Palm Beach Atlantic University Legacy of the Middle Ages in the west An Essay Submitted to Dr. Gary Poe Humanities II by Blake Nichol March 17, 2010 Legacy of the Middle Ages in the West Dear Friend, I read your argument recently about the Middle Ages and how you have the belief that it was a time of no cultural expression. Well, I’m writing to try to persuade you to think otherwise. After an extensive, semester long study on the Middle Ages and the events that took place, leaving a great mark in history, I would like to inform you of my studies.
Through the research I have done I have found at least four major contributions to what is known as the legacy of the Middle Ages in the West. The first thing that I will point out to you is the technological advances during this time period, the second is the founding of the different major universities, the third is the great technique in various architectural structures, and the fourth and final contribution I will explain to you will be the advancement of science and medicine.
Hopefully, after reading this, if you’re not too bored, you will understand why the Middle Ages did not lack cultural expression, but instead, had a very great influence on the West. So, let’s get right down to business, shall we? The first thing I’d like to point out that was developed was the printing press. It was developed in the late middle ages by a German craftsman named Johannes Gutenberg. Now, where would we be without this invention? The printing press is a major invention and still in use today.
Obviously, the ones we use today have been perfected to be more efficient and less expensive to produce maximum output but even so, it’s the same basic concept that started way back in the Middle Ages. Another set of technological advancements that came about during the Middle Ages were the different types of war methods that were developed. They developed the catapult, the metal crossbow, and most of all, gunpowder. The catapult is a great idea and I believe this is a concept that started to be perfected and continued being perfected until today and now it has turned into us launching missiles from an entire country away.
Due to the invention of the catapult, we no longer even have to go with hand to hand combat anymore in modern warfare. Almost all of it can be done from a computer screen. Even the crossbow is still in use today. Not necessarily in warfare but I know hunters still use crossbows. The main thing developed to advance warfare was gunpowder. Can you imagine where we would be today without the development of gunpowder? I think that one is self explanatory. During this time period, we also have the development of about three major universities.
These were three of the first Western schools for higher education since about the sixth century! The first is the University of Bologna, and no, it’s not a university for making sandwiches. It was actually the first place to study law and the first place to teach anatomy. The second university is the University of Oxford. The University of Oxford, if I remember correctly, was founded in 1170 in England and taught philosophy and theology. The third, and probably most important of the three universities, is the University of Paris.
The University of Paris offered a variety of degrees including civil and canon law, medicine, theology, and liberal arts, which was basically devoting to translating Aristotle. Other universities had a similar curriculum set up, but for some reason their professors lacked the renown internationally like the University of Paris professors had. A famous person that you might have heard of actually taught there. A guy by the name of Thomas Aquinas taught there off and on for about ten years.
He was a Dominican friar. About six hundred years after his death, his thought was declared to be the basis of the Roman Catholic beliefs. So basically, through all of these universities developing and professors being heard, this is how we get the basis for one of the most wide spread, if not the most wide spread, religion in the world. I think that right there should be something enough to convince you, but if you still have doubts, let me give you a little more of what went on during the Middle Ages.
The next thing that I’m going to tell you about is probably one of the most astounding things of all. It is the architectural developments during this time period. I mean, to be developed a thousand years ago, without the use of fancy machinery and computers, and still be standing today…that’s pretty impressive. Not only are they still standing, but they are also the most beautiful architectural structures in the world. People from all over the world still go to see them, so you can’t say that they don’t have an effect on modern day society.
In these structures you will find that they use a lot of different techniques. They used huge stained glass windows, tall ceilings, and extremely fancy artistry. There were also different styles, such as Romanesque and Gothic styles. Inside these different styles of architectural structures were developments that are still heard of today. For example, in most churches today we still have a narthex. It is basically just the lobby area before you walk into the church. We also have a unique feature used in Gothic architecture that is still around today.
Gargoyles were used in Gothic style architecture and even today you see a variety of different gargoyles. If they’re not on the top of a gated entrance to a fancy house or community, you might find a smaller version on your book shelf holding your books up. No matter what you find, the simple point that I’m trying to get across is that they are still in use today. The final thing I want to point out during this letter is the advancement of science and medicine during this time period.
Thomas Acquinas, who was one of the greatest thinkers to ever live did a lot of studying of nature and the things of the earth. To him, everything was of God in nature, which is correct according to Biblical principles because God created everything and He is everything. As far as medicine goes, we see that people that were going to school to be doctors were now starting to dissect human bodies in order to identify certain disorders and diseases in order to effectively treat them.
They were also beginning to build hospitals, which were the first places women could effectively work as nurses since they weren’t allowed into medical school. These are just some of the few things to do with the science and medicine industry to be done during the Middle Ages. I know I may not be the best writer and may not have gotten all my points across clearly, but I’m hoping that now you will be able to see that the Middle Ages was not just a time where no progress was made.
In fact, the Middle Ages brought about so many different ways of looking at things from architecture to different diseases to advancements in warfare. All of these things have only furthered our progress in developing some of the most advanced technologies and inventions that the world has ever seen. Thank you for reading this and I hope I have changed your perspective of the Middle Ages. BIBLIOGRAPHY Matthews, Roy T. 2008. The Western Humanities. New York, NY. : McGraw-Hill. Pp. 261-291 BIBLIOGRAPHY/REFERENCES