Theoretical Science
​​​​​​​in Medieval Europe

Theoretical science in medieval Europe was completely subordinated to religion and the church. More precisely, the first European scientific research arose in the field of religion in the process of systematizing church teachings. Theology was the leading discipline, and other sciences popular at that time: history, rhetoric, logic, etc., developed as auxiliary ones, used as a support for writing theological works and reading sermons. The surrounding world order, the structure of the Universe, human psychology, the essence of social processes were studied by scholasticism - a complex of inferences based on biblical texts and not contradicting those of some philosophical teachings of antiquity. The scholastics did not carry out practical research (and they did not have the technical capabilities for this), and therefore medieval European theories about the structure of the world look ridiculous for our time: the earth is flat and floats in water (however, already in the Middle Ages, the point of view and that the earth has the shape of a ball); the center of the earthly plane is Mount Golgotha ​​near Jerusalem; the indigenous population of the New World is not people, since previous generations could not cross the Atlantic Ocean, which means, as many scholastics believed, the Indians and Eskimos did not come from Adam and Eve. Seekers of knowledge - students (literally: "aspirants"), from different provinces of the state and even from different countries gathered to listen to lectures by famous scientists in the cities where they lived. Teaching was conducted in Latin, which in the Middle Ages was the main language of communication of the Catholic clergy, and therefore of scientists, which removed language barriers when discussing scientific issues by people from different countries. Until the Late Middle Ages, Latin was also used as the language of public administration, since the national languages ​​of the peoples of Europe at that time were not so lexically developed as to capaciously cover all the complex wisdom of public administration. It is clear that students, as now, could only be people with a general education: after all, without knowledge of Latin, they simply would not understand the lectures of their professors. In the Late Middle Ages, the national European languages, greatly enriched by Latin, finally come to the level of official state languages, and Latin is gradually falling out of wide use, remaining the language of the church and, in part, of science. But even now, in every European language, and through European means, in other languages ​​of the world, there are a lot of Latin borrowings. For example, the Russian word "interest" was borrowed in the 18th century. from the German language, in which, in turn, comes from the Latin "interesse - to be between (something)", that is, "to take part".
As already mentioned, medieval cities were most often self-governing settlements in which the inner life was determined by the will of the local community of artisans and entrepreneurs. Students who came to the cities to listen to the lectures of professors were strangers here, and the scientists themselves often moved from city to city. The scientists of the city and the students to whom they lectured were united in a separate community - the university, which had its own elected authorities, its own budget, its own court. The university entered into an agreement with the city authorities, received from those the right to reside for its members in the city territory, he himself made sure that its members did not violate the rules established in the city. From the university budget, students who, being engaged in lectures, could not earn their own living, were given a content - a scholarship. Since the XIV century. In Europe, there is a significant rise in cultural life, an increase in the intensity of the development of scientific thought: the so-called Renaissance (ancient spiritual traditions) begins, often called the French word for it Renaissance (Renaissance). Such arts as painting and sculpture are developing, especially in Italy (during the time of the famous artists Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael Santi), thinkers appear who argue on the themes of human psychology and social relations independently, not through the prism of church doctrine (for example, Thomas More in England XV - XVI centuries). Scientists also appear who are trying to critically, ignoring the scholastic framework, to understand the structure of the surrounding world: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) in Poland, Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) in Italy. Writers, philosophers and artists of the Renaissance in their life position gave priority to improving human nature through the study of the spiritual values ​​of antiquity, therefore they were nicknamed humanists (from the Latin "humanus - human"). The attitude towards the humanists of the Catholic Church was different. Humanists considered themselves Christians and did not oppose themselves to the church, many of them devoted their work to various biblical subjects, but giving the actors - the prophets and other human characters mentioned in the Bible - not stingy scholastic attention, but trying to consider them as individuals with their own unique features. Such humanists as Michelangelo and Raphael became famous as famous icon painters, they were often invited to paint the walls of temples. However, the leaders of the Renaissance, openly promoting ideas that contradict scholastic doctrine, were actively persecuted by the church. So, in 1415, the Czech humanist preacher Jan Hus, who criticized the departure of the church from the original Christian teachings, was burned at the stake.
The ideas of the Renaissance concerned only the elite of medieval society - the large nobility, the ecclesiastical and scientific world. The overwhelming majority of the population of medieval Europe: peasants, burghers, small-scale nobles continued to live in traditional performances based on the teachings of the church and folk beliefs, rarely read or did not read books at all, did not entertain themselves with studying ancient history and culture, but listening to stray singers, performances artists, drinking songs and festive celebrations. Large trade in medieval Europe was carried out by merchants. Merchants transported goods on horse or bull carts. The animals were harnessed in a train - one after another, since the roads were narrow, and several pairs of animals might be required to transport heavy luggage. Since the European continent is heavily crossed by deep rivers, bridge construction was of great importance. Cities often sprang up near bridges over large rivers, since it was profitable for artisans to engage in trade with merchants passing through these bridges. Many European cities have names that include the word "bridge": in Germany, for example, these are names ending in "... trousers" (Osnabrück), in Great Britain - in "... bridge" (Cambridge). In the coastal regions, trade was actively carried out by sea on ships. Until the Late Middle Ages, the bulk of foreign goods were imported into Europe from the East: through the Byzantine Empire, from North Africa. Spices were of particular value, including black pepper sold in any grocery store today. The food of the Europeans was rough and very bland: bread, vegetables, meat, cheese. The spices brought from the East greatly improved its taste. But they were very expensive, because, before getting to Europe, they were transported from places of cultivation - India, Southeast Asia, across many borders of eastern states, where customs duties had to be paid. Spices fell into the hands of European merchants resold several times. Then, driving through the possessions of different feudal lords, merchants had to pay separate duties to those. If a bag of goods fell from a merchant's carriage passing through the feudal possession, it was forbidden to lift it: according to European feudal law, everything of value that turned out to be directly on the land of the feudal belonged to its owner. From there came the saying: "What has fallen is lost." For merchants, a great danger was represented by robbers, whose gangs in large numbers took refuge in the forests densely covering Europe. Periodically occurring crop failures, wars, epidemics ruined and drove away from their homes a lot of people who wandered along the roads, begging for alms, or ate what could be found in the forest, well, and the strong and healthy of the poor often took up arms and just extorted money and valuables from rich people passing by. Among the robbers there were also former feudal lords, knights, who were deprived of their land by their lords as punishment for any wrongdoing; being professional warriors, such bandits, gathering in groups, dared to attack even the retinues of government officials. Some prudent robbers managed to accumulate a fortune by robberies on the roads and, leaving the criminal business, become rich, even respected people, but most of them ended their lives either on the scaffold, or in a fight with merchants or nobles who showed courage in protecting their property, or in the forest - from hunger, cold and disease.
The strong dissection of the relief of Europe by mountains, forests, deep rivers, swamps, combined with a feudal socio-economic system, in which every nobleman could live happily at the expense of the labor of his peasants, from his land, never contributed to the political unity of European countries. Throughout the Middle Ages, the countries of Europe were characterized by feudal fragmentation: truly feudal lords united only in the face of external danger, when the enemies did not threaten the country, the vassals poorly fulfilled the instructions of their overlords, evaded service, preferred to deal with the affairs of their personal economy on their estates. Although formally the lord was the supreme owner of the land at the disposal of the vassal, and could take it away, in fact, the vassal did not want to part with his estate without a fight. The ownership of the lands was inherited, and the feudal lord looked at the lands received by his surname from the overlord as his own. Dense forests, steep mountains served as natural fortifications that fenced off the feud, and for this reason it was not easy to bring the rebellious vassal to submission to the overlord. In addition, in order to force the obstinate vassal into obedience or drive him out of the occupied land, the lord had to collect an army from the people of his other vassals, and they reluctantly rose up against their feudal "colleagues" if they knew that tomorrow they could share their fate from the strict lord ... Therefore, feudal lords usually successfully led to obedience only those vassals whose actions hurt the interests of their other employees. For the rest, the overlords had to put up with the fact that their vassals periodically do not appear in the service, arrange internecine feuds, or even move from all their land to the service of a richer and stronger feudal lord. Even kings and princes until the Late Middle Ages could not attract all their nobles to complete obedience, they were forced to strictly follow feudal traditions in relations with them, try not to infringe on their interests once again. The large local nobles, personally subordinate to the king, were distinguished by a special desire for separatism, they often introduced their own laws in the lands they received from the king, and maintained their own powerful armies. State power was not very strong: it was enough to defend the country from enemy invasions and maintain social order. State social support for the population was rare. According to the social tradition supported by religion, the disadvantaged were helped by more prosperous people, orphans were taken up by relatives or monks. The church not only collected taxes from the taxable population, but also actively fed the hungry, erected shelters for the poor, old people and cripples. The landowners also supported their peasants with food from their bins during the years of famine. City communities used their own funds to build hospitals. Political fragmentation was a characteristic feature that distinguished European medieval states from eastern ones. In the East, the aridity of the climate, which increased the influence of the rulers of the cities that were irrigation centers, and the absence of vast forests and swamps, which allowed the government army to quickly arrive and suppress the feudal rebellion that had arisen, always contributed to the centralization of power. However, as already mentioned, the eastern armies were poorly able to operate in the forest and mountain gorges of Europe, therefore, despite the lack of deep political unity, the European medieval civilization could exist and not be absorbed by a stronger and more developed eastern one.
The European peoples mentally opposed the feudal fragmentation, strife, and separatism of the provinces with strict adherence to laws and traditions. During feuds, the feudal lords still tried to comply with an unwritten code of conduct. A vassal could get out of obedience to the lord, he could fight with his army, but to draw a weapon directly against him was a dishonor. It was also a shame to kill an already defeated enemy, unable to resist. If someone was required to get rid of in the course of political intrigue, but this could not be done on the battlefield, the Europeans rarely unceremoniously cut off his head: if possible, they organized at least some semblance of a legal court in order to send a political enemy to the scaffold in a legal order, and more often they were eliminated secretly with the help of poison or hired killers, or they were imprisoned in a castle, or, as usually concerns women, they were forcibly sent to a monastery. The common people also carefully followed the laws and customs. During the Middle Ages, trials of animals that caused harm to people were common in Europe. There are known cases when insects that spoiled crops were sentenced to the church curse, and "pig processes" became especially famous: domestic pigs wandered the narrow streets of European cities without any supervision, eating sewage, often entered the homes of the poor and killed children, for which they went to prison and on trial. The criminal pig was locked in a cell with other prisoners, interrogated, brought to court, then in the usual manner sent to the scaffold and executed with a crowd of people. And everyone perfectly understood that this was just a fiction: there are many satirical statements by contemporaries known about these criminal trials over pigs. However, medieval society in Europe strove to diligently observe the law in everything, even when it comes to animals.


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