chapter  3
Beginnings of the medieval church
Pages 20

The major beneficiary of the growing sense of Christendom was the papacy, which used its position as the head of that body to translate long-standing claims into effective government. Indeed, the remarkable growth of papal power in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is unimaginable without the prior existence of a sense of Christendom that the popes cultivated but did not create. Developments in the eleventh century had catapulted the sleepy and mostly ceremonial papacy into the leadership of reform movements that developed within the western church. When those reform movements were victorious, it gave the popes an immense reservoir of support and goodwill on which to draw. Most institutions function effectively over long periods because the people involved accept their basic legitimacy, even if they disagree with specific policies. The pope's authority was not based on his military power. Rulers, intellectuals and reformers criticised individual popes freely, but the fundamental legitimacy of papal power was unquestioned until the fourteenth century.