Violence occupied a prominent place in 10th-century German life and often involved bishops or clergy. Thietmar of Merseburg’s (1009-1018) Chronicon contains numerous anecdotes that expose how he viewed clerical warfare and violence. Namely, he was more concerned about the clergyman’s ability to perform as a military leader, and whether or not the violent actions were justified on their own merits. While he sometimes conveyed unease with some acts of clerical violence, and at times was careful to note distinctions between secular and spiritual realms, nevertheless he did not criticize a member of the clergy for violence on the basis of his religious station or spiritual beliefs.
The use of military terminology and related imagery employed in the fight to counter the power and influence of the Devil and his legions during the Middle Ages, can be found throughout various texts, prayers, books, and other written works that monasteries and religious leaders produced. These works, along with references to actual material items involved with combat such as swords, armor, scenes of spiritual and actual battle, shields, and fortress are typically seen when describing armed combat and violence between secular rulers and not commonly depicted as for saving one’s soul. This paper will exam how the ecclesiastic community in northern France, between the 10th and 12th centuries, used specific terms and associated martial imagery to fight their own battles against a supernatural threat that they perceived as real as anything that their secular counterparts, the nobles and aristocracy, were battling.
This paper proposes that the Liber Eliensis should be appreciated as a consciously crafted narrative which reconsidered and rewrote the community’s history in the light of its contemporary challenges. Taking a comparative approach, this paper will examine the profiles of two of this history’s most prominent characters, St Æthelwold of Winchester, the reforming bishop responsible for the monastery’s famous refoundation in the 10th century, and Bishop Nigel, the second bishop of the newly-created diocese of Ely. Deeply affected by Bishop Nigel’s apathy toward, and outright abuse of, the Ely community, the Liber Eliensis deliberately built St Æthelwold’s character in direct opposition to Bishop Nigel’s in order to highlight the latter’s perceived lack of faith in God and the community’s patroness, St Æthelthryth.