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Published by Francesca Mazzolani

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Published by: Francesca Mazzolani on Aug 31, 2011
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A European Military Order re-emerges – In Praise of the NewKnighthood
3.11 The history of Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici(Knights Templar)Introduction
The Knights Templar, whose official name was: Pauperescommilitones Christi Templique Solomonici (PCCTS) (English:Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon),were among the most famous of the Western Christianmilitary orders. The organisation was founded in 1119 byknights sworn to protecting Christian pilgrims visiting the HolyLand after the Crusaders re-captured Jerusalem from theMuslims in 1099 and existed for approximately two centuries.
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was established in 1098, when the members of the FirstCrusade re-captured Jerusalem, on behalf of Christendom, and elected Godfrey of Boulogne, duke of Lower-Lorraine, as king of Jerusalem.The first headquarters of the Knights Templar was built on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.The Crusaders called it the Temple of Solomon, as it was built on top of the ruins of theoriginal Temple, and it was from this location that the Knights took their name oTemplar.New members had to willingly sign over all of their wealth and goods to the Order andtake vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience. Most brothers joined for life,although some were allowed to join for a set period. Sometimes a married man wasallowed to join if he had his wife's permission, but he was not allowed to wear the whitemantle.The red cross that the Templar Knights wore on their robes was a symbol of martyrdom(the symbol was referred to as “cross of the martyr”), and to die in combat wasconsidered a great honour that assured a place in heaven. There was a cardinal rule thatthe warriors of the Order should never surrender unless the Templar flag had fallen, andeven then they were first to try to regroup with another of the Christian orders, such asthat of the Hospitallers. Only after all flags had fallen were they allowed to leave thebattlefield.
This uncompromising principle, along with their reputation for courage,excellent training, and heavy armament, made the Templars the most skilled and fearedcombat force during the Crusades.
"[A Templar Knight] is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul isprotected by the armour of faith, just as his body is protected by the armour of steel. He isthus doubly-armed, and need fear neither demons nor men."Bernard de Clairvaux, c. 1135, De Laude Novae Militae—In Praise of the New Knighthood
Knights possessed military training, a war horse and military equipment which required asubstantial amount of wealth and prestige to acquire.
Distinctive architectural elements of Templar buildings include the use of the image of "two knights on a single horse", representing the Knights' poverty, and round buildingsdesigned to resemble the “Church of the Holy Sepulchre” in Jerusalem.
Origins of the Cross of the Martyr/St George's CrossSaint George
(ca. 275/281 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, aRoman soldier in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christianmartyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in theRoman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, OrientalOrthodoxy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalised in the tale of SaintGeorge and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial iscelebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.St George's Cross was originally the flag of Genoa and was adopted by England and theCity of London in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from theprotection of the powerful Genoese fleet. The maritime Republic of Genoa was rising andgoing to become, with its rival Venice, one of the most important powers in the world.The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege. Itwas adopted for the uniform of English soldiers during the Crusades of the eleventh,twelfth and thirteenth centuries, particularly by the Knights Templar.
Non-combatant members of the Order
Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructurethroughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building many fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.
After the fall of Jerusalem - Decline
Jerusalem eventually fell and was taken by the Muslims in 1291. The Temple of Solomonwas later demolished by the Muslims and a mosque was built on the site, now known asthe Al Aqsa Mosque
The Templars' success was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost,support for the Order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremonycreated mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, beganpressuring Pope Clement V to take action against the Order. Getting rid of them was aconvenient way of cancelling his debts. In 1307, many of the Order's members in Francewere arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. PopeClement was convinced that while the Templar’s had committed some grave sins, theywere not heretics. However, in 1312, Pope Clement, under continuing pressure from KingPhilip, disbanded the Order.
Quick facts
- Active c. 1119–1314- 15,000–20,000 members at peak, 10% (1500-2000) of whom were knights
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
, theItalian
, 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,
inter alia
, 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.

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