Make your own free website on

Age of Faith


The Age of Faith: 476-1300

DATES   Beginning Date: 476 -- Fall of Rome
Ending Date: 1300  -- Beginning of the Renaissance.

During the Middle Ages (the eight centuries between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Renaissance), the major institutions of western European civilization took shape:

Roman Catholic Church
National monarchies
Middle class
Popular assemblies
    In the fifth century, the invasion of Germanic tribes brought DISORDER AND FRAGMENTATION to the Roman Empire. A painful search for order began.
Rise of the Roman Catholic Church  


The Church was based in the cities and directed by the pope from Rome. It's network of clergy made the Church the only institution capable of extending its influence over many diverse regions.

The Carolingian   

In the seventh century, the CAROLINGIAN RULERS came to power.


With the assistance of the church, the Carolingians brought a REVIVAL OF THE WESTERN ROMAN EMPIRE.

 Particularly during the long reign of Charlemagne, CHURCH AND STATE BECAME ALLIES as Christian bishops and clergy played important roles in the organization of the Carolingian Empire, both in the countryside and in the towns.

Feudalism &  

After the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, a new system had to be created.


What emerged from the chaos was FEUDALISM, which would offer at least a minimum of:


Political organization

Law enforcement. 

 Under feudalism, the landed nobility acted as:

Police force



    Accompanying feudalism was the MANORIAL SYSTEM -- an economic order which PROVIDED FOOD AND LIFE'S NECESSITIES and divided men into two classes: 

Fighters or nobles

 Workers or serfs. 


By the eleventh century new forces were at work.  


Outlines of NEW KINGDOMS -- Germany, England, France, and Spain -- began to emerge under the direction of strong monarchs.

Europe went on the offensive, ejecting the Muslims from the southern part of the Continent, breaking Muslim control of the Mediterranean, and launching CRUSADES to capture Jerusalem from the infidel.

The "closed" economy of the feudal countryside gave way before:

The REVIVAL OF TRADE and communications

The GROWTH of towns

The increased use of MONEY as a medium of exchange

The rise of a new class in society -- the middle class.

Merchant Class  

A new MERCHANT CLASS emerged in the towns and took its place alongside nobility and the clergy


Rulers called upon this class to be servants and administrators.

 This group formed a loyal bureaucracy and an advisory corp that allowed rulers to challenge both the nobility and the church successfully.

 The alliance between rulers and towns was an important factor in the rise of Europe's new secular monarchies and the creation of Europe's major nation states.

National Monarchies  

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in England and France, the foundations of Western MONARCHIES were laid.


Parliaments and POPULAR ASSEMBLIES also formed to represent the growing power of the privileged classes (the nobility, the clergy, and property-owning towns-people).

Western CAPITALISM was at this time beginning to develop.

The new wealth created by trade and conquest made possible the creation of UNIVERSITIES, which multiplied to twenty in Catholic Europe by 1300. 


The GREATEST STABILIZING FORCE IN EUROPE during the medieval period was the Church.


The Middle Ages has sometimes been characterized as the AGE OF FAITH.

To an extent greater than in classical or modern times, the attention of men living in those days was directed toward a RELIGIOUS GOAL -- the salvation of the soul -- and the Church was the intermediary.

All men were born, lived, and died under the Church's protection.

In the thirteenth century, when popes such as Innocent III bent proud monarchs to their will, the church reached the zenith of its influence as a kind of INTERNATIONAL GOVERNMENT as well as the focus of medieval society, arts, and scholarship

The Church was the chief PATRON OF THE ARTS.

Its monasteries were repositories for ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS.

Secular v. Religious Authority  

Emperors and KINGS CLASHED REPEATEDLY WITH POPES during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the Roman Catholic Church was a formidable political power


At the end of the INVESTITURE CONTROVERSY in the twelfth century, a clear distinction was drawn between the spheres of ecclesiastical and secular authority.

After 1300, monarchs progressively LIMITED THE CHURCH'S INFLUENCE over their political and economic affairs, restricting the Church to the important but less threatening spiritual and cultural sphere of influence.

In an increasingly materialistic age, the rise of the DOMINICAN AND FRANCISCAN FRIARS signaled a new SPIRITUAL REVIVAL among the clergy that also attracted large numbers of pious laity.

Until the Reformation, church reformers rallied under the banner of apostolic poverty.

ONLINE RESOURCES   Medieval Sourcebook: Extensive collection of primary sources arranged according to excerpts, full texts, and saints' lives.


Send mail to Dr. Edrene S. Montgomery  with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 1999-2000 Edrene S. Montgomery
Last modified: September 24, 1999