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Rise and Fall of The Knights Templar

Posted by survival_50 on July 18, 2014 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The Knights Templar


Following the victory of the First Crusade a group of knights, led by Hugues de Payens, offered themselves to the Patriarch of Jerusalem as a military force.

This proposed military force had the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims who were en route to the Holy Land In the year 1118 AD King Baldwin II granted the Templars quarters on the Temple Mount.

For the first nine years of their existence, the order consisted of nine knights. Speculations of treasure hunting aside, one of the reasons for the limited number of members may have been the reluctance to take Templar vows. Chastity, poverty and obedience were hardly a lifestyle greatly sought after.

In the year 1127 the Cistercian abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote a rule of order for the Templars that was based on his own Cistercian order's rule of conduct. Additionally, Bernard did a great deal to promote the Templars.

Perhaps Bernard's greatest contribution to the order was a letter that he wrote to Hugues de Payens, entitled De laude novae militae (In praise of the new knighthood.)

This letter swept throughout Christendom with the result being that many men, of noble birth, joined the ranks of the Templar Order. Those who were unable to join often gifted the Templars with land and other valuables.

While it is true that the Templars were not permitted, by their rule, to own much of anything personally, there was no such restriction on the order as a whole. As such the gifts of land were accepted and put to immediate use by the order.

From humble beginnings of poverty in 1118, when the order relied on alms from traveling pilgrims, the Order quickly grew to have the backing of the Holy See and the collective European monarchies.

In the process, the order became wealthy. Aside form the gifts showered upon them, they were experts in commerce and free from the taxation and tithes imposed on other orders.

However, in less than two centuries, the Templars would meet their demise perhaps because of their wealth or fear of their seemingly limitless powers. It is generally agreed that Philip IV was envious of the Templar's wealth and sought to secure it for himself.

Regardless of the motivation, the order was taken down at the hands of the Pope and the King of France in 1307.

On October 13, 1307 Philip had the Templars arrested on grounds of heresy; since this was the only charge that would allow the seizing of their money and assets.

The Templars were tortured and confessions were given. These confessions included:

Trampling and spitting on the cross

Homosexuality and Sodomy

Worshipping of an idol named Baphomet

Philip was successful in ridding the Templars of their power and wealth and urged all fellow Christian leaders to do the same thing.

On March 19th, 1314 the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake.

De Molay is said to have cursed King Philip and Pope Clement as he burned, asking both men to join him in death within a year.

Whether the story is an apocryphal legend or a matter of historical fact depends largely on one's point of view.

However, Pope Clement V died only one month later and Philip IV seven months after that.



The Battle of Montgisard

Posted by survival_50 on July 18, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)


The Knights Templar were the elite fighting force of their day. However, not all of them were warriors. The mission of most of the members was one of support -- to acquire resources which could be used to fund and equip the small percentage of members who were fighting on the front lines. Because of this infrastructure, the warriors were well-trained and very well-armed. Even their horses were trained to fight in combat, kicking or biting the enemies.

One of the key battles in which this was demonstrated was in 1177, at the Battle of Montgisard. The famous Muslim military leader Saladin was attempting to push toward Jerusalem from the south, with a force of 26,000 soldiers. He had pinned the forces of Jerusalem's King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, about 500 knights and their supporters, near the coast, at Ascalon. Eighty Templar knights and their own entourage attempted to reinforce. They met Saladin's troops at Gaza, but were considered too small a force to be worth fighting, so Saladin turned his back on them and headed with his army towards Jerusalem.

Once Saladin and his army had moved on, the Templars were able to join King Baldwin's forces, and together they proceeded north along the coast. Saladin had made a key mistake at that point -- instead of keeping his forces together, he permitted his army to temporarily spread out and pillage various villages on their way to Jerusalem. The Templars took advantage of this low state of readiness to launch a surprise ambush directly against Saladin and his bodyguard, at Montgisard near Ramla. Saladin's army was spread too thin to adequately defend themselves, and he and his forces were forced to fight a losing battle as they retreated back to the south, ending up with only a tenth of their original number. The battle was not the final one with Saladin, but it bought a year of peace for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the victory became a heroic legend.


Historian Stephen Howarth describes the battle of Montgisard:


There were twenty-six thousand Saracen horsemen, only a few hundred Christians; but the Saracen were routed. Most were killed; Saladin himself only escaped because he rode a racing camel. The young king with his hands bandaged, rode in the forefront of the Christian charge with St. George beside him, people said, and the True Cross shining as brightly as the sun. Whether or not that was so, it was an almost incredible victory, an echo of the days of the First Crusade. But it was also the last time such a great Moslem army was beaten by such a small force.