Playing A Male Religious

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Though the other Christian rites practiced in the Crusader States have of course clerics of their own, the most plentiful (and relevant to our game) men of religion are of the Latin church.

They fall into two major categories, secular clergy who move in the world and minister to its populace, and regular clergy, so-called because they follow a monastic Rule (in Latin, "regula"), and are resident in or closely tied to a monastery. All are vowed to celibacy, though many are less than immaculate in keeping this vow.

Secular clergy

The Latin priest wears a cassock of black or white, and various other vestments (the stole around his neck, the cope at his back, the surplice when singing Mass). He only dons the chasuble, an ornately embroidered outer garment, in the midst of administering the sacrament of the Eucharist. A Bishop will dress more richly, in purple robes, and a Cardinal in scarlet, to signify his willingness to spill his own blood for the Church.

The seven sacraments in the priest's charge are baptism, confirmation, communion, confession, marriage, extreme unction, and ordination of other priests.

Despite their exclusion from marriage, the high clergy can cut a great political and material figure in the world; all Bishops are great temporal as well as spiritual lords, and many, both in Outremer and the west, choose to armour themselves and fight as knights in battle (a practice which horrifies the Greeks). Christian, Archbishop of Mainz in Germany during our set period, was described thus:

'...one of the greatest princes of his age, ...a jovial knight until his death, kept a harem of beautiful girls, and, clad in glittering armour, rode a splendid horse, swinging the battle axe with which he shattered the helmet and head of many an enemy... He spoke several languages. The asses in his army were more luxuriously cared for than the servants of the Emperor.'

It is a matter of great controversy still who appoints bishops and other prelates. Theoretically under canon (church) law they must be elected freely by their chapters, and this choice then submitted to the Pope for approval. In practice earthly kings constantly press their right to select favoured candidates, and if a king is in favour with the Holy See, the Pope may even quash an election to support his choice - or vice versa. Wars have been fought over this for a century now and more.

The ultimate sanction of the clergy against worldly oppressors is the power to impose the sentences of excommunication (debarring an individual from the Church's grace), or inderdict (suspending all sacraments in a given settlement or even country).

Priestly PCs will be respected by even nobles unless said nobles are inclined to act at some peril to their highborn souls. Both simple priests and prelates are very much encouraged.

Regular clergy

Latin monks divide into lay brothers, who wear the habit, labour for the monastery, and observe the strictures of its Rule, but have no say in its governance; and choir monks, educated men fully conversant with Latin, whose main duty is to sing the Mass and observe the Hours of prayer, who sit in chapter to elect their abbot and advise him upon the affairs of their community. Under the original rule of St Benedict this distinction was unknown, but it has grown ever sharper with the years.

Monks in the Latin rite may also be ordained as deacons or priests if they feel a vocation to minister to their brothers' souls, but are typically less likely to reach preferment and promotion in the clerical hierarchy (unlike Greek monks, who are the only celibate Greek clergy and so the sole branch of the Greek church able to occupy bishoprics).

The Benedictine Order is the oldest monastic brotherhood in the Latin Church. The traditional colour of Benedictine habits is black: Benedictine religious are sometimes thus called "black monks" and "black nuns". This may seem an austere choice, but it is actually quite a fashionable colour among the nobility, requiring as it does either a difficult dyeing process or the gathering of wool from flocks of scrupulously all-black sheep.

The Cistercians, a newer order instrumental in the preaching of the Crusades, who observe a harsher regimen, usually require their members wear only the undyed wool of local sheep, and never mind the colour. They are thus generally clad in white habits and known as white monks, though this might imply a cleanliness at odds with the Cistercian Order's ascetic disdain for hygiene.

Monks are ruled over by sub-priors, priors, and abbots. Abbots will very often be of high birth. The Military Orders are similarly organised, and are theoretically Benedictine monks in addition to their martial duties (see Knightly Orders for further information).

A lay brother is of considerably lower standing than a priest and a choir monk slightly lower; an abbot stands somewhat below a bishop. Monks address each other as Brother and their abbot as Father; lay brothers will be addressed as Brother by laymen too, choir monks as Brother unless they are also priests, in which case they share the dignified title Father.

A monk PC will make the most sense if he is very lowly - a lay brother toiling in the world - or very exalted - a prior or abbot with business to transact - rather than a choir monk in between who would largely stay within his monastery to sing and pray.

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