James Danchus History 1560 8/1/07

The Age of Faith?
A common stereotype about the Middle Ages is that the period was filled with blind faith toward Christianity with little adherence to ideas such as science and reasoning. The arguments for this portrayal are easy to see. The medieval church had more political influence during the Middle Ages then it ever has. Countless wars were fought in the name of God. Detractors say that you cannot give this time period such a label because some of the events in Medieval history blatantly contradict Christian society. One great source for his argument is a book called Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error. The book shows the many varying attitudes about faith that the commoners had. But what these detractors fail to understand is that the church was so massive that it touched every life in Western Europe during the high Middle Ages. The opposition also neglects the countless examples of people going to great lengths to live Christian lives. Describing the Middle Ages as ‘The Age of Faith” is generally an accurate portrayal of the time period. It is very important to understand that the church was a huge political and spiritual entity at this time. On a macro level, the church has worked with or against virtually every medieval king to ever rule in Western Europe. On the micro level, everybody has access to a church or their village was heavily influenced by the local monastery, priest, or bishop. The church was everywhere in Medieval Europe and the only way such an entity could get so big is if a large portion of the population found it necessary to have it around. If the church did not have the support of the people, as well as high ranking

nobles and kings, then it would have never reached the level of influence that it did in the Middle Ages. The crusades waged in the name of God also stand a testament to the deep rooted religious beliefs of Medieval Europe. When King Richard called for a campaign to reclaim the holy land, people from all walks of life answered the call of the young, charismatic monarch. Peasants who had never swung a sword in there life wanted to take back Jerusalem. People were ready to give there lives for their faith. (Notes 8/1) Christian beliefs and Christian actions were seemingly contradictory in these times. It is easy to see the hypocrisy in fighting a war to defend a religion that promotes peace. The common practice of adultery is in direct defiance of the 10 Commandments yet it was still used by kings and nobles alike. How can Europe be so blatantly sinful and yet still be referred to as the “Age of Faith”? The book entitled Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanual Le Roy Ladurie is a great source for trying to find out about the general religious attitudes of the common villager. In the small, secluded French town of Montaillou people had a variety of opinions regarding the faith. Some disagree with some menial traditions within the church. Arnaud Sicre, for instance, said the “Ave Maria is worthless. It is an invention of the priests” (Ladurie 306). Ladurie also tells the account of a person by the name of Aude Faure, who goes through a spiritual crisis. “Pray God to put in my heart to become a believer again”, she said (Ladurie 307). There were also accounts of people being downright blasphemous out in the open. Take Raymond de l’Aire for example, who said in the town’s square that Christ was conceived through “f***ing and s***ing, rocking

back and forth and f***ing, in other words through the coitus of a man and a woman, just like all the rest of us” (Ladurie, 320). But what these arguments fail to take into account is that no matter what period we live in, people are going to vary greatly in the interpretation of faith and in their views on it. For every Raymond de l’Aire there were 5 people who were trying to live a pious life. The wealth and prosperity of monasteries across Europe are testament to this. Every year many people would take vows of poverty and chastity in order to live that lifestyle. In Germany, during the latter part of the Middle Ages, some eccentric monks would run around the countryside whipping them in an effort to make penance with God. Montaillou is filled with many of these examples as well. Take our vulgar friend Raymond de l’Aire for example, and his aforementioned profanity laced diatribe. In response to that, a witness by the name of Raymond Segui replied with “If you don’t stop, I’ll break your head open with my pick-axe” (Ladurie 321). Alazais de Bordes said, after a scary experience, that she was more afraid of dieing without confession then dieing itself (Ladurie 312). These are two great examples of the deep rooted faith that was common in Europe. The Middle Ages were very heavily influenced by the Christian faith. The church was a powerful political entity. There where many wars fought in the name of God. But despite the omnivorous presence of the church, some Christians during this time lived far from pious lives. The book Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by Emmanual Le Roy Ladurie proves this. The book demonstrates the wide array of opinions on faith during this time. The church’s involvement in the everyday lives of Christians solidifies the argument that the Middle Ages were the “Age of Faith”. The countless people going

to great length to live righteous lives need to be considered. Describing the Middle Ages as ‘The Age of Faith” is generally an accurate portrayal of the time period. The spirituality of this time in Europe must never be underestimated