- Significance of Religious Movements in the Middle Ages
The term ‘‘Middle Ages’’ refers to the era sandwiched between the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century and the beginning of the European Reformation of the 16th Century. Even after the fall of Rome, the Catholic Church continued to thrive. For many centuries, it was the only religion ruling Europe. Any other religious movement was considered a heresy (Reis, 228). The Pope had a lot of power and could even dethrone a king. Different religious orders supported the church during this period.
1.1 Direction of the expansion of the Catholic Church
The Benedictines, Cistercians, and Friars were among the religious orders guiding the Catholic Church. Gregory the Great was the first pope to undertake missions after the fall of Rome (Reis, 223). He was a Benedictine Monk. Following his mission to protect Rome from invasion, the Pope began sending Benedictine monks on missions to convert Anglo-Saxons. He continued with his evangelical work in partnership with monasteries and missionaries until he conquered all Europe. The church controlled the monarchies in every region. The Kings answered to the bishops who in turn reported to the archbishops and the papacy.
1.2 Support for the expansion of the Catholic Church
The religious orders supported the expansion of the church through the monasteries. The nuns and monks were highly educated. Their missionary work was coupled with developing literacy in the community. When the Protestants rose against the Catholics the Jesuits and the Capuchins responded with missionary work especially in Germany where Protestantism originated (Reis 227).
1.3 Chartres and Reims Cathedrals
With the increase in the Catholic following, the religious leaders built cathedrals to accommodate the large congregation (Reis, 224). Chartres and Reins are among the gothic cathedrals built at the end of the medieval ages. The artistic value of the Gothic cathedrals was greater than the Romanesque churches as the Gothic designs were more detailed than the Roman designs. The churches displayed Jesus’ image on the tinted glass panes. The Gothic cathedrals were also higher and appeared to be more spacious (Morganstern, 4).
The expansion of the Catholic Church did not come without challenges. The church faced opposition during Renaissance and the Enlightenment
The Renaissance was movement during the 16th century that advocated the concept of humanism (Reis, 225). The proponents of this point of view stated that man was the determinant of all things. In simpler, terms the movement did not recognize the presence of a superior being. The movement propagated a type of self-worship that was represented in different forms of art (Zafirovski, 175).
The Enlightenment was a movement that supported rational thinking and disregarded religious beliefs. The scientific revolution played a significant role in the development of the Enlightenment. The movement had influence in Europe in the 18th Century. It propagated revolutionary messages in the name of freedom. They advocated the separation of the State from the Church. The campaign criticized the religious beliefs of both the Catholics and Protestants (Zafirovski, 175). As a result, the movement significantly reduced the Church’s influence on the society. The church no longer participated in decision-making processes. Instead, the philosopher exerted influence on the state (Reis, 227).
2.3 How the Church Responded
Contrary to the society’ expectation, the Vatican Catholic Church joined forces with the Protestant faction to fight against these Enlightenment concepts and institutions (Zafirovski, 175). They organized a series of crusades in Europe and America to defend their theology and explain why the Enlightenment ideas did not hold water. The church got a breakthrough in the 19th Century when religion began taking root in Southern Europe (Zafirovski, 176). The relationship between the church and the government began to blossom again under the leadership of Napoleon (Reis, 229). However, the effects of the Enlightenment continue to this day; the church will never have absolute control over the society as it once did.
- Impact of Vatican II
Vatican II also known as the second council of 1962-1965 instituted many liturgical reforms (Reis, 231). Under these ecumenical reforms, the Catholics were allowed to sing and participate in Mass. The new dispensation allowed the Fathers to conduct Mass in the people’s native language as opposed to Latin which few people understood. Additionally, the Catholics were allowed to read from the Protestant Bible and interact with people from other religions (Reis, 232). As per Finucane (86), the Vatican II reforms were long overdue considering the numerous challenges encounter by the Catholic Church since the 16th Century.
Although the ideologies of the current world lean more towards rational thought than faith, Vatican II recognized that the people still needed to understand their identities and purposes in life (Reis, 233). For this reason, the council chose to shine the light of God’s word into the darkness of this world. The efforts were successful because people all over the world can understand and express God’s love in their own language. The council’s efforts were successful because the church gained a lot of popularity after these reforms (Reis, 230).
Morganstern, Anne McGee. High gothic sculpture at Chartres Cathedral, the tomb of the Count of Joigny, and the Master of the Warrior Saints. Penn State Press, 2011.
Reis, Julien. ‘‘Roman Catholicism’’. Religions of the World. (217-234)
Zafirovski, Milan. The enlightenment and its effects on modern society. Springer Science & Business Media, 2010.