Feudalism was a type of government in which political power was exercised locally by private individuals rather than by the agents of a centralized state. One text states: "Fully developed feudalism was fusion of three basic elements: (1) the personal element, called lordship or vassalage, by which one nobleman, the vassal, became the loyal follower of a stronger nobleman, the lord (or suzerain); (2) the property element, called the fief (usually land), which the vassal received from his lord to enable him to fulfill the obligations of vassalage; and (3) the governmental element, meaning the private exercise of governmental functions over vassals and fiefs.

Central to feudalism was the personal bond between lord and vassal. In the ceremony know as the act of homage, the vassal knelt before his lord, and promised to be his "man". In the oath of fealty which followed, the vassal swore on some sacred object that he would remain true to his lord. Next, in the ritual of investiture, a lance, a glove, or even a bit of straw was handed the vassal to signify his jurisdiction (not ownership) over the fief. The feudal contract thus entered into by lord and vassal was considered sacred and binding upon both parties. Breaking this tie of mutual obligation was considered a felony, because it was the fundamental bond of early medieval society. The lord for his part was obliged to give his vassal protection and justice. The vassal’s primary duty was military service. He was expected to devote forty days’ service each year to the lord without pay.

[tags]BlogRodent, church-history, ChurchRodent, Feudalism, history[/tags]


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