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considerable justice, that Gregory VII revolutionized the Christian view of warfare and that he
was the principal inventor of the holy war idea in medieval Christendom™: ˜Holy War™, 104. Cf.
Erdmann, Crusade; I. S. Robinson, ˜Gregory VII™; Cowdrey, ˜Genesis of the Crusades™.
Clergie, Chevalerie, and Reform 65
times, this was usually despite their military calling; signi¬cantly, Gregory
considered some contemporary knights, such as Erlembald of Milan (˜mar-
tyred™ in the very physical struggle against clergy who resisted papal reform
measures), to be virtual saints because of their warring for right order in the
world. His letters crackle with martial terminology: ˜the warfare of Christ™,
˜the service of St Peter™, ˜the vassals of St Peter™. His enemies”St Peter™s ene-
mies, God™s enemies”have to be resisted, ˜even to blood™.4
At one point he chastised Abbot Hugh of Cluny for having dragged, or at
least received, Duke Hugh of Burgundy into the peace of the Cluniac order;
the abbot should rather, the pope wrote, have permitted the duke to remain in
the world to carry out his much-needed service of another sort, the legitimate
military function of a layman.5 At least brie¬‚y he tried to enlist the knighthood
of Europe in a grandiose campaign to overawe the old Norman enemies of the
papacy in Italy and then to march off triumphantly to Eastern lands. There
they could aid the Christians in Constantinople against the unbelievers and, in
the process, enforce Roman supremacy over the Eastern church.6
Even before his calls to arms in the famous struggle with the Emperor
Henry IV, calls which a hostile archbishop characterized as declaring war
against the whole world,7 Gregory VII found his enemies accusing him of
unheard-of uses of force. The accusations could only increase during that
struggle. The antipope Wibert of Ravenna, who pictured Gregory standing
abashed at the Last Judgement asked, rhetorically, what defence he could give
˜when the blood of the many slaughtered cries out against him, “Avenge our
blood, O Lord!” ™ Reporting the accusations circulating against Gregory,
Wenrich of Trier wrote to the pope:
They declare that . . . you incite to bloodshed secular men seeking pardon for their sins;
that murder, for whatever reason it is committed, is of small account; that the property
of St Peter must be defended by force; and to whomsoever dies in this defence you
promise freedom from all his sins, and you will render account for any man who does
not fear to kill a Christian in Christ™s name.8

One of these critics, Sigebert of Gembloux, presented the anti-Gregorian posi-
tion with even greater succinctness in a sharp rhetorical thrust:



On military saints, see Cowdrey, ˜Genesis of the Crusades™, 20. I. S. Robinson comments on
4

Gregory™s military imagery: ˜Gregory VII™, 177. Brooke notes that ˜ “[b]lood” was a word often on
his lips™: Medieval Church and Society, 62.
Letter quoted in I. S. Robinson, ˜Gregory VII™, 190.
5

Cowdrey, ˜Gregory VII™s Crusading Plans™, 27“40; I. S. Robinson, ˜Gregory VII™.
6

Quoted in I. S. Robinson, ˜Gregory VII™, 174.
7

Ibid., 180, 183. For a general discussion, with many citations, see Erdmann, Crusade, 229“68.
8
The Link with Clergie
66
[W]here does it come from, this novel authority by which sinners are offered freedom
from punishment for sins which they have committed, and licence to commit fresh
ones, without confession and penance? What a window of wickedness you have thus
opened up to mankind!9

Gregory and his supporters would, of course, deny and counter such
charges, but another feature of their ideology would have brought no denials
from their lips or pens. They pressed forward an effort to disarm the clergy as
a complement to directing the armed might of knighthood. The clerics might
rightly direct righteous war; they were not to participate, sword in hand.
Legislation in councils striving to reform the Church often aimed to take
weapons from the sacred hands of clerics no less than to remove women from
their eager arms. Apparently the former effort was much more successful than
the latter. In his account of the beginnings of the Gregorian movement, Orderic
Vitalis, for example, links the evil of clerical sexuality with the bearing of arms
by the clergy. He complains with practised monastic indignity that the clerks
could more readily be parted from their weapons than from their women. The
aftermath of the visit of Leo IX to Reims in 1049 made this result clear to him:
˜From that time the fatal custom [of clerics bearing arms] began to wither away
little by little. The priests were ready enough to give up bearing arms but even
now they are loath to part with their mistresses or to live chaste lives.™10
One of the most signi¬cant conductors for the high voltage of reforming
ideas was the emerging science of canon law. The positive Gregorian concept
of Christian warfare entered canon law through the writings of Bishop Anselm
of Lucca, papal legate in Lombardy and publicist for the Gregorian cause. By
1140 these ideas had then moved forward another and even longer step.
Combining Anselm™s ideas with those of the slightly later Ivo of Chartres, and
drawing heavily on the Church fathers (Augustine in particular), the monk
Gratian created an ecclesiastical law of war ˜as a particular species of violence™
in his in¬‚uential Decretum, a work which later theologians and writers on the
canon law had always to take into account.11
In Causa 23 of this work, the ¬rst quaestio asks pointedly, ˜Is military service
a sin?™ Although here and elsewhere in his work Gratian quotes authorities
who would answer in the af¬rmative, his conclusion follows Augustine in
asserting that such service is not inherently sinful. In fact, truly just warfare was
not simply acceptable, it could be pleasing in the eyes of the Almighty. Well in
advance of enthusiastic writers of vernacular manuals on chivalry and of the
great chivalric chanson and romances, Gratian even proclaimed prowess a gift
Quoted in Housley, ˜Crusades Against Christians™, 19.
9

Chibnall, ed., Ecclesiastical History, III, 120“3.
10

Brundage, ˜Holy War™, 106; cf I. S. Robinson, ˜Gregory VII™, 184“90.
11
Clergie, Chevalerie, and Reform 67
of God; such prowess exercised in just warfare became an instrument leading
to the blessed goal of peace. If the warriors had the right motives, if the war
was called by proper authority in order to right a wrong or injury, then all was
well. Gratian was especially concerned about proper authority, but his list of
such authorities, re¬‚ecting the situation in his world, seems to have been fairly
comprehensive: it did not absolutely exclude anyone ˜from the Emperor or
king down to the most lowly vassal™. Clerics were prohibited from direct par-
ticipation by bearing arms themselves, and even from directly ordering blood-
shed; but they could encourage others to defend right, correct wrongs, protect
the Church. God was, of course, the ultimate authority for violence, but his
Church could direct just war on his behalf.12
Canonists would work to ¬ll in these broad outlines (and to confront the
myriad of questions Gratian left unanswered) for generations to come. For
our purposes, the window of opportunity opened for a clerical valorization of
knighthood is immediately obvious. The law of the Church, though with
many quali¬cations and caveats, accepted the need for knightly violence.

For all of its fears of the milites, the cloister, too, proved to be a source of ideas
valorizing emerging chivalry. A much-discussed parallel between knights on
the one hand and monks and hermits on the other provided one of the most
venerable means by which blessings descended upon knighthood. Churchmen
frequently asserted that knights and monks were both called to serve;
signi¬cantly, the Latin verb they used, militare, could mean to ¬ght as well to
serve and, in fact, they easily considered the service of both knights and monks
a form of warfare against evil, in one dimension conducted in the spirit, in the
other in physical battle.13 All the milites Christi, monks and knights alike, in
other words, were warriors engaged one way or another in battle against evil,
even as Christ himself had been.14
In a scene of wonderful symbolic content, white-robed monks in The Quest
of the Holy Grail literally pull the knight errant Galahad into their religious
house to enjoy their hospitality; on his part, he recognizes them, the author
tells us, as brothers. In this same text the hermits who so prominently dispense
religious advice regularly put on ˜the armour of Holy Church™ or ˜the armour
of Our Lord™, when saying mass for the knights.15

See the discussions in Russell, Just War, 55“85, and Chodorow, Christian Political Theory,
12

234“46. For Gratian™s text, see Richter, ed., Decretum Magistri Gratiani, I, 890“965.
As noted by Holdsworth, ˜Ideas and Reality™, 77.
13

This parallel is not con¬ned to comparisons of monks and knights, though that is its usual
14

form. Clerics other than monks might feel the basic similarity of roles, as John of Salisbury notes:
Dickinson, ed., tr., Statesman™s Book, 190.
E.g. Matarasso, tr., Quest, 53, 86, 103; Pauphilet, ed., Queste, 26“7, 62, 81“2.
15
The Link with Clergie
68
Orderic Vitalis draws upon the world of war to write of monks using ˜the
weapon of prayer (arma orationis)™. He can use the term martyr for knights
who suffer death on their crusade. When he pens the phrase ˜soldiers of Christ
(milites Christi)™ he sometimes means monks, sometimes crusading knights.16
Writing in praise of a man named Gerold, a pious clerk in the household of
the Earl of Chester, Orderic says:
[He] did his best to convert the men of the court to a better way of life by showing
them the examples of their forebears. He rightly condemned the worldly wantonness
that he saw in many and deplored the great negligence that most of them showed for
the worship of God. To great lords, simple knights, and noble boys alike he gave salu-
tary counsel; and he made a great collection of tales of the combats of holy knights,
drawn from the Old Testament and more recent records of Christian achievements, for
them to imitate. He told them vivid stories of the con¬‚icts of Demetrius and George,
of Theodore and Sebastian, of the Theban legion and Maurice its leader, and of
Eustace, supreme commander of the army and his companions, who won the crown of
martyrdom in heaven. He also told them of the holy champion, William [of Orange],
who after long service in war renounced the world and fought gloriously for the Lord
under the monastic rule. And many pro¬ted from his exhortations, for he brought
them from the wide ocean of the world to the safe harbour of life under the Rule.17

Orderic presents a fascinating compromise here, suggesting, indirectly, the
validity of a knightly life in the world, so long as religion is not neglected and
the battles are fought for good causes, but ending conventionally with the ulti-
mate monastic solution: it would be better for the knights to become monks,
at least at the end of an active life in the world. Of course many knights in fact
heard this call, William Marshal only the most famous of them.18
In the writings of St Bernard, himself the son of a knight, these military
metaphors appear regularly. An Augustinian canon, who had given up his reli-
gious vocation and returned to the world, was admonished in a letter from
Bernard: ˜Show yourself in the ¬ght. If Christ recognizes you in battle he will
recognize you . . . on the Last Day.™ He wrote to Robert de Châtillon to return
to his ˜fellow-soldiers™ in the monastery at Clairvaux: ˜Arise, soldier of Christ,
I say arise! Shake off the dust and return to the battle.™ Bernard tells Robert he
is sleeping, while his house is invaded by armed men scaling the walls, pour-
ing in at every entrance.19


Chibnall, ed., Ecclesiastical History, III, bk. VI 260“1, 292“3, 298“9; V, bk. IX, 6“7, 52“7, bk.
16

X, 340“1.
Chibnall, Ecclesiastical History, III, bk. VI, 216“17.
17

Even Bertran de Born, famous warrior/poet, retired to a religious house he had patronized:
18

Paden et al., eds, Poems of the Troubadour, 24“6.
Quoted in Evans, Bernard of Clairvaux, 24.
19
Clergie, Chevalerie, and Reform 69
Crusade was clearly another conduit for transmitting clerical valorization of
knightly violence.20 In the era of crusade, as Christian society was being
divided by clerical intellectuals into three distinct ˜orders™”those who pray,
those who ¬ght, and those who work”knighthood became, in clerical minds,
an ordo. Knights became, that is, one of these divisions of society approved by
God, one of the orders within which one might achieve salvation.21
At a time when much cultural attention was likewise focused on penance
and the means of achieving salvation,22 when salvation may have appeared to
many almost as a treasure securely kept behind monastic walls, contemporaries
sensed the novelty of creating this new order not simply for laymen, but
speci¬cally for knights, with all their enthusiasm for killing. In the early twelfth
century Guibert of Nogent, a monk and supporter of Gregorian ideals, wrote
that knights who wore the crusader™s cross could now ¬nd salvation without
taking the traditional path of giving up their way of life and entering a
monastery:
God in our time has introduced the holy war so that the knighthood and the unstable
people, who shed each other™s blood in the way of pagans, might have a new way to
win salvation. They need not choose the life of a monk and abandon the world in accor-
dance with the vows of a rule, but can obtain God™s grace through their own profes-
sion, in their accustomed freedom and secular dress.23

Otto of Freising, writing towards the middle of the twelfth century, thought
of crusaders in similar terms. At a time of senseless war at home,
some, for Christ™s sake, despising their own interests and considering that it was not for
naught that they were wearing the girdle of knighthood, set out for Jerusalem and
there, undertaking a new kind of warfare, so conducted themselves against the enemies
of the Cross of Christ that, continually bearing about in their bodies the death of the
cross, they appeared by their life and conversation to be not soldiers but monks.24

The special service of crusade thus covered the sins of the knights and could
pry open the doors of paradise itself. The troubadour Aimeric de P©gulhan
exults that knights ˜can obtain honour down here and joy in Paradise™ and
manage all this ˜without renouncing our rich garments, our station in life,
courtesy and all that pleases and charms™. He is wonderfully relieved that ˜[n]o
more is there need to be tonsured or shaved and lead a hard life in the most

Convincing views in Keen, Chivalry, 44“63.
20

See Duby, Les Trois Ordres; Flori, L™Ideologie du glaive.
21

Cowdrey, ˜Genesis of the Crusades™, 21“4.
22

Quoted in Erdmann, Crusade, 336“7.
23

Otto of Freising, Chronica, in Hofmeister, ed., Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum, 320,
24

Mierow, tr., Two Cities, 414“15.
The Link with Clergie
70
strict order if we can revenge the shame which the Turks have done us™.25 The
exchange is explicit and explicitly stated in some chansons: Christ died for the
knights, they must be willing to die for him.26
The most in¬‚uential monastic voice speaking to knighthood as crusade
ideas gathered force was that of Bernard of Clairvaux, perhaps the most
in¬‚uential churchman of the ¬rst half of the twelfth century. Bernard was will-
ing to recognize a role for the hermaphroditic fusion of monk and knight in a
special body of crusaders, the Order of the Knights Templar, for whom he
wrote ˜Praise of the New Knighthood™.27 His approval of this new knight-
hood, ˜unknown to ages gone by™, is fulsome, but speci¬c: the order ˜cease-
lessly wages a twofold war both against ¬‚esh and blood and against a spiritual
army of evil in the heavens™. The Templars can, he assures them, ¬ght secure in
their moral stature as God™s warriors:
The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with con¬dence and die yet more con¬dently,
for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls. Neither does he
bear the sword in vain, for he is God™s minister, for the punishment of evildoers and for
the praise of the good. If he kills an evildoer, he is not a mankiller, but, if I may so put
it, a killer of evil [non homicidia, sed ut ita dixerim, malicidia].28

Bernard™s last phrase recalls the wordplay with militia and malitia of which he
and other clerics made such telling use; but here the game elevates his ideal
knights at the expense of their brothers among merely ˜worldly chivalry™.
Some years later he granted his blessing to an even larger subset of the
knightly (admittedly somewhat slowly at ¬rst) in his preaching of the Second
Crusade. At Vezelay in 1146, Bernard issued an eloquent call for crusaders,
using the ˜heavenly instrument™ of his voice to praise the work they would do,
even modifying on behalf of these knights his usual preference for the ¬ght of
the monk, whose warfare for the good was spiritual and interior, not physical
and exterior. Contemporaries noted that his eloquence on behalf of crusading
warfare won the approval of God, as the many miracles that took place at
Vezeley witnessed. In the preaching campaign that followed, Bernard trav-
elled many miles through the Kingdom of France and the Empire.29
Quoted in Painter, French Chivalry, 87, and linked to Guibert™s statement, quoted above, by
25

Keen, Nobles, Knights, 3.
See, for example, ll. 9380“1 in Newth, ed., tr., Song of Aspremont and Brandin, ed., Chanson
26

d™Aspremont. For an example from romance, see Bryant, tr., Perlesvaus, 236; Nitze and Jenkins, eds,
Perlesvaus, I, 370.
In Greenia, tr., Bernard of Clairvaux, 127“67. For the Latin version, see Leclercq and Rochais,
27

eds, Bernard of Clairvaux, III, 213“39.
Greenia, Bernard of Clairvaux, 129, 134; Leclercq and Rochais, Bernard of Clairvaux, III, 214,
28

217.
Berry, ed, tr., Odo of Deuil, 9“10, describes the scene at Vezeley. Riley-Smith provides a map
29

of St Bernard™s preaching tour: Atlas of the Crusades, 48. For the rather slow development of his
Clergie, Chevalerie, and Reform 71
Finally we should note that clerics gradually became willing to transfer the
blessings they had long reserved for kingship to the ordo of knights, shifting
the heavy mantle of praise and high responsibility from one set of shoulders to
another. Jean Flori™s detailed studies of knighting ceremonies, of church ritual
and liturgy, of the legislation of church councils, and the ideas of clerical intel-
lectuals and popularizers, have skilfully illuminated this revealing change.30
The clerical tradition which had praised and legitimized the necessary societal
role of Christian Roman emperors, sub-Roman Germanic kings, Carolingian
emperors and their successors, came in the course of the High Middle Ages to
bless and praise the ideal role of knights. The knights were needed in hard
times. Like kings, and even in place of kings who were failing to ful¬l their
function, they could defend the Church, keep the peace, protect the weak.
Idealistic reformers assigned knights particular responsibility for defending
widows and orphans.31 If originally and ultimately such responsibility rested
with God, it had devolved in turn upon the Jewish people, the Christian
Church, and then, more speci¬cally and exclusively, Christian kingship. When
the power of post-Carolingian kings slipped over much of Europe, the knights
came to share this aspect of royal responsibility.
Over time this more generous view of knighthood not only predominated
but generalized to cover the entire order of the chivalrous. A form of sacral-
ization”even though it always carried signi¬cant quali¬cations”came to rest
on the knighthood which clerics so decidedly needed for all of the business of
life sadly requiring force. Descendants of the knights whose excesses were con-
demned by the leaders of the peace movement (discussed below) heard their
praises sung as at least potentially blessed warriors. They could become the
˜knights of St Peter™ at the time of Gregory VII, or the ˜knights of Christ™ when
¬ghting under later crusade banners, whether the foe consisted of Muslims in
the Holy Land or heretics or declared papal enemies within Christendom.
Finally, the blessing spread from the select few to the generality of knights,
as knighthood began to be more or less equated with nobility over much of
Europe, as clerics attributed major aspects of royal power and responsibility to
the ordo of knights. Not just crusaders, but all knights could be saved within
this order if only they carried out their mission faithfully, listened to each ser-
monette from their clerical betters, and heeded the warnings. The formula of

enthusiasm for the crusade, and his efforts to explain its complete failure, see Evans, Bernard of
Clairvaux, 24“36.
Flori, L™Id©ologie du glaive and L™Essor de chevalerie. Flori™s numerous articles appear in the bib-
30

liographies to these books.
31 As Flori notes, however, ˜Le service de la Dame prime peu à peu sur celui de l™Eglise et la

“protection” plus ¬‚atteuse, de la pucelle l™emporte sur celle de la veuve et de l™orphelin. A l™id©olo-
gie cl©rical se mêle l™id©ologie profane™: L™Essor de chevalerie, 302.
The Link with Clergie
72
willingness to die for Christ, who was willing to die for humanity, shifts eas-
ily”chivalric literature shows us”to a willingness to die for the lord or king
who puts his body at risk for his men.32 This laicization and generalization of
crusade valorization is sometimes quite explicit. In the Lancelot do Lac and in
the Lancelot, the knight Pharian explains to his fellow vassals why they must
¬ght for their liege lords, the young Bors and Lionel:
if we die for them it will be to our honour in the world and to our renown as warriors,
because for the sake of rescuing his liege lord from death a man is duty-bound to put
his own life ungrudgingly at risk. If anyone then dies, he dies as sure of salvation as if
he were slain ¬ghting the Saracens, the enemies of Our Lord Jesus Christ!33

Fighting for one™s lord has taken on the aura of ¬ghting for the Lord. The
point is made even more broadly and strikingly later in the Lancelot. A former
knight, who leaves the religious life he has adopted to return to the world to
¬ght against an enemy troubling his son, argues this case in discussion with
Gawain:
is he who destroys life without justi¬cation not worse than a Saracen? If I went over-
seas to ¬ght against the destroyers of Christendom, it would be judged praiseworthy,
for I must do all in my power to avenge the death of Jesus Christ, since I am a Christian.
Therefore I™ll go to avenge my son, who is a Christian, and help him against those who
are in the place of the unbelievers.34

Such views had a long future.35
Clerics must have had their doubts about the logic as well as the behaviour
of the knights; but they had few alternatives. They crossed their ¬ngers and
kept preaching their ideals, excepting from the blessings they bestowed on the
High Order of Chivalry only those (in theory a minority) who burned
churches, looted and raped the poor, and caused general mayhem through
unjust warfare.
The Order of Knighthood (Ordene de chevalerie, c. 1220) seems to sum up cler-
ical valorization. Evidently written by a cleric and possibly a priest, this man-
ual provides what its editor, Keith Busby, terms a mystico-religious meaning
for the ceremony by which a knight is made. Each step, each piece of equip-

See, for example, Pickens, tr., Story of Merlin, 291; Sommer, ed., Vulgate Version, II, 226“7.
32

Rosenberg, tr., Lancelot Part I, 32; Sommer, Vulgate Version, III, 60; Elspeth Kennedy, ed.,
33

Lancelot do Lac, I, 73.
Carroll, tr., Lancelot Part II, 199; Sommer, Vulgate Version, III, 359; Kennedy, Lancelot do
34

Lac, I, 476.
They also had a recent past. The account of the crusade of Richard the Lion-Heart, written
35

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