Between 1000 and 1500 the pastoral efforts of the Church made a considerable impact on English society. Even by the late Anglo-Saxon period, they had already affected decisively the religious practices of lay people, and in subsequent centuries this impact was to harden. It makes sense to speak of medieval society or culture in this period, at a general level, as ‘Christianized’, if by the term we accept a broad definition which would not always have pleased the theologically refined, and if we accept that pre-Christian beliefs had generally been absorbed and accommodated within a broad Christian framework, by the end of the period even more than at the beginning. A firm distinction between pagan or folkloric beliefs and Christian beliefs cannot be sustained; and the same may be said (though with certain qualifications) of the distinction between ‘popular’ and ‘elite’ religion, not least because elements deemed to be the distinctive features of the one (such as a ‘cultic’ approach to religion) or of the other (a ‘literate’ mentality, for instance) can usually be found in both.
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