Tag Archives: masculinity

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).