Church, Money And Power In Medieval Times

965 words - 4 pages

With the fall of Rome, the world saw the rise of Christianity, specifically the Roman Catholic Church, which was created when a Roman Emperor named Constantine adopted Christianity as his own personal and the Roman Empire's official religion. From that time through the middle ages, Christianity grew in power and influence, the church enjoying a cozy relationship with the state. By the early fifth century, a mere one hundred years after Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, the church and state's power structure were deeply intertwined.
This had a profound impact on the way society was arranged. Feudalism and the decentralization of power was occurring at this time politically. With the fall of the Roman Empire, various kingdoms were emerging. A king would divide his kingdom between a few nobles who would oversee a section and report directly to him. These nobles would in turn divide up their areas of control, assigning the smaller sub-sections to lesser aristocrats. The result was a patchwork of fiefdoms run by lords who all answered to the king, but had direct control over their various regions. The people they ruled over were called serfs, and their lives were completely devoted to serving the king. These lower class peasants would farm their land and give a portion of their crop to their lord as a tribute. This tribute was payment for the actual, or hypothetical protection that the serfs needed from the various invading armies roaming the countryside. In return for their regular tribute, the king would maintain an army to protect the serfs from invasion or attack.
This system, which had miserable conditions for the serfs, was propped up in part due to the fact that the church supported it. The church bolstered the state by showing how a dictatorial monarchy mirrors the relationship between the Lord thy God and the masses of humanity. They also helped keep the serfs from revolting against a political system that was clearly disadvantageous for them. They told the serfs that their kings and lords were divinely appointed rulers, who were therefore justly reigning and should never be overthrown. The church would fill the serfs minds with horrific images of Christ's suffering to keep them from complaining. They would believe they could bear whatever burden was placed upon them, since it was insignificant next to Christ's suffering. If they did complain the church would remind them of Biblical text stating things such as "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" and "the meek shall inherit the earth".
Another way the church managed to subdue the population during a time of regularly occurring plagues, famines and wars was to conjure up an enemy that would unite the...

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