Militia and Malitia: The Bernardine Vision of Chivalry

  • Aryeh Grabois


In his treatise, De laude novae militiae,1 Bernard of Clairvaux distinguished between the Templars and the entire secular knighthood. The first deserved the epithet militia, while the others received the pejorative classification malitia.2 His praise of the “new knighthood” emphasized that its members were the sole knights to behave according to the principles of Vita perfecta, both of the chivalric ideals and of the monastic orders. Moreover, their dedication to a perpetual war against the Muslims and to the defense of the Holy Land was considered by the abbot of Clairvaux to be both the real expression of chivalric ideals, and an achievement of the Gregorian ideas of milites Christi.3 Against this sense of the term militia, the lay knights not only did not deserve to be milites, but, because of their behavior, clothes and hairstyles, which expressed the sins of vanity and luxury,4 represented malitia, or malice.


Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century Qualitative Distinction Real Expression Monastic Order 
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Copyright information

© Michael Gervers 1992

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  • Aryeh Grabois

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