World of the Knight
11th through 15th Century Europe at a Glance
Medieval Europe was a collection of Christian kingdoms theoretically headed by the Roman Catholic Church and Holy Roman Emperor and united in opposition to Islam. Of course, that was just an unrealistic ideal. It was a feudal world in which powerful lords gave land to vassals in exchange for military service, and peasants worked the fields of these vassals and lords and fueled the economies of medieval Europe. Many people think that the Middle Ages was a stagnant, violent period of time, the filth of which was washed away suddenly by the Renaissance. On the contrary, social and intellectual development flourished following the Dark Ages. Complex hierarchies developed and science and technology, as well as literature and the arts, flowered in the courts of Europe.
The Three Estates
People living in medieval times believed that there were three estates that defined the natural order of human society. These estates were: the Church, knights, and the peasantry. The Church was responsible for the spiritual health of society. Peasants worked the land and fed the three estates. Knights were charged with defending and protecting society, from the meanest peasant to kings.