Definition of Vasallo
To understand the term vassal, which etymologically comes from the Celtic word gwsai and means servant, it must be contextualized in the medieval world and in the established social structure, feudalism .
A vassal was any individual, from a peasant to a nobleman, who offered his services to a person of superior rank. In this way, a peasant was the vassal of a feudal lord and he in turn was that of a lord with more power. In other words, a collaboration pact was established between the two individuals, which is known as vassalage.
The vassalage ceremony represented an oath of fidelity and submission to the feudal lord
To formalize the agreement between the vassal and his lord a ritual, the vassalage ceremony was performed. With this reciprocal commitment, both parties agreed to a strategic alliance. Thus, the feudal lord offered his lands (the fief ), the military protection of his army and the protection of the law . In return, the vassal undertook to work the land that his lord had left him and, at the same time, swore loyalty.
The key aspect to understand the institution of vassalage is the meaning that the earth had in the Middle Ages . For the man who possessed a fief, someone who worked the land in a productive way was necessary and for the ordinary man it was necessary to work the land in usufruct to survive. In this way, we could say that while the lord owned the fief, the vassal was the one who inhabited it and who did the work.
The institution of vassalage was in force for centuries, specifically until the fifteenth century
Most historians agree that the vassalage began to decline when the vassals became economically and socially strong and began demanding rights over the fief in which they lived.
The vassal-lord binomial allows us to understand a part of feudalism. In an analogous way, the worker-entrepreneurial binomial allows us to understand the operation of the capitalist system.
There are still vassals
In the vassalage ceremony, the vassal knelt before his lord and he took his hands and with this ritual they both sealed a bond. These types of rituals have disappeared from a legal point of view.
However, the idea of submission implicit in the institution of vassalage continues today. Thus, everyone who submits to a powerful becomes his vassal.
Photo: Fotolia - jon_chica