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Life and Death & the Church in the Middle Ages. Curriculum Outcomes. 5.8 -Identify the ideals which were espoused during the Middle Ages. 5.9 -Distinguish the types of conflict which characterized the medieval period. “Last Judgment” -- 1430. The Unifying Power of the Church.

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Life and Death & the Church in the Middle Ages

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curriculum outcomes
Curriculum Outcomes
  • 5.8 -Identify the ideals which were espoused during the Middle Ages.
  • 5.9 -Distinguish the types of conflict which characterized the medieval period
the unifying power of the church
The Unifying Power of the Church

Amidst political, economic and social chaos, the one institution that did serve to bring some unification to the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual territories of Europe was the Roman Catholic Church.

church hierarchy
Church Hierarchy




pope gregory i r 590 604
Pope Gregory I (r.590-604)

-Sent missionaries to many areas of Northern Europe, most notably the Anglo-Saxons of England

-Increased the power of the papacy, not just in the Church but for all rulers

day to day life for peasants
Day-to-Day Life for Peasants

-Birth, baptism, holidays, death – all revolve around the Church

-Mass said in Latin – peasants have no idea what is being said

-Tithes: pay 10% of what you earn to the Church (money, food or goods)

-Were expected to do some work on church land, for which they were not paid

the wealth of the church
The Wealth of the Church

-Tithes and free labour from peasants increased the wealth of the Church as the Middle Ages continued

-The Church was wealthier than any king in Europe (evidence: huge cathedrals, monasteries, and churches)

gothic cathedrals
Gothic Cathedrals
  • From the Goths, Germanic tribe
  • Thrust upward / reaching for God
  • Large stained glass windows, sculptures, wood-carvings
  • Meant to inspire the worshiper
  • Nearly 500 built between 1170 - 1270
monasteries and convents
Monasteries and Convents

-Begin to be established in the 5th c.

-Removing oneself from daily life & devoting oneself to God

-Monks and nuns

-Centres of learning; preservation of Classical texts

-the Rule of St Benedict (c.530)

-Primary source: Bede (c.673-735), The Ecclesiastical History of the English People

ever present death
Ever-present Death

1000 Ways to Die

  • Famine: scarce or rotten crops
  • War: continuous struggles for power
  • Plague: no showers, inoculations, or Lysol
  • Medicine/Doctors virtually non-existent
  • High rate of infant/child death
  • Average life expectancy: 30 years
the danse macabre
The Danse Macabre
  • A late-medieval metaphor
  • Demonstrates how death unites all classes
  • Acknowledges Death as a companion to life
  • Encourages living life to the fullest
the apocalypse
The Apocalypse
  • The constant death and hard life led many to believe the Apocalypse was coming.
  • Described in the Book of Revelations
  • The Four Horsemen: Conquest (or Pestilence), War, Famine, and Death
the importance of religion
The Importance of Religion
  • Life is short and brutal
  • People had to believe there was a better life coming
  • Religion promised Heaven to those who showed faith and penitence and lived without sin
  • The prevailing notion that the world was created for our benefit was comforting
different world view
Different World View
  • No notions of science: gravity, atoms and compounds, cause and effect, etc.
  • We currently see the world as functioning within a set of scientific rules
  • People in the Middle Ages believed natural laws were put in place by God, and could therefore be bent to His will
  • Humanity was the pinnacle of His creation, and He cared deeply for us
ritual and superstition
Ritual and Superstition
  • People sought to invoke the Lord’s favour by performing rituals and following superstitions
  • Lengthy rituals involving prayers, oils, holy water, blessings etc. were performed to ensure the success of crops
  • Superstitious acts of humility and worship toward “Patron Saints” would summon their aid
patron saints
Patron Saints
  • Saints in Heaven will “intercede” on behalf of God to help people
  • Individual Saints are “patrons” of certain illnesses, ailments, countries, cities, people, activities, crafts, classes, etc.
  • People would pray to whichever Saint corresponded to their problems
patron saints1
Patron Saints
  • Luke the Evangelist – patron of doctors, surgeons, artists, painters, Notaries
  • John the Baptist – patron of Saint John, NB, Canada
  • Augustine of Hippo – patron of sore eyes
  • Anthony of Padua – patron of missing people and lost things (pictured here)
holy sacraments
Holy Sacraments

Defence against the Dark Arts

  • Practices used to avoid the wrath of God and the corruptions of Satan
  • Baptism – at birth
  • Confirmation – age 12 (ish)
  • Confession and Penance - forgiveness
  • The Eucharist – body of Christ
  • Marriage – the baby machine
  • Last Rights – cleanse soul to enter Heaven
  • Holy orders – bestow spiritual power to conduct the other six sacraments (Priest only)