The Church and Its Influence

What did the church look like?

All the churches would vary, depending on where it was, but a Cathedral would be grander than most. It also depended on when in the Middle Ages it was built. The early churches were built in the Roman style with round arched roofs. Common early medieval churches would probably be a simple structure of local dry stacked stone with a thatched roof and packed earth or stone floor.  Light would mostly be natural daylight as church hours would be determined by daylight. The Gothic period was a major peak of elaborate stonework.  The Gothic period made churches and decorated it to wow people by showing off wealth and beauty, the would have tall pointed towers. The Gothic churched were made so large that many collapsed a century of less after it’s construction. Most churches would have a stained glass window. The windows would tell bible stories and the lives of the saints.

How did someone become a priest?

A young man who wanted to become a priest had to first attend a school run by the church to get the correct education. He had to learn Latin which was the language of the church in Medieval times. From the he would work his way through the ranks of the church, starting as a minor cleric, eventually becoming a priest.

What role did the priest play in the Medieval Society?

The Priest had an important role in a Medieval village. Because most people couldn’t read they depended on the priest to tell them what was in the Bible and explain what it meant. The priest would also hold church services, visited the sick and counseled those who were in trouble. The priest sometimes would hold other services, for a small fee of course. He would christen a young child when the were born and married them, at the end of their life the priest would also carry out their burial service. The priest would run the church, but only one church. He would bless people and train other men to become priests. The priest would also keep most of the churches income, as he could not be married.

What did monks do during the Medieval period?

Being a monk was a good way to not be killed during the Middle Ages. Some young nobles became monks to avoid a life of constant battling. Monks would lived in a monastery or abbey. They worked and prayed. Monks did more than one job. Sometimes they would take care of the local people by acting as doctors, or they would provide a place for travellers to stay overnight. Many of them would spend their time copying book or writing religious books as only few at that time knew how to read and write. They also took in male children who have been abandoned or were orphans. In return these children would become monks. Monks were often teachers to noble children, and of course all monks had to get their hair completely shaved off. Some monks would worked the land of the monastery, growing vegetables, herbs, and fruit. Some even had the job of praying for everyone else. Monks would pray everyday, they even got up in the night to pray. Just like priests, monks were not allowed to married either.

What did they Holy Order wear? (priests and those who worked in the church)

Most priests, friars, and nuns would wear cloaks or habits. They always would wear something to cover their head. Nuns would wear a covering for their head because in 1 Corin. 11:5 it says ‘But any woman who prays and prophecies with her head unveiled dishonours her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven, for if a woman will not veil herself then she should cut off her hair. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.’ Cistercians would wear white or colourless, comfortable wool. Benedictines would wear black clothing, which was usually very comfortable, too. Benedictines wore black clothes because this was a way to tell them apart from Cistercians who wore white. Also, St. Benedict said they should wear black clothing. They were usually made of a linen fabric. St. Benedict once said that monks should wear simple and warm clothes, with a linen coif or hood to cover their heads for warmth.

What impact did the church have on the Medieval society?

During the Medieval times the church was the most powerful, able to even dethrone the king. It guided society either one way or another because in the Middle Ages people were very religious. The church would baptize them, bury them when they died and provided instructions and guidance during their life time. It provided teaching to a lot of people not only monks and nobility. The Church ran schools for those who had right families. This  sometimes included merchants and tradesmen. Not only did The Church provide  education, it provided secure transport along colonist routes. In Medieval times for a town to be considered a city it must have a cathedral. However must towns and villages had a church, even if it was a simple one.


The inside of a Medieval church

The inside of a Medieval church


The Church and its influence.

Why was the Medieval churches important?

Medieval churches were crucial to society at that time because for hundreds of years they took care of peoples spiritual and physical needs.

Spiritually only through a priest, a monk, or a nun could you receive forgiveness for sins, or indulgences (which was a document received in exchange for money saying you are forgiven for a sin you have done, e.g. stealing). Local priests in each small community also performed baptisms and the Echuarist each Sunday. Echuarist was a ceremony commemorating the Last Supper, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.

Often the church or in larger cities chapels and even cathedrals were the center of the town around which markets would be held to bring funds into a town or village. Religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter were a chance for people to join together.

Physically the church was supporting orphans and the poor around the area. In medieval Europe, there was no such thing as social welfare in the state. Also the church was often the hospital of the area, many monks and priests had recieved medical trainging.

One of the last reasons why the church was important was because when serfs usually worked in the land, most times when the human lord wasn’t there a church representitive like a bishop would take its place in collecting feudal dues

What were the positive effects for the Church?

Some of the positives effects for the Church included:

  • The Church provided for the spiritual well being of the people, it was something they valued.
  • The Church was a source of education for a lot of people.
  • The Church provided an avenue for the social advancement, as even a serf could become a bishop based on achievement.
  • Feudal society had no other clear avenues for improvement.
  • The church moderated the actions of kings. It often prevented war or sought to make war less brutal.
  • In many areas, the church had its own independent court system to which an accused person could appeal.
  • It was like a hospital to some, monks and priests had medical training.

What were the negative effects for the Church?

There was not really many negative effects for the Church, the only negative effect was that People had to pay a lot of taxes to the Church. The priests were ‘crooked’ Atheists that just wanted money.

They paid 10% of what they earned in a year to the Church ( taxes was called tithes). Tithes could be paid in either money or in goods produced by the peasant farmers. As the peasants had little money, they almost always had to pay in seeds, harvested grain, animals etc. This normally caused a peasant a lot of hardship as seeds would be needed to feed a family the following year. What the Church got in tithes was kept in huge tithe barns; where a lot of the stored grain given by the people, would have been eaten by rats or poisoned by their urine. When a failure to pay tithes, the peasants were told by the Church, that since they did not pay the tithes, their souls going to Hell after they had died.

Why was the Church so wealthy? 

The reason why the Church was so wealthy is because of people payed tithes. People would pay the tithes because they did not want to go to Hell. Another reason the Church was so wealthy was because people also had to pay for baptisms, (if you were not baptized you could not go to Heaven when you died), marriages (couples did not live together for the Church told them it was a sin), and also burials. You had to be buried on a holy land if your soul was going to Heaven. The Church also didn’t have to pay taxes; this made them  even more wealthy, wealthier that the King of England at this time.

What are Heretics?

Heretics were religious groups that did not believe in God. While the groups ranged in beliefs, their commonality was their rejection from the Church. Many of them still thought of themselves as Christians despite the Churches rejection. Some of them thought that the Church changed so much, some even thought that the Church was heretical. So, this way, heretics were inside and outside of the Church. It was quite hard to determine who was a heretic and who was not. Heresy was one of the worst things someone could do back in that time. Lucky people would get beheaded, but most would be burnt alive in town for entertainment and people to see.