Knights Templar

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Interesting article from Catholic Answers magazine.

Thankfully, available online.

A taste from somewhere in the middle of the article:

Membership in the order grew as a result of the writing and preaching of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153). Bernard wrote a treatise entitled On the Praise of the New Knighthood in which he exhorted knights to renounce the dangers of fighting for temporal reasons, which threaten the soul, in exchange for fighting for Christ and the Church, in which to die is to gain eternally:

Life indeed is fruitful and victory glorious, but according to holy law death is better than either of these things. For if those are blessed who die in the Lord, how much more blessed are those who die for the Lord?

As the order grew in membership it also increased in prominence and influence in the Holy Land and Europe; by 1150 the Templars could muster 600 knights, which, combined with the Hospitallers, amounted to half the total available knights in the Latin East. Their power in Christendom was rooted in the 9,000 feudal lordships and manors they owned, which provided a large base of resources and financial influence.  Templar houses became known as important financial centers in Europe and served as places of deposit for Crusaders traveling to the Holy Land. They inaugurated the first primitive system of ATMs, allowing those who deposited funds in a Templar house in Europe to withdraw that amount minus a fee at Templar houses in the Latin East.

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  1. The Knights Templars came into existence to protect Christian pilgrims who were being murdered and pillaged by Muslim guerrillas. At first, the order was so poor that two knights rode on one horse: a symbol of the Order.

    The Order grew from donations of manors and lands from pious nobles throughout Europe.

    Additionally, in Saint Bernard d’Clairvaux’s endorsement is the iteration that fighting for Christ and his innocent pilgrims does not entail homicide but malicide, killing evil. Let that sink in.

    The military orders formed useful means for European knights to infuse their warrior ideals/lifestyles with monastic piety and self-sacrifice: to serve Christ, protect His innocents, and to attain eternal life. None of that comports with 21st century prejudices.

    There is much speculation. The Templars’ secrecy didn’t help them. There may have been some truth to the charges that brought down the Templars. Me: I do not think so.

    Tragically, with the end of the crusading spirit, their wealth led to slanders and violent suppression at the hands of Philippe le Bel and his heretic chief minister. Some believe that (underground) Templars, if not the first Masons, may have been a model for Masons; may have been with Robert the Bruce at his 1314 Bannockburn; and may have been behind the 1381, violent Peasants’ Revolt in England, when Hospitallers (now Knights of Malta) were targeted. .

  2. Thank you, T. Shaw, for a very interesting read. Except for in Dashiell Hammett’s imagination, was there really a Maltese Falcon? Has the Maltese gold sunk of the coast of Malta through the piracy of Napoleon ever been recovered? Silly.

  3. Dear Mary,

    I confess it’s been many years since I read the books on the Templar and Knights of Malta. I have not seen a historical book referencing a “Maltese Falcon.” Also, no reference to gold. I believe whatever gold the knights received was spent to man and outfit the galleys and Maltese fortresses and to fight Grand Turk and his “Barbary pirates.”

    The Knights of Malta (formerly of St. John of the Hospital of Jerusalem; then of Rhodes) survived as a sovereign order (answerable solely to The Pope) until the Napoleonic era. Unlike the Templars, in 1291 when Acre fell and the Christians were removed from The Holy Land, the Knights of St. John (Hospitallers) removed their “headquarters” to the island of Rhodes and continued to wage war against the Saracens. Eventually, after a heroic/lost cause siege they were removed to Malta and for centuries fought the Saracens in epic naval operations. The history of the famous/victorious siege of Malta (shortly prior to Lepanto) is well worth reading.

    Possibly, the Templars would have enjoyed a more positive demise if they had maintained fortresses near, and persisted at war with, the aggressive Muslim hegemons.

    Another interesting facet of the Crusades is the role played by recently-converted Vikings. Led by Sigurd I (Jorsalfar), they sailed their long ships past Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea. They reportedly captured a city. Sigurd was the first European king to go crusading. They were called loosely-translated “Jerusalem Farers.”

  4. Perhaps, the most successful of the crusading orders were the Tutonic Knights (The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem)

    They were among the first to respond to Pope Celestine III’s call for the Northern Crusade in 1195

    They conquered and colonised the territories of the pagan Slavs in present-day Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and the Prussian lands that now form part of Poland and Russia. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Deutschordensstaat remained the great eastern bastion of Christianity and civilisation.

    Dispite a remarkably chequered history, the order still exists, with 100 priests, 200 nuns and some 700 associates.

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