Clergy in the Middle Ages
Written by Simon Newman
History - Middle Ages
The clergy in the Middle Ages were very important and influential in the society. Some even had a great deal of power politically. The clergy in the Middle Ages were exempted from paying taxes because they were giving services to their parishioners and also provided spiritual satisfaction and care. They were the mediators between God and men.
In the Middle Ages the Pope was powerful and influential. He was the person the people in the Middle Ages looked upon to with promises of redemption from sin and with the absence of the emperor the Pope as the most important clergy member became the most respected public figure both for the Church and the Roman Empire. Due to this, the Catholic Church became the most unifying and universal institution. The religious fervor for the popes in the medieval time was a real culture of the Middle Age.
The role of the Pope as a clergy man in the Middle Age as a governor was to be the churches’ spiritual leader and administrator. Once the Pope was elected he would serve as a pope until the day he dies. The medieval pope was also a legislator. He would make laws that only he could annul and dispense unless his decision was appealed and successfully pass. The Pope in the Middle Ages had the power to appoint clergy men. The medieval popes would rule over disputes and had the power to annul marriages.
The bishops in the Middle Ages
The bishops were appointed by the Pope, but before the papacy was established the secular leaders were the ones who would appoint the bishop and also the Archbishop. The bishop would perform duties like any other clergy priest. They would perform wedding ceremonies, gave last rights, settled disputes in their districts, heard confessions and would give absolution.
In the Middle Ages the bishops were claimed to be the successors of the apostles and so they would step in and assume the vacancy the leaders left behind in the unstable areas. This happened in Rome when St. Peter a clergy in the Middle Ages assumed the vacancy of the throne and later on got the title papa or pope. The bishops were the pope’s advisers but still followed and obeyed the pope‘s authority.
Clergy of the Middle Ages, in this case the bishops were wealthy. They lived and dressed lavishly just like the lords. The clergy (bishops) in the Middle Ages involved themselves in politics and courts to help deliberate judgments.
Priests in the Middle Ages
Clergy in the Middle Ages included priest. Priests often came from humble homes. They never used to pay taxes and were not very well educated but could read and write. The priests were the ones who interacted with the commoners on a daily basis.
The priests were a part of the daily life in Middle Ages. They would tell the tales of the saints to their parishioners; he would be in church every Sunday. The priest being literate would be the ones teaching in schools. Clergy (priests) in the Middle Ages would listen to the peoples confessions and advise them on hoe to go about things.
The priests in the Middle Ages would be the ones who kept record in the village and the castle or manor house due to their literacy. In other situations they would help in the collection of taxes. The priests would sometimes tend to the sick when there was no physician or when one could not afford to pay the physician.
In the Middle Ages, prayers were seen as the ‘best medicine’ because any other forms of treatment were perceive as pure sorcery.
Monks and nuns in the Middle Ages
The monks were an important part of the clergy in the Middle Ages. The monks had devoted the life to working in monasteries in the Middle Ages. The monks would put on brown robs with hoods. They were well-educated as a part of their work in the monastery was to read the Bible and copy it since at that time there were no printing presses. The monks also devoted their time to learn, read and write Latin. Some of the earlier encyclopedias in history were written by the monks. They would write and then copy the encyclopedias and Bibles by hand.
On the other hand, this devoted clergy men of the Middle Ages also dedicated their daily life to worshiping God. Not only did they spend their time in church but also immersed themselves in private prayer sessions and deep reading of the Bible and meditation. The monk in the Middle Ages also did many other chores like sewing, teaching, preparing medicine.
Despite their busy schedule the monks had timetable that helped them in their daily routines. When somebody wanted to be a monk there were three vows that he had to take. The first one was the vow of poverty, which meant giving up all your possessions. The second one was the vow to stay single and the third vow was the vow of obedience.
The clergy in the Middle Ages also included nuns. Nuns were women who had taken oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience just like the monks. The nuns could be recognized by what they were wearing. This was the clothes they put on their heads. The most important role of the nuns was to praise God. Each nun had a different role in the community like the almoner would give out alms to the poor and treat the sick.
The sacrists were responsible for taking care of the buildings and safe book keeping. The other nuns were responsible for taking care of orphans in orphanages and educating the children both boys and girls in the community. The infirmarian was the nun in charge of the infirmary.
As a whole, the clergy in the Middle Ages was very important for people, from the nobility to peasants in order to help them, guide them and treat them, but also for the next generation because they were keeping records of the events as being the only ones able to read and write Latin (the official language of the Middle Ages). On the other hand it was also a very wealthy class who was making the most of its influence by using the sins and ignorance of common men in order to make money.