Thursday, December 12, 2019

Canterbury Tales Chaucers View Of The Church Essay Example For Students

Canterbury Tales: Chaucers View Of The Church Essay In discussing Chaucers collection of stories called TheCanterbury Tales, an interesting picture or illustration of theMedieval Christian Church is presented. However, while peopledemanded more voice in the affairs of government, the churchbecame corrupt this corruption also led to a more crookedsociety. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as just church history;This is because the church can never be studied in isolation,simply because it has always related to the social, economic andpolitical context of the day. In history then, there is a two wayprocess where the church has an influence on the rest of societyand of course, society influences the church. This is naturallybecause it is the people from a society who make up thechurch.and those same people became the personalities thatcreated these tales of a pilgrimmage to Canterbury. The Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England was to take place ina relatively short period of time, but this was not because of thesuccess of the Augustinian effort. Indeed, the early years of thismission had an ambivalence which shows in the number of peoplewho hedged their bets by practicing both Christian and Paganrites at the same time, and in the number of people who promptlyapostatized when a Christian king died. There is certainly noevidence for a large-scale conversion of the common people toChristianity at this time. Augustine was not the most diplomatic ofmen, and managed to antagonize many people of power andinfluence in Britain, not least among them the native Britishchurchmen, who had never been particularly eager to save thesouls of the Anglo-Saxons who had brought such bitter times totheir people. In their isolation, the British Church had maintainedolder ways of celebrated the major festivals of Christianity, andAugustines effort to compel them to conform to modern Rom anusage only angered them. When Augustine died (some timebetween 604 and 609 AD), then, Christianity had only aprecarious hold on Anglo-Saxon England, a hold which waslimited largely to a few in the aristocracy. Christianity was tobecome firmly established only as a result of Irish efforts, whofrom centers in Scotland and Northumbria made the commonpeople Christian, and established on a firm basis the EnglishChurch. At all levels of society, belief in a god or gods was not amatter of choice, it was a matter of fact. Atheism was an alienconcept (and one dating from the eighteenth century). Living inthe middle ages, one would come into contact with the Church ina number of ways. First, there were the routine church services, held daily andattended at least once a week, and the special festivals ofChristmas, Easter, baptisms, marriages, etc.. In that respect themedieval Church was no different to the modern one. Second,there were the tithes that the Church collected, usually once ayear. Tithes were used to feed the parish priest, maintain thefabric of the church, and to help the poor. Third, the Churchfulfilled the functions of a civil service and an education system. Schools did not exist (and were unnecessary to a largely peasantsociety), but the Church and the government needed men whocould read and write in English and Latin. The Church trained itsown men, and these went to help in the government: writingletters, keeping accounts and so on. The words cleric and clerkhave the same origin, and every nobleman would have at leastone priest to act as a secretary. The power of the Church is often over-emphasized. Certainly, thelater medieval Church was rich and powerful, and that power wasoften misused especially in Europe. Bishops and archbishopswere appointed without any training or clerical background,church offices changed hands for cash, and so on. The authorityof the early medieval Church in England was no different to thatof any other landowner. So, the question that haunted medievalman was that of his own salvation. The existence of God wasnever questioned and the heart-cry of medieval society was adesire to know God and achieve intimacy with the divine. Leadinga life pleasing to God was the uppermost concern, and the widediversity of medieval piety is simply because people answered thequestion, How can I best lead a holy life? in so many differentways. Beginning with The Pardoners Tale, the theme ofsalvation is truly paramount. Chaucer, being one of the mostimportant medieval authors, uses this prologue and tale to make astatement ab out buying salvation. The character of the pardoner isone of the most despicable pilgrims, seemingly along for the rideto his next gig as the seller of relics. For myn entente is nat butfor to winne,/ And no thing for correccion of sinne, admits thepardoner in his prologue. As a matter of fact, the pardoner is onlyin it for the money, as evident from this passage:I wol none of the Apostles countrefete:I wold have moneye, wolle, cheese, and whete,Al were it yiven of the pooreste page,Or of the pooreste widwe in a village Al sholde hir children sterve for famine. Nay, I drinke licour of the vineAnd have a joly wenche in every town. In his tale, the Pardoner slips into his role as the holiest of holiesand speaks of the dire consequences of gluttony, gambling, andlechery. He cites Attila the Hun with, Looke Attila, the greteconquerour,/ Deide in his sleep with shame and dishonour,/Bleeding at his nose in dronkenesse. The personification of thedeadly sins, along with his story of the three greedy men thateventually perish at the hands of their sin is a distinct medievaldevice. The comic twist that Chaucer adds to the device, though,is that the Pardoner in himself is as the personification of sin, as isevident from the passages of his prologue. At the conclusion ofhis tale, the Pardoner asks, Allas, mankinde, how may it bitide/That to thy Creatour which that thee wroughte,/ And with hisprecious herte blood boughte,/ Thou art so fals and unkinde,allas?. He then goes on to offer each pilgrim a placefor a price,of course. Childhood Memories EssayIn relating this solitary world to readers, there is also a monk inChaucers work He is someone who combined godliness andworldliness into a profitable and comfortable living. He was theoutrider or the person in charge of the outlying property.whichlead him to enjoy hunting, fine foods, and owning several horses. Monks renounced all their worldly belongings and by taking vowsof poverty, chastity and obedience, joined a community ofmonks. Their lives were spent in communal worship, devotionalreading, prayer and manual labour all under the authority of theabbot of the monastic house. Particular monks often hadparticular jobs- the cellarer or the infirmarer for example, andthese like every aspect of monastic life were laid down in theRule. Monks were nearly always of noble extraction (one had tohave wealth in order to give it up) but could also be given to themonastery as children (called oblates) to be brought up as monks. Hindsight has blurred our vision of the Medieval monk and theresult is that the modern Christian mindset has condemned him forhis selfish escapism from the world and for his apparent neglect ofthose who needed Christ outside of the cloister. The Medievalmindset was very different. The monastery was an integral part ofthe local community it probably owned most of the farmingland in the area- and the fortunes of the people in any area werebound up with the spirituality of its monastic house. The monkswere on the front line of the spiritual battle-it was they who didbattle in prayer for their community, who warded off devils anddemons and who prayed tirelessly for the salvation of the souls ofthose in their community. Rather than being the cowards ofChristianity unable to take the strain of living a Christian life in thereal world, the monks were like spiritual stormtroopersinterceeding for an area against its supernatural enemies in mudhthe same way as a local lord in his castle prote cted an areaagainst its physical enemies. The people gave gifts to both lordand abbot in return for a service. The Pardoner also represents the tradition of faith in respect tothe church of his time. The Pardoner is representative of theseamy side of the corrupt church and a broken or twisted (if youwill) faith. The faith of a bureaucracy, which is what the churchhad become. The Pardoner was a church official who had theauthority to forgive those who had sinned by selling pardons andindulgences to them. Although, the Pardoner was a churchofficial, he was clearly in the church business for economicreasons. The Pardoner, a devious and somewhat dubiousindividual had one goal: Get the most money for pardons byalmost any means of coercion necessary. A twisted and ironicmind, has basically defined himself through his work for a similarlycorrupt church. In contrast, the Plowman has nothing but aseemingly uncomplicated and untwisted faith. The Plowman hasthe faith of a poor farmer, uncomplicated by the bureaucracy ofthe church. The Pardoner is probably on this journey because heis being required to go by the church or he sees some sort ofeconomic gain from this voyage, most likely from sellingforgiveness to the other pilgrims. The Plowman on the other handis probably on this voyage because of his sincerity and faith in itspurpose. While this was the story of religion at grass-roots level, at theorganisational and hierarchical level, the church developed along adifferent line. It became more organized, more bureaucratic, morelegal, more centralized and basically more powerful on aEuropean scale. This process was spearheaded by the papacyand reached its pinnacle under Pope Innocent III in the early 13thCentury. He embodied what became known as the papalmonarchy a situation where the popes literally were kings intheir own world. The relative importance of spiritual and secularpower in the world was a constant question in the middle ageswith both secular emperors and kings, and the popes assertingtheir claims to rule by divine authority with Gods commands forGods people proceeding out of their mouths. The power of thechurch is hard to exaggerate: its economic and political influencewas huge, as its wealth, movements like the crusades, and eventhe number of churches that exist from this period truly show itsgreatn ess. By the early 10th century, a strange malaise seems tohave entered the English church. There are comments from thistime of a decline in learning among churchmen and an increase ina love for things of this earthly world. Even more of these laxstandards had begun a decline in the power structure of thechurch which included a decrease in acceptable behavior amongstchurchmen and a growing use of church institutions by lay peopleas a means of evading taxes. Christianity affected all men in Europe at every level and in everyway. Such distances however, led to much diversity and theshaping of Medieval religion into a land of contrasts. One can alsosee how mans feelings of extreme sinfulness and desire for Godare quite evident in these tales. Still, we are told that historyrepeats itself because nobody listens to it, but more realisticallyhistory repeats itself because man is essentially the same from onegeneration to the next. He has the same aspirations, fears andflaws; yet the way that these are expressed differs from age toage. This is why each period of history is different. The fact thatman is the same yet different is what makes the study of thepeople who formed the medieval church directly applicable toChristians lives and experiences today. Poetry Essays

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