“The Medieval Church”




􀂃 What is the view of medieval society that is expressed in this document?

􀂃 According to this document, what is the deadliest of sins?


Document #1

Society, like the human body, is made up of different parts. Each member of society serves a purpose, prayer (clergy), defense (knights), merchandise (tradesmen, merchants) or tilling the soil (serfs). Each person should receive the means proper for his or her class. Within classes there must be equality; between classes there must be inequality. Peasants must not follow the orders of those above them. Lords must not take unfair advantage of the peasants. Craftsmen and merchants should receive only what they need to remain in business and no more. To seek more is greed, and greed is a deadly sin.

SOURCE: R.R. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (London: Harcourt Brace and Company, Inc., 1926).






Why does Pope Innocence III believe that the church has more power than kings and other secular rulers?


Document #2

The Creator set up two great lights in the heavens; the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night. In the same way, the Church has set up two great lights on earth; the greater light, being the Pope, to rule over souls; the lesser light, being the king, to rule over bodies. Just as the moon’s light comes from the sun, does the power of the king come from the Pope. The more closely a king is willing to follow the Pope's rule, the greater his light will be.

SOURCE: Excerpt from a letter of Pope Innocent III, 1198.


Document #3




􀂃 Why did the Church need protection here in the 11c?

􀂃 What did they fear could happen if they became part of the feudal system?


Document #4

I, Baldwin, by the grace of God count of Flanders, acknowledge and testify before all my barons that the abbey of Marchiennes was always free from obligations to an advocate. . . . However, because of the present evil state of the world, it needs an advocate for its defense. That I may be the faithful advocate and defender of the church, the abbot gave me two mills and two plough-lands in the town of Nesle. I, however, have given the mills and the land with the consent of the abbot to Hugh Havet of Aubigny, so that he may be a ready defender of the church in all things.

And this is what he receives in the abbey's lordship. He shall have one-third of all fines in cases where the church has asked his assistance and has gained something by his justice. If he is not called in he shall have nothing. In time of war he shall have from each plough-team two shillings, from half a team one, and from each laborer three pennies. He shall not give orders to the men of the abbey, nor hold courts of his own, nor take money from peasants. He is not permitted to buy lands of the abbey, or to give its serfs in fiefs to his knights, nor to extort anything from them by violence. . . . Done at Arras in the year of our Lord 1038.

SOURCE: An excerpt from a church charter, quoted in Polyptyque de l'Abbe Irminion, ed. by B. Guerard (Paris, 1844), Vol. II, pp. 356-57.




􀂃 Why did the religious life have such a great appeal at this time in history?

􀂃 Were there materialistic as well as spiritual reasons for entering a cloister [monastery]?

􀂃 What are Benedict’s reasons for not allowing a monk to change his mind and leave the cloister once vows have been taken?


Document #5

When anyone is newly come for the reformation of his life, let him not be granted an easy entrance, but, as the Apostle says, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” If the newcomer, therefore, perseveres in his knocking, and if it is seen after four or five days that he bears patiently the harsh treatment offered him and the difficulty of admission, and that he persists in his petition, then let entrance be granted him, and let him stay in the guest house for a few days.

After that let him live in the novitiate {for new recruits}, where the novices study, eat, and sleep. A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls, to watch over them with the utmost care. Let him examine whether the novice is truly seeking God, and whether he is zealous for the Work of God, for obedience and for humiliations. Let the novice be told all the hard and rugged ways by which the journey to God is made.

If he promises stability and perseverance, then at the end of two months let this Rule be read through to him, and let him be addressed thus: “Here is the law under which you wish to fight. If you can observe it, enter; if you cannot, you are free to depart.” If he still stands firm, after four months let the same Rule be read to him again.

Then, having deliberated with himself, if he promises to keep it in its entirety and to observe everything that is commanded him, let him be received into the community. But let him understand that, according to the law of the Rule, from that day forward he may not leave the monastery nor withdraw his neck from under the yoke of the Rule which he was free to refuse or to accept during that prolonged deliberation.


What are the instruments of good works?

In the first place to love the Lord God with the whole heart, whole soul, whole strength, then his neighbor as himself. Then not to kill, . . . not to steal, not to [desire], not to bear false witness, to honor all men, and what anyone would not have done to him, let him not do to another. To deny himself that he may follow



Christ, . . . to renounce luxuries, to love fasting. To relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to help in tribulation, to console the afflicted. to utter truth from his heart and his mouth. Not to return evil for evil, not to do injuries, but rather to bear them patiently.... Not to be proud, not given to wine, not [given to eating greedily].

To commit his hope to God; 'when he sees anything good in himself to attribute it to God, and not to himself, but let him always know that which is evil in his own doing, and impute it to himself. To fear the Day of Judgment, to dread Hell, to desire eternal life with all spiritual longing, to have the expectation of death every day before his eyes.... To give willing attention to the sacred readings, to pray frequently every day, to confess his past sins to God, from thenceforward to reform [himself] as to those sins.

SOURCE: St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, trans. by Leonard J. Doyle [Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1948], pp. 79-80.






􀂃 Why can it be said that a monastery and a medieval castle had some things in common? What were they?

􀂃 What other functions did the monastery serve, based on this diagram?


Document #6





















􀂃 How would you describe life in a medieval monastery?

􀂃 How is the summer schedule different from the winter one?


Document #7






















What are the results of being excommunicated from the Catholic Church?


Document #8

In the name of God, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the authority divinely granted to bishops by Peter, chief of the Apostles, we separate them from the bosom of holy Mother Church, and condemn them with the anathema of the eternal curse, that they may have no help of man nor any converse with Christians. Let them be accursed in the city and accursed in the country. Accursed be their barns and accursed their bones; accursed be the . . . seed of their lands, their flocks of sheep, and their herds of cattle. Accursed be they in their entering and in their outgoing. Be they accursed at home and homeless elsewhere. . . . Upon their heads fall all the curses with

which God through His servant Moses threatened the transgressors of the Divine Law. Let them be anathema maranatha [terribly accursed], and let them perish in the second coming of the Lord; and let them moreover endure whatever of evil is provided in the sacred canons and the apostolic decrees for murder and sacrilege. Let the righteous sentence of Divine Condemnation consign them to eternal death. Let no Christian salute them. Let no priest say Mass for them, nor in sickness receive their confession, nor, unless they repent, grant them the sacrosanct communion even on their deathbed. But let them be buried in the grave of an ass, . . . that their shame and malediction may be a warning to present and future generations. And, as these lights which we now cast from our hands are extinguished, so may their light be quenched in eternal darkness.

SOURCE: A decree of excommunication (10c) as quoted in Henry C. Lea, editor, Studies in Church History, Philadelphia: Henry C. Lea, pp. 333-39.





















How were personal freedoms limited by church doctrine and outlook?


Document #9

And in order that this statute of peace should not be violated by anyone rashly or (without punishment), a penalty was fixed by the common consent of all; if a freeman or noble violates it, that is, commits homicide or wounds anyone or is at fault in any manner whatsoever, he shall be expelled from our territory... and his heirs shall take all his property; if he holds a (feudal estate), the lord to whom it belongs shall receive it again. Moreover, if it is learned that his heirs after his expulsion have furnished him any support or aid, and if they are convicted of it, the estate shall be taken from them and given to the King... If a slave (serf) kills a man, he shall be beheaded; if he wounds a man, he shall lose a hand; if he does an injury in any other way with his fist or a club, or by striking with a stone, he shall (have his hair cut off) and (be) flogged. If, however, he is accused and wishes to prove his innocence, he shall clear himself by the ordeal of cold water, but he must himself be put into the water and no one else in his place; if, however, fearing the sentence decreed against him, he flees, he shall be under a perpetual excommunication; and if he is known to be in any place, letters shall be sent thither, in which it shall be announced to all that he is excommunicated, and that it is unlawful for anyone to associate with him. In the case of boys who have not yet completed their twelfth year, the hand ought not to be cut off; but only in the case of those who are twelve years or more of age. Nevertheless, if boys fight, they shall be whipped and deterred from fighting.

Inasmuch as in our own times the Church, through its members, has been (greatly troubled by warfare), we have endeavored by God's help to... establish, on certain days at least, the peace which, because of our sins, we could not make enduring. Accordingly we have enacted and set forth the following....Namely, that.. throughout the year on every Sunday, Friday, and Saturday (and on certain holy days) this decree of peace shall be observed.

SOURCE: An example of a “Truce of God,” 1083 as quoted in Louis Snyder, Ct al., Panorama of the Past, Volume I (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1966), pp. 200-202.









Source: MS. Susan Pojer HGHS