Bernard de Clairvaux - the Cistercian promotor of the Templars

"The paths of the Cistercians and embryonic Templars crossed in the person of St. Bernard de Clairvaux. Bernard was the most famous churchman of a century that experienced a religious renaissance not seen since the reign of Charlemagne. He had already raised the Cistercians to greatness with his preaching when he encountered the Templars. He was a master propagandist, mostly because he believed everything he said, however contradictory.

Bernard's interest in the Templars came from related sources. First, his cousin was Hugh de Payens, the leader (and first Grand Master) of the Templars. Second, Bernard had close ties to Hugh de Champagne, his liege lord, who was also Hugh's lord. Third, he came from a proud family of knights, his brothers all followed this vocation. His dress and vocation were of the clergy, but his ideals and mentality sprung from the knightly class of his birth. 

Bernard combined intense spiritual faith with the aggressiveness of a knight. Too sickly to become an earthly soldier, he determined to become a heavenly one instead. He was fascinated with the concept of the spiritual warrior. The Templars, when they came to his attention in the early 1120's, fired his
imagination in a way that neither monks nor knights, alone, could. 

Bernard became aware of the Templars because of the goodwill that had grown up around their cause. He would never have been able to manufacture their popularity out of whole cloth. He was attracted to their military mission, which was carried out in an atmosphere of real poverty. For a Cistercian reformer, this voluntary penury combined with a lifelong willingness to die in the battle for Christ would have increased the Templars ' sanctity to the level of martyrdom. Despite Bernard's rhetoric in In Praise of the New Knighthood, however, no individual Templar was ever canonized. Personal martyrdom was absorbed into the corporate image. (...)

Bernard wrote In Praise of the New Knighthood to promote the Templars. This treatise painted a crypto-manichaean world where Christian warriors battled the forces of darkness. One of the most important concepts in the work was that of malicide. This was the concept of killing people, simply because they did not believe in Christ, and being blessed by God for it. Bernard engineered the Templars' formalization as a monastic group at the Council of Troyes in 1129."

This blog presents slightly edited and/or rearranged quotes from the Preface of Stiles, Paula Regina, "BETWEEN TWO FAITHS: THE ARABIZATION OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR DURING THE CRUSADES" (1999). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1805. The illustration shows Saint Bernard holding the Benedictine rule for the Cistercian order that he reformed, statue at Saint-Bernard church in Fontaine-lès-Dijon. France, source Wikipedia.

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