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The Roman Dominance over the Western Europe

Political and economic decentralization were the main features of the Western Europe in the 500 C. E. to 100 C. E. which saw the emergence of Catholic Church as a central unifying institution with not only great religious powers but also political and economic authority. This period is sometimes considered as the “Age of Faith” because of the central role of the church in the early Europe. The powers of the Catholic Church emerged when the Germanic group called the Franks which had settled in what is today called France, wiped out the remaining Romans after the fall of Rome in 476.

The group leader Clovis was later to be forced by his wife to convert to Christianity and from thereon led the Franks conquests “in the name of Jesus”. One of the Clovis descendants Charlemagne ruled a vast kingdom that stretched across modern day Germany and France. After Charlemagne rescued the roman pope from his captors, the pope was pleased and made him the Holy Roman Emperor. This saw the union between the church and the state, however, the pope was the controller of the crown and ensured that the ceremony was held in Rome.

One questions that historians have pondering over and over for many years is how and why the Romans were capable of dominating the vast Western Europe for a long period of time with only one center of authority – the papacy. The Romans and the pope were able to assert their influence in Western Europe because of a number of reasons. The city of Rome was such a prestigious one that it helped the Romans become elites in the entire Western Europe. Added to this prestige was the title of the pope as the bishop of Rome.

Even after the reformation Rome was still considered one of the most important cities in the entire Western Europe. The pope’s powers were derived from both political and cultural developments and further justified by biblical interpretation. The term pope is a Latin word “papa”. The pope’s office is known as the papacy which is responsible for the spiritual nourishment of its catholic followers. The pope is presently exercising both political and social powers as the head of state of Vatican City where he also administers his spiritual duties not only to the Vatican residents but also to the world Catholics at large.

The occupant of the papacy is known as the pope or the bishop of roman, who his office allows to preside over the Roman Catholic Church’s central ecclesiastical government. According to the Roman Catholics the pope strongly lays his claim to the jurisdictional primacy of the Catholic Church just as his predecessor – Apostle Peter, as the Petrine theory acclaims. One of the ways that helped the papacy to assert its influence in Western Europe was because of its political-like hierarchical management. The pope was the central leader of the church in Rome while cardinals who were answerable to him were spread all over in other countries.

Below the cardinals were the archbishops who supervised the bishops and the priests. This chain of management ensured that the presence of the papacy was felt in every part of Western Europe; from the villages where the priests ministered to the cities and major towns where archbishops and bishops had much presence. Again the church’s wandering ministries helped entrench the influence of the church across Europe. The church not only had priests in virtually every village in Europe but also established the wandering priests who fasten its influence.

The two dominant groups of these missionaries were the Franciscans, that were well known for their poverty vows and ability to mingle with the peasants and the Dominicans which was more concerned with the scholarly empowerment. They ministered more on educational needs. Being the leader and bishop of an important and prestigious city in the early Western Europe the pope was able to increase his stature. The opposition and status of roman city alone was enough to propel the pope into a position of influence because he also earned status as a person leading a prestigious city.

In the early Western Europe, no city could match the city of Rome in terms of cultural endowment and political influence. A leader of such big city would be automatically revered by his peers. Roman city was the only prestigious city of its time in the western part of Mediterranean; something that could not be said of the eastern Mediterranean. Cities like Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch and Constantinople were found to the east and were considered to be the greatest rivals of roman city at the time. The bishop of Constantinople for example, never bowed or took orders from the Romans.

However, Romans called the shots on the western side of Mediterranean. The city of Rome also found prestige in its rich traditions. From its numerous cases of martyrdoms, the city came to be known as the city of martyrs. Rome witnessed the first persecutions which were instigated by Nero while Apostle Peter himself was believed to have been martyred in the city of Rome. Ramifications of Its Dominance As mentioned earlier Rome was the only city and empire to the west of Mediterranean while the other four empires were found on the eastern side.

These empires formed a five member diocese but as the two regions – the west and the east continued to advance both culturally and politically, these dioceses formed an integral part of the society’s decision making process. The eastern region had the four kingdoms where political and religious decisions were made while the western had only the Roman Empire to help in the decision making involving political and religious matters. This helped catapult the roman city as the theological center of Western Europe.

This development had both positive and negative ramifications to the Romans and the inhabitants of the western region as a whole. One of the positive impacts of the city of Rome becoming the centre for religious and political decision making was that the church and the Christians cause got a voice and was furthered. During this period, the city of Rome not only envied by the people from other parts of Western Europe because of its integral positioning as the leader and the sole voice of Christianity through the Catholic Church, but was also recognized by people residing from outside Western Europe like the easterners.

The city gave opportunity to the clergy to appeal against decisions they felt discriminated against their faith as well as against their office as servants of god. The Roman Spiritual Authority would determine such appeals taken before him by the aggrieved bishops and other clergies. The negative ramifications associated with the role of Rome as the center of political and religious authority was that a poor system of governance emerged where there was a thin line between the role of the state and that of the church.

The responsibilities of the two became blurred, were overlapped and brought confusion as well as lacked direction. The Romans had the feudal system of governance that took the shape of spiritual hierarchy that was agitated for by the past theologians. In this system, land owners would be permitted to employ servants to till their lands in exchange for a few wages or debts owed. However, the system was greatly abused by the rich land owners who would employ servants that were heavily indebted to them that they had no chance of ever being set free.

Another low moment was when the church started to operate in ways never intended by its founders. For example, the church permitted the passage of monasteries to the children. The papacy also never escaped controversy as was the case during the rule of Stephen the sixth. His predecessor who had died three days earlier was brought before the roman council, convicted and then dragged on the ground through the streets before finally being dumped in a common grave but not before his papal robes were left in tatters and his three fingers cut off.

Conclusion The roman catholic church of the Western Europe through which Rome became the sole political and religious voice had faced many challenges and difficulties leading to the reformation movements. The reformation played an important role not only in restoring justice and correcting wrongs caused by the Roman Catholic Church but also in spreading the Christian faith around the world. Reformation also played a significant role in ensuring that Christianity became the world’s largest religion with the present number of about 1. 9 billion people.

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church and Rome must be credited for laying the foundation of early Christian faith in Rome and the entire Western Europe. Bibliography: Coffey, John Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558-1689, Studies in Modern History, Pearson Education, 2000. Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. New York: Zondervan, 2007 Kaplan, Benjamin J. Divided by Faith. Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Rice, Eugene. The Foundations of Early Modern Europe: 1460-1559. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1970.

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