The 13th Century in Europe: A Spirit of Change in Times of the Crusades and the Reconquista

This is Part 9 of our Centuries series. In it, we will review the 13th century, the peak of the High Middle Ages, a time of great personalities, innovations, and change.

We begin with an overview of the innovations of the period and look at some of the most important personalities in the Catholic Church, then move on to the events of the Fourth Crusade, before returning to the declining Angevin Empire and the aftermath of the death of the great warrior-king Richard the Lionheart, including the famous Magna Carta.

We then head south to Spain and Sicily, checking in on the progress of the Reconquista and examining one of the most interesting and complex figures of the 13th century, the Emperor Frederick II, as well as the literary genius Dante Alighieri.

We will finish by looking at Mongol threat to Europe and the Middle East, the changing nature of the Crusades in the 13th century, and end with the greatest European traveler of the Middle Ages: Marco Polo.

Demonstration of a Sample Page

Morgan Crusader Bible

Book of Judges: Ehud and Deborah

The upper miniature depicts Ehud, a clever leader who arises to deliver the Israelites from subservience to Eglon, king of the Moabites. On the right, we see Ehud gaining a private audience with Eglon and uses the opportunity to assassinate the King. He escapes and rallies the Israelite army to attack the Moabites, with the battle being depicted in the arms and armor of the 13th century.

In the lower miniature, we see the prophetess Deborah, who is riding side-saddle as she commands Barak and the Israelite army against the Canaanites, who are routed in such epic fashion that their horses run out of the miniature’s frame. This iconic Gothic manuscript is filled with brutal battle scenes adorned with glimmering gold leaf and the finest pigments.  

The Authors