Chapter 10 Lesson 1 The Role of the Catholic Church

The Role of the Catholic Church

Section 1- Power of the Roman Catholic Church

Build on What You Know Is there one type of church in your area, or are there many different churches? In all of Medieval Europe, Catholicism was the dominant religion.

Power of the Roman Catholic Church

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 Why was the Catholic Church so powerful?

From the 11th through 15th centuries, some aspects of feudalism could still be found in Europe. For example, nobles still ruled much of the countryside. However, both the Roman Catholic Church and European monarchies, such as those of France and England, were increasing their power. The Church and European monarchies were also trying to centralize political and religious authority.  

Image result for notre dameClick on the picture to learn more about the Notre Dame Cathedral in France

Church Organization The Roman Catholic Church needed strong organization to efficiently serve laypeople, or its worshipers. This service included providing people with the sacraments (SAK•ruh•muhnts). These were religious ceremonies, such as baptism, in which a member received the grace of God.

The Roman Catholic Church and European monarchies, such as those of and , were increasing their power.

Church Organization

The Church had many different levels of leadership among the clergy clergy, or people given priestly authority by the Church. The pope was the spiritual and political leader of the Church. His office was called the Papacy. Below him were the various ranks of the clergy, shown in the illustration below.

The Church also had great wealth, which made it an even more powerful institution. The Church earned income from property it owned. The wealth of the pope was greater than that of any individual European monarch. Also, the Papacy’s authority was often greater than that of kings and emperors. The pope’s power caused many monarchs to cooperate with the Church, but it also caused conflict.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 Why was the Catholic Church so powerful?

because it was a large and institution; also, Church leaders had close ties to the traditional European .

What was the structure of the Church in the Middle Ages? The Church was headed by the and supported by a variety of officials below him. In order of importance, the officials below the pope were, , bishops, , monks and nuns.

Section 2 Conflict Between Monarchs and the Papacy

For a long time, Church leaders and European monarchs and nobles saw that it was in their best interest to cooperate with each other. But they eventually came into conflict. In the 11th century, a dispute between Pope Gregory VII Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV Emperor Henry IV reached a crisis point. Image result for pope gregory vii and henry iv

One Cause of Conflict The Holy Roman Empire, which began around 962, included much of central and western Europe. Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV had built up political power by appointing Church officials. Monarchs such as Henry IV relied on literate and efficient Church officials to help run their kingdoms. They wanted as much control over those officials as possible. In 1075, Pope Gregory said that laypeople—including Henry IV— could no longer appoint people to Church offices.

The , which began around 962, included much of central and western Europe.

Pope and Henry

The Outcome The pope’s decision made Henry furious. He called together the bishops that supported him. Together, they declared the pope’s election invalid. Pope Gregory responded by excommunicating, or banishing, Henry from the Church for violating the pope’s order. He told Henry’s subjects that he was no longer emperor, and they did not have to obey him. Many nobles and church officials then turned against Henry. Henry cleverly chose to ask the pope to forgive him. Some accounts say that to seek forgiveness, Henry stood barefoot for three days in the snow outside the castle where the pope was staying. As a priest, Gregory had to forgive Henry. Henry regained his title and control over his subjects, but conflict between European monarchs and the Papacy would continue.Image result for pope gregory vii and henry ivRead more about the conflict between Henry the IV and the Pope by clicking the picture above.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 Why did monarchs and popes struggle with each other for control of society? 

wanted control over Church officials to help them maintain and run their kingdoms, and wanted to free the Church from the interference of laypeople.


Section 3 The Church and Society

The medieval Church played a dominant role in education. Religious orders were the Church’s most important educational institutions.Image result for European monasteries

Religious Orders A religious order is a group of people who live by rules specific to their order. Monastic orders are religious orders that largely separate themselves from the rest of society to focus on prayer and service to God—a Christian ideal. Men who joined monastic orders were called monks. They lived in monasteries. Women who joined monastic orders were called nuns, and they lived in convents. Nuns in the convents often had great control over their daily lives , something very few women outside the convents had. Friars formed another type of religious order. They traveled to preach the word of God.

Friars were mendicants. That is, they owned nothing and primarily lived by begging. Franciscans were the most important mendicant order.  Francis of Assisi , an Italian, founded this order in the early 1200s. He called on his followers to live without property and serve as teachers, healers, and friends to all living things. The Church later named him a saint.

A  is a group of people who live by rules specific to their order

The Founding of Universities

The Founding of Universities Schools were established at cathedrals, the center of power for bishops. As you read earlier, students of these schools were usually the sons of European nobles who often became religious or political leaders. As the cities grew, these cathedral schools expanded as early forms of universities. Instructors taught their students in Latin. The Church was also an intellectual institution that worked to preserve the Latin language and religious texts.

Scholars studied classical philosophers. Muslim scholars preserved and interpreted ancient Greek texts, lost for centuries in the West. Church scholars translated the texts into Latin and made them available at the new universities. But some Church officials worried that some classical ideas went against Church teachings about faith. Image result for medieval universities

Click on the picture to learn more about Medieval Universities.

In the mid 1200s, an Italian scholar named Thomas Aquinas (uh•KWY•nuhs) began studying the writings of a Greek philosopher named Aristotle. Aquinas argued that classical philosophy could exist in harmony with Christian faith and natural law, which he said came from God and was about moral behavior. His work is a synthesis, or combination, of classical philosophy with Christian theology. He is remembered as a great religious scholar. You will read more about reason and faith during the European Renaissance in Chapter 13.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 How did the Catholic Church support education?

Religious orders often worked to educate their followers. developed out of schools established at cathedrals.

How did universities develop? 

As cities grew, schools expanded into early forms of universities.

Vocabulary Quiz

  • Clergy
    people who have priestly authority
  • Pope Gregory VII
    11th century pope
  • Emperor Henry IV
    11th century emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
  • religious order
    group of people who follow the rules of the order
  • Francis of Assisi
    founder of the Franciscan order
  • Thomas Aquinas
    13th century Italian religious scholar