The Middle Ages (1154-1485) was an era in European history when the western part of the Roman Empire began to break into smaller and weaker kingdoms (http://encarta. msn. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
It was also a “period of massive social change, burgeoning nationalism, international conflict, terrible natural disaster, climate change, rebellion, resistance and renaissance” (James, 2006, n. pag. ).
Two of the most important events in the Middle Ages were the Black Death and the Crisis of the Papacy. The Black Death The Black Death (1347-1350) was considered as “one of the worst natural disasters in history” (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
It was an outbreak of the bubonic plague, a bacterial disease caused by the oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Fleas acquire the bacteria (Yersinia pestis) by feeding on the blood of infected rats. The fleas then transmit the ailment to humans by biting the latter’s skin. Historians believed that the plague came from Asia and was carried to the West by Mongol armies and traders (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Massive migration, in an attempt to escape the plague, carried the malady to Italy, France, England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Finland and Denmark (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
By 1352, the Black Death already killed 25 million people in Europe (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
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Significance of the Black Death The Black Death was a very important event in European history because it toppled feudalism, the dominant social structure in Europe at that time (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
With large numbers of peasants dead from the plague, survivors gained higher bargaining power (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Peasants whose families spent generations working for the same lord took advantage of the labor shortage and moved to nobles who offered better wages and or working conditions. Large estates and manors soon gave way to small towns and cities (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
In the cities, there was an emergence of “portable wealth in the form of money, skills and services” (http://www. insecta-inspecta. com, n. d.
, n. pag. ).
There were countless advertisements for specialists and craftsmen, offering high wages (http://history. boisestate. edu, n. d. , n. pag. ).
High mortality rates resulted in an oversupply of goods and a sharp fall in prices (http://history. boisestate. edu, n. d. , n. pag. ).
The Black Death also led to the rise of modern medicine (http://www. globalterrorism101. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Medical practicioners no longer relied on biblical cures, local lore and regional preferences for curing maladies (as they previously did) (http://www. globalterrorism101. com, n. d. , n.
Instead, they conducted autopsies on corpses to identify the cause of the plague (http://www. globalterrorism101. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Local health boards were founded to enforce sanitation in towns, while hospitals were built to accommodate all of the sick (http://www. globalterrorism101. com, n. d. , n. pag. ).
The Crisis of the Papacy The Great Schism (1378-1417) was the most famous crisis within the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. After the death of Pope Gregory XI, a Roman mob coerced the cardinals to appoint an Italian pope (http://www. vlib.
us, n. d. , n. pag. ).
The cardinals elected Pope Urban VI, thinking that they can easily manipulate him into serving their interests (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ).
The cardinals were mistaken – he insisted that both pope and papal administration should continue to be based in Rome and that the college of cardinals should have greater Italian representation (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ).
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While the Italian cardinals sided with Urban VI, the French cardinals claimed that his election was fraudulent because the cardinals were forced to vote for him (http://www.
vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ).
The French cardinals then appointed Pope Clement VII and established their own papacy in Avignon. The Great Schism proved to be very detrimental for the Roman Catholic Church because “the clergy had worked long and hard to establish the principles that the Church was independent of the State and immune from secular sanctions for its actions, and that the pope, once selected as bishop of Rome by the College of Cardinals, held absolute and supreme power within the Church” (http://www. vlib. us, n. d. , n. pag. ).
What the French cardinals did violated these rules. Furthermore, having two papal capitals to maintain proved to be too costly and tedious. The Council of Constance of 1414 ended the Great Schism. Significance of the Crisis of the Papacy The Great Schism was very relevant in the history of Europe, as it showed that the Roman Catholic Church was not as credible as it claimed it was (http://www. thenagain. info, n. d. , n. pag. ).
With the Great Schism, theocracy (the philosphy that God was the center of human existence) can no longer be as imposing as it once was on the people.
The two papacies that was produced by the Great Schism were both upopular with the people (http://www. thenagain. info, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Furthermore, the idea of the Roman Catholic Church having two popes created confusion among its followers, as stated by the paragraph below: Now Western Europe was politically divided over which pope to support. Of course France supported the Avignon pope. Along with France were Sicily, Scotland, Castile, Aragon, and Portugal. On the other side, Rome supported the Roman pope, as did Flanders, Poland, Hungary and Germany.
Many citizens were confused over this split, but those who were not decided to take advantage of it. The two popes were constant rivals. It was common to hear each calling the other the anti-pope and also trying to get him out of a position of leadership. Their main motive for these actions was to gain allies for themselves. There were very few people who actually took the claims of these so-called spiritual leaders seriously because of the fact that they were competing constantly with one another just like anyone dealing with worldly politics.
... and had different approaches to religious doctrines. Although the Great Schism was still centuries away, its outlines were already perceptible. ... Churches. The primary causes of the Schism were disputes over papal authority-the Pope claimed he held authority over the ... the Roman-backed Patriarch of Constantinople, John Chrysostom. The Pope soon broke off communion with all the eastern patriarchates, ...
The effects of this split on the general population can be summarized as follows, “The papal office suffered the most; the pope’s authority diminished as pious Christians became bewildered and disgusted” (http://www. thenagain. info, n. d. , n. pag. ).
Conclusion Despite their adverse impacts, both the Black Death and the Crisis of the Papacy prompted ordinary citizens to question the norms that the status quo imposed on them. In doing so, they realized that reason, hard work and initiative alone can both bring personal advancement and solve society’s ills.
Indeed, the two aformentioned events prepared the western world for the advent of the Renaissance. References James, T. (2006, September 26).
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