The Medieval Church

The Medieval Church

The medieval church played a very dominant role in the lives of peasants and nobility alike. There is little evidence to suggest that there were many people who did not believe in God, Heaven and Hell. From a young age, the English would be taught that devoting oneself to the Roman Catholic Church was the only way to Heaven, and that Hell was a place to be avoided at all costs.

As a result of these strong beliefs, the church had complete control over the whole population. Peasants were even expected to work free of charge on the church land despite having a significant amount of work to do on the land they rented from their lord.The Poor Peasant

Peasants would also offer the church 10 per cent of their annual earnings, known as a tithe, which they would deliver in the form of either money or produce such as livestock or seeds. This seriously damaged their ability to be able to produce the maximum amount of crops or meat the following year. However, peasants were frequently warned that failure to pay this sum would lead to their souls going to Hell after death.

Now a museum, this building was once a tithe barn serving Maidstone, Kent
Now a museum, this building was once a tithe barn serving Maidstone, Kent

The Catholic Church had so much control over the population, including even the most poor, that it was became a target for Henry VIII, who wanted access to the funds it receive from across  England.

Baptisms were also paid for as it was believed this sacrament, along with marriage and burial in holy land, was needed to allow entry into Heaven.

In addition to all the funds being paid to the church, the church itself was not required to pay taxes. This saved it a large amount of money and meant it had more wealth than even the royal family. This is reflected in the Church’s buildings, including cathedrals and monasteries, which were built to such a high standard that many remain in excellent condition today.

Most major cities would have contained a cathedral, some of the most well known being Canterbury and York. Canterbury Cathedral became particularly well known following the death of Thomas Becket, after which people would pilgrimage to the holy building.

Cathedrals would have been the largest buildings constructed during medieval times, even including royal palaces. This was to ensure they could be seen from miles around and provide a constant reminder of the power of the church.

Those who working on the construction of a cathedral were considered honoured and would be required to be a member of a guild. Only basic tools were used during construction making work difficult and sometimes dangerous, but the church stated that anyone who died while working on a  cathedral or other holy building would go automatically enter Heaven.

See also: Medieval Church Architecture

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Medieval Church". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.