The Knights Templar - Canons at first?

In his book The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple Malcom Barber reconstructs in detail the birth of the Order.

He argues that it is probable that, prior to their recognition by King Baldwin II sometime after Spring 1118, the brotherhood that later became the Knights Templar existed in another form. Prior to settlement on the former royal palace at the Temple Mount and becoming "The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon" (in Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici), this brotherhood probably already existed for some years as one of the brotherhoods of the Holy Sepulcher.

Researching on this TN found that one of the possible groups was the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre. Originally, a canon was a cleric living with others in a clergy house or, later, in one of the houses within the precinct of or close to a cathedral and conducting his life according to the orders or rules of the church. This way of life grew common (and is first documented) in the eighth century. In the eleventh century, some churches required clergy thus living together to adopt the rule first proposed by Saint Augustine that they renounce private wealth. Those who embraced this change were known as Augustinians or Canons Regular, whilst those who did not were known as secular canons.

The also Augustinian Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre was founded in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, then the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Order was recognised in 1113 by Papal bull of Pope Paschal II and therefore must have been established several years earlier.

According to the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Godfrey de Bouillon, who ruled Jerusalem between July 15, 1099 and his death on July 18, 1100, founded the Order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre. According to accounts of the Crusades, in 1103 the first King of Jerusalem, Baldwin I, assumed the leadership of this canonical order.

The Order’s members included not only the Regular Canons (Fratres) but also the Secular Canons (Confratres) and the Sergentes. The latter were armed knights chosen from the crusader troops for their qualities of valour and dedication. They vowed to obey Augustinian Rule of poverty and obedience and undertook specifically, under the command of the King of Jerusalem, to defend the Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Places. This description seems a blueprint for the later Knights Templar Order.

The Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre was suppressed in 1489 by Pope Innocent VIII, but its history runs parallel to that of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (along with the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of the Custody of the Holy Land), with Grand Magistery vested in the Papacy since 1496.

sources Wikipedia 1 and 2, and LPJ. illustration Church of the Holy Sepulchre Wikipedia

Templars and wine making in Occitania

When in the 12th to 14th centuries Knights Templar returned from their Crusade, they settled also on the territory of Banyuls and Collioure,  (departement Pyrénées-Orientales, region of  Occitanie, Southwest France), and restored the noble grape varieties planted there by the Phoenicians centuries earlier.

Their settlement all over Europe, led them to discover very varied agricultural techniques. They applied these techniques (and techniques they had importerd themselves from the Orient; TN) in their Commanderies, in producing the cultures necessary for their subsistence and that of the neighboring populations. Through trading their produce they also acquired funds for the continuing occupation and protection of the Holy Land.

In the Banyuls and Collioure region, Templar knowledge revolutionized the management of the vineyard. Their techniques have been preserved for centuries thanks to generations of winemakers. In Banyuls and Collioure, it does not rain often but the showers are terrible. In order to avoid runoff of water on the plots, which takes everything in its path, the Knights Templar set up the terraced cultivation. This required more than 6,000 km of walls, and created a network of canals to guide the water, called Agulles" änd "Peu de Galls" in Catalan.

In 1258 the "mutage  was discovered by the Catalan physician Arnaud de Villeneuve, who reported the principle of the distillation obtained during the Crusades. Mutage is the operation of stopping the alcoholic fermentation of a wine by the addition of vinous alcohol (wine having been distilled). In this way preserve some of the grape's natural sugar and aromas is preserved. This is how one gets the Banyuls wine.

Seduced by the unique taste of the Banyuls and its aromatic richness, the Templars wanted to have them discovered across Europe. It was during a transport by boat that they realized that the barrels of Banyuls that had rested some time in the sun, had developed richer and more complex aromas. It's since then that a part of the Banyuls wines is ripened outdoors.

source text (translated from French and adapted by TN) and illustration

The Knights Templar Commandery at Arville, France

This video, hosted by a very enthousiastic Frenchman, provides a nice introduction to the well preserved Knights Templar Commandery at Arville, Loir-et-Cher Department, France.

Map of medieval monasteries in the Netherlands published

On October 17, 2019 the Vrije Universiteit at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, published The Map of Monasteries. This map shows the monasteries of all orders which have been represented in the present-day Netherlands during the Middle Ages and Early Modern period (until 1800).

This Map of Monasteries is based on the Census, which has been composed at the Faculty of Humanities of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and which contains basic information on all monasteries in the Netherlands until 1800. The Census may be accessed independently, but its records are also accessible via the Map.

The map includes the settlements of Cistercians and Knights Templar in the Netherlands.

The first Templar house was founded at Alphen in the southern province of Brabant by the lord of Breda, probably shortly after 1144. It remained a Templar house until the abolition of the Order in 1312. After that it was taken over by the Knights Hospitaller. The last time this house was mentioned was in 1616.

According to the map the first Cistercian settlement was the monastry of Klaarkamp (= Clear field) at Rinsumageest in the northern province of Friesland. This monastery for monks was dedicated to Our Lady. The first efforts of foundation of the Order took place in East-Frisia ca 1155. The settlement of Cistercians in Frisia West-of-Lauwers took place in 1163-65. Monsatic life ended here in 1580.

All traces of Templar houses in the Netherlands have been summarized on our own map, which in turn is based on the great work (in Dutch) of late Dr Ben Brus.

Source text and illustration Free University Geoplaza. The illustration shows the site of the Klaarkamp Cistercian monastery in northern Friesland. The archaeological remains are lying directly beneath the surface.

"The Templars in Bretagne (France) during the Middle Ages"

The Templars established themselves in the duchy of Brittany in the second quarter of the twelfth century, perhaps as early as 1128, during the travels in western Europe of the first master of the order, Hugh of Payns.

The Templars lived on well beyond the Middle Ages in the local collective memory, in spite of the poorness of the buildings which may be directly ascribed to them.

Even if the present paper is interested in the traditions and myths the Templars provoked in Brittany, it is based on medieval and modern sources which are not as scarce as scholars have often thought.

Thus, over a period of two hundred years, this study explains the Templars’ regional growth, violently broken by the trial of 1307, and it throws light on the establishment of a complete network of possessions organized at its peak, during the second half of the thirteenth century, in about ten commanderies and integrated in the province of Aquitaine.

This blog quotes the English abstract of the paper "Les Templiers en Bretagne au Moyen Âge : mythes et réalités" by Philippe Josserand published on Illustration from the same sorce, showing the Chapel of the Commandery of Coudrie (cliché Chr. Renault).

The Templars at sea

Originally there was no reason for the Knights of the Temple to invest in maritime activities in the Mediterranean area. The foundation of the Temple did indeed have as only goal the pacification of "the roads and ways of the kingdom of  Jerusalem".

The development of the order, however, led the Templars to survey the quays of Acre and Jaffa, where Western pilgrims landed on their voyage to the Holy Places. During the 12th century the Temple came into possession of some 20 coastal commanderies, which communicated with each by sea through other parties. Most of these Commanderies had direct access to the sea, such as Acre, Tripoli, Tortosa or Latakia.

The charter of Italian ships seems to have preceded the acquisition by the different congregations of ships capable of crossing the Mediterranean. We thus see the Temple to import some two tons of iron in Acre, in 1162, through Venitian merchants. In the following years the order acquired fleets in the Bay of Biscay and in La Manche, where the brothers specialize in the export of La Rochelle wine to destination in England.

At the start of the 13th century the port of Marseille receives  the favor of the Templars and Hospitals because of its location at the mouth of the Rhone corridor that leads to the north of France. A "commander of the passage" watches on behalf of the Temple to tranship goods and fighters on their way to the Holy Land in times of tension. 

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 Chapel, Cressac, Charente, France, source

"Groundbreaking Agreement Brings OSMTJ and OSMTHU Templars to the Table"

In June 2019 the OSMTHU-blog The Templar Globe reported on an agreement signed between the OSMTJ and the OSMTHU. Both organizations aim to conteract fragmentation in the worldwide Templar movement. This movement, as the publication rightly states, "is characterized by many small groups of undetermined origin and frequent divisions in the main branches."

For the purpose of unification a Cultural Exchange Association between both branches was proposed.  Efgorts are undertaken to elect Vila Nova da Barquinha – of the Castle of Almourol, location of the Templar Interpretation Center (CIT), as the official seat of this Association.

Illustration left shows the adopted declaration. source the OSMTHU-blog

Geo-politics in 11th and 12th century Francia

For the purpose of TemplarsNow the medieval geo-political landscape of what is now France is important. The County of Champagne, especially the area around Troyes, was the native region of many an early knight Templar. This geo-political situation was fragmented to say the least, as the adjacent maps show.

In 987, Hugues Capet was elected king. The monarchy becomes hereditary, and the Capetians reign over France for more than 800 years. Nevertheless, the first Capetian kings only directly control a very small portion of the French territory, called the royal domain, and some of their vassals are much more powerful than them. 
In the twelfth century, royal power began to assert itself against the princes of the kingdom, but faced from the 1150s to the birth of a "Plantagenet empire" grouping together in England and the western third of France. 

The Capetian kingdom reached its peak in the 13th century, with the monarchy regaining the power it had lost while French art and culture asserted in Europe. 

Philip Augustus (1180-1223) managed to conquer most of the French possessions of the Plantagenets, temporarily putting an end to the English threat and considerably enlarging the royal domain at the same time. 

Louis IX (1226-1270) behaves as a referee of Christendom and participates in the seventh and eighth crusades, which will lead him to be canonized very quickly by the Catholic Church

Source text (translated from French by TN) and illustrations (1: situation 1030; 2: situation 1180)

Templars in Switserland - then and now

As we have argued in an earlier post, certain historians and conspiracists alike suggest that the Knights Templar did in fact form Switzerland.  The evidence and likelihood seem pretty plausible. At the same time hard evidence is scarce and circumstantial at best. Historical fact is that the Order of the Temple counted on the current Swiss territory only two commanderies: La Chaux and Geneva.

 La Chaux in Cossonay is attested in 1223 and Geneva (district of Rive) is quoted in 1277. These had other dependent houses, particularly in Cologny, Bénex (commune of Prangins) and Entremont (commune of Yvonand). All these establishments belonged to the baillie (or preceptory) of Burgundy, subdivision of the Templar province of France.

La Chaux Commanderie was given by the lords of Cossonay to the Knights Templar before 1223. This commandery does not seem to have been particularly profitable, because in 1277 part of the possessions was sold to the Franciscan order to pay debts. After the dissolution of the Order, it passed in 1315 to the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The commandery depended the hospices of Orbe, Villars-Sainte-Croix and Montbrelloz.

After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, the commandery was secularized, subordinated to the last commander, then in 1539 to the brothers of the reformer Guillaume Farel, finally sold in 1540 to Robert du Gard.

In Geneva there is a Ruelle de Templiers. This name comes from a house and a chapel of the Knights Templar who were there. At the suppression of this order, in 1312, they passed, as everywhere, to the Hospitallers of Saint John. This establishment was destroyed in 1534 with the suburbs of the left bank.

Modern Swiss Knights Templar (probably part of the branch, though this Order is not referred to directly on the website) are organized in the Commandery Bertrand de Blanquefort, situated in the hart of Geneva, and the Commandery André de Montbard at Kanton Vaud (no town mentioned).

Illustrations show La Chaux Commanderry and the location of the two historic commanderies in Switserland. Source of the illustrations and part of the text (translated and adapted) from Wikipedia and sources mentioned therein.

Templar locations in France pinpointed

On the website a host of templar sites in France and their history is described in great detail. The same is true for the Project Beauceant website on Regrettably, these websites differ in detail, number and location of commanderies presented. Furthermore, locating the indicated sites on modern maps is hardly possible in the first case and rather difficult in the second.

Therefore, TemplarsNow has started a project which will pinpoint the geographical location of Templar sites in France. TemplarsNow has earlier done a similar job for The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The French maps will be constructed by combining the information of both websites mentioned above and plotting it on modern Google-satellite maps, one per Department. In the process, the geographical location of each site is checked on the Cassini-map and other sources on the internet. Primary source is the website. Additional information is used from the website and from other sources on the internet. The site description on the maps uses snippits of text (for now in French) and photographs, mainly from the website. If other information is presented, the sources are indicated. The illustration above presents a part of the resulting map for the Creuse Department (23). All completed maps will be summed up on the page on France.

On the maps four types of Templar sites are distinguished:
  1. major actual Templar site which at present holds multiple important buildings and/or ruins
  2. actual Templar site which at present holds one or a small number of buildings and/or ruins
  3. historical Templar site where as yet no remains are found but of which the former presence can be inferred from toponymes etc
  4. historical Templar site which is mentioned in the sources but whereof no traces whatsoever in the field are known today
The symbols used for each category are:

category 1
category 2
category 3
category 4

Obviously these new TemplarNow maps could not be made without the information provided by the websites and and additional sources. Therefore these maps should be seen as the elaborated and augmented representation of the great work of others.

920th Anniversary First Crusade Siege of Jerusalem

The Siege of Jerusalem took place from June 7 to July 15, 1099, during the First Crusade. This successful siege saw the Crusaders take Jerusalem from the Fatimid Caliphate and laid the foundations for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Only one year earlier, in the summer of 1098, the (Muslim) Fatimid Emir (commander) al-Afdal Shahinshah had taken Jerusalem from the (also Muslim) Seljuk Turks after a 40-day siege, on orders of the Fatimid Vizier (Minister of State) al-Musta’li, ruler of Egypt. Many months of political and diplomatic maneuvering with the Franj (Franks–the Arabic term used for all Western European Crusaders) and the Rumi (Romans–actually the Greeks of the Byzantine Empire) had not gotten the vizier the concessions he wanted, so he simply had sent Emir al-Afdal to seize the city the Crusaders were coming to capture, thereby presenting the Franj invaders with a fait accompli.

These 1098 events indicate that the negotiations between the Byzantine and Franj on the one hand, and the Muslim Fatimid rulers of Egypts on the other hand on combined efforts against their common enemy, the Muslim Seljuk Turcs that controlled the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire as well as Jerusalem, had turned sour.

These negotiations may have been one of the reasons why the Crusader army, after the successful siege of Antioch in June 1098, remained in that area for the rest of the year. Other reasons being disagreement between the leaders of the army on what to do next. Bohemond of Taranto had claimed Antioch for himself and wanted to remain there. Baldwin of Boulogne remained in Edessa, captured earlier in 1098. By the end of the year 1098, the minor knights and infantry were threatening to march to Jerusalem without their leaders. Eventually, on January 13, 1099 Raymond of Toulouse began the march south, down the coast of the Mediterranean, followed by Robert of Normandy and Bohemond's nephew Tancred, who agreed to become his vassals.

The 1099 siege and conquest of Jerusalem is notable for the mass slaughter of Muslim and Jewish perpetrated by the Christian crusaders, which contemporaneous sources suggest was savage and widespread. Atrocities committed against the inhabitants of cities taken by storm after a siege were normal in ancient and medieval warfare by both Christians and Muslims. The Crusaders had already done so at Antioch, and Fatimids had done so themselves at Taormina, at Rometta, and at Tyre. However, the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may have exceeded even these standards. Historian Michael Hull has suggested this was a matter of deliberate policy rather than simple bloodlust, to remove the "contamination of pagan superstition" (quoting Fulcher of Chartres) and to reform Jerusalem as a strictly Christian city.

Sources text and Wikipedia. Illustration a 13th-century miniature depicting the siege, Wikipedia

Reliable books on the Crusades

TemplarsNow is always looking to identify, promote and (re)distribute sources of reliable information on the Knights Templar and their time. Therefore this blog quotes the valuable list of "the 15 most important Books on the Crusades" prepared in 2017 by Andrew Holt PhD.

Dr Holt reported on his project to identify the "most important" books on the Crusades. He asked 34 leading medieval historians to provide their own preferential list. Their replies resulted in a list of some 150 titles. Analyzing this as to the number of times each title had been mentioned by the scolars, Dr Holt identified "the 15 most important Books on the Crusades". The titles are shown below, including the number of times each title was mentioned.

The subsurface of Temple Mount, Jerusalem

The subterranean part of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem contains a lot of acheological information mirroring its intensive use during many centuries. Part of this archeological information is documented bij artefacts from the Stone and Bronze Age up to and including the 20th century found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP).

Approximately one in four pottery fragments recovered by the TMSP date to the Early Islamic Period (638-1099), mostly consisting of Ummayad tableware and storage vessels, and Abbasid tableware, storage and cooking vessels. Other finds include many architectural elements connected to the construction of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the most prominent being thousands of colored and gilded mosaic tesserae belonging to wall mosaics, most likely the mosaics akin to those adorning the inner walls of the dome of the rock, which adorned the outer walls till their replacement by glazed tiles in the 16th century.

During the Crusader period (1099-1187) the sub-floor structure of the Temple Mount was used as a Opus Sectile tiles from this era match up exactly to patterns seen under the Dome of the Rock's carpeting, as well as the churches of the Holy Sepulchre and of St. John the Baptist.
stables by the Knights Templar, which gave Solomon's Stables its current name. This use is reflected in finds such as hundreds of armor scales, horseshoe nails, and arrowheads. Over a hundred silver Crusader coins make up the biggest and most varied collection of such coins from Jerusalem.

Below some additional sources on the subsurface of Temple Mount.

Illustrations Crusader horseshoe nails and arrowhead, source Temple Mount Sifting Project; Source introductory text Wikipedia 

The fall of Muslim Jerusalem to the Muslims 1098

In the Crusader story, a strange event just prior to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusader army in July 1099, seems to be scarcely mentioned. This is the taking of Jerusalem from its Muslim Seljuk Turkish ruler (since 1073) by the Muslim Fatimid rules of Egypt.

The summer of 1098 saw the much-fought-over fortress city in Egyptian hands. The Fatimid Emir (commander) al-Afdal Shahinshah had taken Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks after a 40-day siege, on orders of Vizier (minister of state) al-Musta’li, ruler of Egypt.

Many months of political and diplomatic maneuvering with the Franj (Franks–the Arabic term used for all Western European Crusaders) and the Rumi (Romans–actually the Greeks of the Byzantine Empire) had not gotten the vizier the concessions he wanted, so he simply had sent Emir al-Afdal to seize the city the Crusaders were coming to capture, thereby presenting the Franj invaders with a fait accompli.

This Fatimid conquest was the final step of developments during two decades within the fragmented Muslim world, where rulers of the same faith fought one another. Religion apparently being of no importance in matters of worldly power and conquest. This development is summarized as follows:

These 1098 events suggest that there were negotiations between the Byzantine (and perhaps even the Crusading Frankish) powers on the one hand, and the Muslim Fatimid rulers of Egypts on the other hand on combined efforts against their common enemy: the Muslim Seljuk Turcs that controlled the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire as well as Jerusalem. Negotiations that apparently turned sour, resulting in lots of misery. It now took untill 1192 when the Third Crusade under Richard the Lionheart failed to recapture Jerusalem, but reached the Treaty of Ramla with Saladin. In this treaty Saladin agreed that Western Christian pilgrims could worship freely in Jerusalem.

Sources text and Wikipedia. illustration "Taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, 15th July 1099Émile Signol, oil on canvas (1847) source Wikipedia

Making the Crusades possible: craft, trade and organisation

The agricultural revolution described in an earlier blog resulted in a change in the land use that allowed the subsistence farmer to go with his surplus crop to the market, originally at the local church, to buy and sell. The creation of markets at the churches gave way to more defined market places that specialized in certain products. Trade chains developed. For instance, sheep were a good investment, for their wool was appreciated especially in the colder northern climates. Sheep’s wool was sheared by the shepherd, which wool was sold in the fairs and markets of Champagne (France) and later Flanders (Belgium) for processing and weaving. The product was bought by Italians from Northern Italy for further refinement, and from there sold in international trade.

The tradesmen, artisans, and workers did organize. The first labor laws protecting selected trades in "guilds" were enacted in Ghent in the 11th Century. Normally groups of property owners, burgers, and representatives of the guilds and associations, shared power with the titular feudal authority except when they went their own way. These "Communes" controlled the means of production in their towns and the association with other towns. The wool producing towns in France, Belgium and Germany were either dominated by such communes or independent as “communal republics”.

Many Italian city states used the communal republic as a form of governance. As such, Florence, Genoa and Venice were republic in form. These Italian cities provided the banking, trading and maritime skills for the wool producing regions in Champaign (France), Flanders (Belgium) and England.

This text consists of slightly edited quotes from the blog The Cistercian Connection by Gordon S Fowkes. The illustration is from the same source.

"Genetic Admixture from the Crusaders in the Near East"

"During the medieval period, hundreds of thousands of Europeans migrated to the Near East to take part in the Crusades, and many of them settled in the newly established Christian states along the Eastern Mediterranean coast.

Here, we present a genetic snapshot of these events and their aftermath by sequencing the whole genomes of 13 individuals who lived in what is today known as Lebanon between the 3rd and 13th centuries CE. These include nine individuals from the ‘‘Crusaders’ pit’’ in Sidon, a mass burial in South Lebanon identified from the archaeology as the grave of Crusaders killed during a battle in the 13th century CE.

We show that all of the Crusaders’ pit individuals were males; some were Western Europeans from diverse origins, some were locals (genetically indistinguishable from present-day Lebanese), and two individuals were a mixture of European and Near Eastern ancestries, providing direct evidence that the Crusaders admixed with the local population.

However, these mixtures appear to have had limited genetic consequences since signals of admixture with Europeans are not significant in any Lebanese group today—in particular, Lebanese Christians are today genetically similar to local people who lived during the Roman period which preceded the Crusades by more than four centuries."

This blog quotes the summary of the paper A Transient Pulse of Genetic Admixture from the Crusaders in the Near East Identified from Ancient Genome Sequences by Marc Haber et al., published in The American Journal of Human Genetics104, 977–984, May 2, 2019 published on internet here. This is an open access article under the CC BY license ( Illustration shows bones in the Sidon Crusaders' pit, source

Templar churches and chapels

Chapelle d'Avalleur
According to some authors the religious Templar churches and chapels were built in a way specific to the Order and arranged for the exercise of secret and mysterious rites. Hence the existence of a Templar architectural symbolism, the famous "Templar architecture", whose models would be octagonal buildings or rotunda, like the rotunda of the Temple of Paris.

If the actual existence of an architecture specific to the Temple is doubtful, it is none the less true that it is permissible to perceive in the use of certain forms or dispositions a symbolic content related to the conception of the spirituality of the Templars. But in its outline and its order, this architecture is inspired by the monastic architecture of the time, especially Cistercian style and references.

Let us remember that every sacred building rests on an articulated set of formal and other symbols whose purpose is to put in permanent relation the sacred, but nevertheless terrestrial, built site with the divine world, the symbols serving to express this relationship materially.

"crochets" source

Two types of sacred buildings were favored by the Temple: the church and chapel with rectangular or basilica plan, of early Christian origin, with the shape of a long square, generally oriented towards Jerusalem. The building has a nave, often with one and sometimes with three aisles. There is no break between the nave and the choir, which is closed by a  semicircular dome with in the wall three narrow windows or triplet of Romanesque or Gothic style, according to time. 
The back of the facade is often pierced by a single narrow window. 

This simplicity is also found on the outside openwork facade of the simple portal, sometimes decorated with small columns, and a middle window on the first floor, which is topped with a bell-tower arcade. Often,this is replaced by a more traditional bell tower leaning against one of the side walls of the building. Both inside and outside,  the decoration is discreet and uniform, though regional differences exist, and limited to foliage, some animal figures or hooks ("crochets") based on the Cistercian model. 

First illustration and text (translated from French and slightly edited) from a blog on Templar symbolism on

Making the Crusades possible: the agricultural revolution

A series of revolutions in economic and political life transformed Northern Europe. Technology (tools) drove the process, and it was the entrepreneurial spirit of inventive farmers, craftsmen, and what we call today business that triggered change. The monastery as an economic enterprise provided central direction upon reflection and quickly adopted the technologies to enhance the productivity of the monastery. The Cistercian Order under Saint Bernard is found in the middle of the process. 

The soil of northern Europe was too dense and damp to be plowed efficiently with the scratch plows of the day to produce much past subsistence. In order to cut the heavy soil, the heavy plow was invented which included a cutter, plowshare, and wheels and was initially drawn by oxen. The need for speed and horse power, as horses pulled two hours longer and faster, lead to the invention of the horse collar which solved the problem of the oxen yoke which choked the horse. The hooves of horses did not fare well in the damp earth, unlike oxen, which lead to the use of horse shoes. 

Oxen could survive largely on hay, but horses needed vegetable protein such as from grain and legumes (beans). The additional protein in farmers diets lead to increased energy in the people in the area. Since legumes contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia, they were found to restore nitrogen to farmland. Crop rotations changed from fallow and wheat to fallow, wheat, and legumes, a change to three crop rotation which also extended the productive use of the land.

This text consists of slightly edited quotes from the blog The Cistercian Connection by Gordon S Fowkes. The illustration is from the same source.

Crusading for the sake of commerce - the Genoa case

"There were another body of crusaders, outside the knightly class, to whom it is worth turning in any discussion of the economic gains and losses of the First Crusade. By the end of the eleventh century a growing social milieu was beginning to assert itself in parts of Europe: the urban manufacturer and merchant. (...)

In Italy, a number of cities were beginning to emerge as independent powers; importantly for the history of the First Crusade, Genoa was already organising itself into a commune in 1052 and by 1095 was governed by elected consuls. Sources nearly contemporary with the First Crusade noticed the consules of Genoa as the leading figures of the city. (...)

Marshall examined the sources for the First Crusade to show that many contemporary authors treated the Genoese fleet as fellow crusaders. But no one, even the crudest advocate of the ‘booty’ position, would expect eleventh century sources to do otherwise. The point here, as with the argument about motivation in general, is to ask whether there were contemporary social and economic trends which would contribute to an enthusiasm, sincere or otherwise, for the First Crusade among the consules of Genoa? (...)

When, in 1101, a fleet from Genoa made a convention with King Baldwin I of Jerusalem, the agreement is another good illustration of how contemporaries had no difficulty combining their religious beliefs with their own material interests. The treaty was made, reported Fulcher, with the consuls of the fleet. If, out of the love of God and with His assistance, they and the king could take any of the cities of the Saracens, a third of the wealth of the inhabitants would go to the Genoese, theother two thirds to the king. Additionally, a section in each captured city would be given to the Genoese in perpetuity.31 This agreement became a standard one for relations between Italian cities and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, leading to considerable long-term benefit for the cities.

Is it plausible to deny that the prospect of such arrangements formed part of the considerations of the Italian republics when they heard and accepted the crusading message?"

This blog quotes an abbreviated section of the book The Social Structure of the First Crusade by Conor Kostick (2008), which is available at Brill Leiden/Boston via This is an open access title distributed under the terms of the cc-by-nc License, which permits any non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited. Illustration from Wikipedia shows the city of Genoa in a woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493.

March 18, 2019, the 705th anniversary of the death of Jacques de Molay

On March 18, 2019 we commemorate the 705th 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

Numbers of participants of the First Crusade

"The most thorough discussion of the number of combatants on the First Crusade is that offered by John France and this study cannot improve on his painstaking assembly of the relevant data and the plausible manner in which it assessed. At its height, gathered together at Nicea, John France estimates the Christian army to have been composed of some 50,000 combatants, of whom 7,000 were knights. Using these figures as a guide, the overall composition of the crusade would have, very approximately, been as follows. Nine princes, 200 magnates, 7,000 knights, 40,000 footsoldiers, and 40,000 pauperes.

This overall figure of around 90,000 people differs from France’s estimate of 50–60,000 inclusive of non-combatants and it is at the high end of estimates by other modern historians, even though most have revised upwards the estimate in Steven Runciman’s discussion of the subject, that there were 4200 to 4500 cavalry and 30,000 infantry.

Jonathan Phillips offers the figure of 60,000, although somewhat confusingly these are divided between 6,000 knights and the rest ‘servants, pilgrims and hangers-on.’ In other words, the footsoldiers are absent. (...)

The huge variation of the various estimates is a fair reflection of the difficulty of the sources in regard to the reporting of numbers and this study claims no great authority on the matter. It does seem inconsistent of France, though, to assess the number of combatants of the First Crusade at 50,000, yet the overall number, including non-combatants, at 50–60,000. The discussion in Chapter Three shows that when the People’s Crusade departed and, indeed, the various contingents of the princes, the movement had something of a mass emigratory character.

The People’s Crusade was overwhelmingly made up of pauperes, but they were also present in substantial numbers among those marching with the princes. Even after the destruction of the People’s Crusade, thousands of survivors (and later, returned prisoners) joined up with the united army.

That is why it seems reasonable to push the overall figure for the expedition to the higher one of 90,000 by including some 40,000 non-combatants with the 50,000 soldiers."

This blog quotes an abreviated section of the book The Social Structure of the First Crusade by Conor Kostick (2008), which is available at Brill Leiden/Boston via This is an open access title distributed under the terms of the cc-by-nc License, which permits any non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited. Illustration shows The siege of Jeriusalem at 1099, Source Wikimedia Commons

Crusading, an "act of love"

"Upon leaving for the crusade, very many property owners made substantial donations to the church, in return for ready coin with which to finance their involvement on the expedition. These transactions were recorded and churches and monasteries preserved the charters throughout the centuries, being ever diligent on such matters.

Methodologically, the inclusion of such charters in a discussion of the First Crusade is unfaultable; the database created as a result of research into donation charters is extremely valuable. By the mid 1990s, for the period 1095–1131, it comprised 549 men and women who definitely took the cross, 110 who probably did so, and 132 who might have become crusaders. Insofar as such a database helps reveal the geographical and familial networks of the nobles who participated in the First Crusade, charter evidence is a welcome addition to the crusading sources. But their use as the key evidence in refuting the popular notion that crusaders were greedy knights, who cloaked their desire for booty in a pretended piety, is problematic.

Essentially, the argument in favour of seeing the motivation of the crusaders as primarily spiritual consists of three observations based on the charter evidence. Firstly, the cost of going on the crusade was shown to be extremely high; four times a knight’s annual income. The enterprise was not ‘cost effective’. Secondly, the proportion of second sons going on the crusade was demonstrably low. Therefore the theory that those who had no other prospects were the main driving force behind the crusade was rejected. Thirdly, the charters are consistent in expressing a deep concern for the salvation of their soul and a love of Christ.

The core of the ‘act of love’ position rests on the point that, in the absence of material motivations, the professed piety of the first crusaders must be considered to be the best guide to their outlook. Those who set forth on the First Crusade did so out of love of Christ and their neighbour."

This blog quotes a section of the book The Social Structure of the First Crusade by Conor Kostick (2008), which is available at Brill Leiden/Boston via This is an open access title distributed under the terms of the cc-by-nc License, which permits any non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited. Illustration shows Pope Urban II preaching the crusade. Source Wikimedia Commons

Prologue of the Crusades: Jerusalem and the Seljuks

"When the Muslim Seljuks, a Turkish steppe tribe, spectacularly defeated an army of the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of Manzikert in ancient Armenia in August 1071 CE, a series of events followed which would lead to centuries of East-West warfare couched in religious terms: the Crusades.

The Seljuks created the Sultanate of Rum and conquered Byzantine Edessa and Antioch in 1078 CE. Next, they captured Jerusalem from their rival Muslims, the Fatimids of Egypt, in 1087 CE (the city had been in Muslim hands since the 7th century CE).

Alexios I Komnenos, the Byzantine emperor (r. 1081-1118 CE) realised that Seljuk expansion into the Holy Land was a perfect opportunity to gain the help of western armies in his battle to control Asia Minor and so he sent a direct appeal to Pope Urban II in March 1095 CE. Both the Pope and western knights would respond in a far greater capacity than Alexios could ever have imagined.

Urban II was disposed to give military assistance to the Byzantines for various reasons. A crusade to bring the Holy Land back under Christian control was an end in itself - what better way to protect such important sites as the tomb of Jesus Christ, the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Christians living there or visiting on pilgrimage also required protection.

In addition, there were very useful additional benefits. A crusade would increase the prestige of the Papacy, as it led a combined western army, and consolidate its position in Italy itself, having experienced serious threats from the Holy Roman Emperors in the previous century which had even forced the popes to relocate away from Rome. Urban II also hoped to make himself head of a united Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) Christian church, above the Patriarch of Constantinople. The two churches had been split since 1054 CE over disagreements about doctrine and liturgical practices."

Quotes and illustration from Cartwright, M. (2018, October 22). Council of Clermont. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from This quote is licensed under equal terms as the original publication, being Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

Modern Templars at Relic Pilgrimage, Maastricht, the Netherlands

"Participants in a historic religious procession during the 2018 Heiligdomsvaart (Relics Pilgrimage) in Maastricht, Netherlands. 
The history of this seven-yearly catholic pilgrimage goes back to the Middle Ages. The first 'modern' version took place in 1874. On both Sundays of the 10-day festival, a procession is held in which the main relics and other devotional objects are exhibited. 
This photo was taken at Het Bat during the (second) procession on Sunday 3 June 2018. This particular group consists of members of the interdenominational OSMTH Order of the Knights Templar. They are followed by a group representing the nearby parish of Houthem-Sint Gerlach, where Saint Gerlachus is venerated."

Source text and illustration Wikimedia. Photo by Kleon3 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The Knights Templar: orthodox of heretics?

"Sophia Menache pointed out in her article ‘Contemporary attitudes concerning the Templars’ affair’ (1982) that  local chroniclers in England ‘supported the French version of the Templars’ heresy’, although King Edward II and his prelates did not. This raises the question of whether local chroniclers were aware of irregularities in the Templars’ religious beliefs that were not known to the higher authorities.

The records of the Templars’ estates in Britain and Ireland at the time of the Templars’ arrests early in 1308 include inventories of their chapels, offering an insight into the Templars’ religious practices. Is there anything in these inventories to suggest that there was substance behind the charges against the Templars?

Drawing on unpublished and published inventories and estate records from the National Archives of the UK, this chapter argues that, far from revealing irregularities, these records show that the Templars’ beliefs were entirely orthodox. However, although the chapels of their major houses were sumptuously equipped, those at smaller, more remote houses contained little equipment and must have relied on the services of hired priests. Such reliance on outside spiritual services meant that the Templars’ religious practices must have been closely linked to those of the society in which they operated."

This blog quotes the summary of the paper (2018) by Helen Nicholson (Cardiff University, UK) entitled "Evidence of the Templars' religious practice from the records of the Templars' estates in Britain and Ireland in 1308", published in Communicating the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of Sophia Menache. Crusades Subsidia 11, ed. Irish Shagrir, Benjamin Z. Kedar and Michel Balard, 2018 and on  Illustration engraving by Tommaso de Vivo showing ClementV interrogating Knights Templar, source

890 Years Knights Templar Rule - 1129 - 2019

The Primitive Rule of the Templars

The Latin Rule, also known as the Primitive Rule, was the result of the discussions that took place at the Council of Troyes, which was under the heavy guidance of Bernard of Clairvaux, the new rising star of the Church. This Council took place in January 1129.

The original Latin Rule, from the Council of Troyes, was actually written by the council’s scribe, John Michael, though the credit for its contents goes to St Bernard; ‘At the very least he must have been a major influence on the framing of the Latin Rule, for it is clear that the later Templars valued their Cistercian links above all’.

The structure of the text is strikingly similar to that of ‘Carta Caritatis’ and the Rule of St Benedict, which implies a replication of Cistercian organisation and values. What is very interesting to note is that it was at the Council of Troyes that the Knights Templar came to follow the Rule of St Benedict; ‘At the time of the Council, the Templars had been following the Rule of St. Augustine, however, this changed in 1129 with the direct influence of the Cistercian abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux.’

The Rule itself describes procedures that the Templar brothers should adhere to on a day-to-day basis. The description of procedures -in particular clause three, which relate to clothing- resonates the tone of both the Cistercian ‘Charter of Charity’ and also the Rule of St Benedict. In fact much of the Rule appears to have strong monastic overtones, rather than a military aspect and the detail that is given to food and drink is very similar to that of the Cistercians.

Buy your own Rule here.  For the original Latin Rule in French visit 

This blog is in part based on the thesis by Lori Firth, Hull University (2012):  "A Comparison of the Cistercian and Knights Templar Orders, And the Personal Influence of Bernard of Clairvaux", to be found here

The Primitive Rule in English is quoted below in its entirety. Source:

"Sint Gummarus Processie" 21 November, 2018 at Lier, Belgium

Every year the city of Lier (Belgium) is celebrating its patron Saint St Gummarus by a procession. The Saint Gummarus procession takes place on the first Sunday after 10 October (Sint-Gummarus fair).

Sixteen members of the Society of the Bearers carry the silver reliquary of St. Gummarus, which weighs more than 800 kg, through the streets of Lier.

During the feast day of the Saint (11 October), pilgrims from everywhere world come to the Sint-Gummarus church to ask for healing of malfunctions and call in the Saint's help to stay free of fractures.

In pronouncing the blessing, the priest puts the belt of Saint Gummarus on the shoulders of the pilgrim, the ritual of laying the band. This refers to the story where Saint Gummarus healed a cut down tree by wrapping his belt around the trunk and bringing it back into bloom.

source text (in Dutch)

The Holy Sepulchre, cradle of the Knights Templar

"According to a chronicle on the Templars’ beginnings, attributed to Ernoul, (...) the first Templars were a group of knights who had dedicated themselves to the Holy Sepulchre after the First Crusade. They realized that the country needed warriors, and criticized themselves for living an idle and comfortable life when they should be working. So they decided, with the permission of the prior of the Sepulchre, to elect a Master who could lead them in battle as necessary. King Baldwin II gave his approval for the scheme, and called the patriarch of ]erusalem, the archbishops and the bishops, and the barons of the country together. After discussion the new Order was approved. King Baldwin gave them land, castles and towns and persuaded the prior of the Sepulchre to release them from their obedience to him. (...)

Although this account was written after 1187, when the Saracens captured Jerusalem, it does give a convincing account of the Order’s beginnings. It combines the suggestions of the earlier accounts: the Order of the Temple was set up on the initiative of the knights themselves, and that these knights were pilgrims who had come to the kingdom of Jerusalem but who had settled in the city, and who saw that the country needed warriors. The new Order was approved both by the king and by the patriarch. In addition, this account would help to explain why writers in the West were sometimes confused about the relationship between the Hospital of St John, set up in the 1060s or 1070s to care for poor sick pilgrims to Jerusalem, the Order of the Temple, and the canons of the Holy Sepulchre, the priests who lived and worked in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It also explains why the Hospitallers and the Templars in the Holy Land followed the liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre in their church services, and why the seal of the Master of the Temple bore the image of the dome of the Holy
Sepulchre. According to ‘Ernoul’, all three groups were originally together. The Hospitallers and Templars had begun life as part of the religious community based in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre."

This blog quotes from "The Knights Templar - a brief history of the warrior Order" by Helen Nicholson (2010);  illustration Seal of the Master of the Knights Templar showing the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, source Wikipedia