Clergy in the Middle Ages
Posted on 31st December 2020
The clergy were very important in the Middle Ages, they held great influence politically and were responsible for the education of the people; as they themselves were able to read and write as a minimum. As the clergy cared for the people and educated them both spiritually and literately, they were exempt from paying taxes although they had taxes paid to them.
The most influential church, the Catholic Church, was ruled over by its spiritual leader, the Pope. When elected to power, the pope would rule until the day he died.
Bishops – Appointed to power by the pope, they were very wealthy. They were always highly educated, performed spiritual duties and involved themselves in politics. Bishops were responsible for maintaining an army and leading that army in battle; they also supervised the clergy in their parish and levied taxes on the peasants.
Priests - Came from humble homes and spent much time with the poor of the parish, being in charge of caring for the members of the manor, tending to the sick and helping in the collection of taxes. They performed many religious duties including baptisms, weddings, daily mass, holy communion, conducting confessions, absolving sins and giving last rights to the dying.
As priests were educated, they also managed a school and taught lessons. As a minimum they taught reading and writing, and depending on their own education, may also have taught rhetoric, philosophy and religious studies.
Priests were used by bishops and lords to keep manor records and accounts, and to take part in local government.
Monks - Lived in monasteries, it was unnecessary for monks to ever leave the confines of the monastery as they were completely self-sufficient establishments. They spent their time in private prayer and meditation; would both read and write copies of the bible; complete daily chores and educate the local children. Before entering a monastery, a Monk had to take a vow of poverty, a vow of chastity and a vow of obedience.
Nuns - Nuns came from all backgrounds and ages; daughters were often placed in convents due to the wishes of their families, or older women who chose to enter the convent following the death of a husband.
To live the life of a nun was to devote your life to god. Once a nun, you were a nun until you died. A nun had to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Nuns spent much of their time in private prayer and meditation, also undertaking many daily chores including cooking, washing, sewing, farming and providing medical care for the manor.
Few women were educated in the Middle Ages but becoming a nun gave the possibility of learning how to read and write.
Tagged as: Junior Middle Ages
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