Christopher Tyerman introduces us to Bernard of Clairvaux, and his contribution to the Crusades.
Bernard of Clairvaux was a Cistercian abbot in the middle of the 12th century. About 50 years after the First Crusade, he comes up with this interest in physical violence as a way of defending the Christian church. He takes texts from the letters of St Paul that are seen as metaphorical – the breastplate of faith – and makes them literal. He does this in support of the new military order of the Templars; he does this as preaching for the Second Crusade in the 1140s.
This adoption of a military, a militant Christianity is a major ideological shift coming from a monk who believes, actually, that the best way to salvation is through non-violence, through being a monk. He says that his own abbey is a better Jerusalem than the physical Jerusalem in Palestine.
Nonetheless he, for reasons of ideological commitment – to preserve the faith in a rather austere way – he does extend the acceptance of violence and makes these very firm pronouncements: that it is a Christian duty to do all you can to promote the Christian faith, to defend the Christian faith, both in your personal life within, but also without, and this can include religious war.