Feudal Society: Three Estates and Pyramid Structure

Classified in Religion

Written at on English with a size of 2.52 KB.


The Catholic Church soon realized that it needed to occupy a significant role in the feudal world.
Thus, clergymen came up with the Theory of the Three Estates (or the Three Orders), which divided the feudal society into:

  • Bellatores (warriors): privileged noblemen and knights who defended the society by means of war.
  • Oratores (prayers): privileged churchmen and churchwomen who prayed for the spiritual salvation of the world. They were the Pope, his bishops and millions of priests, monks and nuns.
  • Laboratores (labouring people): non-privileged peasants who provided material sustenance to all three groups.


  • King: top nobleman.
  • High Nobility: dukes, marquises, counts.
  • High Clergy: the Pope, his cardinals and bishops.
  • Low Nobility: barons, viscounts, knights.
  • Low Clergy: priests, monks and nuns.

The Feudal Society: Feudal Links (1)

The feudal society was based upon personal direct bonds among people.
Every free man was bound by vassalage relationships: a feudal lord committed to protect a person with a lesser category called vassal.
The feudal lords granted a fief to their vassals. The fief could be land (fiefdom) or a certain amount of money. In exchange, vassals committed to assist their lords in activities like justice administration or giving them advice when needed; but above all, at war. This is the origin of cavalry in Europe, since horses were the major weapons of the time.

The Feudal Society: Feudal Links (2)

Feudal bonds between lords and vassals were established through the ceremony. Phases of the ceremony:
1. Inmixtio manum: lord and vassal shook hands.
2. Oath of fidelity.
3. Investiture: lords softly struck vassals' shoulders with a sword.
Sometimes the last step was the osculum: a kiss between lord and vassal.

The Feudal Society (3): Manorial Links and Serfdom

However, there were the lord and the serfs. Serfs were peasants who worked the land and never could leave. Many peasants needed protection from the feudal lords and their knights. Surprisingly, feudal economy was not based upon slavery, so feudal lords turned their slaves into serfs. Subsequently, either former slaves or former free peasants ended up sharing the same low status.

Entradas relacionadas: