According to the articles we read this week, especially the ones by BARBARA ABOU-EL-HAJ, most of those so-called devoted people such as monks abused their power in such way that they host ceremonies just to collect more money. They also used story of flexible body of a saint to attract more pilgrims. Why had no one ever tried to stop such an abuse of power which might lead to distrust and scepticism into the true essence of the religion? Was it because of the overwhelming power they had so that no one could actually stop them? Or was it because of the economic benefits that they made under the competition between them? Or please give your own reasons.
The problem in monasteries was that the issue of pecuniary gain and an incredible sense of acquisition affected the monks who were looking at money coming in at an incredible scale. The cult of religion was also very important to attract pilgrims from all over the country and these obviously brought incredible amounts of money and fabulous wealth to the community as well as the monks themselves. Their power was very great and very few would cross those in power since they controlled all sorts of access to the community as a whole. So it appeared that power and money were the true reasons behind the monks having so much influence on religion and eventual monetary gain. The lavish way ceremonies and pageants were organized demonstrated the importance that the monks gave to power and influence. This created a sense of inevitability about it all and the power amassed by the monks was practically out of the question.
Geary (1948) talks extensively about the importance of sacred relics in the medieval period and the influence these placed on life in that period. This is surely one of the main aspects of the influence the monks had on social life in that era.
After reading about all of the aspects of monasteries it made me wonder what the real motivation for establishing relics was. Do you think that the relics were only created in order to stimulate the importance of the monks, and saints? Or do you think it started out as a truly religious movement and eventually moved farther away from those original purposes?
As the saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Originally the movement did start out as truly religious but the incredible power and influence attracted by certain cults saw an explosion in the monk’s wealth and their influence. The gullible public was of course intrinsically affected by all this since they viewed the saints as important elements of their lives and thus contributed effusively to the cause. This led the religious orders such as the Benedictines to continue expanding their own empire with incredible authority eventually leading to their downfall.
O.K. WERCKMEISTER MEDIEVAL ART HISTORY A SHORT SURVEY SECOND EDITION, REVISED AND EXPANDED EVANSTON, ILLINOIS, 1986 REPRINTED 1993
Geary P: Theft of Relics in the Middle Ages 1948, Binghamton University
BARBARA ABOU-EL-HAJ: Audience for the Medieval Cult of Saints, University of Illinois, 1993
Vézelay M; Architects of Violence, Chapters in the History of Medieval monastery and Cathedral Towns.