Understanding the existence of Christ before the creation of the world means understanding the roots of Christianity in Europe. Christianity was one of the forces that helped unify Europe and the Byzantine Empire during this time. Not only was Christianity instrumental in holding together the ragged political system, but it also became the core social element in European society. However, Christianity did not remain the same across Europe and the Byzantine Empire. Rather, this period saw a schism in the church, with the rise of Catholicism in Europe as the dominant from of Christianity. In the Byzantine Empire and the eastern portions of the world, Eastern Orthodoxy became the dominant form of the religion. These two forces were both Christian at their cores, but there were some key differences in their beliefs. Perhaps the most important difference is the recognition of the pope. Eastern Orthodox churches do not recognize the pope as infallible or as having supreme power over all churches. Catholics do view the pope this way.
Another key difference is the view of original sin. While both hold that original sin occurred, the consequences of that sin are seen differently in each sect of Christianity. In addition, Eastern Orthodox also tends to use icons (paintings), while Catholics prefer statues, and Eastern Orthodox priests are not required to abstain from marriage. Finally, both churches calculate the dates of Easter and Christmas differently.
During the medieval period, Europe saw the rise of manorialism, also known as feudalism. There were many different factors that contributed to the creation, growth, and spread of this system. There were also many different forms that it took during different times and in different regions. The system of feudalism employed a network of landowners, or aristocrats. Each landowner had tenants who worked the land in exchange for protection and other benefits. These were dangerous times, and it was not uncommon for bands of marauders, thieves, and warlords to destroy villages and settlements. Tenants on landowners’ property were supposedly given some degree of protection from this threat in exchange for their labor and military support.
On a higher level, feudalism required that each landowner owed allegiance to a higher lord. Often, that lord owed allegiance to a still higher authority—the king or other ruler of the area. Authority descended from the highest in the network, through the various lords to the lowest landowner. Usually, the tenants of the land had little or no power. In some cases, these people were not even free to leave the estate on which they worked, though serfdom was not an overnight development.
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