Birth of the Knights Templar - a summary

After the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem on June 15, 1099  "pilgrims were never safe once they were outside the walls of Jerusalem, as attacks by bands of Saracen robbers were frequent. Even as early as 1106, there were reports of trouble.A Russian abbot by the name of Daniel wrote of his visit to the tomb of St George at Lydda that year: ‘And there are many springs here; travellers rest by the water but with great fear,for it is a deserted place and nearby is the town of Ascalon from which Saracens sally forth and kill travellers on these roads.There is a great fear too, going up from that place into the hills.’ (...)

At Easter 1119, a group of 700 pilgrims was attacked by Saracens on the road to the River Jordan; 300 were killed and 60 carried off into slavery. Later that year, the forces of Roger, Bohemond II of Antioch’s regent, were ambushed and killed at the Field of Blood. This led to a flurry of requests for further aid from the West, and a council of Church leaders met in Nablus in January 1120 to address the issue.

At the time that Roger and his men met their fate on the Field of Blood, Baldwin’s successor, Baldwin II, had been on the throne of Jerusalem for a year. It is thought that at some point during 1119 he granted an audience to two French noble men, Hugues de Payen from Champagne and Godfreyde St Omer from Picardy. Together with seven other knights, they proposed to guard the pilgrims as they made their way to and from the Holy Places.But they would not do so as regular knights – they would live as a small monastic community, following the rule of St Augustine. Baldwin liked the idea.

Manpower had always been an issue in Outremer and the fact that Hugues and his brethren were prepared to live as monks meant that they would be, in theory, more dependable than some of the rabble who had taken part in the First Crusade. The king approved the plan and, on Christmas Day, Hugues and Godfrey swore vows of poverty, chastity and obedience before Baldwin and Warmund of Picquigny, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Baldwin gave them quarters at the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple platform.

The Order of Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, the Order of the Temple, The Knights Templar, was born. Within weeks of the founding of their order, the Templars were introduced to the clergy at the Council of Nablus (January 1120, TN). The nine knights were accepted by those present, and Hugues and his brothers began their task of policing the kingdom."

This blog quotes from the book The Knights Templar by Steve Martin (2004). Illustration: crowning of Baldwin II on Christmas Day 1119  (Wikipedia, public domain)

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