Edited by Martin Browne OSB & Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB
Four Courts Press, 2015
The Military and Hospitaller Orders emerged in the twelfth century as Christendom engaged with the threats and the opportunities offered by its Muslim and non-Christian neighbours. In an Irish context, the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar were the most significant expressions of this unusual vocation that sought to combine military service with monastic observance. Arriving with the first Anglo-Norman settlers, the orders were granted vast landholdings and numerous privileges in Ireland to support their activities in Palestine and the Middle East. From the outset, the knights were closely associated with the administration of the Anglo-Irish colony, with the superior of the Hospitallers, the Prior of Kilmainham, consistently playing a key role in crown affairs. This volume, the proceedings of the Third Glenstal History Conference, explores the history of the Military and Hospitaller Orders in Ireland from their arrival in the late twelfth century to their dissolution and attempted revival in the mid-sixteenth century. Other contributions explore the orders’ agricultural, artistic, economic, pastoral and religious activities as well as examining the archaeology of many of their sites.
Read an excerpt: The conflict between Christendom and its Islamic and pagan neighbours that erupted in the eleventh century gave rise to a new form of religious life; the military order whose members combined monastic observance with active field and hospital service. Although the concept of spiritual warfare was integral to Christianity, this development was unprecedented in the history of monasticism, where either pacifist or non-combatant positions had traditionally been the norm. The paradoxical vocation of these ‘Monks of War’ was strikingly articulated by Bernard of Clairvaux in the treatise he addressed to the fledgling Knights Templar c.1128.
But the knights of Christ may safely fight the battles of their Lord, fearing neither sin if they smite the enemy, nor danger at their own death; since to inflict death or to die for Christ is no sin, but rather, an abundant claim to glory.
Whatever misgivings, if any, that these early knights or their contemporaries had about this aspect of their calling, the military orders experienced phenomenal expansion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Borne up by the initial success of the crusading movement and the establishment of outposts of Latin Christendom in the Levant, the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller received substantial properties and privileges throughout Europe in order to maintain their activities in the Middle East. Arriving in Ireland in the wake of the Anglo-Normans, they received support and endowments from the invaders and in turn provided administrative acumen, fiscal competence and military service to the crown and the colony. More importantly, they maintained an oriental focus, an eastward gaze that ensured that the Holy Land and its holy places were not entirely forgotten in medieval Ireland.
At the opening of his magisterial 2012 work, The Knights Hospitaller in the Levant, c.1070–1309, Jonathan Riley-Smith noted that more has been published on the military orders in the last twenty-five years than had been in the previous seventy. This general revival of interest also extends to their affairs in medieval Ireland as the contents of this present volume demonstrate. This is a welcome development, as the military orders were largely neglected in Irish monastic historiography. This is partly because, unlike other religious orders, they did not enjoy any institutional continuity in Ireland, while their identification with the English crown rendered them unattractive to historians with a nationalist outlook. This is unfortunate, as a significant amount of material exists to illustrate their activities and impact in Ireland, much of which has recently become available in modern critical versions. The most significant publications include editions of the fourteenth-century chapter book of the Knights Hospitaller known as the Registrum de Kilmainham, material relating to the trial and suppression of the Knights Templar and records concerning the orders’ activities in the service of the crown and the papacy. Similarly, recent analysis of manuscript material in Irish, English, Maltese and Spanish archives has significantly augmented knowledge of the activities of medieval and early modern Irish Knights Hospitaller. These in turn have resulted in a number of important publications concerning discrete incidents in the history of the orders or of their individual members. Members of the modern Order of Malta have also produced significant works aimed at a general readership.
Articles in this volume:
Helen J. Nicholson – A long way from Jerusalem: the Templars and Hospitallers in Ireland, c.1172–1348
Gregory O’Malley – Authority and autonomy: relations between Clerkenwell, Kilmainham and the Hospitaller central convent after the Black Death
Brendan Scott – The Knights Hospitaller in Tudor Ireland: their dissolution and attempted revival
Declan M. Downey – Continuity, legitimacy and strategy: the titular priors of Ireland – Romegas, González, Wyse and Brochero – and their relations with the Spanish monarchy, 1576–1625
Tadhg O’Keeffe and Pat Grogan – Building a frontier? The architecture of the military orders in medieval Ireland
Eamonn Cotter – The archaeology of the Irish Hospitaller preceptories of Mourneabbey and Hospital in context
Kieran O’Conor and Paul Naessens – Temple House: from Templar castle to New English mansion
Paul Caffrey – The visual culture of the Hospitaller Knights of the Priory of Ireland
Margaret Murphy – From swords to ploughshares: evidence for Templar agriculture in medieval Ireland
Edward Coleman – ‘Powerful adversaries’: the Knights Templar, landholding and litigation in the lordship of Ireland
Paolo Virtuani – Unforgivable trespasses: the Irish Hospitallers and the defence of their rights in the mid-thirteenth century
Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB – Prayer, politics and poetry: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 405 and the Templars and Hospitallers at Kilbarry, Co. Waterford