The Importance of the Church in Medieval Europe

Essential Question

Why was the Church important to European Society?

The Importance of the Church in Medieval Europe

The clergy were very influential in medieval European culture and politics. For many people in the European Middle Ages, life revolved around the local church. Religious ceremonies like baptisms and weddings were key events in people’s lives. Some people made pilgrimages or journeys to religious locations. The church owned a lot of land in Europe because many people left their property to the church when they died. In this way, the church became a major feudal lord. Church officials often became political advisors to local rulers.

Some people thought that the church was becoming too involved with politics. The monks of Cluny, France, established a new religious order. They dedicated their lives to religion with common rules. Other new orders followed. Women created their own religious communities in convents. Most monks lived apart from society, but two new religious orders developed for those who wanted to live and teach among people. These were the Dominicans, started by Dominic de Guzmán, and the Franciscans, started by Francis of Assisi. The members of these orders were called friars.

Europe’s first universities were built by the church. Religion, law, medicine, and philosophy were taught. Scholars wanted to establish a connection between religious faith and intellectual reason. The Dominican friar Thomas Aquinas wrote a reasoned argument for the existence of God. He also developed a philosophical system called natural law to show how God had ordered the world.

The great Gothic cathedrals of late medieval Europe are among the most beautiful of all architectural achievements. Their spires and high ceilings and colorful stained glass windows are all designed to bring people closer to God. Everything inside the church, from the walls to the clergy’s robes to the books used, were also works of art.

Christiany and Medieval Society.pdf

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways were clergy members important political figures?

  • Why did people create new religious orders?

  • How did universities help create new ideas?

  • How were medieval art and religion related?

Activity 1: What effects did the church have on European society, politics, education, and art of Medieval Europe

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities