chapter  4
8 Pages

Caring for the Sick or Dying for the Cross? The Granting of Crusade Indulgences to the Hospitallers

ByJudith Bronstein

In February 1217, following requests from the Order, Pope Honorius III granted crusade indulgences to Hospitaller brothers and their servants who devoted their lives to defend and serve the Holy Land.1 This is a surprising privilege and one of the few pieces of evidence I have found of the Order making a request to have their service considered equal to the taking of the Cross. As Anthony Luttrell has already explained in his important article on the defi nitions of the military orders, Hospitaller brothers were not crusaders: ‘the cross on the brethren’s mantle was worn in the case of the Hospital in memory of Christ’s crucifi xion and it was not the crusading cross of the crucesignatus … their role was one of perpetual, continuous resistance to the infi del and it did not depend upon occasional and limited papal declarations of a crusade’.2 What then induced the Hospitallers, as members of a religious order, to ask for a crusade indulgence? How did they perceive their aims and their spiritual reward? Could requests for crusade indulgences imply a change in their perception?