Those Who Fought: An Anthology of Medieval Sources

Those Who Fought: An Anthology of Medieval Sources

Those Who Fought: An Anthology of Medieval Sources

Those Who Fought: An Anthology of Medieval Sources

Excerpt

IN HIS ADMIRABLE BOOK, The Three Orders , the French historian Georges Duby states that "thirty or forty successive generations have imagined social perfection in the form of trifunctionality." During the Middle Ages, and beyond, "trifunctionality often meant the division of society into three orders, those who prayed, those who fought and those who worked."

This notion is stated again and again in different centuries and in different countries. Its first recorded appearance is a note written in the margin of a translation of Boethius On the Consolation of Philosophy , said to be the work of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex from 871-899. The translator says the king cannot govern without tools, so he must have "men of prayer, warriors and workmen."

A hundred years later another West Saxon, Aelfric, master of the novices at Cerne Abbey in Dorset, wrote:

1. In this world there are three kinds of men, laboratores, oratores, bellatores. The laboratores are those who by their labor provide us with the means to live, the oratores, those who plead for us with God, the bellatores, those who protect our cities and defend our land against invading armies. The peasant must work to feed us, the soldier must do battle with our enemies, and the servant of God must pray for us and do spiritual battle with the invisible enemies. [ Lives of the Saints , quoted inDuby op. cit., p. 103.]

Early in the eleventh century, Adalbero, bishop of Laon in northern France, stated:

2. Triple then is the house of God, which is thought to be one; on earth some pray, others fight, still others work; which . . .

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