Medieval culture of Western Europe – the era of great spiritual and socio-cultural gains in the history of all mankind.
The Middle Ages in time span from the V to the XVII century. The term “Middle Ages” was fixed during this period due to the fact that it occupies an intermediate place between Antiquity and the New Times. At the same time, in the culturological dimension, later the Middle Ages – XIV-XVII centuries. – This is another type of culture – the era of the Renaissance and the Reformation.
Medieval culture differs from many previous and subsequent epochs with a special tension of spiritual life both in the sphere of the ideal, the proper, and in the real, practical sphere. Despite the strong divergence between the ideal and the real, yet the very social and everyday life of people in the Middle Ages was an attempt, a desire to translate Christian ideals into practical activities. Therefore, first we will consider the ideals themselves, to which many efforts of people of that time were directed, and then we will note the features of the reflection of these ideals in real life.
The spiritual life of the Middle Ages is usually described through the dominant religion at that time – Christianity. The picture of the world of medieval culture is defined as the God centric culture. This is due to the fact that God is an absolute value. The medieval picture of the world, the religiosity of this culture fundamentally differs from all previous, that is, pagan cultures. God in Christianity is One, Personal and Spiritual, that is, absolutely outside material. Also, God is endowed with a variety of virtuous qualities: God the All-Blessed, God is Love, God is Absolute Good.
Thanks to this spiritual and absolutely positive understanding of God, a special meaning in the religious picture of the world is acquired by man. Man – the image of God, the greatest value after God, occupies a dominant place on Earth. The main thing in a person is the soul. One of the outstanding achievements of the Christian religion is the free will of man, that is, the right to choose between good and evil, God and the devil. Due to the presence of dark forces, evil, Medieval culture is often called dualistic: at one of its poles – God, angels, saints, on the other – the Devil and his dark army (demons, sorcerers, heretics).
The tragedy of man is that he can abuse free will. So it happened with the first man – Adam. He evaded the prohibitions of God in the direction of the temptations of the devil. This process is called the fall. Sin is the result of man’s evasion from God. It is because of sin that suffering, wars, sickness and death entered the world.
According to the Christian teaching, by its own strength a person cannot return to God. For this, a person needs an intermediary – the Savior. Savior in the medieval Christian picture of the world is Christ and His Church (in Western Europe – Catholic). Therefore, along with the category of sin, the big problem in the picture of the world of the Middle Ages is the problem of saving the soul of each person.
Thus, the whole life of man in the Middle Ages stands between two points of reference – sin and salvation. To escape from the first and achieve the latter, the following conditions are given to a person: adherence to Christian commandments, doing good deeds, avoiding temptations, confessing one’s sins, active prayer and church life not only for monks, but also for lay people.