Ecclesiastical Knights: The Military Orders in Castile, 1150-1330

Ecclesiastical Knights: The Military Orders in Castile, 1150-1330

Mary C. Erler
Franklin T. Harkins
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Ecclesiastical Knights: The Military Orders in Castile, 1150-1330
    Book Description:

    "Warrior monks"-the misnomer for the Iberian military orders that emerged on the frontiers of Europe in the twelfth century-have long fascinated general readers and professional historians alike. Proposing "ecclesiastical knights" as a more accurate name and conceptual model-warriors animated by ideals and spiritual currents endorsed by the church hierarchy-author Sam Zeno Conedera presents a groundbreaking study of how these orders brought the seemingly incongruous combination of monastic devotion and the practice of warfare into a single way of life. Providing a detailed study of the military-religious vocation as it was lived out in the Orders of Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcantara in Leon-Castile during the first century, Ecclesiastical Knights provides a valuable window into medieval Iberia. Filling a gap in the historiography of the medieval military orders, Conedera defines, categorizes, and explains these orders, from their foundations until their spiritual decline in the early fourteenth century, arguing that that the best way to understand their spirituality is as a particular kind of consecrated knighthood. Because these Iberian military orders were belligerents in the Reconquest, Ecclesiastical Knights informs important discussions about the relations between Western Christianity and Islam in the Middle Ages. Conedera examines how the military orders fit into the religious landscape of medieval Europe through the prism of knighthood, and how their unique conceptual character informed the orders and spiritual self-perception. The religious observances of all three orders were remarkably alike, except that the Cistercian-affiliated orders were more demanding and their members could not marry. Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcantara shared the same essential mission and purpose: the defense and expansion of Christendom understood as an act of charity, expressed primarily through fighting and secondarily through the care of the sick and the ransoming of captives. Their prayers were simple and their penances were aimed at knightly vices and the preservation of military discipline. Above all, the orders valued obedience. They never drank from the deep wellsprings of monasticism, nor were they ever meant to. Offering an entirely fresh perspective on two difficult and closely related problems concerning the military orders-namely, definition and spirituality-author Sam Zeno Conedera illuminates the religious life of the orders, previously eclipsed by their military activities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6598-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    The Iberian military orders’ way of life from the twelfth to the early fourteenth centuries represented the consecration of knighthood to God in accordance with the ideals of the Gregorian Reform and the crusading movement, with the help of practices and norms taken from the monastic tradition. The exercise of arms and its exigencies were always primary in this hybrid way of life and gave prior form to the selection and ordering of the monastic elements. Thanks to their permanent commitment to holy war through the profession of vows and the practice of religious discipline, the orders offered to the...

    (pp. 19-50)

    Walter Map, writing in the last decades of the twelfth century, observed, “It is in the period of this century that the Templars, the Hospitallers in Jerusalem, the Knights called of the Sword in Spain, from whom our discourse took its departure earlier, have grown to the zenith of their strength.”² This remark, made almost offhandedly amid Map’s trenchant commentary on the varieties of religious life in his day, shows the tendency of contemporaries both to perceive connections between the various military orders and to misapprehend the nature of those connections.³ Modern historians have often encountered similar difficulties, thanks to...

    (pp. 51-83)

    I have argued that the three Iberian orders, despite their various origins, were all instantiations of ecclesiastical knighthood because of the way that the exercise of arms gave prior form to their way of life. If this claim is true, it must be evident in the orders’ internal structure and organization. Blas Casado Quintanilla has called attention to Calatrava’s reluctance to refer to itself as an “order.” Much more common, at least for the first forty years or so of its existence, are the designationsfratres, milites, orcaballerosof Calatrava, and the master’s own first reference to his community...

    (pp. 84-111)

    The continuator of Lucas of Túy’sChronicon mundisays that Pelayo Pérez Correa, the famous master of Santiago, was so greatly feared that Muslim parents used his name to stop their children from crying.² Fighting was indeed the military orders’ principal activity, whereas the care of the sick and the ransoming of captives were significant but subordinate aspects of their mission. A key to understanding the spirituality of Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcántara is to see how they articulated each of these activities and their relation to one another within the framework of ecclesiastical knighthood. The networks that the orders established...

    (pp. 112-140)

    When representatives of Santiago, Calatrava, the Temple, and the Hospital gathered in 1224 to establish a pact of mutual cooperation, they stated their reason for doing so in the following terms: “But let it be known that we make this pact so that there might be a bond of greater love between us.”² In the prevoius chapter, I argued that the organizing principle behind the military orders’ activities was charity, as expressed in John 15:13. To what extent did this charity inform the relationships of the orders with one another? To put it another way, to what extent were the...

  10. Color plates
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 141-144)

    By now it is possible to sketch a general picture of ecclesiastical knighthood as instantiated in the Iberian military orders. They owed their existence to the confluence of factors both universal and local: the emergence of crusading and the pursuit of the Reconquest; the foundation and growth of the Temple and the Hospital; the development of Iberian military-religious confraternities; and the desires, interests, and aspirations of knights and monks, kings and popes. Although Brodman’s “military-monastic” and “military-hospitaller” models are helpful for understanding the Iberian orders in terms of their activities, the underlying form of their life as the consecrated exercise...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 145-228)
    (pp. 229-254)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 255-258)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-260)