Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 18, 2017, the 703rd anniversary death of Jacques de Molay

On March 18, 2017 we commemorated the 703rd anniversary of the death of the last official Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. De Molay, born in 1244 was put to death in Paris by the King of France on 18 March 1314. He was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the Order from 20 April 1292 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1307.

Though little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his last years as Grand Master, he is the best known Templar, along with the Order's founder and first Grand Master, Hugues de Payens (1070–1136). Jacques de Molay's goal as Grand Master was to reform the Order, and adjust it to the situation in the Holy Land during the waning days of the Crusades.

Death-site plaque of Jaques de Molay on Isle des Juifs, Paris
As European support for the Crusades had dwindled, other forces were at work which sought to disband the Order and claim the wealth of the Templars as their own. King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, had De Molay and many other French Templars arrested in 1307 and tortured into making false confessions. When de Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him executed by burning upon a scaffold on the Paris Ile des Juifs in the River Seine on 18 March 1314.

source text and illustrations


Some pictures from the Chapitre des Commanderies de l'Ile de France, December 2016, OSMTH France as published on the OSMTH-France website


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Financing the Crusades - loans and gifts

"(It were) loans by which crusaders perhaps most commonly financed their journeys. They borrowed from kings and princes, from monasteries and bishops, from lay lords and merchants, from whoever had money to lend.

The terms of the loans vary. Some were interest-free, like the 70,000 livres of Tours lord Edward of England (the future king Edward I) borrowed from Louis IX in 1269. A recognized form, however, gave the lender the use of the pledged land for a period of years, the income comprising his repayment. Under this vif gage the lender took a certain amount of risk. The more common form of loan, consequently, was the mort gage, which provided for the lender to have the usufruct of the land as interest, the borrower to repay the principal, usually before he got his property back. From the patristic period on, the church had condemned the taking of interest on money loans as usury.

The vif gage was not held to be usurious, since the lender was expected to regain essentially the principal of his loan. The papacy permitted clerical crusaders to pledge their benefices under these terms. Mortgages, on the other hand, fell under the condemnation of pope Eugenius III, and under Alexander III the papacy undertook to enforce its laws against usury. Law-abiding clergy, especially the monasteries, which had found mortgages profitable investments, gave up the business,but other Christians continued to ignore or evade the prohibition of usury. The merchants of southern France and, above all, of Italy were commonly known as moneylenders. ...

Finally, family and friends must often have aided the crusaders. The nature of the transactions did not require written documents to record them, and few examples can be cited. John, lord of Joinville, in describing his departure on the crusade, tells of a gift of "a great quantity of fair jewels to myself and the nine knights I had with me" made by the abbot of Saint Urbain. The kings of England from Henry II to Henry III made considerable gifts to various crusaders.

Again, the social dimension of the crusades is apparent. Although the crusaders took their vows as individuals and were individually responsible for fulfilling them, the crusades were corporate, or at least collective, enterprises. As crusaders joined together to fight under the leadership of feudal lords, communal officers, national sovereigns, and the church, so they also organized their finances, thus transcending the individual."

Blog quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe  (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th Century. Illustration from

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Financing the Crusades - saving and selling

"How could the individual crusader finance his journey? He might look first to his current income, but it will be shown later in this chapter that few crusaders had sufficient cash income both to pay their obligations at home and to support themselves decently on a crusade. If one was wealthy enough to support himself from current income, then he had to arrange to resupply himself with money as he needed it. The Holy Land lay beyond a long and dangerous passage by land or sea, and the receipt of money from home was correspondingly uncertain. ... From the middle of the twelfth century, it is true, the Templars provided facilities for the transfer of crusaders' funds, and merchants came to provide similar services by lending money in the east to be repaid in the west. ...

Many crusaders, however, may have hoped to support themselves with plunder....On the First Crusade the booty of the Moslem armies defeated at Dorylaeum and at Antioch, as well as the tribute and ransom of those who had the misfortune to dwell in the path of the crusaders from Antioch to Jerusalem, all enriched the Christians. Stephen of Blois wrote home from Antioch that he had more silver and gold than when he left France. ... it has been suggested that count Robert II of Flanders may have financed his participation in the First Crusade from his treasury. Stephen of Blois went on two crusades without paying any heed to his financial arrangements, and he may have had sufficient savings....

A large expenditure, such as a crusade, had to be made from his capital, whether chattels or lands. From the First Crusade to the last the alienation of property by crusaders reveals the failure of booty, current income, and savings to support their expeditions.... For the First Crusade Godfrey of Bouillon sold his county of Verdun and other lands to bishop Richer, while for the Crusade of 1101 viscount Odo Arpin of Bourges sold his city and county to king Philip I of France. ...

Crusaders preferred not to sell their property outright. Count John of Macon sold his fief subject to the provision of a life pension for himself and his wife Alix. A lesser English crusader made a gift of land to a religious house in return for which the canons promised to make regular payments to his wife while he was gone on the crusade. For the First Crusade duke Godfrey of Lower Lorraine sold his castle of Bouillon to bishop Otbert of Liege for 1,500 pounds with the right to redeem it if he returned, and duke Robert II of Normandy pawned his duchy to his brother king William Rufus of England for 10,000 marks which William took from the churchmen of England.

Quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe  (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th century. Illustration: Hoard of gold coins from Apollonia Castle, Israel, from this source