The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

12
THE MESSAGE OF THE CHURCHES

i. Towards a Christian Society

However active the concern for the defence and extension of the boundaries of Christendom, a still greater task faced the church at home: to build a Christian society among those (the overwhelming majority of the population) who professed the name of Christ. Both inside and outside the Christian frontier, pastoral endeavours were directed to the same end: to create temples where the name of the true God would be honoured. A modern student is likely to ask whether the Christian convictions of the population were nominal or real. A contemporary, at the beginning of our period, would have found such a question difficult to understand, for it would have seemed to him that a community which had been baptized and which worshipped according to a Catholic liturgy was by that fact a Christian community. Prayer was a communal activity according to set forms, and private prayer was no more than an overflow of communal worship, as when a monk would recite the whole psalter as an act of daily piety. Prayer was, moreover, the special function of monks, so that when a layman received 'an excellent missal' as part of a transaction, he naturally gave it to the monks of St Victor, Marseille, with a request to use it in praying for his family and himself. The foundation of a church was the path to virtue: 'let every one build a church, that he may be sure of receiving the kingdom of heaven'.1

In the course of the twelfth century we can discern significant changes in this cultic approach. The policy of the papal reformers provided the foundation for some of them. They had emphasized the need for purity in worship, which must not be offered by priests defiled by simony or intercourse with women. This was essentially a demand for ritual cleanliness, but the reformers had gone further. In spite of the monastic influence at Rome, Gregory VII had been

____________________
1
Cartulaire de S. Victor, Marseille, ed. M. Guérard ( Paris, 1857), I, nos. 413 and 269.

-287-

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