudalism in the Middle Ages resembles a pyramid, with the lowest peasants at its base and the lines of authority flowing up to the peak of the structure, the king.
Under Feudalism the King was only answerable to the Pope. Feudalism was based on the exchange of land for military service. Life lived under the Medieval Feudal System, or Feudalism, demanded that everyone owed allegiance to the King and their immediate superior.
Feudalism Pyramid - Fealty and Homage
During the Middle Ages a portion of land called a fief would be granted by the King. This reward would be granted to him by his lord in exchange for his services. The recipient of the fief would be one of his vassals. The fief, or land, was usually granted following a Commendation Ceremony. The commendation ceremony was designed to create a lasting bond between a vassal and his lord. Fealty and homage were a key element of feudalism.
The Feudalism Pyramid in England - How it worked
Feudalism in England can be easily described through a pyramid:
- At the top of the Feudalism Pyramid was the King
- The King claimed ownership of the land
- The King granted the land to important nobles - these nobles then pledged their loyalty by swearing to serve and protect the king
- The king also granted land to the less powerful military men (the knights) who were called vassals
- The vassals also agreed to fight for the king in exchange for their land
The land was worked by the peasants or serfs. They belonged to the land and could not leave without permission - the bottom of the Feudalism pyramid.
The Feudalism Pyramid - The Social Pyramid of Power
The good thing about the Feudalism Pyramid of Power was that is was possible for everyone to move higher up the ranks of the pyramid and this is what everyone aspired to do. Medieval Squires and Pages of the Middle Ages wanted to become knights. A Knight who proved valiant in battle or was successful at jousting in tournaments could become wealthy. His wealth could pay for a castle. His importance in the land would increase and he could then join the nobility. Powerful nobles aspired to be King - and the Medieval history of the Middle Ages under the feudalism pyramid describes such coups.
Feudalism - The Pyramid of Power
The pyramid of power which was the Feudal system ran to a strict 'pecking' order - during the Medieval period of the Middle Ages everyone knew their place. The order of rank and precedence in the Medieval Feudal System was as follows:
Knights / Vassals
Peasants / Serfs / Villeins
The Feudalism Pyramid - The Pyramid of Power in the Church
The Feudalism pyramid also applied to the secular order of the church. Clerics wanted to be Bishops who in turn would aspire to be made an archbishop. Archbishops in turn might become extremely ambitious and aspire to become Pope. The Feudalism pyramid of the church would include the following positions:
The Feudalism Pyramid and the Pope
Feudalism was based on the belief that the land belonged to God - but that the Kings, who ruled by Divine Right, managed the land and used it as they wished. However, under the Feudalism pyramid the King was answerable to the Pope. The Pope, as God's vicar on Earth, had the right to intervene and impose sanctions on an unjust King. Under the feudalism pyramid the Pope had the power to pronounce judgement against a King, depose a King, forfeit his Kingdom, put another King in his place or excommunicate a King. The power and pronouncements of the Pope played a major part in the History of England. The Pope declared the Norman Invasion as a Holy Crusade and declared his support of William the Conqueror against the claim of King Harold.
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