The Magna Carta, St. Francis’ Admonitions, and Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica are all-important works of the High Middle Ages. These documents explain a great deal to the reader about civilization at that time. This paper will first, demonstrate why the Magna Carta, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and St. Francis’ Admonitions are so important. The paper will also summarize the qualities and characteristics of all three documents.
The Magna Carta was used to put the barons at ease with the king. The Magna Carta was written in 1215 A.D. (167). At the time, King John of England was having trouble with his unruly barons (167). On the surface, it seems that King John was simply trying to give the people some freedoms. From the document, it can be said that the king had been unjustly taking from whom he ruled. ” Neither we, nor our Bailiffs of ours, will take another man’s wood, for our castles or other uses, unless by the consent of him whom the wood belongs”(169). Obviously, that concession would not have been included had not the king or his men been taking wood without consent. The Magna Carta however, is not important for the exact rules or concessions written in it but for other reasons that lie under the surface. The reasons are: The law is even above the king; and the king can be forcefully compelled to obey the law. The most important part of the Magna Carta is the last concession. Summarized, it states that the free people and their kin have the stated rights and they have them forever. No longer can the king take the rights stated in the Magna Carta from the people and no longer can the king be unaware of the law.
St. Francis of Assisi work, Admonitions, is a virtual instruction manual on how to live a Christian life. St. Francis was born into a merchant family and was headed to a secular career. He then experienced a deeply religious vision. He turned away from all worldly things, and began to concentrate on preaching in urban areas. The fact that he began to preach in urban areas and not live a cloistered life of a monk in a monastery is very important in itself. St. Francis took advantage of his lure and charismatic personality to preach to the people. St. Francis and his followers believe that not only do they have to read the Bible or pray but also they must believe in what they are reading and believe in what they praying. “That is why all those were condemned who saw our Lord Jesus Christ in his humanity but did not see or believe in spirit in his divinity, that he was the true Son of God” (171). St. Francis means that just because the saw the Son of God you are not saved. He believes you must believe it was the Son of God and you must believe what the Son of God believes. St. Francis and his followers, the Franciscans, are important because of the function such an order performs for society. The beliefs he has in the document are made for a person living in society and not a person living in a monastery. He wants people to live as a monk in society rather than a monk in a monastery.
St. Thomas Aquinas adopts an Aristotelian way of thinking in order to prove the answers to a series of theological questions in Summa Theologica. The document begins with a series of objections to the existence of God followed by a series of replies to the objections. An example of an objection would be “It seems that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated”(176). That statement would be followed by proof that God cannot be demonstrated. An example of a reply would be “The existence of God and other like truths about God…. Can be accepted, as a matter of faith, something which in itself is capable of being scientifically known and demonstrated”(176). When St. Thomas finds sufficient evidence to prove that God exists he proves it. St. Thomas not only addresses whether God exists, but he also addresses the subjects of whether it is sinful to wage war, whether it is lawful for clergymen to fight, and finally, whether it is lawful to fight on holy days. All items addressed are important because St. Thomas is taking a pagan way of thinking to prove Christian beliefs.
Consistent lines between religious, political, and cultural lines are demonstrated in the three documents. All three documents are similar and new in that they tackle objectives not undertaken before. In the Magna Carta, the king must now adhere to the laws. St. Francis preached to his people to live as a monk, but live life in society. St. Thomas used a different way of thinking to prove Christian beliefs. This period of Western Civilization can be characterized as a time when new beliefs were evolving. Not only did these ideas involve kings and rulers but also included religion. New orders were being formed in the church and a new balance of power between kings and nobles was evolving.