The British Church in the 14 Century

In the summer of 1381 a large group of peasants led by Wat Tyler stormed London. These peasants, unwilling to pay another poll tax to pay for an unpopular war against France and discontent with unfair labor wages, freed prisoners from London prisons, killed merchants, and razed the home of John of Gaunt, considered the creator of the poll tax. Perhaps more important, however, was the rebels attack on the Temple, a symbol of the British Churchs wealth and power. The rebels burned the charters, legal records of the Churchs vast land-holdings, stored within the Temple. This act – a religious building being targeted of in rebellion against a mismanaged, abusive government – shows an acknowledgement by the peasantry of the British Churchs political power. The Churchs involvement in politics, though making it more central in a persons life, also left it more vulnerable to corruption and subsequent criticism. The Church in Britain was a medieval cradle to grave institution. People were born Christian, received Baptism shortly after, married under a Christian auspices, and were given their Christian last rites shortly before they died. This type of existence is talked of in literature of the time, such as in Langlands Piers the Ploughman. During a chapter entitled The Teaching of the Holy Church, Langland asks for the name of a woman who has quoted such wise words of Holy Scripture (Langland, p. 34): I am the Holy Church, She replied, You should recognize me, for I received you when you were a child and first taught you the Faith. You came to me with godparents, who pledged you to love and obey me for all your life. (Langland, p. 34) This kind of comment demonstrates the deep central role that the Church played in a British persons life. The Churchs importance on a smaller, community level reinforced the Churchs centrality to a persons life. Churches s…

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