In the News: Medieval Church Buildings

Today I watched a brief video on the BBC’s website, accessible at this link (requires Flash).  The video was about the apparently popular phenomenon of camping overnight in medieval church buildings!  The Churches Conservation Trust (see this link) works to protect churches “at risk,” and they do so in a variety of ways, from sponsoring preservation efforts to hosting events at various places.  And perhaps the most unexpected part of their work: helping people camp out in churches! 

Of course, you might be wondering a couple of things: how long have these churches been around, and why are they so empty?  Well, the first question can be answered with this good (but a bit lengthy) summary of English church history, and the second may be understood better through this discussion of and this warning about the decline of Christianity in modern England.  It is a sad story, from the perspective of church history, but there is also hope, as this columnist suggests — not just in people preserving churches, but also in the continued work of new evangelists in the UK.  (Side note: if you want a nice gallery of English church buildings, this site should satiate your desire.)

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In the News: Warrior Monks

Earlier this week, a story about “warrior monks” appeared at this link from the BBC News service.  The story is part of a series about things in history that have helped shape the modern economic system that we are a part of (and, incidentally, that helps keep this site up!).  Specifically, it’s about the Knights Templar, an organization that began as a group to support and defend Crusaders and other Christians in the Holy Land, but that ended up also serving as a de facto banking system.  You might have heard about them through their role in the film National Treasure and the novel The DaVinci Code.  You can read more about the Knights Templar here and here.

Interestingly enough, just a couple of weeks ago I came across another item about “warrior monks,” this time the impressively-named “Livonian Brothers of the Sword.”  Livonia is an area that no longer exists politically but was formerly in the area now occupied by the Baltic states.  However, through much of the last 1,000 years, German-heritage folks have lived there, and this group was comprised of ethnically German warrior monks.  They flourished in the 13th century (again, the time of the Crusades), but their work was evangelistic rather than primarily protective, and it was focused at home rather than in the Holy Land.  They eventually became a part of the German Teutonic Knights, and you can read more about them at their Wikipedia page or at that of the present-day Teutonic Knights.

These days, we tend not to think of “warriors” and “monks” as concepts that go together, but had we lived in the Middle Ages, that would not have seemed odd at all.

UPDATE: Just one month after the original version of this post went out, the Knights Templar showed up in the news AGAIN!  This time, the story in question seems not to actually involve the Knights, but who knows? we might learn more in the coming days.

Image credit: from Walter Thornbury’s 1887 book Old and New London, Illustrated, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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