Evolution of Christianity from Christ to Christendom Thesis Statement Instructions:
Now that you have learned to analyze historical documents you will be using this skill to support a larger historical argument. The larger issue you are analyzing is the origins and components of the civilization of the High Middle Ages in Western Europe, sometimes called “Western Christendom.” There are two topics and all three ask you to analyze the major cultural and religious transformation(s) taking place over three distinct periods:
1. Classical Antiquity (ca. 800 BC-180 AD: old Greece and Rome)
2. Late Antiquity and/or the Early Middle Ages (ca. 313-1000: declining and Christian Rome, Carolingian Empire)
3. The High Middle Ages and the society of Western Christendom (ca. 1000-1350)
Topic 1: The Evolution of Christianity: From Christ to Christendom
The story of the Christianization of the West is a long and protracted process that lasted about a millennium. What changes can you discern between the teachings of Christ from the Bible, Saint Augustine’s theology of the fourth century, the conversion process of the Germanic pagans, and the crusading Christianity and feudal system of the High Middle Ages? Where did these changes come from? What influence do the Germanic and/or Graeco-Roman “pagan” values (areté or virtus) have on Christianity over the course of its expansion in Europe? How can the rise of the papacy to the pinnacle of secular power in the High Middle Ages be explained? You must use sources from all three periods to make your case and support your argument.
Your paper should be four to five pages in length (12 pt. font, double-spaced, 1 inch margins). You must cite your sources using footnotes or inline citation (Augustine, 190) AND a separate bibliography. Please list the primary documents you use at the end of your paper. You should NOT be using outside sources for this paper, just use the assigned documents we have read throughout the semester. You must use and analyze at least THREE SOURCES from the three distinct periods between classical antiquity and the High Middle Ages in order to support your argument. That is, at least ONE from Classical Antiquity, ONE from Late Antiquity or the Early Middle Ages, and at least ONE from the High Middle Ages. Note that in order to be ready you need to look ahead at the documents from the High Middle Ages. You may use more than three but I don’t recommend going much beyond 5.
In order to successfully write this paper you need to formulate a thesis, which is your argument. A thesis is NOT a topic and a general overview of what you’re going to write about but rather an explicit statement of exactly what you’re arguing. Your thesis should lay out the question you are answering and as such may easily be more than one sentence. So essentially, your thesis should be the answer to the question you pose: 1) How and why did Christianity evolve from Classical Antiquity to the High Middle Ages, 2) How and why did Germanic culture evolve from Classical Antiquity to the High Middle Ages, or 3) How and why did the classical notion of arete’/virtus evolve from Classical Antiquity to the High Middle Ages?
List of Documents you can use
Thucydides, Pericles Funeral Oration
Plato’s Apology of Socrates
Plato, The Republic
Aristotle, Science, Politics, and Ethics
Polybius on the Roman Army
Caesar, Gallic Wars
Augustus, Achievements of the Divine Augustus
Aristides on the Pax Romana
Tacitus on the Pax Romana
Paul of Tarsus
Tacitus, On Germania
Gospel of Saint Matthew (Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount)
If you would like to use other parts of the New Testament please clear it with me first.
Late Antiquity/Early Middle Ages
the Burgundian Code
Salvian, Political and Social Injustice
Saint Augustine, City of God
Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks
Bede, History of the English Church
Beowulf excerpts (Optional document from Threaded Discussion 9 Extra Credit)
Einhard, Life of Charlemagne (two documents)
The Annals of Xanten and the Siege of Paris
High Middle Ages
Liutprand of Cremona, Report to Otto I
Feudalism documents (Galbert of Bruges, Obligations of Lords and Vassals and Fulbert of Chartres, Letter to William of Aquitaine, Bishop Adalbero on the Tripartite Society)
Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory II (Investiture Controversy)
Robert the Monk, Pope Urban Speech
William of Tyre, Capture of Jerusalem
St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitions Chapter 7 Th e Early M iddle A ges
8 The Feudal Lord: Vassal and Warrior
In societies in which the state’s role in regulating human relationships is mini
mal, law and order are maintained through custom and contract. This condition
prevailed in the Early Middle Ages, particularly among the Germanic peoples.
Laws were based on the community’s assumptions about what was right and
wrong, enforced by public opinion and community-approved use of force. To en
force law and to protect oneself and one’s family, a person formed contractual ties
with others and sought security and justice in mutual aid. A principal form of
such a contract was called vassalage. By its terms, two free men of different
m eans bound themselves to assistance and loyal support. The socially and eco
nomically superior man was called the lord; the man of inferior social status was
called the vassal. The vassal pledged to be loyal and fight on behalf of his lord
when called upon, in return for the lord’s loyalty and protection when they were
needed. The contract was lifelong and had deep emotional meaning in addition
to the obvious self-interest of both parties.
Vassalage was a dynamic relationship, ever changing in content and meaning ac
cording to time, place, and circumstances. In the Carolingian Empire, vas salage was
practiced by all members of the free class wealthy enough to afford weapons. Charle
magne and his successors tried to use vassalage as a means of controlling their war
like subjects and organ izing them to serve more effectively for the defense of the
royal family’s realms. Eventually, the kings’ vassals used their military sk ills, their
own landed w ealth, and their political power to diminish royal power. The royal
vassals then became the true center of authority within medieval society.
An important part of the lord-vassal relationship was the lord’s grant of a
fief to his vassal. The fief might be any object of val u e that reflected the vassal’s
social status and the lord’s respect for his services. A fief could be a war
horse, sword, and suit of armor; a public office; a right to collect a tax or toll;
or authority to hold a court of justice in a specified district. The most sought
after fief was a land grant–one or more manors from which to draw income.
Fiefs were held for the duration of the bond of vassalage . If the bond was broken
by death or di sloyalty, the fief was forfeited to its grantor. By the late ninth cen
tury, however, fiefs had become hereditary, as had the right to be a vassal to a
Galbert of Bruges
COMMENDATION AND THE
OATH OF FEALTY
This reading contains an eyewitness account of the ceremony of commendation
or investiture in which vassals swore an oath of fealty (loyalty) to their new lord,
William Clito, the count of Flanders, in 112 7, and w ere then invest ed with their
fiefs . The account comes from an early twelfth-century chronicle written by a
Part T wo Th e Middle A ges
Flemish notary, Galbert of Bruges (a major medieval commercial city in Flanders,
now part of Belgium).
Through the whole remaining part of the
day those who had been previously enfeoffed
[given fiefs] by the most pious count Charles,’ did
homage to the count, taking up now again their
fiefs and offices and whatever they had before
rightfully and legitimately obtained. On Thurs
day the seventh of April, homages were again
made to the count being completed in the follow
ing order of faith and security.
First they did their homage thus: The count
asked if he was willing to become completely his
lCharles, count of Flanders, was murdered on March 2,
man, and the other replied, “I am willing;” and
with clasped hands, surrounded by the hands of
the count, they were bound together by a kiss.
Secondly, he who had done homage gave his fealty
to the representative of the count in these words,
“I promise on my faith that I will in future be
faithful to count William, and will observe my
homage to him completely against all persons in
good faith and without deceit,” and thirdly, he
took his oath to this upon the relics of the saints.
Afterward, with a little rod which the count held
in his hand, he gave investitures to all who by this
agreement had given their security and homage
and accompanying oath.
Bishop Fulbert of Chartres
OBLIGATIONS OF LORDS AND VASSALS
In a letter written in 1020 to William, Duke of Aquitaine, Bishop Fulbert
(c. 920-1028) of Chartres summarizes the obligations of the lord and the vassal.
To William most glorious duke of the Aquitani
ans,’ bishop Fulbert [asks] the favor of his prayers.
Asked to write something concerning the
form of fealty, I have noted briefly for you on the
authority of the books the things which follow.
He who swears fealty to his lord ought always to
have these six things in memory; what is harm
less, safe, honorable, useful, easy, practicable.
Harmless, that is to say that he should not be in
jurious to his lord in his body; safe, that he
should not be injurious to him in his secrets or
in the defences through which he is able to be
secure; honorable, that he should not be injuri
ous to him in his justice or in other matters that
pertain to his honor; useful, that he should not
be injurious to him in his possessions; easy or
“The Aquiranians inhabited th e kin gd om of Aquitaine in
southwestern France-later a province of France.
practicable, that that good which his lord is able
to do easily, he make not difficult, nor that
which is practicable he make impossible to him.
However, that the faithful vassal should avoid
these injuries is proper, but not for this does he
deserve his holding; for it is not sufficient to ab
stain from evil, unless what is good is done also.
It remains, therefore, that in the same six things
mentioned above he should faithfully counsel
and aid his lord, if he wishes to be looked upon
as worthy of his benefice and to be safe concern
ing the fealty which he has sworn.
The lord also ought to act toward his faithful
vassal reciprocally in all these things. And if he
does not do this he will be justly considered
guilty of bad faith , just as the former, if he
should be detected in the avoidance of or the do
ing of or the consenting to them, would be per
fidious and perjured.
Part Two T he M iddle A ges
1. In the Middle Ages, cont racts were sym bolized and publicly not ed by the use of
various ritual act s or gestures. Explain how the cont ract of vassalage was signified
by specific rituals or actions.
2. What were some of th e ethical and emotive dimensions of vassalage ? Describe the
mutual obligations of lords and vassals.
3. What personal qualities were expected from a medi eval leader in combat?
What challenge did the G ermanic warrior sp irit present to th e leaders of the
Christian Church ?
9 The Burdens of Serfdom
The feudal lord’s way of life was made possible by the toil of the serfs who
worked on the manors. Serfs, who were not free persons, had some rights but
many burdensome obligations. Unlike slaves, they could not be sold off the land
or dispossessed from their landholdings. Their tenure on their farms was hered
itary, but they owed heavy rent to the landlord in the form of labor and a share of
their crops and livestock. There were many restrictions on their personal free
dom: they needed the landlord’s permission to leave the estate, to marry, or to
pass on personal property to their heirs. In return, they received security; they
were defended by the landlords against outside aggressors or fellow serfs.
The labor services usually took up half the work week of the serf. He was re
quired to plant, plow, and harvest the lord’s fields, repair roads, fix fences, clear
ditches, and cart goods to barns and markets. Although specific obligations varied
from time to time and manor to manor, they were sufficiently onerous to encourage
the serfs to seek freedom; in later centuries, when the opportunity presented itself,
a serf might flee to a nearby town or to newly developed lands, or might purchase
certain freedoms from the manorial lord. The serfs’ struggle to rid themselves of
the burdens of serfdom took centuries. It was largely successful in western Europe
by the fifteenth century. But in eastern Europe, serfdom was imposed on the for
merly free peasantry in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Remnants of serf
dom in western Europe su rv ived until the French Revolution. Serfdom was
abolished in central and eastern Europe in the mid-nineteenth century.
Bishop Adalbero of Laon
THE TRIPARTITE SOCIETY
Medieval thinkers came to see their society divided into three different but com
plementary groups: clergy, lords, and serfs. Each group had its own responsibili
ties-s-priests guided the souls of the faithful; lords protected society from its
enemies; and the serfs’ toil provided sustenance for everyone. Written in about
1020, the following statement b y Bishop Adalbero of Laon, France, illustrates the
tripartite nature of medieval society.
Chapter 7 Th e Early Middle A ges
The community of the faithful is a single body,
but the condition of society is threefold in order.
For human law distinguishes two classes. No
bles and serfs, indeed, are not governed by the
same ordinance…. The former are the warriors
and the protectors of the churches. They are the
defenders of the people, of both great and small,
in short, of everyone, and at the same time they
ensure their own safety. The other class is that of
the serfs. This luckless breed possesses nothing
except at the cost of its own labour, Who could,
reckoning with an abacus, add up the sum of the
cares with which the peasants are occupied, of
their journeys on foot, of their hard labours ? The
serfs provide money, clothes, and food, for the
rest; no free man could exist without serfs. Is
there a task to be done? Does anyone want to
put himself out? We see kings and prelates
make themselves the serfs of their serfs; [but in
truth] the master, who claims to feed his serf, is
fed by him. And the serf never sees an end to his
tears and his sighs. God ‘s house, which we think
of as one, is thus divided into three; some pray,
others fight, and yet others work. The three
groups, which coexist, cannot bear to be sepa
rated; the services rendered by one are a precon
dition for the labours of the two others; each in
his turn takes it upon himself to relieve the
whole. Thus the threefold assembly is none the
less united, and it is thus that law has been able
to triumph, and that the world has been able to
enJoy peace .
Ralph Glaber, Monk of Cluny
Among the hardships burdening medieval peasants was famine, which particu
larly afflicted the poor. The following passage by Ralph Glaber, monk of Cluny in
France, describes the terrible famine of 1032-1034.
The famine started to spread its ravages and one
could have feared the disappearance of almost
the entire human race. The atmospheric condi
tions became so unfavourable that no suitable
time could be found to sow seed, and that, espe
cially because of the floods, there was no means
of reaping the harvest. … Continual rains had
soaked into all the soil to the point where dur
ing three years no one could dig furrows capable
of taking the seed. At harvest-time, weeds and
ill-ornened tares had covered the whole surface
of the fields. A [half bushel] of grain sown,
where it gave the best yields, … produced barely
a fistful. If by chance one found some food for
sale, the seller could charge an outrageous price
just as he pleased. However, when they had
eaten the wild beasts and birds, the people
started, under the sway of a devouring hunger,
to collect all sorts of carrion [decaying flesh] and
other things which are horrible to mention to
eat. Some in order to escape death had recourse
to forest roots and water-weed . Finally, horror
takes hold of us listening to the perversions
which then reigned among the human race. Alas!
o woe! Something rarely heard of throughout the
ages: rabid hunger made men devour human
flesh. Travellers were kidnapped by people
stronger than they were, their limbs were cut
off, cooked on the fire and eaten. Many people
who moved from one place to another to flee the
famine, and who had found hospitality on the
way, were murdered in the night, and served as
food for those who had welcomed them . Many
showed a fruit or an egg to children, enticed
them into out-of-the-way spots, killed them, and
devoured them. Bodies of the dead were in
many places torn out of the ground and equally
served to appease hunger.. . . Then people tried
an experiment in the region of Macon which had
never before, to our knowledge, been tried any
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