Directions: Read the text and complete the reflection. There are some review questions in the response.
The Church in Medieval Europe
The Roman Catholic Church was the primary civilizing force in the Middle Ages. It provided leadership for the people. Slowly, the church converted the barbarians into Christians. Eventually, the church took over many functions of the government, including the collection of taxes and the running of the courts.
There were two primary institutions within the church: the cathedral and the monastery. The cathedral was the seat of power for the local bishop or overseeing archbishop. The word cathedral comes from the Latin word cathedras, which means “seat.” In every cathedral there is a raised seat, called a cathedra, where the bishop sits during services. The cathedral represented the church’s authority. The monastery, on the other hand, was a religious community managed by the monks of one particular order. This community served several purposes: it was a school, a hospital and an inn for weary travelers.
Eventually, most peoples of Europe were united under one faith. Although Christians might speak different languages and follow different customs, they saw themselves as part of Christendom. Christendom was the large community of Christians spread across Europe. The idea of Christendom gave the peoples of Europe a common identity and a sense of purpose. Over time, this sense of common purpose would bring them into conflict with their pagan and Muslim neighbors.