The Impact of Religious Orders on Political Change in Medieval and Early Renaissance Europe (13th-15th centuries)
By Raphaela Averkorn
Religion and Political Change in Europe: Past and Present, edited by Ausma Cimdina (University of Pisa, 2003)
Introduction: In the Middle Ages religious orders exercised a considerable influence not only in the religious sector of life but also in politics where they contributed to important changes. Some monks and friars became bishops or even popes, others lived at the courts of the emperor or of the kings, various monks travelled through Europe preaching in different towns. Because of their “international” aspect, those religious orders that spread all over Europe and had monasteries and dependencies in many different countries, occupied an important role in the system of medieval communication which reinforced their political weight. In this chapter we will mainly concentrate on the Mendicant orders founded in the 13th century; their role in cities was particularly strong. Since the beginning, their preaching was an important method of communication, particularly because they started to give their sermons in the local language rather than in Latin which was only understood by a small percentage of the people. In many cases their sermons focused on political as well as religious issues. The use of the local language reinforced the attraction of these new orders and allowed them to address their religious, social and political messages to huge crowds when their members preached, as they aften did, on the central squares of towns. In this chapter I would like to present briefly some significant examples that illustrate these aspects, concentrating on the Late Middle Ages.