The medieval world at its high point was far from a time of dry metaphysics, religious rigidity and conformity, or darkness and superstition. In actuality, it was a time of creative intellectual ferment, and of tender and warm faith. The age that produced the great cathedrals and inspired scholastic theology was also a time of spontaneous worship that produced many charismatic movements. Ordinary Christians expressed their wonder in much the same way that modern charismatics express theirs: by praying aloud without words and by singing inspired songs. This tradition continued for several hundred years after the end of the Middle Ages.
Clergy who became Schoolmen were suspected by the Church of heresy, yet they were only trying to understand the Christian teachings that had been handed down from the ancient Church and to justify it by their reason. Even Thomas Aquinas did not escape the charge of introducing dangerous doctrines, though he became the accepted master of Catholic theology. They did not intend to overstep the bounds of authority, but they mark the beginning of the modern tendency toward critical thought directed toward even the most sacred themes of the Christian tradition.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), perhaps the greatest of the medieval scholars, was born near Naples and studied at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino.