Religion in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages, also referred to as the “Dark Ages” due to the lack of scientific and cultural advancements, relied heavily on religion. The Middle ages occurred in Europe between 500 A.D. and 1500 A.D., lasting about one thousand years. Society depended solely on religion, specifically Christianity in the form of Roman Catholicism, for architecture, government regulations, medical studies, and naturally, spiritual guidance. (Citation Needed).

The higher classes such as the kings and lords made it their goal to spread Christianity among the people as much as they possibly could.

Numerous churches were built as a result, especially with more than just sufficient space. The greater the space, the greater the attendance performance of people at meetings. To provide enough room early Christians opted for a specific architectural design known as basilica, this design consisted of a nave, altars, and transepts. As time passed the cathedrals became influenced by Justinian significantly used by the Byzantine architectural style and created huge domes.

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They also made use of the Greek cross. Some famous constructs that greatly showcase and represent architecture of the middle ages are the Constantinople (which is now known as Istanbul), the palace of Aachen set in Western Europe, and the church, St. Mark.

During this period feudalism was the dominant political system. The feudal system placed basically put poor people (peasants) with little opportunity to improve their life conditions while as the pyramid went up with knights, nobles, lords, kings and popes they had a more favorable or even luxurious lifestyle.

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The church leaders such as bishops and archbishops sat on the kings council and played leading roles in the government. Bishops were often wealthy and came from noble families, they ruled over groups of parishes called “diocese” . Parish priests on the other hand came from humble backgrounds and had less education. The village priest tended to the sick and sometimes even taught the bible to the youth of the village (The only education people got during this period was whatever was passed down from the elders/parents). The catholic church had its own laws, lands, and even imposed taxes. The church accepted gifts of all kinds from individuals which was basically a bribe to what they thought would get them a spot a heaven.

Anytime something fortunate occurred to people it was a considered gift or reward from God himself, and anytime anything unfortunate happened to an individual or their family in this time in age the people blamed it on God punishing them for their sins. For example, if someone caught a sickness or even died they thought they were being punished. An even better example is when the black plague broke out widespread among all the people. The Black plague was a disease that there was absolutely no cure for, it was communicable and killed nearly one-third of Europe’s population. During the time of the disease many people turned to priests and even attempted to bury themselves alive in holy ground because they thought it would heal them, whenever they remained ill they despaired and claimed that God did not exist or that he was asleep or was dead.

As stated in the earlier, there was a huge attempt to spread christianity all over. Since Christianity was the dominant religion there was many campaigns against other religions. These campaigns were led by bishops, scholars, and warriors. They went after Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and Gypsies. Jews suffered the most as they were considered to be the biggest threat to Christianity. Some poor people still believed in pagan superstitions. If they were caught, they were crucified as witches or sorcerers. Anyone in the society who was opposed to the Catholic church would result in excommunication, this meant that they could not attend any church services, receive the sacraments, and would go straight to hell whenever they died.

It wasn’t unusual for people to go to church everyday and pray five times a day. Pilgrimages were an important part of religious life as well, many people embarked on journeys to visit holy shrines such as the church of St. James at Santiago De Compostela in Spain, sites in Rome, and the Canterbury cathedral in England, there’s even a piece called Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which is a series of stories told by thirty pilgrims as they traveled to Canterbury for a religious “rebirth” to reduce their time in purgatory.

So it is quite clear that religion dominated during the Middle Ages. This resulted in no proper knowledge or growth for this era, it held the people back a lot. It caused people to be very paranoid and fear more than they should’ve. No matter what level you were on the feudal system, no matter who you were it was expected to be a participant in the catholic church. If anything out of all the negative things and chaos it caused, at least it brought together all beings in the community despite their differences!

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Religion in the Middle Ages. (2022, Jun 06). Retrieved from

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