Tag Archives: bernard of clairvaux

Criticism of Crusading After the Second Crusade

N.B. What follows is a brief essay/collection of quotations from Christian sources considering criticism of crusading in the wake of the failure of the Second Crusade. The success of the First Crusade had stifled such criticism, but the failure of the Second Crusade, led by Europe’s most important monarchs, led to soul searching about the cause of the failure, as well as finger pointing. This was originally written in 2005 for an old crusades website I used to run (e.g. “crusades-encyclopedia) while I was an ambitious M.A. graduate student at the University of North Florida. The website is no longer online, but I plan to resurrect it, in a more polished form, at some point in the future. But for now, this may be useful for those searching the web for information on this topic or as a link to supplementary reading for a crusades course, so I include it here in its original form.


The Search for Answers

Since Urban II’s calling of the First Crusade, popes and preachers had promised crusaders that they acted with divine sanction and that God would grant them significant spiritual rewards for their efforts. Pope Eugenius III and his preachers used the same formula in their preaching of the Second Crusade, announcing that those willing to take the cross would win no less than the full remission of their sins. Thousands responded to Eugenius III’s call and headed for the Holy Land confident of God’s support. Few were prepared for the disastrous events that followed, which witnessed the nearly total destruction of King Conrad III’s army and the ignoble withdrawal of King Louis VII’s forces. Once the demoralizing results of the crusade became known, disillusioned Christians began to seek answers for the failure of warriors whom, as they had been assured by their priests, fought on God’s behalf. It was not long before the search for answers turned to criticism of nearly all involved with the crusade.  Continue reading

St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the U.S. Marine Corps

I was just reading this selection (below) from a chapter in my dissertation. After celebrating the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps recently, then reading St. Bernard’s very positive description of the Templars, it struck me how much he might also have liked modern Marines.

“Writing around the year 1129, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most influential religious voices of
 the twelfth-century, found it troublesome that the knights of his era had grown to love “effeminate locks” and
 silk clothing decorated with silver, gold, and precious stones that were impractical for combat. Indeed,
 Bernard attacked the highly prized traditional masculine persona of secular knights when, regarding their
 flamboyant apparel, he asked, “Are these the trappings of a warrior or are they not rather the trinkets of a
 woman?” This was in stark contrast, Bernard noted, to the unwashed Knights Templars, who dressed simply, wore 
their hair dirty and short, and always maintained what was, for Bernard, the properly rugged appearance of the 
true warrior. In drawing such a sharp distinction between secular knights and Templars, Bernard highlighted
 two models of warrior masculine identity that existed at the time. Yet the differences of appearance 
identified by Bernard above only begin to scratch the surface of the much larger distinctions that existed 
between the two models in how they understood their roles as men and warriors in medieval European Christian

Well, at least Bernard would have appreciated the haircuts and appearance of Marines in the field. Modern Marines would have quite a way to go before they reached the level of chastity and humility of the early Templars (that Bernard appreciated so much).