Watched an interesting program on BBC 4 last night about the attitudes of medieval people, and how their lives were governed by the constant battle between the imaginary forces of good and evil. The program was able to explain how the church fitted into all this and why it was so important.
I’ve always been surprised by just how many abbeys, minsters, cathedrals and churches there are about, left from the middle ages. Were people really that religious or the church so wealthy that they could pay for and build these structures ? Everyone in the medieval period believed that there was a constant evil presence that was trying to possess them so they would finish in hell, and that the devil was everywhere in many forms. The churches offered protection against this, the monasteries being the central hub, giving a protective blanket around them, the monks constantly praying for the souls of the local population. The parish church was the protective outposts from this, so really the church was the whole basis of how people lived and survived. Everyone wanted to contribute towards these buildings in order to safeguard themselves. So it wasn’t exactly about being overtly religious, more like being sensible – like keeping your car serviced and paying your insurance. So actually the concept of the church is different now from what it was then.