The Role Of The Church In Medieval Society The medieval period was at the very best a down period for civilization. Though not completely without advancement or good points, the period certainly lacked the credibility that other periods of time held in terms of enhancing the overall good of mankind. The Christian church, was certainly a primary force in the lack of success during this period. Owning almost ninety percent of all land, and ruling over the majority of the population with little compassion, the church, and the related nobility did little to quell social problems, and even less to foster learning and intellectuality. As a result, the church was responsible for the majority, if not all of the problems that arose during the medieval period. Evidence of the medieval period being very bad for man can be seen throughout many aspects of medieval society.
Take for instance, the level of intellectual thinking during the period. Something, which flourished during the rise of the Roman Empire, but seemed to fall off the face of the earth after its collapse. The problems lied in the church, as the only people trained to read and write properly were monks and high officials of the church, who were locked away behind the walls of the church. Essentially the church limited intellectuality to those who it felt it could trust. If a peasant were to think for himself, thought the church, who knows what could happen to the hierarchy that we cherish. The lack of intelligence among the peasants was clear.
Take for instance, the mapping system of the period. Though accurate maps were available, the church put out maps that were not accurate, and told the public they were true. And the public believed. There was however some advancement in technology, but most of it can be linked directly to the church. An example of this was in the area of architecture, where medieval architects took the art of cathedral building to a new level. Though not as stunning a jump as there was during the renaissance period in terms of architecture, some credit must be given to the middle ages as far as its ability to build cathedrals, as many still stand today. Similarly, tools, which became mainstays during the middle ages are still used today, and must thus be recognized as advancements for the middle ages.
One example is the Lewis, which was a common masonry tool that has not changed from its medieval form at all even in the current day. Thus, while the Middle Ages were a mostly stagnant time in terms of technology and intellectual thinking, there was some advancement, though clearly linked to the church serving personal gains. Like the repression of technology and intellectual thinking, the hypocrisy of the Christian church also stood out during this period. Church officials were hypocritical about many things, which lead to an unbalanced unfair society, something that is never good for mankind. For example, while the church felt that everyone should be a member and worship Christ, it limited its officials to only those who could afford to buy themselves into a proper office. Likewise, the church spoke out vocally against taking advantage of people for personal gain, and yet, the church was probably the guiltiest party with regard to this during the medieval period.
Claiming that a place in heaven can be assured by a monetary donation, or penance received by going to the middle east to kill Muslims for a holy war seems to at best stretch the beliefs of Christianity. Yet, the church took advantage of its power and in doing so showed its hypocritical tendencies. Thus, it was clear that there was much hypocrisy from the church during this time period. As a result of a clearly church dominated society, the level of economic growth was stopped. While there was some movement from one official to the next, it was very hard, if not impossible for one person to gain a foothold in society. Very often, the church owned everything, save what the nobility had protected via military force.
As one can guess this is not conducive to a particularly stellar economic record, as this type of lack of movement might lead to a total economic collapse. Essentially during this period, the economy relied upon the land, as it was the number one source of revenue. Since the same ten- percent of the population owned all the land and thus all the revenue, the economy was frozen in one place for the majority of the medieval period. Continuing with this economic idea, the church also had a constant source of income, as a result of its coercion of the population. Many things done by the church raised large amounts of money, and unless they wanted to be branded a heretic would follow these activities. Obviously baptism was one of these things.
The church made a great deal of money off of baptism, as it is a requirement of all Christians. As a result, if they did not follow this they could face serious legal problems that would cause them to be left ridiculed, excommunicated, or even dead. Likewise, the church manipulated the population with relics too. Claiming that various non authentic bones were actually some one of holy notes bones caused many to pay all of their money only to get a sheeps bone, that someone told them was the bone of St. Peter. Like baptism you were not someone in society until you bought a relic. The result was a strong economic hold by the church, which gained lots of money for their exploits.
The economic control of this period also contributed to the unparalleled political control during this period, which was stunning. The church, which held the property, as well as the basic belief system of almost every person in Western Europe, held an iron fist over the people of the time period. The church used its significant clout in society to make the people of the medieval time period do their bidding. It was not uncommon for an edict to come down from the church, and for everyone to immediately take up the cause which was discussed. Case in point is the crusades; something that is not condoned anywhere in the bible, yet the church managed to not find a problem in using the people of its kingdom to rid itself of the pesky Muslims. In doing this not only did the church show that it held complete control over the peasants of society, but it also showed the church no longer cared about what was right according to their doctrine, but rather it just cared about what would maintain its power, or what would be the best political move. This, clearly is the fault of the church.
It let its economic success distract it from the reason it was originally established. To help the people, not to make them do its bidding. The result of the overwhelming control of the church over the state was that their was stifling sameness in society. Everyone apparently, lived the same life, especially if you were a peasant. They all lived in small quarters, worked the land hard every day, and then went back and did it again the next day. So monotonous was the life, that most peasants didnt make it off of their manor in a lifetime.
This was the fault of a church that not only repressed these people, but was also flat out cruel to them with regard to personal rights. Peasants were not allowed to go to other places without permission, which was rarely if ever granted. If a peasant did not want to live this life any longer that was fine. He only had to save up enough money to buy land, or an office in the church. One problem, this was a virtual impossibility.
The nobility would not want to sell their land, and the likely hood of someone being able to save up enough money to buy an estate from a peasant lifestyle is unlikely at best. Thus, the church caused not only the life of a peasant to be the same, but also the people that ruled would always be the same. It is clear that the foundation of Christianity was poor in its rule over the medieval society, particularly with the amount of repression that occurred during the period. The eventual result of all this is a time period that man is likely to soon forget. Very little that was of not was accomplished during this time, and certainly nothing compared to the time that immediately follows and immediately precedes this time period.
Clearly, compared to the renaissance and the Roman Empire, the medieval period was a time of regression and dictatorship, the result of which was an unbalanced hierarchy that did nothing to help the welfare of mankind. The fault of this period lies clearly in the hands of Christianity, or more to the point, the leaders of Christianity during this period. The level of corruption, discontent, and general cruelty during this period resulted in this period, and as a result the Christian churchs leadership should be blamed.