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The Power of the Church
Transcript of The Power of the Church
The Power of the Medieval Church
Today we will continue our discussion of the increase in power of the Catholic church from about 800 to 1300CE.
The clergy were literate.
The clergy were often the only members of society who could read and write. Even many kings were illiterate during the Middle Ages!!
The church was the center of daily life.
Every village and town had a church. Church bells would announce the time for work, meals, rest, and for mass (worship service).
The church owned a lot of land.
By 1050 CE, the church was the largest landowner in Europe. It is estimated that it owned about 1/3 of all land in Western Europe.
The church collected tithes.
Members of the church were required to contribute 10% of their yearly income to the church. This was called a "tithe."
There are 4 main topics that we are going to discuss that will help us answer our
How was the Church able to gain so much power in the Middle Ages?
Kings needed the clergy to read and write important documents and keep records. Therefore, the clergy were able to advise kings and participate in politics.
1. How did controlling the written word increase the power of the church?
2. Do you think the clergy would have been good political advisers?
Churches were used as gathering places for social events, farmer's markets, town meetings, or places to shelter during time of war or dangerous weather.
The shared faith gave people a sense of community, but it also kept people with different beliefs out - especially Jewish people, who were treated very harshly during the Middle Ages across Europe.
1. Besides being one the biggest buildings in the village or town, what other advantages made the church the center of daily life?
2. Who do you think paid more attention to the local church - the serfs or the lords?
How did the church get all this land?
Many powerful clergy (bishops, cardinals, popes) were younger sons of rich nobles who inherited some land from their fathers. When they died, they left their property to the church.
2. How do you think the church used all the land it owned?
1. Why would owning so much land increase the power of the church?
Everyone had to pay tithe - kings, the nobility, knights, and serfs.
It did not have to be paid in cash - many times, people would pay in farm goods (i.e., wheat or animals) or in labor (they would work on church lands for a specific number of hours a year).
People also donated valuable things to the church. They would do this for many reasons, but often it was to have special prayers said for them by the monks or nuns, or to receive a special blessing from a particular saint.
1. Why do you think serfs happily paid their tithe to the church, even though they were extremely poor?
2. How do you think the clergy were able to maintain control and get people (including kings) to do what they wanted?