Warrior Churchmen of Medieval England, 1000-1250

Warrior Churchmen of Medieval England, 1000-1250

Theory and Reality

Craig M. Nakashian


Boydell Press



An examination of the actions of clerics in warfare in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, looking at the difference between their actions and prescriptions for behavior.
Christianity has had a problematic relationship with warfare throughout its history, with the middle ages being no exception. While warfare came to be accepted as a necessary activity for laymen, clerics were largely excluded from military activity. Those who participated in war risked falling foul of a number of accepted canons of the church as well as the opinions of their peers. However, many continued to involve themselves in war - including active participation on battlefields.
This book, focusing on a number of individual English clerics between 1000 and 1250, seeks to untangle the cultural debate surrounding this military behavior. It sets its examination into a broader context, including the clerical reform movement of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the development of a more comprehensive canon law, and the popularization of chivalric ideology. Rather than portraying these clerics as anachronistic outliers or mere criminals, this study looks at how contemporaries understood their behaviour, arguing that there was a wide range of views - which often included praise for clerics who fought in licit causes. The picture which emerges is that clerical violence, despite its prescriptive condemnation, was often judged by how much it advanced the interests of the observer.

Craig M. Nakashian is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.


304 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Hardback, 9781783271627, December 2016
eBook, 9781782048671, December 2016
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, HIS027130, REL033000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Churchmen and Warfare
Clerics and War in the First Millennium
Papal Centralization and Canonical Prescriptions
The Epic Archetype: Evidence from Chivalric Literature
The Norman Conquest: Odo of Bayeux and Geoffrey of Coutances
Negotiating a New Anglo-Norman Reality
The Civil War between Stephen and Matilda
The Angevins, Part I: [Henry II and Richard I] Royal Servants
The Angevins, Part II: [Richard I, John, and Henry III] Crusaders for King and Christ
Conclusion: The Thirteenth Century and Beyond


An engaging volume which makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the medieval clergy and the attitudes (both idealistic and pragmatic) which shaped them. HISTORY

Will be of real value to all interested in clerical warfare, not to mention those concerned with some individual prelates of the age. SEHEPUNKTE

[A]dmirably challenges the prevailing scholarly narrative that militant clerks in England either were anachronistic holdovers from an earlier age, or compelled contemporary observers to suffer from cognitive dissonance . This volume will be of great value to specialists as well as to advanced students in courses on medieval religion, culture, and military history. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

Bishop Wimund of Man and the Isles waged a guerrilla war against King David of Scotland in the second quarter of the 12th century ... But what were bishops doing leading armies in the first place? The theory and reality of this in the period 1000- 1250 is now explored in the splendidly named Warrior Churchmen of Medieval England by Craig M Nakashian. THE TELEGRAPH

Gives a deft treatment of the tight interconnection between religion and politics during this age of faith par excellence....[A] scholarly, lively and absorbing book. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

Nakashian is persuasive in arguing that military violence by church leaders persisted and remained a contested issue throughout the High Middle Ages. CHOICE