Financing the Crusades - the "lesser men"

"The communal organization of the "lesser men", the middle classes, revealed itself in their crusades, which took now the character of a huge partnership, now that of a trading company, and now that of a state enterprise.

Although the Italians were the most famed participants, they were not the only middle-class crusaders. From the first, expeditions of northern mariners made their way by the Strait of Gibraltar to the Holy Land: men of the British Isles, the Low Countries, Germany, even Scandinavia... The crusaders came from both sides of the North Sea and the English Channel, in large part the sailors of those seas, men neither of the chivalry nor of the peasantry. Like a commune, they elected their leaders and made policies in council and assembly...

The crusaders from the Italian cities organized their sacred expeditions like trading ventures. To participate in the First Crusade the Genoese nobles and merchants formed a compagna on the model of their earlier expeditions against the Moslems. The ships were provided and outfitted by subscription; each man who subscribed or went on the crusade had a certain financial interest in the profits or losses. When the expedition ended after the capture of Caesarea, the booty was divided according to the shares held by the members in the compagna."

Quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th century. Illustration: Crusader vessel  from this source

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March 18, 2017, the 703rd anniversary death of Jacques de Molay

On March 18, 2017 we commemorated the 703rd anniversary of the death of the last official Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. De Molay, born in 1244 was put to death in Paris by the King of France on 18 March 1314. He was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the Order from 20 April 1292 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1307.

Though little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his last years as Grand Master, he is the best known Templar, along with the Order's founder and first Grand Master, Hugues de Payens (1070–1136). Jacques de Molay's goal as Grand Master was to reform the Order, and adjust it to the situation in the Holy Land during the waning days of the Crusades.

Death-site plaque of Jaques de Molay on Isle des Juifs, Paris
As European support for the Crusades had dwindled, other forces were at work which sought to disband the Order and claim the wealth of the Templars as their own. King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, had De Molay and many other French Templars arrested in 1307 and tortured into making false confessions. When de Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him executed by burning upon a scaffold on the Paris Ile des Juifs in the River Seine on 18 March 1314.

source text and illustrations

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Financing the Crusades - loans and gifts

"(It were) loans by which crusaders perhaps most commonly financed their journeys. They borrowed from kings and princes, from monasteries and bishops, from lay lords and merchants, from whoever had money to lend.

The terms of the loans vary. Some were interest-free, like the 70,000 livres of Tours lord Edward of England (the future king Edward I) borrowed from Louis IX in 1269. A recognized form, however, gave the lender the use of the pledged land for a period of years, the income comprising his repayment. Under this vif gage the lender took a certain amount of risk. The more common form of loan, consequently, was the mort gage, which provided for the lender to have the usufruct of the land as interest, the borrower to repay the principal, usually before he got his property back. From the patristic period on, the church had condemned the taking of interest on money loans as usury.

The vif gage was not held to be usurious, since the lender was expected to regain essentially the principal of his loan. The papacy permitted clerical crusaders to pledge their benefices under these terms. Mortgages, on the other hand, fell under the condemnation of pope Eugenius III, and under Alexander III the papacy undertook to enforce its laws against usury. Law-abiding clergy, especially the monasteries, which had found mortgages profitable investments, gave up the business,but other Christians continued to ignore or evade the prohibition of usury. The merchants of southern France and, above all, of Italy were commonly known as moneylenders. ...

Finally, family and friends must often have aided the crusaders. The nature of the transactions did not require written documents to record them, and few examples can be cited. John, lord of Joinville, in describing his departure on the crusade, tells of a gift of "a great quantity of fair jewels to myself and the nine knights I had with me" made by the abbot of Saint Urbain. The kings of England from Henry II to Henry III made considerable gifts to various crusaders.

Again, the social dimension of the crusades is apparent. Although the crusaders took their vows as individuals and were individually responsible for fulfilling them, the crusades were corporate, or at least collective, enterprises. As crusaders joined together to fight under the leadership of feudal lords, communal officers, national sovereigns, and the church, so they also organized their finances, thus transcending the individual."

Blog quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe  (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th Century. Illustration from

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