Feudalism in Europe. Invasions of Western Europe. The period from 500 to 1500 CE in western Europe is known as the “middle ages.” In the 5 th century, Germanic invaders overran the western half of the Roman Empire.
The adoption of Roman Christianity, finalized by the conversion of the Frankish king, Clovis, ensured western Europe would inherit crucial cultural elements from Rome, including language and institution. The Franks and the Roman church found benefits to both church and state through their relationship. For the Franks, close connections to the church provided an educated workforce for their bureaucracy and legitimacy for their growing empire. For the Church, the Franks, especially Charlemagne, helped to convert reluctant pagans, especially the Lombards and Saxons, to Roman Christianity.
Strong papal leadership also contributed to the growth and power of Roman Christianity. The Great Schism of East and West in 1054 permanently forged separate identities for the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Pope Gregory I ensured the survival of the Roman Catholic church and the city Rome by: (1) consistently asserting papal primacy—the idea that the Bishop of Rome was also the ultimate authority in the Christian church, (2) emphasizing the sacraments, especially penance and thus the need for an educated clergy, (3) promoting an active missionary movement especially in England, France, and Germany, and (4) promoting monasticism as a way to serve God and church.