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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