Sunday, June 5, 2016

Knights Templar and Papal bulls: Militea Dei (1145)

Consecration of St Etienne Cathedral, Châlons,
by Pope Eugene III (source; © M.-P. Barrat)

"'Militea Dei’, the third of the papal bulls, issued by Pope Eugenius III in 1145, is very similar in both content and style to ‘Milites templi’. The bull begins with praise for the knights’ efforts for the eastern church, drawing attention yet again to important military task the Order was saddled with. The bull moves on, much like the bull before it, to compel the clergy again to gather resources for the Templars.

However, ‘Militea Dei’ is different to its predecessor in that it discusses specifically that the clergy provide priests for the Order to ‘furnish them with the solace they require’. This bull reinforces the message of the previous bull, while adding pleas for the recruitment of spiritual aid. Here it can be seen that the papacy was perhaps concerned about the knights’ spiritual wellbeing, possibly indicating that they were aware of how taxing the rigors of the Order could be. The bull goes on to say that the clergy should allow and aid the Order in having their own temples in which to worship, as ‘It is not fitting and indeed is almost fatal to the souls of religious brothers to mingle with crowds of men and to meet women on the occasion of going to church.’

This is an interesting comment. Firstly, it suggests that the papacy was aware that the Order faced temptation from worldly desires, such as women, and strove to stop the temptation where they could by providing a separate place of worship for the Order. This is a papal recognition of the hardships the Order imposed on itself, and is similar to the praise the papacy bestowed upon the Cistercians for their strict and rigorous worship of God. Secondly, it can be argued that this comment cements the Knights Templar as a fully-fledged monastic Order, as they now had their private place of worship.

Read makes an interesting point about the pope who issued the bull; when Eugenius III was elected as pope he was an abbot of a Cistercians house and also ‘had once been a monk at Clairvaux, drawn into the community by the magnetism of Bernard’. This connection to the Cistercians, and in particular, Bernard of Clairvaux, shows that the influence of the Cistercians on the Templar Order was absolutely pivotal in its founding and subsequent growth. It seems highly improbable at this point that without Bernard’s support and the subsequent support of the papacy that the Order would have ever been anything more than a small group of vagabond knights."

This blog quotes freely from the thesis by Lori Firth, Hull University (2012):  "A Comparison of the Cistercian and Knights Templar Orders, And the Personal Influence of Bernard of Clairvaux", to be found here. References in the source.

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