Lecture Notes History 361: Witchcraft and Heresy in Europe Lecture 3: “The Evolution of Christianity in Western Europe through the 11 th Century” 1. During the era 850-1100, Christianity as it was practiced in Europe was dominated by monks and monasteries. The world was wicked and filled with pollution. Those concerned with their salvation had to flee the world and then seek to cleanse themselves from its pollutions. Monasteries were understood to be places separate from the world where individuals could go to seek self-purification 2. Monasteries were organized like other feudal estates.
Most monasteries were founded by kings, queens and nobles. In this sense most abbots were like the vassals of great lords. In fact some abbots were warriors and fought for the lords. Most though, dedicated themselves to prayer for the souls of the lord and his dependents.
The relationship between the abbot of a monastery and the peasants attached to monastery lands was the same as the relationship between any landlord and his serfs. 3. Monks were men who lived by a rule or a written out code of conduct. For this reason they were know as “regular” clergy. The rule was understood to be a path toward spiritual perfection. At the heart of most rules was a vow of “stabilitas,” a vow to remain stationary in a given location.
The opposite of monks were hermits, men who roamed around in the “desert,” actually the woods, as a path toward spiritual perfection. In Western Europe almost every monastery followed the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia (6 th century).
... instead of direct rule, used civil service to successfully run the empire. Western Europe was divided up ... had much different economies. Both of Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire also had very different ... differences between the Byzantine Empire and medieval Western Europe. There are also many factors that have ... order for the prince is to fear the Lord his God and to follow God’s words. ...
In his rule St. Benedict set out simple rules emphasizing manual labor for monks to follow. No distinction based upon wealth was made between brothers.
The rule of St. Benedict of Nursia was reformed by St. Benedict of Aniane in the 9 th century. St. Benedict of Aniane made distinctions among brothers, basically pushing most of the manual labor off on poor brothers and servants, giving the full members the task of daily rituals of collective prayer. At the beginning of the eleventh century, Europe was dominated by two confederations of monasteries, those centered around Cluny in France, and those centered around Gorze in the Holy Roman Empire (Germany).
Cluny insisted upon its independence of political authority, though in practice this meant that Cluniac monasteries were friendly to all individuals with power. Gorze and its daughter houses were under the supervision of the Emperor. 4. By the start of the eleventh century, then, monasteries had become elite institutions.
Mostly they were filled with the extra sons of the warrior classes. These men were then expected to pray for the sins of their brethren in armor. Monasteries also served as hotels for the rich. Combined with the activities of monasteries as landlords, by the start of our period, monasteries were associated with the rich and powerful. When the rich and powerful looked to reform the Church, they looked to monks for guidance. Yet few ordinary people looked at monasteries for spiritual guidance.
And many monks themselves questioned whether monasteries were separated from the world or were now a part of it. 5. Monks had no responsibility for taking care of the pastoral needs of the laity, that is, all the ordinary people who made up the Christian faithful. The churchmen in charge of the spiritual needs of the laity were called “secular “clergy, because they lived in the world. The secular clergyman with most of the pastoral responsibility was the parish priest. Over the parish priests were bishops.
Very few eleventh century parish priests knew very much about pasturing. Many were the sons of priests, who inherited their churches from their fathers. Many were married or had concubines. Whether or not their lack of expertise bothered the peasants is a hard question to answer. But it scandalized the monastic elite, who demanded that churchmen maintain purer lives.
... an immediate reflection of corruption in the church – a priest that runs a business! In the ... their pardons rather than go to church and confess to the priest. The pardoner and his partner ... of the church. He is a womanising convivial rascal, a priest without vocation who hated church services and ... , the corrupt constable and the pardoner, the priest, the friar, the chaplain and the sergeant. ...
What perhaps bothered peasants more was the fact that there were not enough parish priests, or any other type of pastor, to go around. This increasingly became the case with the rise of cities. Both in the countryside and in the new cities there was a dearth of pastors. 6. The “Gregorian Reform” takes its name for the efforts of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) to correct what he saw to be the greatest abuses in the church of his time.
Most of these abuses stemmed from both churchmen and laymen not having sufficient respect for the office and status of cleric. Gregory is best known for forcing the Emperor Henry to crawl in the snow begging to be forgiven at Canossa, but he is important for this course for his efforts to require that priests lead purer lives. Gregory was the most forceful of a set of reformers, most of whom had been monks earlier in life, to make secular clergy live up to monastic ideals. Gregory, along with the rest of these reformers began to condemn in public corrupt priests. While Gregory did not support the idea, other reformers insisted that if the sacraments of the Church were performed by an unclean priest, those sacraments had no value. Gregory had some short term success in forcing corrupt priests to get their lives in order.
But the long term impact of his reforms was to heighten public awareness of clerical corruption, without offering any solution to it.