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Lecture Notes History 361: Witchcraft and Heresy in Europe Lecture 3: “The Evolution of Christianity in Western Europe through the 11th Century” 1.During the era 850-1100, Christianity as it was practiced in Europe was dominated by monks and monasteries. The world was wicked and filled with pollution. Those concerned with their salvation had to flee the world and then seek to cleanse themselves from its pollutions. Monasteries were understood to be places separate from the world where individuals could go to seek self-purification 2. Monasteries were organized like other feudal estates. Most monasteries were founded by kings, queens and nobles. In this sense most abbots were like the vassals of great lords. In fact some abbots were warriors and fought for the lords. Most though, dedicated themselves to prayer for the souls of the lord and his dependents. The relationship between the abbot of a monastery and the peasants attached to monastery lands was the same as the relationship between any landlord and his serfs. 3.Monks were men who lived by a rule or a written out code of conduct. For this reason they were know as “regular” clergy. The rule was understood to be a path toward spiritual perfection. At the heart of most rules was a vow of “stabilitas,” a vow to remain stationary in a given location. The opposite of monks were hermits, men who roamed around in the “desert,” actually the woods, as a path toward spiritual perfection. In Western Europe almost every monastery followed the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia (6th century). In his rule St. Benedict set out simple rules emphasizing manual labor for monks to follow. No distinction based upon wealth was made between brothers. The rule of St. Benedict of Nursia was reformed by St. Benedict of Aniane in the 9th century. St. Benedict of Aniane made distinctions among brothers, basically pushing most of the manual labor off on poor brothers and servants, giving the full members the task of daily rituals of collective prayer. At the beginning of the eleventh century, Europe was dominated by two confederations of monasteries, those centered around Cluny in France, and those centered around Gorze in the Holy Roman Empire (Germany). Cluny insisted upon its independence of political authority, though in practice this meant that Cluniac monasteries were friendly to all individuals with power. Gorze and its daughter houses were under the supervision of the Emperor.

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