Volatility in the West during the ninth and tenth centuries drove Europeans to strive for a more stable way of life. The institution of feudalism and St. Benedict’s monastic Rule arose in response to this problem and provided what the scattered kingdoms of the old Roman Empire were struggling to achieve.
The death of Charlemagne, the succession of power to his son, Louis, and the signing of the Treaty of Verdun began the collapse of the strong and united Europe that had formerly been in place. Soon after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire the West started to face a myriad of problems. “The renewed invasions of the Vikings, Magyars, and Muslims and the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire led to the emergence of a new type of relationship between free individuals” (Spielvogel 163). The decline in government authority and protection forced peasants, who made up the majority of the medieval population, to depend on land-owning lords and barons that acquired their properties as sovereign power decentralized. This relationship based on the context of the subjection of a subordinate to a superior became known as feudalism. Coinciding with the breakdown of government was a transformation of the Church through the way members of the religious community lived, worked, and worshiped. Monasticism, such as that developed by St. Benedict, formed as an answer to problems within the Church and a need for structure in religious life. St. Benedict’s Rule and feudalism are leading examples of how there was a resolute search for stability in medieval Europe.
“With the breakdown of governments, powerful nobles took control of large areas of land. They needed men to fight for them, so the practice arose of giving grants of land to vassals who in return would fight for their land…the contract sworn between a lord and his subordinate (known as a vassal) is the basis of a form of social organization called feudalism” (Spielvogel 164). Feudalism takes its roots from Germanic society in which warriors swore an oath of loyalty to the tribal chief. The comitatus gave allegiance and military service to the chief in return of maintenance and treasures. This is very similar to the association between the lord and his vassals during the Medieval Period. The vassal was obligated to contribute 40 days of service to the lord, provide aid, hospitality, and bring a certain number of knights to battle. The lord was beholden to protect his vassals, provide material support (usually in the form of a fief), and take the vassal’s side at trial. Fundamentally, feudalism was a military and political system, based on the subjection of a subordinate to a superior and took place of the failing imperial West to create stable and resilient European powers.
Feudalism brought stability to a chaotic world. It accomplished this through the creation of a social and political hierarchy. The medieval social classes were inadvertently shaped to include those who fight, those who...