Book Review: The Church at War: The Military Activities of Bishops, Abbots and Other Clergy in England, c. 900–1200


by Daniel M. G. Gerrard

New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xiv, 320. . Appends, notes, biblio., index . $149.95. ISBN: 1472423755

Churchmen Militant

Middlebury and Oxford tutor Gerrard’s subject, the military service of high churchmen, familiar to Medievalists, is largely paradoxical to moderns, yet was a commonplace of Middle Ages Europe. Despite modern notions, the early Church was not pacifistic – early Christian soldier martyrs did not object to being warriors, but to being forced to engage in pagan ritual – and in the declining years of the Roman Empire, high clergy were often the only leaders able to organize resistance to barbarian invaders.

Gerrard opens with an overview of the role of high churchmen in English history during the period in question. He follows with four chapters devotes to various aspects of the military duties of prelates, who were not only high churchmen but also often held fiefs from the Crown, which included the raising and maintaining of troops and castles, and leading – and even fighting – in wars. He follows a chapter on theological issues regarding clerical military service, another on the evolution of English civil and military institutions, and one on how the services of the churchmen militant were documented in contemporary chronicles. Gerrard concludes with a short discussion of trends across the period.

Those interested in Medieval religious and military institutions will find The Church at War, a volume in the Routledge series “Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West” an immensely useful read.

Note: The Church at War, is also available as an e-book, $38.47, ISBN 978-1-3156-1467-0.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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