Religious Studies, Lecture Notes, October 25
WESTERN CHRISTIANITY IN THE MIDDLE AGES
- in this time, the church was focused on SACRIFICE.
Jesus was understood as the primary sacrifice within
the Catholic tradition.
- Eucharist ritual relived this one-time Jesus
sacrifice. Taking the Eucharist allows you to
participate in salvation and ressurection.
- two bogey mans: muslims from the outside, jews from
- all the stories of Christ and everything he did and
said had little bearing until relatively recently, it
was only these rituals like baptism and eucharist that
were really involved in Christianity.
- transubstantiation: ritualized cannibalization of
the ability to perform this eucharist
transubstantiation trick gave the priests a huge amount
of power. They had power over your afterlife, your
- someone can only be saved THROUGH the catholic
church. You could be the best person in the world.
Wouldn't matter. The symbol of the Vatican is three
keys for this reason.
- this lack of content (since church was in latin and
the priests didn't even know and the only thing that
really happened was the eucharist) gave rise to great
apathy in the church. - this apathy gave rise to a tourism of (PILGRIMAGES)
holy items called RELICS. Touching or seeing these
would confer some kind of blessing or healing to you.
It would cost money to see these things too. The
churches that housed them would make a killing.
- Another practice that developed at this time was the
VENERATION OF SAINTS. Special folks who went straight
to heaven (no purgatory). You can implore/honour these
saints, pray near them (not to them), light candles for
them, and you would ask these folks to help you. Like
getting a lawyer to plead your case before God.
- Parishoners had three jobs: PRAY, OBEY, & PAY. Saved.
- Because Jesus still hadn't come back, a really
detailed theology of what happens when you die started
PURGATORY - essentially a weight station, a halfway
point between heaven and hell. Unperfect Christians go
there to burn off any sin left on them before they go
to be judged. Dead babies went there too. Infant
mortality rates were huge. This is where the tradition
of infant baptism comes in.
INDULGENCES - you could do good deeds on earth, perform
certain rituals, PAY the priests to perform certain
rituals, to expediate your dead relatives time in
- another way you could burn off some sin on Earth
instead of in Purgatory was to go on a Crusade.
- a series of pilgrimages or campaigns to the Holy
Land, or Palestine, in order to reclaim places like
Jerusalem from Muslim rule and return them to Christian rule.
- Some land "reclaimed" between 1095 and 1291
- These Crusades weren't very successful. There were
small enclaves won and a reestablished Kingdom of
Jerusalem was around for then.
- While the "target" were Muslims, Jews and Orthodox
Christians also suffered.
- you were doing God's work by killing your way through
Eastern Europe and Palestine.
- it was a land grab. Not missionary work. You killed
sinners to put them out of their misery and save them
from extra purgatory.
- seems like it was quite brutal and wontonly
- crusades began by Pope Urbain.
- people were so terribly educated, they had no idea
what they were doing. they just knew to kill folks that
were different from them. that's pretty standard
- Interesting thing about crusades: Contact with the
"east" brought back classical knowledge.
- In this time we start to get the build up for the
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
- as this information filtered back from the east
through crusaders returning slowly changed society.
Literacy was going up, standard of living was going up. Generally speaking, folks were doing a little bit
- printing press comes around in the 15th century.
- Bible becomes much more widely available.
- this gave the idea that the priests weren't the only
ones with keys to salvation. priests start to lose