Feudalism | Medieval Wall (2022)

Feudalism represents a social system of rights and obligations whose foundation lies in land ownership and personal relations in which vassals hold land as fief granted by an overlord (senior), while feudal society imposes as a system of organization based on interdependence of people in which the overlords, subordinated to each other, govern the villagers who cultivate the land thus creating them living conditions.

Part one: The history of feudalism and its earliest forms

By the end of the 15th century, French language was introduced with a term féodalité which represented laws and customs that were effective in France as of the Carolingian period until the end of the Middle Ages. These laws were typical of martial polity, a system that protected the man, and of non-existence of public government. The first to have used the term „feudalism“ were English lawyers in the 17th century. They implied a legal system of fiefs, which was at that time the only surviving part of the medieval system.1

As to fully comprehend feudalism and its development, we shall go back to earlier periods. „The feudal society“ is a typical type of society where agriculture is a predominant type of economy and it was mostly developed in such circumstances. In times when the Western Roman Empire was at its last breaths, the life of small landowners was exceptionally hard. In such conditions, they had to give away their land to the Church as insurance, after which the Church gave it back to them in a form of a gift (beneficium). Cultivators that had no land or didn’t have enough, and had a desire to live off their work as farmers, went to see the overlord whom they would formally ask (preces) for land in exchange for a compensation. Such property was called a precarium.2 I. e., the land that is formally and legally owned by one individual, is possessed by some other individual. Whilst the Roman law permitted that precarium be consumed until the provider chooses so, in Frankish law it became a sort of a land lease for a predetermined period of time. As much as this was an important element in the uprise of feudal society, what we call a fief was a special type of benefit; a gift to the vassal in exchange for his military service. Honor, loyalty and military service will, at last, constitute something that is, in medieval terms, called a vassal relationship.3

(Video) Why Did Medieval Towns Have Walls?

A vassal enters willingly into a relationship with an overlord, agreeing thereby to certain obligations and thus bonding with him by personal loyalty. The overlord and his vassal are bound by a vassal agreement, in which the vassal swears loyalty to his overlord. The establishment of a feudal relationship is followed by a ceremony in which the vassal puts his hands into his overlord’s, and the overlord folds his hands around the vassal’s. The vassal’s obligation to his overlord is called consilium, i.e. council, or auxilium which represents military or more rarely financial assistance. In return, the overlord is obligated to provide protection to the vassal.4

In order to obtain funds for living and for obligatory military service, vassals provided pieces of land to other vassals or to serfs directly. Without this procedure, the feudal hierarchy would not have been maintained, and the entire production would have been significantly smaller. Serfs were forced into subordinant and dependent position, and for the purpose of upkeep, they were forced to lease land from a feudal. In case they wished to leave the land or free themselves, they were forcefully prevented from doing so. In exchange for ceded land, the serfs were obliged to pay a feudal fee to their master, which was usually paid in three different types; labor, natural goods or money. Even though these types of rent appeared mostly individually, due to different types of deals and feudals increasingly burdening the serfs, there are cases where some of these types appeared together.

The political system in the area of Western Europe, that fully grew during the Carolingian era in 8th century, was developed as a synthesis of the two prior systems; imperial and barbaric, in time when the assignment of feuds on one hand, and the establishment of vassal-overlord relationship on the other, were connected. In parallel with the Frankish conquests during the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th century, feudalism spread towards Italy, Spain, Germany, to the East towards Hungary and to some Slavenic lands. The Normans also spread it to lands they conquered. Thus it arrived to England and to the south of Italy. From England it spread to Ireland and Scotland. Feudalism appears in the Middle East as well, when the Crusader states were formed round the end of the 11th century, but also in Byzantine Empire, where we find pronoia as an equivalent to feud. Japan and China, as great non-European civilizations, went through a feudal period in their histories. Japanese feudalism is comparable to European, and in China a similar process evolves already in the 2nd century BC, and retains until the 20th century. In 12th century, in some of the most developed European countries such as England and France, feudalism finds itself under pressure from different social groups, and by maturity of organized society, feudal relations are gradually replaced by relations of masters to their subjects. Under such circumstances, feudalism loses its significance as a political and social phenomenon, especially in the 14th century. Despite such turn of events, feudalism left a deep mark in European societies, having influenced on modern political systems and their development. Finally, feudalism was abolished in England in the 16th century, in France in 1789, in Russia in 1861, and in Croatia in 1848.5

(Video) How were castles built / constructed in the medieval period?

Langobard feudalism

After conquering Italy, the Langobards inhabited it by tribal communities (farae). The royal government and the dukes as representatives of Langobard ancestral aristocracy thus occupied properties that were preowned by the Empire, along with the lands of large landowners that had been exiled or murdered, whilst the ancestral communities seized lands of smaller landowners or abandoned properties. In the process of forming of Langobard villages, tribal communities were divided into individual economical units, i.e. large families that consisted of three or four generations that collectively cultivated the ploughlands. The pastures and forests remained a common property of the entire village community. However, shortly after the conquest, the economical and social relations go through a reform, thus the „Edict of Rothari“ was published in 643, by which the tribal village community becomes a neighboring community or mark. It can be seen from the fore mentioned edict that large families, which were until then basic economical units of ancestral villages, were split into smaller families of single married couples. Common lands of large families were divided into allodial lands of smaller families which were governed by the father of the family, and sold, pledged or granted solely at his will. Forests and pastures remain at disposal to all villagers, and ploughlands and meadows are left as a free pasture for the whole village’s live stock.6

In the middle of the 7th century the Langobard population was divided into four groups:

  • Fulcfree et haamund – completely free and independant people
  • Fulcfree – free, but economically dependant people
  • Aldi – half-free people
  • Slaves

Under the Rothari law, fulcfree was free, but economically dependent individual, and he was brought into this position due to impoverishment (given the fact that before this he was free and independent) or if he was a slave or aldio, and was subsequently granted freedom by his master. The social status of aldi was similar to slavery. Aldio had a piece of land which was owned by his master who was responsible for him, which made him legally dependent. Aldio also had features of freedom which meant that he was able to govern his land and employ slaves, and he could also marry a free woman, which lead to her losing freedom.

(Video) Carcassonne, France, walking the medieval wall

Above these four basic categories of Langobard society there was former military tribal aristocracy, which served to highest bearers of political authority. The royal government had its court, which hired servants such as marshals, majordoms, treasurers, sword bearers etc. Some royal estates were governed by gastalds who had civil, military and judicial authority, and besides them there were also other administrative and judicial officials such as judices. Lands were cultivated by laborers, who were either slaves, aldi or fulcfree. However, free and independent people are increasingly called arimani or exercitales in the 7th and 8th century. The feature of this group of people was right and duty to participate in war.7

In the middle of the 8th century, king Aistulf legally forbade all the libertines and dependent liberals to leave their masters, unless they were given a special muniment granting them a right to leave. The land was given for cultivation to a free man that had no land of his own, under terms of a written contract (libellus scriptus). The forming of such relationships is a result of Liutprand’s law from 727. Libellarius is a free man that is granted a piece of land from the landlord to cultivate, in exchange for toll. By this act, he keeps his personal freedom, but accepts land and judicial dependency to the landlord.8

  • The word „feudalism“ was first used by the 17th century English lawyers.
(Video) Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) (medieval cover by Stary Olsa)
  • Miroslav BRANDT, Srednjovjekovno doba povijesnog razvitka, Zagreb: Školska knjiga, 1995.
  • Joseph CALMETTE, Feudalno društvo, Sarajevo: Veselin Masleša, 1964.
  • Ivo GOLDSTEIN – Borislav GRGIN, Europa i Sredozemlje u srednjem vijeku, Zagreb: Novi Liber, 2008.
  • 1 Ivo GOLDSTEIN – Borislav GRGIN, Europa i Sredozemlje u srednjem vijeku, Zagreb: Novi Liber, 2008, p. 150-151
  • 2 Joseph CALMETTE, Feudalno društvo, Sarajevo: Veselin Masleša, 1964, p. 7-9
  • 3 Ivo GOLDSTEIN – Borislav GRGIN, Europa i Sredozemlje u srednjem vijeku …, p. 151-152
  • 4 Joseph CALMETTE, Feudalno društvo…, p. 38-43
  • 5 Joseph CALMETTE, Feudalno društvo…, p. 154-156
  • 6 Miroslav BRANDT, Srednjovjekovno doba povijesnog razvitka, zagreb: Školska knjiga, 1995, p 117-118
  • 7 Miroslav BRANDT, Srednjovjekovno doba povijesnog razvitka, zagreb: Školska knjiga, 1995, p 118-119
  • 8 Miroslav BRANDT, Srednjovjekovno doba povijesnog razvitka, zagreb: Školska knjiga, 1995, p 119-120


What happened medieval walls? ›

In many cases, the medieval walls were dismantled and their stonework, which was still valuable as construction material, was reused in the construction of the new fortifications.

Why did medieval cities have walls? ›

Ancient and even prehistoric peoples had sought to establish safe zones by building city walls since at least the tenth millennium BC. Those early walls didn't reduce violence simply by deterring invasion. The security afforded by walls changed the inhabitants of the ancient cities. They became accustomed to peace.

What were city walls made of? ›

Initially, these fortifications were simple constructions of wood and earth, which were later replaced by mixed constructions of stones piled on top of each other without mortar. The Romans fortified their cities with massive, mortar-bound stone walls.

What is a defensive wall called? ›

A defensive wall (or a "Rampart") is a fortification used to protect a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements.

Do any cities still have walls? ›

Quebec City, Canada

But it's still old, and walking along the ramparts of the city's 4.6 kilometers of walls and through the gates in old Quebec is an historic experience, this being one of the few cities in North America to have preserved its fortified line of defense.

Why did cities stop having walls? ›

People stopped building them for a mix of reasons. They became less effective. Party because a properly equipped enemy could get through them but also because they didn't do much to stop the enemy bombarding the city with artillery.

What were medieval walls made of? ›

Walls. Walls were generally built of stone within wooden frames designed to hold the stone in place while the mortar dried.

Why were these walls built? ›

People have been building walls since the tenth millennium B.C. The ancient walls were built primarily for defensive purposes. Nowadays, they are built more to prevent immigration, terrorism, or the flow of illegal drugs. But there is a common connection, which is the idea of keeping outsiders out.

What are the walls of a castle called? ›

Enceinte - An enclosing wall, usually exterior, of a fortified place. Escalade - Scaling of a castle wall.

Why is it called a wall? ›

The term wall comes from Latin vallum meaning "...an earthen wall or rampart set with palisades, a row or line of stakes, a wall, a rampart, fortification..." while the Latin word murus means a defensive stone wall.

How were ancient walls built? ›

Before the invention of concrete, house walls were built with stones or sun-dried mud-brick. Sun-dried mud brick or adobe has been used throughout the world for thousands of years. It is durable in dry climates and is known to have excellent thermal insulation properties.

Did medieval cities have walls? ›

City walls

Normally enclosed by protective walls, access to medieval towns was regulated through gates.

What is an ancient wall? ›

ANCIENT WALL Definition & Legal Meaning

A wall built to be used, and in fact used, as a party- wall, for more than twenty years, by the express permission and continuous acquiescence of the owners of the land on which it stands.

What is the oldest wall in the world? ›

The oldest walls found in existence so far are those of the temple of Gobekli Tepe in Urfa, southeast Turkey which date to 11,500 years ago.

What is the oldest walled city? ›

Jericho, Arabic Arīḥā, town located in the West Bank. Jericho is one of the earliest continuous settlements in the world, dating perhaps from about 9000 BC.

What was the largest walled city? ›

The French city of Carcassonne is one of the most perfectly preserved walled cities of the world and the largest walled city in Europe. The fortification consists of two outer walls, towers and barbicans built over a long period of time.

Did American cities have walls? ›

The eleven walled cities include settlements of the major European powers that colonized the continent, as well as several fortified by a later generation of Americans. Three English settlements were walled: Boston, Charleston, and Savannah. Three Dutch towns, too, had walls : New Amsterdam, Albany, and Sche- nectady.

Does Vienna still have walls? ›

A few remnants of the walls still exist, though. For example: Stubentor: a preserved section of the wall remains on the west side of the station, with the previous position of the fortifications also marked in the paving.

Did Egyptian cities have walls? ›

In the First Dynasty and early Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC) many towns were enclosed by a wall. The layouts of the few town walls found constitute the earliest evidence for intervention or planning, at the level of framing the settlement site.

What were the walls of Babylon made of? ›

The wall was made of bricks, either baked in kilns, or (more probably) dried in the sun, and laid in a cement of bitumen, with occasional layers of reeds between the courses. Externally it was protected by a wide and deep moat.

Why are walls of the fort made thick? ›

1 Answer. The walls of the forts were made very , thick and high for safeguard against the enemies.

What is the top of a castle wall called? ›

The short, topmost part of the wall was called the parapet. It included the crenels, gaps in the wall spaced at regular intervals. Sometimes the crenels are also called embrasures.

What was inside castle walls? ›

Inside the Walls. The outer wall of a castle was called the Bailey. Inside the Bailey were buildings where the lord of the castle's cattle, horses and servants lived. Some of the soldiers needed to defend the castle might live in part of the gatehouse (known as the Barbican).

How tall was a medieval castle wall? ›

Some later medieval castles had walls that were only about 15 to 20 feet (4.6 m to 6 m) high, but the walls of the stronger castles typically measured about 30 feet (9 m) in height and sometimes more.

Which group built thick protected walls all around its cities? ›

So, Sumerians began to build strong walls around their cities. The walls were made of mud bricks that were baked in the sun until they were hard. The Sumerians also dug moats outside the city walls to prevent enemies from entering the city.

Why did Mesopotamia need high walls around their cities? ›

Sumer, like other Mesopotamian civilizations, constructed massive walls around their city-states for defensive purposes. The ancient world was often a hostile and violent place, with would-be conquerors and kings constantly waging war against their neighbors.

Which early civilizations constructed defensive walls? ›

The Sumerians' Amorite Wall

The world's earliest known civilization was also one of the first to build a defensive wall.

What is a crenellated wall? ›

adjective [usually ADJECTIVE noun] In a castle, a crenellated wall has gaps in the top or openings through which to fire at attackers.

What is a castle parapet? ›

A parapet originally meant a defensive mini-wall made of earth or stone that was built to protect soldiers on the roof of a fort or a castle. Now it indicates any low wall along the roof of a building, the edge of a balcony, the side of a bridge, or similar structure.

Why do castles have walls? ›

A castle wall was designed to act as a first line of defence against attack. Early castles were built on a mound, or motte. The single building on the mound was called a donjon (because it was a Norman French introduction to England) but it soon became known as a keep.

What are the two types of walls? ›

Generally, the walls are differentiated as a two types outer-walls and inner-walls. Outer-walls gives an enclosure to the house for shelter and inner-walls helps to partition the enclosure into the required number of rooms.

What is the example of wall? ›

The definition of a wall is something that divides or supports. An example of a wall is the four sides to a closed off room in a house. An example of a wall is the border that formally split Berlin into east and west sides.

What is a wall made of? ›

In addition to the structural element, they also include insulation and finish elements or surfaces, such as cladding panels. Solid walls are constructed from a single skin of a solid material, such as masonry, concrete, brick, timber, rammed earth, straw bales, etc.

Who built Rome's walls? ›

The walls enclosed all the seven hills of Rome plus the Campus Martius and, on the right bank of the Tiber, the Trastevere district.
Aurelian Walls
Built byRoman citizens
MaterialsConcrete Brick Mortar
DemolishedSome parts in the Medieval Period
EventsSack of Rome (410) Sack of Rome (455) Capture of Rome
16 more rows

Who built the Roman walls? ›

Hadrian's Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for nearly 300 years. It was built by the Roman army on the orders of the emperor Hadrian following his visit to Britain in AD 122.

Who built Rome's first walls? ›

The origins of the city walls can be traced all the way back to the 4th century BC, when the 6th king of Rome, Servius Tullius constructed the first defenses. The Servian walls were built from large blocks of volcanic tufa and were documented as being up to 10 meters high.

What's a walled city? ›

If an area of land or a city is walled, it is surrounded or enclosed by a wall.

Did Cambridge have city walls? ›

Raised within a decade of the Norman Conquest, Cambridge Castle, which dominated the town physically and administratively, was re-edified with stone walls and buildings in the 13th century.

How were medieval cities laid? ›

The typical layout of a Medieval city included large structures not far from where the defensive walls were erected, a wide-open space that stretched beside the protective buildings and homes normally located in the southeast. The walls had towers and outer surrounding moats. Cities followed a circular route.

Who built the Long Walls? ›

The Athenian "Long Walls" were built after Xerxes' invasion of Greece (480-479); their construction was proposed by Themistocles, but the actual building started in 461, when Athens was at war with Sparta (the First Peloponnesian War). The proposal to execute the old plan was made by Cimon.

Did Sparta build walls? ›

Sparta was a unique city-state because it did not have any walls. The Spartan's strong army and warrior society removed the need for a wall. The citizens of Sparta were very different than those of a non-military state. Women in Sparta produced vigorous children and were treated with respect by men.

What is significant about the Long Walls? ›

The long walls were a critical factor in allowing the Athenian fleet to become the city's paramount strength. With the building of the Long Walls, Athens essentially became an island within the mainland, in that no strictly land based force could hope to capture it.

Which country has the greatest wall? ›

Great Wall of China

Although widely believed to be about 5,500 miles long, in 2012 China released a (disputed) study that claimed the wall was actually 13,170 miles in length—more than half of the Earth's circumference. Construction began in northern China in the 7th century BCE and continued for two millennia.

What is the 2nd longest wall in the world? ›

The wall of Kumbhalgarh Fort is the second longest continuous wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China.

How many walls are there? ›

As of 2018, there are 63 physical walls worldwide. The research concludes that 6 out of every ten people in the world live in a country that has built one of these walls on its borders. Asia has the largest number of walls (56%) followed by Europe (26%) and Africa (16%).

What is the only walled city in the world? ›

Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon Walled City 九龍寨城
Country / CityChina (de facto, 1898–1912; de jure, 1898–1993) British Hong Kong (de facto, 1912–1941 and 1945–1993) Japan (de facto, 1941–1945)
DistrictKowloon City District
AreaKowloon City
Settledc. 1898
12 more rows

Why did Jericho have walls? ›

Walls of Jericho, massive stone walls surrounding an ancient Neolithic settlement in Jericho, built about 8000 bce. These walls, at least 13 feet (4 metres) in height and backed by a watchtower or redoubt some 28 feet tall, were intended to protect the settlement and its water supply from human intruders.

Who built the wall of Jericho? ›

It became a walled town again at the end of the 4th millennium BCE. Evidence shows that the walls have been rebuilt many times. The largest of these settlements was constructed in 2600 BCE by the Amorites.

What were medieval walls made of? ›

Walls. Walls were generally built of stone within wooden frames designed to hold the stone in place while the mortar dried.

What were medieval house walls made of? ›

Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw.

Did medieval cities have walls? ›

City walls

Normally enclosed by protective walls, access to medieval towns was regulated through gates.

What did medieval castle walls look like? ›

During the early medieval times, castle walls consisted of simple mud and stone fortifications that were inspired by earlier Roman structures. As the medieval period progressed thick stone curtain walls swept around grand castles connected by imposing towers manned by well-armed castle guards.

Whats a castle wall called? ›

Rampart - Defensive stone or earth wall surrounding castle.

What is a wall around a castle called? ›

Enceinte - An enclosing wall, usually exterior, of a fortified place. Escalade - Scaling of a castle wall.

What are the holes in a castle wall called? ›

An embrasure is the opening in a battlement between the two raised solid portions, referred to as crenel or crenelle in a space hollowed out throughout the thickness of a wall by the establishment of a bay.

What are the 3 main types of medieval architecture? ›

Styles include pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, and Gothic.

What is the building material mostly used during the Middle Ages? ›

Medieval builders regularly used wood as well as stone, and in many parts of England, the main tradition remained timber framing throughout the Middle Ages.

Why do medieval buildings overhang their lower floors? ›

Jettying (jetty, jutty, from Old French getee, jette) is a building technique used in medieval timber-frame buildings in which an upper floor projects beyond the dimensions of the floor below. This has the advantage of increasing the available space in the building without obstructing the street.

When were walls invented? ›

It is thought the very first wall not built around a city was erected by the Sumerian King Shulgi of Ur (r. 2029-1982 BCE) in c. 2038. Shulgi's wall was 155 miles (250 kilometres) long and was built between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to keep the invading Amorites out of Sumerian lands.

Which is the most ancient walled city? ›

Walls of Jericho

The Walls of Jericho are the oldest known city walls in the world and date back to at least 8000 BCE, but were most likely built much earlier. By this time, Jericho had grown into a large settlement surrounded by a massive stone wall.

Did Roman cities have walls? ›

The Romans built massive walls to defend their cities and sometimes their military camps. The method with which these walls were built changed as construction methods evolved. Initially walls were built using tightly-fitting massive irregular stone blocks similar to the walls built by the Myceneans.

What is the top of a castle wall called? ›

The short, topmost part of the wall was called the parapet. It included the crenels, gaps in the wall spaced at regular intervals. Sometimes the crenels are also called embrasures.

Did castles have bathrooms? ›

In the medieval period luxury castles were built with indoor toilets known as 'garderobes', and the waste dropped into a pit below.

What was inside castle walls? ›

Inside the Walls. The outer wall of a castle was called the Bailey. Inside the Bailey were buildings where the lord of the castle's cattle, horses and servants lived. Some of the soldiers needed to defend the castle might live in part of the gatehouse (known as the Barbican).


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