The towering institution of the Middle Ages was the Church. From birth until death both the highest lord and the lowest serf felt its influence in some way or another, directly or indirectly. After about the year 1000 all men in Western Europe, except for a few Jews and Muslims, were its members. They were expected to support the Church in every way. It was not possible for one with a secular turn of mind to go to the priest and ask, in effect, to have his name erased from the Church's rolls. Even the passing of time was now reckoned from the supposed year of Christ's birth, following the calculations of a sixth century monk. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "1. A Brief Survey of Christendom, 500-1100. Pt. III: The Medieval Church." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 1-13.