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2. How did religious practices and beliefs shape European life in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries? (That is prior to the sixteenth-century Reformations of Religion.) Essay Example

  • Category:
    History
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
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    2
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    1276

How Religious Practices and Beliefs Shaped European Life in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries

Numerous religious practices that existed before the 16th century defined how future religions would behave. Different religions arose and they were strongly established in different parts of Europe, and many people followed different types of religions (Brodman 184). Christianity is one of the major religions practiced then in Europe, and the happenings concerning it were very dramatic. In fact, most writers who write about the religious happenings before the sixteenth century in Europe usually put their focus on Christianity. This is not to disregard any other religion practiced at the time, but the fact remains that Christianity makes the major part of the religious history of Europe. There were other religions practiced at the time, and other people even practiced witchcraft at the time (Morris 316). Christianity did not start being parallel with practices of witchcraft in the twenty first century; the rivalry began back in the prehistoric era (McGrath 166).

Christianity was mainly spread among people living anywhere between the basin of the Mediterranean Sea and Africa. This is one of the areas in Europe that were most developed at the time, and the potential for growth was quite promising at the time. However, this hope was short lived, because the Islam religion took over this region immensely. This was no surprise, because Islam had rapidly spread to many other regions in Europe, and this Mediterranean region was no exception. Not only did Islam spread in Europe, but also its spread in Asia was too vast for words. We can comfortably say that the two major religions at the time of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are Christianity and Islam (Blei 98).

Christianity was then known to be a religion in which the gathering of its followers is mainly done in buildings mainly called churches or temples, while the Islam followers gathered in Mosques (McGrath 213). Christianity, basically, was explained especially to those new to it as a body that promotes a certain doctrine or teaching that covers every part of being, including the heart, body, soul and mind. Each of these parts of being was separately and jointly covered in the Christian teachings, and one was made to have a clear understanding of each of these parts in a different manner. In most cases, the explanation of these different parts of being is what mainly caused the strife between Christianity and Islam, and even other religions. Even within Christianity, there was strife concerning the explanations on these different parts. Therefore, some subgroups within Christianity were formed because of the different schools of thought and the different systems of belief. Other issues that caused strife included issues about life and death, and “life after death” (McGrath 224).

There were other religions that were similar to Christianity then, and these mainly included East-West Schism and Western Christianity. Both of these religions were absorbed into the mainstream Christian religion, and they spread into regions like Poland, Hungary and Central Europe (Morris 234). Christianity is said to have “split” into two major halves before then, and these two major halves that were very conflicting are the Roman Catholic half and the protestants halve. The Roman Catholic was not significant religion; on the contrary, it was major, a super power or so to speak. As a matter of fact, most Europeans were forced to join the Roman Catholic Church, and those who did not comply with that were heavily punished. Punishments were very heavy, and most penalties included death penalties (Blei 142).

The passing of the death penalties was so serious to a point where two major leaders in Christianity (Protestants) were executed in public by being burnt to death so that people would know the seriousness of refusing to transform into Roman Catholics. After this period, reformists like Martin Luther came, and the oppression of being forced to join specific religions almost came to an immediate halt (Brodman 304). This halt, however, did not come peaceably, but there was a revolt commonly known as the Protestant Reformation or the Protestant Revolt. The two main leaders of this revolt were Martin Luther and John Calvin. Not only did they seek to free Protestants from being forced to be Catholics, but they also sight to reform the body of the Roman Catholics into Protestants. This was quite an ambitious move considering how vast the spread of the Roman Catholic Church was at that time in the entire Europe region and in other regions neighbouring Europe (McGrath 246).

This caused a lot of instability in the Roman Empire, and it is around this time that the fall of Rome was experienced. However, it is not the Protestant Revolt that mainly caused this though it indirectly did; it is the barbarians who were directly responsible for the fall of Rome. The barbarians were not only tired of the roman religion, but its main system of governance was the main reason why they fought Rome (Morris 202). The barbarians were successful in demolishing the system of governance of the Roman Administration System, and a new and friendlier system was established. All this season of instability is what is described as the Medieval Period (Morris 211). The fall of the Roman Empire did not happen overnight; it took many years for the fall to be established, and it is during these years that other powers from Greece and Turkey tried to take over the administrative roles and the religious systems of the time (McGrath 261).

It was not easy, though, to totally wipe out the Roman Catholic Church, and it was soon on its feet again. One of the reasons why the Catholic Church stood all this instability is the fact that this religion was so decentralized, unlike the other religions at the time. Therefore, it was too stable to succumb to the instable period when it was being fought. Its system of leadership was also very structured, and even trivial things like the handling of the assets and property of the church were allocated to specific leaders. Therefore, the head quarters, or so to speak, of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome were soon established. However, this time round, there was no persecution of Protestants, but the Catholics became friendlier than ever before (Brodman 323).

The sixteenth century came with numerous changes that were not expected by many in Europe. Most people in Europe saw the sixteenth century as a new dawn, the dawn of the modern era in the region. As if to echo their belief, a new continent was discovered at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and the people became surer that indeed, a new dawn had began. Economy changes wee all over Europe and the doors of international trade seemed to burst open at the dawn of the sixteenth century (McGrath 253). Science and technology seemed to have new surprises every day for the people of Europe, and discoveries and inventions were the order of the day. Political changes were also occurring at a very high speed. One of the most significant theological developments of the century was the introduction of the bible, and it was introduced in its original languages, Hebrew and Greek. The church had never been unified before than it was at that time (Brodman 297).

Works Cited

Blei, Karel. Freedom of religion and belief: Europe’s story. Aasen, Germany: Uitgeverij Van Gorcum, 2002.

Brodman, James. Charity & religion in medieval Europe. Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2009.

McGrath, Alister. The intellectual origins of the European Reformation. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.

Morris, Terence. Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Routledge, 1998.