An open letter on the present day refugee situation posted on the OSMTH.org website

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On the OSMTH-org website the following message on the refugee situation was posted:

"1 September 2015, Jerusalem

Dear leaders of the world and people of good conscience,

I write to you from Jerusalem to address the very serious refugee situation affecting countries across the Middle East and now Europe. I myself am a refugee, as well as a bishop. Both my faith and my history oblige me to speak up for these women, men, and children who are washing up on beaches, are found decomposing in trucks on the highway, are crossing borders of barbed wire, and are barely surviving in makeshift camps. The last weeks have seen not only an increase in the numbers of these refugees, but also an increase in tragic outcomes for many. This is a shameful situation, and one which the international community cannot ignore. It must be remembered that refugees are not vacationers. They did not leave their homes because they were looking for adventure. They are displaced as a result of poverty, violence, terror, and political conflict. Frustration and fear lead them to risk their lives and their life-savings in search of safe havens where they can live and raise families in peace. We must remember that these are not “waves” or “masses” or “hordes”—these are human beings who deserve dignity and respect. As a refugee and as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, I have two messages for world leaders:
  1. I believe it is the responsibility of the world community, including the European Union, to have a clear policy to accept the stranger among us. “Welcoming the Stranger,” a set of affirmations from faith leaders developed in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is a good place to begin and a good model to follow. Most major religious traditions in the world advocate welcoming the stranger, showing hospitality to all. In Matthew 25 Jesus says the nations of the world will be judged by how they treat the poor, the hungry, the immigrant: “‘And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
  2. All political leaders are responsible for this current refugee crisis, either directly or indirectly. This is the result of a global system, not merely a local crisis. The international community has not helped solve the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Economic and political interests have taken priority over peacemaking and dialogue. Our region has become so chaotic that it opens the door to extremists and terrorists; our people are becoming desperate. The Middle East needs justice and peace, not only to end the flow of refugees, but so that displaced people can return to their homes in dignity, and live in free democratic states. My words may be strong. They may be direct. But this humanitarian crisis requires even stronger actions. These people, our brothers and sisters, are crying: “Who will welcome us? Where is justice?” God hears the cries of the poor, the oppressed, and the refugee. I pray that soon, political leaders and policy makers in the Global North will also hear their cries. This will begin when leaders approach refugee communities not merely as problems to be solved, but as fellow children of God deserving accompaniment, dignity, and human rights.
For this reason, I urge all world leaders and people of good conscience to act quickly, for the sake of the humanity we share.

Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land"


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Christian worship in the 13th and 14th century post-crusade Muslim Holy Land

The expulsion of the Crusaders from the Holy Land in 1291 did not end Arab relations with Western European Christians. Western monks, most notably the Franciscans, continued to live among the Muslims in the Holy Land. The nature of the relations of the Franciscans with the Mamluks serves as an interesting counterpoint to earlier Arab views on the Military Orders.

Changing Templar significance in Muslim eyes in the 12th century Holy Land

During the early phases of Nur al-Din's and Saladin's rise to power, the Military Orders were apparently not viewed as a special threat. In the latter half of the twelfth century Arab sources recognize the military orders as distinct groups among the Franks.

Spiritual devotion, the greatest threat of the Knights Templar

The muslim perspective of the intransigence of the Military Orders is best reflected in the writings of Abu al-Hasan Ali bin Abi Bakr al-Harawi (ca 1145-1215), a courtier, military theorist, and propagandist in the service of Saladin. A noted scholar and traveler, al-Harawi seems to have served as a type of secret agent for Saladin. As a part of ongoing military reforms, Saladin ordered the preparation of at least three manuals on statecraft and warfare, one of which was written by al-Harawi, entitled al-Harawi's Discussion on the Strategems of War.

Christian monastic presence and influence in the pre-crusade Muslim world

Since the earliest days of Islam, christian monasticism was a protected institution of a protected religious minority. This protected status of Christianity and monasticism in early Islamic society is emphasized by the important roles some Christians played under islamic rule.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Templar predecessor?

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (Latin: Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani, OESSH), also known as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, is a Roman Catholic papal order of knighthood, which was founded as the Order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre. It traces its roots to Duke Godfrey of Bouillon, "Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre", leader of the First Crusade and first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was recognised in 1113 by a Papal Bull by Pope Paschal II.

The Knights Templar in Arab sources of the 12th century

In the period 1118-1156, the Military Orders played a relatively minor role in the Holy Land. In fact, they are not well documented even in Latin sources. Among the Arabs their existence went completely unnoticed. In 1157 the rising importance of the Orders began to attract the attention of Muslim writers. 

Lessons in Crusader cuisine

"The “window” of the Apollonia Fortress’ (Israel)  dungeon affords a view of the kind of Mediterranean scene that is fast disappearing: gravel cliffs sloping sharply down to turquoise and pale green inlets, grouper fish darting around a reef, clearly visible in the transparent water, and one man sunbathing on the rocks, completely naked. (...) Crusader nobles awakened to this vista every morning, peering out at the European ships that anchored across from the port and the boats that made their way back and forth to fill the city’s storerooms with precious goods.
Apollonia’s natural harbor never developed into a port as large as Acre, where dozens of ships would anchor in the 13th century, to be loaded with locally- produced sugar bound for Europe. But the ruins of Apollonia are enough to make one see that the constant movement of people, raw materials and cooking techniques was already occurring hundreds of years before the word “globalization” became part of the modern vocabulary.

Sugar cane, lemons, oranges, eggplant, bananas, rice and other agricultural products originally cultivated in the Far East were adopted by Western civilization via the Middle East. The legends that grew up around the West’s first encounters with these unfamiliar foods and the way they spread throughout Europe were largely connected to the Crusades and the knights who flooded the Middle East with blood on their way to the Holy Land. They hungrily gorged themselves on sugary sweets and almonds, it’s said, and brought these treats back with them to their native countries.

But the historic truth, as usual, is a bit more complex, since most of the knights who settled in the Crusader kingdom never returned to Europe. Today it is widely believed that the reconquest of Spain and Sicily from the Muslim Empire, rather than the Crusades, introduced the foods and flavors of classic Arabic cuisine into the lands of the Mediterranean and then to Western Europe.

Whatever the case, the West’s encounter in the Middle Ages with Arabic cuisine, which in many respects was more advanced than Western cooking of the time, was a source of great excitement among the Crusaders. (...)

In the Middle Ages (...) food defined a person’s identity and status in the world. This is true to a great extent today as well, but it was even truer when people believed that the nobleman’s physical build required him to eat the dainty flesh of fish, fragile, high-flying birds, and roast game. A peasant whose body was not designed to digest such foods and nevertheless sampled them, was liable to take sick, according to popular belief at the time, and so he was supposed to make do with simple, crude vegetables that grew close to the ground. Once in a while, the poor would season their bean and root vegetable stew with a paltry bit of fat from an animal’s less desirable parts.

Meanwhile, the upper middle class ate hardly any vegetables. And as for carbohydrates, white bread made from wheat was food for lords only. In Europe, the peasants ate black bread made from rye or oats, and delivered any wheat, a much rarer commodity, to whoever was above them in the social hierarchy. Thus, the Crusaders were quite surprised to find that in the Holy Land, everyone ate white bread and pita made of wheat.

In Europe, cooking employed mainly animal fat, usually lard, and food was so greasy that bumps were carved in bowls to keep it from slipping out of people’s hands. In the Middle East, the main sources of fat were olive oil and sesame oil.

Another surprise was the abundance of available spices and the broad use of herbs. In medieval Europe, food was seasoned primarily with black pepper and a little salt, which was also used to preserve, smoke and dry foods. In Arab cuisine, by comparison, seasoning was considered a real art. Extensive use was made of spices such as ginger, saffron, cinnamon and cloves, which the Arab traders brought from the spice lands of the East, and of seasonings produced from indigenous herbs.

The Crusaders appear to have internalized the principles of seasoning so well that if you tried to follow Crusader recipes exactly as written, you’d end up with dishes quite unappetizing to the modern palate. Seasoning in Crusader times was not just meant to improve the taste of the food, but had a host of other purposes as well. For one thing, it was a status symbol that reflected a person’s ability to purchase expensive spices from faraway markets. And the various colors that spices gave to food had mystical meanings – for example, the golden hue produced by yellow saffron was an allusion to the possibility of eternal life. The spices also had medicinal purposes.

But most often, the heavy seasoning was intended to cover up the awful taste and quality of the raw ingredients. At a time when there was no refrigeration, the meat was frequently in a bad state. Such dubious meat, buried under layers of spices to hide its flavor, gave the central bazaar that served the Crusaders in Jerusalem its name – the Rue de Malquisinat (“The Street of Bad Cooking”)."

This blog quotes freely from the paper "Lessons in Crusader cuisine" by Luis Matos, published in The Templar Globe. First illustration Apollonia Fortress (Israel), source. Second illustration and quotes from the paper "Lessons in Crusader cuisine" by Luis Matos, published in The Templar Globe.

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Muslim protection of Christian monasticism before the Crusades

Although pre-Islamic arabia is often viewed, with some justification, as somewhat of a cultural backwater, the Arabs nonetheless had extensive contacts with both the Sassanid Persian and Byzantine empires.

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

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. 

Saint Francis of Assisi, early missionary to the Muslim world

Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, was born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182. He died there on 3 October, 1226. Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis say that he had a great love for animals and the environment. Therefore October 4, Saint Francis' feast day, is celebrated as World Animal Day. Less known is that Francis visited Egypt and attempted rapprochement with the Muslim world. 

Templar Houses and local society in Britain

"This article has set out a small selection of the evidence surviving in the records of the ‘Templar’s affair’ in the British Isles that may deepen scholars’ knowledge of the Templars’ relations with society at large.

It appears that at least some Templar houses were integrated into their locality, with travellers passing through the house on a regular basis, lodging there or visiting the chapel. Many local people were employed by a Templar commandery, on a full-time basis all year round or on a part-time seasonal basis. In addition, through the provision of corrodies and charitable giving, a Templar house could be a significant local provider of care to the elderly or needy. The evidence set out here indicates that the level of provision varied from house to house, and that some houses were more significant to their locality than others.

However, as this article has barely scratched the surface of the surviving evidence, there is great potential for further research in this area(....) The documents relating to the investigations into the Templars in the British Isles between 1308 and 1312 contain many examples of contact between the brothers and their local communities which, taken together, suggest that the relationship between the order’s houses and their localities could be close, even though this relationship might infringe the letter of the order’s privileges and regulations."

This blog quotes from the text of a paper by Helen J. Nicholson published in Knighthoods of Christ: Essays on the History of the Crusades and the Knights Templar Presented to Malcolm Barber, ed. Norman Housley (Aldershot etc.: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 195-207. Published article Copyright © 2007; this edition © 2015; Illustration adapted from this source

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Eastern influence in pre-crusade southern France

Southern France has, long before the start of the Crusades at the end of the 11th Century, been a gateway to the Orient.

"In all the territory once belonging to Provincia Narbonensis, including Toulouse and a part of Guyenne, Roman influence is strong, but there is also a second influence, the influence of the East. The Mediterranean brought the whole coast from Nice to Perpignan and the country behind it into close connexion with half-Eastern Spain and even with Africa and the commercial cities of Asia Minor. The sea might be stormy, but it was safer than the highways of France. As early as the time of Charlemagne the coast towns had relations with the Bagdad of Haroun-el-Raschid, with Byzantium, Egypt, and Syria, and imported purple stuffs, spices, Indian pearls, Egyptian papyrus, and even monkeys and elephants.

Benjamin of Tudela, writing in 1160, describes Montpellier as a very good city for commerce to which Christians and Mohammedans come from all quarters to trade, so that its streets are thronged with Arabs of North Africa, merchants of Syria, Lombardy, Rome, Genoa, Pisa, and England.

Even when Southern France found herself in conflict with an Eastern people, as she did in 1018 when a Crusade was undertaken against the Moors, conquest only preceded assimilation. The leaders of the army gained great riches, and stayed to lead an Oriental life in Moorish palaces. A Jewish merchant has left a story of waiting upon one of these French leaders in his palace at Barbastro, and finding him in Eastern garments seated upon a divan, surrounded by evidences of his riches, while a tearful Arab girl played the lute and sang songs in a language that he could not understand.

Thus the Eastern element was important in the development of the life of the south-western cities in particular. Indeed, the foundation of Montpellier itself is traditionally ascribed to fugitives from the Saracen city of Maguelone, destroyed by Charles Martel in 737. From its considerable Arabic and Jewish population may be derived the tradition of medical knowledge, which in the twelfth century made Montpellier second only to Salerno as a University of Medicine. Another sign of Eastern influence is the Oriental character of the architecture of Périgord, as Eastern as that of St. Marks at Venice. Saint Front de Périgueux, built after 1120, shows the classical single nave, without divisions or side chapels, surmounted by a characteristically Eastern series of cupolas."

This blog quotes from Joan Evans "Life in Medieval France" (Phaidon Press Ltd London, 1969, p 4-5:  Illustration: La cathédrale Saint-Front, Périgueux, source

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"Just warfare" and the rise of the military religious orders in the 12th century

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In an ideological sense, the growth of the military orders was fostered by a theological shift in attitude of the Church towards just warfare. Prior to the First Crusade, the Peace of God movement had developed a policy within the Church that knights should be restricted from fighting among themselves and instead put their energies into fighting for the Church. Prior to this, the knightly class had been in almost a constant state of civil war amongst themselves and with the Church.

At the Council of Clermont in 1095, Pope Urban II advocated for the service of secular knights for the church by declaring that “you have promised more firmly than ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights of the church, there remains still an important work for you to do.” By deliberately trying to encourage secular knights to fight for God in the Crusades, the Church created an acceptable form of warfare within Christian ideology.

While Urban was not encouraging monks to go on Crusade, the military orders could not have existed without the ideology behind his speech because of Christianity’s traditional pacifism. The key element to this new ideology was the idea of miles Christi. The term miles Christi was essential to the ideology of the military orders and is critical in understanding their rise to power. Coming into use through the writings of St Augustine and literally meaning “soldier of Christ,” it reflects the duty of a Christian knight to protect Christendom from outside evils. As the monk fought the spiritual enemies of the Church from within his monastery, the soldier of Christ fought Christianity’s physical enemies. Instead of committing the sin of murder, the traditional Christian view of warfare, a miles Christi was actually doing penance for his sins.

The Hospitallers and the Templars fought Islam in the Holy Land and the Teutonic Knight was hugely instrumental in fighting paganism in eastern Europe. The knights of the military orders were by definition miles Christi and their development and rise to power would not have been possible without the widespread acceptance of this idea.

To the Church, the military orders provided the perfect outlet for the knightly class even when there was no official crusade being promoted. Therefore, the Church was more than willing to support them and allow their power to grow both in the Holy Land and in Europe. As the dominant European ideology, the Church’s changing theology played a large role in the growth of the military orders, and was aided most directly by the theological support of St. Bernard.

This blog quotes form a publication based on a 2014 paper by Sarah E. Hayes in the Gettysburg Historical Journal, www.medievalists.net; Illustration Templar and Hospitaller Knights, source

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The Knights Templar and the Ismaili Assassins linked?

Historians point out repeatedly analogies linking the Shia Ismaili to the Templars: both orders used initiation and were military and held the title of "Guardian of the Holy Land". What are the facts?

Clairvaux Abbey - 900 years in 3D animation

Watch de video here
The abbey of Clairvaux (today at the commune of Ville-sous-La-Ferté, in the Aube Department, France), the third daughter of the Cistercian abbey of Cîteaux, was founded in the summer of 1115 by Bernard de Fontaine, the later Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). It was set on the fringes of the duchy of Burgundy, the county of Champagne and the bishopric of Langres, along the Roman road linking Milan to Boulogne-sur-Mer, 15 km from Bar-sur-Aube. Under this first abbatiate, the monastery was to have an extraordinary influence in the whole of the medieval West, to such an extent that Clairvaux had 339 direct and indirect daughters in 1250. 
 
Although the total number of monks who lived in Clairvaux at its peak is unknown, it is certain that 888 passed through the abbey in the first forty years of its existence. This influence was reflected in successive reconstructions of ever more imposing buildings. 
 
Although the architectural changes were permanent, Clairvaux Abbey went through three main stages: 
  1. a first stage corresponding to the construction of the Monasterium vetus, i.e. the first monastery to be built in the Petit Clairvaux enclosure, which was in operation between 1115 and 1135, destroyed in 1812, and whose general state is known only from an 18th century engraving,
  2. a second stage of construction of a new monastery, begun in 1135 to cope with the influx of monks, in the Grand Clairvaux enclosure. The abbey church, perhaps initially with a flat chevet, was endowed with a large choir with an ambulatory after 1153, 
  3. a third stage which corresponds to a total reconstruction of the monastery throughout the 18th century, with the exception of the abbey church. It is the buildings of this last phase that remain today for the most part. 
The French Revolution dispersed the monks and the abbey was sold as national property on 10 February 1792. The State acquired it in 1808 in order to install the largest French prison of the 19th century (common law and political prisoners). In 1971, the 18th century the Grand Cloister was disused and the prisoners were transferred to the new prison, built within the walls, partly on the foundations of the 12th century abbey church (destroyed in 1812). Today, the Clairvaux site is still controlled by the Ministries of Justice and Culture and access to it remains restricted.

Text translated and adapted from this source. Illustration early Clairvaux Abbey in 1115, a still from the video.
 
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Knights Templar and martyrdom: the most original form of Christian sanctity

In battle, martyrdom "for the good cause" is and has always been present. As it was in the ranks of the Knights Templar. In their case, "martyrdom" had both a religious and a temporal value.

Knights Templar stables at Jerusalem not built by Solomon but by Herod

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In the eighteenth year of his reign (20–19 BCE), king Herod the Great (74/73 BCE – 4 BCE) rebuilt the Second Temple in Jerusalem on "a more magnificent scale".The new Temple was finished in a year and a half, although work on out-buildings and courts continued another eighty years.

To comply with religious law, Herod employed a thousand priests as masons and carpenters for the rebuilding. The finished temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, is often referred to as Herod's Temple. The Wailing Wall (Western Wall) in Jerusalem was for many years the only section visible of the four retaining walls whose construction was begun by Herod to create a flat platform (the Temple Mount) upon which his Temple was constructed. Recent findings suggest that the Temple Mount walls and Robson's Arch may not have been completed until at least 20 years after his death during the reign of Herod Agrippa II. (source of this paragraph: Wikipedia)

"When Herod built the Temple Mount courtyard he made it 485 m long and 315 m wide. The courtyard sloped southwards, and the southern part of the plat-form therefore had to be raised to keep the surface level. Herod filled in only the lower part of the space between the retaining wall and the natural slope, and built the remaining space, to the top of the platform, in the form of vaults, with their ceilings supported by pillars. The south-east corner of the Temple Mount, which had a retaining wall 48 m high, was filled with rubble and soil to a height of 32 m; over this filling was a hall, its roof forming the pavement of the courtyard, and above this rose the upper wall.

The walls of the Temple Mount were 5 m thick and consisted of enormous ashlar blocks weighing up to 150 tons. This formidable structure made the Temple into a mighty fortress, unequaled in the architecture of antiquity. Josephus writes (Antiquities XV, ): ". . . which wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man". The southern wall had a height equal to that of a modern fifteen-story building.

Herod constructed two halls with an area of 500 sq. m, the ceilings supported by eighty-eight pillars in twelve parallel rows with thirteen aisles between them, thus raising the level of the courtyard by 12 m. The arches were 9-10 m high, the length of the halls from east to west was 83 m and the width, from north to south, 60 m. There were additional structures which changed the shape of the halls somewhat.

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The pillars consisted of large, square blocks, over 1 m high; and each pillar was 1.2 m thick. At the bases of the pillars were rings for tethering horses. The Single Gate, now walled up, can be seen at the southern end of the sixth row of pillars, from the east, and the Triple Gate is at the south end of the twelfth row; it is clearly visible from outside the wall. Tunnels and aqueducts were found underneath the Double and Triple Gates, and a drain ran under the halls.

During the Second Temple period these halls were entered by the Huldah Gates, and stairs led to the upper level of the Temple courtyard. When the Crusaders took Jerusalem they identified the halls of pillars as the stables of King Solomon, as did Nasir i-Khosrau and other Moslems.

The Crusaders used the halls to stable the horses of the Knights Templar, whose headquarters were in the El Aksa Mosque. The Crusaders entered their stables through the Triple and Single Gates (both now walled up), which they rebuilt.
 
(from Menashe Har-El, This is Jerusalem, Canaan Publishing House, PO Box 7645, Jerusalem 1977)"

Upper illustration and quoted text from Solomon's Stables and the Southern Gates by Tuvia Sagiv.

See many more illustrations on former and present day architecture of Temple walls, ancient Jerusalem and Herod's Temple here.

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Cistercian Clairvaux Abbey - 900 years


"The event "Clairvaux 2015" is to celebrate the 900 years of this jewel of European memory. A young monk of 25 years of age, Bernard de Fontaine went to make his abbey a model, copied throughout Europe.

Clairvaux, which was to have 339 daughter abbeys, was as much an architectural model with its ribbed vaults as well as an economic and spiritual model. It is this authentic Cistercian adventure that is told by the exhibition-event organized by the Department at the Hotel-Dieu with more than 150 works and rare items on the history of Clairvaux Abbey.

Co-organized by the County Council, the Renaissance Association Abbey and the Ministry of Culture, this "Clairvaux 2015" event celebrates an abbey finally refound, after a decade of major restorations. And it hides another birthday, that of thirty years of the opening of the abbey to the public: "It was not until 1985, said Jean-François Leroux, that for the first time in eight centuries, people who were neither monks nor detainees were able to enter Clairvaux."

Neither sculpture nor painting or stained glass. Only the architecture, with its ribbed vaults illuminates this pure Abbey of silence. A symbol that evokes the spiritual success of Clairvaux. But this success was primarily economic. Like the Templars with their Commanderies, the Cistercians relied on a network of barns located at up to 44 agricultural and industrial operation centers. Despite the Hundred Years War and the Black Death, the small business prospered. In the fourteenth century, Clairvaux and his nine hundred monks manage 25,000 hectares of land, 15,000 hectares of forests, 230 ha of vineyards, 133 houses and 43 mills, not forgetting the forges and salt and iron mines."

Illustrations and text (translated and slightly adapted) from this French brochure on the Clairvaux 2015 Event. 

Watch on Youtube this great 3D animated movie that tracks the evolution of this famous Cistercian abbey through time.

Toledo, Spain: medieval bridge between ancient, classical, arab and western knowledge

The Toledo School of Translators is the group of scholars who worked together in the city of Toledo during the 12th and 13th centuries, to translate many of the philosophical and scientific works from classical Arabic, classical Greek, and ancient Hebrew, thus forming an important bridge between the Near East and Europe. The School went through two distinct periods separated by a transitional phase. 

The Knights Templar and "Solomon's Stables"

The Knights Templar are said to have been using Solomon's Stables, vaults below the Temple Mount at Jerusalem. These "Stables" were in fact vaulted cellars built by Herod the Great, meant to support the huge platform of the Temple Mount when he enlarged and remade the second temple in the 1st century BC. Some details.

Sufism in muslim religious trends during the Middle Ages

The contradictory trends in Islamic civilization - social strife and political divisions versus expanding trading links and intellectual creativity - were strongly reflected in divergent trends in religious development in the later centuries of the caliphate. Trends that were influenced by and in turn influenced medieval Christian Europe.

Development of the trade system in the 10th to 12th century

For a better understanding of the origin of the Medieval military Orders in general and the Knights Templar in particular, it is necessary to understand the trade system in the 10th to 12th century.

The Middle Ages: Brilliant instead of Dark

There is no period in history more misunderstood than the Middle Ages. Providence College Professor of English, Anthony Esolen, vividly demonstrates why the "Dark Ages" would be better described as the "Brilliant Ages."

Clairvaux Abbey, major site for Cistercians and Knights Templar - 900th anniversary

The Cistercian Abbey of Clairvaux was the home of Saint Bernard of Crairvaux, founder of this Cistercian Abbey and spiritual supporter of the Knigths Templar during their early years.

Included on the calendar of national commemorations in 2015 of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the 900th anniversary of the Abbey of Clairvaux was elected cultural theme of 2015 by the General Council of the Aube Department, France

Conducted in partnership with the state and the Renaissance association Clairvaux, "Operation Clairvaux 2015" invited to visit the heart of the Cistercian adventure:
  • opening of a new visiting track at the Abbey of Clairvaux as from June, with in particular the of the monks' refectory newly restored by the State; exhibition-event at Troyes: Clairvaux, the Cistercian adventure (early June / mid-November), conducted by the General Council of Aube Department. First exhibition of this scale on the monastic, political, economic, artistic and intellectual life of Clairvaux, during the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Presentation of over 150 original documents, manuscripts and unpublished collected from all over Europe. Reconstruction of the abbey in 3D;
  • publications (BD, catalog), putting  on line the Abbey kept at the departmental archives of the Aube and at the library of the Grand Troyes (library of 1472, classified Memory of the World by UNESCO);
  • series of manifestations across the Aube Department and beyond (concerts, conferences, seminars, shows, etc.). Find the whole program here.
Many actions allowing to discover much more of the exceptional history and heritage of this abbey founded in 1115 by St. Bernard. It shone in Cistercian Europe, before becoming the largest prison in France in the nineteenth century.

source of text (translated from French to English and slightly corrected). Illustration source www.thegoodlifefrance.com

Modern Knights Templar in Côte d’Or Region, NE France

More than eight hundred years after the execution of Jacques de Molay (Last Master of the Knights Templar), the Templars leave the shadows. A report on this discreet society between Burgundy and Franche-Comté (North-Eastern France).

Knights Templar and Switserland

Twin Castle Valere and Tourbillion in Sion Switzerland
"The current Knights Templar Headquarters are in Geneva.  This country befits and holds similar many of the most common and closely guarded values of the original Knights Templar.

The oldest abbey established in Switzerland is Sion, in the Valais Canton. There is a twin peaks overlooking the town, meaning new Jerusalem or holy place in the Alps.  The twin mountains house the cathedral of Sion and the Castle Tourbillion.  These date back to the beginning times of Swiss Confederation formation around 1291.  A time when the Templars were known to be looking to establish a European mainland stronghold outside of the Holy Land as they were being pushed out of the Levant by the Muslims and the Christians had lost their stomach to fight on any longer.

These are suggestions that certain historians and conspiracists alike deem to be true that suggest that the Knights Templar did in fact form Switzerland.  The evidence and likelihood seem pretty plausible to me. The county of Valais in the city of Sion has a particular Templar tie in the founding history. Rumors have always floated that this is where the Templars originally set up shop after their flight from France.
  • In the history of the first Swiss Cantons there are tales of white coated knights mysteriously appearing and helping the locals to gain their independence against foreign domination.
  • The founding of the early Switzerland pinpoints exactly to the period when the Templars were being persecuted in France by King Philip IV of France.
  • Switzerland is directly to the east of France and would have been particularly easy for fleeing Templar brothers from the whole region of France to get to.
  • The Templars were one of the earliest known banking systems in early day Europe. King Phillip in fact was deeply in debt to the Templars.
  • Not only were the Templars big into banking, but also in farming, engineering, and clock making (of an early type). These same aspects can be seen as importance to the commencement and gradual forming of the separate states that would eventually be Switzerland.
  • The Swiss don’t really know the ins and outs of their earliest history (or suggest that they don’t.)
  • They are famous for being secretive and independent as were the Templars.
  • The famous Templar Cross is incorporated into the flags of many of the Swiss Cantons. As are other emblems, such as keys and lambs, that were particularly important to the Knights Templar.
  • The Swiss were and are famous for their religious tolerance – and so were the Templars"

Text and illustrations from 9thtemplar.wordpress.com. The top illustration shows Twin Castle Valere and Tourbillion
in Sion Switzerland. The bottom one
Castle Chateau Valere Sion Switzerland.

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Contemporary criticism on Templar fighting

"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).

Contemporary views on Templar privileges

"But the Templars and the Hospitallers caused particular annoyance because their houses were so widely scattered. Their legal privileges were especially resented.