Thursday, November 25, 2010

Religion and the Clergy in Joinville's Chronicles

Within his chronicles, Jean de Joinville does not make many frank or direct comments regarding the clergy. He does refer on a number of occasions of having his own priests, which shows that although he is not a religious figure himself that he does have direct connections to the church. Joinville showed great pride one of his priests, John of Voisey who took one eight Saracens in a battle by himself. Joinville almost then brags about the accomplishment of his priest in his chronicle stating that “From that time onwards my priest was well known in the camp, and people pointed him out to one another and said, 'Look! There's my lord of Joinville's priest, who routed eight Saracens.'”1 Joinville pride in his priest's actions demonstrates the reliance and trust that he puts in the clergy, especially those close to him.

Another instance where Joinville specifically mentioned his relationship with the clergy was when he was trying to take control of an Abbey that resided on land that he controlled. After Joinville returned from a crusade overseas, monks at the abbey of Saint- Urban elected two new abbots, but they were rejected by the Bishop. He wanted them to select an abbot of his own choosing- John of Mymeri (who had done an injustice to another abbott close to Joinville).2 Following these proceedings, Joinville took it upon himself to take control of the Abbey from the Bishop and the abbots. His justification was that it resided on the land that he ruled over, therefore it was his for the taking. Unfortunately, this led to the Church excommunicating Joinville. There was a subsequent debate over who controlled the land that the abbey resided on, was it Joinville or the King who was the guardian of the abbey. The abbots wanted the King to be the guardian of the abbey, and not someone for the sole reason that they owned the lands that the building stood on. However, Joinville was adamant that it was he who controlled it.3 King Louis articulated to Joinville that “It may well be that you are lord of the abbey's lands, but that does not mean you have the right to the guardianship of the abbey.”4 Thus, the King decided that this matter was not to go to the courts, and he would take guardianship of the abbey away from Joinville. This incident brings to light, although not explicitly, Joinville's opinions of the clergy. He is very cordial and accepting of the Church, their decisions, and their presence in France- except, when it interferes with his land holdings and areas of control. Joinville does go on crusades for the Church and in the name of religion, but this does not affect his home and property, which it appears he highly covets. Also, he is loyal to clergy who are close to him, but if another member of the clergy were to attack or had wronged those he was loyal to he would do almost anything to stand up for them.

Although Joinville didn't explicitly state his opinion about the clergy, by his writings about King Louis- the King had a strong opinion about religion, the Church, and how to be a good Christian leader. Near the end of the chronicles, Joinville reports how before King Louis died he gave Joinville advice on how live one's life religiously. Louis tells Joinville to make many confessions and to “Listen devotedly to the services of the Holy Church without mocking or making light of them. Pray with both your heart and tongue, especially when the consecration is preformed during the Mass.”5 On a similar note, King Louis instructed Joinville to “Honour and love all the representatives of the Holy Church, and make sure that no one may diminish or deprive them of the gifts and alms offered to them by your ancestors...(also) Beware of embarking on a war against a Christian without long deliberation. If it is necessary to do so, then protect the Holy Church and those who have done no wrong. If wars or disputes arise among your subjects, bring them to peace as quickly as possible.”6 These comments and instructions that King Louis gave Joinville demonstrates that Louis knew that Joinville was a very argumentative person who also was ready to put up a fight for his land and property. Louis warns Joinville of these actions for one should not disrespect the Church or other Christians in a volatile manner. This advice also shows that Louis may have realized that Joinville cares more about his own affairs and less about the church, which is why he tells him directed to listen to the Church and to be a good Christian, for that is the proper way of living ones life. If Joinville already did these thing it would be less likely that King Louis would have given him this advice at the end of his life.

It is evident throughout Joinville's chronicle that he does have a relationship with the Church and the clergy, but it does not appear to be the sole topic for his writings, or the predominant influence in his affairs and life choices. King Louis makes this quite clear at the end of the chronicles, but Joinville is man of his times, and religion was an important factor in society at the time- which helps explain why he went on the crusades. However, there might be other reasons why he “took up the cross,” and those could be in part connected to his relationship with and connection to Louis- who by all accounts looked up to, and whose life is the basis of his chronicle. Thus, it is unclear whether it was chronicling Louis's life, a desire to protect his lands for incoming foreigners, or a devotion to Christianity that drove him to become a crusader.

1Jean de Joinville and Geoffrey of Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades (New York: Penguin Classics, 2008), 211.

2Ibid., 314.

3Ibid., 315.

4Ibid., 316.

5Ibid., 330.

6Ibid., 332.

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