Episode 31 – Knights’ Revolt

In October 1347, twelve trading ships docked in the Sicilian port of Messina. When the ships were boarded, the locals were horrified to find most of the crewmates either dead or dying of a strange illness that covered their bodies with the black boils. Even though the authorities ordered the ships sent back out to sea, it was too late. The Black Plague had arrived in Europe.

The plague would not stop ravaging Europe until 1720, almost 400 years after it first arrived. During this time, the plague totally reordered society by killing off huge numbers of peasants who were the foundation of the medieval system of governance called feudalism.

The decimation of the peasant population resulted in increased bargaining power for the remaining peasants, allowing them to make some choices about how they wanted to live. The empowering of the peasants left the knights, who populated the lowest level of the ruling system, without peasants to tax and protect, throwing their entire existence into question.  In 1522, the knights decided to do what they did best – to fight in the knights’ revolt, a critical step in the reordering of Europe during the time of the reformation.

Franz von Sickingen was a knight who saw himself as a sort of Robin Hood, defending the poor against injustices.

In 1513, he took the side of a citizen of Worms who was driven out of town. He attacked Worms with 7000 men and won. In 1518, he fought for the citizens of Metz against the local government. He won that battle too. He was given 20,000 gold gulden and a month’s pay for his troops, but it’s unclear how this helped the citizens. He also offered his castles as refuges for any reformer who was under attack.

He made friends with Ulrich von Hutten, a humanist who was interested in enforcing reform through military means. Together, von Sickingen and von Hutten worked to promote Luther’s teachings, even offering Luther protection against the Emperor. Luther turned them down.

In 1522, Sickingen and Hutton decided to overthrow the Archbishop of Trier, who was a supporter of the pope. Part of his strategy was to get the people of Trier to revolt.

When Sickingen attacked, the people never revolted, so he was left with insufficient forces. He ran out of gunpowder after 7 days, and retreated to his castle in Landstuhl. Hutton escaped to Switzerland. This episode is about how their work upset the social system and laid the groundwork for the peasants revolt led by Thomas Müntzer.

The ringleader of the knights: Franz von Sickingen

Beer break

CAKEWALK by Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City Michigan.

This is our second Traverse City Brewery in a row!!!

Style: Vanilla Cream Ale

ABV: 4.5%

Package: Draft, 12oz Bottle 6-Packs.

Description: An extremely light and approachable cream ale brewed with real Madagascar Vanilla Beans. The addition of corn yields a light creamy mouth feel. This finishes smooth, not sweet.

Recognitions

  • Thanks to Josh
  • Thanks to St. Paul Lutheran in Hamburg MI
  • James Kittelson – Luther the Reformer
  • Scott Hendrix – Martin Luther, The Man and His Vision
  • Christina Vunguyen – The Black Death: How it affected Feudalism
  • Roger J. P. Kain, and Hugh C. Prince – The Tithe Surveys of England and Wales