History of the World in Objects and Art

20 000BC      
1200BC 800 1455 1820
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350BC 1205 1530 1868
200BC 1260 1600 1890
100BC 1290 1685 1910
30 1350 1755 1920
600 1400 1800 1950
History of the World in Objects and Art Timeline

St. Elizabeth was a Hungarian princess canonized in 1235, just four years after her death. Her skull was placed in this magnificent agate reliquary. Elizabeth's rapid elevation to sainthood exemplifies the striking interplay between Christian piety and political power in the Middle Ages. The royal houses that could claim a saint among their number were able to claim divine authority for their rule. The cult of saintly ancestors, such as Louis IX of France, King Olaf Haraldsson of Norway, and Queen Jadwiga of Poland, was vigorously promoted by their successors.

Elizabeth had been married to Louis IV, the Margrave of Thuringia—a German nobleman above the rank of count. When her husband died in 1227, on his way to join the Sixth Crusade, Elizabeth refused to remarry. She took a vow of celibacy and devoted herself to charitable works, establishing a hospital at Marburg where she personally
ministered to the sick. Soon after her death in 1231, miracles began to be reported. Elizabeth's canonization by Pope Gregory IX was helped considerably by the Hungarian royal house of Arpad, which was eager to have a saint among its number. Her body was laid to rest in a golden shrine in Marburg.
The hunger for saints' relics was intense in the Middle Ages, because they were said to heal sickness or grant remission of sins. The altar of every new church required a relic. The richest monasteries and cathedrals had huge collections of artifacts associated with the saints or with Christ himself. To honor these relics, they were placed in reliquaries— housings made of precious metal and often encased in jewels. Reliquaries holding the most prestigious relics, such as the remains of St. Elizabeth, were very lavish—a sign of the power and the sanctity of the religious institution that owned them.

From the 9th century, states began to coalesce in eastern central Europe, forming the core of future countries such as Russia. By 1000, most had become Christian, strengthening their ties to Byzantium or Western European monarchies
The fortunes of states in eastern central Europe varied greatly between 800 and 1500. As Byzantine power waned, new states asserted themselves in the southeast—first Bulgaria, and then Serbia. Hungary, founded by Magyar raiders in the 10th century, became an established monarchy under a Christian king around 1000.

By the 14th century, it had grown into eastern central Europe's strongest country. To the north, Poland was one of the last areas to adopt a centralized kingship. It was plagued by political instability, but an alliance with Lithuania in 1385 created a regional superpower. To the east, Russia had its origins in the interplay of Viking settlers and Slav tribes in the 9th century. Surviving devastating Mongol raids in the early 1240s, it prospered in the form of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which became a cultural powerhouse and the precursor to the modern Russian state.

The Founding of the Mendicant Orders

The Founding of the Mendicant Orders
The Albigensian Crusade
The Election of Frederick II as King of Germany

From the 11 th century many Turkish tribes dominated Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and other parts of western Asia (in modern-day Iraq, Turkey, and Iran). Two of these tribes, the Seljuks and Ottomans, built vast empires that became centers of power and vibrant Islamic culture.
The Seljuks, originally nomadic Oguz Turks, reached the Samarkand area early in the 11th century. They converted to Islam and continued to push west, conquering Khorasan (in modern-day Iran) after a victory against the Ghaznavids in 1040 that marked the real foundation of the empire.

The Seljuk Emir Tugrul Beg captured Baghdad in 1055, placing the Abbasid Caliph under his protection. But it was the victory of his son Alp Arslan against the Byzantine emperor, at Manzikert in 1071 that enabled the empire to overrun vast swathes of land in Anatolia, even threatening Constantinople (modern Istanbul).


Now known as the Sultanate of Rum (Rome), the Seljuk capital at Konya became the center of a glittering court. One of Alp Arslan's viziers (advisors), Nizam al Mulk, set up a university in Baghdad and endowed many educational institutions. Mosques were built throughout the sultanate, many showcasing elaborate, lacelike tracery that included floral designs and interlocking patterns. Caravanserais, or roadside inns for travelers, were established along the trade routes crossing the empire. The sultan's officials levied a tax of 2.5 percent on most goods to fund expenditure.

The Seljuks also retained their nomadic warrior tradition. They withstood the crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries and prevented a Byzantine renaissance in 1176. But, the sultanate was beginning to fragment, and Mongol invasions of the Middle East in the late 1250s broke its power.


Western Anatolia was divided between competing Turkmen tribes, such as the Ottomans, who established emirates on abandoned Seljuk territory. One emirate was led by Osman I, from which the name Ottoman is derived. By 1331, the Ottomans had captured Nicaea. Within half a century, they had surged into Europe, capturing Constantinople in 1453. Inheritors of much of the Seljuk artistic tradition, their mosques and medrese (religious schools) sprang up in the areas they captured. The wealth they gained from their conquests let the sultans become significant patrons of the arts by 1500.

The Fall of Baghdad