"The Waning Influence Of Christianity In Medieval Europe"

2133 words - 9 pages

Unlike the Roman Empire, which had dominated the continent, Medieval Europe was not a unified Mediterranean world. Germanic tribes invaded many areas and overrun Europe, creating separate kingdoms. The only element uniting these kingdoms was the gradual adoption of Christianity as the dominant religion. However, none of these early Germanic kingdoms enjoyed any longevity, as Viking invasions and the emergence of other empires would ensue. The emergence of Islam in 600 A.D. as an opposing faith to Christianity also threatened the unity of Europe under one religion. Eventually, as a result of a reduction in Viking invasions, Europe underwent a great expansion from 900-1200 A.D. This growth in population led to the creation of three dominant empires: England, Germany and France. Each was established from the initial invasions of certain tribes, like the Normans in England, or the democratic succession of powerful monarchs, such as Hugh Capet in France. The rulers of many European nations often came into conflict with the still influential Pope in Rome, hindering the progress of many countries, such as Germany. As the centuries passed, Medieval Europe was still a period which was dominated by the ideals of the Christian Church; however, this influence was often threatened by the emergence of powerful monarchs, opposing religions and charismatic preachers who were demanding reform within the clergy.In addition to the authority of the Church, social hierarchies still played a major role in the lives of many medieval people. Nevertheless, there is evidence of change within the prevalent social limitations of Medieval Europe, exemplified through the literature from this period. The story of "Perceval" shows the social divisions that were still evident in medieval life, although much of the focus was shifting from knights and nobility, to the urban class that had begun to develop. For most of Europe's early history, life was dictated by the strict social structure of Feudalism/Manorialism, whereby kings awarded their lords fiefs of land in exchange for their loyalty, and the lords then allowed peasants to live and work this land in exchange for their loyalty. While discriminating and exploiting those below one, this system relied heavily on trust. Gradually, however, as a strong merchant class began to develop in growing urban areas, due to new trade endeavours and technological advances, attitudes towards social status began to change. The once almighty aristocracy became outnumbered by the more wealthy and powerful merchants. The emergence of this new group also provided opportunities for class mobility. The medieval story of "Perceval" by Chrétien de Troyes shows this ascension through social ranks. Although Perceval was the son and brother of knights, he was ignorant of many social norms and manners. Perceval's mother feared losing her only remaining son in battle and thus, kept him isolated in the woods, unable to learn social graces or the...

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