Aspects and Problems of the Templars’ Religious Presence in Medieval Europe from the Twelfth to the Early Fourteenth Century
By Jochen Schenk
Traditio, Volume 71, 2016
Introduction: The medieval military orders were religious institutions whose members had professed a life of combat and prayer that, although it transcended traditional forms of regular religious life by combining contemplation with active military service, nonetheless integrated them into a religious landscape sharply defined by diversity.
As part of this landscape military order communities came into regular contact with secular and regular clerics from other institutions as well as with laymen and -women who provided them with revenues and possessions, among them churches and chapels and the rights pertaining to them. Through the use of these devotional spaces, the military orders became shareholders in the spiritual economy of the regions they had entered.
Unfortunately, still very little is known about the military orders’ religious functions in the dioceses in which they held ecclesiastical possessions. This is in spite of the fact that considerable headway has been made towards understanding the religious and social entanglements of military orders at the local level, on the one hand, and integrating their origins and developments more fully into the central narrative of religious reform and renovation in medieval Europe, on the other hand.
However, what has been neglected in the debate on military order religion is a more focused discussion of how the religion of individual military orders was understood and experienced by outsiders through the ecclesiastical property these orders possessed and the devotional spaces they created and maintained. Recent research by Jean-Marie Allard on Templar parishes in Aquitaine, by Damien Carraz on the struggle between military orders and secular clergy over control of churches and cemeteries in Provence, and by Thomas Krämer on conflict resolution between military orders and prelates more broadly, has offered valuable insights into how such a discussion should be pursued.
Focusing solely on the Order of the Temple, this study follows their lead by examining aspects of Templar religious involvement in medieval society in general and the reactions of senior clergymen to the Templars’ religious engagement on the parish level in particular. Drawing on evidence from continental Europe (mostly from France) and the British Isles, it argues that the Templars proved very keen to expand their network of parish churches even against the wishes of bishops who previously had supported them and that, in so doing, they proved willing to engage with the lay public on an even larger scale than has hitherto been believed.