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The Church’s Role During the Feudal Era Case Study


The shift towards the feudal form of social organization was connected to the development of feudal land ownership. Such land relations broadly defined the character of the political regime and the essence of the state and law. While serfs paid to rent land from landowners, their dependence was also determined by non-economic coercion that came to life through political and legal methods. At that time, the church was a large landowner that substantially influenced ideological and religious life. Along with the spiritual sphere of life, the church also managed the political sphere. It had many prerogatives and legal privileges and influenced both the political and legal systems. While the significant purpose of political organization was to provide rules, the primary purpose of the church was to justify those rules. As Cone states, religion serves to give meaning to the circumstances in which people live and explain why they are good and conducive to happiness (129). The unique role of religion and the church during the feudal era was defined by the fact that pre-industrial people’s worldview, regardless of their particular social affiliations, was primarily theological.

Additionally, by adjusting Christianity to the new feudal regime, the ruling class of society aimed to strengthen the church’s economic, political, and ideological position to increase their power and influence. For instance, as described in “Grant of a Fief,” King Louis VII of France and Count Henry of Champagne granted the rights of property to the Bishop of Beauvais: “And for that fief the said bishop has made the promise and engagement for one knight and justice and service to Count Henry; and he has also agreed that the bishops who shall come after him will do likewise” (Feudalism 9.2) This transaction is evidence of the process of the elite building which, according to Cone, was meant to sustain the loyalty of power holders to the same state (64). In this way, the church and the clergy obtained an essential role in the feudal system and became its ideological foundation.

In the Carolingian era, the church was core to the ideological cohesion of the state as well. Moreover, under Charles’s rule, it became an educational and cultural center of society (The Carolingian Era 8.1). During this period, the social and political organization was based on the dedication of serfs to nobility and the trade of access to farmland in exchange for military support. At that time, religion and the church served to protect the interests of the upper class. Therefore, the clergy and the church’s role in the later feudal system was, to a large extent, similar to the role it played in other pre-industrial societies. However, in the early feudal era, the church and the state’s links were stronger and closer. The church could be regarded as the highest authority of the feudal regime, which punished anyone who either confronted the system or encroached on the church’s authority. But the links became weaker as political power became more decentralized, and internecine struggles between various feudal groups increased (Podcast). The significant decline in the church’s power during the later feudal era makes it clear that the church-state relationship was associated with instability and considerable fragility.

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1. IvyPanda. "The Church's Role During the Feudal Era." November 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-churchs-role-during-the-feudal-era/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Church's Role During the Feudal Era." November 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-churchs-role-during-the-feudal-era/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Church's Role During the Feudal Era'. 15 November.

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