The Rise of Urban Centers in Western Europe

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The population in Western Europe grew rapidly in the 12th century (Dan 2013). The urban centers greatly expanded in physical size, for instance, the size of Cologne was only 122ha before 1106 but later expanded to 223ha (Dan 2013). Germany was one of the nations in Western Europe that experienced an expansion in the urban settlement. In 1000 AD, Germany had only 90 urban settlements but in 1100 and 1200, the settlements had risen to 140 and 250 respectively. There are many causes that led to the rise of urban centers in Western Europe during the 12th Century. The factors that caused urbanization in the 12th Century are discussed below:

Rise of crafts

            Western Europe developed the craft industry that attracted people to urban centers. The craft industry led to the production of the rise of shield makers (Dan 2013). In addition, leather making, butchery, and tanning were commonly practiced. During this period, the demand for crafts by the military led to increased urbanization.

Trading activities

            Trade greatly promoted urbanization in Western Europe. The urban centers played different roles such as transforming into transit and redistribution routes for goods (Dan 2013). Damme, for instance, acted as a transit route for salt and wine originating from France. Rouen acted a trade route for wine coming from the Seine while Lille controlled corn market coming from Southern Flanders.

The popularity of trade fairs also helped to promote urbanization. One of the trade fairs commonly held was the Champagne Faire (Dan 2013). The fair which was held annually was rotated between Brie and Champagne which were French urban centers. The urban centers became attractive with new marketplaces and streets. Other factors that led to urbanization included the rise of Carolingian Kingship, the popularity of fortification of urban centers for defense purpose, the rise of monasteries and consolidation of the feudal system.

Great Schism

            Great Schism refers to the division that affected Christianity leading to the formation of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in 1054. The church split due to several religious issues. One, the patriarchs opposed the control of the East especially Byzantine by the papacy. Another factor leading to schism was due to disagreement on unleavened bread (Wesolowsky 2016). The Christians in the West who formed Roman Catholic believed that the unleavened bread should be used in celebration of Holy Communion while the Christians in the East who later split to form Eastern Orthodox Church opposed the practice. The patriarchs also contested fasting practice during the Saturday and consumption of meat dipped in blood as practiced by the West (Haddad 1984). Ultimately, the pope excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople leading to great schism (National Geographic 2018).

            The great schism helped to split the church thus considerably reducing the power of the Roman church. The powers of the papacy were greatly reduced since the Eastern Orthodox ceased to be under the religious jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church. Any attempt to unite the two churches failed especially due to the capture of Constantinople by Latin which angered the Greeks (Wesolowsky 2016).

Conciliar Movement

Conciliar Movement was an attempt to create ecclesiastical reforms that helped to end Western schism in1417 (Biechler 1975). The movement ended in 1448 following Concordant of Vienna signings. The end of the movement helped to consolidate the papacy through ending feuds that were common in the church thus upholding the superiority of the pope. It, therefore, helped to uphold the permanence of powers and nature of the papacy. This helped to maintain the supremacy of papacy in Europe and medieval church by ending Western Schism that happened in 1417.


Biechler, J. E. (1975). Nicholas of Cusa and the end of the Conciliar movement: a humanist crisis of identity. Church History, 44(1), 5-21. Retrieved from:

Dan Y., (2013). The Rise of Europe in the High Middle Ages: Reactions to Urban Economic Modernity. Stanford. Retrieved from:

Haddad K.C. (1984).Worship changes since the 1st Century. Retrieved from:

National Geographic (2018). July 16, 1054: Great Schism. Retrieved from:

Wesolowsky T. (2016). The Great Schism Explained. Retrieved from:

November 13, 2023

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