History 2

Year 7 Key Stage 3 History How did the medieval church affect people's lives?

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What impact did monks and nuns have on people's everyday life?

In Medieval times all the people in England believed in God. The people thought that if they behaved according to the teachings of Christ, they would go to heaven. Virtually all people had had a very hard life, and knew that death could come at any time, from disease, drinking, childbirth or frequent local disputes. Therefore they were very prepared for death and lived very proper lives.

The Priest was a very important person in the village. As most people could not read, they relied on the village priest to explain what was in the Bible. The priest also gave church services, visited the sick and helped those in trouble. For a small fee, the priest also performed other services. He christened them after they were born, married them and at the end of their lives carried out their burial service.

In addition to the Priests, many others became Monks and Nuns.

Monasteries were the other main form of church presence. They were self-contained enclaves where monks or nuns chose to live a simple life of prayer and work.The nearest one to St Mary's church was the one at Ashridge

The first monasteries were organized according to the Benedictine Rule, established by St. Benedict in the 6th century. In the 12th Century the Cistercian order was created to return to a simpler life style.

In the Monasteries the monks would spend much of their time reading and copying their books. As the numbers of books increased with the advent of the printing press, the need for copying books died out and the monks spent more time on other activities

The first friars, who were the Dominicans and the Franciscans appeared in the 13th century. They were clergy not attached to any particular parish and had no means of support. They lived among townspeople and survived by begging. These friars were more popular than the Priests or Monks as they were seen more often with the people.

The Nuns and Monks lived a life in some seclusion, away from the normal life of the other people, but their life was not any easier. The Monks and Nuns were expected in addition to all the normal jobs of life, to spend much of the day and the night in prayer.


Due to a life of seclusion many the of the Monks and Nuns did not interact with the local people, but that is not to say that they didn't have much contact. The Monks and Nuns worked in the fields, and often went to a local Parish church as did the Monks from Ashridge to St Mary's. These Monks walked several miles to the church and back to the Monastery.

This is why St Mary's church has a door in the South Transept, to allow the Monks to enter the "Holy" part of the church without having to use the normal entrance and mix with the other Parish people.

Why did people become Monks and Nuns. Many did because of the same reasons that people do today, except that they did in greater numbers because of the level of belief in God. The life was not an escape from the outside world. Many widows accepted that when their husbands died that a Convent was the best place for them to survive. They had to work hard, but they were protected. There was no handouts of money or food, so a Convent was often their only choice.

The heirachy of the church was that God was at its head, then the bishops, then the priests, then the Monks and Nuns and then the ordinary people.

Throughout the Medieval times the monasteries were the only real place education. The monks were usually the only educated people in the Parish. The Monastery usually contained a library. The Monastery or Convent, was run by an Abbot or Abbess. When they were not available then the prior or prioress was the next in charge.

Different order of Monks and Nuns felt that thaey had different needs to do with the local people. Some orders kept away from the locals whereas others felt it was their duty to help the local people.

The day of a monk or nun, in theory at least, was regulated by regular prayer services in the abbey church. These services took place every three hours, day and night. When the services were over, monks would be occupied with all the tasks associated with maintaining a self-sustaining community. Our local monastry at Ashridge is a good few miles walk to the church

Abbeys grew their own food, did all their own building, and in some cases, grew enormously wealthy, largely on the basis of farming, raising sheep and selling the wool.

Philip M Russell

What impact did parish churches have on people's lives?

Why did people go on pilgrimages?

Was everyone in Britian a Christian?

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