What was the social role of the Catholic Church in the Medieval period?

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The Church was one of the most important institutions in Medieval society. Its sphere of influence was not just religious; the Church also played a key role in society as a whole. First, the Church was at the heart of the Medieval community through its dominance of the social calendar. We see this through the popular observance of religious festivals, like Easter and Christmas, as well as more personal events, like marriages and burials.

The Church also played a role in determining the social status of individuals. For example, if somebody did not accept the official teachings of the Church and was declared a heretic, this person was not only expelled from the Church but also shunned by the community.

Finally, pilgrimages were also events of considerable social significance. Though intensely religious in origin, the pilgrimage brought sections of society together, most famously brought to life by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales.

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