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History 3

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

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

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Why did people go on pilgrimages?

The most local place to go on a pilgrimage from St Mary's church is to go to St Albans Abbey. In fact this is still done by this church today - every year at Easter time some of the parishioners set off on a pilgrimage to the Abbey.

A pilgrim is someone who tries to obtain salvation of their soul through a physical journey.

The pilgrimage needs to be a difficult journey to a usually distant and sacred place, in which the pilgrim can experience the presence of God, which will bring him or her closer to God so that that may easier find salvation.

Since in the Medieval times virtually all the people believed in God, very many of them were told to go on a pilgrimage by their local Priest, so that they more easily find their way to heaven by experiencing God on the way there or perhaps on the way back.

The most famous shrine in England was that of the tomb of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. When Becket was murdered some of the local people managed to obtain pieces of cloth soaked in his blood. Rumours were spread around that, when someone touched this cloth, they would be cured of blindness/ epilepsy and leprosy.

Some pilgrimages where short, like that from my church in Hemel Hempstead to St Albans which would take a day, others could take much longer. On Easter Monday many of our congregation repeat that pilgrimage.

In this country a journey of any distance would take a long time, since the only means of travel was on foot and there were often no roads. The best type of roads would nowadays be considered footpaths through woods. Such journeys as well as taking a long time, were also dangerous.

By risking such dangers the pilgrim was brought closer to God.

The Church encouraged people to make pilgrimages to many of the special holy places. It was believed by many of the people that if you prayed at these shrines you might be forgiven for your sins and have more chance of going to heaven. Others went to shrines hoping to be cured from an illness they were suffering from. Some of the shrines sold "genuine relics" to these pilgrims. In reality these relics were not genuine but made by the people working at the shrines to make some money for either themselves or more usally for the church.

 

 

One of the main sources of revenue for monasteries throughout the medieval period were pilgrims. The Pilgrims were usually enticed to come to the Monastery to touch some religious relic owned by the abbey. Such a relic might be a saint's bone or some named holy relic, which were often fabricated by the Abbey. The Pilgrims could usually be induced to buy some thing to show that they had made the pilgrimage, so that they could show to others later and thus persuade more pilgrims to visit the place.

This was the way the church became rich. the poor felt obijed to part with their hard fought for money to gain some relic that might bring salvation to their soul.

Many of the pilgrimage sites had special places to stay to cope with the numbers of pilgrims that arrived there.

In 1538 Henry VIII decided that the shrines should be closed down and the wealth that they had created given to the crown. For hundreds of years pilgrims had visited shrines that contained important religious relics. Wealthy pilgrims often gave expensive jewels and ornaments to the monks that looked after these shrines. Henry took these for his own.

Was everyone in Britain a Christian?

Not really, but virtually all had to go to church. It was the only place to receive any education and in those days the church was usually a market place.

The peoples lives were very hard and the church was the only respite. Most people believed because they had been brought up in the church and had no reason not to believe.

So from their earliest years people had been to church and saw thais as a way of life. Life was hard and often very cruel. Life was short - often as little as 40 years, less for a man, who might have to do service in an army for his Lord.

The peasants' year revolved almost entirely about the cycles of seasons, their Lords land, their land and Church. Pilgrimages were an escape to bring peace and redemption for a soul.

Philip M Russell

     
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