12th century

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The 12th Century was a period of significant development and change in the Middle Ages, spanning from 1101 to 1200. This era is characterized by the Crusades, the growth of medieval literature, advancements in architecture, and significant progress in the education and philosophy of the Western world. The 12th century also saw the rise of the Gothic architectural style, the establishment of the first universities, and the codification of common law in England.

Crusades[edit | edit source]

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, primarily aimed at reclaiming the Holy Land from Muslim rule. The most significant of these, the First Crusade, began in 1096 and continued into the early 12th century, leading to the establishment of the Crusader states in the Levant. The Second Crusade (1147–1149) and the Third Crusade (1189–1192) also occurred during this century, reflecting the ongoing conflict between Christian and Muslim forces.

Medieval Literature[edit | edit source]

The 12th century marked a golden age for medieval literature, with the emergence of new forms of storytelling, including the Arthurian romance, which blended historical events, legendary elements, and chivalric ideals. Notable works from this period include the Roman de Rou by Wace and Tristan and Iseult, which have had a lasting impact on Western literature and culture.

Architecture[edit | edit source]

This century witnessed the transition from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture, characterized by features such as pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. The Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, reconstructed under Abbot Suger, is often cited as the first major structure to employ these Gothic elements, leading to the widespread adoption of this style across Europe.

Education and Philosophy[edit | edit source]

The 12th century saw the foundation of the first universities in Europe, with the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (c. 1150), and the University of Oxford (1167) playing pivotal roles in the development of higher education. This period also experienced a renaissance in philosophy, marked by the translation of Aristotle's works into Latin and the subsequent integration of Aristotelian philosophy into Christian theology by scholars such as Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas.

Common Law[edit | edit source]

In England, the 12th century was crucial for the development of common law, a legal system based on court decisions and customs rather than written codes. The reign of Henry II (1154–1189) saw significant legal reforms, including the establishment of the Assize of Clarendon (1166), which laid the groundwork for the modern jury system.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The 12th century was a period of dynamic change and cultural flourishing in the Middle Ages. The developments in military, literature, architecture, education, and law during this time had a profound impact on the course of Western history, laying the foundations for the modern world.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD