The 11th Century: High Middle Ages and Power Shifts

The 11th Century

The 11th Century: Europe’s Early High Middle Ages

The 11th century in Europe marked the early phase of the High Middle Ages. Spanning from 1001 to 1100 according to the Julian calendar, it represented the first century of the second millennium. During this period, significant shifts in power and dynamics took place across the continent, leaving a lasting impact on European history.

Byzantine Decline and Norman Domination in Europe

Following a brief period of ascendancy, the Byzantine Empire experienced a sudden decline in the 11th century. Concurrently, the Normans rose to prominence, exerting their dominance over vast regions of Europe. Their conquests reshaped political boundaries and set the stage for significant transformations in the coming centuries.

Schism in Christendom

Splitting Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy The 11th century witnessed a formal schism within Christendom, which had been brewing over previous centuries. The divide deepened between the Latin West and the Byzantine East, resulting in a split between the two largest Christian denominations: Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This schism continues to define religious traditions to this day.

Cultural and Scientific Heights in Song Dynasty China and the Islamic World

Beyond Europe, the 11th century brought remarkable achievements in cultural, scientific, and technological spheres. In Song Dynasty China, classical Chinese civilization thrived, with notable advancements in science, technology, and literature. Similarly, the classical Islamic world witnessed remarkable progress in science, philosophy, technology, and literature during this period.

Political Strife and Flourishing Goryeo Kingdom in Korea

In Korea, the Goryeo Kingdom experienced a period of prosperity amidst political strife. Rival factions within the Song dynasty court created tensions that echoed in the Goryeo Kingdom. Despite external threats from the Liao dynasty in Manchuria, Goryeo flourished and continued to play a significant role in regional affairs.

Rise of the Seljuk Dynasty and the First Crusades

The 11th century witnessed the ascension of the Turkish Seljuk dynasty in Western Asia, which gained control over the fragmented Abbasid realm. Meanwhile, towards the end of the century, the first of the Crusades was waged, marking a significant military and religious movement that shaped subsequent centuries.

Empires at their Zenith: Fatimids, Ghaznavids, and Chola Dynasty

In various parts of the world, powerful empires reached their zenith during the 11th century. The Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt, the Ghaznavids in the Middle East, and the Chola dynasty in India showcased their military might and exerted substantial international influence. These empires played crucial roles in shaping the political and cultural landscape of their respective regions.

Western Chalukya Empire’s Ascendancy and Fujiwara Clan in Japan

While the Western Chalukya Empire rose to power by the end of the 11th century, asserting its dominance in Western India, the Fujiwara clan continued to hold sway over the affairs of the state in Japan. These regional powers contributed to the political dynamics and developments of their respective regions.

Flourishing Civilizations: Toltec, Mixtec, Huari, and Mississippian

In the Americas, several civilizations flourished during the 11th century. The Toltec and Mixtec cultures thrived in Central America, displaying remarkable advancements in various aspects of their societies. In South America, the Huari Culture left an indelible mark, while in North America, the Mississippian culture thrived with sophisticated social and political structures.

Collapse of the Tiwanaku Empire in South America

The 11th century witnessed the collapse of the Tiwanaku Empire, a significant civilization centered around Lake Titicaca in South America. The reasons for its decline remain subjects of scholarly debate, but its fall had far-reaching consequences for the region’s political landscape and cultural heritage.

Timeline

1001
Leif Erikson is to settle during the winter in present-day Canada at L'Anse aux Meadows
Leif Eriksson Discovers America by Hans Dahl (1849–1937)

Leif Eriksson Discovers America by Hans Dahl (1849–1937)

Leif Erikson, the renowned Norse explorer, made an impactful decision during his voyages in the 11th century. He chose to establish a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in present-day Canada, where he and his crew decided to spend the winter. This strategic choice showcased Erikson's astute navigation skills and his willingness to explore and settle in new lands. L'Anse aux Meadows stands as a testament to the Viking presence in North America and serves as a significant historical site, shedding light on the early Norse exploration of the continent.

1014
The Gaelic forces of Munster and most other Irish kingdoms defeat a Viking force in the Battle of Clontarf
Battle of Clontarf, oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826

Battle of Clontarf, oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826

In a historic clash, the Gaelic forces of Munster and several other Irish kingdoms, led by the esteemed High King Brian Boru, achieved a decisive victory in the Battle of Clontarf. This momentous event saw the Gaelic warriors successfully repel a combined force comprising the Leinster army and Viking invaders. The battle, fought in 1014, marked a significant turning point in Irish history, as it weakened Viking influence and solidified Brian Boru's position as a revered figure in Irish folklore and a symbol of resistance against foreign domination.

1016
Canute the Great becomes King of England
Cnut in the late thirteenth-century Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings.

Cnut in the late thirteenth-century Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings.

After the death of Edmund Ironside, Canute the Great ascended to the throne of England, marking a significant shift in the country's leadership. Canute, a Danish Viking warrior and ruler, had previously shared the English throne with Edmund Ironside during a period of intense conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings. Canute's reign as King of England brought about changes in governance, diplomacy, and the consolidation of power. His rule left a lasting impact on the history and development of England, as he navigated the complexities of ruling a diverse kingdom and sought to establish stability and authority over the land.

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1018
The Byzantines under Basil II conquer Bulgaria after a bitter 50-years struggle
The Byzantines defeat the Bulgarians at Kleidion

The Byzantines defeat the Bulgarians at Kleidion

After a grueling struggle lasting five decades, the Byzantines, under the leadership of Emperor Basil II, achieved a significant victory by conquering Bulgaria. The conflict between the two powers was characterized by fierce battles, shifting alliances, and prolonged sieges. Basil II, known as "Basil the Bulgar-Slayer," displayed exceptional military prowess and strategic acumen throughout the campaign. His relentless pursuit of victory finally paid off as the Byzantines emerged triumphant, firmly establishing their dominance over Bulgaria. This conquest marked a turning point in Byzantine history and solidified Basil II's reputation as one of the empire's most formidable rulers. The bitter 50-year struggle had finally come to an end, leaving a lasting impact on the political and territorial landscape of the region.

1025
The Canon of Medicine is written
First page of the introduction to the first book (Arabic manuscript, 1597)

First page of the introduction to the first book (Arabic manuscript, 1597)

During the 11th century, one of the most influential medical texts in history, "The Canon of Medicine," was written. This monumental work was authored by the Persian physician Ibn Sina, also known as Avicenna. "The Canon of Medicine" encompassed a comprehensive synthesis of medical knowledge from various civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Indians. It covered a wide range of topics, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and the classification of diseases. This seminal work not only became a cornerstone of medical education for centuries but also had a profound impact on the development of medical practices and theories throughout the Islamic world and Europe. The Canon of Medicine's enduring legacy lies in its systematic approach to medicine and its emphasis on evidence-based reasoning, which greatly influenced medical education and practice for generations to come.

1033
An earthquake strikes the Jordan Valley, followed by a tsunami along the Mediterranean coast

In 1033, a devastating natural disaster struck the Jordan Valley. An earthquake of significant magnitude shook the region, unleashing destruction and terror. The seismic activity triggered a catastrophic tsunami that ravaged the Mediterranean coast, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. The combined force of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami had profound impacts on the affected communities, reshaping the physical and social landscape and serving as a somber reminder of the unpredictability and destructive power of nature.

1037
The Great Seljuk Empire is founded by Tughril Beg
Seljuk Empire circa 1090

Seljuk Empire circa 1090

In the annals of history, a pivotal moment occurred when Tughril Beg founded the Great Seljuk Empire. It was under his visionary leadership and military prowess that this mighty empire emerged, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of Western Asia. With Tughril Beg at the helm, the Seljuks forged a path of conquest, expanding their dominion over vast territories. Their influence extended from Central Asia to the eastern regions of the Byzantine Empire. The founding of the Great Seljuk Empire heralded a new era, characterized by political stability, cultural exchange, and a flourishing civilization. Tughril Beg's legacy as the empire's founder stands as a testament to his strategic acumen and his role in shaping the course of history. The Great Seljuk Empire would go on to shape the destiny of the region for centuries to come, leaving an enduring legacy in the annals of Western Asian history.

1049
Pope Leo IX ascends to the papal throne
1051 charter of Leo IX

1051 charter of Leo IX

Pope Leo IX ascended to the papal throne in the 11th century, bringing notable changes to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. His pontificate, which began in 1049, was marked by a strong commitment to reform and the assertion of papal authority. Pope Leo IX actively sought to combat simony, clerical corruption, and the practice of lay investiture. His efforts to restore moral and ecclesiastical discipline earned him a reputation as a reformist pope. During his tenure, he convened synods and promoted the enforcement of canonical norms, emphasizing the importance of spiritual purity and adherence to Church teachings. Pope Leo IX's papacy laid the groundwork for the broader reform movement that would shape the High Middle Ages and leave a lasting impact on the development of the Roman Catholic Church.

1050
The astrolabe, an ancient tool of navigation, is first used in Europe
A spherical astrolabe from medieval Islamic astronomy, c. 1480

A spherical astrolabe from medieval Islamic astronomy, c. 1480

The astrolabe, an ancient tool of navigation, made its debut in Europe during the medieval era. Originally developed by ancient Greek and Islamic scholars, the astrolabe allowed mariners and astronomers to determine their latitude and longitude based on the positions of celestial bodies. Its introduction in Europe revolutionized navigation, enabling sailors to explore distant lands and chart accurate sea routes. The astrolabe played a crucial role in the Age of Discovery and laid the foundation for modern navigational instruments. Its adoption in Europe marked a significant milestone in the history of seafaring and exploration.

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1050
Westminster Abbey is built
Westminster Abbey's western façade

Westminster Abbey's western façade

Westminster Abbey, one of the most iconic landmarks in London, was constructed during the medieval period. The construction of this magnificent Gothic abbey began in the 11th century, specifically in the year 1045. Located on the banks of the River Thames, Westminster Abbey holds great historical and religious significance. Originally built as a Benedictine monastery, it later evolved into a coronation church and the burial site for numerous monarchs. The meticulous craftsmanship and intricate architectural details of Westminster Abbey reflect the architectural brilliance of the era. Today, it stands as a testament to the rich heritage and enduring legacy of the 11th century in European history.

1061
Norman conquest of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea
Roger I of Sicily at the 1063 Battle of Cerami, where he was victorious over 35,000 Saracens according to Goffredo Malaterra.

Roger I of Sicily at the 1063 Battle of Cerami, where he was victorious over 35,000 Saracens according to Goffredo Malaterra.

The Norman conquest of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea was a pivotal event that occurred in the 11th century. Led by the ambitious Norman adventurer Roger de Hauteville, the Normans successfully seized control of Sicily from Arab and Byzantine rule. This conquest marked the beginning of Norman dominion in the region, establishing a unique blend of Norman, Arab, and Byzantine influences on the island. The Norman rulers brought stability, cultural exchange, and economic growth to Sicily, leaving a lasting impact on its history and identity. Their conquest of Sicily also served as a stepping stone for further Norman expansion into southern Italy and beyond, shaping the geopolitical landscape of the Mediterranean.

1066
William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invades England and becomes King after the Battle of Hastings
William as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry during the Battle of Hastings, lifting his helmet to show that he is still alive

William as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry during the Battle of Hastings, lifting his helmet to show that he is still alive

William the Conqueror, the formidable Duke of Normandy, made history when he invaded England in 1066 and claimed the crown after the pivotal Battle of Hastings. Armed with ambition and a skilled army, William challenged the English throne, marking the beginning of a new era. His victory at Hastings solidified his claim, establishing him as King and forever altering the course of English history. This conquest laid the foundation for Norman rule in England, reshaping its political, social, and cultural landscape for centuries to come. The story of William the Conqueror's audacious invasion and his subsequent reign as King remains a captivating tale of ambition, warfare, and the enduring impact of one man's quest for power.

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1067
Pope Gregory VII elevated to the papal throne
Depiction of pope Gregory VII. From the "Vita Gregorii VII" of Paul von Bernried, Heiligenkreuz, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 12, fol. 181v

Depiction of pope Gregory VII. From the "Vita Gregorii VII" of Paul von Bernried, Heiligenkreuz, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 12, fol. 181v

Pope Gregory VII's ascension to the papal throne marked a pivotal moment in ecclesiastical history. Known for his reformist zeal, he sought to assert papal authority and challenge the power of secular rulers. Gregory VII's pontificate witnessed conflicts with Emperor Henry IV and other rulers, as he pushed for greater independence and purity within the Church. His efforts had a lasting impact on the institution of the papacy and the relationship between church and state in medieval Europe.

1071
The Seljuks under Alp Arslan defeat the Byzantine army at Manzikert
In this 15th-century French miniature depicting the Battle of Manzikert, the combatants are clad in contemporary Western European armour

In this 15th-century French miniature depicting the Battle of Manzikert, the combatants are clad in contemporary Western European armour

In a pivotal event, the Seljuks, led by Alp Arslan, achieved a decisive victory over the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert. This triumph in 1071 marked a turning point in the power dynamics of the region, as the Seljuks gained a firm foothold in Anatolia, leading to the decline of Byzantine influence and opening the doors for further Turkish expansion. The battle's impact reverberated throughout history, shaping the course of Eastern Mediterranean politics and paving the way for the Crusades.

1071
The Normans capture Bari, the last Byzantine possession in southern Italy

In a decisive event during the 11th century, the Normans achieved a significant victory by capturing Bari, the last Byzantine stronghold in southern Italy. This conquest marked the end of Byzantine rule in the region, solidifying Norman dominance and establishing their own presence in Italy. The capture of Bari represented a significant power shift, as the Normans continued to expand their influence, shaping the political landscape of southern Italy for centuries to come.

1075
Dictatus Papae in which Pope Gregory VII defines the powers of the pope
The Dictatus papae in a Vatican manuscript

The Dictatus papae in a Vatican manuscript

Dictatus Papae refers to a collection of decrees issued by Pope Gregory VII in the 11th century, wherein he delineated and asserted the powers and authority of the papacy. The document outlined various claims and prerogatives of the pope, asserting the supremacy of papal authority over both temporal and spiritual matters. It solidified the papal stance on issues such as the appointment of bishops, the authority to depose rulers, and the exclusive right to convene and preside over church councils. The Dictatus Papae marked a significant moment in the ongoing power struggle between the papacy and secular rulers, asserting the pope's supremacy and influence in shaping the political and religious landscape of medieval Europe.

1077
The Construction of the Tower of London begins
Tower of London

Tower of London

The construction of the Tower of London began in the 11th century, serving as a symbol of royal power and a fortress in the heart of London. Its origins can be traced back to William the Conqueror, who initiated its construction as a stronghold to assert his authority over the newly conquered lands. Over the centuries, the Tower of London would witness significant historical events, serve as a royal residence, and house the Crown Jewels, solidifying its place as an iconic landmark and a testament to England's rich history.

1086
The compilation of the Domesday Book
A page of Domesday Book for Warwickshire

A page of Domesday Book for Warwickshire

The compilation of the Domesday Book was a monumental undertaking in 11th-century England. Commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1085, it aimed to provide a comprehensive survey of the kingdom's lands, resources, and population. The book meticulously documented details such as land ownership, livestock, and agricultural productivity, serving as a valuable tool for taxation and governance. Completed in 1086, the Domesday Book remains a vital historical record, shedding light on the social, economic, and administrative aspects of medieval England. Its meticulous nature and enduring significance make it a cornerstone of medieval historical studies.

1088
University of Bologna is formed
The entry of some students in the Natio Germanica Bononiae, the nation of German students at Bologna; miniature of 1497

The entry of some students in the Natio Germanica Bononiae, the nation of German students at Bologna; miniature of 1497

The formation of the University of Bologna in the 11th century marked a significant milestone in the history of education. Established in 1088, it stands as the oldest university in the Western world. The institution became a beacon of intellectual and academic pursuits, attracting students from far and wide. With its emphasis on legal studies and the pursuit of knowledge, the University of Bologna laid the foundation for the modern university system and played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of Europe and beyond.

1091
Normans from the Duchy of Normandy take control of Malta and surrounding islands

In a significant expansion of their dominion, the Normans hailing from the Duchy of Normandy asserted their control over Malta and its surrounding islands. This marked a pivotal moment in the Norman conquests, as they extended their influence across the Mediterranean, leaving a lasting impact on the history and development of the Maltese islands. The Norman presence brought about socio-political changes and cultural exchanges that shaped the region's future.

1094
El Cid, the great Spanish hero, conquers the Muslim city of Valencia
Statue of El Cid in Burgos, Spain

Statue of El Cid in Burgos, Spain

El Cid, the renowned Spanish hero, etched his name in history as he conquered the Muslim city of Valencia. With his strategic brilliance and indomitable spirit, El Cid led his forces to victory, bringing an end to centuries of Muslim rule in the region. His conquest of Valencia became a symbol of Christian triumph and solidified his legacy as one of Spain's greatest military leaders.

1099
First Crusade
Miniature of Peter the Hermit leading the People's Crusade (Egerton 1500, Avignon, 14th-century)

Miniature of Peter the Hermit leading the People's Crusade (Egerton 1500, Avignon, 14th-century)

The First Crusade, which occurred from 1096 to 1099, was a pivotal event in medieval history. It was a military expedition undertaken by European Christians in response to a call for aid from the Byzantine Empire against the expanding Seljuk Turks. The Crusaders embarked on a perilous journey, facing hardships and conflicts along the way. Ultimately, they managed to capture Jerusalem in 1099, establishing the Crusader states in the Levant. The First Crusade had a profound impact on the political, religious, and cultural landscape of Europe and the Middle East, setting the stage for subsequent Crusades and shaping the course of history for centuries to come.

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Source

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