St Bernard's 1130 letter reworded for modern Templars

The Liber ad milites templi de laude novae militiae (Latin for 'Book to the Knights of the Temple, in praise of the new knighthood') was a work written by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – August 20, 1153)  between 1120 and 1139. It appears to intend to boost the morale of the fledgling Knights Templar in Jerusalem. In the early 1120s, some of the first Templars were having doubts about the idea of an order of monks devoted to military combat in the Crusades, worrying about whether there was a genuine theological justification for monk-warriors.

Can this 12th century letter be still of value today, especially for modern Knights Templar? Robert S. Magnum thinks it can.

Magnum extracted from the letter the guidance that to his opinion remains relevant to today’s members of the Order. Taking the comments on the original letter and considering the realities of modern life, the original letter has been excerpted to what Magnum hopes is a more practical modern reading. The following section quotes the complete letter by Magnum.



And now as a model … we will briefly set forth the life and virtues of these cavaliers of Christ. Let us see how they conduct themselves at home as well as in battle, how they appear in public, and in what way the knight of God differs from the knight of the world.

In the first place, discipline is in no way lacking and obedience is never despised. As scripture testifies, the undisciplined son shall perish …. Therefore, they come and go at the bidding of their superior. They wear what he gives them, … Thus, they shun every excess in clothing and food and content themselves with what is necessary. They live as brothers in joyful and sober company, … they dwell united in one family … careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You may say that the whole multitude has but one heart and one soul ….

They never sit in idleness or wander about aimlessly, but on the rare occasions when they are not on duty, they are always careful to earn their bread by repairing their worn armor and torn clothing, or simply by setting things to order. For the rest, they are guided by the common needs and by the orders of their master.

There is no distinction of persons among them, and deference is shown to merit rather than to noble blood. They rival one another in mutual consideration, and they carry one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ. No inappropriate word, idle deed, unrestrained laugh, not even the slightest whisper or murmur is left uncorrected once it has been detected. They forswear dice and chess and abhor the chase … they despise … vanities and unsound deceptions.

When the battle is at hand, they arm themselves interiorly with faith and exteriorly with steel rather than decorate themselves with gold, since their business is to strike fear in the enemy rather than to incite his cupidity … they set their minds on fighting to win rather than parading for show. They think not of glory and seek to be formidable rather than flamboyant. At the same time, they are not quarrelsome, rash or unduly hasty, but soberly, prudently and providently drawn up into orderly ranks, as we read of the fathers. Indeed, the Israelite is a man of peace, even when he goes forth to battle.

…Thus, in a wondrous and unique manner they appear gentler than lambs, yet fiercer than lions. I do not know if it would be more appropriate to refer to them as monks or soldiers, unless it would be better to recognize them as being both. Indeed, they lack neither monastic meekness nor military might. What can we say of this, except that this has been done by the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes? These are the picked troops of God, whom he has recruited from the ends of the earth: the valiant men of Israel chosen to guard well and faithfully that tomb which is the bed of the true Solomon, each man sword in hand, and superbly trained to war.”

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam
Not to us Lord, not to us but to thy name be the glory given
Psalm 115:1 in the King James Version.


Sources Wikipedia and The Letter of St Bernard in Modern Day Templarism by Ronald Mangum (2019). Illustration 
Participants in a historic religious procession during the 2018 Heiligdomsvaart (Relics Pilgrimage) in Maastricht, Netherlands, source Wikimedia.

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