Water power, a Templar tool for industrial development

This study presents information on the investment by the Militia of the Order of the Temple, towards the middle of the Xlle century, in an agro-industrial sector milling and cloth fabrication.

The decline of slavery in the medieval world led men to re-discover and spread a very ancient invention: the water mill. It is believed that the first water mills were known, in the countries of the East, in Greece and in the Roman Empire from the 1st century BC to the 9th century. The mills spread quickly in France. 

The principle of the water mill is relatively simple. The force of the water flowing or falling from above sets a great wheel in motion. Gears transmit this movement to a stone wheel which, by moving on a fixed stone, crushes the cereals to make flour. From this basic principle, ingenious devices allowed to operate mechanisms much more complex.

The originality of the Douzens templar commandery (founded 1141) results from the desire of the Order to exploit rationally water power. Next to an economy essentially focussed on land use, the Templars have diffused the use of watermills over numerous rivers belonging to their properties. These mills have permitted to spread cloth manufacturing and to set up specific establishments like flour-milling. 

The source of benefits but also the origin of conflicts, these hydraulic facilities illustrate the economic and demographic dynamism of the Aude land in the XIIth century as well as the initiative of the Militia Friars.

Translated and adapted from: L'utilisation des ressources hydrauliques par les templiers de la commanderie de Douzens (Aude) Archéologie du Midi Médiéval / Year1994 / 12 / pp. 99-113; illustration Douzens Commandery today, photo TemplarsNow, August 2019

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