Eastern Hemisphere at the beginning of the 12th century.
A Black and White Photo of the 12th century Cuenca Cathedral (built from 1182 to 1270) in Cuenca, Spain
The 12th century is the period from 1101 to 1200 in accordance with the Julian calendar. In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the High Middle Ages and is sometimes called the Age of the Cistercians. In Song dynasty China an invasion by Jurchens caused a political schism of north and south. The Khmer Empire of Cambodia flourished during this century, while the Fatimids of Egypt were overtaken by the Ayyubid dynasty. Following the expansions of the Ghaznavids and Ghurid Empire, the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent take place in the end of the century.
- China is under the Northern Song dynasty. Early in the century, Zhang Zeduan paints Along the River During the Qingming Festival. It will later end up in the Palace Museum, Beijing.
- In southeast Asia, there is conflict between the Khmer Empire and the Champa. Angkor Wat is built under the Hindu king Suryavarman II. By the end of the century the Buddhist Jayavarman VII becomes the ruler.
- Japan is in its Heian period. The Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga is made and attributed to Toba Sōjō. It ends up at the Kōzan-ji, Kyoto.
- In Oceania, the Tuʻi Tonga Empire expands to a much greater area.
- Europe undergoes the Renaissance of the 12th century. The blast furnace for the smelting of cast iron is imported from China, appearing around Lapphyttan, Sweden, as early as 1150.
- Alexander Neckam is the first European to document the mariner's compass, first documented by Shen Kuo during the previous century.
- Christian humanism becomes a self-conscious philosophical tendency in Europe. Christianity is also introduced to Estonia, Finland, and Karelia.
- The first medieval universities are founded. Pierre Abelard teaches.
- Middle English begins to develop, and literacy begins to spread outside the Church throughout Europe. In addition, churchmen are increasingly willing to take on secular roles. By the end of the century, at least a third of England's bishops also act as royal judges in secular matters.
- The Ars antiqua period in the history of the classical music of Western Europe begins.
- The earliest recorded miracle play is performed in Dunstable, England.
- Gothic architecture and trouvère music begin in France.
- During the middle of the century, the Cappella Palatina is built in Palermo, Sicily, and the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript illustrates the Synopsis of Histories by John Skylitzes.
- Fire and plague insurance first become available in Iceland, and the first documented outbreaks of influenza there happens.
- The medieval state of Serbia is formed by Stefan Nemanja and then continued by the Nemanjić dynasty.
- By the end of the century, both the Capetian Dynasty and the House of Anjou are relying primarily on mercenaries in their militaries. Paid soldiers are available year-round, unlike knights who expected certain periods off to maintain their manor lifestyles.
- In India, Hoysala architecture reaches a peak.
- In the Middle East, the icon of Theotokos of Vladimir is painted probably in Constantinople. Everything but the faces will later be retouched, and the icon will go to the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow.
- The Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli composes his epic poem The Knight in the Panther's Skin.
- Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi founds his "school of illumination".
- In North Africa, the kasbah of Marrakesh is built, including the city gate Bab Agnaou and the Koutoubia mosque.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, Kente cloth is first woven.
- In France, the first piedfort coins in the history of numismatics were minted.
- The city of Tula burns down, marking the end of the Toltec Empire