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Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry
     

Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry

by Richard W. Kaeuper
 

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The medieval code of chivalry demanded that warrior elites demonstrate fierce courage in battle, display prowess with weaponry, and avenge any strike against their honor. They were also required to be devout Christians. How, then, could knights pledge fealty to the Prince of Peace, who enjoined the faithful to turn the other cheek rather than seek vengeance and who

Overview

The medieval code of chivalry demanded that warrior elites demonstrate fierce courage in battle, display prowess with weaponry, and avenge any strike against their honor. They were also required to be devout Christians. How, then, could knights pledge fealty to the Prince of Peace, who enjoined the faithful to turn the other cheek rather than seek vengeance and who taught that the meek, rather than glorious fighters in tournaments, shall inherit the earth? By what logic and language was knighthood valorized?

In Holy Warriors, Richard Kaeuper argues that while some clerics sanctified violence in defense of the Holy Church, others were sorely troubled by chivalric practices in everyday life. As elite laity, knights had theological ideas of their own. Soundly pious yet independent, knights proclaimed the validity of their bloody profession by selectively appropriating religious ideals. Their ideology emphasized meritorious suffering on campaign and in battle even as their violence enriched them and established their dominance. In a world of divinely ordained social orders, theirs was blessed, though many sensitive souls worried about the ultimate price of rapine and destruction.

Kaeuper examines how these paradoxical chivalric ideals were spread in a vast corpus of literature from exempla and chansons de geste to romance. Through these works, both clerics and lay military elites claimed God's blessing for knighthood while avoiding the contradictions inherent in their fusion of chivalry with a religion that looked back to the Sermon on the Mount for its ethical foundation.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Kaeuper's arguments brilliantly elucidate the theological ideas that were used to justify chivalric conduct. . . . The book is carefully and elegantly written, and the arguments are abundantly documented. It must be essential reading for any scholar concerned with the knightly culture of the Middle Ages."—American Historical Review

"Kaeuper's book offers much to the understanding of knighthood because it examines a little understood aspect of chivalry in detail, namely, the religious ideas of chivalry and their application in the daily life of the knight."—Parergon

"A triumph. . . . in bringing attention to the specifically devotional aspects of chivalry and the ways in which this elite group of laity reacted to and transformed Church initiatives, Kaeuper deserves special credit."—Sixteenth Century Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812207927
Publisher:
University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date:
06/04/2012
Series:
Middle Ages Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
344
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Richard W. Kaeuper is Professor of History at the University of Rochester. He is author of Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe and coeditor (with Elspeth Kennedy) of The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny: Text, Context, and Translation, the latter also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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