Christendom refers to the medieval phase, in the Christian world. The medieval period may be described as the phase that connected ancient times and modern times. The phase represented a shift from the culture of Graeco−Roman to Romano-Germanic, through Christianity.
This paper argues that early medieval Christianity derived its character more from the universal church than local communities. The paper asserts this point through exploring elements that made medieval Christianity, the genius of medieval Christianity and nations of medieval Christianity.
Genius of Medieval Christianity
Medieval Christianity may be seen as a legal extension and further enlargement of prehistoric Catholicism, from one perspective, or a set up for Protestantism, from another perspective. Initially, Christianity involved states with high civilization, although, later Christianity became forced to lay the ground for a new civilization amongst the barbarians. Followers established churches in several cities of the Jews, Romans and Greeks.
These followers used the word pagan to refer to those who did not belong to these churches. The followers used large vocabularies both in writing and speaking. The towering roads of the Roman masses paved their advancement. In most places, the apostles found well built societies and administrations, thus their mission was to inculcate a new spiritual life into the early civilization and ensure that it was compliant to superior and moral objectives.
Missionaries of medieval times travelled to unreached places in order to teach primitive nations how to write and to lay the establishment for art, culture and literature. Christianity acted as a preparation school and a powerful disciplinary body, for young nations, which required guidance. These facts demonstrate the hierarchical, legalistic, romantic and ritualistic trait of the universal church.
The middle age was an age of passion unlike modern times, whereby thought and meditation act as main arbiters of human beings. The barbarians did not conform to the written Roman laws, since they could not understand these laws. However, the barbarians appreciated the spoken law, which became derived from the living word of God.
They found pleasure in bending this law as it lacked any documentation. Therefore, the church turned into law, in the territory, and influenced the establishment of all political and social systems. The medieval ages became referred to as the dark ages when compared with prehistoric Christianity, or contemporary Christianity.
Medieval Christianity acted as the light that burnished in the gloom of encircling heathenism and barbarism, displacing this gloom slowly. Diligent monks and priests safeguarded Holy Scriptures, classical literature and patristic writings from the wrath of the Roman Empire and preserved them for use in future.
The medieval beam acted as the borrowed moonlight and star of Christian tradition, but not the apparent sunlight from the divine work in the New Testament. Nevertheless, the medieval beam became embraced as the eyes of most people could bear it, and this beam did not stop to shine until it vanished in the dawn of the reformation.
There were representatives of Christ in all ages, and the representatives of Christ during the dark ages shone brightly as they became surrounded by darkness. Religious leaders flourished in traditions of saints that contained the allure of religious tales. These leaders alleged to have a set of doctrines and mores which became derived from true hubs of Christian knowledge and practice in the broad world.
Everyone had faith in miracles and the supernatural world similar to present children. Faith became integrated with superstitions, and people were reluctant to criticize or judge. As a result, illogical legends obtained acceptance with no criticism. However, people’s morality did not get better, and incidences of impoliteness and ruthlessness were on the rise. The church, though, an evident institution was not in a position to control people’s minds.
Nevertheless, the church directed all sectors of life starting from the cradle to the cemetery. The church dominated all learning institutions and integrated sciences and arts with church doctrine. The church initiated all progressive associations, established universities, inspired crusades, constructed many cathedrals, created and renounced kings and bestowed curses and blessings to entire states.
The Jewish theocracy became re-endorsed by the medieval hierarchy, which focused on Rome, on a further inclusive scale. The medieval hierarchy acted as a carnal expectation of Christ’s, millennial supremacy of Christ. This grand structure took as much time to build as to demolish.
The antagonism originated partially from the anti-Catholic groups, which, despite the brutal persecution, did not stop to disapprove the frauds and oppression of the papacy. Also, antagonism was due to the force of nationality which surfaced in resistance to an all enthralling hierarchical centralization. Besides, antagonism arose due to the restoration of biblical and classical education, which destabilized the supremacy of customs and superstitions.
Lastly, antagonism arose due to the profound existence of the Catholic Church, which stridently supported reformation, and fought through the brutal authority of the law to the illumination and liberty of Christianity. The medieval Church played a crucial part in ensuring that many men believed in Christ. Reformation became seen as a recapture of liberty that happened after the liberation of Western Christendom from the oppression of the law “where with Christ has made us free.”
The Nations of Medieval Christianity
The Romanic states were the descendants of the ancient, Latin Christianity. They conformed to Roman customs laws and transmitted Christianity to the succeeding barbarians. The Gauls, Picts, Scots, old Britons, Welsh and Irish became embraced by the Keltic race. The Keltic race formed the earliest light wave of the massive Aryan resettlement from the strange bowels of Asia.
This race emerged some years before Christ and swept to the boundaries of the far West. Caesar subjugated the Gauls, although, they later joined with the organizers of French monarchy. Similarly, the Romans dominated the Britons before the Anglo-Saxons forced them to Cornwall and Wales. Gaels in highlands maintained their Keltic culture, although, the group integrated with the Normans and the Saxons, in the lowlands.
Initially, Keltic Christianity was sovereign from Rome. Keltic Christianity opposed Romans in some rites until the time when Norman and Saxon encountered defeat. However, Romans forced the Keltic community to conform following this defeat and from the era of the reformation, the Irish became more connected to the Roman Church than other races such as the Latin.
Similarly, the French also embraced Gallicanism, which refers to a liberal Catholicism. However, the French finally surrendered liberal Catholicism to the ultramontanism of the Vatican. On the other hand, the Scotch and the Welsh followed the protestant restructuring in its Calvinistic firmness and became strong supporters and advocates of this religion.
Only a small section of citizens in the North of Scotland failed to embrace this doctrine. The Galatians predicted the destiny of the Keltic states. Initially, the Galatians followed the sovereign doctrine of St. Paul, although, they later converted to Judaism after they came into contact with false teachers of law.
The Germanic states acted as progressing races during medieval times. Christianization among Germany nations commenced in the fourth century. These nations disregarded Romulus and Augustus and conquered the West Roman Empire. Germanic nations also destroyed institutions that were not straight, although, they enthusiastically embraced the faith of the dominated Latin provinces, and with naive submissiveness, surrendered to its educational supremacy.
The nations became preordained for Christianity, as Christianity controlled their wild forces and limited their aggressive passions. Also, Christianity fabricated their splendid instincts, love for individual freedom and respect for women.
The Germanic states saw the Latin Church as a school of discipline, whose task was to organize them for an era of Christian maturity and autonomy. Liberation of Germanic tribes from the bondage of medieval and legalistic Catholicism led to the protestant reformation. This explains why Tacitus, a famous historian in heathen, romanticized the barbarous Germans, but not the disintegrated Romans of the time as seen in the words “in a fit of ill humor against their country.”
However, Tacitus involuntarily forecasted their future eminence, and his prophecy came to pass. The Greek population, which appeared prominently in ancient Christianity, merged with Slavonic elements. The Greek Church became destabilized by the influence of Mohammedanism and lost control over regions that of ancient Christianity.
Elements that made Medieval Christianity
Christianity preserved favorable aspects of the old and formed new elements. This transition grew progressively because of the overriding anarchy of barbarism. The new elements continued to function simultaneously with systems of Roman world and old Greek. The barbarian forces prevailed before the savages of the north, which flounced through the Greek empire to Spain and Italy.
These savages carried life, vigor, honor, love and respect, besides, which obtained purification and formulation by Christianity. Eventually, savages from the north became the overriding principles of a supreme culture than that of Rome and Greece. Salvian, a Christian monk, describes some negative traits of the orthodox Romans and speaks in favor of the barbarians “whose chastity purifies the deep stained with the Roman debauches.”
In conclusion, early medieval Christianity derived its character more from the universal church than local communities. The church directed all sectors of life starting from the cradle to the cemetery. The church dominated all learning institutions and integrated sciences and arts with church doctrine. The church initiated all progressive associations, established universities, inspired crusades, constructed many cathedrals, created and renounced kings and bestowed curses and blessings to entire states.
Missionaries of medieval times travelled to unreached places in order to teach primitive nations how to write and to lay the establishment for art, culture and literature. Thus, Christianity acted as a preparation school and a powerful disciplinary body, for young nations, which required guidance. Lastly, most nations embraced the faith of the dominated Latin provinces, and with naive submissiveness, surrendered to their educational supremacy.
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1. Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion is Christianity? :The Gospel beyond the West (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Publishers, 2003), 23.
2. Dana Robert, Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 123.
3. Denys Hay, The Medieval Centuries (London: Methuen, 1964), 65.
4. Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000 (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2003), 359.
5. New Jerusalem Bible, Ed. Susan Jones (New York: Doubleday, 1985), Gal.5.1.
6. Full text of “University of California Chronicle.”
7. Full text of “History of the Christian church.”
The Rise of Western Christendom