While portions of the Middle Ages are aptly referred to as “Dark”, the reality is that many contributions to Western culture and civilization occurred during this tumultuous time. The lasting effect of these contributions saves the Middle Ages from being written off entirely as an age of backwardness and instead places it in the proper context of being an age of transition and slow yet painful growth.
During the Middle Ages one of the most important institutions was the Christian church. The Church was important for several reasons. First, the Church was one of the sole institutions to provide leadership, organization and protection in Western Europe after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Power was centered on the bishop of Rome, who became known as the Pope. The powerless looked to the Church for protection and governance when secular law had diminished. In the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Emperors needed the political backing of the Orthodox Church in order to maintain their positions of powerful. The Byzantine system of governance required the Emperor and the Patriarch to coordinate their efforts for the good of the Empire and Christendom. Aside from the structural and political elements, the Church’s real influence in the Middle Ages grew as it became an integral part of the nascent feudal system. Church doctrine relative to salvation insured that nobles would provide for the church in order to curry favor with God. It also taught the serf and peasant to submit to their nobles and betters in the Church so they too could some day be blessed with eternal life.
This integration of Church into multiple aspects of society is still seen in Western cultures today. Christianity is by far the most popular religion in the West. Even in societies that are becoming increasingly secular, the many varieties of Christian churches are active