THE Gilds and the town life of the Middle Ages are interesting as an illustration of the " corporate " spirit that seems to have been prevalent then. Men were not isolated integers as early nineteenth century political thought saw them, nor were they simply members of a Statethe conception fashionable to-day; but rather they were all members of some body, whether gild, fraternity, monastery or manor, which claimed their allegiance (and in the three first cases generally passed it on to the Church) and made its own terms with the secular power of the State. Religion is again the keynote.
The importance of religion in its effects upon Art is nowhere more profusely illustrated than during the medievalperiod. medievalarchitecture at its best is practically entirely ecclesiastical, and from one end of Europe to another magnificent cathedrals and abbeysByzantine, Romanesque, and Gothicbear witness to the religious ardour and artistic merits of their creators. Music, too, was mainly ecclesiastical, and mediasval painting was inspired chiefly by religion. Cimabue (1240-1302) was succeeded by Giotto (1266-1336), and the work of Fra Angelico (1387-1435) brings us to the verge of the Renaissance. Literature, particularly vernacular literature, was less under religious influence, although Dante (d. 1321) may be described as the voice of Mediasval Catholicism, and the connection between religious idealism and some aspects of medievalmythology has already been mentioned. There was, however, nothing particularly religious about those courtly and amorous bards, the Troubadours of France and the Minnesingers of Germany. It is noteworthy that Chaucer, coming at the end of the fourteenth century, not only writes in English (a national tongue), but satirises many types of ecclesiastics, servants of the international Church.
From the beginning of the fourteenth century we can see the waning of the medievalheyday. The dream of a Universal Empire is, for a while, obscured. The Papacy is weakened by heresy and schism; monasticism deserts its pristine simplicity, and, above all in importance, we note the rise of national consciousness, producing national heroes and heroines like Bruce and Joan of Arc, as well as national literature. The Middle Ages had run their course and made their contribution to the story of mankind. A new age was at hand, bringing with it new forces, new ideals, new hopes, and new problems.