To understand the term vassal, which etymologically comes from the Celtic word gwasai and means created, we must contextualize it in the medieval world and in the established social structure , feudalism.
The vassal was any individual , could be either a peasant or a nobleman, who offered his services to a person of superior rank . In this way, the peasant was a vassal of the feudal lord, who in turn was also that of a lord with more power. In other words, a collaboration pact was established between one individual and another, which became known as vassalage.
The vassalage ceremony represented an oath of allegiance and submission to the feudal lord
To formalize the agreement between the vassal and his master, a ritual was performed: the vassalage ceremony. With this reciprocal commitment, both parties signed a pact for a strategic alliance. Thus, the feudal lord offered his lands (the manor), the military protection of his army and the protection of the law. In return, the vassal undertook to work on the land the master had left him and, at the same time, swore loyalty to him .
The key aspect to understanding vassalage is the meaning the land had in the Middle Ages. For the lord who owned a manor it was necessary for someone to work his land productively and for the common man it was necessary to work the land in usufruct in order to survive. In this way, it can be said that while the lord had ownership of the manor, the vassal was the one who inhabited and performed the work.
The vassalage institution was in force for centuries, more specifically until the 15th century
Most historians agree that vassalage began to decline when vassals became strong economically as well as socially, thus beginning to demand rights over the fief in which they lived.
There are still vassals
In the ceremony of vassalage, the vassal knelt before his lord and the latter held his hands, with this ritual both of them sealed a bond. This type of ritual has disappeared from a legal point of view.
However, the idea of implicit submission of the vassal institution continues today. Thus, anyone who submits to a powerful person becomes a vassal.