German Bishops and the Military Retinues in the Medieval Empire

German knight's helmetGerman Bishops and the Military Retinues in the Medieval Empire

Arnold, Benjamin (University of Reading)

German History, v.7 (1989)

The majority of bishops in medieval Germany were born into aristocratic or knightly kindreds which prided themselves upon their proficiency in war­ fare.  I n spite of the message of the Gospels and the training received for high clerical office, it is not perhaps surprising that bishops retained the noble­ man’s instinct as bellatores when they became oratores. In theory it was accepted that there existed distinctions between types of service; warfare, labour, and prayer. A notable proponent of such divisions was himself an imperial bishop, Gerhard I of Cambrai (IOI2-5I). According to his bio­grapher, he composed a homily which gave wide advertisement to the sub­ject.

In practice the political experience of the Church in its complex relationship with secular power showed that the distinctions were not easy to draw. The clerical circles which fostered the pax Dei in an attempt to restrain aristocratic methods of violent self-help also came to promote the armed pil­grimage or crusade in the legitimate interest of the universal Church.; Since 1076 the ideological and military confrontation between the reformed papacy and the Salian imperial dynasty had compelled the Church to accept armed force, in certain circumstances, as a rightful method of ecclesiastical policy.

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