Love, War, and the Grail

Love, War, and the Grail

Love, War, and the Grail

Love, War, and the Grail


This is a study of the appearances of the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitaller and Teutonic Knights in the French, German and English epic and romance literature of the Middle Ages. It examines their religious roles, such as caring for the sick, their warrior role of fighting Muslims, and examines the role of Templars in the Grail romances. It traces how these roles developed over time and considers what function the appearances of these military religious orders performed in the composition of a work of fictional literature. The frequent appearances of the Military Orders in medieval fictional literature are of interest both to historians and to literary specialists. This is the first study to consider the subject in depth across the medieval period.


This is a study of the appearances of the Military Orders in the epic and romance literature of the Middle Ages, 1150—1500. The subject is important for historians of the Military Orders and the crusades because the Orders' appearances in literature give an insight into how they were viewed by the noble knightly class who supported them with money, land and recruits — the same class for which epic and romance literature was composed. The Orders' continued appearance in this literature throughout the Middle Ages is valuable evidence for continued belief in the Orders' vocation — military service in a religious order dedicated to defending Christians and Christendom against their external enemies — and continued support for the crusade, with which the Military Orders were often but not invariably associated in literature.

The subject is also of interest to literary specialists. The Military Orders' appearances in fictional literature, and the changes in their roles in fictional literature throughout the Middle Ages, indicate that while convention was important in the composition of fictional literature, from the late twelfth century onwards it was essential that fiction should reflect actual events: that it should be 'realistic'. While this was not total realism, fictional literature must at least have a context in actuality, and the inclusion of the Military Orders could assist in providing this context.

No study of the Military Orders' roles in medieval fictional literature can be complete without a consideration of the Templars' appearance in Wolfram von Eschenbach's version of the Grail legend, Parzival, and the later works based on it. This study reassesses the historical context of Parzival and sets out a new historical interpretation of the work. It also reconsiders the connection of the Grail with the Holy Land and with the concept of the 'perfect knight' and considers how these themes were developed during the course of the Middle Ages. While the emphasis here is on the historical rather than the mystical aspects of the Grail legend, it is also shown that Wolfram von Eschenbach's Templeise, who bear a symbol of faithful love — the turtle dove — were probably responsible for the development of the image of the Templars in French literature as supporters of lovers.

Certain problems arise in a work of this sort in reconciling the expectations of historians and of literary specialists, who differ in their approaches to their material and in their definitions of key concepts such as 'history', 'reality', 'literature' and 'fiction'. In attempting to define such terms there is a danger of . . .

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