Welcome to Your Historical Compass

"The purpose of this blog is to generate discussions about historical issues. Students, enthusiasts, and friends are all welcome to join by reading and participating with comments. I hope to generate interest in history and offer help to the perplexed." Caleb Johnson

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Templars Pt. 1

Whether you've seen them in National Treasure, The DaVinci Code, or one of  the many other popular books and articles featuring them, the Templars have caught the popular imagination. But strip away all the mystery, symbols, rumors, and legends and what do we really have? Who were these warriors in white and red whose legacy has endured the test of time? In this three-part series, we'll look into this ancient order and try to separate fact from fiction.

-The Beginnings

Hugh de Payns
When crusader forces captured and sacked Jerusalem in 1099, they ushered in a new era in the Holy Land, or Outremer as they called it. Among the many needs of the newly found kingdom was Christian manpower. Heavily out-populated by their subjects, the Christian kings of Jerusalem pleaded with the Pope and the other magnates of Europe for reinforcements to strengthen their tenuous position. Not only were knights needed to protect the borders from hostile neighbors, but also to aid the pilgrims that flooded the land after its capture. In an attempt to solve said problems, one knight, Hugh de Payns, petitioned King Baldwin II to allow him to form a new monastic order. Baldwin granted Hugh his request and gave his order the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Since the mosque was on the Temple Mount, they were given the name "Knights of the Temple of King Solomon" or Knights Templar. The order started out with just nine knights who patrolled the pilgrim roads and aided the poor and the helpless. However, nine knights were not enough for a man of Hugh's vision, so he set out for Rome to promote his new order.

After Hugh received the blessing of Pope Honorious II in 1129, the order enjoyed the good press of one of the most influential clerics of the time, Bernard de Clairvaux. Clairvaux was influential in promoting the order to the rest of Europe, and soon the Templars were blessed with great patronage. Manors were donated, properties entrusted, and nobles' sons, deprived of the hope of inheritance, flocked to the new monastic warrior group. Soon the Templars had control of many lands and properties around Europe, the revenues of which were used by the order for the defence of the Holy Land. In Jerusalem the order built castles and hospitals, giving a shot in the arm to the fledgling kingdom. The pride of the military force of the kingdom was the crack troops of the order of the temple.

For many years the Templars aided in the success of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but on the horizon storm clouds were forming. In a dizzying string of events, Saladin, the sultan of Egypt, brought Syria and Iraq under his control and the crusader states were surrounded. A tenuous peace was maintained with Saladin while the leper king Baldwin IV was alive. When Baldwin died, his sister, Sibylla and her husband Guy deLusignan ascended the throne. Unfortunately for the peace, Guy was unable to control his war-mongering friends and Saladin declared war.

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