In the Middle Ages, there was a definite
structure in society. You were born into a class of people
and generally stayed in that class for your entire life.
Working hard did not change your status. Your clothing,
food, marriage, homes, etc., were determined for you. After
the rank of king, the hierarchy was the nobles, the knights,
the clergy (religious people), the tradesmen and the peasants.
One of the most unifying elements of the Middle Ages
was the Roman Catholic Church. All classes and ranks
of people — nobles,
peasants and tradesmen — were profoundly affected
by the rulings of the church.
The clergy were the religious
people of the Middle Ages. Following the pope, in order
of rank, there were bishops,
priests, monks and nuns. In the latter part of the
Middle Ages, the pope, as head of the church, had much
over the king and total control of the clergy.
latter part of the Middle Ages, people were heavily taxed
to support the church. In return for
money they received the “way to everlasting
happiness after leading lives that were often short
and hard. Children were taught basic prayers and
to go to church
The Roman Catholic Church was the single
largest unifying organization in medieval Europe.
life, no matter what their rank or class or where
Clergy Ranks and Clothing
accepted in court and generally lived with the same luxuries
as the nobles in the Middle
Ages. They wore lavish clothes. They wore hats
called miters (a tall hat that looks like a pointed
arch). Bishops wore beautiful
religious garments that often were jeweled.
rich like the bishops. They were generally the head of a
church. They often wore long black gowns.
Monks were often scholarly and
could read and write in Latin. They wore brown
gowns with hoods that often were made of wool. The
with a rope
around the waist. They also often had a long cowl that
hung straight down the front and the back. Monks were
a bald spot
on the top of their head called a “tonsure” as
a symbol of humility.
Nuns were very holy and lived in a convent.
They generally wore
long gowns or tunics of black, grey or white. They were
tied around the
a cloth or leather belt. Over the tunic was a scapular,
which was a long piece
with an opening for their head. It trailed down the front
and back of their tunic.
Some nuns wore a cross on a chain around their neck. Generally
their heads were shaved and covered by a cloth covering
called a wimple.
Bishops administered to the needs
Priests cared for the spiritual life
of people. They administered sacraments, oversaw the
life of the
manor, absolved men and women of their sins through
confession and made pronouncements to the community that
were given by the bishops or the
Monks lived in monasteries and served
as examples of the perfect Christian life. They were
scholars who sometimes
books of the Bible
by hand. (This
was before the invention of the printing press.) They
also generally worked to support themselves in the monastery
land management. They also
sometimes educated the sons of the nobles.
Nuns were very
devout and served the people. They sometimes were
taught to read and write, but they were not as scholarly
manuscripts. Other less-educated nuns did harder work.
Many families placed their daughters in convents and
a dowry for taking
women who became widows were also sent to convents.
This was often done so that the woman would have a secure
The life of the people revolved around the seasons. Planting,
harvesting, etc., ruled the working class. Each month
there was some type of
For example, they celebrated St. Valentine’s Day
in February with singing, dancing and games. In March,
they celebrated Easter
by performing mystery
plays. All Fools Day was the April festival, where jokes
and pranks were the order of