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German Bishops and their Military Retinues in the Medieval Empire

German Bishops and their Military Retinues in the Medieval Empire

By Benjamin Arnold

German History, Vol.7 (1989)

Introduction: The majority of bishops in medieval Germany were born into aristocratic or knightly kindreds which prided themselves upon their proficiency in warfare. In spite of the message of the Gospels and training received for high clerical office, it is not perhaps surprising that bishops retained the nobleman’s instinct as bellatores when they became oratores. In therory it was accepted that there existed distinctions between types of service; warfare, labour, and prayer. A notable proponent of such divisions was himself an imperial bishop, Gerhard I of Cambrai (1012-51). According to his biographer, he composed a homily which gave wide advertisement to the subject. In practice the political experience of the Church in its complex relationship with secular power showed that the distinctions were not easy to draw.

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