Grand Master Gérard de Ridefort was beheaded by Saladin in 1189 at the Siege of Acre.The last Grand Master was Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake in Paris in 1314 byorder of King Philip IV.
Knight is the term for a social position originating in the Middle Ages. Elsewhere, thePortuguese
(like the following, related to "chivalry"), the Spanish
, the French "Chevalier", the German
(like the following, related to"rider"), the Swedish
are commonly used in Continental Europe.
Origins of medieval knighthood
The Franks came to dominate Western and Central Europe after the fall of Rome. Theygenerally fielded armies composed of large masses of infantry, with infantry elite, thecomitatus, which often rode to battle on horseback rather than marching on foot. Ridingto battle had two key advantages: it prevented fatigue, particularly when the elitesoldiers wore armour and it gave the soldiers more mobility to react to the raids of theenemy, particularly the invasions of Muslim armies which started in the 7th century. So itwas that the armies of the Frankish ruler and warlord Charles Martel, which defeated theIslamic Umayyad Arab invasion at the Battle of Tours in 732, were still largely infantryarmies, the elites riding to battle but dismounting to fight in order to provide a hard corefor the levy of the infantry war-bands.These types of knights were increasingly seen as the only true soldiers of Europe.
Knightly Chivalric Code
Knights of the medieval era were asked to "Protect the weak, defenceless, helpless, andfight for the general welfare of all." These few guidelines were the main duties of amedieval knight, but they were very hard to accomplish fully. Rarely could even the bestof knights achieve these goals. Knights trained,
, in hunting, fighting, and riding.They were also trained to practise courteous, honourable behaviour, which was extremelyimportant. Chivalry (derived from the French word chevalier implying "skills to handle ahorse") was the main principle guiding a knight’s life style.
The code of chivalry dealt withthree main areas: the military, social life, and religion.The military side of life was very important to knighthood. Along with the fightingelements of war, there were many customs and rules to be followed as well. A way of demonstrating military chivalry was to own expensive, heavy weaponry. Weapons werenot the only crucial instruments for a knight: horses were also extremely important, andeach knight often owned several horses for distinct purposes. One of the greatest signsof chivalry was the flying of coloured banners, to display power and to distinguish knightsin battle and in tournaments. Warriors were not only required to own all these belongingsto prove their allegiance: they were expected to act with military courtesy as well.In the years of boyhood, these future warriors were sent off to a castle as pages, laterbecoming squires. Commonly around the age of 20, knights would be admitted to theirrank in a ceremony called "dubbing". Although these strong young men had proved theireligibility, their social status would be permanently controlled. They were expected toobey the code of chivalry at all times, and no failure was accepted.Chivalry and religion were mutually influenced. The early Crusades helped to clarify themoral code of chivalry as it related to religion. As a result, Christian armies began todevote their efforts to sacred purposes.