The Period From The Eighth To The Fourteenth Century Was One Of Vast R Essay

eforms,some for the better and some for the worse. During this period in Europe, commonly
known as The Middle Ages, economic reforms took place as well as social, political, and
religious changes. One common theme throughout The Middle Ages consisted of the
relationship between the Church and the State. The Catholic church during this era held a
prominent role in society, and it had an abundant amount of power and authority during
this time. The Catholic Church exercised its authority in many different stages, in which a
response from the people occurred because of the way the Church showed its power.

The nature of the Catholic Church began its reform around the time Charlemagne,
from 768 to 814, took control. He became a Christian emperor and the first great political
leader in Western Europe. His main goal was to promote the Roman Catholic religion
throughout all of the world known to man, and to do this Charlemagne coordinated with
the pope, which in turn the pope crowned him the holy Roman Emperor. Charlemagne
strived to reestablish central authority and revive the culture of the Early Middle Ages,
and he succeeded by gaining authority over a large area, including almost all of Western
and Central Europe (Charlemagne p.130-131). Charlemagne also made many reforms,
mostly Church and educational ones. He first reformed the monasteries by making them
Benedictine; he also made sure that the churches were abiding by the rules and not doing
anything wrong. Charlemagne designed a system in which four archbishops were set up in
four different regions with their headquarters in cities in that particular region. The
archbishops appoint bishops authority in their territories. As the Catholic Church’s
authority increases during this time, it also comes with consequences. This system of
archbishops and bishops are great for the Church, but Charlemagne uses them as royal
agents, which is part of royal policy. Furthermore, Charlemagne makes reforms in
education in order to further improve the Church; he sets up a system which strengthens
the priesthood by setting up bishop schools. These reforms indicate “a lack of division
between religious and secular affairs” (Charlemagne p.131). Who really has authority, is it
the pope or the king? King Charlemagne did make all of the reforms, but the pope also
crowned him holy Roman Emperor. This will create problems in the near future between
the Church and the State.

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The nature of the Catholic Church’s authority again changed during the High
Middle Ages in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Basically, the papacy became more
confident by claiming greater powers and actually challenging the monarchs themselves for
total authority (Sherman p.166). Pope Gregory VII is a great example of the increased
confidence and authority during these times. The papacy under this pope asserted its
powers under the proposition derived from Pope Gregory VII. It indicates many of the
powers that the Church claims to hold. Some of them include: “The pope is the only
person whose feet are kissed by all princes. He may depose emperors. He may be
judged by no one ” (Pope Gregory VII p.168). The pope is obviously claiming higher
authority over the State, especially over the emperor. The Church also had the power to
excommunicate members of the Catholic Church, which holds a sever punishment
especially during the Middle Ages. Because an excommunicated person was forbidden
from all social intercourse, this punishment would thus be terrible politically, socially, as
well as economically (Noble p.204). In the thirteenth century, Pope Innocent III
continued to claim powers for the Church and even had some of his claims hold up. He
claimed that the royal power derived the brilliance of dignity from the pontifical authority,
which includes the pope (Pope Innocent III p.197). Central governments in the European
nations began to evolve and try to change the ways of the papacy, which, in turn, brought
up problems for the Church (Noble p.205). This is especially true with the case of Pope
Boniface VIII. He issued a letter which forbade the taxation of the clergy without explicit
papal permission, and King Philip IV responded by campaigning against the pope. This,
in turn, rallied support for the monarchy in France (Noble p.222). This attack on Pope
Boniface VIII unveils the extreme splits in the Christian community; it seemed apparent
after these events that European governments had no intention of recognizing absolute
papal authority (Noble p. 226).

The nature of the Catholic Church was basically transformed during the Late
Middle Ages in the fourteenth century, due mainly to the aftermath of the Great Schism, a
split between rival popes in Rome and Avignon. Because of the problems between the
Church and the State and the challenges that kings laid on the Church, popes had to deal
much more carefully with the governments of Europe. During the Late Middle Ages, the
kings of France and England along with the rulers in Germany, Italy, and the papacy all
overcame the political and cultural crises that arose during the schism.

The nature of the Catholic Church’s authority during the Middle Ages is apparent,
but how does the Church use the power they hold and beset to discharge its religious
mission? During the Early Middle Ages, Charlemagne mostly spread Christianity through
conquering new lands and basically forcing the new peoples to abide by the rules of the
Catholic Church. He was often on the move with his troops and missionaries going to
new lands preaching Christianity. Charlemagne became involved in numerous wars with
the Saxons. Soon, the Saxons were forced to accept the terms of Charlemagne; they had
to leave their pagan religion, accept Christianity, and be united with the Franks (Einhard

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries in the High Middle Ages, the Church
discharged its religious mission through the crusades, initiated by the Church in order to
spread Christianity at the cost of the Islamic religion (Sherman p.183). The first crusades
were very successful because the Christian forces reestablished control of Spain and
established control in the Holy Land for most of the twelfth century (Sherman p.183).

Pope Urban II justified his call for a crusade in a plea that he stated. He justified his call
for a crusade because the Persians, a race of people which he states are alienated from
God, have destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of their own
religion (Pope Urban II p.185). Basically, he seeks change in the areas where the Persians
live, and he demands a change; therefore, he called for a crusade. Furthermore, Pope
Eugenius III’s inducements for crusades further exemplified the power of the papacy
during the twelfth century. He states that the Church can grant full remission of sins, and
the men’s wives, children, and other possessions are under protection of the Holy Church
(Pope Eugenius III p.187).

In the fourteenth century of the Late Middle Ages, the church’s authority was
being questioned by powerful European monarchs, so the Church had to fight for the right
discharge its religious mission; the powers it used to hold were being questioned, so the
Church was more worried about keeping those rights than anything else. Furthermore, the
Conciliar Movement was brought up in discussion and placed ultimate power to a Church
council, which would diminish the powers of the pope. This movement was extremely
popular and also revealed the problems facing the Church; no spread of Christianity was
taking place. The Decree Sacrosancta declares that the Church council had powers over
anyone in the areas of things that pertain to the Church of God (Sherman p.218). The
Decree Frequens states that a council will always be in session (Sherman p.219). These
two decrees would definitely limit the powers of the pope, but this never happened due to
the election of a single pope, Martin V. Moreover, heresy was a major problem facing the
Church. Groups like the Waldensians posed a major threat to the Church. They were
excommunicated because they did not abide by the Church, they preach that they are in no
way under the power of the pope, and they claim that they hold the power of hearing
confessions without even being a member of the Church (Gui p.219-220). Heresy posed a
huge threat to the Church; they were more worried about losing authority during these
times instead of promoting Christianity.

Christianity throughout the Middle Ages, from the eighth century until the
fourteenth, has been impacted several times by the monarchies of Europe and by the
papacy. Considering everything the Catholic Church has gone through , was it successful
in the religious mission it set out for. The answer to this question is very opinionated to
historians, but I believe the answer is no. Notably during the High Middle Ages in which
the crusades occurred, many popes set out into various lands including Byzantium and
Islam in order to spread Christianity and stop the popularity of the Islamic religion. Many
historians believe that the Crusades contributed to the economic and intellectual
development of Europe by reopening Mediterranean east-west trade, but these people are
wrong (Cantor p.192). All the Crusades did was stir up religious prejudice and the
intolerance of Muslims (Cantor p.193). Although the Christian world learned a great deal
from the Muslims, the Crusades were not a part of this occurrence. In addition, the fact
that heresy occurred from such groups as the Hussites and the Waldensians further proves
that the papacy had problems with people actually turning away from the Catholic Church.

How could the Church be successful in its religious mission if groups of people are
breaking away from it?


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