After reading this article you will learn about the rise of Christianity with the fall of Roman Empire.
The rise of Christianity and its overall importance characterized the Middle Ages. This ascendency of Christianity was accelerated by Roman philosophy, institutions and, above all, by the Roman emperors, particularly Constantine.
The establishment of Christian religion and Christian church in a unified form became so important that it began to control the medieval political thought. Towards the declining periods of Roman Empire, Christian religion spread rapidly and this received a further impetus when the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity as the official religion of the state.
Declaration of Christianity as state religion brought about several far-reaching consequences. First of all, it cornered the pagan beliefs. Towards the end of the Roman imperialism pagan beliefs were almost in a dying condition.
At that opportune moment Christianity attacked paganism and clipped its wings. Christian beliefs made heavy inroads into Teutonic barbarians. The Christian religion spread so rapidly that soon it became the legal or official religion of the Roman Empire.
This elevation of Christianity was really surprising. The emperor, in collaboration with the church, exercised supreme authority and this helped the latter to be involved in active politics. This involvement became the characteristic feature of medieval political thought and supplied the fuel of conflict between the church and the state.
The declining condition of the Roman Empire also signalled the weakness of the emperor. This happened during the last century of the empire. Erosion of the imperial power encouraged the ecclesiastical authorities to enter into active politics. The church fathers began to accumulate more and more power and their involvement in political affairs began to increase in astronomical proportions.
The weakness of the Roman emperors failed to stop this growth of power. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the political tradition and institutions also faced crisis. This again facilitated the growth of the influence of the church. It appeared as the representative of Roman tradition and emphasized the unity and integrity of the empire.
We have noted how political changes brought the church into limelight. These and other changes hastened a central organization and made it more powerful. Rome was the political capital of the empire and naturally it became the capital of the religious world.
As a result of the disintegration of the Roman Empire and gradual decline of the imperial power, authority and power were transferred from palace to the church, and, in course of time, the church became a hot-bed of politics. Pope and clergymen threw their weight in favour of intense political propaganda.
The church was the real authority and decisions of all affairs would come from the church. “In the absence of emperor from Rome, the bishop became the most important official in the city, and considerable power of local political administration passed into his hands. In this way there was added to the large ecclesiastical power of the Roman bishop the practically independent political government of a little state.”
Originally it was the duty of the Pope to look after religious affairs. But circumstances led the Pope and the church fathers to play the role of the potential actor in the political fields. This role reached the zenith towards the beginning of the seventh century.
At this time, in fact, there was no political authority in real sense. Every decision on political matters emanated from the church and the emperor had not the courage to alter or defy the decision.
The unified church established almost a parallel government or administration to Rome. It created a vast network of religious institutions through which politics was controlled. It has been claimed that the church also controlled the intellectual world of Europe. Rise of church or Christianity eclipsed the importance of state and politics in the Middle Ages.