Weekly Reading Review #3


In chapter eleven of The Medieval Church, Joseph H. Lynch and Phillip C. Adamo expose the concept that physical and cultural gain is not the correlation of spiritual gain. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar;” (1 John 4:20). This scripture is a true statement unless, of course, he is not my brother, but an other. The concept of Christendom aides us in knowing who are our Christian brothers.

In section one, “Population Growth,” we find that even the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) couldn’t stop the baby boom that occurred causing European populations over the next 200 years to jump from 10,000 to 50,000 people in some cities. Due to a combination of favorable climate, improved agricultural technology, and better nutrition, a new set of social classes emerged from merchant elites to craftsman and artisans which saw an increase of economic reactions through military conquests and natural land expansion.

Within section two, “Economic Growth,” the aftermath of the First Crusade made the surrounding Mediterranean coastlines and islands safe for passage of goods, and the Italians took full advantage with trading ships. Cloth was the dominant product and with Italy as a central location to by raw materials from the north such as wool and dyes and alum, and selling goods to the neighboring areas was commonplace. Soon skilled and unskilled workers made up 30% of the population in non-agricultural pursuits.

Section three “The Bonds of Unity,” we see that the roads of merchants and military are also used for the ordinary person to move freely on pilgrimages to Rome or the Holy Land. Students could study at universities far from home and with the growing literacy rates the letter became a powerful tool in helping to shape the different cultures as a whole.

In section four “Christendom,” we find a working definition of this word in that it is a form of national pride or the sense of being part of something larger than your country. Being a member of the Church on earth and that was part of the heavenly Church transcended any earthly kingdom. This sense among the peoples of the middle ages is what we call Christendom.

“The Crusades,” in section five could only have been made possible by this sense of Christendom that lead to the tremendous response of Pope Urban II to take up arms against the foes of Christendom and rescue the Holy Land. It was not the Papacy that fostered this attitude among the people, and therefore they could not sustain it for longer than a single successful crusade. The three that came after failed to achieve what was desired, but one thing did happen through Christendom leading the crusades; the spiritual authority of the papacy was legitimized as a visible institution.

Section six, “Hostility toward the ‘other,’” shows the negative aspect of being a closed society where instead of seeing the world as a mission field to be harvested, the world is a briar patch of non-Christians that need to be removed for the good of the earth. Muslims were, of course, one of these “others” but the targeting of Jews and heretics were dealt with differently depending on location and their usefulness as a taxable source of revenue.

In section seven, “Western and Eastern Christians,” we are introduced to the drifting, solidifying, and reconciling of the Eastern and Western relations in this period. Drifting in language and culture aided by advancing Muslim armies, solidifying in the fourth crusade pillaging Constantinople and unifying compromises on terms on Western propositions only, and finally reconciliation in the mid-20th and early 21st centuries.

We can say that the rise of Christendom had excellent and harmful effects on the course history. We can argue if the positives outweigh the negatives, but all must admit that the effects were long-lasting. Should we take into account that there are two different Christendoms at this time? The Western identified itself through the way it treated others and the Eastern through the way it was treated.