Cofraternities and the christianization of combat in the Medieval West

"A considerable number of associations of armed men existed during the central and high Middle Ages, fulfilling diverse purposes, such as the defense of churches or of Christian territory and the fight against heresy, as well as preserving the peace. Founded on a tradition of brotherhood taken from the Gospels, these militias had varying degrees of organization.What is known about them?

Some were juridically constituted confraternities, whereas others were more loosely structured, following forms inherited from monastic associations for laypeople. Between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries, such groups have been found on the Iberian peninsula, in southern France, and in the Holy Land, as well as Italy. (...)

Coming into existence in the eleventh to twelfth centuries in the context of the Peace of God and of sacralized warfare, in the thirteenth century, these brotherhoods became instruments of social and religious control. However, most of them disappeared fairly rapidly, as they were either too closely linked to specific political contexts or, in some cases, judged subversive by the church. (...)

These different groups were all various attempts, conscious or not, to Christianize combat and were important stages in inculcating the warrior aristocracy with an ideology about the defense of the faith and of churches.(...)

During the medieval period, a clear semantic distinction was not made between “confraternity” and “lay association,” which were indifferently termed confraria, confratria, confraternitas, or many other variations. (...)

A confraternity (is considered, TN) to be an association of the faithful who shared a common goal, whether to support a particular religious establishment or to practice charity. The members were bound by the statutes of the association and not a religious rule. They were thus actual institutions, with a juridical status and internal organization and which frequently possessed a meeting place and their own properties. 

A lay association, however, falls more within the lineage of prayer associations connected to religious establishments. Making a gift of themselves and their goods to a monastic establishment, the members participated in the spiritual and material services provided by the regular clergy. (...)

In addition to joining a confraternity, there were others ways that one could join in the fight to defend the faith and the church, and that was by affiliating oneself to a Military Order as a lay associate. Although the phenomenon was widespread, lay associations linked to the Templar and Hospitaler commanderies seem to have developed primarily in the Mediterranean West.(...)

A certain kind of “knightly” esprit de corps emanates from the records of these affiliations: transfers of arms and horses, counter-gifts of horses, promises of protection and friendship, and a ritual which sometimes approaches that of vassalic engagement. In fact, some charters clearly show that these kinds of affiliates to the Temple were seen as composing a societas of milites united in the defense of the Christian faith. Thus, attaching oneself to the Military Orders in this way opened up the possibility for Provencal elites to join a military mission to the Holy Land, for some as a miles ad terminum, and the lay association can be seen as a privileged means of recruitment. (...)

These various forms of associations, from the groups of milites organized to defend churches in the Iberian peninsula, to solidarity societies among pilgrims and early crusaders, to more formalized lay associations linked with Military Orders, all grew out of the context of considerable spiritual ferment, in both the East and the West, which was marked by the resurgence of a fraternal model taken from the Gospels. Each in its own way contributed to the ripening of the idea of the Christianization of combat and bonds of solidarity, which is well illustrated by the profusion of these kinds of fraternal organizations open to lay people who wanted to put their swords in the service of defending the church and the faith."

This blog freely quotes from the paper Precursors and Imitators of the Military Orders: Religious Societies for Defending the Faith in the Medieval West (11th–13th c.) by Damien Carraz and Cynthia Johnson (Viator 41 No. 2 (2010) 91–112. 10.1484/J.VIATOR.1.100793.). The illustration shows the Emblem of the Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ, which appeared in Toulouse in February 1221, source. Fair Use intended.

  Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patrontipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

No comments: