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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1700 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #45 on: January 04, 2009, 11:36:52 pm »

interdicted the exercise of his ghostly functions, and so ill-treated in other respects, that he flung off his robes and joined the Saracens, whose more martial and energetic creed accorded better with his manly sentiments. When the pilgrims of the first Crusade began to arrive in such terrific numbers at Constantinople, the Greek emperor and his subjects could hardly persuade themselves of the possibility of religion being the actuating cause of such a portentous movement--so little did religion and deeds of arms accord in their minds!

But with the nations of the West the case was different. In these the ruling portion, that which gave tone to the whole, were of the Gothic and Germanic races, whose hardy bands had dashed to pieces the worn-out fabric of the Western empire. Worshippers in their native forests of Thor and Odin, and the other deities of Valhalla, who admitted none but the valiant dead to share in the celestial pork and mead which each day crowned the board in their lucid abode, their manners, their sentiments, their whole being was martial, and they infused this spirit into the religion which they adopted from their Roman subjects. In making this change in its tone they derived aid from the Jewish portion of the sacred volume, which has been in all ages abused, by men ignorant of its character and original use, to purposes of fanaticism and persecution; and the religion of Christian Europe, from the fifth century downwards, became of a martial and conquering character. By the sword Charlemagne converted the pagan Saxons; his successors employed the sword against the heathen Vends; and by fire and sword Olof Triggva-son spread Christianity throughout the North. In former times this mode of conversion had been in a great degree foreign to the Western church; and persuasion had

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been chiefly employed in the dissemination of the faith among the heathen nations.

The religion of the West we thus see was martial; but this spirit alone would not have sufficed to produce the Crusade which was to interest and appear as a duty to all orders of men. Here the feudal principle came into operation, and gave the requisite impulse.

In the 11th century the feudal system was completely developed in France and Germany, and the modes of thinking, speaking, and acting derived from it pervaded all the relations of life. From the top to the bottom of society the mutual obligations of lords and vassals were recognised and acted upon, and each vassal deemed it a most sacred duty to defend by arms the honour and property of his superior lord There was also a kind of supreme temporal chief of the Christian world acknowledged in the person of the Emperor of Germany, who was viewed as the successor of Charlemagne, and the representative of the Roman emperors. The feudal ideas extended even to the hierarchy, which now put forth such exorbitant claims to supremacy over the temporal power. The head of the church was an acknowledged vicegerent of Him who was styled in scripture Lord of all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus Christ was, therefore, the apex of the pyramid of feudal society; he was the great suzerain and lord paramount of all princes and peoples, and all were equally under obligation to defend his rights and honour. Such were evidently the sentiments of the age.

It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that the religion of the period which we treat of was of a gross and material character, and that the passions and infirmities of human nature were freely bestowed on the glorified Son of God. He was deemed to take a peculiar interest in the spot of land where he

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had sojourned when on earth, and more especially in the tomb in which his body had been deposited, and. with grief and indignation to see them in the hands of those who contemptuously derided his divinity, and treated with insult and cruelty those of his faithful vassals who underwent the toils and dangers of a distant journey to offer their homage at his tomb. Nothing could, therefore, be more grateful to his feelings than to behold the sacred soil of Palestine free from heathen pollution, and occupied and defended by his faithful vassals, and no true son of the church could hesitate a moment to believe that it was his bounden duty to arm himself in the cause of his lord, and help to reinstate him in his heritage. Here, then, without having recourse to the romantic principle of chivalry, we have an adequate solution of the phenomenon of the first Crusade. Here we have a motive calculated to operate on the minds of all orders, equally effectual with men of piety, virtue, and wealth, like Godfrey of Bouillon and Stephen of Chartres, who looked for no temporal advantages, as with the meanest and most superstitious of the vassals and serfs who might be supposed to have only sought a refuge from misery and oppression by assuming the cross. We would not by any means be supposed to deny that many other causes and motives were in operation at the same time; but this we deem the grand one. This was the motive which gave dignity to and hallowed all others, and which affected the mind of every Crusader, be his rank or station in society what it might.

Pilgrimage then was esteemed a duty, and a powerful mean of removing guilt and appeasing the wrath of the Almighty; the spirit of the age was martial, and its religion, tinged by the ancient system of the North of Europe, was of the same character; the feudal principle was in its vigour, and extended even

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to the relations of man with the deity; the rude and barbarous Turks had usurped the heritage, the very crown-lands, as we may say, of Jesus Christ, and insulted his servants, whose duty it plainly was to punish them, and free the tomb of their lord;--the natural result of such a state of circumstances aria opinion was the first Crusade.


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Footnotes
170:* The principal works on the subject of the Templars are Raynouard Monumens historiques relatifs à la Condamnation des Templiers; Dupuy Histoire de la Condamnation des Templiers; Münter Statutenbuch des Ordens der Tempelherren, and Wilike Geschichte des Tempelherrenordens. There is scarcely anything on the subject in English.

171:* On the subject of chivalry see Ste. Palaye Mémoires sur la Chevalerie, Sir W. Scott's Essay on the same subject, and Mills's and James's histories of chivalry. We do not recollect that any of these writers has fairly proved that the chivalry which they describe ever existed as an institution, and we must demur to the principle which they all assume of romances like Perceforest being good authority for the manners of the age in which they were composed.

176:* Michaud, Histoire des Croisades, I., p. 59.



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