Meaning of Medieval Literature

What is Medieval Literature:

medieval literature is all that was produced during the Middle Agesa period that extended from the 5th century to the 15th century approximately.

Thus, to define this period of literature, it is necessary to resort to extraliterary aspects, such as the historical context of literary production and the way in which it influenced it.

The Middle Ages began approximately with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and lasted until the arrival of Columbus in America in 1492.

The Middle Ages were characterized by the pre-eminence of the feudal system, the use of the Latin language as a diplomatic language and of high culture, the expansion of the Germanic people, the Crusades, the formation of national monarchies and the immense political power and cultural influence of the Catholic Church in all spheres of life. All these aspects will be reflected in the literature produced in this period.

See also Middle Ages.

Characteristics of medieval literature


The language that served as a vehicle for culture was Latin, however, from the Late Middle Ages, texts written in vernacular languages ​​began to proliferate.


The most common form of dissemination of literary works was through the troubadours, since the vast majority of the population did not know how to read.


Writing in verse was the most cultivated. Also, since it was easier to memorize, the composition in verse helped the troubadours to remember the texts. Subgenres such as the lyric, the ode, the elegy, the eclogue, the epithalamium, the romance or the sonnet were the most popular.

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Texts such as chivalric novels were written in prose, referring to the exploits of medieval knights; the cronicones, which related historical issues chronologically; the hagiographies, which narrated the lives of the saints, or the lineage books, where the genealogy of the nobility was collected.


Many works from this period do not fit within our traditional concept of author, so they are not signed. In fact, many of them circulated thanks to the troubadours.


Originality was not an aspiration, so stories based on real events, popular tradition or classic texts were collected and recreated.

religious theme

Religious themes were recurrent, since the Catholic Church exercised strong patronage.


The works had a didactic function, as they sought to transmit Christian values ​​and models of behavior to society.

Literary works of the Middle Ages

anonymous works

  • the ballad
  • Song of Mio Cid
  • Beowulf
  • Song of Roland
  • Nibelungenlied
  • the golden legend
  • Digenis Acritas
  • Amadis of Gaul

Works and authors

  • The Decameron, by Giovanni Bocaccio.
  • The Divine Comedy, by Dante Aligheri.
  • Tirant lo Blanc, by Joanot Martorell.
  • Summa theologica, by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
  • Confessions, of Saint Augustine.
  • Days of Rage, by Saint Francis of Assisi.
  • Cantigas de Santa María, by Alfonso X el Sabio.
  • Count of Lucanor, by don Juan Manuel.
  • Book of good love, by Juan Ruiz.
  • Verses on the death of his father, by Jorge Manrique.
  • The matchmaker, by Fernando de Rojas.
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • Songbook, by Petrarca.