Christianity in Medieval Europe
The church was a dominating force back in the middle ages. After the fall of the Roman Empire the only religion that was recognized was Christianity and more specifically Catholicism. The Roman Empire fell after Emperor Constantine took the throne. This end the harassment of Christians and gave arose of Christianic society All kinds of people went by the faith, Rich and poor. People who were a part of the church like priests, preachers, etc. became people with a lot of influence and a lot of riches. These were the most significant people in medieval Europe. Christianity was at the pinnacle of belief and influenced Medieval Europe on all ends of the spectrum from merchant selling, to education, to even marriage. Christianity was dominating everywhere.
In the middle ages the church wasn’t somewhere to just go and pray. It was also a place of knowledge. Universities started to emerge across Europe. The earliest universities to emerge were the University of Paris (Oxford University) and the University of Bologna. The University of Paris was a student-teacher based school but, wasn’t only just a place of teaching. Here played an important part in several disputes: in the Church, during the Great Schism; in the councils, in dealing with heresies and divisions; in the State, during national crises.
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Before Christianity came along, the education people would get would be low-level grammar and rhetoric with the Greco Romans. The idea was that parents wanted their children to have at least as good as an education as they did. When Christianity finally took over, it became a place for higher learning. Citizens were soaring with knowledge and booming the economy by these iconic students. Alexandria in Egypt was probably the most famous schools in the middle ages. These schools had a much wider curriculum than basic catechetical schools. They had Greek science and philosophy. This gave students a wider scope of knowledge and the students prospered becoming people with high reputations.
Medieval Christianity used religion to force people to accept their standing in life because religion taught that the meek would inherit the earth. This system allowed those who were in power to dominate those underneath them. In short, the lives of these peasants were like slaves, they had nothing but their labor, which they sold to factory owners. Religion encourages this oppression by teaching its followers to stay in their place and not cause trouble. To accept the idea that suffering is a virtue, and not an indignity, because when death arrives, God will reward those who have suffered
The Ages had three distinct classes, peasants, the nobility, and the clergy. There was little movement within these classes. A peasant was basically the property of the feudal lord; they had no rights, owned nothing, and were unable to leave without permission.
Since Christianity was the main religion of Europe, Christianity was able to oppress and discriminate against the Jews, because they had no power, influence and/or no way of protecting themselves against the church. The church used religion to bring Christians into the belief that following another religion was a sin, and thus must be punished accordingly. This ensured that Christianity would maintain its power throughout Europe and that other religions would stay non-dominate. The majority of the population in the medieval era were uneducated, religion and how a person should act was what the clergy interpreted to be true, and there was no way of knowing there actual views. Society adopted their beliefs from these “educated” men; one of the most shared ideas was that the Jews had killed Jesus. Christians began to accept that the Jewish people were responsible for their actions, that their children and grandchildren guilty for this doing, because they had never repented. Christians lived in an illusion that used religion to fuel hatred, and allow people to believe that justice was put into their own hands. It is true that some Jews lived untroubled lives among Christians in certain regions, but many were deeply involved in the slave trade, forced into baptism and were dealt with cruel punishments. In England, the hate for Jews grew increasingly strong.
This discriminative treatment were created on the basis of religion, however, this hatred came to a boiling point during the Black Death. In 1348, a plague spread throughout Europe, genocide the population. By fall of that year, a rumor spread that the Jews were to blame for this plague. We know now through science that the plague came from Asia, and traveled through the trade routes, but to Europeans, the blame lies with the Jews. It was religion, which caused hatred and animosity that blinded the population into believing that it was the fault of an innocent group of people. A number of Jews were arrested and interrogated under extreme torture. A lot of Jews “confessed” to everything that they were blamed for because the torture was so bad. Hundreds of innocent people have died from these interrogations. Those who were willing to convert into Christianity were spared, proving that religion was the root of this hatred. Religion was used to blind Christians into believing that their religion was superior and therefore any others who followed another religion were inferior. Religion allowed the powerful Christians to negatively affect the Jewish minority, oppressing them because of their religion, and allowing Christianity to hold their throne.
During this era, of lives that was lost in the name of religion for reasons like power and wealth. Religion did not create peace, instead it created politics that benefited the clergy, and displayed the power they held.
As the 12th century came to an end, heresy was increasingly growing Pope innocent III sent people to go deal with this repressiveness. The people the pope sent were usually very educated people. The heretics on the other hand were usually neither illiterate nor educated peasants. It was very easy for the pope to get these peasants to sign a document incriminating them and converting them to Christianity. In 1252, Pope Innocent IV gave special powers to the inquisitors and to torture the suspects as long as they didn’t lose their life.
While the impact of religion has been greatly debated upon, it is clear that it can be used as a tool to oppress those who do not have the power to protect themselves, which it was during the middle Ages. Religion was a blindfold put over people making them believe it was for a better life but it was not. Medieval Christianity used religion to ensure the feudal society, in which their power could not be taken from them. The church then used that power, as well as its control over their followers to suppress the Jews, making sure that this religion would stay that way. Through the use of Inquisition, the church was able to spread fear throughout the land through the use of torture, and confiscation of property allowing them to keep followers submissive to Christianity. Christianity can be seen as a force of good for society when it is used in its purest state to connect humans to a godly deity. When put into the wrong hands, such as those with high power, it can be used as a political tool of oppression and exploitation; it becomes a force of destruction.