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"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 8, 2011

Templars Pt. 2

The turning point-

Templars surrounded at Hattin
1187 A.D. The peace between the crusader states and Saladin had collapsed due to the marauding acts of a renegade knight, Reinald de Chatillon. Reinald had captured a caravan with Saladin's sister, whom he killed. In response, Saladin mustered the combined strength of Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to drive out the crusaders and recapture Jerusalem. King Guy de Lusignan also mustered the strength of the kingdom, including the Templar forces. At the battle of Hattin, Saladin drew the crusader army out into the desert and peppered them with arrows until there was nothing left. The king, the grand master of the Templars, and Reinald de Chatillon were captured. Saladin spared the life of the king, but killed Reinald and the grand master. The captured Templars suffered a universal fate, as Saladin knew they would always return to fight him. Saladin then went on to capture Jerusalem. All but a few coastal cities remained of the crusader states as they waited for reinforcements. By now, the Pope had called a new crusade.

The Third Crusade, or King's Crusade, led by Richard the Lion Hearted, dealt Saladin several blows, but failed to reach its ultimate objective, the recapture of Jerusalem. The Templars, now deprived of their headquarters, set to work promoting crusader fervor back in Europe. However, as the years went on, the repeated attempts to recapture the Holy City failed and people began to wonder why they should give their money to a lost cause.

Pilgrims depositing funds at a Templar house
One place the people were interested in giving their money was the Templar pilgrim fund. In a way, the Templars invented our modern banking system. Pilgrimage was a dangerous undertaking and the road was fraught with robbers. Pilgrims needed someone they could trust to keep their money safe. Being the strongest institution around, the Templars had the arms and material to transport gold and silver. However, the Templars decided there must be a more efficient way than shipping the gold all around Europe. They invented a deposit system where a pilgrim could deposit their funds at a Templar house in Europe and receive an encoded check with an account number and amount. The pilgrim would then go to the Holy Land and present their check to the Templar house in one of the crusader cities. A Templar clerk would then decode the check using a certain machine, the details of which were lost to posterity, locate the account, withdraw the money from the vault and give the money to the pilgrim for a small fee. In this way, the Templars accumulated great wealth and the envy of the kings of Europe. In the next and last installment, we'll see how the Templars fell from grace and into myth and legend.

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