Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Military Religious Orders of the Middle Ages

F.C. Woodhouse - The Military Religious Orders of the Middle Ages (1879)

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This has always been a fascinating subject, to me anyway, in part because Christianity developed in a different direction that made blatantly religious soldiers seem a bit odd (as opposed to countless rhetorical or disguised ones).  The Templars are still well-known though almost exclusively because they figure in so many kook and fringe theories (which Eco noted in Foucault's Pendulum).  The Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights are the other two major groups covered in this book with a few other smaller ones mentioned towards the end.  An appendix lists dozens of others including The Order of the Elephant, The Order of the Celestial Collar of the Holy Rosary, The Order of the Death's Head and The Order of the Bee to choose just the most Python-ish ones.  (Desmond Seward's The Monks of War (1972, revised in 1995) covers much of the same territory.)

Woodhouse (1827-1905) was a British priest with a historical turn of mind.  (His first publication right after university was a pamphlet on the college chapel.)  He researched The Military Religious Orders in the British Library and was paid 70 pounds for it.  During his life he was better known for his following book The Life of the Soul in the World, a collection of excerpts from older devotionals.  He followed that with other religious titles and a history of monasticism.  (None of these appear to be digitized.)