Chivalry and Just War

Chivalry is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code" and "the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, namely courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak." In 1095 however chivalry was still in its infancy, and, as Marcus Bull writes in 'Origins' in 'The Oxford History of the Crusades', "there were no clearly established rites of dubbing to cement a communal ethos for all knights."

These "rites of dubbing" were first derived from 'La Chanson de Roland' (The song of Roland) written between 1140 and 1170 AD. It describes seventeen principles that make up the Knights Code of Chivalry:
  • To fear God and maintain His Church
  • To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
  • To protect the weak and defenceless
  • To give succour to widows and orphans
  • To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
  • To live by honour and for glory
  • To despise pecuniary reward
  • To fight for the welfare of all
  • To obey those placed in authority
  • To guard the honour of fellow knights
  • To eschew unfairness, meaness and deceit
  • To keep faith
  • At all times speak the truth
  • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
  • To respect the honour of women
  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
  • Never to turn the back upon a foe

La Chanson de Roland

After this in the 14th century, The Duke of Burgundy described twelve virtues of a chivalrous knight:
  • Faith
  • Charity
  • Justice
  • Sagacity (wisdom)
  • Prudence (benign sensible)
  • Temperence (avoiding excesses)
  • Resolution (remaining firm in purpose or belief)
  • Truth
  • Liberality (generous in behaviour and in temperament)
  • Diligence (perseverance, conscientiousness or determination)
  • Hope
  • Valour

At the same time that chivalry was becoming increasing popular. the Church became more tolerant of war in defence of faith. The Peace and Truce of God, for instance, placed limits on knights to protect and honour members of society (such as the poor, the clergy and monks) and also help the Church maintain peace. This is related to the idea of Just War.
The theory of just war is connected to Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Augustine of Hippo believed that Christians should be pacifists in their personal lives, but argued that the pursuit of peace must include the option of fighting to preserve it in the long-term. In other words, he believed that war should be defensive and for the pupose of restoring peace. For instance he writes in 'The City of God', "it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars" and later on " is obvious that peace is the end sought for by war ". However his theory was intended to be more of a set of principles made to control the necessary evil of war, rather than an argument in favour of waging it.

Augustine of Hippo

Firstly, war should only be waged by a properly instituted authority ("The natural order, which we would have peace amongst men. requires that the decision and power to declare war should belong to princes.")

Secondly, there must be a just cause.("Just wars are usually defined as those which avenge injuries, when the nation or city against which warlike action is to be directed has neglected either to punish wrongs committed by its own citizens, or restore what has been unjustly taken by it. Further, that kind of war is undoubtedly just which God Himself ordains.

Thirdly, those fighting the war should have good intentions. ("With the true servants of God wars themselves are pacific, not being undertaken through cupidity or cruelty, but through the love of peace, with the object of repressing the wicked and encouraging the good").

Gregory V
Pope Gregory VII
took the idea of the just war further, and alerted the phrase "soldiers of Christ" to mean not only involvement in an internal spiritual conflict, but also in literal, military conflict. He referenced the Bible, drawing comparisons between the Church and its leaders such as David, the King of Israel, who took part in many wars sanctioned by God.

In the same way , Bishop Anselm II of Luca took influence from the Old Testament, and allegorised the casting out of the slave girl Hagar by Sarah in Genesis in order to show his concept of holy persecution of heretics.

However, Gregory VII's plans were not universally accepted and so were never put into practice. In a similar way his successor Pope Urban II suggested that through waging the wars sanctioned by him, Christians could achieve salvation. For instance, one writer writes that during his speech at the Council of Clermont, Urban II urged the " race of Franks [to]... undertake this journey for the remission of [their] sins". This all led to a gradual acceptance that war and Christianity were not always opposed, and could even work together at times.
Pope Urban II

The Peace of God and Truce of God