1. Maxitoutwriter
    Offline

    Maxitoutwriter Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2012
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    9

    Did medieval monasteries have guards?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Maxitoutwriter, Feb 23, 2014.

    Writing about a wealthy monastery, and I'm wondering if there were armed guards at these establishments.
     
  2. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I don't think there were guards normally, but monasteries often hid soldiers during war, and they were often raided, so having a person with weapons in the monastery, and sometimes even for protection, would definitely have happened. Having said that, depending on the monastery, weapons might not have been allowed at some of them, depending on their doctrine.
     
  3. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    I agree with jazzabel on this one. I believe it was pretty much an unwritten rule that people weren't supposed to attack monasteries or kill religious people, because it could anger their god and bring bad luck to everyone involved.
     
  4. Maxitoutwriter
    Offline

    Maxitoutwriter Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2012
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    9
    Very interesting. Thanks, folks.
     
  5. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,053
    Location:
    Denver
    If there was a church in the monestary it might have churchwardens. Basically bailiffs for churches. But they would be from a local village serving the church for free on sundays. Like hall monitors.
     
  6. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    Now I did forget about the Templar Knights. They would sometimes be called to defend churches, but I don't think they normally stood guard.
     
  7. Caeben
    Offline

    Caeben Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    7
    Remember, for Christian monks and clergy, they were expressly prohibited from carrying weapons. While I'm sure the more wealthy and established monasteries (these almost always belonged to one of the major religious orders) had some guards, most monasteries probably did not have enough money to hire non-clergy to defend them 24/7.

    As for the Templars, they and the Hospitalliers both received special dispensation from the Pope within a couple of decades of their founding, allowing them to carry arms. They became warrior-monks (particularly the Templars).
     
  8. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    They did in Renaissance Italy. The Papal States had their own armies and fought wars.
    Apparently Monks were not as peaceful as historians imagined. Have at look at this site:

    http://www.knightbaker.com/?p=1611
     
  9. Caeben
    Offline

    Caeben Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    7
    The armies of the Papal States would not have been monks. Monks were a recognized religious class under the umbrella of the Catholic Church, with a number of rules and regulations meant to encourage or prohibit certain activities and beliefs. Of course, the degree to which these rules were enforced varied greatly in time and location, and greatly depended on the wealth and status of whatever Rule or order the monks belonged to.
     
  10. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    The OP did not mention monks. It refers to "armed guards".
     
  11. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,280
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'm not familiar with the history of monasteries outside of Britain, but the British ones did not have guards. Nowhere in any of the stuff I've read has there been any mention. Monasteries were considered 'sanctuaries' for the most part, and were respected by nearly everyone, as religion was fairly universal in those days. The monasteries welcomed travelers (who were expected to pay, if they could afford to) who needed a place to stay for a night or so—although they were separately housed, and did not generally interact with the monks themselves, with the exception of the one who was in charge of dealing with outsiders (called a Hospitaller.) I do think they had gates they could keep closed, if they wanted to, and I believe people had to knock for admission. But guards? No.

    Here's an interesting website that gives a good, illustrated overview of the topic: http://www.oblatespring.com/Resources/Feltonfleet%20School%20Monastic%20life.pdf
     
  12. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,377
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I thought I read somewhere that Chinese monks kept a pack of pugs as as guards.
     
  13. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY

    You've been playing too much World of Warcraft. Monks weren't actually pandas either. :p
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  14. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,377
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Lewdog likes this.
  15. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    Here is a video of the little Pug dog killing people.


     
    peachalulu likes this.
  16. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,377
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Lol, better not let my pug see it. He's pretty pushy getting his num-num ( dinner ) on the floor no later than 5:30.
     
  17. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    Somebody in another forum made an interesting point. Many monks were recruited from the noble classes (second sons etc). Since they didn't go into orders as children, they would have undergone all the usual martial training that any fit nobleman undertook.

    So while there were no "fighting monks" or guards, many of the monks could fight if pressed.

    Something else to note is that the character of Friar Tuck in the tales of Robin Hood was already around in the 14th to 17th centuries, and he is sometimes depicted as a skilled swordsman and fighter. So the idea was apparently not ridiculous even that long ago.
     
  18. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,665
    Likes Received:
    1,064
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    However, Friar Tuck was a Franciscan out on the road and not your typical cloistered monk. His abbot, if he acknowledged one, would have considered him a renegade.

    In the 12th century English civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Mathilda many monasteries and convents were sacked and burned and many of the brothers and sisters murdered with no means of defense. Often that happened because armed soldiers of one side or the other side had forcibly seized the monastery as a defensive position, which in the eyes of the attackers removed the protection of sanctity and gave them the right to overrun the place. So hiding armed soldiers in your monastery church during a war would not have been a good move. And it would have violated the monastic rule that the monks and nuns must keep separate from the world and not take sides in secular conflicts.

    Tending to wounded knights and soldiers would have been a different thing, of course. But such as they would not have been able to defend the monastery complex.
     
  19. Morbius
    Offline

    Morbius Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    11
    Many monasteries had churches that provided mass for local villagers and townsfolk. It isn't unheard of that a local militia or town guard, charged with policing/protecting the community would also consider the monastery as part of the community they were protecting. This is in addition to groups like the Knights Templar and the actual armies of whatever country the monastery was in.
     
  20. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    I think the answer might be in the terms of the question. They're a wealthy monastary. Remember what Willie Sutton supposidly said when they asked him why he robbed banks: “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” Other monasteries might not have guards, but if they keep valuables there they were either impregnable or they were soon empty of wealth.
     
  21. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,280
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think the spiritual penalties for attacking a monastery or church were pretty high. Hell and eternal damnation, or excommunication? I mean, if you believed in that sort of thing, it was a strong deterrent.

    The Viking raiders at the start of the medieval period were not Christians yet, and saw no reason not to sack monasteries. And they did, more or less at will. There was nobody guarding those places then.
     

Share This Page