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Influence of The Medieval Church on Europe

An essay on the influence of the medieval church in Europe at the height of its power.

The Influences of the Medieval Church

            The Medieval Church had great influence upon Medieval Europe. Many historians think the church had too much power. The Medieval Church obtained too much power for their own benefit, most often betraying the values of the church and the foundations of the peoples political, social, and cultural system.

            The Medieval Church overused its ability to excommunicate and to politically control country’s monarchs and power. When Henry II used lay investiture, Pope Gregory VII excommunicated him, which made his subjects not have to stay loyal to their king. “I withdraw the government of the whole kingdom of the Germans and of Italy from Henry the King, son of Henry the Emperor. For he has risen up against thy Church with unheard of arrogance. And I absolve all Christians from the bond of the oath they have made with him or shall make. And I forbid anyone to serve him as king.”(Bettenson). In addition, Henry II was reinstated after spending several days outside of the pope’s winter home begging for mercy. Some historians believe that the pope’s power to take away power is wrong, especially for such a pious man. Furthermore the church was able to divide and unite nations. An example of this occurred when Pope Urban II declared the need to eradicate the Muslims and retake the Holy Land. This declaration became the First Crusade. “Adhemar, Bishop of Puy, leader of this expedition and undertaking in our stead, so that those who, perchance, may wish to undertake this journey should comply With his commands, as if they were our own, and submit fully to his loosing or bindings, as far as shall seem to belong to an office. If, moreover, there are any people whom god has inspired to this vow…” (Pope Urban II).  Many educated people believe that the Pope felt that he needed to proclaim a crusade, so that he could get his name into historical documents and look like a hero to the Christians of the world. The Pope had many political powers and whether it was excommunication or starting a crusade, he overused them on a frequent basis.

            The Pope not only influenced politics, but also the society of the times. During the Easter season, the church controlled the schedule of people’s days. “The faithful are frequent to holy Churches without ceasing during the entire week, with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Rejoicing in Christ and celebrating, listening to the reading of the holy Scripture and delighting in the holy Mysteries…” (Nedungatt and Featherstone). This forced the people to not attend public spectacles, lest one wanted social suicide. This illustrated the church’s ability to control both lords and serfs. The serfs were not working, and if one is at church one cannot work a field.  Another way this was demonstrated was when the townsfolk of Chartres were excommunicated. All holy acts, with the exception of the baptism of infants, ceased. Only priests could attend the masses that occurred on rare occasion. “And the Chapter ordered that each day the priests of this church should ascend the pulpit and pronounce orally the sentence of excommunication, with its horrendous curse, which is called greater excommunication, against the aforesaid blasphemers.”(Barton). This illustrated the church’s ability to block a person’s chance for “salvation”. Ones primary goal in life at that time was to go to heaven, and one did not go to heaven without the church. Consequently the church was able to take away any social aspects of one’s life, whether a schedule or eternal salvation.

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