Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry

Article excerpt

Richard W Kaeuper, Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry (Philadelphia, Pa: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). 331 pp. ISBN 978-0-81224167-9. £39.00.

The topic of the relationship between religious idealism and violence has obvious contemporary resonances. It is tackled afresh here in a consideration of violence and piety in the Middle Ages which takes a much broader view than merely the crusades, demonstrating that the combination of penance and piety associated with crusading was in fact part of the chivalric ideal and, therefore, for all knights. Kaeuper begins by pointing out the paradoxes that lie at the heart of both clerical and lay/knighdy approaches to this issue. The approach is truly interdisciplinary. Starting with a manuscript painting (from BL, Harley MS 3244) depicting a knight in full armour, each part labelled with a pious interpretation, and continuing with an impressive range of primary source material, Kaeuper explores the links between suffering, violence, and piety. As the development of chivalry is traced we see the move from 'heroic' physical penance to a different theological understanding in the time of Martin Luther. The whole is framed by the studies of two pairs of knights: Geoffroi de Charny and the much less-studied Henry of Lancaster, who both wrote in the fourteenth century, and the biographies of the sixteenth-century knights La Tremouille and Bayard, biographies in which they are presented as ideal warriors. What emerges is a picture in which chivalry and its violence coexist with very different attitudes over a period of some 200 years. The end of chivalric ideology as a dominant force is subde and gradual. In the sixteenth century the language appears to be very similar to that of the fourteenth but the context is very different. Kaeuper's argument is that by the sixteenth century knights are now presented in relation to 'the power of kings' (p. …

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