Jerusalem - Templar purpose and alibi in Bernard's "De laude novae militiae"

De laude novae militiae, the famous eulogy written by Bernard of Clairvaux during the stay of Hugues de Payns in Europe in 1127 or 1128, contains several thoughts about the functions of the new Templar chivalry and the battles that the Templars are waging in the East. What details about the headquarters of the order exist and what the conception of Jerusalem prevailed in the clerical consciousness of the first half of the 12th century? (...)

Bernard's demonstration is quite simple. As Jerusalem is the City of the King of Kings, a contingent of Christian knights must defend its walls without hesitation. The city being sacred, a religious order rather than a secular community is called to fulfill this role. According to Bernard, a Templar is a minister of God dedicated to punishing the evildoers and praising the good. If he kills an evil Saracen, he is in no way a murderer but a hero of Christianity. Thanks to this metaphor, Bernard created the concept of malicidium which would be used to justify strings of massacres in the Late Middle Ages. (...)

From the Templars, he gathered several pieces of information on the organization of their headquarters in Jerusalem. His description of the building is as realistic as it is idealized when he states: “In the exact Temple in Jerusalem they have their base. It is not as splendid and grandiose as the revered Temple of Solomon, but no less glorious. (...) All the beauty and the magnificent and charming decoration of the current Temple embody the fervor of their occupants, as well as their attitude marked by discipline. Bernard of Clairvaux defends the simplicity of the Templars who want to decorate the House of God only with holiness according to a Solomonic Psalm (Ps XCII;5). The Templars replaced the liturgical objects of the ancient Temple with saddles, bits and spears because of their membership in chivalry. (...)

One of the goals of De laude novae militiae was to overcome objections against the brothers, emphasizing their participation in the defense of Jerusalem. The end of the treaty invites the population of Jerusalem to celebrate this military involvement. (...) To convince his audience, Bernard of  Clairvaux describes the sanctuaries controlled by the Latins on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It highlights the primacy of the Holy Sepulcher and the fact that pilgrims feel safe and comfortable when entering Jerusalem, after having faced a plethora of dangers on sea and land. Their exultation is linked to the military activity of the Templars who are the natural defenders of the City.  "

This blog quotes sections, translated from French by TN and with minor adaptions, of La place de Jérusalem dans la pensée templière by Claverie, P-V,  (2023) in Cadernos Culturais Nabantinos, III (2023), pp. 37-50, published on The illustration shows the fresco of a Templar in Cressac chappel, source,

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