Friday, October 30, 2015

Counts of (West Frisian) Holland, the cursades and the Templars

Count Dirk VI of West-Friesland (Holland)
source
Proof seems to be missing of participation from Holland in de Crusades. This appears to be false.

Until about 1300 the former county Holland was still calles 'Frisia'. The name Holland dates back to 1101, and even then it was a limited area only. The counts of Holland were called the counts of West Friesland. About Frisians who participated in the Crusades, sufficient information is to be found in the sources. The Frisians were involved in many Crusades, both within Europe and to the Holy Land. Although it is not always easy to identify the Frisians as Frisians from the present Dutch region. Frisians lived in the coastal areas from northern France to far up in Northern Germany.

One of the many evidences for the involvement Frisians from the current Netherlands, can be found in the archives of the bishop of Utrecht. In 1218 Pope Honorius issued a call for help in the Crusades against the Cathars. This message reached the Utrecht bishop by the Archbishop of Keulen. An army of the Frisians which responded to this call, this was ambushed. A large number perished. Even long before the official call of Pope Urban II in 1095, the West Frisian Dutch count Dirk III (993-1039) had travelled as a pilgrim to the Holy Land. After him at the times of the crusades followed the counts Dirk VI (1121-1157) between 1138-1140, Floris III (1157-1190) in 1184 and between 1189-1190 (deceased of exhaustion in Antioch) and William I (1203-1222) between 1189-1194 and 1217-1219.

It is clear that the (West Frisian) Dutch counts were closely involved in the Crusades and could have been able to come into contact with the Knights Templar. Especially in the case of William I (1203-1222) it is obvious that he could have met the Templars. After all, he spent five year in the Holy Land. He was probably present at the siege of Akko in 1189-1191. Similarly, Count Otto I of Guelders and Zutphen, followed the court of the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1189 to the Holy Country. He participated in the conquest of Acre and returned in 1190 back to the West.

Unfortunately, we do not find proof of this in the oldest sources of the county Holland, the so-called `Annales Egmundenses`. In it the story is told of the siege of Ashkelon in 1153 and the part plaid in that siege by the Templars. Another interesting detail tells of the countess Sophia (1119-1176) who undertook several trips to the Holy Land accompanied by IJsbrand of Haarlem, a member of the most ancient nobility from Holland. Countess Sophia died Jerusalem in 1176 and was buried there in the "German hospital". That's weird, for at that time the Teutonic Order did not yet exist. This may have been the hospital of the predecessor of the German order the `Ordo fratrum hospitalis sancta Mariae Theutonicorum Ierosolimitanorum`, who, according to the Chronicle of Egmond, held a hospital until 1187. Another source, the Tielse chronicle, mentions that Countess Sophia was burried at the Templar hospital.

In any case, it is most probable that the West-Frisian Counts have been in contact with the Knights Templar at the time of the crusades.

This blog is an Engl;ish translation of part of a Dutch paper by Jean Roefstra in Militiae Christi, Volume 1, 2010

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