History as Past Ethics: An Introduction to the History of Morals

By Philip Van Ness Myers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE MORAL LIFE OF EUROPE DURING THE AGE OF CHIVALRY

I. THE CHURCH CONSECRATES THE MARTIAL IDEAL OF KNIGHTHOOD

From the third to the ninth century the ideal of asceticism absorbed a great part of the moral enthusiasm of Christendom. During the later part of this period, however, as we have noted, there was growing up alongside the ascetic ideal another of a very different character--the martial ideal of knighthood. In the present chapter we shall first make a brief survey of the various causes that gave this new trend to the moral feelings and convictions of the age, and then shall glance at some of the more important historical outcomes of the vast enthusiasm evoked by this new ideal of character.

Introductory

The ideal of knighthood, a product in the main of feudalism, grew up outside the Church, and only later was recognized by ecclesiastical authority and approved as compatible with the ethical spirit of Christianity. Had not the ideal been thus approved by ecclesiastical authority, and advantage taken of the enthusiasm it evoked to promote through it the cause of the Church, it would never have become the significant force it did in European history. Therefore we must first inquire what were the influences that engendered a military spirit in the Church and led it to approve the martial ideal of the knight and give the consecration of religion to the institution of chivalry which was its embodiment.

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