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During the early Middle Ages, Christianity spread across most of Europe and helped to unify diverse groups of people under a common culture. The concept of "Europe" or the "Western World" is closely connected with the idea of "Christendom."\n\nWhen the Western Roman Empire began to decline, the Catholic Church was the only centralized institution to survive. It was a unifying cultural influence at a time when Europe was losing the political unity that had existed under the Roman Empire.