What did Medieval Christians believe was the key to salvation?  

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Medieval Christians believed that all humans were tainted with the Original Sin: Adam and Eve's fall from God's grace. Salvation could be achieved by going through a three-part process: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. According to the source from Crossref (below), Medieval Christians had to repent for their sins and make confession to a priest, who would absolve the sinner of his or her sins. The priest might request the person to carry out other acts of penitence, including fasting, doing good works, or going on a pilgrimage. Some penitents were able to acquire what were called indulgences to be liberated from additional penance. The knights who fought in the Crusades were given indulgences, and, eventually, Medieval Christians were able to pay money for indulgences. Some indulgences wiped out all of one's sins, while others only removed part of them.

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The short answer to the question of salvation in the Middle Ages is that Christians were expected to do exactly what the Roman Catholic Church directed them to do. The church claimed to have the keys to Heaven and adherents believed this to be true. Through a system of indulgence and penance, parishioners could pay their priests or bishops to have their sins forgiven. Followers were also required to donate a tenth of their earnings to the church if they were expecting to get to Heaven.

In addition to the wage tax, peasants were expected to perform free work for the church. This required great sacrifice because it took time away from the maintenance of their own farm and family. Christians also needed to receive sacraments of the church to reach eternal salvation. The church charged a fee for the performance of sacraments. During the Middle Ages, a shift occurred in which the church would decide who was saved with eternal salvation and those that would be damned to Hell.

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