The state and its competitors
In principle, the religious monopoly of the Church was confined to the Christians. It was a crime for them to reject the Christian faith or have another interpretation of it than the Church. While the state was gradually extending its control of the limited areas ruled by kings, the Church was present in every village across Europe. The Italian city republics, and many of their counterparts north of the Alps, must be regarded as states in the sense that they were self-governing units. In many respects, they even had a stronger state character than the kingdoms. States had formal borders where similar rules applied to all its inhabitants, where there was some freedom of communication and trade, a standard mint and standard measures of size and weight. The relationship between the state, on the one hand, and the Church and the city, on the other, may be understood as a competition that was finally won by the state.