When were the Orders of Hospitallers and Templars born? What was their original purpose and how did this develop. Medievalist Alain Demurger elaborates on the role of the soldiers of the Holy Land and their presence among the Crusaders, the Franks, the Christians of Outre Mer (the Orient) and the Muslims.
The first crusaders arrived in the Holy Land at the end of the eleventh century. What did they find there?
Alain Demurger: A mosaic of peoples: Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Muslims divided between Shiites and Sunnites, and Christians, the majority, among whom the Crusaders found support. Although, initially, these oriental Christians were considered heretics by Rome.
The purpose of the First Crusade was the liberation of the Holy City. But once there, the Franks organized the construction of manors following the Western model, and founded four local Latin states:the kingdom of Jerusalem, of which Baldwin of Boulogne, the brother of Godfrey of Boulogne (or Bouillon), eventually proclaimed himself king, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Edessa in the interior, and that of Tripoli, between Antioch and Jerusalem. The creation of these states has paved the way for fifty years of immigration of the Franks. These were integrated into the population mosaic, and their descendants, who were called "poulains", gave rise to large baronies.
There quickly developed differences between these "poulains" and new crusaders that arrived later. The Franks of Outre Mer got to know the environment, making negotiations and truces. They had no fallback and little choice but to enroll in time, and even make compromises with the inhabitant Muslims. Not withstanding that, the Crusaders had originally made the voyage to fight, and die quickly in Jerusalem, or afterwards go back home. Also, the Franks of Outre Mer were regularly accused of treason and resistance by the Crusaders.
The military religious orders were a bit in between. They did establish themselves (a decade after the conquest of Jerusalem, TN) in the regio, but their members were constantly renewed from the West.
This blog is a translation from French to English of a part of the webarticle "Les Templiers, moines et soldats" from www.pelerin.com. The illustration depicts the plan of the Coulommiers Commandery, source Wikimedia.