Middle Ages Essay
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Introduction: This essay will consider the short and longer term impact of the pope, the monks and Christian ideas and beliefs on society during the Middle Ages as well as their impact on today’s world. The essay will argue that the role of the pope, the monks and the Christian ideas have had a huge impact on how society has developed. The three areas considered in this essay are linked. The pope was the head of the Catholic Church. He influenced the role of the monks, who in turn were key in spreading Christian beliefs and ideas throughout medieval Europe. Christianity continues to be a strong force in Europe today.
Paragraph 1: The pope was a powerful figure, both in terms of religion and also politically. A short term effect of the Pope’s position was that he had a lot of influence over who became political leaders. This was because the church had a lot of power over ordinary people and if the political leader didn’t have the respect and patronage of the pope, then people would not be so willing to accept the political ruler. A longer term effect of the pope’s power during the Middle Ages was the Crusades. Pope Urban II instructed the Christians of Europe to go on the Crusades, the purpose of which was to take control of Jerusalem and crush the Muslims and non-believers. A much longer term effect of this was the ongoing tension between Christianity and the Islamic faith. The pope is still a very powerful figure today. Just recently, Pope Francis invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the Vatican to pray for peace in the Middle East.
This shows that the pope still has both religious and political influence. Paragraph 2: The monks comprised an important social group in the Middle Ages. Basically, groups of men would come together to live in a community that was devoted to living in accordance with strict Christian principles. Groups of monks would live in a monastery and would spend their days working, praying and doing good works. Monasteries were also very powerful in the wider community of which they were a part. A short term effect of the monks and their monasteries was that they contributed to the growing wealth of the Catholic church. This was because often local peasants would have to work for free, for example building churches, but also because local peasants had to pay taxes or tithes to the monasteries for using the monasteries’ land for farming.
A longer term effect of the monks was that they made a significant contribution to education amongst ordinary people. Very often the only source of learning was through the monks. Before the rise of the monasteries, ordinary people were simply not educated. Therefore, the role of the monks in relation to education made a huge different to how society developed. An example in today’s world is that education is still often provided by Christian Churches. All Saints is a school that is run by the Anglican Christian Church. Another interesting fact is that Oxford University in the UK began as a monastery in the Middle Ages and then became a university which it still is today.
Paragraph 3: The ideas of the church influenced the lives of ordinary people. In the medieval times the church promoted the idea that if people were poor, it was God’s will. The best they could hope for was to live obedient lives in accordance with the Church’s teaching and then they would go to heaven. If they didn’t accept the teaching of the Church, they were told that they would go to hell. These ideas were reinforced by Doom paintings. A short term effect of the idea of God’s will being responsible for people’s lives was that people accepted the rule of the Church and accepted that the Church, the Pope and the priests were wealthy but they, the peasants were not. They did not revolt against the inequality promoted by the Church.
A longer term effect of the idea of everything being God’s will, was that when the Black Death plague swept through Europe, the Church taught that it was God’s will. Instead of trying to cure people with medicine and science, the Church insisted that the way to combat the plague was to pray. Another effect of this was that as the plague resulted in huge numbers of deaths, people’s faith in the church decreased because people felt that the church has not done enough to protect them. An example of the influence of the idea of God’s will in today’s world is that some countries will still use this argument to justify significant social inequality. At an individual level the concept of ‘God’s will’ can help people to cope with traumatic events, e.g. losing a loved one to illness and death.
This essay has explored the broad impact of Christianity through the Middle Ages and in today’s world by evaluating influence of the Pope, the monks and the Christian idea of ‘God’s will’. It has shown how politics and religion were closely linked in the middle ages and continue to be today. It has also shown how the concept of education was introduced into Europe by the monks and how the link between education and religion remains today and it also considered how Christian ideas influenced how people lived their lives and continue to do so today. Religion is a complex social institution whose influence goes well beyond the Church itself.