Church in the Middle Ages, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

During the Middle Ages the Church was much more than a religious organization- it was akin to a pan-European empire in itself. It was extremely influential in everyday, social and political life across Europe to both negative and positive effect.

First, it provided an essential service for common people as a place of refuge. If someone’s house had burned down, they had been beaten or experienced any other personal trial they could always seek shelter and counsel with the Church. In addition to its open doors the Church also supported the poor by giving clothing and food. A positive social influence of the Church was their contribution to education. Monks were among the first Europeans to teach reading and writing at a time when the vast majority of the population was illiterate. The monks were scholars and spent a great deal of time writing and translating books and manuscripts that contributed to European scholarship.

The churches and monasteries of the Middle Ages were not just functional buildings. They were works of art in themselves and the evolution of their architectural style had enormous influence. For example, flying buttresses, stained glass windows and the Gothic arch which is seen as more slender and elegant than the Norman arch were some of the Church’s contributions to architecture. On a political level, the Church had a positive influence in that it provided a restraint against autocratic rule by the King. The Church took its orders from God so it had one power that the Kings could not possess- the power to excommunicate. With this checking power came conflict.

There were many struggles between the Church and the state for influence over the population. The Church was a wealthy and land-owning institution. People had to pay taxes to the Church for the use of their land just as they would to the state. One of the largest negative influences of the Middle Ages’ Church was the Crusades. This mission of religious fervor sent thousands of knights and pilgrims to the Holy Land. The result was a massacre of Jerusalem’s population when it was first taken and an ensuing war between Christendom and the Islamic East that lasted for hundreds of years.

In conclusion, the Church provided a spiritual foundation for people whose lives were both short and brutal however its power was sometimes corrupted by individuals and the religious message lost in its struggle for influence.

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