The Medieval Church (Ch.12, iii) For most Western European people, the Church was the center of their lives. The bishop of Rome (now called the Pope ) was the spiritual authority over European Christians.
The Catholic Church taught that all people were sinners and dependent on God’s grace to go to heaven. The only way to get this was by taking part in the sacraments (church rituals) that were controlled by the Church.
The sacraments are: baptism confirmation penance holy orders eucharist (Lord’s supper) matrimony anointing the sick
The communion (Lord’s supper) commemorated Jesus’ death and sacrifice of dying on the cross to save people from their sin. Is Christianity so complicated that the average person has trouble understanding it? Sometimes, yes.
The Mass was said in Latin , a language few people understood. Many priests were poorly educated and did not explain their religion well. Few could read or write and very few actually read the Bible .
In 529, Benedict founded a monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy. This was a model for monks in other communities. Their lives included work, meditation, and prayer.
Monks dressed in simple robes of coarse material. Most monasteries required vows of silence. Women could do the same in convents, but focused on spinning, weaving, and medicinal herbs. Monte Cassino
Although monks and nuns lived apart from society, they were important in society. They taught reading and writing, preserved and copied religious texts, and ran hospitals for the needy .
Pope Gregory I was so impressed with Benedictine monks that he exported them as missionaries. In 597, he sent monks to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons .
Those English converts then took Christianity to Germany . The Irish were converted also, but were isolated from the rest of the world. This was a good thing.
By the mid-1000’s, most of Western Europe was Catholic. The Church had power in both the spiritual realm and the temporal realm.
The Church had its own courts and laws. They could keep people out of heaven by preventing them from receiving the sacraments. The Church received donations of land from kings who wanted to ensure salvation. Guilty!
Method of exerting influence by the Catholic Church: 1. Excommunication 2. Give lands to the faithful 3. Allow faithful people to be appointed to Church offices 4. Cash money ($$$!)
By 900 AD, many Christians were calling for Church reform . This began in Monasteries. One of the most important changes occurred in 1059. The Church said that political leaders could no longer participate in the election of the Pope.
“ Cardinals ” would now elect the Pope, rather than secular (non-church) authorities.
In 1073, the Cardinals elected Pope Gregory VII , a reform-minded guy who tried to stop the practice of lay-investure . Don’t make me come down there!
Lay-investure means that a secular official (king, duke, earl…) would give their symbol of office to a bishop that they had appointed. Maybe a little conflict of interest here? Ain’t nuttin’ but a thang.
In 1215, Pope Innocent III tried to reform the Church as well. He convened a council that condemned drunkenness , feasting, and dancing among Church officials. Sponsored by Budweiser Bud
Many tried to stop the spread of heresy (the denial of basic church teachings.) The punishment was as severe as excommunication .
To seek out and punish heretics, the Church set up a court in 1232 known as the Inquisition .
The heretics were ‘encouraged’ to confess their sin. Encouraged= 1. Rack 2. Thumb screws 3. Iron maiden 4. Beatings, etc… Sound like fun?
This was done to save the souls of the heretics. Those who repented were set free. Compare this to the Muslim efforts to make converts.
Friars , who were wandering preachers , encouraged further reform in the 1200’s. They followed monastic rules, but lived among common people to preach.
Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan Friars about 1210. They tried to reproduce the simple life of Jesus and his disciples.
The Friars became known for their cheerful trust in God and respect for nature .
In the early Middle Ages, Jews and Christians lived in peace in Europe. In the 1000’s, however, Christians viewed Jews as a threat and blamed Jews for the death of Jesus. Tradition is the fence around the law!
Several regions expelled their Jews, who moved to Eastern Europe .
While this treatment was unfair and mean, Western Europe was able to find unity, avoid religious wars (until the reformation), and make progress toward the Renaissance.