Summary: A World Lit Only By Fire

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In William Manchester’s account of the Middle Ages, A World Lit Only by Fire, he describes many traits that are essential to the medieval mind. Between the decline of classical pagan culture in Western Europe and the rebirth of culture during the Renaissance, the minds of Europeans underwent many changes as they began to stray from Catholicism and divert their attentions to secular affairs under the notions of humanism. Medieval philosophy was heavily influenced by ideas from the classical works of the Greek and Roman worlds. The Middle Ages were a turning point in history that brought major changes to Europe. One of the traits Manchester believes to be essential to the medieval mind is sinfulness. Morality was on a steep decline during this…show more content…
As the populace grew more educated due to the invention of the printing press, they became skeptical of the long accepted traditions and institutions of the past, and started to challenge them, especially challenging the corruption of the Church. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was a devastating critique of the indulgences sold by the Church as a means of salvation and forgiveness from sins that have been committed. With the aid of the printing press, copies spread through Germany within weeks and throughout Europe within two months. The Church moved to stop the act of defiance, meeting with Luther and ordering him to recant his Ninety-Five Theses. Luther wouldn’t do so unless the scripture proved him wrong, going further to say that the papacy had no authority to interpret scripture; this initiated his ultimate excommunication from the Church. In January 1521, he was officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, later being summoned to the Diet of Worms three months later to recant his statements, again refusing to do so. He was declared a convicted heretic, making him a condemned and wanted man. He hid at the Wartburg Castle, where he translated the New Testament into German so ordinary people could read the word of God. Although he was…show more content…
Ignorance was the norm, intellectual life was nearly non-existent. The Church was a dominant and powerful presence in Europe at the height of its power, though sinful and barbaric as it was. As the Renaissance spread through Europe, individuals became educated and fought to break the stronghold the Church held over the continent. Power in the Church declined as intellectuals came to criticize it, garnering supporters and ending the centuries of religious unity in Europe. This rebirth, this period of flowering creativity and thinking led to great changes and improvements as individuals focused on the “here and now” rather than religious affairs. Manchester’s account of the medieval mind during this pivotal point in history describes the many essential traits that culminated into the rebirth of European
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