Author: Addison, C. G. (Charles Greenstreet), -1866
The Knights Templars
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
Having some years ago, during a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem, gained admission to the courts of the ancient Temple of the Knights Templars, which still exists on Mount Moriah in a perfect state of preservation as a Mussulman Mosque, and having visited many of the ruined fortresses and castles of the ancient order of the Temple, whose shattered walls are still to be seen at intervals in Palestine and in Syria, from Gaza to Antioch, and from the mountains of the Dead Sea to the shores of the Mediterranean, I naturally became greatly interested in the history of the order, and in the numerous remains and memorials of the Knights Templars still to be met with in various stages of decay and ruin in almost every part of Europe. The recent restoration of the Temple Church at London, the most beautiful and the best preserved of all the ancient ecclesiastical edifices of the western provinces of the Temple, first suggested to me the idea of writing a short historical account of the varied fortunes of that great religious and military fraternity of knights and monks by whom it was erected, and of their dark and terrible end.
Born during the first fervour of the Crusaders, the Templars were flattered and aggrandized as long as their great military power and religious fanaticism could be made available for the support of the Eastern church and the retention of the Holy Land; but when the crescent had ultimately triumphed over the cross, and the religious and military enthusiasm of Christendom had died away, they encountered the basest ingratitude in return for the services they had rendered to the Christian faith, and were plundered, persecuted, and condemned to a cruel death by those who ought in justice to have been their defenders and supporters.
The memory of these holy warriors is embalmed in all our recollections of the wars of the cross; they were the bulwarks of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem during the short period of its existence, and were the last band of Europe’s host that contended for the possession of Palestine. To the vows of the monk and the austere life of the convent, they added the discipline of the camp, and the stern duties of the military life, joining “the fine vocation of the sword and lance” with the holy zeal and body-bending toil of a poor brotherhood. The vulgar notion that they were as wicked as they were fearless and brave, has not yet been entirely exploded; but it is hoped that the copious account of the proceedings against the order in this country given in the ensuing volume, will dispel many unfounded prejudices still entertained against the fraternity, and excite emotions of admiration for their constancy and courage, and of pity for their unmerited and cruel fate.
The accounts, even of the best of the ancient historians concerning the Templars ought not to be implicitly relied upon. William of Tyre, for instance, tells us that Nassr-ed-deen, son of sultan Abbas, was taken prisoner by the Templars, and whilst in their hands became a convert to Christianity; that he had learned the rudiments of the Latin language, and earnestly sought to be baptized, but that the Templars were bribed with sixty thousand pieces of gold to surrender him to his enemies in Egypt, where certain death awaited him; and that they stood by to see him bound hand and foot with chains, and placed in an iron cage, to be conducted across the desert to Cairo. The Arabian historians, on the other hand, tell us that Nassr-ed-deen and his father murdered the caliph, threw his body into a well, and then fled into Palestine; that the sister of the murdered caliph wrote immediately to the commander of the garrison of the Knights Templars at Gaza, offering a handsome reward for the capture of the fugitives; that they were accordingly intercepted, and Nassr-ed-deen was sent to Cairo, where the female relations of the caliph caused his body to be cut into small pieces in the seraglio! The above act has constantly been made a matter of grave accusation against the Templars; but what a different complexion does the case assume on the testimony of the Arabian authorities! It must be remembered that William, archbishop of Tyre, was hostile to the order on account of its vast powers and privileges, and carried his complaints to a general council of the Church at Rome. He is abandoned, in everything that he says to the prejudice of the fraternity, by James of Vitry, bishop of Acre, a learned and most talented prelate, who wrote in Palestine subsequently to William of Tyre, and has copied largely from the history of the latter. The bishop of Acre speaks of the Templars in the highest terms, and declares that they were universally loved by all men for their piety and humility.
The celebrated orientalist Von Hammer has recently brought forward various extraordinary and unfounded charges, destitute of all authority, against the Templars; and Wilcke, who has written a German history of the order, seems to have imbibed all the vulgar prejudices against the fraternity. I might have added to the interest of the ensuing work, by making the Templars horrible and atrocious villains; but I have endeavoured to write a fair and impartial account of the order, not slavishly adopting everything I find detailed in ancient writers, but such matters only as I believe, after a careful examination of the best authorities, to be true.
TO THE THIRD EDITION.
The favourable reception given to the first edition of the ensuing work, and the interest that was taken in the extraordinary and romantic career of the Knights Templars, induced me to publish a second edition greatly enlarged, and to introduce various collateral matters of an antiquarian and local character, interesting only to a comparatively small number of readers. This enlarged edition having been exhausted, it occurred to me, in preparing a third edition for the press, that the work might be materially shortened and reduced in price without in anywise detracting from its value and interest as a record of the chief events of one of the most remarkable and interesting periods of history, and of the extraordinary and romantic achievements of the first and most ancient of the great religio-military orders of knights and monks established during the crusades.
The dry matters of detail, of local and partial interest, which interfered with the continuity of the main narrative, have been struck out of the body of the work, and the more striking incidents of the history have been thus brought into greater prominence. The long Latin and French extracts from the old chronicles have also been discarded from the notes, but the historical references have been preserved to enable the reader, if he thinks fit, to study the quaint and curious language of the originals. By these means, and by enlarging the size of the page, the work has been compressed into a smaller compass, and the price reduced nearly one half.
It is hoped that these alterations will be found to be improvements.
Inner Temple, December 8, 1851.
The pilgrimages to Jerusalem—Origin of the Templars—The dangers to which pilgrims were exposed—The formation of the brotherhood of the poor fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ to protect them—Their location in the Temple—A description of the Temple—Origin of the name Templars—Hugh de Payens chosen Master of the Temple—Is sent to Europe by King Baldwin—Is introduced to the Pope—The assembling of the Council of Troyes—The formation of a rule for the government of the Templars—The most curious parts of the rule displayed—The confirmation of the rule by the Pope—The visit of Hugh de Payens, the Master of the Temple, to England—His cordial reception—The foundation of the Order in this country—Lands and money granted to the Templars—Their popularity in Europe—The rapid increase of their fraternity—St. Bernard takes up the pen in their behalf—He displays their valour and piety Page 5
Hugh de Payens returns to Palestine—His death—Robert de Craon made Master—Success of the Infidels—The second Crusade—The Templars assume the Red Cross—Their gallant actions and high discipline—Lands, manors, and churches granted them in England—Bernard de Tremelay made Master—He is slain by the Infidels—Bertrand de Blanquefort made Master—He is taken prisoner, and sent in chains to Aleppo—The Pope writes letters in praise of the Templars—Their religious and military enthusiasm—Their war banner called Beauseant—The rise of the rival religio-military order of the Hospital of St. John—The contests between Saladin and the Templars—The vast privileges of the Templars—The publication of the bull, omne datum optimum—The Pope declares himself the immediate Bishop of the entire Order—The Master of the Temple is taken prisoner, and dies in a dungeon—Saladin’s great success—The Christians purchase a truce—The Master of the Temple and the Patriarch Heraclius proceed to England for succour—The consecration of the Temple Church at London 24
The Temple at London—The vast possessions of the Templars in England—The territorial divisions of the order—The different preceptories in this country—The privileges conferred on the Templars by the kings of England—The Masters of the Temple at London—Their power and importance 44
The Patriarch Heraclius quarrels with the king of England—He returns to Palestine without succour—The disappointment and gloomy forebodings of the Templars—They prepare to resist Saladin—Their defeat and slaughter—The valiant deeds of the Marshal of the Temple—The fatal battle of Tiberias—The captivity of the Grand Master and the true cross—The captive Templars are offered the Koran or death—They choose the latter, and are beheaded—The fall of Jerusalem—The Moslems take possession of the Temple—They purify it with rose-water, say prayers, and hear a sermon—The Templars retire to Antioch—Their letters to the king of England and the Master of the Temple at London—Their exploits at the siege of Acre 68
Richard Cœur de Lion joins the Templars before Acre—The city surrenders, and the Templars establish the chief house of their order within it—Cœur de Lion takes up his abode with them—He sells to them the island of Cyprus—The Templars form the van of his army—Their foraging expeditions and exploits—Cœur de Lion quits the Holy Land in the disguise of a Knight Templar—The Templars build the Pilgrim’s Castle in Palestine—The exploits of the Templars in Egypt—The letters of the Grand Master to the Master of the Temple at London—The Templars reconquer Jerusalem—The state of the order in England—King John resides in the Temple at London—The barons come to him at that place, and demand Magna Charta—Consecration of the nave or oblong portion of the Temple Church at London 129
The conquest of Jerusalem by the Carizmians—The slaughter of the Templars, and the death of the Grand Master—Rise and progress of the Comans—They are defeated and destroyed by the Templars—The exploits of the Templars in Egypt—King Louis of France visits the Templars in Palestine—He assists them in putting the country into a defensible state—Henry III., king of England, visits the Temple at Paris—The magnificent hospitality of the Templars in England and France—Bendoedar, sultan of Egypt, invades Palestine—He defeats the Templars, takes their strong fortresses, and decapitates six hundred of their brethren—The Grand Master comes to England for succour—The renewal of the war—The fall of Acre—The Templars establish their head-quarters in the island of Cyprus—Their alliance with the king of Persia—The reconquest of Jerusalem—The desolation of the Holy Land—The final extinction of the Templars in Palestine 180
The downfall of the Templars—The cause thereof—The Grand Master comes to Europe at the request of the Pope—He is imprisoned, with all the Templars in France, by command of king Philip—They are put to the torture, and confessions of the guilt of heresy and idolatry are extracted from them—Edward III., king of England, stands up in defence of the Templars, but afterwards persecutes them at the instance of the Pope—The imprisonment of the Master of the Temple and all his brethren in England—Their examination upon eighty-seven horrible and ridiculous articles of accusation before foreign inquisitors appointed by the Pope—A council of the church assembles at London to pass sentence upon them—The curious evidence adduced as to the mode of admission into the order, and of the customs and observances of the fraternity—The Templars in France having revoked their rack-extorted confessions, are treated as relapsed heretics, and burnt at the stake—Solitary confinement of the Templars in England in separate dungeons—Torture—Confessions and recantations—The Master of the Temple at London dies in the Tower—The Grand Master is burnt at the stake—The abolition of the order and disposal of its property. Grant of the Temple at London to a body of lawyers—Introduction into the profession of the law of an order of knights and serving-brethren 236
“Go forth to battle and employ your substance and your persons for the advancement of God’s religion. Verily, God loveth those who fight for his religion in battle array.”—Koran, chapter 56, entitled Battle Array.
“O Prophet, stir up the faithful to war! If twenty of you persevere with constancy they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be one hundred of you they shall overcome one thousand of those who believe not.”—Chapter 8, entitled The Spoils.
“Verily, if God pleased, he could take vengeance on the unbelievers without your assistance, but he commandeth you to fight his battles that he may prove the one of you by the other; and as to those who fight in defence of God’s true religion, God will not suffer their works to perish.”—Koran, chapter 47, entitled War.
To be propagated by the sword was a vital principle of Mahommedanism. War against infidels for the establishment and extension of the faith was commanded by the Prophet, and the solemn injunction became hallowed and perpetuated by success.
A century after the death of Mahomet, the Moslems had extended their religion and their arms from India to the Atlantic Ocean; they had subdued and converted, by the power of the sword, Persia and Egypt, and all the north of Africa, from the mouth of the Nile to the extreme western boundary of that vast continent; they overran Spain, invaded France, and turning their footsteps towards Italy they entered the kingdoms of Naples and Genoa, threatened Rome, and subjected the island of Sicily to the laws and the religion of their Prophet. But at the very period when they were about to plant the Koran in the very heart of Europe, and were advancing with rapid strides to universal dominion, intestine dissensions broke out amongst them which undermined their power, and Europe was released from the dread and danger of Saracen dominion.
In the tenth century of the Christian era, however, the ferocious and barbarous Turcomans appeared as the patrons of Mahommedanism, and the propagators of the Koran. These were wild pastoral tribes of shepherds and hunters, who descended from the frozen plains to the north of the Caspian, conquered Persia, embraced the religion and the law of Mahomet, and became united under the standard of the Prophet into one great and powerful nation. They overran the greater part of the Asiatic continent, destroyed the churches of the Christians and the temples of the Pagans, and appeared (A. D. 1084) in warlike array on the Asiatic shore of the Hellespont in front of Constantinople. The terrified emperor Alexius sent urgent letters to the Pope and the christian princes of Europe, exhorting them to assist him and their common Christianity in the perilous crisis. The preachings of Peter the hermit, and the exhortations of the Pope, forthwith aroused Christendom; Europe was armed and precipitated upon Asia; the Turkish power was broken; the Christian provinces of the Greek empire of Constantinople were recovered from the grasp of the infidels; and the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was reared upon the ruins of the Turkish empire of sultan Soliman. The monastic and military order of the Temple was then called into existence for the purpose of checking the power of the infidels, and fighting the battles of Christendom in the plains of Asia. “Suggested by fanaticism,” as Gibbon observes, but guided by an intelligent and far reaching policy, it became the firmest bulwark of Christianity in the East, and mainly contributed to preserve Europe from Turkish desolation, and probably from Turkish conquest.
Many grave and improbable charges have been brought against the Templars by monks and priests who wrote in Europe concerning events in the Holy Land, and who regarded the vast privileges of the order with indignation and aversion. Matthew Paris tells us that they were leagued with the infidels, and fought pitched battles with the rival order of Saint John; but as contemporary historians of Palestine, who describe the exploits of the Templars, and were eye-witnesses of their career, make no mention of such occurrences, and as no allusion is made to them in the letters of the Pope addressed to the Grand Master of the order of Saint John shortly after the date of these pretended battles, I have omitted all mention of them, feeling convinced, after a careful examination of the best authorities, that they never did take place.
At this distant day, when the times and scenes in which the Templars acted are changed, and the deep religious fervour and warm fresh feelings of bygone ages have given way to a cold and calculating philosophy, we may doubt the sincerity of the military friars, exclaim against their credulity, and deride their zeal; but when we call to mind the hardships and fatigues, the dangers, sufferings, and death, to which they voluntarily devoted themselves in a far distant land, the sacrifice of personal comforts, of the ties of kindred, and of all the endearments of domestic life, which they made without any prospect of worldly gain or temporal advantage, for objects which they believed to be just, and noble, and righteous, we must ever rank the generous impulses by which they were actuated among the sublime emotions which can influence the human character in those periods when men feel rather than calculate, before knowledge has chilled the sensibility, or selfish indifference hardened the heart.
The pilgrimages to Jerusalem—Origin of the Templars—Their location in the Temple—Hugh de Payens chosen Master of the Temple—His introduction to the Pope—The assembling of the Council of Troyes—The formation of a rule for the government of the Templars—The most curious parts of the rule displayed—Visit of Hugh de Payens to England—The foundation of the Order in this country—Lands and money granted to the Templars—St. Bernard displays their valour and piety.
“Yet ’midst her towering fanes in ruin laid,
The pilgrim saint his murmuring vespers paid;
’Twas his to mount the tufted rocks, and rove
The chequer’d twilight of the olive grove;