In discussing Chaucer's collection of stories called The Canterbury Tales, an interesting picture or illustration of the Medieval Christian Church is presented. At all levels of society, belief in a god or gods was not a matter of choice; it was a matter of fact. Atheism was an alien concept. Living in the middle ages, one would come into contact with the Church in a number of ways. First, there were the routine church services, held daily and attended at least once a week, and the special festivals of Christmas, Easter, baptisms, marriages, etc. In that respect the medieval Church was no different to the modern one. Second, there were the tithes that the Church collected, usually once a year. Tithes were used to feed the parish priest, maintain the fabric of the church, and to help the poor. Third, the Church fulfilled the functions of a 'civil service' and an education system. Schools did not exist and were unnecessary to a largely peasant society, but the Church and the government needed men who could read and write in English and Latin. The Church trained its own men, and these went to help in the government: writing letters, keeping accounts and so on. And every nobleman would have at least one priest to act as a secretary. The power of the Church is often over-emphasized. Certainly, the later medieval Church was rich and powerful, and that power was often misused - especially in Europe.
However, while people demanded more voice in the affairs of government, the church became corrupt -- this corruption also led to a more crooked society. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as just church history. This is because the church can never be studied in isolation, simply because it has always related to the social, economic and political context of the day. In that time, there are two ways where the church has an influence on the rest of society and of course, society influences the church. This is naturally because it is the people from a society who make up...
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