Christianity in western Europe 500s-1700s

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uppladdat: 2006-02-10
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Christianity was in the beginning of the middle ages split into two major parts of Europe. One was in the east with its main hold in the city of Constantinople, which today is Istanbul in Turkey. The other part had its centre in the city of Rome and it was here where the Catholic Church was developed while the east part of Europe developed into the Orthodox Church. This was something that had tried to be stopped earlier since people wanted Christianity only to exist in one form to work as one unity, but the change could not be stopped. One cause to this massive change was when the emperor Constantine admitted Christianity and saw that with its organisation came much power so he moved the kingdoms centre from Rome to Constantinople. The fact that the Church had divided into two parts showed that this could be done and therefore is one of the causes to why more splits in the Church developed later on.

But Christianity faced bigger problems in the early middle ages, like the spread of Islam and the many invasions and wars that were fought almost everywhere around Europe. However, these invasions later turned out to have positives sides too since so many people were scared and helpless they needed something to turn to. That was why many people turned to the Church since this stood out as a source of hope in all the chaos. The Church also had a lot of power and the bishops could often persuade different barbarian leaders not do destroy their city.

So this was when the monasteries showed their importance to the people and also started to expand since more people wanted to join them as monks and nuns. The reason why some Christian men and women became monks and nuns was because they believed that the best way to achieve salvation and to serve God was by withdrawing oneself from the world. Life in a convent also tempted many since they were encouraged to always learn and study new things. Here they also initiated educational programs so that they could teach their beliefs to the masses. A certain monk should be mentioned who’s importance for Christianity can not be overlooked. His name was Benedict of Nursia and he created the rule of Saint Benedict which sets the basic principles how the monastic life should be. This was that a monk/nun should not own anything for himself/herself, he/she must take vows of chastity and show absolute obedience to the abbot who were the head of the monastry. This lead to the foundation of the Benedictines and they became the first organized monastic order in the Catholic Church.
One thing that also should be added is that the women were aloud to join the convents as nuns, but they were not aloud to be priests.

The monks kept on spreading the beliefs of Christianity during the Middle Ages and since they were sent out as missionaries to new places and countries they made the convents into cultural centres where books were written and kept. They also became places where knowledge was taught and hospital care was performed. Many convents also got rich by accepting many donations from some people. These changes were not however appreciated by everyone. Some people thought that the life in the convents should go back to the ideals of being poor and helping the people without getting gold in exchange and this lead to the uprising of many reform movements. One of them took form in the monastery of Cluny, where the abbot banned the buying and selling of religious offices. He wanted the life in convents to go back to all the hard work and service to God. These Cluny reforms led to and helped the discipline to be restored among the clergy.

The enormous power that the Church had mostly was because its followers were so educated and was needed by feudal lords since they wanted educated men in their courts. This power also led to the power of changing things that the Church was not pleased with. One of those things was the feudal warfare in the 1100s. The Church wanted to reduce it and tried to enforce something called “Peace of God” which was periods of peace. The Church also demanded that the battles that were fought should only include warriors and leave out all the non-combating people and the clergy, so that the people that did not participate could feel safe. When this demand was not followed, the Church used its authority to set up a new rule. A rule that said that all fighting must be stopped between Fridays and Sundays every week, but also during the religious holidays. The Church’s fight for these principles is believed to be one of the causes to the decline of feudal warfare in the late 1100s. These principles to me however seem too good to be true. If you look at the world we live in today there are not rules like these to follow and even if there were they probably would not be followed. Maybe it was the same thing back then that when two different countries declare war at each other they plan their attacks wisely and would do anything to succeed. If you look at the statistics it is the people that do not participate in the battles that die in far greater numbers than those who are combats. One example of this is the war between Iraq end the United States.

The Church showed no understanding toward other beliefs than Christianity. They had always been convinced that their faith was the only right one and pushed the people away who thought any different. This is something that they always have had in their minds and this eventually led to the establishment of a special court in the 1100s. The court was called
“The Inquisition” and its purpose was to try people who were accused for holding other beliefs than those of the Church. Normally if the accused was proven guilty to these charges, he would burn on the stake but there were other punishments also that were not as harsh depending how early the accused confessed and regretted his/her sin. This is also something that separates from the world we live in today. Shore there are murderers that kill when someone gets in their way but to have this as a legal court where you burned people to death without letting the accused to have a defence of his own is like when the Nazis wanted to eliminate all Jews. But since the Church had so much power during such a long time, maybe people did not dare to question it which just aloud it to keep on going.

In the end of the Middle Ages there was a monk in Germany that wanted to be heard. This man succeeded and when he went public with his protests and opinions 1517 by nailing 95 theses on the port of a church he started something much bigger than he ever could have imagined. His name was Martin Luther and he thought that the church had misused its power when it came to the power of salvation. His protests spread around Europe and many countries agreed with him which eventually led to another split in the Catholic Church, the people that had the same beliefs as Luther were now Lutherans and were called “Protestants”. This reformation is considered to have ended the time of the Middle Ages. But this occurrence did not end here, for this also led to the foundation of many other protestant churches during the Renaissance. Like the Calvinists led by John Calvin who also rejected the idea, like Luther did, that good works would ensure salvation. Also Henry VIII in England opposed the Pope after being rejected to divorce his wife and this struggle eventually led to that England became a Protestant nation. So the Renaissance got to be a time where the Church’s power lessened and weakened its influence in culture and society life because of all these reform movements. These movements also led to many battles and wars like it did between Catholics and Protestants in the 30year-war in Germany 1618-1648. This war’s result was however good for Germany in the long run since it made the country more united. This time-age also stands for when people really...

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Inactive member [2006-02-10]   Christianity in western Europe 500s-1700s
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=5659 [2020-06-06]

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