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The shaper of medieval civilization

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According to Perry, the Christian Church played a very important role in Medieval European society. In fact, its role was so great that he calls it the ” shaper of medieval civilization” (Perry 212). Three main ways it did this was through the translation of Classical works, the teaching of morality, and through its influence on the Frankish Empire. This influence can be best understood in how the Church affected Charlemagne and his followers.
After the Roman Empire started its decline, learning began to be lost. Very few people could even speak Latin any more, and ” literary works of classical antiquity were either lost or unread” (Perry 211). The Church, and specifically its monasteries, helped in this regard by making ” translations and compilations” of Classical works and by the ” books collected and copied by monks and nuns,” all of which ” kept intellectual life from dying out completely in the Early Middle Ages (Perry 212).
After Romes fall, the Church ” assumed many political functions formerly performed by the Roman state” (Perry 212). Even during invasions by Germanic tribes which ruined a lot of things, the Churchs monks continued to teach ” a higher morality,” which both ” tamed the warrrior habits of the Germanic people” and preserved ” some of the high culture of Greece and Rome” (Perry 212).
This was most highly seen by the Churchs influence on the Frankish Empire, which at one point occupied the majority of Europe. Since Clovis converted to Roman Christianity, ” the Franks became a potential ally of the papacy” (Perry 215). With the rise of Charlemagne, this potential became reality, as the conqueror was ” crowned … Emperor of the Romans” in 800 AD by the pope at the time, Leo III (Perry 217).
As the primary source for Chapter 9 shows, Charlemagne was not exactly an ignorant warrior and nothing else. Einhard describes the emperor as deriving ” much pleasure from the works of St. Augustine, especially from his book called The City of God” (Einhard). The fact that he could read St. Augustine also shows that he spoke and read Latin, something Einhard confirms when he says the emperor ” took pains to learn foreign languages, acquiring such knowledge of Latin that he could make an address in that language as well as in his own,” and in fact could even understand Greek (Einhard). Clearly, then, Charlemagne was extraordinarily influenced by the Church and its messengers towards learning.
Presumably because of his own reading and learning, the emperor was also supportive of education in general. He was ” an ardent admirer of the liberal arts,” and attended lectures by several deacons of the Church (Einhard). No doubt its incredible influence on such a powerful ruler as Chalermagne was the most important way that the Church managed to affect the course of European civilization in the Middle Ages.
Because of the Churchs profound effect on Europes learning through its translation and transmission of Classical culture, it was able to tame the Germanic peoples from warlike conquerors into noble emperors. It is not hard to see why Perry calls it ” the shaper” of the entirety of Medieval Europe.
Works Cited
Einhard, “ Life of Charlemagne.” Readings in European History. ed. James Harvey Robinson. Boston: Ginn, 1904. Web. Retrieved from http://college. cengage. com/history/primary_sources/west/the_life_of_charlemagne. htm
Perry, Marvin. Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics and Society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. Print.

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