Canterbury Tales - Medieval Church




and somewhat dubious individual had one goal: Get the most money for

pardons by almost any means of coercion necessary. A twisted and

ironic mind, has basically defined himself through his work for a

similarly corrupt church. In contrast, the Plowman has nothing but a

seemingly uncomplicated and untwisted faith. The Plowman has the faith

of a poor farmer, uncomplicated by the bureaucracy of the church. The

Pardoner is probably on this journey because he is being required to

go by the church or he sees some sort of economic gain from this

voyage, most likely from selling forgiveness to the other pilgrims.

The Plowman on the other hand is probably on this voyage because of

his sincerity and faith in its purpose. While this was the story of

religion at 'grass-roots' level, at the organisational and

hierarchical level, the church developed along a different line. It

became more organized, more bureaucratic, more legal, more centralized

and basically more powerful on a European scale. This process was

spearheaded by the papacy and reached its pinnacle under Pope Innocent

III in the early 13th Century. He embodied what became known as the

'papal monarchy' - a situation where the popes literally were kings in

their own world. The relative importance of spiritual and secular

power in the world was a constant question in the middle ages with

both secular emperors and kings, and the popes asserting their claims

to rule by divine authority with God's commands for God's people

proceeding out of their mouths. The power of the church is hard to

exaggerate: its economic and political influence was huge, as its

wealth, movements like the crusades, and even the number of churches

that exist from this period truly show its greatness. By the early

10th century, a strange malaise seems to have entered the English

church. There are comments from this time of a decline in learning

among churchmen and an increase in a love for things of this earthly

world. Even more of these lax standards had begun a decline in the

power structure of the church which included a decrease in acceptable

behavior amongst churchmen and a growing use of church institutions by

lay people as a means of evading taxes. Christianity affected all men

in Europe at every level and in every way. Such distances however, led

to much diversity and the shaping of Medieval religion into a land of

contrasts. One can also see how man's feelings of extreme sinfulness

and desire for God are quite evident in these tales. Still, we are

told that history repeats itself because nobody listens to it, but

more realistically history repeats itself because man is essentially

the same from one generation to the next. He has the same aspirations,

fears and flaws; yet the way that these are expressed differs from age

to age. This is why each period of history is different. The fact that

man is the same yet different is what makes the study of the people

who formed the medieval church directly applicable to Christians'

lives and experiences today.