Templar Houses and local society in Britain

"This article has set out a small selection of the evidence surviving in the records of the ‘Templar’s affair’ in the British Isles that may deepen scholars’ knowledge of the Templars’ relations with society at large.

It appears that at least some Templar houses were integrated into their locality, with travellers passing through the house on a regular basis, lodging there or visiting the chapel. Many local people were employed by a Templar commandery, on a full-time basis all year round or on a part-time seasonal basis. In addition, through the provision of corrodies and charitable giving, a Templar house could be a significant local provider of care to the elderly or needy. The evidence set out here indicates that the level of provision varied from house to house, and that some houses were more significant to their locality than others.

However, as this article has barely scratched the surface of the surviving evidence, there is great potential for further research in this area(....) The documents relating to the investigations into the Templars in the British Isles between 1308 and 1312 contain many examples of contact between the brothers and their local communities which, taken together, suggest that the relationship between the order’s houses and their localities could be close, even though this relationship might infringe the letter of the order’s privileges and regulations."

This blog quotes from the text of the paper "Relations between Houses of the Order of the Temple in Britain and their local communities" by Helen J. Nicholson published in Knighthoods of Christ: Essays on the History of the Crusades and the Knights Templar Presented to Malcolm Barber, ed. Norman Housley (Aldershot etc.: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 195-207. Published article Copyright © 2007; this edition © 2015; Illustration adapted from this source

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

Eastern influence in pre-crusade southern France

Southern France has, long before the start of the Crusades at the end of the 11th Century, been a gateway to the Orient.

"In all the territory once belonging to Provincia Narbonensis, including Toulouse and a part of Guyenne, Roman influence is strong, but there is also a second influence, the influence of the East. The Mediterranean brought the whole coast from Nice to Perpignan and the country behind it into close connexion with half-Eastern Spain and even with Africa and the commercial cities of Asia Minor. The sea might be stormy, but it was safer than the highways of France. As early as the time of Charlemagne the coast towns had relations with the Bagdad of Haroun-el-Raschid, with Byzantium, Egypt, and Syria, and imported purple stuffs, spices, Indian pearls, Egyptian papyrus, and even monkeys and elephants.

Benjamin of Tudela, writing in 1160, describes Montpellier as a very good city for commerce to which Christians and Mohammedans come from all quarters to trade, so that its streets are thronged with Arabs of North Africa, merchants of Syria, Lombardy, Rome, Genoa, Pisa, and England.

Even when Southern France found herself in conflict with an Eastern people, as she did in 1018 when a Crusade was undertaken against the Moors, conquest only preceded assimilation. The leaders of the army gained great riches, and stayed to lead an Oriental life in Moorish palaces. A Jewish merchant has left a story of waiting upon one of these French leaders in his palace at Barbastro, and finding him in Eastern garments seated upon a divan, surrounded by evidences of his riches, while a tearful Arab girl played the lute and sang songs in a language that he could not understand.

Thus the Eastern element was important in the development of the life of the south-western cities in particular. Indeed, the foundation of Montpellier itself is traditionally ascribed to fugitives from the Saracen city of Maguelone, destroyed by Charles Martel in 737. From its considerable Arabic and Jewish population may be derived the tradition of medical knowledge, which in the twelfth century made Montpellier second only to Salerno as a University of Medicine. Another sign of Eastern influence is the Oriental character of the architecture of Périgord, as Eastern as that of St. Marks at Venice. Saint Front de Périgueux, built after 1120, shows the classical single nave, without divisions or side chapels, surmounted by a characteristically Eastern series of cupolas."

This blog quotes from Joan Evans "Life in Medieval France" (Phaidon Press Ltd London, 1969, p 4-5:  Illustration: La cathédrale Saint-Front, Périgueux, source

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

"Just warfare" and the rise of the military religious orders in the 12th century

In an ideological sense, the growth of the military orders was fostered by a theological shift in attitude of the Church towards just warfare. Prior to the First Crusade, the Peace of God movement had developed a policy within the Church that knights should be restricted from fighting among themselves and instead put their energies into fighting for the Church. Prior to this, the knightly class had been in almost a constant state of civil war amongst themselves and with the Church.

At the Council of Clermont in 1095, Pope Urban II advocated for the service of secular knights for the church by declaring that “you have promised more firmly than ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights of the church, there remains still an important work for you to do.” By deliberately trying to encourage secular knights to fight for God in the Crusades, the Church created an acceptable form of warfare within Christian ideology.

While Urban was not encouraging monks to go on Crusade, the military orders could not have existed without the ideology behind his speech because of Christianity’s traditional pacifism. The key element to this new ideology was the idea of miles Christi. The term miles Christi was essential to the ideology of the military orders and is critical in understanding their rise to power. Coming into use through the writings of St Augustine and literally meaning “soldier of Christ,” it reflects the duty of a Christian knight to protect Christendom from outside evils. As the monk fought the spiritual enemies of the Church from within his monastery, the soldier of Christ fought Christianity’s physical enemies. Instead of committing the sin of murder, the traditional Christian view of warfare, a miles Christi was actually doing penance for his sins.

The Hospitallers and the Templars fought Islam in the Holy Land and the Teutonic Knight was hugely instrumental in fighting paganism in eastern Europe. The knights of the military orders were by definition miles Christi and their development and rise to power would not have been possible without the widespread acceptance of this idea.

To the Church, the military orders provided the perfect outlet for the knightly class even when there was no official crusade being promoted. Therefore, the Church was more than willing to support them and allow their power to grow both in the Holy Land and in Europe. As the dominant European ideology, the Church’s changing theology played a large role in the growth of the military orders, and was aided most directly by the theological support of St. Bernard.

This blog quotes form a publication based on a 2014 paper by Sarah E. Hayes in the Gettysburg Historical Journal, www.medievalists.net; Illustration Templar and Hospitaller Knights, source

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

The Knights Templar and the Ismaili Assassins linked?

Historians point out repeatedly analogies linking the Shia Ismaili to the Templars: both orders used initiation and were military and held the title of "Guardian of the Holy Land". What are the facts?