Review of “the Propaganda of the Saints in the Middle Ages.”

Topics: Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Jürgen Habermas Pages: 10 (3429 words) Published: November 26, 2011
The “Propoganda of Saints in the Middle Ages” article, written by Esther Cohen, goes over many of the methods the Catholic Church employed to gain power over the people in Europe. Cohen goes through the middle ages by describing how the Catholic Church was spreading its faith; mainly through the use of propaganda. An Age of Faith took place between the fall of the Roman Empire and the discovery of America. Cohen describes how the in the early years of the church, martyred Christians rapidly assumed a high position in the churches hierarchy of faith. These saints where given to have special powers and gradually became central to the Catholic Church; as opposed to God.

Cohen describes a clear attempt from the Church to portray a consistent propaganda campaign aimed at raising the level of sainthood in the public eye. This was not difficult to do as the church had three things with it that gave it absolute power. First thing the church had, was that its message it brought with it that could not be questioned in any way. The information they brought with them could not be voluntarily accepted or rejected, and the church had an obligation to spread that message. Secondly, the churches message was absolute and its authority was unquestionable. The church had no competition in that there was no one who could match the propaganda they brought. Lastly, the church had a centrally organized, universal message, which meant that it could be easily tailored for the masses.

Pilgrimages became common; this cemented the church even further as they build grand churches filled with “holy relics” of the saints. These relics were given to have special powers when yielded by the saints of the church. Many of the pilgrims believed this message and probably never questioned it. Many of them were filled with awe when they saw the grand magnificence of the church and the stained glass windows within them (peasants would never see such sights if it hadn’t been for the church). The fact is that all of the church’s teachings came from a central point, making the message more or less universal and uniform. The central church was able to put together its message, and then pass it along to other churches that administered it to the masses. The message was hammered in generation to generation.

The Catholic Church was a big influence in the lives of people in Europe. This essay by Cohen illustrates just how big an influence it actually was. From the very beginning, it brought a centralized message which was labelled indisputable. The reason it was followed was that since no one could actually challenge their message; they destroyed everything in their way to ensure it. Cohen really describes the transgression well as he describes it progress thru the ages and develop into what amounts to an international conglomerate. They opened up many different franchises, preaching the same message. Of course the message had its deviations; much of the church’s beliefs stemmed from the local saints. As saints were given more and more power; this was another good way of getting the locals to support their cause.

It is remarkable at the amount of effective propaganda that came from the church in the earlier period of history; as there is not too much in the way of intelligent, centralized, effective messages before that time period. The church truly did stand the test of time even until today. It has and had tremendous effects over people’s lives as they try to come to terms with the world around them. The reason it’s so important is that even though Gods message has always been around over time, no one was more able to use it to their advantage other than the Catholic Church. The message became centralized and faith was transferred from God to local Saints, which also took away from any truth that the church might have brought with it. Their reason for doing it may be obvious, in that they ended up controlling massive amounts of...

Bibliography: Cohen, Esther. “The Propaganda of the Saints in the Middle Ages.” Journal of Communication, 1981.
Poster, Mark. “Critical Theory and TechnoCulture: Habermas and Baudrillard.” In The Second Media Age. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992.
[1] Poster, Mark “Critical Theory and Technoculture” pg. 97
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