Priests and weapons

Hello there,

Given that the Minor Orders thread has deviated a lot from its original intent (even if it is still interesting) I will post the question here.

Now we have settled that the character should be a priest. The player still intends it to be a fiery priest. He (and I, as the SG of such character) wants to know if priests would be allowed to use weapons when fighting heretics and supernatural beings.

I know that some bishops and the like rode to battle armed as knights, but I am unsure if they actually gfought there or if it was only for protection and wealth display.

Are priests able to have martial skills?



Yes and no. One one hand it was not looked upon as being right, but on the other hand the new militant orders were coming into existance. The important Bernard if Clairvaux who lived in the 12th century had both a great impact on the establishment of the 2nd crusade as well as on the forming of the militant orders. But even if a religious order I am not sure that they were all ordained as priests - or whether those that were, the chaplains, sheded blood themselves.

In a book -one of many that's been important in my Ars inspiration- by Danziger & Gillingham I've found this peice on the Battle of Bouvine. The passage often made me wonder whether these notions are what forged the classic Dungeons & Dragon's cleric...?

1215: The Year Of Magna Carta:
The most famous battle of the age was fought in northeast France in 1214 at Bouvines, between Lille and Tournai. On one side there was an allied army composed of English troops commanded by John's half-brother, William Longsword, earl of Salisbury, with German and Flemish troops led by the German king and emperor,John's nephew Otto IV, and by the counts of Flanders and Boulogne. On the other side was the French army led by Philip Augustus. The allies had about 1400 knights and 7000 or so infantry. Philip had about as many knights and a thousand or two fewer foot-soldiers. In these circumstances a battle was the last thing Philip had wanted, but he was intercepted in a tactical situation which gave him very little choice. Reluctantly he decided to stand and fight.
As soon as the battle horns announced that fighting had started, King Philip's chaplain William the Breton and another royal elerk began to chant the psalm Benedictus dominus deus meus qui docet manus meas ad proelium. Other elerks took a more active part. On Philip's side the eleverest soldier and in effect the French battle commander was Guerin, the bishop-elect ofSenlis. Philip's cousin, the bishop of Beauvais, was also present - by chance, said William the Breton.
He happened - also quite by chance, William reiterated - to have a mace in his hand, and he used it to good effect. It was against canon law for a churchman to shed blood, so a mace was the 'elever' weapon to use. The bishop was a famously enthusiastic warrior, but as a churchman he should not have fought at all ...,.. hence William's insistence that his participation in the battle was entirely fortuitous.

Ok, so it is forbidden under canon law to shed blood. I guess it will be human blood, though. If it is infernal ichor, I guess the bishop might turn a blind eye to it. After all a mace does not have a cross guard, that is likely to be the most powerful ability of any sword used by a priest against a demon. Up for discussion on friday.

Ansd yes, it seems that it might be the origin of the D&D cleric "no shed blood" thingy.



I think the best analogy in modern pop-culture would be martial arts studios- do they teach you to only use the "kung fu" (or whatever) to defend yourself, or do they teach you to kick ass? Well, it depends. And so it did with priests.

Some Orders of Priests, and some priests within most any Order, would be either completely pacificistic, or combative, and some might lean one way while not flinching at a practical solution to a violent situation. The character of Friar Tuck had no problem wielding either cudgel nor sword, and that sort of "Save 'em or send 'em along" attitude was probably not rare.

Many priests were "bookish" to say the least, and an inability to use a blade was not effectively different from an unwillingness to, at least in temporal matters.

(And anyone who thinks that a cast-iron baseball bat won't "shed blood" has a very romantic notion of blunt injury trauma.) :wink:

I can certainly agree with that. But since it seems a notion of its time that they didnt shed blood they might have had a different concept of what it means to shed blood - at least those defending this position.

As a sidenote; even if we often stereotype knights as wielding swords and lances, the mace was often more important than the sword. Against armored opponents, of the linked chain kind, blunt trauma migt be more effective than a winy blade. So wielding a mace on a battlefield is not something odd or particular clergy-like.

Bishop Guerin famously fought at Bouvines, as mentioned, and martial skills are more likely than not given that many churchmen come from the knightly classes.

In addition, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, William the Conqueror's half-brother fought at Hastings, and is clearly pictured doing so on the Bayeux Tapestry (which he is believe to have commissioned, so that's perhaps not so evidentiary!)

Well, if he commissioned it and did not mind being pictured, it may well be that there was nothing to hide from the fact that a bishop participated in a battle! :wink:

Dependent on the tíme, place, the influence of the involved and the intent of the commision of said art.

Being very influental -especially when on the winning side- often make you less 'prone' or vulnerable to the ethics of your time.