10 Facts About Medieval Religion

During the Middle Ages in Europe Christianity had become the only officially recognised religion. The exception was of course when parts of southern Europe, such as Spain, Portugal and Sicily, were under the control of Arab Muslim rulers.

Medieval times saw the Church gain and consolidate power, while the Crusades imbued religion with a sometimes military fervour.

What follows are 10 facts about religion in the Middle Ages.

1. Fight an Arab and you could be forgiven

In 1095 the Pope wanted help ridding the Holy Land of muslims. And so he promised eternal forgiveness for all sins for anyone who signed up.

2. Children tried to reclaim the Holyland

Children tried to convince Muslims of the error of their ways. It didn't work.

Children tried to convince Muslims of the error of their ways. It didn’t work.

In 1212 the Children’s crusade used kids to try and peacefully convert the Arabs to Christianity. It didn’t work and most of them were sold as slaves.

3. Churches were everywhere

In medieval times there was a church for every 200 people, which meant in towns and cities they were pretty much everywhere.

4. The Church held nearly all the power

The Church held an enormous amount of power over day to day life.

The Church held an enormous amount of power over day to day life.

The Church was incredibly influential. They collected tax from the people, held vast sums of wealth and often had a hand in making the laws. They even owed their allegiance to the Pope over their own King.

5. Art was bad unless it involved God

Early medieval Kings only believed in art if it had a religious context. Any art that did not involve religion was considered blasphemous.

6. You could buy forgiveness

If you paid money a monk would pray for you after you died to ensure you made it to heaven.

If you paid money a monk would pray for you after you died to ensure you made it to heaven.

The church had many money-making schemes. One of these involved paying monks to pray for you after you died – ensuring you made it into heaven.

7. Peasants had to work for the Church

Peasants provided had to provide labour to their lords and the Church.

Peasants provided had to provide labour to their lords and the Church.

If you were a peasant then the church had its hands in your pockets at every turn. You’d have to donate days of labour free of charge and pay taxes in grain which were kept in huge tithe barns.

8. Cleanliness was next to godliness

Thanks to the church, medieval people were much cleaner than we think. They church taught that cleanliness was next to Godliness.

9. Kings had to hick a religion

For some medieval monarchs picking a religion was a tricky business. For King Vlad of Kiev the choice was between Islam or Christianity. He eventually chose Christianity when he heard that Muslims could not eat pork or drink alcohol.

10. Muslims taxed non-muslims

Muslim Kingdoms were in general very tolerant of other faiths. However, they did tax them which meant many people quickly converted to Islam.

Tom is a freelance journalist who studied history at Essex University. His work can be found in many different publications focusing on business and politics.