The improvement in various aspects of the morals of the laity

Through education and legislation the ecclesiastical authorities endeavoured to lift the various aspects of life more nearly to the Christian ideal. We have already noted the attempt to reduce the destructiveness of war by the Peace of God and the Truce of God, The reform movement of the tenth and eleventh centuries also sought to induce the warrior to govern his conduct by Christian principles. Thus when the young noble reached his majority and formally assumed his arms, the Church blessed his sword with the prayer that he would use it to defend churches, the widows, the orphans, and all the servants of God. Thus arose chivalry, the code of the Christian warrior of gentle birth. Additions were made to it as the years passed. It demanded that the knight keep his plighted word and be loyal to his lord. He was to fight against the infidel and when death came was to make his confession and receive the communion. The Chanson de Roland, composed in the first half of the eleventh century, was a poetic form of a legend of a much earlier struggle against the Moslem in Spain which helped the wide circulation of some phases of the ideal. Even more striking were the accounts of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table which in the dress that they were given late in the twelfth century idealized Christian chivalry. The story of Parzival (Perceval), an ancient folk tale, as it was put into poetry by Wolfram von Eschenbach late in the twelfth or early in the thirteenth century centered around the Holy Grail (the platter or the cup used by Christ at the last supper), suffering, atonement, and the knightly virtues, and was a notable expression of the standard set up for the Christian knight.

The Church sought to purify marriage and sex relations for the laity at large. In feudal society, not yet recovered from the demoralization of the centuries-long series of invasions and plagued by chronic fighting, sex relations were notoriously lax. Kings and nobles divorced their wives almost with impunity and spawned illegitimate children. With such examples at the top, the masses could not be expected to be much better. At the end of the eleventh and the fore part of the twelfth century, as a part of the general wave of reform, synods and canon lawyers sought, so far as legislation could do it, to en force continence and render divorce difficult. Here and there efforts were made to give stability to the families of slaves.

The Church also strove to bring the economic phase of society to conform with what it deemed Christian standards. For instance, it forbade the taking of interest.

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