In 1500, the Roman church was all powerful in Western Europe, there was no legal alternative. The jealousy the Catholic Church held guarded its position. Anyone who was deemed to be against the Catholic Church would be named as a ‘heretic’ and would be burnt at stake. They did not tolerate any deviance, they did not want to be portrayed to be weak. The power that the Church contained had been built up over centuries and relied on the ignorance and the superstition of the population. It was indoctrinated into the people that the only way to heaven was via the church. A significant problem was that the church was corrupt.

Even though priests, monks and nuns took vows of chastity, obedience and poverty – they weren’t always kept. For example, some priests had children. Another issue was that the church was very wealthy. It would sell things, such as Saints’ bones, hair or clothing. Divine intercession could be bought if you had lived a sinful life. They also made money by making rich people donate their land to build a cathedral, monastery or abbey on it if they had done something sinful. There was s social division between the clergy and the laity, this division was tense and extensive. The clergy had spiritual power of saying mass.

When a priest says mass, bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of the Christ. This power turned out to be socially and economically important as people would pay for masses for people in purgatory, people’s wills would have money for masses in them. This was apart of the medieval economy and the spiritual power of the mass was valuable. Another major issue was powerful politics – bishops were in competition with lords and kings for benefices, which when a bishop/lord/king died, it would not be passed down in their family as they tended not to have kids (celibacy) therefore the premises becomes vacant – hence the competitiveness.

Martin Luther led the ‘Protestant Reformation’ which was a religious and political development in the early 16th century. He said that the Roman Catholic church was corrupt and needed to be reformed. He also argued there needed to be reformation for other things. The reformation began when Luther posted his ’95 thesus’ which was what he found wrong with the Catholic church. He was offended by the sale of indulgences. He wrote pamphlets which were printed in large numbers and distributed throughout Germany. He also translated the Bible into German.

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The pamphlets succeeded in turning major German cities into hotbeds of Lutheranism. He succeeded in convincing large numbers of Germans. Germany were happy to have a reformation because of the corrupt church and it’s issues. People began to doubt the churches teachings, local rulers wanted their independence medieval people: enthusiastic participation – creative – churches and cathedrals, composed music spiritual, economic and social all intwined. Powerful politics – bishops in competition with lords and kings. 1) benefices, unusual kind of thief not gonna be passed down family.

Premises becomes vacant. One of the world’s leading medievalists explores medieval hearts and minds to find out what really motivated our ancestors. Examining power, beliefs, family and knowledge, this series looks at the similarities and differences to modern life. Why did people believe in demons? How quickly did children have to grow up? Did the concept of courtly love help or hinder women? We visit archaeological digs, historic monuments and scientific laboratories to discover the hopes, fears and passions of the medieval world.

Power The traditional model of medieval society divided eople into “those who pray, those who fight and those who work”, assuming that most people were priests, knights or peasants. Examining paintings and illuminated manuscripts, we uncover the more complex reality, consider the impact of urban revolts and look at the groups who did not fit into the simplistic picture, including townsmen, traders and women. The role of kings and queens was also more complex. Rather than a single powerful monarch, most of Europe was actually ruled by strong dynasties, meaning that medieval politics were shaped by sibling ivalries and father-son disputes.

However, these tensions gave the women of the family significant political and legal power behind the scenes. Beliefs The hierarchy of medieval society did not stop with what people could see; above the priests and kings were angels, demons and God. The religious structuring of the world led people to surrender property and family, and condemn individuals as witches, but others exploited religious beliefs to make money. The programme also examines how established Christian society treated Jews, Muslims and alternative Christian groups.

Pilgrimages, such as the one described in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, were hugely popular. Groups of pilgrims might travel thousands of miles to visit the relics of the holy dead, confident of a miracle. A comparison between the stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral and written accounts of Thomas Becket’s miracles demonstrate revealing consistency. Sex The medieval period saw the birth of the concept of Courtly Love, when a new emphasis was placed on elevated passion. Court singers and songwriters, known as troubadours, dealt with themes of love and chivalry.

We tell the tale of famous medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise, examine the link between love and martial prowess and demonstrate how the emergence of courtly love actually raised the status of women. Yet despite the emphasis on romantic love, the church preached that the only acceptable purpose of sex was to produce children. The programme explores medieval views on homosexuality, illegitimacy, prostitution and more to find out what was really happening in the bedroom. Knowledge The Middle Ages were a period of invention.

Contemporary illustrations reveal the creation and pplication of many devices, including the water wheel, the mechanical clock and reading glasses. Each invention made possible further innovations; mill power was used to hammer metal and produce paper and reading glasses doubled the working lives of specialist craftsmen. Newly built ships enabled an era of exploration. Missionaries, envoys and merchants travelled from Western Europe into Asia, dispelling myths of cannibals and dog-headed creatures. These early voyages led eventually to Columbus’s journey to America and modern colonialism.


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