Medieval knightly chivalry


What are we to make of medieval knights, who so idealistically gave their lives to preserve the Church and vanquish evil!

Knights seem like such noble warriors… but then again, what is the relationship between noble warriors and Christianity?

Could you imagine Jesus sending off some medieval knights into battle?

He seems much more pacifistic to me.

This idea of great heroic Knight seems wonderful, but I’d just like to see some thoughts on how it ties in with Catholic teaching especially regarding violence and fighting.

I mean, what do you guys think God would have thought of this all back in the 13th century? I know we don’t know what He thinks, haha, but generally do you think He would look upon medieval knights with favour, or with disdain at their violence?


Our Lord told his followers to go out and get swords (Luke 22:36). He also never gave a command against self defense or the defense of the innocent, but merely tells us to turn the other cheek when insulted. There is never a command against justified defense of self or the innocent. The early Saints, like St. Augustine, recognized that men could justly be soldiers.


You should read the vows taken by the Medieval Knights. They promised to protect the helpless, protect & defend the Church, and all of them had a small Relic in the hilt of their swords. That said, the medieval times were even more violent than today is. When they spoke of “peace” in England & France, for instance, they were referring to a condition in which the whole country was not at war (as in a rebellion against a king, which involved everyone). To them, “peace” involved limited conflicts with neighbors, personal enemies, etc… Those who were in the “upper” classes were trained to be knightly warriors from an early age, and began serious training, usually at age seven, by serving an adult knight who would train them. They were sent from their home to the home (castle) of a friend or ally of their fathers, and trained until they were considered proficient enough to become knights, usually at age 17 or 18. They actually enjoyed fighting, and when there was no local conflict, they took part in formal combats, like a fair, but could often be permanently disabled or even killed in such “fun”. To them, in that age, it just added some “spice” to their “sport”!

Also, the conflicts and killings which took place in the name of the Church was a part of the culture of that time. Thankfully, as the Church grew and matured, such events were stopped. However, at that time and during that age, it was not considered a sin, or evil, but a normal part of their lives. Read some historical fiction – there are some very good writers who cover these things, and explain them from the point of view of those who lived in those times. Since God certainly understands the thoughts of all men, He certainly understood them. Even the Israelites wiped out some peoples “in the name of God”, and their prophets of the time not only encouraged them, but told them it was “God’s will”. Perhaps it was then, but God has been slowly teaching us to be more mature and not to kill in the name of religion, and that war must be a “justifiable” conflict or we should not go to war.


The Church’s position isn’t one of pacifism.

We are told to strive to avoid war, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives instances when war is an acceptable alternative.

Catechism of the Catholic Church…scroll down to 2307…Avoiding War.


Abraham was a warrior and warleader, despite being old; he and his men rescued those captured by pagan kings.

Moses, as part of his work as a prophet, was a warleader. The same was true of Deborah the Judge.

Joshua, who bore the same name as Jesus (Yehoshua) and was one of his forebears in the flesh, was a warrior and a warleader.

Gideon was a mighty warleader. David was a mighty warrior and warleader. The Maccabees were mighty warriors and warleaders.

The Book of Revelation foretells that when Jesus comes again, He will ride as king and general and warrior until He makes war no longer necessary by conquering all that is evil, punishing the unrepentant, and bringing eternal peace and love in a way which is more irresistable than gentle.

The knights of medieval Europe were following in the tradition of the men of Israel, and the Christian legionaries who were among Jesus’ first converts.

Jesus recruited many of the greatest medieval saints from the ranks of knightly warriors, either by making them knightly saints; or by calling retired knights to become monks, friars, priests, or Third Order men of great knightly eagerness to achieve great deeds for Him. There were also the military orders, filled with both religious and lay members.


“Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel.” Machabees II 15:15 - 16



Why romanticize a bunch of violent uncouth, dirty louts? I can’t imagine them treating women (who most likely also badly needed a proper bath) as anything other than chattel. Yet for some reason a certain faction of modern Catholics idolizes the warrior Catholic man of yore. Why is this? Does Jesus really want us to force the religion on others and to defend it with the sword?? That sounds more like Mohammed’s message than Christ’s message. IMO, this is a serious misreading of the gospels as well as a total romanticizing of men who were, despite some ideals and virtues, largely uncouth ruffians.

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