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The impact of Christianity on Medieval Europe can be traced to 325 ADwhen Emperor Constantine hosted a council meeting of some clergy(Davis). The decisions made at the infamous meeting were adopted aslaws. For example, bishops were granted governmental powers whileChristianity was honored as the only acceptable religion (Davis). Ananalysis of historical information reveals that Christianity hadadverse effects on Medieval Europe through the use of fear tactics toensure complete devotion and loyalty.
Christianity influenced the culture of Medieval Europe through theactions of the Roman Catholic Church. Notably, the latter institutionhad the sole control over the relationship between God and individualEuropeans (Lynch and Adamo). Furthermore, the Catholic Churchexercised a monopoly on spiritual insight. In fact, the majority ofpeople could neither read nor write. Hence, it was impossible forEuropeans to acquire and assimilate religious knowledge. In thisregard, Christianity was taught through the use of weekly servicesand passion plays. The Catholic Church taught that man was inherentlysinful and could only be redeemed through the efforts of thereligion. The organization also determined the people that would berewarded or punished in heaven and hell, respectively. Many Europeanswere terrified of the prospect of suffering everlasting torment in afiery location if they failed to repent. Tales of horror were used tosubvert the willpower of many people. Therefore, Christianityexercised power and control over many people in Medieval Europe.
The Catholic Church expanded its sphere of influence throughpolitical alliances. In many instances, weak monarchs sought papalapproval to reduce the conflicts that arose over succession (Lynchand Adamo). Consequently, Christianity acquired the mandate toexercise political power over both nobles and peasants. Inparticular, the Catholic Church regulated the extent of scientificdiscovery. In this regard, dissenting opinions and facts were notallowed to foster. The entire human society was controlled innumerous ways. For example, most Europeans adhered strictly toCatholic belief and traditions (Lynch and Adamo). People also hadlimited understanding of scientific concepts. Others were scared ofchallenging the falsehoods that were taught about life. Sadly, anyperson that criticized the church was accused of heresy. Condemnedheretics were usually burnt alive at the stake to serve as a warningexample to the townspeople. The Pope was granted the power todetermine the type of leaders who would ascend to kingly power (Lynchand Adamo). Other rulers required the approval of Christianity tobuild up their support and win public opinion. Hence, the CatholicChurch gained unprecedented control over political affairs inMedieval Europe.
Christianity also had an economic impact on the living standards ofpeople. Notably, the Catholic Church possessed plenty of land, whichwas a primary source of wealth in Medieval Europe. The Christianityacquired such property due to the generous nature of many adherents(Lynch and Adamo). In fact, some people imagined that they couldguarantee their eternal salvation if they offered their land to theCatholic Church. Granted, Christianity led to the establishment ofmany hospitals and schools (Woods Jr). Some churches served asmakeshift healthcare facilities where the sick received personalcare. Travelers throughout Medieval Europe also sought shelter inreligious buildings during periods of inclement weather (Woods Jr).Furthermore, cathedrals and monasteries were used as learning centersfor the advancement of Catholic beliefs.
Peasants in Medieval Europe were forced to work without pay on landowned by religious organizations. Rather than engage in productiveactivities, such individuals chose to spend time on Church-ownedproperty (Lynch and Adamo). Therefore, the cycle of poverty waspropagated since many poor people could not obtain food for theirfamilies. Moreover, peasants were required to pay 10% of their annualearnings in the form of tithes (Lynch and Adamo). The individualsthat could not afford money still had to remit their dues usingcommodities. Some of the most common items included harvested grains,seeds, and animals. Most of the farm produce was needed to providefood for peasant families throughout the entire year (Lynch andAdamo). On the other hand, the Catholic Church stored the dues intithe barns where rodents would infiltrate and destroy the farmproduce. Peasants who failed to pay tithes were threatened with theprospect of everlasting torture in a fiery hell (Lynch and Adamo).Consequently, Christianity influenced large sections of MedievalEurope by using sensationalized stories to claim the loyalty of poorpeople.
The Catholic Church also increased its wealth through an elaboratesystem of collections. For example, members of the faith had to payfor baptisms. Dedication to God was viewed as a prerequisite for anyperson desiring to live in heaven (Lynch and Adamo). Individuals whodied in an unbaptized state were doomed to hell. Couples also had topay for clergy to perform marriages in churches. People who livedtogether before legalizing their union were considered as God’senemies. Families with dead relatives also had to pay expensiveburial rites. The Catholic Church used the rewards of heavenly lifeto acquire absolute obedience (Lynch and Adamo). Hence, manyEuropeans were convinced that they had to be buried on holy ground tosecure their eternal blessings. Notwithstanding, the Church wasexempted from paying taxes (Lynch and Adamo). In this manner,Christianity spread across Medieval Europe as a means of earningtax-free living.
Additionally, the Catholic Church influenced the construction designsof many buildings. Peasants lived in filthy, cruck houses thatcollapsed during inclement weather such as hailstorms. Contrariwise,cathedrals and monasteries were built using expensive, robustmaterial (Woods Jr). In fact, many of the Medieval churches can beseen in York and Canterbury. Such buildings were customarily biggerthan existing royal palaces. The churches were constructed in amanner such that people could spot them from miles around (Woods Jr).Other buildings adopted similar structures to ensure longevity.Therefore, Christianity had an indelible influence on theconstruction industry within Medieval Europe.
Christianity also influenced aspects of Medieval Europe through theactions of its clergy. Notably, priests and other high-rankingindividuals provided guidance on morality and personal values. Peoplewere also required to receive regular sacraments as a demonstrationof their devotion. Monks and nuns were tasked with providing reliefto the sick and poor (Woods Jr). Children in Medieval Europerecognized the female parishioners as instructors. Missionariesconverted many of the pagan German tribes into Christianity (WoodsJr). Besides, the Catholic Church was also instrumental in thecivilization of barbaric individuals.
Indeed, Christianity had a negative influence on Medieval Europethrough oppression and the propagation of fear. The Catholic Churchthreatened its opposers with the prospect of eternal torment in afiery hell. On the other hand, obedient adherents were promisedeverlasting life in heaven. The Church also exploited the illiteracyof most Europeans to ensure total subjection. In this regard,heretics were burned alive at the stake. Peasants were forced to workwithout pay while still remitting annual tithes. Gullible adherentsalso surrendered their property to the Church despite the fact thatthe latter institution was exempt from tax. Numerous levies werecharged on burials, baptisms, and marriages. Furthermore, the Churchwielded political power by selecting monarchs. Subsequently, publicpolicy was based on Christian values. Admittedly, the Catholic Churchled to the establishment of schools and hospitals. New constructiondesigns also emerged. Nevertheless, Christianity caused widespreadmisery throughout Medieval Europe.
Davis, Ralph Henry Carless. A history of medieval Europe: fromConstantine to Saint Louis. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Lynch, Joseph H., and Phillip C. Adamo. The medieval church: Abrief history. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Woods Jr, Thomas. How the Catholic Church built westerncivilization. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2012. Print.