Middle Ages

The cooler climates of northern Europe allowed butter to be stored for a longer period before it spoiled. Scandinavia has the oldest tradition in Europe of butter export trade, dating at least to the 12th century. After the fall of Rome and through much of the Middle Ages, butter was a common food across most of Europe, but one with a low reputation, and was consumed principally by peasants. Butter slowly became more accepted by the upper class, notably when the early 16th century Roman Catholic Church allowed its consumption during Lent. Bread and butter became common fare among the middle class, and the English, in particular, gained a reputation for their liberal use of melted butter as a sauce with meat and vegetables. In antiquity, butter was used for fuel in lamps as a substitute for oil. The Butter Tower of Rouen Cathedral was erected in the early 16th century when Archbishop Georges d'Amboise authorized the burning of butter instead of oil, which was scarce at the time, during Lent. Across northern Europe, butter was sometimes treated in a manner unheard-of today: it was packed into barrels (firkins) and buried in peat bogs, perhaps for years. Such "bog butter" would develop a strong flavor as it aged, but remain edible, in large part because of the unique cool, airless, antiseptic and acidic environment of a peat bog. Firkins of such buried butter are a common archaeological find in Ireland; the Irish National Museum has some containing "a grayish cheese-like substance, partially hardened, not much like butter, and quite free from putrefaction." The practice was most common in Ireland in the 11thЦ14th centuries; it ended entirely before the 19th century. The Mi

dle Ages is a period of European history that lasted from the 5th until the 15th centuries. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, and was followed by the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the traditional division of Western history into Classical, Medieval, and Modern periods. The period is subdivided into the Early Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages, and the Late Middle Ages. In the Early Middle Ages, depopulation, deurbanization, and barbarian invasions, which began in Late Antiquity, continued. The barbarian invaders formed new kingdoms in the remains of the Western Roman Empire. In the 7th century North Africa and the Middle East, once part of the Eastern Roman Empire, became an Islamic Empire after conquest by Muhammad's successors. Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, the break with Antiquity was not complete. The Eastern Roman Empire Ц or Byzantine Empire Ц survived and remained a major power. The empire's law code, the Code of Justinian, was widely admired. In the West, most kingdoms incorporated extant Roman institutions, while monasteries were founded as Christianity expanded in western Europe. The Franks, under the Carolingian dynasty, established an empire covering much of western Europe; the Carolingian Empire endured until the 9th century, when it succumbed to the pressures of invasion Ч the Vikings from the north; the Magyars from the east, and the Saracens from the south. During the High Middle Ages, which began after AD 1000, the population of Europe increased greatly as technological and agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish and crop yields to increase.