Key Stage 3 History: Medieval Life 9: What did Medieval People Believe about Heaven and Hell?


In blog 9 in our Key Stage 3 History series we look at medieval beliefs.

What did Medieval People Believe about Heaven and Hell?

I have some sad news today. Old Mrs Miller from next door is really ill. It’s not likely she’ll live much longer. Still, she’s in her sixties, which is old in these times. She’s had a good life. When I saw her this morning she asked me to fetch her the priest. She wants him to give her the last rites while she can take part, to be sure she gets to Heaven.
We all really believe in Heaven and Hell. What we do during our lives determines where we end up. Sometimes it isn’t that clear cut and a person may go to purgatory. They may be there for hundreds of years, just waiting for God to decide whether they should go to Heaven or Hell.

I’ve decided I’m going to make sure I go straight to Heaven. There’s no way I’m hanging around in purgatory! There are four main ways that I can guarantee a straight passage. Firstly, I could buy my way. I could give the church a present, like some gold candlesticks or money. Then the priest will say some extra prayers for my soul to help me get to Heaven. But I can’t afford to do that.

Alternatively, I could go on a pilgrimage. If I travel to a holy place to pray, I’ll be ok. But I can’t do that either. A pilgrimage would take several weeks at least and I can’t leave for one day let alone any longer.

And I’m not going with my third option – I’m not becoming a nun! Monks and nuns always go straight to Heaven. But I couldn’t live in a convent for the rest of my life. What about my family? No, that option is best for young girls who don’t have responsibilities.

My final option is to buy a Pardon. All my sins will be forgiven so I don’t have to wait around in purgatory. But I can’t afford this either.

Well, I guess I have no options. I just have to be good all the time. If I go to church every Sunday and confess my sins to the priest and behave myself as much as I can, I might be in with a chance of Heaven. I’m sure the priests just use religion to keep us peasants in our places – why else are all the options only available to the rich?!

Penny Brooks

Tutor

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