Saturday, March 2, 2024

Diet of the Knights Templar

 From Atlas Obscura:

“The exceptional longevity of Templar Knights was generally attributed to a special divine gift,” writes the Catholic scholar Francesco Franceschi in a journal article about their salubrious practices. But modern research suggests an alternative: The order’s compulsory dietary rules may have contributed to their long lives and good health.

Contrary to many modern portrayals, the Knights seem to have lived genuinely humble lives, in service to God. Their dietary choices and obligations reflect this. Though the order grew rich from carefully handled donations and by safeguarding traveling pilgrims’ money, the men themselves took formal vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They were not permitted even to speak to women. For nearly 200 years, the order thrived across Europe, peaking at around 15,000 members by the end of the 13th century. Most of all, they were expert warriors, and their ranks comprised some of the best fighters, warriors, and jousters in the world.

Early in the 12th century, the French abbot Bérnard de Clairvaux helped assemble a long and complex list of rules, which structured the knights’ lives. This rulebook became known as the Primitive Rule of the Templars, and drew from the teachings of the saints Augustine and Benedict. But many of the rules originated in the order. Though the document was completed in 1129, writes Judith Upton-Ward, the Templar Knights had already been in existence for several years, “and had built up its own traditions and customs … To a considerable extent, then, the Primitive Rule is based upon existing practices.”

The rules were many, and various. The knights were to protect orphans, widows, and churches; eschew the company of “obviously excommunicated” men; and not stand up in church when praying or singing. Even sumptuary laws prioritized humbleness: Their monk’s habits were one color alone, though on warm days between Easter and Halloween, the rules decreed, they were allowed to wear a linen shirt. (Pointed shoes were always forbidden.) But the rules also extended into their dietary practices: How they ate, what they ate, and who they ate with. (Read more.)

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