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Christianity got political support under the Roman Emperors
from the days of Constantine. By the 6thcentury A.D the Pope became
the head of the church and kings were the rulers of the kingdoms. Sometimes,
the Popes were stronger than the king. There in Europe developed a system of
dual leadership under the Popes and the kings. Later, this dual leadership led
to the rivalries between the church and the state. The Pope was considered as
the representative (Vicar) of Jesus Christ. He was the highest authority of the
church and was stronger than the kings. They could give directives to the kings
and force them to obey their orders.
The papal authority became supreme due to missionary
spirit of Christians. In the establishment of papal supremacy, monasteries
played a very significant and important role. The character of monks,
educational institutions of monasteries attracted the people towards papacy. It
made certain valuable contributions.
Effects of papacy
In the social life, people became God fearing, began
to help the poor, the needy and the deserving. The sense of morality and
character as well as dignity developed. Beautiful churches were developed.
Religious dogmas and hymns became the themes of literature. In the eyes of the
papacy, all the high and the low were equal. With the result it created a sense
of equality among all. It was due to papal educational institutions that
knowledge developed and also could be passed on to the present generation.
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire was an attempt by the kings to
attain political unification of Christian Europe with close co-operation of the
church. In the old Roman empire there was no place for Christianity. In the new
empire Christianity was the recognised religion. Rome was only nominal centre
of authority. The old empire was Italian in its out look whereas the new one
was Christian in nature and character. Thus the main idea of creation of an
empire was to bring all Christian states together in a fraternity. In the
empire, the emperor was required to be crowned by the Pope.
The king possessed vast powers. He wanted that the
Pope should be under his control. The Pope belonged to the other world and had
position over the emperor. The greatest service of the
Empire was that the whole of European continent, which was divided into small
units, were united into one empire. It strengthened hereditary system and
weakened the republican system. The Holy Roman Empire contributed a lot by way
of crushing feudal lords and feudalistic tendencies. Mainly it was responsible
in bringing national unity in Germany. It was as a result of Holy Roman Empire
that nation states of England, France and Spain came into being.
Medieval Towns and Universities
New towns began to emerge as centres of craft and
trade. The early towns were very small, as the number of artisans increased and
the trade became extensive, the towns too became bigger. When western Europe
traded with the East, Italy enjoyed an advantage over others because of their
location. Genoa, Florence and Venice became trade centres. Genoa and Venice
were coastal towns whereas Florence, Pisa and Milan were situated on inland
trade routes. In Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and England a number of
cities grew up that were either sea ports or centres of trade and commerce.
These medieval towns became centres of the Medieval European civilization and
In the early medieval period it was the church that
gave education to the people. It taught the subjects like grammar, logic,
arithmetic and theology. Some of the monasteries became centres of learning.
Many universities were set up. The monks dominated the universities. Theology
and philosophy were given prominence. History and science were ignored. The
books were hand copied. The university of Bolonga became famous for law. Arabic
and Hebrew were taught in the Spanish University.
The University of Oxford in England was modelled on
the Paris university of France. The Cambridge university came into existence in
the 12th century.
Rise of Islam
During the middle ages, Arabia, a vast desert land in south
west Asia, became the birth place of Islam. Islam is one of the most important
world religions. It united the various warring tribes.
The founder of the Islamic
religion was Prophet Mohammad. Islam laid stress on the Unity of God and on
following high moral standards andprinciples. Mecca and Medina became two important
pilgrim centres in Arabia. The main and significant contributions of Islam were
in the field of literature, science and medicine. Due to their superior
organization, faith in their ultimate victory and unabating zeal in their
mission, the Muslims were in a position to secure power in many countries. The
Islamic culture served as a link between the Christian west and the rich
fabulous Orient (east). It possed a serious threat to the Christian culture.
The Arabs wanted to spread their religion in the conquered regions. This
enthusiasm for the spread of their religion led to the fast expansion of their
empire. Also Read: