The Role of the Templars in the Development of Militant Religion in the 12th Century

Lawrence, Ian
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University of Delaware
The Knights Templar had been a controversial organization since their inception. Medieval scholars viewed them in many ways, and even the Church took some time to acclimate itself to their existence. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the greatest theologians of the first half of the twelfth century, was especially fond of the Order. The paper asserts that two factors drove St. Bernard to praise the Templars. The first factor, monasticism, was perhaps the dearer to Bernard’s heart. He himself was a Cistercian, and thus saw monasticism as the perfect way of life for anyone seeking purely after God. The second factor, Jerusalem, was also indescribably important to Bernard. He saw Jerusalem in a number of ways. These include the Holy City itself in Palestine, the human soul, and the monastery. Given the two factors of monasticism and Jerusalem, it is no wonder that Bernard was drawn to the Templars, given their monastic life and central location in the city of Jerusalem. The paper argues that Bernard contextualized the two factors in the ideal of Christo mimesis, or the imitation of Christ. That Bernard saw the Templars as perfect imitators of Christ is clear. Moreover, the paper argues that Bernard viewed the ultimate purpose of the Templars’ Christo-mimetic function as eschatological. It was through their imitation of Christ as monks living within the Holy City that they acted as apocalyptic figures. They were destined both to protect Jerusalem from the infidels, as well as purify the Heavenly Jerusalem in their own souls in preparation for death and ascension to the Kingdom of God. In fusing the two Jerusalems together they effected the end of the physical world and the advent of the New Jerusalem.