Religion MiddleAgesChurchMap1.jpg

Map of the religions in the Middle Ages
This map shows the religions of Europe in the 11th Century after the Crusaders and the Knights Templar took over Spain and Portugal, which were formerly Islamic provinces. This map also shows how Orthodox Christianity broke away from Catholicism and became popular in Russia and Southeastern Europe and Turkey. Source "<>"

Main Points

1. Religion dominated the politics of all countries and nations in the Middle Ages.
2. Christianity was the most popular religion in Europe while Islam was most popular in the Middle East and North Africa.
3. Catholicism, the main denomination of Christianity, was politically and religiously centered in Rome while Islam was centered in Mecca and Medina.
4. Many wars were caused because of the conflicting religion and politics of Christianity and Islam.
5. Christian nations were led politically and religiously by the Pope while Islam was led by the Caliphs.


Christianity was the most popular religion throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It is an Abrahamic religion and originated as a liberal sect of Judaism. It was spread by Jesus’ disciples who believed that Jesus was the Son of God and had died to atone for all the worlds’ sins. St. Paul and Peter traveled all around Europe preaching their beliefs and Christianity gained popularity rapidly. Soon, the Christians established the position of the Pope in Rome to guide all Christians politically and religiously. The Pope's position held significant political power in the Middle Ages and had significant politcal power until the Baroque age. By the 15th Century, Christianity had been divided into three sects, the Catholic sect, the Protestant sect and the Eastern Orthodox sect. The Catholic sect was favored by the Pope and was popular all over the cities of Europe. The Protestant sect was just beginning to become popular and was practiced mainly in Northern Europe and Germany. The Protestant sect became fully developed with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which began with the posting on October 31st, 1517 of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, a document which had points of debate that criticised the Church and the Pope. The Protestant Reformation was a reform movement that was started in the 1400s by Western Catholics that were troubled by what they saw as false doctrines, malpractice within the Church and the buying and selling of Church positions, which they thought caused considerable corruption within the Church's heirarchy. The Eastern Orthodox sect, which split from Catholicism in 1054, was popular in Eastern Europe.


Islam was the most popular religion in the Middle East and North Africa. It originated from the teachings of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet. Muhammad was said to have visions of God and his followers preached his teachings all around the Arabian Peninsula. Islam is an Abrahamic religion but Muhammad is not regarded as the founder of a new religion, but the restorer of the faith of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muslims believed that God revealed the Koran to Muhammad, the final prophet, through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad spread Islam by preaching all around Arabia and by conquering countries with his armies and having them convert. After Muhammad’s death, the Muslims established the Caliphs, Muhammad’s successors. After the Caliphs, some parts of the Empire broke off and established the Sultans to rule their smaller empire. The Muslims ruled from Mecca and Medina, and conquered all of the Middle East and North Africa. The Muslims also conquered the Iberian Peninsula but the Knights Templar took it back as they believed it belonged to the Christians. By the 12th Century, Islam had completely split into two sects, the Sunni and the Shia. The Shia Islam sect was mostly popular in the Eastern part of the Middle East, while Sunni Islam was popular in Arabia, North Africa and the Western part of the Middle East.


In the Middle Ages Christianity spread throughout Europe and became very influential and politically powerful.One of the main occupations monastery-ettal_5307.jpgschools trained for was work in the Church and monasteries were an important feature of the Church in the Middle Ages. Monasteries were religious sanctuaries where people dedicated themselves to a life prayer. In monasteries, monks and nuns vowed to live a life according to a set of religious guidelines and rules. They met around ten times a day to chant prayers, which they thought ensured the salvation of their community. A majority of monasteries were either very isolated, or in towns and near castles as many monasteries wanted to ensure the salvation of their immediate, nearby community. Many monasteries also stored ancient knowledge and texts which enabled monks to be obtain a broad education. The system of monks living in monasteries is called Monasticism. Monasticism was a vital part of the Middle Ages. It began in the 2nd Century in North Africa and then spread to Europe and the Middle East. It spread to Europe through popular books about Egyptian hermits, devout Christians who isolated themselves from society. Hermits were the first to form Monasteries.
One European monastery, L’Abbaye de Lerins, was very influential. It was founded in 410 on an island off the coast of Southern France. It produced learned and knowledgeable monks who got significant positions as bishops in the Church. This helped spread monasticism, as they now had the support from the Church, and linked monasteries to the organized Church. In the early 6th Century, the work of the Italian Benedict shaped the future of Monasticism. Benedict’s main achievement was his “Rule”, containing instructions to monks on how to be a faithful and loyal monk. Most religious communities founded in the Middle Ages adopted it because of it’s reasonableness and moderation. As a result, the Rule of Benedict became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom.

Religion in Politics and War

In the Middle Ages religion dominated the politics of all nations. In Europe, most countries were officially Christian nations and imposed their religion on ones they conquered. For example, when the Normans conquered Saxony, they immediately converted all Saxons to Catholic Christianity. Similar occurences happened all over Europe and the Middle East as countries tried to spread their political influence by converting the countries they conquered to their religion. The countries also hoped in doing this to increase obedience of their rule by spreading their religion. Religious topics were the top subjects country rulers talked about and many tryed to sway other political leaders to their side by quoting the Bible. Many wars were fought by countries because of religious subjects. In Europe, Pope Urban II called on all the great knights to war against the Muslims to retrieve the Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Grail. They believed the easiest way to achieve this was to conquer Jerusalem and the Holy Land and to defeat Saladin and his army on every front. This was the beginning of the Crusades, religious wars by the Christians and the Muslims. The Muslims called many of their wars Jihad, which means "to strive in the way of Allah". It is sometimes called the sixth Pillar of Islam, because of it's great importance. There were also wars of countries of the same religion, but different denominations. For example, the Sunni Muslims and the Shia Muslims fought many wars in the Middle Ages over who was the rightful leader of the Islamic Empire.

Religious Status Table

Country or Area
Religious Status
Iberian Peninsula
Christian and Islamic. Changed hands between the Muslims and the Christians many times during the Middle Ages. Jews were accepted until the Spanish Inquisition of 1492.
Catholic Christianity was the main religion. There were some Jews, but they were despised and disliked.
Mainly Catholic Christian but was the center of the Protestants and where the Reformation was centered.
British Isles
Catholicism imposed by the Normans upon the Saxons who formerly followed pagan religions.
Completely Catholic as the Pope and Church had enormous influence on Italian society.
Mostly Catholic and Eastern Orthodox with some Protestant movements, though formerly completely Norse.
Eastern Europe
Mostly Eastern Orthodox with some Catholic areas and some Protestant movements.
Arabia and North Africa
Mainly Sunni Islamic. There was some Christianity in Palestine as the Crusaders conquered and re-conquered it many times.
Eastern Middle East
Both Sunni Islamic and Shia, as it was the center of the Shia Islam movement.

Historical Fiction On This Topic

Peregrine By Joan Elizabeth Goodman
Ivanhoe By Sir Walter Scott
The Youngest Templar By Michael Spradin
My Guardian Angel By Sylvie Weil
Grail Quest: Camelot Spell by Laura Anne Gilman


Anderson, Dale, Monks and Monasteries, Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library: 2006

Cell,Marc, Life in a Medieval Monastery, New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company:2005

Image Bibliography
"Monestary Ettal" Rolf Hicker Photography 2009. 1 April 2009 <>.

"Christianity Split" Units World History 2009. March 26 2009 <>.