Chapter 2

Finishing Off the Roman Empire and Entering the (Not So) Dark Ages

In This Chapter

● Watching the Roman Empire crumble

● Touring the Byzantine Empire

● Shining a light on the Dark Ages

● Converting the masses to Christianity

Historians use the term Middle Ages to represent the period of medieval history that lasted from around 1100-1500. This phrase is all very well, but the Middle Ages didn’t just start suddenly in 1100; an awful lot happened before then to create the world that the Middle Ages sprung from. In this book I look at history from the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 through to around 1500 and to keep things simple I refer to all of it as medieval history.

In this chapter, I finish off the Roman Empire (with some help from Rome’s crumbling government and attacks by the Visigoths and Attila the Hun, of course). The period that followed it has been popularly known as the Dark Ages, which laid the foundation for the beginning of the Middle Ages. I also look at the importance of Christianity to the early Medieval World.

Saying Goodbye to Antiquity

In this book, I define medieval history as the period between Antiquity (also called Ancient History) and the Renaissance. As I discuss in Chapter 1, historians are still arguing about exactly when each period finished and the next started, but whatever dates and events you pick, medieval history still covers a massive period of time - about 1,000 years, or what historians refer to as a millennium, from approximately 476-1500.

This book’s starting point for medieval history is the end of Antiquity, which describes the period including the Ancient Greek civilisation and the Roman Empire and dates from around 1700 BC to AD 500. This period is fascinating, and if you want to know more about it, take a look at The Ancient Greeks For Dummies (Wiley, 2008) by yours truly and The Romans For Dummies (Wiley, 2006) by Guy De la Bedoyere.

The end of Antiquity is particularly important to understanding medieval history - most specifically the fall of the Roman Empire.

Dismantling Rome: The Empire that Died

The Roman Empire was the largest that the world had ever seen until its time. For nearly 1,000 years, the vast majority of Europe and the Mediterranean was ruled in the name of a single city and its emperor. At its height (around AD 120), the Empire stretched from the western coast of modern-day Portugal to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which flow today through Iraq. Figure 2-1 shows the Empire’s huge expanse.

Figure 2-1: The Roman Empire in c. AD 120

Standing for greatness

The Roman Empire was able to flourish spectacularly for nearly 1,000 years because it possessed a tremendous army that protected its borders. For nearly 500 years Rome flourished as a republic before expanding even further and more successfully under the emperors like Augustus (reigned 27 BC-AD 14), Tiberius (AD 14-37) and Trajan (AD 98-117). Unlike most other civilisations in Antiquity, Rome had a standing army, a group of professional soldiers who joined for the employment. With thousands of men devoted to policing and protecting it, the Empire was safe from invasions and able to add aggressively to its territory. This situation in turn meant more land and more tax and produce from its provinces, which enabled the Empire to further increase the size and strength of the army.

Splitting the Roman Empire

For many years from 27 BC the Roman Empire was successfully run by one man - the emperor - and by the political and administrative system of which he was the head. By the fourth century, however, the Empire was starting to break apart. It was effectively divided in two when Emperor Constantine (306-337) moved the capital and seat of the Empire from Rome to his new city of Constantinople on the Bosphorus (modern-day Istanbul).

In the years that followed, the Roman Empire split into two distinct sections. This arrangement was formalised in 395 with the death of Emperor Theodosius, the last emperor to rule the combined Roman Empire. He named two of his sons as joint heirs: Arcadius was given the Eastern Empire and Honorius the Western Empire.

Another big change made during the reign of Theodosius was the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity, which became its official religion. Christianity had been growing in influence for the past 150 years, and Constantine had publicly converted during the civil war that gave him control, and privately converted on his deathbed. In the eastern areas, the shift to Christianity didn’t make for a massive change, but the effect in the West was far more profound, because the Christian Church was at that time less well established in Western Europe. See the section ‘Spreading Christianity’ later for more details.

As well as the geographical split, the Roman Empire also had linguistic differences. The Western Empire was uniformly thought of as ‘The Latin Empire’, because it still used Latin as its official language of communication, whereas (Ancient) Greek was the dominant language in the Eastern Empire.

Although the Western Empire was the oldest part, it was also very much the lesser part. Despite its huge geographical span, the area was considerably less well developed. Historians calculate that by around the year 400, the Eastern Empire had about 900 cities, all of which were thriving economies. By contrast the Western Empire sported only just over 100 cities.

Beginning the breakdown: The Visigoths

The Western Roman Empire suffered a series of massive setbacks in the fifth century, which involved attacks from tribes and groups beyond its borders.

Since the late fourth century, barbarian peoples to the east had continually attacked and invaded one another. One such group was the Huns, fearsome warriors from the central part of Russia known as the steppes. As nomads who never stayed in one place for long, settled or built towns, the Huns had to keep moving to find new lands to live off. The Huns’s movements unsettled other groups, pushing everyone farther westwards towards the Western Empire. The later section ‘Trying to manage a new threat: Attila the Hun’ has more about the Huns.

In 376, a massive horde of German peoples (displaced by the Huns and known as the Visigoths) crossed the river Danube (see Figure 2-1) and invaded the Western Roman Empire. A massive battle at Adrianople in the year 378 saw the Western Roman army destroyed and Emperor Valens killed.

The Visigoth leader Alaric then led his people into Greece and spent the next decade rampaging around the Western Empire. Emperor Honorius didn’t have the money to bribe the Visigoths to stop or an army strong enough to fight them. In 410 the Visigoths attacked and sacked Rome. It was the first time that the city had been successfully attacked since 390 BC, 800 years earlier.

Adding more destruction

The Visigoths were just the first of many groups to attack the Western Roman Empire. Throughout the fifth century, more and more peoples from Eastern Europe successfully made their way across the borders:

● The Visigoths eventually settled in southern Gaul (modern-day southern France).

● The Burgundians also settled in Gaul.

● The Vandals invaded Spain, destroyed Roman rule in the region and then moved on to North Africa.

Increasingly, the old Roman institutions of power began to ebb away. An emperor was still on the throne, but his court was now based in the city of Ravenna, Italy, rather than Rome. The Eastern Empire was suffering attacks too, so there was no chance of unifying the two empires under one single emperor. Meanwhile, people in the provinces of Western Europe were increasingly under the control of the leaders of the Visigoth tribes who had successfully invaded. The once powerful civil service and administration of the Roman Empire lost its influence; loyalties to local tribal leaders and representatives of the Christian Church replaced long-standing affiliations with the Empire as people looked to the faith for leadership rather than to a distant emperor. Many people in the farther reaches of the Western Empire must have believed that one of these groups was more protective of their interests than the officials of the emperor.

Whole regions of the Western Roman Empire eventually broke away and were declared independent kingdoms by the Goth leaders that ruled them. The age of Roman rule was coming to an end.

Trying to manage a new threat: Attila the Hun

The nomadic lifestyle of the Huns drove the Visigoths westwards into Roman territory, and in 450 the Huns themselves also made the move into Western Europe, attacking the wealthy Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse, in modern-day France.

The Huns were led by a man named Attila, who lived c. 410-453. He was feared throughout Europe for the savagery with which he fought battles. Initially the Roman Emperor Valentinian III approved of and agreed to Attila’s movement into the Western Empire; he thought he would use the Huns to win back the regions that Rome had lost. How wrong he was.

Huns on the run

At first the Huns’s invasion of Visigoth-occupied areas in 450 went to plan, with Attila proving very successful.

The Huns uniformly fought as cavalry and used a special type of bow known as the composite bow. Made from horn and sinew, this weapon was much lighter than the wooden bows that Roman archers used. Consequently the Huns were fast, deadly and very difficult to fight against.

Later in the year 450, however, Attila received a very surprising letter from Honoria, the sister of Emperor Valentinian III. The letter suggested that she would marry Attila if he would have her and that this arrangement would make him heir to the Western Empire. This was an amazing thing for a member of the Roman nobility to do. Most historians cite her reason as being that she was trying to escape from her betrothal to a senator that Valentinian III had forced her into. Her solution was fairly imaginative, but it had massive consequences!

Valentinian III was appalled when he discovered the letter and wrote to Attila cancelling the offer. Fearing that the Huns would turn against him, the emperor flipped sides and made a pact with the Visigoth King Theodoric to try and expel the Huns from the Western Empire.

The two armies clashed near the French town of Chalons, and the Roman allies won a surprising victory over the Huns. It would be the last big victory that a Roman army would ever win.

Attila in Italy

By 452 Attila was back, this time invading Italy and hoping to claim the Western Roman Empire for himself.

During this campaign, Attila successfully sacked many towns and villages in northern Italy. Much of the population fled, looking for new places to live that were safe from further attacks by the Huns. A few hundred people ended up making their way to the Venetian Lagoon and the small islands within it. They were joined by others fleeing invasions in the sixth century and the new communities they formed eventually became the city of Venice that played a vital role in the later Middle Ages (I talk more about the merchant city of Venice in Chapter 18).

Attila moved south in Italy but was eventually halted at the River Po. His army had been travelling for a very long time, and disease had broken out. He was forced to turn back and make for his stronghold across the Danube.

By early 453, Attila was dead. Accounts of his death vary, but the most commonly cited cause is that he suffered some kind of internal bleeding and choked to death on his own blood. Another account suggests that he died of a haemorrhage on his wedding night with a new bride, or even that he was murdered by her. Attila was 47 years old.

Crowning the last Emperor: Romulus Augustulus

Attila’s death gave no real respite to the dying Western Roman Empire. One side effect of Attila’s invasion was that some of his people stayed behind. One such man, Orestes, had been a secretary to the Hun leader.

Orestes joined the Western Roman Army and rose through the ranks to a high position. In 475, Orestes was appointed as Magister Militum (supreme commander) by the then emperor Julius Nepos. The political situation within the Western Empire was clearly desperate if such a relative newcomer as Orestes was able to rise to this position so quickly.

So why did the Roman Empire collapse?

The reasons behind the fall of such a mighty institution as the Roman Empire have always intrigued historians, and they have tried to explain the event ever since:

● The first historian to try was Vegetius (dates uncertain) who probably wrote soon after the collapse of the Western Empire. He blamed its demise on the increasing 'Germanisation' of the Roman Army brought on by incorporating barbarian mercenaries.

● The English historian Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrote the most famous analysis of the collapse, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His contention was that the Roman Empire collapsed because of a loss of 'civic virtue' among its citizens, the fact that they didn't take active roles in defence and administration.

Without the involvement of Roman citizens, the army and civil service more easily fell under the control of 'barbarian' nonRomans. Gibbon also blamed the impact of the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. Gibbon was a protestant, so was happy to blame the Church of the Roman Empire, which was Catholic.

● Most modern scholarship focuses on the movement of peoples that took place beyond Rome's borders. These large population shifts created impacts that no empire could have dealt with at any time. Additionally, rather than an inevitable decline, most modern historians explain the collapse as the result of a number of related movements and events, all outside the control of the Empire.

Orestes soon used his new position to lead a revolt, seizing the capital of Ravenna in the process. For reasons that are unclear, Orestes didn’t declare himself as emperor, preferring instead to hand the title to his 13-year-old son. The boy was given the names of Rome’s founder (the mythical Romulus) and the man many considered its greatest emperor (Augustus). The ‘ulus’ was added to the end of the name as a diminutive, meaning literally ‘Little Augustus’. He was crowned on 31 October 475. Despite the grand references, however, young Romulus Augustulus’s reign was short, and he was never truly in power either, acting more as a figurehead for his father.

Within only a few weeks, the new emperor’s power base had almost completely disappeared. The army revolted under the leadership of a man known as Odoacer. Like many of the men who supported him, Odoacer was a barbarian mercenary. He demanded that Orestes hand over a third of the land in Italy for Odoacer to establish his own kingdom. Orestes refused and was executed.

Odoacer went immediately to Ravenna and captured the young emperor. Augustulus was forced to abdicate in August 476 after only nine months as emperor. Odoacer sent a letter to Zeno, the Eastern Roman Emperor, declaring that he would rule the Western lands in his name. Zeno wasn’t really of a mind to do anything about it and agreed. Check out the later section ‘Enduring in the East: Byzantium’ for what happened in the Eastern Empire.

Therefore, in August 476, the Western Roman Empire came to an end. No longer ruled by an emperor and rapidly dividing itself into smaller kingdoms, the domination of the city of Rome that had lasted 1,000 years came to an end with barely a whimper.

Enduring in the East: Byzantium

While the Western Roman Empire was breaking apart (flip to the earlier section, ‘Dismantling Rome: The Empire that Died’, the Eastern Empire thrived and continued to do so for many years to come. Since the official division of the Roman Empire in 395, the Eastern Empire had forged its own separate identity, and modern scholars now refer to it as the Byzantine Empire. Figure 2-2 shows the extent of this kingdom.

The Byzantine Empire was known as such because in 330 Emperor Constantine established the new capital city of Constantinople on the spot of a much older city - the ancient port of Byzantium.

Figure 2-2: The Byzantine Empire in the year 550

Although technically part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire was very different from the Western Empire. In addition to having many more cities than in the West, other pronounced differences included the following:

● The Greek background: The Byzantine Empire had its origins in Greek culture rather than Latin. The official language was Ancient Greek, and the art and culture were highly influenced by the Classical Greeks.

● The Patriarch: The dominant figure in the Western Christian Church was the pope (see Chapter 1), but he never held complete sway over the Eastern Church. The main man in the Byzantine Empire was the Patriarch of Constantinople, who was effectively the pope in the East. He was, however, subservient to the Byzantine Emperor - a fact that the Church in the West found increasingly difficult to stomach (see Chapter 9).

● The history of religious differences: Although Christianity was more widespread in the East, it was also much more debated and discussed.

In the West, the pope proscribed what people should believe, whereas the East had a much greater history of academic debates. Numerous heretical movements grew up in the Byzantine Empire including Arians (check out the later sidebar, ‘The Arian difference’, for more), Nestorians and others. Although the beliefs of these various groups were unorthodox and condemned by the Western Catholic Church, they were often supported by Byzantine Emperors and Patriarchs.

● The Emperor and his court: The Eastern Empire continued to have an Emperor, and his influence and celebrity were far greater than those of any recent Western Emperor. The Byzantine Emperor was considered to be the closest person to God and therefore a higher being than all others. Byzantine Emperors lived a life of total luxury and ceremony. Visiting dignitaries had to get through hordes of flunkeys and advisors to get even a glimpse of the Emperor (turn to the later sidebar ‘The Byzantium complex’). This situation in the East was a totally different world to that of the leaders who emerged in the West (see Chapter 4 for more about the early Western rulers).

The Byzantium complex

The word Byzantine is used these days to describe something that is incredibly complex and difficult to work out. For example, someone may say, 'This train timetable is far too Byzantine to understand!' This modern use of the word has its origin in the old Byzantine Empire. The Emperor's court was incredibly complex, filled with different levels of advisors, servants, eunuchs and secretaries who made up his civil service. Trying to get a clear, simple answer was a challenge - hence what came to be known as Byzantine complexity.

The Byzantine Empire far outlasted its western neighbour. Throughout periods of expansion and reduction, it lasted all the way through until 1453 when the Ottoman Turks finally sacked Constantinople.

Due to its geographical location, the Byzantine Empire is mostly on the periphery of the story of Medieval History and the focus of this book. East and West do continue to collide and collaborate, particularly over various religious matters and during the Crusades (see Part III of this book), but the Byzantine Empire has its own rich and fascinating history. If you want to find out more, you’ll just have to wait for Byzantine History For Dummies!

Delving into the Dark Ages

The period immediately after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in August 476 is traditionally known as the Dark Ages, during which huge migrations of people took place and new states and countries came into being in Northern Europe. (In Chapters 3 and 4, I examine exactly what happened and how the new societies were developed.)

The Dark Ages roughly cover the years 450-800 - which comprises the early part of the Middle Ages - and received its name for two reasons:

● Early historians regarded the period after the Roman Empire as regressive and backward, a time during which a lot of learning and knowledge were lost and people moved back to living simpler lives in smaller communities.

● Fewer written sources are available, and so historians knew far less about what actually happened during this time than, say, during the Roman Empire at its height.

More recently, many historians have revised these views. As researchers have discovered more about what went on during the Dark Ages, the period has become considerably lighter! Instead of a backwards step, this era was the beginning of the formation of Western Europe as you now know today. Many of the reasons for this change in opinion are due to advances made in medieval archaeology, in particular since the 1950s. For a good example of this, look at the section on archaeology in Chapter 3.

Migrating during the fifth century

Part of the reason that the Western Empire came to an end was down to the huge movements of people westwards (as I mention in Chapter 1 and the earlier sidebar ‘So why did the Roman Empire collapse?’). These migrations saw large numbers of people who spoke Germanic languages moving into vast areas of territory that the retreating Roman army had vacated.

King Arthur: Man or myth?

A classic example of myth and history from the Dark Ages is the figure of King Arthur. Most historians now agree that the man recognised as King Arthur was a British tribal leader who led the defence of Britain against invasions by the Saxons in the sixth century (turn to Chapter 3 for more details). As a famous figure during his own time, stories abounded about him and became folklore tales. The deeds of other people were probably attributed to him too, as a famous figure can become a magnet for such stories. The stories would then have been passed verbally between families and generations.

In the twelfth century, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a book of these stories called The History of the Kings of Britain. As a consequence of this book, the version of the legend of King Arthur that has become popular in fact came into being around 500 years after he was (probably) alive!

The legends and stories of King Arthur in Monmouth's work and subsequent writers, including Chretien de Troyes, Thomas Malory, Alfred Lord Tennyson and T.H. White, are fabulously entertaining - but they bear no relation to the life that the man actually lived.

The vast majority of these people were illiterate, which has made tracking their movements extremely difficult because they never wrote their own histories. Most of the evidence available for this period is based on archaeology or the writings of later historians. Because much of the available history has been handed down verbally between generations, the history can take on qualities of mythtory - a mix of actual historical fact and mythical stories or folk tales. Often the only reliable information that exists is the names and sequence of leaders.

Moving on up with the Merovingians

Medieval Europe was essentially a blank canvas after the fall of the Roman Empire, and strong leaders were able to exploit the resulting power vacuum. One of the most successful was Childeric, who became the first of the ‘Merovingian’ kings - descendants of a quasi-mythical figure called Merovech whom you can read all about in Chapter 4.

Meeting the first medieval diplomat: Childeric

In common with many other Dark Age leaders, Childeric’s life is largely a mystery. Born in the first half of the fifth century (historians don’t know the actual date), Childeric succeeded his father as king of the Salian Franks in 457. Childeric’s people were a relatively small group of Franks who lived in what is now The Netherlands, just above the river Rhine. This area is known as Salland today.

By the fifth century, the Salian Franks had moved into northern Gaul, establishing their home city in Tournai (modern-day Belgium). They were a pagan people who worshipped their own gods.

Although a relatively small group, they became more influential through Childeric’s political manoeuvring. He collaborated with various groups of Romans and also with the Church to protect his territory. When the Western Roman Empire came to an end, he was a well-known and influential leader.

Achieving great things: Clovis

When Childeric died in 481, he was very much top dog in the region of northern Gaul. His power was transferred to his son Clovis, who grabbed his chance.

During his reign, Clovis was able to unite all the Franks in Gaul by assassinating several kings and fighting successful wars. Although Clovis’s tactics involved nothing particularly unusual, he was able to gather support from the Romans still living in northern Gaul by recognising that, regardless of tribal allegiances and geography, the one factor that brought all Romans together was the Christian Church. He gave up his own pagan beliefs and converted to Christianity, using the power of the Church to further increase his support.

Historians know a fair amount about Clovis because of the work of historian Gregory of Tours (539-594). Gregory was a bishop who wrote an account of his own life and career in the Church. Fortunately, he also devotes three chapters to events before his own lifetime, and he describes Clovis’s conversion to Christianity. Despite the attempts of his wife to convert him, Clovis had remained resistant to Christianity until he was struggling in a battle against the tribe called the Alamanni:

'Jesus Christ,’ he said, ‘you who Clotild maintains to be the son of the living God, you who deign to give help to those in travail and victory over those who trust in you, in faith I beg the glory of your help’. . . Even as he said it, the Alamanni turned their backs and began to run away.

Following these events, Clovis immediately converted to Christianity. To understand why his plan was so smart, you need to consider how influential the Church had become, which is just what I do in the next section.

Spreading Christianity

Although the Roman Empire had officially become Christian in the fourth century, Christianity was far from dominant in Western Europe when the Western Roman Empire came to an end. Historians estimate that in the year 400, the majority of people in Western Europe followed polytheistic religions, meaning that they worshipped one or more pagan, that is, non-Christian, gods.

The Arian difference

Many of the people who moved into Western Europe during the collapse of the Roman Empire were nominally Christian but wouldn't have been considered so by the Catholic Church. Their form of belief was known as Arianism, a distinct form of Christianity considered heretical by the papacy and named after a man called Bishop Arius (c. AD 250-336) from Alexandria in Egypt.

Specifically, Arians believed that Christ was lesser than God and not formed of part of him. They regarded the Holy Spirit as being lesser still and subservient to Christ. This belief contrasted with traditional Catholic belief, which

held that the Holy Trinity were all born of God and eternal like Him, and balanced in status and importance.

These differences might not seem like much on paper, but Arian beliefs were massively controversial and influential. Arianism, in various forms, thrived throughout Western Europe until it was finally suppressed in the seventh century, and carried on for even longer in the east.

Arianism is just one of the hundreds of heresies that abounded during the Middle Ages; you can read about some others in Chapter 14.

Just about 500 years later, the situation was incredibly different. By 900 virtually the whole of Europe was Christian, and the Church was the dominant force in politics and economics. Understanding how this amazing change took place is key to understanding the Medieval World.

Living on the edge

The Frankish king Clovis (check out the earlier section ‘Achieving great things: Clovis’) took power in large parts of Northern Europe and made a deal with the Catholic Church, which gave Catholic priests and missionaries the opportunity to seek to convert Clovis’s people to the Catholic faith. The Church tended to try and convert only those within the boundaries of the old Roman Empire, believing that people who lived outside it did so for a reason - basically, the will of God was that they remain outside the Empire and continue with their pagan beliefs.

Of course, many Catholics lived outside the borders of the old Roman Empire as well. They had settled in parts of the world that were beyond Roman control even when the Roman Empire had been at its height. The Church didn’t forget these people and bishops were frequently sent out to minister to them and their spiritual needs. Although they weren’t specifically sent out for the purpose, these men ended up becoming the first Christian missionaries.

Encouraging the Irish: Palladius

One of the best and earliest examples of the early missionary phenomenon is Bishop Palladius. Palladius had experienced an exciting early life, having been kidnapped and sold into slavery as a young boy. Fleeing to the Church, he became a noted Christian scholar and in 431 the pope sent him to Ireland in a bid to convert its pagan people. Details of what Palladius did are scarce, but by the time he died (around 460) a significant Christian community and Church had been established in Ireland and Palladius was later made into a saint. His successor in Ireland did pretty well too! The man who replaced Palladius was known as Patricius in Latin and later became the St Patrick that is still celebrated by Irish communities around the world on 17 March.

Scared to death - of death

The increase in Christianity across early Medieval Europe significantly influenced people's attitudes towards life throughout the age and beyond. During the later medieval period (after 1150), Christianity was particularly focused on the afterlife and ensuring progress to Heaven. In a way, your earthly life was just an opportunity to make sure that you didn't condemn yourself to Hell through sinful acts.

These are some of the key things that later medieval Christians believed:

● Judgement: Whenever people died, their souls underwent judgement during which God's emissaries decided whether they would go to Heaven or Hell depending on how free of sin their souls were. Judgement didn't happen immediately upon dying though, and the dead would have to wait in their graves for the judgement to be made. The person doing the judging was St Michael who would weigh the souls of the dead to find out how much sin they contained.

● Purgatory: If people's souls weren't completely free of sin, they entered Purgatory. This place was a state of purification where the soul underwent cleansing before it progressed to Heaven. People would say prayers for deceased individuals to try and ease their passages through Purgatory towards Heaven. In the thirteenth century the idea developed of purgatory being an actual 'place', a kind of waiting room where those who had yet to be judged awaited their fate. Purgatory is still a major part of Catholic religious practice today.

● Indulgences: Medieval Christians were desperate for assurance during their lifetimes that their souls would eventually make it to Heaven and grasped at opportunities to guarantee their futures. Later in the Middle Ages, from the thirteenth century onwards, people undertook indulgences - good works or deeds that offset sin and assured you a place in Heaven. The greatest indulgence ever offered was to go on Crusade (see Chapter 11) - the pope claimed that doing so would cleanse away all previous sin. Eventually indulgences took on a financial form too, and the dead could leave money to pay clerics to pray for their souls.

● Fear: Absolute dread of Hell and Purgatory is one of the main reasons why the Church held such a powerful grip on the medieval imagination and became so influential over the following centuries.

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