Signs of Strain. There were increasing challenges to medieval institutions. The landowning aristocracy, the ruling class, lost its military role as professional armies and new weapons transformed warfare. Aristocrats retreated into a ceremonial style of life emphasizing chivalry. The balance of power between church and state shifted in favor of the state. As the church leaders struggled to retain secular authority, they lost touch with individual believers who turned to popular currents emphasizing direct experience of god. Intellectual and artistic synthesis also declined. Church officials became less tolerant of intellectual daring and retreated from Aquinas's blend of rationalism and religion. In art, styles became more realistic.