Monday, January 12, 2015

Contemporary views of the Knights Templar - Part 5 - quotes

French fresco from the Middle Ages shows Knights Templar
pursuing a fleeing enemy. Photograph: Alamy; source
What did medieval contemporaries think of military orders? Helen Nicholson investigates.
Quotes from a paper by Helen Nicholson, Published in History Today Volume: 44 Issue: 12 1994


"There were many other complaints against the military orders before 1300. Perhaps the most significant were the divided opinions over their record of fighting the Muslims (and other non-Christians). Many complained that they were not sufficiently enthusiastic about defending Christendom and winning back lost territory, while others complained that they were too eager to fight those who could be won to Christ by peaceful means...

Many accusations that the military orders were unwilling to attack the Muslims arose from a misunderstanding of the true situation in the Holy Land. The Templars were criticised for refusing to help the Third Crusade besiege Jerusalem in 1191-92, but the brothers believed that the city could not be held after the crusaders had returned home, and that the security of the holy places was better served by attacking Egypt...

Other critics felt that the military orders were too eager to fight. Thirteenth-century literature depicted the ideal knight as one who only fought when necessary. The military orders' self-sacrifice for Christ seemed rash and irrational. Some of the clergy believed that the orders' love of violence and domination impeded or prevented conversions. This accusation was made against the Templars in the 1180s by Walter Map, Archdeacon of Oxford, and against the Teutonic order by some unknown critics and around 1266-68 by Roger Bacon, an English Franciscan friar imprisoned in Paris for his unorthodox views...

The Templars had a special position in the defence of the Holy land. According to Jacquemart Giélée, the brothers claimed to be sole 'Defenders of the Holy Church'. They were depicted as principal defenders of the Holy Land by the Parisian poet Rutebuef in 1277, Templars were mentioned in chronicles and literature in general more than other military orders. They were invariably listed first whenever anyone thought about military orders. They had been the first military order, and were one of the richest and most far-flung. Yet this particular prominence also left them particularly vulnerable when they failed in their duty.

When the city of Acre finally fell to the Muslims in May 1291, several reports of the disaster depicted the Templars as chiefly responsible for the defence of the city. The chronicler of Erfurt, writing in the summer of 1291, depicted the Templars dying like true knights of Christ, fighting to the last. Thaddeo of Naples, a priest, praised the courage of the brothers of the military orders who died, and portrayed the death of the master of the Temple, William of Beaujeu, as the decisive blow which led to the loss of the Holy Land. For after Acre fell, the remaining Latin Christian possessions in the East surrendered to the Muslims..."

source

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