Monday, July 20, 2015

Knights Templar and martyrdom: the most original form of Christian sanctity

Effigies of Templar Knights in Temple Church, London
source
In battle, martyrdom "for the good cause" is and has always been present. As it was in the ranks of the Knights Templar. In their case, "martyrdom" had both a religious and a temporal value.

The Templars were the first religious military order dedicated to warfare, and, to them, the anticipation of a meritorious death in battle was a key characteristic that was unique to their profession.

Not only the order's Rule and early theological texts addressed to the Templar community, such as the writings of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, but also a wide range of external sources, including chronicles and trial records, suggest that the Templars were particularly associated with martyrdom as the most original form of Christian sanctity, namely in imitation of Christ's own sacrifical death.

The article mentioned at the end of this blog aims at shedding light on this neglected aspect of Templar spirituality and discusses the implications of this concept's manifestation throughout the orde's history.

Qoute from the paper:
"Martyrdom in the Order of the Knights Templar must be understood as an extremely multilayered and versatile concept. It sometimes reveals itself openly, for example in the works of Bernard of Clairvaux or the carefully constructed stories of Templars suffering martyrdom prior to being received into heaven. Sometimes, however, the concept’s influence is more difficult to discern, for example in the area of liturgy or the members’ personal experience. Thus, alternative ways of uncovering the concept need to be found. A key to this might be the “special importance [of] the motifs of the Lamb, the military sign, and the crown of victory,” as has been suggested by Penny Cole.

In any case, a core assumption with regard to martyrdom is Christ’s sacrifice for humanity. To the Templars, this was the central point of reference and the legitimization of their military and liturgical activities.That the Templars were potential martyrs is old news. However, their par-ticular concept of martyrdom has received insufficient attention thus far, and the concept’s implications for the order’s activities remain largely unexplored. The  power of such a concept that puts a salvific meaning to an event feared by people throughout the ages can hardly be underestimated, especially in an environment charged with eschatological anticipation and violence like the Crusades. In the case of the Templars, the concept of martyrdom was not an empty construct devised by distant theologians; rather, it was one of the main pillars of their spiritual conception and had a considerable impact on their members’ reality."

Rather, Joachim, Embracing Death, Celebrating Life: Reflections an the Concept of Martyrdom in the Order of the Knights Templar; In: ORDINES MILITARES XIX (2014) Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders
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