The History of the Knights Templar, by Charles G. Addison, , at sacred-texts.com
Hugh de Payens returns to Palestine–His death–Robert de Craon made Master–Success of the Infidels–The second Crusade–The Templars assume the Red Cross–Their gallant actions and high discipline–Lands, manors, and churches granted them in England–Bernard de Tremelay made Master–He is slain by the Infidels–Bertrand de Blanquefort made Master–He is taken prisoner, and sent in chains to Aleppo–The Pope writes letters in praise of the Templars–Their religious and military enthusiasm–Their war banner called Beauseant–The rise of the rival relit o-military order of the Hospital of St. John.
Their shouts of onset, when with loud appeal
They challenge heaven, as if demanding conquest.”
A.D. 1129HUGH DE PAYENS, having now laid in Europe the foundations of the great monastic and military institution of the Temple, which was destined shortly to spread its ramifications to the remotest quarters of Christendom, returned to Palestine at the head of a valiant band of newly-elected Templars, drawn principally from England and France.
On their arrival at Jerusalem they were received with great distinction by the king, the clergy, and the barons of the Latin kingdom, a grand council was called together, at which Hugh de Payens assisted, and various warlike measures were undertaken for the extension and protection of the christian territories.
A.D. 1136.Hugh de Payens died, however, shortly after his return, and was succeeded (A.D. 1136) by the Lord Robert, surnamed the Burgundian, (son-in-law of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury,) who, after the death of his wife, had taken the vows and the habit of the Templars. * He was a valiant and skilful general, † but the utmost exertions of himself and his military monks were found insufficient to sustain the tottering empire of the Latin Christians.
The fierce religious and military enthusiasm of the Mussulmen had been again aroused by the warlike Zinghis and his son Noureddin, two of the most famous chieftains of the age, who were regarded by the disciples of Mahomet as champions that could avenge the cause of the prophet, and recover to the civil and religious authority of the caliph the lost city of Jerusalem, and all the holy places so deeply venerated by the Moslems. The one was named Emod-ed-deen, “Pillar of religion;” and the other Nour-ed-deen, “Light of religion,” vulgarly, Noureddin. The Templars were worsted by overpowering numbers in several battles; and in one of these the valiant Templar, Brother Odo de Montfaucon, was slain. ‡ Emodeddeen took Tænza, Estarel, Hizam, Hesn-arruk, Hesn-Collis, &c. &c., and closed his victorious career by the capture of the important city of Edessa. Noureddin followed in the footsteps of the father: he obtained possession of the fortresses of Arlene, Mamoula, Basarfont, Kafarlatha; and overthrew with terrific slaughter the young Jocelyn de Courtenay, in a rash
attempt to recover possession of his principality of Edessa. * The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was shaken to its foundations, and the oriental clergy in trepidation and alarm sent urgent letters to the Pope for assistance. The holy pontiff accordingly commissioned St. Bernard to preach the second crusade.
A.D. 1146The Lord Robert, Master of the Temple, was at this period (A.D. 1146) succeeded by Everard des Barres, Prior of France, who convened a general chapter of the order at Paris, which was attended by Pope Eugenius the Third, Louis the Seventh, king of France, and many prelates, princes, and nobles, from all parts of Christendom. The second crusade was there arranged, and the Templars, with the sanction of the Pope, assumed the blood-red cross, the symbol of martyrdom, as the distinguishing badge of the order, which was appointed to be worn on their habits and mantles on the left side of the breast over the heart, whence they came afterwards to be known by the name of the Red Friars and the Red Cross Knights. †
At this famous assembly various donations were made to the Templars, to enable them to provide more effectually for the defence of the Holy Land. Bernard Baliol, through love of God and for the good of his soul, granted them his estate of Wedelee, in Hertfordshire, which afterwards formed part of the preceptory of Temple Dynnesley. This grant is expressed to be made at the chapter held at Easter, in Paris, in the presence of the Pope, the king of France, several archbishops, and one hundred and thirty Knights Templars clad in white mantles. ‡ Shortly before
A.D. 1147this, the Dukes of Brittany and Lorraine, and the Counts of Brabant and Fourcalquier, had given to the order various lands and estates; and the possessions and power of the fraternity continued rapidly to increase in every part of Europe. *
Brother Everard des Barres, the newly-elected Master of the Temple, having collected together all the brethren from the western provinces, joined the standard of Louis, the French king, and accompanied the crusaders to Palestine.
During the march through Asia Minor, the rear of the christian army was protected by the Templars, who greatly signalized themselves on every occasion. Odo of Deuil or Diagolum, the chaplain of King Louis, and his constant attendant upon this expedition, informs us that the king loved to see the frugality and simplicity of the Templars, and to imitate it; he praised their union and disinterestedness, admired above all things the attention they paid to their accoutrements, and their care in husbanding and preserving their equipage and munitions of war: he proposed them as a model to the rest of the army, and in a council of war it was solemnly ordered that all the soldiers and officers should bind themselves in confraternity with the Templars, and should march under their orders. †
Conrad, emperor of Germany, had preceded King Louis at the head of a powerful army, which was cut to pieces by the infidels in the north of Asia; he fled to Constantinople, embarked
A.D. 1148on board some merchant vessels, and arrived with only a few attendants at Jerusalem, where he was received and entertained by the Templars, and was lodged in the Temple in the Holy City. * Shortly afterwards King Louis arrived, accompanied by the new Master of the Temple, Everard des Barres; and the Templars now unfolded for the first time the red-cross banner in the field of battle. This was a white standard made of woollen stuff, having in the centre of it the blood-red cross granted by Pope Eugenius. The two monarchs, Louis and Conrad, took the field, supported by the Templars, and laid siege to the magnificent city of Damascus, “the Queen of Syria,” which was defended by the great Noureddin, “Light of religion,” and his brother Saif-eddin, “Sword of the faith.”
The services rendered by the Templars are thus gratefully recorded in the following letter sent by Louis, the French king, to his minister and vicegerent, the famous Suger, abbot of St. Denis.
“Louis, by the grace of God king of France and Aquitaine, to his beloved and most faithful friend Suger, the very reverend Abbot of St. Denis, health and good wishes.
” . . . . . . I cannot imagine how we could have subsisted for even the smallest space of time in these parts, had it not been for their (the Templars’) support and assistance, which have never failed me from the first day I set foot in these lands up to the time of my despatching this letter–a succour ably afforded and generously persevered in. I therefore earnestly beseech you, that as these brothers of the Temple have hitherto been blessed
A.D. 1148with the love of God, so now they may be gladdened and sustained by our love and favour.
Among the English nobility who enlisted in the second crusade were the two renowned warriors, Roger de Mowbray and William de Warrenne. † Roger de Mowbray was one of the most powerful and warlike of the barons of England, and was one of the victorious leaders at the famous battle of the standard: he marched with King Louis to Palestine; fought under the banners of the Temple against the infidels, and, smitten with admiration of the piety and valour of the holy warriors of the order, he gave them, on his return to England, many valuable estates and possessions. Among these were the manors of Kileby and Witheley, divers lands in the isle of Axholme, the town of Balshall in the county of Warwick, and various places in Yorkshire; and so munificent were his donations, that the Templars conceded to him and to his heirs this special privilege, that as often as the said Roger or his heirs should find any brother of the order of the Temple exposed to public penance, according to the rule and custom of the religion of the Templars; it should be lawful for the said Roger and his heirs to release such brother from the punishment of his public penance, without the interference or contradiction of any brother of the order. ‡
About the same period, Stephen, king of England, for the health of his own soul and that of Queen Matilda his wife, and for the good of the souls of King Henry, his grandfather, and
A.D. 1148[paragraph continues] Eustace, his son, and all his other children, granted and confirmed to God and the blessed Virgin Mary, and to the brethren of the knighthood of the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem, all the manor of Cressynge, with the advowson of the church of the same manor, and also the manors of Egle and Witham. * Queen Matilda, likewise, for the good of the souls of Earl Eustace, her father, the Lord Stephen, king of England, her husband, and of all her other children, granted “to the brethren of the Temple at Jerusalem” the manor of Covele or Cowley in Oxfordshire, two mills in the same county, common of pasture in Shotover forest, and the church of Stretton in Rutland. † Ralph de Hastings and William de Hastings also gave to the Templars, in the same reign, (A.D. 1152,) lands at Hurst and Wyxham in Yorkshire, afterwards formed into the preceptory of Temple Hurst. William Asheby granted them the estate whereon the house and church of Temple Bruere were afterwards erected; ‡ and the order continued rapidly to increase in power and wealth in England and in all parts of Europe, through the charitable donations of pious Christians.
After the miserable failure of the second crusade, § brother Everard des Barres, the Master of the Temple, returned to Paris, with his friend and patron Louis, the French king; and the Templars, deprived of their chief, were now left alone and unaided to withstand the victorious career of the fanatical Mussulmen.
A.D. 1149[paragraph continues] Their miserable situation is thus portrayed in a melancholy letter from the treasurer of the order, written to the Master, Everard des Barres, during his sojourn at the court of the king of France.
“Since we have been deprived of your beloved presence, we have had the misfortune to lose in battle the prince of Antioch * and all his nobility. To this catastrophe has succeeded another. The infidels invaded the territory of Antioch; they drove all before them, and threw garrisons into several strong places. On the first intelligence of this disaster, our brethren assembled in arms, and in concert with the king of Jerusalem went to the succour of the desolated province. We could only get together for this expedition one hundred and twenty knights and one thousand serving brothers and hired soldiers, for whose equipment we expended seven thousand crowns at Acre, and one thousand at Jerusalem. Your paternity knows on what condition we assented to your departure, and our extreme want of money, of cavalry, and of infantry. We earnestly implore you to rejoin us as soon as possible, with all the necessary succours for the Eastern Church, our common mother.
” . . . Scarce had we arrived in the neighbourhood of Antioch, ere we were hemmed in by the Turcomans on the one side, and the sultan of Aleppo (Noureddin) on the other, who blockade us in the environs of the town, whilst our vineyards are destroyed, and our harvests laid waste. Overwhelmed with grief at the pitiable condition to which we are reduced, we conjure you to abandon everything, and embark without delay. Never was your presence more necessary to your brethren;–at no conjuncture could your return be more agreeable to God. . . . The
A.D. 1149greater part of those whom we led to the succour of Antioch are dead. . . .
“We conjure you to bring with you from beyond sea all our knights and serving brothers capable of bearing arms. Perchance, alas! with all your diligence, you may not find one of us alive. Use, therefore, all imaginable celerity; pray forget not the necessities of our house: they are such that no tongue can express them. It is also of the last importance to announce to the Pope, to the King of France, and to all the princes and prelates of Europe, the approaching desolation of the Holy Land, to the intent that they succour us in person, or send us subsidies. Whatever obstacles may be opposed to your departure, we trust to your zeal to surmount them, for now hath arrived the time for perfectly accomplishing our vows in sacrificing ourselves for our brethren, for the defence of the eastern church, and the holy sepulchre. . . . .
“For you, our dear brothers in Europe, whom the same engagements and the same vows ought to make keenly alive to our misfortunes, join yourselves to our chief, enter into his views, second his designs, fail not to sell everything; come to the rescue; it is from you we await liberty and life!” *
On the receipt of this letter, the Master of the Temple, instead of proceeding to Palestine, abdicated his authority, and entered into the monastery of Clairvaux, where he devoted the remainder of his days to the most rigorous penance and mortification.
The infidels made continual incursions into the christian territories,
A.D. 1152.and shortly after his accession to power they crossed the Jordan, and advanced within sight of Jerusalem. Their yellow and green banners waved on the summit of the Mount of Olives, and the warlike sound of their kettle-drums and trumpets was heard within the sacred precincts of the holy city. They encamped on the mount over against the Temple; and had the satisfaction of regarding from a distance the Beit Allah, or Temple of the Lord, their holy house of prayer. In a night attack, however, they were defeated with terrible slaughter, and were pursued all the way to the Jordan, five thousand of their number being left dead on the plain. *
Shortly after this affair the Templars lost their great patron, Saint Bernard, who died on the 20th of April, A.D. 1153, in the sixty-third year of his age. On his deathbed he wrote three letters in behalf of the order. The first was addressed to the patriarch of Antioch, exhorting him to protect and encourage the Templars, a thing which the holy abbot assures him will prove most acceptable to God and man. The second was written to Melesinda, queen of Jerusalem, praising her majesty for the favour shown by her to the brethren of the order; and the third, addressed to Brother André de Montbard, a Knight Templar, conveys the affectionate salutations of St. Bernard to the Master and brethren, to whose prayers he recommends himself. †
The same year, at the siege of Ascalon, the Master of the Temple and his knights attempted alone and unaided to take that important city by storm. At the dawn of day they rushed through a breach made in the walls, and penetrated to the centre of the town. There they were surrounded by the infidels and overpowered, and, according to the testimony of an eye-witness, who was in the campaign from its commencement to its close,
A.D. 1154.De Tremelay was succeeded (A.D. 1154) by Brother Bertrand de Blanquefort, a knight of a noble family of Guienne, called by William of Tyre a pious and God-fearing man.
The Templars continued to be the foremost in every encounter with the Mussulmen, and the Monkish writers exult in the number of infidels they sent to hell. A proportionate number of the fraternity must at the same time have ascended to heaven, for the slaughter amongst them was terrific. On Tuesday, June 19, A.D. 1156, they were drawn into an ambuscade whilst marching with Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, near Tiberias, three hundred of the brethren were slain on the field of battle, and eighty-seven fell into the hands of the enemy, among whom was Bertrand de Blanquefort himself, and Brother Odo, marshal of the kingdom. † Shortly afterwards, thirty Knights Templars put to flight, slaughtered, and captured, two hundred infidels; ‡ and in a night attack on the camp of Noureddin, they compelled that famous chieftain to fly, without arms and half-naked, from the field of battle. In this last affair the names of Robert Mansel, an Englishman, and Gilbert de Lacy, preceptor of the. Temple of Tripoli, are honourably mentioned. § The services of the Templars were gratefully acknowledged in Europe, and the Pope, in a letter written in their behalf to the Archbishop of Rheims, his legate in France, characterizes
A.D. 1154.them as “New Maccabees, far famed and most valiant champions of the Lord.” “The assistance,” says the Pope, “by those holy warriors to all Christendom, their zeal and valour, and untiring exertions in defending from the persecution and subtilty of the filthy Pagans, those sacred places which have been enlightened by the corporal presence of our Saviour, we doubt not have been spread abroad throughout the world, and are known, not only to the neighbouring nations, but to all those who dwell at the remotest corners of the earth.” The holy pontiff exhorts the archbishop to procure for them all the succour possible, both in men and horses, and to exert himself in their favour among all his suffragan bishops. *
The fiery zeal and warlike enthusiasm of the Templars were equalled, if not surpassed, by the stern fanaticism and religious ardour of the followers of Mahomet. “Noureddin fought,” says his oriental biographer, “like the meanest of his soldiers, saying, ‘Alas! it is now a long time that I have been seeking martyrdom without being able to obtain it.’ The Imaum Koteb-ed-din, hearing him on one occasion utter these words, exclaimed, ‘In the name of God do not put your life in danger, do not thus expose Islam and the Moslems. Thou art their stay and support, and if (but God preserve us therefrom) thou shouldest be slain, it will be all up with us.’ ‘Ah! Koteb-ed-deen,’ said he, ‘what hast thou said, who can save Islam † and our country, but that great God who has no equal?’ ‘What,’ said he, on another occasion, ‘do we not look to the security of our houses against robbers and plunderers, and shall we not defend religion?'” ‡
A.D. 1154.Like the Templars, Noureddin fought constantly with spiritual and with carnal weapons. He resisted the world and its temptations by fasting and prayer, and by the daily exercise of the moral and religious duties and virtues inculcated by the Koran. He fought with the sword against the foes of Islam, and employed his whole energies, to the last hour of his life, in the enthusiastic and fanatic struggle for the recovery of Jerusalem. *
The close points of resemblance, indeed, between the religious fanaticism of the Templars and that of the Moslems are strikingly remarkable. In the Moslem camp, we are told by the Arabian writers, all profane and frivolous conversation was severely prohibited; the exercises of religion were assiduously practised, and the intervals of action were employed in prayer, meditation, and the study of the Koran.
The Templars style themselves “The Avengers of Jesus Christ,” and the “instruments and ministers of God for the punishment of infidels,” and the Pope and the holy fathers of the church proclaim that it is specially entrusted to them “to blot out from the earth all unbelievers,” and they hold out the joys of paradise as the glorious reward for the dangers and difficulties of the task. † “In fighting for Christ,” declares St. Bernard, in his address to the Templars, “the kingdom of Christ is acquired. . . Go forth, therefore, O soldiers, in nowise mistrusting, and with a fearless spirit cast down the enemies of the cross of Christ, in the certain assurance that neither in life nor in death can ye be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, repeating to yourselves in every danger, whether we live or whether we die
A.D. 1156.we are the Lord’s. How gloriously do the victors return from the fight, how happy do the martyrs die in battle! Rejoice, valiant champion, if thou livest and conquerest in the Lord, but rejoice rather and glory if thou shouldest die and be joined unto the Lord. . . . If those are happy who die in the Lord, how much more so are those who die for the Lord! . . . Precious in the sight of God will be the death of his holy soldiers.”
“The sword,” says the prophet Mahomet, on the other hand, “is the key of heaven and of hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and of prayer. Whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven him at the day of judgment. His wounds will be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk, and the loss of limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and of cherubims.”
Thus writes the famous Caliph Abubeker, the successor of Mahomet, to the Arabian tribes:
“In the name of the most merciful GOD, Abdollah Athich Ib’n Abi Kohapha, to the rest of the true believers.” . . . . . “This is to acquaint you, that I intend to send the true believers into Syria, to take it out of the hands of the infidels, and I would have you to know, that the fighting for religion is an act of obedience to GOD.”
“Remember,” said the same successor of the prophet and commander of the faithful, to the holy warriors who had assembled in obedience to his mandate, “that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of paradise. . . . . When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, and turn not your backs.”
The prowess and warlike daring of the Templars in the field are thus described by St. Bernard.
“When the conflict has begun, then at length they throw aside their former meekness and gentleness, exclaiming, Do not I
A.D. 1156.hate them, O Lord, that hate thee, and am I not grieved with those who rise up against thee? They rush in upon their adversaries, they scatter them like sheep, in nowise fearing, though few in number, the fierce barbarism or the immense multitude of the enemy. They have learned indeed to rely, not on their own strength, but to count on victory through the aid of the Lord God Sabaoth, to whom they believe it easy enough, according to the words of Maccabees, to make an end of many by the hands of a few, for victory in battle dependeth not on the multitude of the army, but on the strength given from on high, which, indeed, they have very frequently experienced, since one of them will pursue a thousand, and two will put to flight ten thousand. Yea, and lastly, in a wonderful and remarkable manner, they are observed to be both more gentle than lambs, and more fierce than lions, so that I almost doubt which I had better determine to call them, monks forsooth, or soldiers, unless perhaps, as more fitting, I should name them both the one and the other.”
At a later period, Cardinal de Vitry, Bishop of Acre, the frequent companion of the Knights Templars on their military expeditions, thus describes the religious and military enthusiasm of the Templars: “When summoned to arms they never demand the number of the enemy, but where are they? Lions they are in war, gentle lambs in the convent; fierce soldiers in the field, hermits and monks in religion; to the enemies of Christ ferocious and inexorable, but to Christians kind and gracious. They carry before them,” says he, “to battle, a banner, half black and white, which they call Beau-seant, that is to say, in the Gallic tongue, Bien-seant, because they are fair and favourable to the friends of Christ, but black and terrible to his enemies.” *
A.D. 1158.Among the many instances of the fanatical ardour of the Moslem warriors, are the following, extracted from the history of Abu Abdollah Alwakidi, Cadi of Bagdad. “Methinks,” said a valiant Saracen youth, in the heat of battle against the Christians under the walls of Emesa–“methinks I see the black-eyed girls looking upon me, one of whom, should she appear in this world, all mankind would die for love of her; and I see in the hand of one of them a handkerchief of green silk, and a cap made of precious stones, and she beckons me, and calls out, Come hither quickly, for I love thee.” With these words, charging the infidels, he made havoc wherever he went, until he was at last struck down by a javelin. “It is not,” said a dying Arabian warrior, when he embraced for the last time his sister and mother–“it is not the fading pleasure of this world that has prompted me to devote my life in the cause of religion, I seek the favour of God and his apostle, and I have heard from one of the companions of the prophet, that the spirits of the martyrs will be lodged in the crops of green birds who taste the fruits and drink of the waters of paradise. Farewell; we shall meet again among the groves and the fountains which God has prepared for his elect.” *
The Master of the Temple, Brother Bertrand de Blanquefort, was liberated from captivity at the instance of Manuel Comnenus, Emperor of Constantinople. † After his release he wrote several letters to Louis VII., king of France, describing the condition
A.D. 1159.and prospects of the Holy Land; the increasing power and boldness of the infidels; and the ruin and desolation caused by a dreadful earthquake, which had overthrown numerous castles, prostrated the walls and defences of several towns, and swallowed up the dwellings of the inhabitants. “The persecutors of the church,” says he, “hasten to avail themselves of our misfortunes; they gather themselves together from the ends of the earth, and come forth as one man against the sanctuary of God.” *
It was during his mastership, that Geoffrey, the Knight Templar, and Hugh of Cæsarea, were sent on an embassy into Egypt, and had an interview with the Caliph. They were introduced into the palace of the Fatimites through a series of gloomy passages and glittering porticos, amid the warbling of birds and the murmur of fountains; the scene was enriched by a display of costly furniture and rare animals; and the long order of unfolding doors was guarded by black soldiers and domestic eunuchs. The sanctuary of the presence chamber was veiled with a curtain, and the vizier who conducted the ambassadors laid aside his scimetar, and prostrated himself three times on the ground; the veil was then removed, and they saw the Commander of the Faithful. †
Brother Bertrand de Blanquefort, in his letters to the king of France, gives an account of the military operations undertaken by the Order of Temple in Egypt, and of the capture of the populous and important city of Belbeis, the ancient Pelusium. ‡ During the absence of the Master with the greater part of the fraternity on that expedition, the sultan Noureddin invaded Palestine; he defeated with terrible slaughter the serving brethren
The zeal and devotion of the Templars in the service of Christ continued to be the theme of praise and of admiration both in the east and in the west. Pope Alexander III., in his letters, characterizes them as the stout champions of Jesus Christ, who warred a divine warfare, and daily laid down their lives for-their brethren, “We implore and we admonish your fraternity,” says he, addressing the archbishops and bishops, “that out of love to God, and of reverence to the blessed Peter and ourselves, and also out of regard for the salvation of your own souls, ye do favour, and support, and honour them, and preserve all their rights entire and intact, and afford them the benefit of your patronage and protection.” †
Amalric, king of Jerusalem, the successor of Baldwin the Third, in a letter “to his dear friend and father,” Louis the Seventh, king of France, beseeches the good offices of that monarch in behalf of all the devout Christians of the Holy Land; “but above all,” says he, “we earnestly entreat your Majesty constantly to extend to the utmost your favour and regard to the Brothers of the Temple, who continually render up their lives for God and the faith, and through whom we do the little that we are able to effect, for in them indeed, after God, is placed the entire reliance of all those in the eastern regions who tread in the right path.” . . . . ‡
A.D. 1167.The Master, Brother Bertrand de Blanquefort, was succeeded (A.D. 1167,) by Philip of Naplous, the first Master of the Temple who had been born in Palestine. He had been Lord of the fortresses of Krak and Montreal in Arabia Petræa, and took the vows and the habit of the order of the Temple after the death of his wife. *
We must now pause to take a glance at the rise of another great religio-military institution which, from henceforth, takes a leading part in the defence of the Latin kingdom.
In the eleventh century, when pilgrimages to Jerusalem had greatly increased, some Italian merchants of Amalfi, who carried on a lucrative trade with Palestine, purchased of the Caliph Monstasser-billah, a piece of ground in the christian quarter of the Holy City, near the Church of the Resurrection, whereon two hospitals were constructed, the one being appropriated for the reception of male pilgrims, and the other for females. Several pious and charitable Christians, chiefly from Europe, devoted themselves in these hospitals to constant attendance upon the sick and destitute. Two chapels were erected, the one annexed to the female establishment being dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, and the other to St. John the Eleemosynary, a canonized patriarch of Alexandria, remarkable for his exceeding charity. The pious and kind-hearted people who here attended upon the sick pilgrims, clothed the naked and fed the hungry, were called “The Hospitallers of Saint John.”
On the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, these charitable persons were naturally regarded with the greatest esteem and reverence by their fellow-christians from the west; many of
A.D. 1167.the soldiers of the Cross, smitten with their piety and zeal, desired to participate in their good offices, and the Hospitaliers, animated by the religious enthusiasm of the day, determined to renounce the world, and devote the remainder of their lives to pious duties and constant attendance upon the sick. They took the customary monastic vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and assumed as their distinguishing habit a black mantle with a white cross on the breast. Various lands and possessions were granted them by the lords and princes of the Crusade, both in Palestine and in Europe, and the order of the hospital of St. John speedily became a great and powerful institution. *
Gerard, a native of Provence, was at this period at the head of the society, with the title of “Guardian of the Poor.” He was succeeded (A.D. 1118) by Raymond Dupuy, a knight of Dauphiné, who drew up a series of rules for the direction and government of his brethren. In these rules no traces are discoverable of the military spirit which afterwards animated the order of the Hospital of St. John. The Abbé de Vertot, from a desire perhaps to pay court to the Order of Malta, carries back the assumption of arms by the Hospitallers to the year 1119, and describes them as fiercely engaged under the command of Raymond Dupuy, in the battle fought between the Christians and Dol de Kuvin, Sultan of Damascus; but none of the historians of the period make any mention whatever of the Hospitallers in that action. De Vertot quotes no authority in support of his statement, and it appears to be a mere fiction.
The first authentic notice of an intention on the part of the Hospitaliers to occupy themselves with military matters, occurs in the bull of Pope Innocent the Second, dated A.D. 1130. This bull is addressed to the archbishops, bishops, and clergy of the
A.D. 1167.church universal, and informs them that the Hospitallers then retained, at their own expense, a body of horsemen and foot soldiers, to defend the pilgrims in going to and in returning from the holy places; the pope observes that the funds of the hospital were insufficient to enable them effectually to fulfil the pious and holy task, and he exhorts the archbishops, bishops, and clergy,, to minister to the necessities of the order out of their abundant property. * The Hospitallers consequently at this period had resolved to add the task of protecting to that of tending and relieving pilgrims.
After the accession (A.D. 1168) of Gilbert d’Assalit to the guardianship of the Hospital–a man described by De Vertot as “bold and enterprising, and of an extravagant genius”–a military spirit was infused into the Hospitaliers, which speedily predominated over their pious and charitable zeal in attending upon the poor and the sick. Gilbert d’Assalit was the friend and confidant of Amalric, king of Jerusalem, and planned with that monarch a wicked invasion of Egypt in defiance of treaties. The Master of the Temple being consulted concerning the expedition, flatly refused to have anything to do with it, or to allow a single brother of the order of the Temple to accompany the king in arms; “For it appeared a hard matter to the Templars,” says William of Tyre, “to wage war without cause, in defiance of treaties, and against all honour and conscience, upon a friendly nation, preserving faith with us, and relying on our own faith.” † Gilbert d’Assalit consequently determined to obtain for the king from his own brethren that aid which the Templars denied; and to tempt the
A.D. 1167.[paragraph continues] Hospitallers to arm themselves generally as a great military society, in imitation of the Templars, * and join the expedition to Egypt, Gilbert d’Assalit was authorised to promise them, in the name of the king, the possession of the wealthy and important city of Belbeis, the ancient Pelusium, in perpetual sovereignty. †
According to De Vertot, the senior Hospitallers were greatly averse to the military projects of their chief: “They urged,” says he, “that they were a religious order, and that the church had not put arms into their hands to make conquests;” ‡ but the younger and more ardent of the brethren, burning to exchange the monotonous life of the cloister for the enterprize and activity of the camp, received the proposals of their superior with enthusiasm, and a majority of the chapter decided in favour of the plans and projects of their Guardian. They authorized him to borrow money of the Florentine and Genoese merchants, to take hired soldiers into the pay of the order, and to organize the Hospitallers as a great military society.
Gilbert d’Assalit bestirred himself with great energy in the execution of these schemes; he wrote letters to the king of France for aid and assistance, § and borrowed money of the emperor of Constantinople. “Assalit,” says De Vertot,
A.D. 1168.[paragraph continues] “with this money levied a great body of troops, which he took into the pay of the order; and as his fancy was entirely taken up with flattering hopes of conquest, he drew by his indiscreet liberalities a great number of volunteers into hit service, who like him shared already in imagination all the riches of Egypt.”
It was in the first year of the government of Philip of Naplous (A.D. 1168) that the king of Jerusalem and the Hospitaliers marched forth upon their memorable and unfortunate expedition. The Egyptians were taken completely by surprise; the city of Belbeis was carried by assault, and the defenceless inhabitants were barbarously massacred; “they spared,” says De Vertot, “neither old men nor women, nor children at the breast,” after which the desolated city was delivered up to the brethren of the Hospital of St. John. They held it, however, for a very brief period; the immorality, the cruelty, and the injustice of the Christians, speedily met with condign punishment. The king of Jerusalem was driven back into Palestine; Belbeis was abandoned with precipitation; and the Hospitaliers fled before the infidels in sorrow and disappointment to Jerusalem. There they vented their indignation and chagrin upon the unfortunate Gilbert d’Assalit, their superior, who had got the order into debt to the extent of 100,000 pieces of gold; they compelled him to resign his authority, and the unfortunate guardian of the hospital fled from Palestine to England, and was drowned in the Channel. *
From this period, however, the character of the order of the Hospital of St. John was entirely changed; the Hospitaliers
A.D. 1168.appear henceforth as a great military body; their superior styles himself Master, and leads in person the brethren into the field of battle. Attendance upon the poor and the sick still continued, indeed, one of the duties of the fraternity, but it must have been feebly exercised amid the clash of arms and the excitement of war.
38:‡ In nomine sanctæ et individuæ Trinitatis omnibus dominis et amicis suis, et Sanctæ p. 39 Dei ecelesiæ filiis, Bernardus de Baliolo Salutem. Volo notum fieri omnibus tam futuris quam præsentibus, quod pro dilectione Dei et pro salute animæ meæ, antecessorumque meorum fratribus militibus de Templo Salomonis dedi et concessi Wedelee, &c. . . . Hoc donum in capitulo, quod in Octavis Paschæ Parisiis fuit feci, domino apostolico Eugenio præsente, et ipso rege Franciæ et archiepiscopo Seuver, et Bardell et Rothomagi, et Frascumme, et fratribus militibus Templi alba chlamide indutis cxxx præsentibus.–Reg. Cart. S. Joh. Jerus. in Bib. Cotton. Nero E. b. No. xx. fo. 118.
40:* Rex per aliquot dies in Palatio Templariorum, ubi olim Regia Domus, quæ et Templum Salomonis constructa fuit manens, et sancta ubique loca peragrans, per Samariam ad Galilæam Ptolemaidam rediit. . . . . Convenerat enim cum rege militibusque Templi, circa proximum Julium, in Syriam ad expugnationem Damasci exercitum ducere.–Otto Frising, cap. 58.
46:† Captus est inter cæteros ibi Bertrandus de Blanquefort, Magister Militiæ Templi, vir religiosus ac timens Deum. Will. Tyr. lib. xviii. cap. 14. Registr. epist. apud Martene vet. script. tom. ii. col. 647.
46:‡ Milites Templi circa triginta, ducentos Paganorum euntes ad nuphas verterent in fugam, et divino præsidio comitante, omnes partim ceperunt, partim gladio trucidarunt. Registr. epist. ut sup. col. 647.
48:* The virtues of Noureddin are celebrated by the Arabic Historian Ben-Schunah, in his Raoudhat Almenadhir, by Azzeddin Ebn-al-ather, by Khondemir, and in the work entitled, “The flowers of the two gardens,” by Omaddeddin Kateb. See also Will. Tyr. lib. xx. cap. 33.
50:* Vexillum bipartitum ex Albo et Nigro quod nominant Beau-seant id est Gallia linguâ Bien-seant; eo quod Christi amicis candidi sunt et benigni, inimicis vero terribiles atque nigri, Jac. de Vitr. Hist. Hierosol. apud Gesta Dei, cap. lxv. The idea is quite p. 51 an oriental one, black and white being always used among the Arabs metaphorically, in the sense above described. Their customary salutation is, May your day be white, i. e. may you be happy.
51:* Alwakidi Arab. Hist. translated by Ockley. Hist. Saracen. It refers to a period antecedent to the crusades, but the same religio-military enthusiasm prevailed during the holy war for the recovery of Jerusalem.
53:* De fratribus nostris ceciderunt LX. milites fortissimi, præter fratres clientes et Turcopulos, nec nisi septem tantum evasêre periculum. Epist. Gauf Fulcherii procuratoris Templi Ludovico regi Francorum. Gesta Dei, tom. i. p. 1182, 3, 4.
53:‡ “. . . . præcipue pro fratribus Templi, vestram exoramus Majestatem . . . . qui quotidie moriuntur pro Domino et servitio, et per quos possumus, si quid possumus. In p. 54 illis enim tota summa post Deum consistit omnium eorum, qui sano fiunt consilio in partibus orientis . . . . ” Gesta Dei, tom. i. epist. xxi. p. 1181.
56:* Fratres ejusdem domus non formidantes pro fratribus suis animas ponere; cum servientibus et equitaturis ad hoc officium specialiter deputatis et propriis sumptibus retentis, tam in eundo, quam redcundo ab incursibus Paganorum defensant.–De Vertot. hist. des chev. de Malte, liv. i. preuve 9.
57:‡ This assumption of arms by the Hospitallers was entirely at variance with the original end and object of their institution. Pope Anastasius, in a bull dated A.D. 1154, observes, “omnia vestra sustentationibus peregrinorum et pauperum debent cedere, ac per hoc nullatenus alas usibus ea convenit applicari.–De Vertot, liv. L preuve 13.