Knights and Chivalry, a video by Ryan Reeves
Given the warring nature of society during the early Middle Ages, especially in the regions of today’s France, and the not uncommon attacks against non-warring peasants, the Church stepped in to address this via a series of actions and decrees.
The first tactic was to scold the knights. This evolved eventually into a meaningful and formal attempt, captured under the banner of the Peace and Truce of God. it was not an avenue to bless fighting; it was designed as a means to curtail the fighting that was in any case occurring.
The Peace of God
The Peace of God or Pax Dei was a proclamation issued by local clergy that granted immunity from violence to noncombatants who could not defend themselves, beginning with the peasants (agricolae) and with the clergy. The Synod of Charroux decreed a limited Pax Dei in 989, and the practice spread to most of Western Europe over the next century, surviving in some form until at least the thirteenth century.
Further protections would be offered, regarding women and children, the theft of farm animals, protection of church property, etc. The penalty for violations could rise to excommunication.
Its origins coincided with the failure of the last Carolingian rulers to keep order in West Frankland, and the accession of Hugh Capet, founder of a new dynasty in 987.
This was a popular movement, as the discussions involved many people in large, open fields, and not merely a discussion amongst the bishops and nobles. Saints’ relics were brought from the region; the warriors would then swear an oath on the relics in the presence of the crowds. Paul Collins would write, in The Birth of the West:
The biggest threat to those breaking the peace was the use of relics and the bodies of the saints to frighten warlords with curses of from the afterlife if they engaged in warfare.
Those who refused to keep the peace were excluded from Mass and Communion, refused forgiveness of sin, and denied church burial in consecrated ground, which effectively condemned them to hell.
Tom Holland would add, from his book Millennium:
Fearsome were the sanctions proclaimed against any horseman who might subsequently go back upon his word. A lighted candle, extinguished by the fingers of a bishop himself and dropped into the dust, would serve to symbolise the terrible snuffing out of all his hopes of heaven. “May he render up his bowels into the latrine.”
The movement gained momentum around the millennium anniversary of Christ’s death – assumed 1033. Such popular movements, however, did not instantly transform the nobility. Many historians traditionally looked at the movement as a failure:
That traditional view, however, by concentrating on the failure of the movement to accomplish its quasi-messianic goals, misses the indirect impact it had. More recently historians accord a central place to the Peace in the transformations of European culture in this period, a period often characterized as the birth of Western (as opposed to Mediterranean) civilization.
The lack of a coercive force behind the demand for peace may have been what moved European culture and tradition:
For without recourse to force, it had to depend on more fundamental cultural activity: building a wide and powerful social consensus, developing courts of mediation, educating a lay populace, high and low, to internalize peaceful values.
In other words, don’t look to the state (or king) to enforce a proper cultural view; the only way to transform a culture is to transform the culture. This had many follow-on effects: it awakened the populace to the possibility of self-organization; it Christianized the nobility, leading to a chivalric code (with more on this shortly); it gave authority to the Church, giving it space as a major player in the political and social life of the time; it opened up a dialogue on the true meaning of Christianity.
The Peace of God evolved to include the idea that the shedding of a Christian’s blood was the shedding of Christ’s blood. This had ramifications for the peace internally, but also toward views regarding those on the outside – primarily Muslims.
Through its high moral vision and its appeals to communal action, the Peace of God furthered the peaceful organization of a violent society.
And this, I think is key: the society was violent; the Church led action to curb this violence. That heaven on earth was not achieved is almost irrelevant; that the culture was shifted toward considerations of peace is both valuable and without doubt.
Individuality here refers to a sense of self-awareness, personal identity, and moral responsibility. It also involves spirituality. As Morris says, “A sense of individual identity and value is implicit in a belief in a God who has called each man by name.”
It was Christianity that identified the individual, and this well before the Enlightenment or even the Renaissance.
The Truce of God
The Truce of God, or Treuga Dei came in 1027, the result of another council meeting this time in Normandy. The Truce of God is after a temporary suspension of hostilities, unlike the Peace of God, which is intended to be perpetual.
It confirmed permanent peace for all churches and their grounds, the monks, clerks and chattels; all women, pilgrims, merchants and their servants, cattle and horses; and men at work in the fields. For all others peace was required throughout Advent, the season of Lent, and from the beginning of the Rogation days until eight days after Pentecost.
More days were added to the list, until only about 80 days per year were available for fighting.
From William Ward Watkin: the long sweep from Constantine’s reign until the close of the Hundred Years’ War cannot be considered a period of peace, but a period of seeking peace – to include a search for just causes of war and also establishing a just peace. Early churchmen expressed that “justice is a quality of the will of God.”
“It is the Divine will which gives to each man his Jus (strict law), for it is the good and beneficial Creator who grants men to seek to hold, and to use what they need, and it is He who commands men to give such things to each other and forbids men to hinder their fellows from enjoying them.”
The feudal system, contrary to the stereotype, was a system of reciprocal obligation: the serf owed duty only as long as the noble kept his oath to the serf. Yes, the serf was tied to the land – so was the noble; it was an agrarian society, after all. The serf, unlike slaves before or after, could own and accumulate personal property and could leave it for his heirs.
From about the ninth century through the thirteenth, Christian civilization came into full flower. While every region had its cultural differences, the over-riding clarity and purpose was one aimed at Christianity.
In the middle of the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas would challenge the Truce of God, holding that it was lawful to wage war for purpose of safeguarding the commonweal on holidays and feast days. Yes, there was still fighting – this is the human condition.
Yet, it was the time of the building of the greatest cathedrals: a generation before saw Chartres as well as other cathedrals in France. From Watkin:
We find civilization at one of its extreme high levels in philosophy, in religion, and in creative construction. No age has followed which approached it.
As mentioned, the Peace and Truce of God only had a limited effect – the Church had no physical means by which to curb the violence. Therefore, the Church then sought to direct the desire of violence to something more noble: the chivalric code, a code of honor, developed by poets and writers affiliated with the Church. Listen to the women; they will not send you off to senseless war but to a cause more noble.
Returning to Reeves: The key figure in developing the chivalric code is Chrétien de Troyes, in the twelfth century. He was a chaplain, or pastor, in the area of Champagne in France. He writes stories of King Arthur, including Perceval and the Holy Grail: seek the Church, seek the sacraments; this was the more noble undertaking for the knight.
He also added the story of Lancelot of the Lake, Lancelot who fell in love with King Arthur’s wife Guinevere. He seeks to win Guinevere’s respect by doing good. These stories were written not in Latin, but in the common vernacular. This made it accessible to a larger portion of the knight class.
Hence, chivalry was not a result of male patriarchy or oppression of women; this is reading history backwards, from our time looking back. Instead, the chivalric code sought to elevate women to a position of soft authority over the warrior instinct of the men.
There were other authors and works as well – written independently and without knowledge of the other works: the anonymously authored poem Ordene de chevalerie; the Libre del ordre de cavayleria, written by Ramon Llull; the Livre de Chevalerie of Geoffroi de Charny. While differing in detail, they combine to show a way of life where the military, the nobility, and religion combine.
It is easy to point to the history of Christianity and find untoward behavior; we are all human after all. Yet, every time one digs a little deeper, one finds that it was through Christianity that such behavior was tempered.
The Hundred Years’ War, along with the Black Death, fundamentally terminated this progress. This long war was between the two powers – France and England – that were most centralized, most consolidated. In its wake, nationalism grew while the commonality of a Christian culture receded.
In earlier times, the king’s powers were limited by the law – the old and good law or the common law. This changed to a position where the king was the law. Here is where one can begin to see a state in our understanding of the word.
World War One was the culmination, the final blow, the suicide of the West.
Satanic Feminism Series - Part One
How did our Western Culture become what it is today? Let’s wind back a little bit in time. You are in the 15th Century, the West is Christendom. No, not everyone in Europe is a pious Christian, but many, many are. The Church, being both the structure of leadership and the people, are an integral part of the culture. All aspects of life are informed by the Scriptures and the long body of tradition of past saints understanding of those Scriptures. Christianity has advanced from its origins in the outskirt Roman province of Palestine to being the dominant religion in the regions of the ancient Roman Empire and beyond. There are churches in Briton and there are churches in the deserts of Arabia, as far as the eye can see and more. In virtually all of Europe kings reign under the assumption that they will face the King of Kings, Jesus, who is considered the true ruler of Europe. This is Christ’s kingdom, Christ’s dominion; Christendom. Indeed, this supremacy of the Christian Church in the West has existed for many centuries and would remain for many centuries. Any philosopher who would propose a system of thought would have to contend to some degree with Christian thought and writings. The Church truly did stand alongside kings, indeed in some ways over them.
This Christendom was not perfect, it was not the millennial reign of Christ, though there were perhaps many churchmen who expected it to lead into that. But it was truly a golden age of enquiry, of discovery, of extension of the Church. As with other golden ages, it had it’s draw backs, but it was a time where Europeans were ardently working out how to live as Christians in this fallen world, not just as individual churches, or even Christian movements, but as a whole society. Paganism was in many ways both overcome and receding, though it would feed into different aspects of church life, Islam was a threat in various parts of Christendom, but it was being managed, and Judaism, a long and indeed original opponent of the Church, was mostly situated outside the West in the Eastern lands of Europe. Christian thought had been given a chance to flourish and show what it could do.
Despite what you have been told, intellectual thought was flourishing. Universities, founded in the 12th century were dedicated to higher education, and unlike eastern academies, were places of innovation. Scholars did not just hand down received wisdom, they investigated new and exciting avenues of knowledge.
The first two universities appeared in Paris and Bologna, in the middle of the twelfth century. Then, Oxford and Cambridge were founded about 1200, followed by a flood of new institutions during the remainder of the thirteenth century: Toulouse, Orléans, Naples, Salamanca, Seville, Lisbon, Grenoble, Padua, Rome, Perugia, Pisa, Modena, Florence, Prague, Cracow, Vienna, Heidelberg, Cologne, Ofen, Erfurt, Leipzig, and Rostock.
These were the institutions where science was born. Contrary to much modern propaganda which portrays this era as a dark age, it was actually an age where progress was being made in many of the scientific disciplines that would make our modern world possible.
This is because scientific enquiry was part of the culture of these institutions. Building on the work of the ancient Greeks, rather than just preserving it, brilliant men made much progress on various aspects of the scientific body of knowledge.
Then came Bishop Nicholas of Cusa (1401–64), who argued that “whether a man is on earth, or the sun, or some other star, it will always seem to him that the position he occupies is the motionless centre, and that all other things are in motion.” It followed that humans need not trust their perceptions that the earth is stationary; perhaps it isn’t. From here it required no leap in the dark to propose that the earth circles the sun.
The rest as we know is history.
The popular view is that in this age political philosophy was a suppressed art, but really from Bede to Aquinas, from William of Ockham to Nicholas of Susa, and more, there were brilliant men writing about, theorizing, and teaching about philosophy and law and how society should be structured. As, Tierney has shown, the great thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, built on the foundation of Roman law and Scripture to develop advanced philosophies of law. Our society stands on the shoulders of intellectual giants from this era, more than most westerners know. Ideas like natural rights, liberty, justice for all, and all manner of other philosophical topics were being investigated. As Rodney Stark says, “So much progress took place during the so-called Dark Ages that by no later than the thirteenth century, Europe had forged ahead of Rome and Greece, and ahead of the rest of the World as well.” This is a significant achievement.
I don’t want to oversell my case, it was not heaven on earth, many aspects of science and medicine were in their infancy, it was still a very violent era. But it was a kingdom based on the principle that on earth as it is in heaven, with different expressions varied among the nations, and definitely the 20th century, the era of “secular liberal democracy” has more blood on its hands than any other era, outside of maybe the Mongol conquests. The Church was an integral contributor and facilitator of much of this advancement. It was not the stark overlord suppressing innovation, it was the shepherd creating green pastures for it to be nourished. Remember it was churchmen who started universities, not secular free thinkers.
Fast forward to the now decadent 21st century and the Church is a marginalized character in Western society. It still hold’s influence, but rarely any real power. The Church that in the 11th century under Pope Gregory VII was able to make Henry IV, heir of Charlemagne, wait in the cold barefoot for three days is a shadow of its former self. Indeed, if you speak to many Christians they don’t want the Church to have political power. It is common for Christians to say something like this: “Do you want to return to the witch burnings of Middle Ages, the Church persecuted many people, it is better for the state to be non-religious, or at least secular in its approach to religion.” I know this position well, because I have engaged with many well-meaning Christians who held it, in fact it used to be my position.
One of the unavoidable aspects of growing up in a particular culture, is that you find it hard to critique it honestly. It is hard to critique a culture when you are given your tools by that culture. It is for this reason, that as the son of an Englishmen, who grew up in the thriving former British colony of Australia, that I was a big fan of English Imperialism (and by extension American imperialism). I was a big fan of the secular culture that I believed Australia had successfully forged. I was a big believer in absolute free speech, and absolute religious tolerance which I held to be part of the success of the West. I was a big fan of many aspects of our culture on which I have now heavily qualified my views, or have completely flipped on. Why is that?
Because history shows that much of our Western culture has been degraded and deliberately so. There are many ways to demonstrate this. I was once asked by a maths teacher to give a statistical demonstration that egalitarianism is bad for the Church, I showed him that in 100% of egalitarian societies the Church had drastically declined in the last century. One, even ten examples are correlation, but 100%? This goes beyond correlation, it points to a reason why the Church struggles in modern society. And this makes complete sense, as egalitarianism is neither taught or encouraged in the Bible, indeed it is absolutely rebuked (see here). If something is rebuked in scripture, it stands to reason that such a thing, if employed by the church would have a terrible effect. But he did not find this argument convincing, because he wanted detailed demographic statistics, not just historical trends.
Well, I am not going to get deeply into historical statistics in this series, what I am going to do is point to historical trends, historical designs of certain individuals and movements, and then compare what was, to what now is, and ask this simple question: is our culture now more like the Christian one that proceeded us, or like the Satanic one that sought to push us in a new direction? I think the answer is resounding; we live in Satandom. Conclusively, unequivocally, this is demonstratable, and I am going to demonstrate it with this series.
But I want to go beyond just proving this, I want to show you in this series that our culture was deliberately, cleverly, and systematically subverted, much of that which we call virtuous today was considered the utmost of wickedness not very long ago. Today we consider a woman who sends her children to child-care a strong independent woman, not so long ago this sort of woman would have been challenged by polite society. Today we consider abortion a right, not so long ago it was considered the utmost of wicked crimes. Today we consider a man who sends his daughter off to war a progressive, indeed even conservative men brag about this, not so long ago this man would not have been considered a man. Today we consider many things to be virtues which as I said would have been considered the utmost wickedness not so long ago.
The usual answer to this by moderns and post-moderns, is that we have progressed, and because we have progressed we are therefore superior to those who came before us. I refer to this as modern supremacy, the idea that an idea or people is superior by virtue of it’s existing in current year. C.S. Lewis called this chronological snobbery. But this is foolish, current year does not equal better, it’s just a reference to placement in time.
Especially not if we are aware of this: the Bible is a vital column underpinning true Western society. It is common for modern Australians, and other westerners, to be ignorant of this fact, but the Bible is one of the cornerstones of Christendom and our entire heritage.
For example, Faxneld, author of Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture, writes:
Of course, Genesis 3 is a central story in our culture even pertaining to matters that do not relate to gender. R. W. L. Moberly asserts about the fall narrative: ‘No story from the Old Testament has had a greater impact upon the theology of the Christian Church and the art and literature of Western civilisation.’ Tryggve Mettinger views the issue at stake to be ‘whether the two humans will respect the line of demarcation between themselves and the divine world’, since [w]isdom (knowledge) and immortality are divine prerogatives’. The hubris theme is, in fact, recurrent throughout the chapters of Genesis. For example, we see it again in the Tower of Babel story (Gen. 11:2-9), where mankind tries to construct a tower reaching in the heavens and is punished by God, who creates the different languages so that men can no longer understand one another and cooperate on this blasphemous building project.
In other-words a foundational aspect of Western society is knowing our place in relation to God, and Genesis 3, and Genesis 11, and other biblical accounts, have played a vital role in making this a foundational idea. This is the reason why since Constantine, kings and emperors could not get away with claiming to be divine, and is a big part of the reason that historically Western men led the Church, the political structures, and other aspects of society. If a Western king forgot his place in reference to God, the rest of society would shout: know your place! Indeed, this shout was led by the Church. And men are reminded by Genesis 3 that when the first man neglected his duty to lead, this led to the fall of humanity into doom. A powerful warning!
Of course, wicked elements in the West knew that to change the West, foundational passages like this needed to be subverted. Hence Paxneld also tells us,
Nineteenth-century feminists often felt they somehow had to deal with male chauvinists’ use of the story in Genesis 3. One way of doing so, which seems to have been quite widespread, was to turn the tale on its head, making Eve a heroine and the serpent benevolent. The present study tells the history of how this type of tactic – a counter hegemonic interpretation, or counter reading – was also used to subvert various other aspects of the mythology of woman as Lucifer’s confederate.
Paxneld’s work explains how western society was successful subverted, and I want to share with you what I have been learning on that very subject, with the help of Faxneld and other works.
We live in a Satanic era. The Devil is the ruler of this world, and hence we should expect him to have a level of supremacy in the culture of the fallen world. But there are degrees to which his evil can be pushed back. The West of the past is an example of that push back, the West of today is an example of how clever the Devil is in gaining back ground.
Over the next few months I will share more of this story, and look at how we can fight back. We who believe in Christ are called to stand against evil, and those who don’t, well even many of them are waking up to just how evil, evil is. Evil must be resisted. Deus Vult!
 Stark, Rodney, 2006. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Chapter 2.
 Ibid. Chapter 2.
 Ibid. Chapter 2.
 Ibid. Chapter 2.
 Tierney, Brian, 1997. The Idea of Natural Rights. William B Eerdmans. p.27.
 Stark, Rodney. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success . Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Chapter 2.
 Philip Schaff, 1988, History of the Christian Church: Volume V, The Middle Ages A.D. 1049-1294. William B. Eerdmans: Michigan. pp47-59.
 Per Faxneld, 2017, Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture. Oxford University Press: New York. pp35-36.
 Ibid. pp72.