Top 10 Most Iconic People of the Middle Ages

The period of European history extending from about 500 to 1400-1500 CE is traditionally known as the Middle Ages, starting from the collapse of the Roman civilization in the 5th century CE to the period of the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, many people left a lasting impact on the world and left their mark, so much so that we still talk about them to this day. Here is a list of the most iconic people who lived in this time period.
The Top Ten
1 Charlemagne

Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, was a member of the Carolingian Dynasty. He was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and the first Holy Roman Emperor from 800 until his death in 814. He is considered to have been a strong leader and a good administrator.

He united most of Western Europe for the first time since the collapse of the Roman Empire, which earned him the nickname "Father of Europe." He was also the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and played a vital role in the spread of Christianity across Europe.

Charlemagne believed education was very important and ordered the creation of many schools. He is essentially the reason why you get an education today.

2 Marco Polo Marco Polo was an Venetian merchant traveller and citizen of the Venice Republic whose travels are recorded in Livres des merveilles du monde (Book of the Marvels of the World, also known as The Travels of Marco Polo).

Marco Emilio Polo was a Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer who traveled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. He spent 17 of those years in China. Though not the first European to explore China, he became famous for his travels thanks to a popular book he co-authored while languishing in a Genoese prison.

Marco Polo is also given much credit for opening up trade routes to East India and China.

Marco Polo helped connect China and Europe by writing a book that contained legends, stories, and facts about his travels.

3 Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great was King of the West Saxons from 871 to c. 886 and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c. 886 until his death in 899. He was known as a brave, resourceful, and pious man who was generous to the church and anxious to rule his people justly.

He is considered one of the most famous Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Despite overwhelming odds, he successfully defended his kingdom, Wessex, against the Vikings.

4 Genghis Khan Genghis Khan c. 1162 – August 18 1227, born Temüjin, was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death.

Genghis Khan was a Mongol warlord who conquered a large part of East Asia and created an empire larger than Rome in half the time.

Genghis Khan, born Temüjin, was the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. It spanned the entire Asian continent from the Pacific Ocean to modern-day Hungary in Europe.

His massive empire was able to challenge the powerful Jin dynasty in China.

Genghis Khan was born in 1162 near Lake Baikal. He conquered 9.27 million square miles of land, and his empire stretched through Central Asia, the Aral Sea, the Caspian Sea, Iran, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and east of Turkey.

He died in Xingqing prefecture on August 25, 1227, because of his health not recovering. His empire collapsed into three empires and one nation. His burial place, named Burkhan Khaldun, is hidden in the peak of the Khentii mountains. A statue of him was built in 2008 in Nalaikh, Mongolia.

5 Johannes Gutenberg Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (c. 1398 – February 3, 1468) was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe... read more

Johannes Gutenberg is famous for having designed and built the first printing press. His greatest accomplishment was the first print run of the Bible in Latin, which took three years to print around 200 copies. This was considered a miraculously fast achievement at the time, as books had to be copied by hand.

Although he didn't get to see the impact his invention had on the world, the success of his invention meant that books soon became cheaper, and ever-wider parts of the population could afford them.

6 William the Conqueror William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his... read more

Before he became the king of England, William I was one of the mightiest nobles in France as the Duke of Normandy. However, he is best remembered for leading the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, which changed the course of English history and earned him the name William the Conqueror.

He was the first Norman king of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. He was a descendant of the Viking chieftain Rollo, who was the first ruler of Normandy in France.

7 Joan of Arc Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans", is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint... read more

Joan of Arc is considered a heroine of France. She was a peasant girl who, believing she was acting under divine guidance, led the French army to a momentous victory at Orléans in 1429. This repulsed an English attempt to conquer France during the Hundred Years' War.

She is also famous for her tragic death. After she was captured and exchanged to the English, she was put on trial by the pro-English bishop, Pierre Cauchon, on a charge of heresy. She was declared guilty and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431, dying at about 19 years of age.

In 1456, Pope Callixtus III authorized an inquisitorial court to investigate the original trial. The court nullified the trial's verdict, declaring it was tainted by deceit, and Joan was exonerated. She was canonized in 1920 and declared a secondary patron saint of France in 1922.

8 Richard the Lionheart

Richard I was King of England from 1189 until his death in 1199. He is remembered for being a chivalrous medieval king, battling Saladin during the Crusades, and rebelling against his father, Henry II. He was considered a hero in his day and has often been portrayed as one in literature.

He is also famous for his capture and imprisonment during his return from the crusade. Bad weather drove him ashore near Venice, and he was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being handed over to the German emperor Henry VI, who ransomed him for the huge sum of 150,000 marks. In February 1194, the ransom was paid and Richard was released.

9 Dante Alighieri Durante degli Alighieri, simply called Dante (c. 1265 – 1321), was a major Italian poet of the Late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.
10 Filippo Brunelleschi
The Contenders
11 Albertus Magnus
12 Jakob Fugger
13 Luca Pacioli
14 Hildegard of Bingen
15 Saladin

Saladin was a Sunni Muslim Arab who became the first sultan of both Egypt and Syria and was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. He led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant.

Saladin's army was defeated during the Crusades by Richard the Lionheart. It is said that the two men's relationship had been one of chivalrous mutual respect as well as military rivalry.

16 Geoffrey Chaucer Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to be buried in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English poet, author, and civil servant best known for works such as "The Parlement of Foules," "Troilus and Criseyde," and "The Canterbury Tales." He has been called the "father of English literature" because he was the first to write well-known and recognized poems and stories in the language of the common people of his time, medieval English.

17 Vlad the Impaler Vlad III (Known as "Vlad the Impaler" or "Vlad Dracula", born 1431) was a Romanian monarch. He was the ruler of Wallachia a total of three times before his death in 1476/7. He is most famous for his reputation as a dictator and his gruesome torture methods and executions, in which he has served as an... read more
18 Constantine XI Palaiologos

Constantine XI Palaiologos was the last Roman emperor (the Byzantine Empire was the eastern half of the Roman Empire). The Roman Empire had shrunk so much that by this point it was nothing more than the Roman capital of Constantinople, much of the Peloponnese, and a few scattered small islands.

After rallying the army and people to defend the city against the Ottoman Turks, Constantine XI died while fighting the Turks after Sultan Mehmed II's forces had breached the city walls.

19 Francis of Assisi

Francis is one of the most esteemed religious figures in Roman Catholic history. He founded the Franciscan orders, including the Poor Clares and the lay Third Order.

He and St. Catherine of Siena are the patron saints of Italy, and he is also the patron saint of ecology and of animals.

20 Louis IX of France

Louis IX, commonly known as Saint Louis or Louis the Saint, was King of France from 1226 to 1270 and the most illustrious of the Direct Capetians. He was crowned in Reims at the age of 12, following the death of his father, Louis VIII.

His charity was as widely known as his sense of justice. He founded abbeys, convents, hospitals, and almshouses for the poor. Considered one of the greatest French kings, he consolidated the Crown's control over the great lords and went on two crusades.

21 Leif Erikson Leif Erikson or Leif Ericson was a Norse explorer from Iceland. He was the first known European to have set foot on continental North America, before Christopher Columbus.

Leif Erikson was the son of Erik the Red and a Norse explorer from Iceland. He is believed to have been the first European to set foot on continental North America, approximately half a millennium before Christopher Columbus.

22 Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine was Queen of France from 1137 to 1152 as the wife of King Louis VII, Queen of England from 1154 to 1189 as the wife of King Henry II, and Duchess of Aquitaine from 1137 until her death in 1204.

She was one of the most powerful and influential figures of the Middle Ages. Inheriting a vast estate at the age of 15 also made her the most sought-after bride of her generation.

23 El Cid
24 Philip II of France
25 Robert the Bruce

Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce, was King of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. He freed Scotland from English rule by winning the decisive Battle of Bannockburn and achieving English agreement to full Scottish independence in the 1328 Treaty of Northampton.

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