Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages

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Edited by: Gert Melville and Martial Staub.

Brill's Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages Online offers an accessible yet engaging coverage of medieval European history and culture, c. 500-c. 1500, in a series of themed articles, taking an interdisciplinary and comparative approach. Presenting a broad range of topics current in research, the encyclopedia is dedicated to all aspects of medieval life, organized in eight sections: Society; Faith and Knowledge; Literature; Fine Arts and Music; Economy; Technology; Living Environment and Conditions; and Historical Events and Regions. This thematic structure makes the encyclopedia a true reference work for Medieval Studies as a whole. It is accessible and concise enough for quick reference, while also providing a solid grounding in a new topic with a good level of detail, since many of its articles are longer than traditional encyclopedia entries. The encyclopedia is supported by an extensive bibliography, updated with the most recent works and adapted to suit the needs of an Anglophone audience.

Brill's Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages Online is a unique work, and invaluable equally for research and for teaching. Anyone interested in the art, architecture, economy, history, language, law, literature, music, religion, or science of the Middle Ages, will find the encyclopedia an indispensible resource.  

This is an English translation of the second edition (2013) of the well-known German-language Enzyklopädie des Mittelalters, published by Primus Verlag / Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

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Commemoration of the Dead

(2,128 words)

Author(s): Joachim Wollasch
Memoria, recall, memory (Gk. mnemosyne) can store and conserve knowledge and experiences, but also forget, repress, or alter them. Encouraged as commemoration ( commemoratio, Gk. anamnésis), covering time and space, it is cap…
Date: 2016-10-18

Conceptions of Political Order

(2,680 words)

Author(s): Karl Ubl
Prior to the 12th century, reflection on the constitution of political communities took place in close connection with actual political practice. Directly or indirectly, the status of the king and the…
Date: 2016-08-09

Conceptions of the Human Being

(3,484 words)

Author(s): Hans-Werner Goetz
In the first instance, the medieval conception of the human being, antique traditions notwithstanding, was defined theologically (and philosophically) – there was no conflict between the two for medie…
Date: 2016-08-09


(1,067 words)

Author(s): Karl Ubl
Church assemblies have played a major role in the resolution of conflicts within Christianity since the 3rd century (→councils and synods). After the Constantinian turn, the episcopal assemblies acted…
Date: 2016-08-09

Consecration and Investiture of Bishops

(572 words)

Author(s): Gerd Althoff
In view of the dual role performed by bishops in the Middle Ages in the clerical and secular realms (→bishoprics), the function of ritual as it is understood here is confirmed by the fact that both as…
Date: 2016-08-09

Constitutive Historical Events and Regions

(8,745 words)

Author(s): Michael Borgolte
In the beginning was the Bible. For the God of Abraham, who tolerated no other god beside himself, bound together in faith Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who together shaped the Middle Ages and thus s…
Date: 2016-08-09

Constitutive Historical Events and Regions: Complete Contents

(57 words)

8. Constitutive Historical Events and Regions Europe – "Domestic" Migration of Peoples Carolingians Investiture Controversy Western Schism Regions Central European Regions Western European Regions Anglo-Sa…
Date: 2016-09-20

Construction Techniques

(806 words)

Author(s): Thomas Hänseroth
Buildings, which we understand as culturally based tools for shaping social spaces, are vehicles of meaning. Since prehistoric times, they have reflected sociocultural constructs, conditions, and prac…
Date: 2016-08-09


(173 words)

1. Society: Complete Contents Introduction Sovereignty Social Formations Norms Interaction and Communication   2. Faith and Knowledge: Complete Contents Introduction Religion The Human Being The World The Imag…
Date: 2016-09-20


(1,636 words)

Author(s): Herbert Kalb
Law is "created" by contract. Legally binding rules are established for the participants in agreements between two or more parties. The close affinity to statutes, in the sense of rules drawn up by as…
Date: 2016-08-09

Corporate Forms of Organization

(948 words)

Author(s): Martial Staub
Sociologically the term Genossenschaft has two meanings, depending on whether it is discussed in connection with forms of sovereignty or forms of organization.Ever since Max Weber, sovereignty (or dominion, Ger. Herrschaft) has be…
Date: 2016-08-09

Corporate Order

(409 words)

Author(s): Karl Ubl
The German legal historian and jurist Otto von Gierke (1841-1921) viewed the Middle Ages as a period torn between two contrary legal principles. The principle of Herrschaft (dominion, sovereign rule), he claimed, stood in cont…
Date: 2016-08-09


(3,859 words)

Author(s): Rolf Köhn
Although the legacy of medieval letters is so extensive that there is still nothing approaching a complete bibliographic overview of Latin or vernacular correspondence, let alone a repertory of author…
Date: 2016-08-09

Councils and Synods

(1,559 words)

Author(s): Bernard Schimmelpfennig
Both terms denote ecclesiastical assemblies: the Latin word emphasizes the purpose ( concilium = "consultation"), while the Greek word refers to the organization ( synodos = "assembly"). In the 4th century, the Greek term wa…
Date: 2016-08-09

Courtly Love

(1,902 words)

Author(s): Carola Meyer
The courtly discussion of love, which began in France in the first half of the 12th century and in the Holy Roman Empire in the second half, marked the change of an era: the novelty was that it was co…
Date: 2016-10-18

Court Procedure

(2,702 words)

Author(s): Herbert Kalb
In 1199, Bishop Wolfger of Passau obtained from Pope Innocent III a littera gratiosa that also found its way into the Liber extra (X 1.4.3). According to the pope's letter, there reigned in the diocese of Passau the inequi…
Date: 2016-10-18


(995 words)

Author(s): Knut Schulz
The evaluation of the status and standing of skilled craftsmanship in medieval society underwent a notable process of change, manifesting a variety of different emphases (→handicraft). Despite all the…
Date: 2016-08-09


(1,052 words)

Author(s): Martin Kintzinger
Medieval education did not begin to follow formal syllabuses until 13th-century university study and then finally after the humanistic reforms of the 15th century. Apart from this development, we cann…
Date: 2016-08-09

Customary Law

(2,112 words)

Author(s): Herbert Kalb
In 1916 and 1919, F. Kern published two articles in the Historische Zeitschrift on the developmental structures and conceptual representation of medieval law, with particular reference to customary law, provoking…
Date: 2016-10-17