Chivalry As The Eighth Sacrament

June 20, 2019

Chivalry may be considered as an eighth sacrament, and this is perhaps the name that suits it best, which describes it most accurately. It is the sacrament, it is the baptism of the warrior. But we must also regard it as a corporation, like a college, of which every member is a responsible individual.

It is true that this last idea is not of very ancient date, that it has taken a long time to shape itself, and has only at a comparatively late period reached its normal development. But, at any rate, amongst the formulas which were customary in the reception of a knight, there was one which from this point of view is very significant, “I receive thee willingly into our college.” A curious confraternity, too, one of which all the members were everyday exposed to do battle, to fight with, and to massacre each other, as a matter of course.

Yet it was necessary, in order to kill each other in this fashion, that these adversaries should entertain a real esteem one for the other, and consider themselves as equals. The very poorest, the most humble of the knights was the equal of a knightly-king—of an emperor.

They had all been baptized in the same way—with the same baptism.

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 18–19.

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