A term used generally to refer to that period in European history between the fall of Rome and the Protestant Reformation. The center of life in this millennium was the church, so much so that the medieval world was a church- state. Emperors and kings received their privilege from the church, and feudal society descended accordingly with an endless round of homage between lords and vassals-all of them ultimately vassals of the church. Cities arose around the bishop's seat (cathedral), and monasteries were writing theology and praying for the souls of men everywhere. Not only was government theocratic, however hypocritically, but also men's interests, whether art, music, education, or economics, were rooted in the church. Architecture was ecclesiastical and achieved an unsurpassed perfection, and the universities began with theology and civil and canon law.
For those who first coined the term, the Middle Ages unjustly meant an age of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition, but historians have long divided this period into workable thirds: early, high, and late. “Early” meant the actual collapse, 476- 700, when barbarians again were finding their way. In the high or Gothic period, the rebuilding occurred, and a new civilization flowered; but by 1300, evening had come, and the late period witnessed change that was again preparatory.