Templar and Hospitaller cooperation in the 12th century Orient.

Contradictory views merit examination of the cooperation between the Templar and Hospitaller military orders buring the Crusades. The rules laid down by the Orders contain much information on their mode of coexistence in the East. Half a dozen of articles of the Rule of the Temple deals with the behavior to be adopted in the presence Hospitallers, devoting quite some to battles. During battle a wounded Templar could join the first Christian banner available, preferentially choosing that of the Hospital. (...)

The military orders soon became accustomed to collaborating on the battle fields of Palestine, whether in Hārim (1164), Montgisard (1177), Margelion (1179), La Fontaine du Cresson, and finally Hattīn (1187). Their first combined operation dates back to the siege of Damascus, led by the armies of the second crusade in 1148. (...) The same determination allowed in 1163 a contingent of Crusaders to unblock, with the support of Templars, the Hospitakker castle of Crack des Chevalliers, that was besieged by the Atabeg of Damascus, Nūr ad-Dīn. (...)

The fraternity of arms reigning between the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers also appears from the Battle of La Fontaine du Cresson on May 1, 1187, where the Grand Masters Gerard de Ridefort and Roger des Moulins fought side by side. Templar Grand Master Gérard de Ridefort did not listen to the precautionary advice of the Hospital master when deciding to engage in an unequal fight against a column of 7,000 Muslims on the verge of to regain its bases. Hospitaller Grand Master Roger des Moulins was killed along with sixty Templars. (...) Gerard de Ridefort escaped the Ayyubid swords in pitifully fleeing, as his subordinate had prophesied at the start of the fight. This same great master caused the fall of the Frankish Holy Land, a few weeks later, prompting Guy de Lusignan to reluctantly help the city of Tiberias, besieged by Muslims. The battle of Hattīn (4 July, 1187) was fatal to the Latins who lost 230 Templars, beheaded by order of Saladin, and 120 Knights of the Hospital.

This blog is based on the paper (in French) on "Combined operations of the military orders in the Medieval Levant (12th-13th centuries)" by Pierre-Vincent Claverie; illustration source

The Templar navy

During the twelfth century the Frankish navy seems never to have passed an embryonic stage, which compelled the kings of Jerusalem to constantly search for external alliances. There was no direct reason for the Templars to invest in maritime activities in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe directly after the First Crusade. Their first objective was pacification of the roads of the kingdom of Jerusalem. 

Shortly after the Order was established in 1120 (Nablus) and confirmed by the papacy in 1129 (Troyes), it settled at the coastal cities such as Acre and Jaffa, where the Western pilgrims landed on their way to the holy places. During the 12th Century the Templars came into possession of twenty coastal commanderies. Most of these commanderies enjoyed direct access to the sea as in Acre, Tripoli, Tortosa or Latakia. The best known Templar port remains Tortosa, where the order had since 1152 half of the seignory of the city with a castle leaning against the shore. The coastal commandaries often communicated with each other by cabotage by sea. This is the transport of goods or passengers between two ports in the same country by a transport operator from another country.

Templars and Hospitallers appear to have expressed reluctance to fight on sea before the battle of Hattīn (4 July, 1187). Their first notable engagement came on 30 December 1187 when the two orders seized eleven Egyptian galleys blocking the port of Tyr. However, it was not until the Fifth Crusade (1217–1221) that the Order of the Temple was able to arm its own ships. The Fifth Crusade saw the Nile delta serve as a foundation operations to a multitude of squadrons. 

These vessels were intended to bring provisions and equipment to the contingents engaged in the Nile Delta from 1218. Knights Templar and Hospitaller transport speeded up considerably after the arrival of a Frisian squadron, composed of solid hulls (koggen). The crews of the Templar ships consisted at that time of crusaders and brothers in arms, versatile enough to handle trebuchets
These vessels were intended to bring provisions and equipment to the contingents engaged in the Nile Delta from 1218. Knights Templar and Hospitaller transport speeded up considerably after the arrival of a Frisian squadron, composed of solid hulls (koggen). The crews of the Templar ships consisted at that time of crusaders and brothers in arms, versatile enough to handle trebuchets (a type of catapult which uses a swinging arm to throw a projectile) in case of forced demobilization.

This blog is based on papers in French by Pierre-Vincent Claveri on the Templar Navy, such as this one; illustration templar ship, fresque in trhe Templar Chappel, Cressac, Charente, France, source

Development of the novelty of the right of clergy self-defense 1120-1176

"... sometime between 14 January and 13 September 1120 (...) at the hands of Patriarch Warmund (of Jerusalem; TN), Hugh of Payns, Godfrey of Saint-Omer, and certain other French knights pledged to live “more canonicorum regularium” (as regular canons, not monks, as is so commonly thought) and accordingly took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In return, Warmund and his fellow bishops enjoined upon these consecrated knights, for the remission of their sins, the principal task of keeping roads and highways safe for pilgrims against thieves and highwaymen. (...) these new armed, consecrated knights, soon to be known as ‘Templars’, were revolutionary indeed and required nearly another twenty years before they were approved completely by Rome.

This company received formal recognition and initial statutes in January 1129 at the council of Troyes, presided over by a papal legate, Matthew Cardinal of Albano; was vigorously defended in a treatise De laude novae militiae (On the New Knighthood) by Bernard of Clairvaux, arguably the most influential figure in all Europe in the second quarter of the twelfth century; and finally fully accepted as an ‘order’ (religio et ueneranda institutio) in the privilege Omne datum optimum in 1139, promulgated by Pope Innocent II, who cited John 15:13 in underscoring the task of these milites Templi to protect their fellows Christians against pagan incursions, defend the church, and attack the enemies of Christ.

Two additional bulls, Milites Templi (1144) and Militia Dei (1145), completed the establishment of this new way of religious life. Between the approbation of Troyes, the juggernaut of Bernard of Clairvaux’s rhetoric in his De laude novae militiae, and the blessing of Pope Innocent II, the opposition to this very great novelty was largely bowled over (but not entirely, as we have been recently reminded), and the way was now paved for Pope Alexander III. (...)

It was during his long pontificate that not just the three major Spanish military orders (which is usually what is emphasized), but in fact the five Iberian military orders came into being with full papal recognition (...) Alexander was an extraordinary lawgiver who arguably did more than any other pope to shape the canon law on canonization, the conferral of benefices, the system of vicars, marriage, papal electoral procedure, majority decision-making (including maior et sanior pars), judges delegate, and papal appellate jurisdiction has come to be recognized.39 Now his contributions to the militarization of the clergy and of the church deserve to be added to this long list of distinctive and influential features of his papacy."

This blog quotes from the paper "Armsbearing by the Clergy and the Fourth Lateran Council" by Lawrence G. Duggan; source illustration www.medievalists.net

Nablus 1120: the medieval ban of clergy bearing arms lifted

"It is revealing that in recovering this canon (on the prohibition of clergy bearing arms; TN) from earlier legislation, Gregory IX and Raymond of Peñafort went all the way back to the council of Poitiers in 1078, convened during the pontificate of Gregory VII (...) In sum, then, between 1049 and 1095, no fewer than thirteen councils and synods had damned clerical armsbearing. At nine of these thirteen assemblies, three different popes and six papal legates presided. The reforming papacy seemingly could not have been clearer on this issue." After that "there is almost nothing in the decrees of the seven so-called ecumenical or general councils held between 1123 and 1312". (...)

It was between Clermont in 1095 and Lateran IV in 1215 that the prohibition on armsbearing by the clergy had come to be effectively demolished by decisions made by prelates and popes. (...) What changed between 1095 and 1215 began in the Holy Land and ended in Rome. (...)

On the issue of clerical armsbearing, we can pinpoint the turning point. Two intertwined breakthroughs occurred in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1120, and behind them both was the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Warmund or Gormund of Picquigny (1118-28). On January 16 of that year, King Baldwin II and the patriarch convened at Nablus a council of the great men of the realm, ecclesiastical and secular, (the same council at which the early Knights Templar recieved their royal commission; TN), to enact legislation touching a variety of issues in twenty-five chapters. Number 20 decreed that “Si clericus causa defenssionis [sic] arma detulerit, culpa non teneatur” (meaning: ‘If a cleric bears arms for the sake of defense, he is not to be held at fault’).(...)

What lay behind this unprecedented legislation? Very likely the vulnerability of the crusader states in the Holy Land exposed in 1119, the year before. Around Easter (6 April) a large group of about 700 pilgrims was attacked in the barren region between Jerusalem and the River Jordan; 300 were killed and 60 captured. And on 27 June, Prince Roger of Antioch and his army perished on the “Field of Blood” (ager sanguinis) in his vain effort to attack Aleppo. Antioch now stood defenseless. Its patriarch, Bernard, driven by necessity, ordered that clergy, monks, and laymen guard the walls of the city, and it was he, “nocte et die cum armato suo clero et militibus”, who protected the city until the arrival of King Baldwin of Jerusalem.

Was the legislation at Nablus six months later meant to justify ex post facto the earlier behavior of the patriarch of Antioch and his clergy? Perhaps, although the patriarch of Jerusalem had no jurisdiction over Antioch. It seems more likely that Warmund and the entire episcopate of the Kingdom (who were all present at Nablus) meant this provision to apply to their own clergy should similar dangers arise—and both the prologue to the canons of Nablus and a nearly contemporaneous letter Warmund sent to Archbishop Diego of Compostella reveal how frightened Warmund was of a Saracen world closing in on all sides."

This blogs from the paper "Armsbearing by the Clergy and the Fourth Lateran Council" by Lawrence G. Duggan; illustration  source