Vol. 5, Chapter VII (Cont’d) – St. Louis and the Last Crusades. 1248, 1270


Literature. — Jehan de Joinville, d. 1319, the next great historical writer in old French after Villehardouin, companion of St. Louis on his first Crusade: Hist. de St. Louis, 1st ed. Poitiers, 1547; by Du Cange, 1668; by Michaud in Mémoires à l’hist. de France, Paris, 1857, I. 161-329, and by de Wailly, Paris, 1868. For other edd. see Potthast, Bibl., I. 679-681. Engl. trans., M. Th. Johnes, Haford, 1807, included in Chronicles of the Crusades, Bohn’s Libr. 340-556, and J. Hutton, London, 1868. Tillemont: Vie de St. Louis, publ. for the first time, Paris, 1847-1851, 6 vols. — Scholten: Gesch. Ludwigs des Heiligen, ed. by Junkemann and Janssen, 2 vols. Münster, 1850-1855. — Guizot: St. Louis and Calvin, Paris, 1868. — Mrs. Bray: Good St. Louis and his Times, London, 1870. — Wallon: St. Louis et son Temps, 3d ed. Tours, 1879. — St. Pathus: Vie de St. Louis, publiée par F. Delaborde, Paris, 1899. — F. Perry: St. Louis, Most Christian King, London, 1901. — Lane-Poole: Hist. of Egypt in the M. A., N. Y., 1901.

One more great Crusader, one in whom genuine piety was a leading trait, was yet to set his face towards the East and, by the abrupt termination of his career through sickness, to furnish one of the most memorable scenes in the long drama of the Crusades. The Sixth and Seventh Crusades owe their origin to the devotion of Louis IX., king of France, usually known as St. Louis. Louis combined the piety of the monk with the chivalry of the knight, and stands in the front rank of Christian sovereigns of all times. His religious zeal showed itself not only in devotion to the confessional and the mass, but in steadfast refusal, in the face of threatened torture, to deviate from his faith and in patient resignation under the most trying adversity. A considerate regard for the poor and the just treatment of his subjects were among his traits. He washed the feet of beggars and, when a Dominican warned him against carrying his humility too far, he replied, “If I spent twice as much time in gaming and at the chase as in such services, no man would rise up to find fault with me.”

On one occasion, when he asked Joinville if he were called upon to choose between being a leper and committing mortal sin, which his choice would be, the seneschal replied, “he would rather commit thirty mortal sins than be a leper.” The next day the king said to him, “How could you say what you did? There is no leper so hideous as he who is in a state of mortal sin. The leprosy of the body will pass away at death, but the leprosy of the soul may cling to it forever.”

The sack of Jerusalem by the Chorasmians, who were being pushed on from behind by the Mongols, was followed by the fall of Gaza and Ascalon. It was just one hundred years since the news of the fall of Edessa had stirred Europe, but the temper of men’s minds was no longer the same. The news of disasters in Palestine was a familiar thing. There was now no Bernard to arouse the conscience and give directions to the feelings of princes and people. The Council of Lyons in 1245 had for one of its four objects the relief of the holy places. A summons was sent forth by pope and council for a new expedition, and the usual gracious offers were made to those who should participate in the movement. St. Louis responded. During a sickness in 1245 and at the moment when the attendants were about to put a cloth on his face thinking he was dead, the king had the cross bound upon his breast.

On June 12, 1248, Louis received at St. Denis from the hand of the papal legate the oriflamme, and the pilgrim’s wallet and staff. He was joined by his three brothers, Robert, count of Artois, Alphonso, count of Poitiers, and Charles of Anjou. Among others to accompany the king were Jean de Joinville, seneschal of Champagne, whose graphic chronicle has preserved the annals of the Crusade. The number of the troops is given at thirty-two thousand. Venetian and Genoese fleets carried them to Cyprus, where preparations had been made on a large scale for their maintenance. Thence they sailed to Egypt. Damietta fell, but after this first success, the campaign was a dismal disaster. Louis’ benevolence and ingenuousness were not combined with the force of the leader. He was ready to share suffering with his troops but had not the ability to organize them. His piety could not prevent the usual vices from being practised in the camps.

Leaving Alexandria to one side, and following the advice of the count of Artois, who argued that whoso wanted to kill a snake should first strike its head, Louis marched in the direction of the capital, Cairo, or Babylon, as it was called. The army was harassed by a sleepless foe, and reduced by fevers and dysentery. The Nile became polluted with the bodies of the dead. At Mansourah the Turks dealt a crushing defeat. On the retreat which followed, the king and the count of Poitiers were taken prisoners. The count of Artois had been killed. The humiliation of the Crusaders had never been so deep.

The king’s patient fortitude shone brightly in these misfortunes. Threatened with torture and death, he declined to deviate from his faith or to yield up any of the places in Palestine. For the ransom of his troops, he agreed to pay 500,000 livres, and for his own freedom to give up Damietta and abandon Egypt. The sultan remitted a fifth part of the ransom money on hearing of the readiness with which the king had accepted the terms.

Clad in garments which were a gift from the sultan, and in a ship meagrely furnished with comforts, the king sailed for Acre. On board ship, hearing that his brother, the count of Anjou, and Walter de Nemours were playing for money, he staggered from his bed of sickness and throwing the dice, tables, and money into the sea, reprimanded the count that he should be so soon forgetful of his brother’s death and the other disasters in Egypt, as to game. At Acre, Louis remained three years, spending large sums upon the fortifications of Jaffa, Sidon, and other places. The death of Blanche, his mother, who had been acting as queen-regent during his absence, induced him to return to his realm.

Like Richard the Lion-hearted, Louis did not look upon Jerusalem. The sultan of Damascus offered him the opportunity and Louis would have accepted it but for the advice of his councillors, who argued that his separation from the army would endanger it, and pointing to the example of Richard, persuaded the king that it would be beneath his dignity to enter a city he could not conquer. He set sail from Acre in the spring of 1254. His queen, Margaret, and the three children born to them in the East, were with him. It was a pitiful conclusion to an expedition which once had given promise of a splendid consummation.

So complete a failure might have been expected to destroy all hope of ever recovering Palestine. But the hold of the crusading idea upon the mind of Europe was still great. Urban IV. and Clement III. made renewed appeals to Christendom, and Louis did not forget the Holy Land. In 1267, with his hand upon the crown of thorns, he announced to his assembled prelates and barons his purpose to go forth a second time in holy crusade.

In the meantime the news from the East had been of continuous disaster at the hand of the enemy and of discord among the Christians themselves. In 1258 forty Venetian vessels engaged in conflict with a Genoese fleet of fifty ships off Acre with a loss of seventeen hundred men. A year later the Templars and Hospitallers had a pitched battle. In 1263 Bibars, the founder of the Mameluke rule in Egypt, appeared before Acre. In 1268 Antioch fell.

In spite of bodily weakness and the protest of his nobles, Louis sailed in 1270. The fleet steered for Tunis, probably out of deference to Charles of Anjou, now king of Naples, who was bent upon forcing the sultan to meet his tributary obligations to Sicily. Sixty thousand men constituted the expedition, but disaster was its predestined portion. The camp was scarcely pitched on the site of Carthage when the plague broke out. Among the victims was the king’s son, John Tristan, born at Damietta, and the king himself. Louis died with a resignation accordant with the piety which had marked his life. He ordered his body placed on a bed of ashes; and again and again repeated the prayer, “Make us, we beseech thee, O Lord, to despise the prosperity of this world and not to fear any of its adversities.” The night of August 24 his mind was upon Jerusalem, and starting up from his fevered sleep, he exclaimed, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! we will go.” His last words, according to the report of an attendant, were, “I will enter into thy house, O Lord, I will worship in thy holy sanctuary, I will glorify Thy name, O Lord.” The next day the royal sufferer passed to the Jerusalem above. His body was taken to France and laid away in St. Denis. In 1297 the good king was canonized, the only one of the prominent participants in the Crusades to attain to that distinction, unless we except St. Bernard.


58. The Last Stronghold of the Crusaders in Palestine

With Louis the last hope of Christian tenure of any part of Palestine was gone. At his death the French army disbanded.

In 1271 Edward, son and heir of Henry III. of England, reached Acre by way of Tunis. His expedition was but a wing of Louis’s army. A loan of 30,000 marks from the French king enabled him to prepare the armament. His consort Eleanor was with him, and a daughter born on the Syrian coast was called Joan of Acre. Before returning to England to assume the crown, he concluded an empty treaty of peace for ten years.

Attempts were made to again fan the embers of the once fervid enthusiasm into a flame, but in vain. Gregory X., who was in the Holy Land at the time of his election to the papal chair, carried with him westward a passionate purpose to help the struggling Latin colonies in Palestine. Before leaving Acre, 1272, he preached from Psa_137:5, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” His appeals, issued a day or two after his coronation, met with little response. The Council of Lyons, 1274, which he convened, had for its chief object the arrangements for a Crusade. Two years later Gregory died, and the enterprise was abandoned.

In 1289 Tripoli was lost, and the bitter rivalry between the Military Orders hastened the surrender of Acre, 1291, and with it all Christian rule in Syria was brought to an end. The Templars and Hospitallers escaped. The population of sixty thousand was reduced to slavery or put to the sword. For one hundred and fifty years Acre had been the metropolis of Latin life in the East. It had furnished a camp for army after army, and witnessed the entry and departure of kings and queens from the chief states of Europe. But the city was also a byword for turbulence and vice. Nicolas IV. had sent ships to aid the besieged, and again called upon the princes of Europe for help; but his call fell on closed ears.

As the Crusades progressed, a voice was lifted here and there calling in question the religious propriety of such movements and their ultimate value. At the close of the twelfth century, the abbot Joachim complained that the popes were making them a pretext for their own aggrandizement, and upon the basis of Jos_6:26; 1Ki_16:24, he predicted a curse upon an attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. “Let the popes,” he said, “mourn over their own Jerusalem — that is, the universal Church not built with hands and purchased by divine blood, and not over the fallen Jerusalem.” Humbert de Romanis, general of the Dominicans, in making out a list of matters to be handled at the Council of Lyons, 1274, felt obliged to refute no less than seven objections to the Crusades. They were such as these. It was contrary to the precepts of the New Testament to advance religion by the sword; Christians may defend themselves, but have no right to invade the lands of another; it is wrong to shed the blood of unbelievers and Saracens; and the disasters of the Crusades proved they were contrary to the will of God.

Raymundus Lullus, after returning from his mission to North Africa, in 1308, declared “that the conquest of the Holy Land should be attempted in no other way than as Christ and the Apostles undertook to accomplish it — by prayers, tears, and the offering up of our own lives. Many are the princes and knights that have gone to the Promised Land with a view to conquer it, but if this mode had been pleasing to the Lord, they would assuredly have wrested it from the Saracens before this. Thus it is manifest to pious monks that Thou art daily waiting for them to do for love to Thee what Thou hast done from love to them.”

The successors of Nicolas IV., however, continued to cling to the idea of conquering the Holy Land by arms. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they made repeated appeals to the piety and chivalry of Western Europe, but these were voices as from another age. The deliverance of Palestine by the sword was a dead issue. New problems were engaging men’s minds. The authority of the popes — now in exile in Avignon, now given to a luxurious life at Rome, or engaged in wars over papal territory — was incompetent to unite and direct the energies of Europe as it had once done. They did not discern the signs of the times. More important tasks there were for Christendom to accomplish than to rescue the holy places of the East.

Erasmus struck the right note and expressed the view of a later age. Writing at the very close of the Middle Ages making an appeal for the proclamation of the Gospel by preaching and speaking of wars against the Turks, he said, “Truly, it is not meet to declare ourselves Christian men by killing very many but by saving very many, not if we send thousands of heathen people to hell, but if we make many infidels Christian; not if we cruelly curse and excommunicate, but if we with devout prayers and with our hearts desire their health, and pray unto God, to send them better minds.”


59. Effects of the Crusades

“… The knights’ bones are dust

And their good swords are rust;

Their souls are with the saints, we trust.”

 — Coleridge.

Literature. — A. R. L. Heeren: Versuch einer Entwickelung der Folgen der Kreuzzüge für Europa, Göttingen, 1808; French trans., Paris, 1808. — Maxime de Choiseul-Daillecourt: De l’influence des croisades sur l’état des peuples de l’Europe, Paris, 1809. Crowned by the French Institute, it presents the Crusades as upon the whole favorable to civil liberty, commerce, etc. — J. L. Hahn: Ursachen und Folgen der Kreuzzüge, Greifsw., 1859. — G. B. Adams: Civilization during the M. A., N. Y., 1894, 258-311. See the general treatments of the Crusades by Gibbon, Wilken, Michaud, Archer-Kingsford, 425-451, etc., and especially Prutz (Kulturgeschichte der Kreuzzüge and The Economic Development of Western Europe under the Influence of the Crusades in Essays on the Crusades, Burlington, 1903), who in presenting the social, political, commercial, and literary aspects and effects of the Crusades lays relatively too much stress upon them.

The Crusades failed in three respects. The Holy Land was not won. The advance of Islam was not permanently checked. The schism between the East and the West was not healed. These were the primary objects of the Crusades.

They were the cause of great evils. As a school of practical religion and morals, they were no doubt disastrous for most of the Crusaders. They were attended by all the usual demoralizing influences of war and the sojourn of armies in an enemy’s country. The vices of the Crusading camps were a source of deep shame in Europe. Popes lamented them. Bernard exposed them. Writers set forth the fatal mistake of those who were eager to make conquest of the earthly Jerusalem and were forgetful of the heavenly city. “Many wended their way to the holy city, unmindful that our Jerusalem is not here.” So wrote the Englishman, Walter Map, after Saladin’s victories in 1187.

The schism between the East and the West was widened by the insolent action of the popes in establishing Latin patriarchates in the East and their consent to the establishment of the Latin empire of Constantinople. The memory of the indignities heaped upon Greek emperors and ecclesiastics has not yet been forgotten.

Another evil was the deepening of the contempt and hatred in the minds of the Mohammedans for the doctrines of Christianity. The savagery of the Christian soldiery, their unscrupulous treatment of property, and the bitter rancors in the Crusading camps were a disgraceful spectacle which could have but one effect upon the peoples of the East. While the Crusades were still in progress, the objection was made in Western Europe, that they were not followed by spiritual fruits, but that on the contrary the Saracens were converted to blasphemy rather than to the faith. Being killed, they were sent to hell.

Again, the Crusades gave occasion for the rapid development of the system of papal indulgences, which became a dogma of the medieval theologians. The practice, once begun by Urban II. at the very outset of the movement, was extended further and further until indulgence for sins was promised not only for the warrior who took up arms against the Saracens in the East, but for those who were willing to fight against Christian heretics in Western Europe. Indulgences became a part of the very heart of the sacrament of penance, and did incalculable damage to the moral sense of Christendom. To this evil was added the exorbitant taxations levied by the popes and their emissaries. Matthew Paris complains of this extortion for the expenses of Crusades as a stain upon that holy cause.

And yet the Crusades were not in vain. It is not possible to suppose that Providence did not carry out some important, immediate and ultimate purpose for the advancement of mankind through this long war, extending over two hundred years, and involving some of the best vital forces of two continents. It may not always be easy to distinguish between the effects of the Crusades and the effects of other forces active in this period, or to draw an even balance between them. But it may be regarded as certain that they made far-reaching contributions to the great moral, religious, and social change which the institutions of Europe underwent in the latter half of the Middle Ages.

First, the Crusades engaged the minds of men in the contemplation of a high and unselfish aim. The rescue of the Holy Sepulchre was a religious passion, drawing attention away from the petty struggles of ecclesiastics in the assertion of priestly prerogative, from the violent conflict of papacy and empire, and from the humdrum casuistry of scholastic and conventual dispute. Even Gibbon admits that “the controlling emotion with the most of the Crusaders was, beyond question, a lofty ideal of enthusiasm.”

Considered in their effects upon the papacy, they offered it an unexampled opportunity for the extension of its authority. But on the other hand, by educating the laity and developing secular interests, they also aided in undermining the power of the hierarchy.

As for the political institutions of Europe, they called forth and developed that spirit of nationality which resulted in the consolidation of the states of Europe in the form which they have since retained with little change. When the Crusades began, feudalism flourished. When the Crusades closed, feudalism was decadent throughout Europe, and had largely disappeared from parts of it. The need petty knights and great nobles had to furnish themselves with adequate equipments, led to the pawn or sale of their estates and their prolonged absence gave sovereigns a rare opportunity to extend their authority. And in the adjoining camps of armies on Syrian soil, the customs and pride of independent national life were fostered.

Upon the literature and individual intelligence of Western Europe, the Crusades, no doubt, exerted a powerful influence, although it may not be possible to weigh that influence in exact balances. It was a matter of great importance that men of all classes, from the emperor to the poorest serf, came into personal contact on the march and in the camp. They were equals in a common cause, and learned that they possessed the traits of a common humanity, of which the isolation of the baronial hall kept them ignorant. The emancipating effect which travel may always be expected to exert, was deeply felt. The knowledge of human customs and geography was enlarged. Richard of Hoveden is able to give the distances from place to place from England to the Holy Land. A respectable collection of historical works grew out of the expeditions, from the earliest annalists of the First Crusade, who wrote in Latin, to Villehardouin and John de Joinville who wrote in French. The fountains of story and romance were struck, and to posterity were contributed the inspiring figures of Godfrey, Tancred, and St. Louis — soldiers who realized the ideal of Christian chivalry.

As for commerce, it would be hazardous to say that the enterprise of the Italian ports would not, in time, have developed by the usual incentives of Eastern trade and the impulse of marine enterprise then astir. It cannot be doubted, however, that the Crusades gave to commerce an immense impetus. The fleets of Marseilles and the Italian ports were greatly enlarged through the demands for the transportation of tens of thousands of Crusaders; and the Pisans, Genoese, and Venetians were busy in traffic at Acre, Damietta, and other ports.

In these various ways the spell of ignorance and narrowing prejudice was broken, and to the mind of Western Europe a new horizon of thought and acquisition was opened, and remotely within that horizon lay the institutions and ambitions of our modern civilization.

After the lapse of six centuries and more, the Crusades still have their stirring lessons of wisdom and warning, and these are not the least important of their results. The elevating spectacle of devotion to an unselfish aim has seldom been repeated in the history of religion on so grand a scale. This spectacle continues to be an inspiration. The very word “crusade” is synonymous with a lofty moral or religious movement, as the word “gospel” has come to be used to signify every message of good.

The Crusades also furnish the perpetual reminder that not in localities is the Church to seek its holiest satisfaction and not by the sword is the Church to win its way; but by the message of peace, by appeals to the heart and conscience, and by teaching the ministries of prayer and devout worship is she to accomplish her mission. The Crusader kneeling in the church of the Holy Sepulchre learned the meaning of the words, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen.” And all succeeding generations know the meaning of these words better for his pilgrimage and his mistake.

Approaching the Crusades in enthusiasm, but differing from them as widely as the East is from the West in methods and also in results, has been the movement of modern Protestant missions to the heathen world which has witnessed no shedding of blood, save the blood of its own Christian emissaries, men and women, whose aims have been not the conquest of territory, but the redemption of the race.


60. The Military Orders

Literature. — The sources are the Rules of the orders and the scattered notices of contemporary chroniclers. No attempt is made to give an exhaustive list of the literature. — P. H. Helyot: Histoire des ordres monastiques, religieux et militaires, 8 vols. Paris, 1719. — Perrot. Coll. Hist. des ordres de chivalrie, etc., 4 vols. Paris, 1819. Supplementary vol. by Fayolle, 1846. — Bielenfeld: Gesch. und Verfassung aller geistlichen und weltlichen Ritterorden, 2 vols. Weimar, 1841. — F. C. Woodhouse: The Military Religious Orders of the Middle Ages, London, 1879. — G. Uhlhorn: Die christliche Liebesthätigkeit im Mittelalter, Stuttgart, 1884. — Hurter: Life of Innocent III., vol. IV. 313 sqq. — The general Histories of the Crusades. — Stubbs: Const. Hist. of England.

For the Knights of St. John: Abbe Vertot: Hist. des chevaliers hospitaliers de S. Jean de Jérusalem, etc., 4 vols. Paris, 1726, and since. — Taafe: History of the Knights of Malta, 4 vols. London, 1852. — L. B. Larking: The Knights Hospitallers in England, London, 1857. — A. Winterfeld: Gesch. des Ordens St. Johannis vom Spital zu Jerusalem, Berlin, 1859. — H. Von Ortenburg: Der Ritterorden des hl. Johannis zu Jerusalem, 2 vols. Regensb. 1866. — Genl. Porter: Hist. of the Knights of Malta of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, London, 1883. — Von Finck: Uebersicht über die Gesch. des ritterlichen Ordens St. Johannis, Berlin, 1890. — G. Hönnicke: Studien zur Gesch. des Hospitalordens, 1099-1162, 1897. — *J. D. Le Roulx: De prima origine Hospitaliorum Hierosol., Paris, 1885; Cartulaire général de l’Ordre des Hospitaliers St. Jean de Jérusalem, 3 vols., Paris, 1894; Les Hospitaliers en Terre Sainte et à Chypre, 1100-1310, Paris, 1904, pp. 440. — J. Von Pflugk-Harttung: Die Anfänge des Johanniterordens in Deutschland, Berlin, 1899, and Der Johanniter und der Deutsche Orden im Kampfe Ludwigs des Baiern mit der Kirche, Leipzig, 1900. Knöpfler: Johanniter in Weltzer-Welte, VI. 1719-1803. For other Lit. see Le Roulx: Les Hospitaliers, pp. v-xiii.

For the Knights Templars: The literature is very abundant. Bernard of Clairvaux: De laude novae militiae, ad milites templi, Migne, 182, pp. 921-940. — Dupuy: Hist. des Templiers, Paris, 1650. — F. Wilcke: Gesch. des Tempelherren Ordens, 2 vols. Leipzig, 1827, 2d ed. Halle, 1860. — *C. H. Maillard De Chambure: Règle et Statuts secrets des Templiers, Paris, 1840 (from three old French MSS.). — W. Havemann: Gesch. des Ausgangs des Tempelherren Ordens, Stuttgart, 1846. Michelet: Procès des Templiers, 2 vols. Paris, 1841-1851. — Boutaric: Clement V. Philippe le Bel et les Templiers, Paris, 1874, and Documents inédites de Philippe le Bel, Paris, 1861. — *Henri de Curzon: La Règle du Temple, Paris, 1886. — *H. Prutz: Geheimlehre und Geheimstatuten des Tempelherren Ordens, Berlin, 1879, Entwicklung und Untergang des Tempelherrenordens, Berlin, 1888. — K. Schottmüller: D. Untergang des Templer-Ordens, 2 vols. Berlin, 1887. — W. Cunningham: Growth of English Industry, London, 1890. — J. Gmelin: Schuld oder Unschuld des Templerordens, Stuttgart, 1893. — *Döllinger: Der Untergang des Tempelordens in his “Akadem. Vorträge,” Munich, 1891, III. 245-274, the last public address the author delivered before the Academy of Sciences of Munich. — A. Grange: Fall of the Knights Templars, “Dublin Review,” 1895, pp. 329 sqq. — G. Schnürer: D. ursprüngliche Templerregel, Freib. 1903. — Mansi, XXI. 359-372, also gives the Rule of the Templars as set forth at the Synod of Troyes, 1128. — J. A. Froude: The Knights Templars in Short Essays. — Hefele-Knöpfler, VI. — *Funk: Templer in Wetzer-Welte, XI. pp. 1311-1345. — H. C. Lea: Hist. of the Inquisition, III. and Absolution Formula of the Templars, Amer. Soc. of Ch. Hist. Papers, V. 37-58.

For the Teutonic Knights: Strehlke: Tabulae ordinis teutonicae. — Hennes: Codex diplomaticus ordinis S. Mariae Theutonicorum, 2 vols. Mainz, 1845-1861. — E. Hennig: Die Statuten des deutschen Ordens, Würzburg, 1866. — M. Perlbach: Die Statuten des Deutschordens, Halle, 1890. — Joh. Voigt: Geschichte des Deutschen Ritter-Ordens, 2 vols. Berlin, 1857-1859. — H. Prutz: Die Besitzungen des deutschen Ordens im heiligen Lande, Leipzig, 1877. — C. Herrlich: Die Balley Brandenburg, etc., Berlin, 1886. — C. Lempens: Geschichte d. Deutschen Ordens u. sr. Ordensländer Preussen u. Livland, 1904. — Ranke: Univ. Hist., VIII. 455-480. — Uhlhorn: Deutschorden, in Herzog, IV.

“And by the Holy Sepulchre

I’ve pledged my knightly sword

To Christ, His blessed church, and her,

The mother of our Lord.”

 — Whittier, Knights of St. John.

A product of the Crusades and their most important adjunct were the three great Military Orders, the Knights of St. John, the Knight Templars, and the Teutonic Knights. They combined monastic vows with the profession of arms. Their members were fighting monks and armed almoners. They constituted a standing army of Crusaders and were the vigilant guardians of Latin institutions in Palestine for nearly two centuries. The Templars and the Knights of St. John did valiant service on many a battle-field in Palestine and Asia Minor. In 1187 they shared in the disastrous defeat of the Christian forces at Tiberias. From that time their strength was concentrated at Acre. After the fall of Acre, 1291, the three orders retired to Europe, holding the Turks in check for two centuries longer in the South and extending civilization to the provinces on the Baltic in the North. They combined the element of romance, corresponding to the chivalric spirit of the age, with the element of philanthropy corresponding to its religious spirit.

These orders speedily attained to great popularity, wealth, and power. Kings did them honor. Pope after pope extended their authority and privileges. Their grand masters were recognized as among the chief personages of Christendom. But with wealth and popularity came pride and decay. The strength of the Knights of St. John and the Templars was also reduced by their rivalry which became the scandal of Europe, and broke out into open feuds and pitched battles as before Acre, 1241 to 1243 and in 1259. After the fall of Acre, which was ascribed in large part to their jealousy, Nicholas IV. sought to combine them. The Knights of St. John were predominantly a French order, the Teutonic Knights exclusively a German order. The Templars were ecumenical in their constituency.

I. The order of the Knights of St. John, or the Hospitallers, derived its name from the church of St. John the Baptist in Jerusalem. It seems to have grown out of a hospital in the city erected for the care of sick and destitute pilgrims. As early as the time of Charlemagne a hospital existed there. Before the year 1000 a cloister seems to have been founded by the Normans close by the church of the Holy Sepulchre known as St. Maria de Latina, with accommodations for the sick. About 1065 or 1070 a hospital was built by a merchant from Amalfi, Maurus. At the time of the capture of Jerusalem, Gerard stood at the head of one of these institutions. Gerard seems to have come from Southern France. He prescribed for his brotherhood a mantle of black with a white cross. Godfrey of Bouillon liberally endowed it and Baldwin further enriched it with one-tenth of the booty taken at the siege of Joppa. Gerard died in 1120 and was succeeded by Raymund du Puy, who gave the order great fame and presided over it for forty years.

The order increased with astonishing rapidity in numbers, influence, and wealth. Gifts were received from all parts of Europe, the givers being remembered in prayers offered up in Jerusalem. Raymund systematized the rules of the brotherhood and gave it a compact organization and in 1113 it gained papal sanction through Pascal II. At that time there were affiliated houses at St. Giles, Asti, Pisa, Otranto, and Tarentum. In 1122 Calixtus II. made the important announcement that those giving protection to pilgrims were entitled to the same reward as the pilgrims themselves and all who gave to the Hospital in the earthly Jerusalem, should receive the joys of the heavenly. Bull followed bull, granting the order privileges. Innocent III. exempted the members from excommunication at the hand of bishops and made the order amenable solely to the pope. Anastasius IV., 1154, gave them the right to build churches, chapels, and graveyards in any locality.

The military feature of the organization was developed after the philanthropic feature of nursing and caring for unfortunate pilgrims and it quickly became the dominant feature. Raymund du Puy makes a clear distinction in the order between cleric and lay brethren. Innocent II., 1130, speaks of its members as priests, knights, and lay brethren, the last taking no vows. In its perfected organization the order was divided into three classes, knights, chaplains, and serving brethren. The knights and chaplains were bound by the threefold pledge of charity, poverty, and obedience. The military brothers or knights formed the majority of the order and from them the officials were elected. The hospital work was not abandoned. In 1160 John of Wizburg states from personal observation that more than two thousand sick were cared for in the hospital of Jerusalem, and that in a single day forty deaths occurred. After the transfer of the order to Rhodes, the knights continued to carry on hospital work.

After Clement IV., 1267, the title of the chief official was “Grand master of the Hospital of Jerusalem and Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ.” The distinctive dress of the order was, after 1259, a red mantle with a white Maltese cross worn on the left breast that “God through this emblem might give faith and obedience and protect us and all our Christian benefactors from the power of the devil.” Its motto was pro fide, “for the faith.” The whole body was divided about 1320 into seven langues or provinces, Provence, France, Auvergne, Italy, Germany, Aragon, England. Castile was added in 1464. Affiliated houses in Europe and the East sent two-thirds of their income to Jerusalem. One of the interesting rules of the order was that the knights always went two and two and carried their own light with them.

After the fall of Acre, the Hospitallers established themselves on the island of Cyprus and in 1310 removed to the island of Rhodes, where massive walls and foundations continue to attest the labor expended upon their fortifications and other buildings. From Rhodes, as a base, they did honorable service.

Under the grand master La Valette, the Knights bravely defended Malta against the fleet of Suleymon the Magnificent until Europe felt the thrill of relief caused by the memorable defeat of the Turkish fleet by Don John at Lepanto, 1571. From that time the order continued to decay.

II. The Knight Templars before the fall of Acre had, if possible, a more splendid fame than the Knights of St. John; but the order had a singularly tragic ending in 1312, and was dissolved under moral charges of the most serious nature. From the beginning they were a military body. The order owes its origin to Hugo de Payens (or Payns) and Godfrey St. Omer, who entered Jerusalem riding on one horse, 1119. They were joined by six others who united with them in making a vow to the patriarch of Jerusalem to defend by force of arms pilgrims on their way from the coast to Jerusalem.

Baldwin II. gave the brotherhood quarters in his palace on Mount Moriah, near the site of Solomon’s temple, whence the name Templars is derived. Hugo appeared at the council of Troyes in 1128, and made such persuasive appeals at the courts of France, England, and Germany, that three hundred knights joined the order. St. Bernard wrote a famous tract in praise of the “new soldiery.” He says: “Never is an idle word, or useless deed, or immoderate laughter or murmur, if it be but in a whisper, among the Templars allowed to go unpunished. They take no pleasure in the absurd pastime of hawking. Draughts and dice they abhor. Ribald songs and stage plays they eschew as insane follies. They cut their hair close; they are begrimed with dirt and swarthy from the weight of their armor and the heat of the sun. They never dress gayly, and wash seldom. They strive to secure swift and strong horses, but not garnished with ornaments or decked with trappings, thinking of battle and victory, not of pomp and show. Such has God chosen to vigilantly guard the Holy Sepulchre.”

The order spread with great rapidity. Matthew Paris, no doubt, greatly exaggerates when he gives the number of their houses in the middle of the thirteenth century as nine thousand. Their annual revenues have been estimated as high as 54,000,000 francs. The order was divided into provinces, five of them in the east — Jerusalem, Tripolis, Antioch, Cyprus, and the Morea; and eleven in the west — France, Aquitaine, Provence, Aragon, Portugal, Lombardy, Hungary, England, Upper and Lower Germany, Sicily, and perhaps a twelfth, Bohemia. Popes, beginning with Honorius II., heaped favors upon them. They were relieved from paying taxes of all sorts. They might hold services twice a year in churches where the interdict was in force. Their goods were placed under the special protection of the Holy See. In 1163 Alexander III. granted them permission to have their own priests.

Like the Hospitallers, the Templars took the triple vow and, in addition, the vow of military service and were divided into three classes: the knights who were of noble birth, the men at arms or serving brethren (fratres servientes, armigeri), and chaplains who were directly amenable to the pope. The dress of the knights was a white mantle with a red cross, of the serving brethren a dark habit with a red cross. The knights cropped their hair short and allowed their beards to grow. They were limited to three horses, except the grand master who was allowed four, and were forbidden to hunt except the lion, the symbol of the devil, who goes about seeking whom he may devour. The order had for its motto “not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy name, O Lord, give the glory.” The members in cloister observed the regular conventual hours for prayer, and ate at a common table. If money was found in the effects of a deceased brother, his body was denied all prayer and funeral services and placed in unconsecrated ground like a slave. They were bidden to flee from the kisses of women and never to kiss a widow, virgin, mother, sister, or any other female. On account of their poverty, two ate from the same dish, but each had his own portion of wine to himself.

The head of the order was called Grand Master, was granted the rank of a prince, and included in the invitations to the ecumenical councils, as, for example, the Fourth Lateran and the second council of Lyons. The Master of the Temple in England was a baron with seat in Parliament.

The Templars took part in all the Crusades except the first and the crusade of Frederick II., from which they held aloof on account of the papal prohibition. Their discipline was conspicuous on the disastrous march of the French from Laodicea to Attalia and their valor at the battle of Hattim, before Gaza and on many other fields. The order degenerated with riches and success. To drink like a Templar, bibere templariter, became proverbial for fast living. Their seal, representing the two founders entering Jerusalem in poverty on one horse, early came to misrepresent their real possessions.

A famous passage in the history of Richard of England set forth the reputation the Templars had for pride. When Fulke of Neuilly was preaching the Third Crusade, he told Richard he had three daughters and called upon him to provide for them in marriage. The king exclaimed, “Liar, I have no daughters.” “Nay, thou hast three evil daughters, Pride, Lust, and Luxury,” was the priest’s reply. Turning to his courtiers, Richard retorted, “He bids me marry my three daughters. Well, so be it. To the Templars, I give my first-born, Pride, to the Cistercians my second-born, Lust, and to the prelates the third, Luxury.”

The order survived the fall of Acre less than twenty years. After finding a brief refuge in Cyprus the knights concentrated their strength in France, where the once famous organization was suppressed by the violent measures of Philip the Fair and Clement V. The story of the suppression belongs to the next period.

III. The order of the Teutonic Knights never gained the prominence in Palestine of the two older orders. During the first century of its existence, its members devoted themselves to the maintenance and care of hospitals on the field of battle. They seldom appeared until the historic mission of the order opened in the provinces of what is now northeastern Germany which were reduced to subjection and to a degree of civilization by its arms and humanizing efforts.

The order dates from 1190, when a hospital was erected in a tent under the walls of Acre by pilgrims from Bremen and Lübeck. Frederick of Swabia commended it, and Clement III. sanctioned it, 1191. It was made a military order in 1198 by a bull of Innocent III. and in 1221 Honorious III. conferred upon it the privileges enjoyed by the Hospitallers and Templars. The order was made up almost exclusively of German elements. The members took the triple vow. Their dress was a white mantle with a black cross. Women were affiliated with some of the hospitals, as at Bremen. The first possession of the order in Europe was a convent at Palermo, the gift of Henry VI., 1197. Its first hospital in Germany was St. Kunigunde, at Halle. Subsequently its hospitals extended from Bremen and Lübeck to Nürnberg and further south. Its territory was divided into bailiwicks, balleyen, of which there were twelve in Germany. The chief officer, called Grand Master, had the dignity of a prince of the empire.

Under Hermann von Salza (1210-1239), the fourth grand master, the order grew with great rapidity. Von Salza was a trusted adviser of Frederick II., and received the privilege of using the black eagle in the order’s banner. Following the invitation of the monk Christian and of Konrad of Morovia, 1226, to come to their relief against the Prussians, he diverted the attention and activity of the order from the Orient to this new sphere. The order had the promise of Culmland and half of its conquests for its assistance.

After the fall of Acre, the headquarters were transferred to Venice and in 1309 to Marienburg on the Vistula, where a splendid castle was erected. Henceforth the knights were occupied with the wild territories along the Baltic and southwards, whose populations were still in a semi-barbaric state. In the hour when the Templars were being suppressed, this order was enjoying its greatest prosperity. In 1237 it absorbed the Brothers of the Sword.

At one time the possessions of the Teutonic knights included fifty cities such as Culm, Marienburg, Thorn, and Königsberg, and lands with a population of two million. Its missionary labors are recorded in another chapter. With the rise of Poland began the shrinkage of the order, and in the battle of Tannenberg, 1410, its power was greatly shaken. In 1466 it gave up large blocks of territory to Poland, including Marienburg, and the grand master swore fealty to the Polish king. The order continued to hold Prussia and Sameland as fiefs. But the discipline had become loose, as was indicated by the popular saying, “Dressing and undressing, eating and drinking, and going to bed are the work the German knights do.” In 1511 the margrave, Albrecht of Brandenburg, was made grand master and refused to be a vassal of Poland. Following the counsel of Luther, he laid down the mantle and cross of the order, married 1523, and laid the foundation of the greatness of the duchy of Prussia, which he made hereditary in his family, the Hohenzollern. The black eagle passed to the Prussian coat of arms.