Clergy in the Middle Ages

The clergy were very important in the middle ages. They held great influence politically and were responsible for the education of the people; as the clergy themselves were able to read and write as a minimum. As they cared for the people and educated them both spiritually and literally they were exempt from paying taxes although they had taxes paid to them.

The most influential church was the Catholic Church, ruled over by its spiritual leader, the pope.

When elected to power, the pope would rule until the day he died.


They were appointed to power by the pope and were very wealthy. They were always highly educated, performed spiritual duties and involved themselves in politics.

Bishops were responsible for maintaining an army and often leading that army in battle.

They also supervised the clergy in their parish and levied taxes on the peasants.


Priests came from humble homes and spent much of their time with the poor of the parish. They were in charge of caring for the members of the manor, tending to the sick and helping in the collection of taxes. They performed many religious duties including baptisms, weddings, daily mass, holy communion, conducting confessions, absolving sins and giving last rights to the dying.

As priests were educated they also managed a school. They would teach reading and writing and depending on their own education, may also have taught rhetoric, philosophy and religious studies.

Priests were used by bishops and lords to keep manor records and accounts and to take part in local government.


Monks lived in monasteries, which were completely self-sufficient. It was unnecessary for monks to ever leave the confines of the monastery.

They spent their time in private prayer and meditation; would both read and write copies of the bible; complete daily chores and educate the local children.

Before entering the monastery a monk had to take a vow of poverty, a vow of chastity and a vow of obedience.


In the Middle Ages nuns came from all backgrounds and ages. Some daughters were place in convents due to the wishes of their families, and others may be older women who chose to enter the convent following the death of a husband.

To live the life of a nun was to devote your life to god. Once you became a nun, you were a nun until you died.

A nun had to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Nuns spent much of their time in private prayer and meditation, but were also given many daily chores including cooking, washing, sewing, farming and providing medical care for the manor.

Few women were educated in the middle ages but becoming a nun gave the possibility of learning how to read and write.

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