To What Extent Was Christianity A Unifying

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To What Extent Was Christianity A Unifying Influence In The History Of Europe? Essay, Research Paper ”Europe was a Christian creation, not only in essence but in minute detail” The above statement can perhaps best sum up the relationship between Christianity and Europe throughout the ages. Christianity has been the strongest single influence in the history of Europe. Regardless of the century, no discussion would be complete without reference being made, at least in small part, to the Church. It is true that in recent centuries this influence has declined significantly, but nevertheless one could argue that it still plays an important part in the lives of many people. Throughout history Christianity has been both a unifying force and also a force for disunity. During the

Dark Ages it was the only unifying force. By the Middle Ages people defined themselves by their religion and in Europe this religion had become Christianity. Through it’s missionary work, it’s monasteries, it’s education, it pilgrimages, it’s crusades, it’s influence on art and architecture and it’s Papacy it had united the peoples of Europe. By the thirteenth century all of Europe was Christian. It’s ideas penetrated every aspect of life and every political and economic arrangement. It’s churches could be seen in the major cities as well as the mountainside villages of rural Europe. It’s bishop’s were part of the politics of countries at the highest level and for many centuries it’s clergy played the role of civil servants to the European rulers. It helped

form the foundations of modern human rights and law across Christendom. By the end of the reformation Christianity had passed it’s peak of influence on European society, and so in evaluating it’s influence, it is perhaps best to end this paper at that point. Also because of the enormous time span covered by history of Christianity and the amount of material it includes it is very difficult to cover everything and so it is necessary to be selective. However it is worth giving a brief history of the birth of this religion. At the beginning of the first century a new religion was born and started to spread rapidly across the Roman Empire. Its source of inspiration was Jesus. It was different to the other religions of the day in a profound way. It was universal, offering all

things to all men, proclaiming an afterlife, triumph over death, and presenting a road to salvation for all men and women. It emphasised the inner life and filled the spiritual void created by the Roman lifestyle. Yet it was one of many religions. There were many rivals, the mystery religions of Persia, Syria and Egypt were popular at the time and of course there was Judaism. Nothing at the time suggested this Jewish heresy could rival the other religions. Nevertheless Christianity spread relatively quickly, mainly due to the missionary work of St. Paul and, also, St. Peter. St Paul’s journeys took him to Palestine, Asia, Macedonia, Greece, Rome and finally Spain. In addition this new religion spread quickly throughout the Roman garrisons and from there was carried by the

soldiers through the Empire. In early fourth century Emperor Decius attempted to wipeout the Christian faith, the great persecution lasted thirteen years, but in 313 the ‘Edict of Milan’, in which religious tolerance was granted to Christians and previous anti-Christian legislation was repealed, was passed. Soon the Emperor Constantine was converted and became the first Christian emperor. Thus the Empire was identified with Christianity. It soon became the state religion and by the fifth century the empire had become exclusively Christian. However the break-up of the Roman Empire in the West and its invasion by barbarian tribes soon threatened this Christian unity. During the Dark ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the birth of the Carolingian Empire, monasticism was,