The Book of the Order of Chivalry, Ramon Llull, trans. Noel Fallows

The Book of the Order of Chivalry, Ramon Llull, trans. Noel Fallows

Ramon Llull was a Catalan knight who in 1263 underwent a religious conversion, becoming a scholar and missionary. He wrote the Book of the Order of Chivalry in the mid 1270s, probably in response to the failure of Louis IX's second crusade and just before he founded a monastery that was to be dedicated to the task of training friars in Arabic. The book is based around the idea of an elderly knight attempting to pass on his wisdom to a young squire who is about to become a knight.

This isn’t always an easy read. One of Llull's key techniques is to start with a false statement and use it to illustrate something he believes to be true. Some of these are a real stretch - my favourite is 'If a man with no body were a man, he would be a thing invisible, and if this were so, he would not be what he is. So then, if a knight without justice were in the office of Chivalry, this would mean that justice would not be what it is, and Chivalry would be the opposite of what Chivalry is.'

Wade through the obscure comparisons and you find a guide to what many in the Medieval world believed Chivalry should be (rather than what was actually happening). Llull has an image of a very structured society, with power limited to the knights and clerics, and entry to the order of Chivalry restricted to men of existing noble lineages. This is a world in which social mobility is represented as a direct attack on justice and chivalry and in which all political power should be held by knights. At the same time the knight should be just, defend his lands and people, obey his lord, be learned but also able to fight. The knight's equipment is give rather strained symbolic meaning, as is just about every other element of his life.

This translation is from the original Catalan, and it is well supported by a good introduction and informative footnotes. This is a valuable insight into the mindset of the late Medieval knight and the expectations of Chivalric society.

A Note on the Translation
The Book of the Order of Chivalry
On the Beginnings of Chivalry
On the Office that Pertains to the Knight
On Examining the Squire who Wishes to Join the Order of Chivalry
On the Way in which the Squire Shall Receive Knighthood
On the Meaning of the Knight's Arm
On the Habits that Pertain to the Knight
On the Honour that Must be Paid to the Knight

Author: Ramon Llull
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 120
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Year: 2013

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