Let us Pray
Christianity is probably the most long-established and widely observed religion in medieval Europe. It was first brought over here during the days of the Roman empire and the next few centuries saw it established throughout the country. In medieval times, the only church in Europe was the Catholic church with the Pope at its head. Under him were cardinals, archbishops, bishops, then local priests, monks and nuns.
The church was very important in people’s lives. They were told that Heaven and Hell both existed and that they would only go to Heaven if the church allowed them. They would have been terrified of Hell and told, with much force, of the horrors awaiting them there. Peasants would have to work for nothing on church land, often to the detriment of their own land.
There was, however, widespread corruption. Clerics at all levels ignored their vows of celibacy, high positions within the church could be purchased, money was demanded for pardoning of sin or to marry a forbidden close relative and money demanded to fund crusades was spent elsewhere. Reforms and crack-downs did take place periodically and there were certainly pious clergy but others used the church for their own benefit. It was, despite all this, a powerful force with its own laws, lands and taxes with much influence. Additionally, the church didn’t have to pay taxes which helped the accumulation of wealth.
During the medieval period that Stronghold covers, things did change of course, sometimes in a minor way but eventually there was a complete change in both England and Europe. In England, Henry VIII broke with the church in Rome after the Pope’s refusal to annul his first marriage and the Church of England was born. In Europe, Martin Luther’s frustrations with the corruption of the Church and his conviction that the Church had moved away from the original gospel teachings, was the beginning of the Reformation. However, our look at medieval religion concentrates on the earlier period.
Researched, written & pictured by GillB