Armsbearing and the Clergy in the History and Canon Law of Western Christianity

Armsbearing and the Clergy in the History and Canon Law of Western Christianity

Lawrence G. Duggan


Boydell Press



The history of the vexed relationship between clergy and warfare is traced through a careful examination of canon law.
In the first millennium the Christian Church forbade its clergy from bearing arms. In the mid-eleventh century the ban was reiterated many times at the highest levels: all participants in the battle of Hastings, for example, who had drawn blood were required to do public penance. Yet over the next two hundred years the canon law of the Latin Church changed significantly: the pope and bishops came to authorize and direct wars; military-religious orders, beginning with the Templars, emerged to defend the faithful and the Faith; and individual clerics were allowed to bear arms for defensive purposes. This study examines how these changes developed, ranging widely across Europe and taking the story right up to the present day; it also considers the reasons why the original prohibition has never been restored.

Lawrence G. Duggan is Professor of History at the University of Delaware and research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781782041764), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


October 2013
278 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843838654
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC REL008000, HIS027000
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Related Titles

Table of Contents

Julius Exclusus?
Quot homines, tot sententiae
The Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church on Clerical Armsbearing (I): To the Twelfth Century
The Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church (II):"Revolution in Law," ca. 1140-1317
The Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church (III): Since 1317
Armsbearing in the English Legal Tradition


Duggan's work is an extremely valuable resource for those interested in the question of the role of armsbearing in the lives of Western clergy. Although the study of canon law has often times been deemed extremely dry Duggan makes his discussion of legal theory very interesting and exciting. Moreover Duggan must also be commended for the sheer volume of his sources and the depth of is knowledge of them. ANGLICAN AND EPISCOPAL HISTORY

[A] well-written account that gives the reader many examples of clerics who went to war, their participation in warfare, their role in the Crusades, and the peculiar rise of clerical military orders. it has the virtue of covering the entire span of European civilization. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

Offers an important corrective to the blanket assumption that medieval canon law spoke with one unanimous voice condemning clerical participation in warfare. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

Exemplary as a study of how theory and practice relate to each other. SEHEPUNKTE