The thirteenth-century medieval synthesis was an effort by the church, scholars and the kings for order, control, and harmony in European leadership and authority. Fundamentally, the integration was between the church (papacy) and the society (the scholars and the kings). Their effort turned political as they attempted to exert their rule on the people through taxes, use of courts and representative gatherings. Some of the rulers sought this pursuit of harmony and opposed by others who viewed it as somewhat theoretical than practical.
The use of courts, parliament, and administration were some of the ways the rulers sought synthesis. Louis IX used this method to gain popularity in much of France. Apart from these, he was a zealous crusader a severe and effective way of defending the Holy Land. His respect for the church and was a way of trying to bring harmony and working together with the royal and ecclesiastical authorities. (Bender 88)Louis IX also fought for the rights of the poor and his regular participation in the church activities and penance gained him a lot of support.
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The other leaders tried to gain order, to gain revenues and expand their territories. One such leader was Fredrick II. The quest for control began by his father Barbarossa’s son who married Constance, the heiress of Sicily. This gave him control over Italy and in Germany. His death, however, was a threat to the imperial office, the popes of Italy and prices of Germany wanted a powerless emperor that would give them a chance to have and exercise control as well. This, therefore, made pope Innocent III canonize Otto of Brunswick. This emperor, however, would not leave Italy alone. The pope excommunicated Otto and gave Fredrick II the crown. Fredrick II sought to expand his empire and gain control by enticing the government of Sicily for more power and therefore higher profits, granting privileges to German princes that allowed them to turn their principalities into independent states and finally tried to enter Italy through Lombardy.
The birth of representative institutions was the other way of trying to achieve the medieval synthesis since the people gained representation through these institutions. At first, they involved only the clergy and the nobles, but later town representatives were involved ensuring the commoners also participated in the royal government.
Invasion by the Mongols ironically established order between a people and areas that were far apart. (Holmes 01)This is so because they contributed to the opening of the trade routes and the spread of Christianity from Europe to the East and the Americas.
The quest for the synthesis was however not successful because, in as much as they sought to work together in harmony, they ended up clashing. The princes took over in Germany and the northern part of Italy by the lords and communes. The different ideas, interests and diverse kinds of people were the other primary reason for non-achievement of the medieval synthesis. The king of Germany Fredrick II, for instance, failed to achieve order since the popes opposed him.
As the thirteenth century concluded, the friction between Pope Boniface VII and Philip the Fair destroyed what St Louis IX had achieved. The great famine too, resulted in a lot of confusion and disorder as everyone tried to fight for their rights by opposing the authority. This was the end of the medieval synthesis and the beginning of a new error.
- Bender, Thomas,ed. The university and the city: From medieval origins to present. Oxford University Presson Demand, 1988.
- Holmes, George, ed. The Oxford illustrated history of medieval Europe, Oxford Illustrated History,2001.