The Catholic Church and the Western Civilization

Without the Catholic Church we wouldn’t be sitting in this room today. Exact dates of the first known universities like Oxford or Cambridge are unknown, but it is said around the second half of the twelfth to early thirteenth century the university system was first created. The university system created then is still used in current schools settings including course studies, exams, degrees, undergraduate and graduate programs.

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These universities first began as cathedral schools with informal gathering between masters (or professors) and students. The papacy was a main role in the encouragement and the foundation of the university system. According to catholiceducation.org “some 81 universities had been established by the time of the Reformation. Of these 33 possessed a papal chapter, 15 a royal or imperial one, 20 possessed both, and 13 had none.” This shows that over three centuries later the Catholic Church still dominated in the upbringing of universities. It was the pope himself who gave authority to schools allowing who did and didn’t give out degrees. The first university systems allowed more people primarily men to focus educational studies in the ministries and political studies. Some of our greatest scholars like Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton probably wouldn’t have achieved the great things they did without the invention of the university system.

The Catholic Church’s influence on Western civilization can also be seen through the art and architecture. The materials given by the catholic church such as murals, paintings, steeples, and stained glass have imprinted on the whole Western ideology of art and architecture. Theologians used Catholic ideas in the defense of art that represents holy things like Christ, the saints, and famous religious scenes. Famous paintings such as “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci communicate religious meanings to the catholic churches and hold to be sacred symbols for the people. In terms of the Catholic architecture, churches stand tall and have a recognizable architecture to them, specifically medieval cathedrals. Distinguishing features include the pointed arch, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. Many people believed they were designed this way because it was God’s intentions. Wisdom 11:21, an Old Testament verse describes God as having “ordered all things by measure, number, weight.” At the time catholic thinkers were linking geometry and math to God, thus, leading to the precision details in these churches. Robert Scott, a scholar, believed that geometry was a means for the relationship between human beings and God, and mathematics were a vehicle for revealing to humankind the innermost secrets of heaven. With all these precise architectural designs, it is easy to recognize these holy buildings making them points of interests within in cities. Catholic churches represented religion, arts, architecture, creativity, and so much more during western civilization. The art and architecture was a way to connect the outside world and the spiritual and religious world.

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