History of Inventions 1

Lesson 20

Why were the Christian monks able to help preserve and restore civilization after the Roman Empire collapsed? 

It is because the monks were committed to reading, writing and education and so they didn’t experience a dark age like the Mycenaean Greeks.  They preserved literacy, established schools and foundations for universities.  Individually monks were thinkers and philosophers and shaped religious and political thought.  Collectively (as a group) the monks came together and shared their knowledge to better their ways of agriculture, technology, preservation of classical traditions, and education.

What were some of the inventions they used to do so, and how did they work?


  1. Swamp land:  The swamp lands which people saw as a source of pestilence, the monks saw differently.  They managed to dam up and drain the swamp, and turn into wonderful fertile farmland.
  2. Breeding cattle: The monks also pursued the improving the breeding of cattle instead of leaving it up to chance.
  3. Wine: The monks also made wine and celebrated with it sometimes.


  1.  Waterpower, like the water wheel was used by the monks.  The water wheel was used for crushing wheat, sieving flour, fulling cloth, and tanning
  2. Metallurgy: The monks used iron and also sold their surplus.  The monks are creative and have a fertile spirit of research.  They mined salt, lead, iron, alum, and gypsum.  They understand metallurgy, quarrying marble, cutler’s shops, glassworks, and forging metal plates.
  3. Furnace to extract iron from ore:  They had the potential to move to blast furnaces that produced cast iron but King Henry VIII ruined that potential.

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