Saturday, March 21, 2015

So ... maybe it was stupid ...

I'm teaching a medieval history course next year. It's for grades 4-6, but many of them will function at a high school level. I've scouted dozens of curricula and found all of them wanting. I rashly agreed to write one specific to the course. If my mind had been turned on, I'd never have done that. Experience tells me it's inviting over work and stress.

I have until the fall to finish it. But I have to simplify material and present topics that might offend with some delicacy. Here's the start of an "extra" page (minus the illustrations) that is about a third of the way into the course:

Chivalry was not an ‘official institution.’ It was not decreed by a king or priest. So historians do not know when the idea of chivalry arose or where, and the definition of chivalry differed according to time and place, making it hard for us to define. Though it is strongly religious in thought, it was not a religious organization. “It would be useless to search for the place of its birth or for the name of its founder. It was born everywhere at once, and has been everywhere at the same time the natural effect of the same aspirations and the same needs.”

Chivalry arose from a German custom which was idealized by the Christian church; and it was an ideal than a practice. One writer called it “the Christian form of the military profession; the knight was the Christian soldier.” While knights believed this, this belief is contrary to early Christian practice.  

“They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. . . . It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—Edward Gibbon: History of  Christianity.

“A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”—E. W. Barnes: The Rise of Christianity (London, 1947), p. 333.

The various sects of the Church continued to speak against war, but by the time of St. Augustine its view of war had changed. Augustine wrote: “He who can think of war and can support it without great sorrow is truly dead to human feelings.” But “it is necessary to submit to war, but to wish for peace.” The Catholic Church believed war was God’s way of punishing nations and individuals. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, (1627-1704) a French bishop, said the Catholic Church believed war was earthly preparation for the Kingdom of God. He said that empires ‘fall upon one another to form a foundation where on to build the church.’  The code of Chivalry bound knights to the church.


  1. On a different note, send me some mail so I can send you something from my phone. I am on the road...

  2. Keep your word, defend and protect the weak and helpless. Be courteous to others. That is what I think of when I hear the word chivalry.