Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Temple Order's original aims

In this book "The New Knighthood - a history of the Order of the Temple" (order left) Malcom Barber explores the original aim of the Knights Templar.The following contribution is based on quotes from this book

"Chronicler William Archbishop of Tyre (died c. 1186) says: 'Under the year 1118, certain noble men of knightly order, devoted to God, pious and God-fearing’, the two most important of whom were Hugh of Payns (in Champagne, France) and Godfrey of Saint-Omer (in Picardy, France), took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience at the hands of Warmund of Picquigny, Patriarch of Jerusalem. They promised to devote themselves to God’s service in the manner of regular canons. In return the King gave them a base in his palace, to the south side of the Temple of the Lord, which was the name given by the Franks to the Dome of the Rock.
At this time the king was resident in the al-Aqsa mosque at the southern end of the Haram al-Sharif or Temple platform in Jerusalem, for the crusaders believed this to be the site of Solomon’s Temple and therefore an appropriate dwetling for the king. In addition the canons of the Temple of the Lord gave them a square near the al-Aqsa mosque where they could follow the monastic offices. A number of benefices were granted to them by the king and his nobles and the patriarch and other prelates, the income from which was intended to feed and clothe them.

The distinctive feature of this fraternity, however, was the duty ‘enjoined on them by the lord patriarch and the other bishops for the remission of their sins’, which was that ‘they should maintain, as far as they could, the roads and highways against the ambushes of thieves and attackers, especially in regard to the safety of pilgrims’.

Old town Jerusalem, with Temple mount
at the right bottom corner  source,
including explanation of lettre codes
It seems that at first the knights intended simply to adopt a penitential way of life as a kind of lay
confraternity, and that later a more active role was suggested to them. Chronicler Michael the Syrian, the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch (died 1199) says that it was the king, a man acutely aware of the deficiencies of the military establishment, who persuaded Hugh of Payns and thirty companions ‘to serve in the knighthood, with those attached to him, rather than becoming a monk, in order to work to save his only soul, and to guard these places against robbers’.

While it seems certain that the Templars influenced the Hospitallers to take on a military role during the 1130s, it is equally likely that initially the Hospital, which Order was established prior to the Templars, provided Hugh of Payns and Godfrey of Saint-Omer with an effective example of what could be done to help pilgrims.

Certainly the creation of a permanent guard for pilgrim travellers must have seemed to both king and patriarch an ideal complement to the activities of the Hospitallers, who provided shelter and medical care for pilgrims and had been formed as an annex to the monastery of Santa Maria Latinain about 1080. After the Frankish conquest in 1099 they quickly gained royal favour, grants of property and, in 1113, papal recognition."

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