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The famous or infamous “Templiers” or Knights Templars (Part 11)

To continue with the end of part 1, the recognition of the ”Templiers” did not pass only by the recognition of rules and a name but also by the assignment of a particular dress code for the Knights. Only knights and brothers from noble descent had the right to wear the white coat, symbol of purity and chastity. The red cross seems to have been granted late by Pope Eugene 111 but had been worn since 1139 and possibly earlier as it might have been issued by the Order of the Holy Sepulcher from which Hugues de Paynes was a previous member. Pope Eugene 111 gave the blessing to wear the red cross on the left shoulder on the side of the heart. The color red symbolized and recalled the blood shed by Jesus Christ. According to my research, the red cross was not on the chest of the Templars’ white tunic as some depictions whether in movies or pictures show it to be.

The vocation of the Order was to protect the pilgrims who came to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage by itself was across some 12,000 kilometers coming and going back without counting the crossing of the Mediterranean sea. Generally, the pilgrims disembarked at Acre, also called St-John of Acre and then had to walk to the Holy places. As men-at-arms, the “Templiers” or Templars secured the roads, especially that of Jaffa in Jerusalem and that of Jerusalem in Jordan. They also guarded certain Holy Places: Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Mount of Olives, the valley of Jehoshaphat, the Jordan, the Hill of the Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

All the pilgrims had the right to the protection by the Knights “Templiers”. As such, the Knights were active during the crusades and the armed pilgrimages to effect and to guard the sovereigns of the West on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In 1147, lent a hand to the army of King Louis V11 which was being attacked in the mountains of Asia Minor during the second crusade (1147-1149). This action allowed the continuation of the expedition and the King of France was very grateful to the Knights Templar. During the third crusade (1189-1192), the Templars and the Hospitallers Knights were respectively the vanguard and the rearguard of King Richard the Lionheart during most of his campaigns. During the Fifth Crusade, the participation of the military Orders , and therefore of the Templars, was decisive in the protection of the royal armies of King Louis 1X before Damietta.

But the fighting of the Templars was not exclusively to protect pilgrims but also to participate in battle. In the midst of military action, the “Templiers” were an elite force to reckon with. They showed courage and proved themselves to be fine strategists during the battles. They were present on all the fields of battles where the French army was and actually integrated the French royal armies as of 1129.

The Knights Templars participated in the second siege of Ascalon on the 16th of August 1153. Because the siege of Damas was such a big defeat for the King of Jerusalem, Beaudoin 111, this one decided to launch and attack on Ascalon. Le Templars’ Order Grand Master, Bernard de Tramelay, supported the King’s decision and the attack started on the 16th of August. This battle was a slaughter for the Templars who entered the city with only 40 Knights. The 40 Knights were all killed by the Egyptian defenders of the city and their bodies were left hanging on the ramparts of the city. However, the city of Ascalon fell on the 22nd of August 1153.

On the 25th of November 1177, the battle of Montgisard  was one the first battles of the young King of Jerusalem Beaudoin 1V, who was 16 years old at the time. The King’s troops were reinforced by 92 Templars, who came from Gaza under forced march. This alliance of troops got the better of Saladin’s army at Montgisard, near Ramla.

The battle of Hattin happened on the 4th of July of 1187. After the death of the leper King Beaudoin 1V, Guy de Lusignan became King of Jerusalem because he was married to Sybille, the sister of the previous King. Under the counsel of the “Templiers” and the “Hospitaliers”, Guy de Lusignan prepared his army. As the temperature was particularly dry and that the unique water supply was near Hattin, near Tiberias, the King made his army take that direction. On the 4th of July 1187, Saladin and his soldiers encircled the Francs. Almost all the army was taken prisonner (nearly 15,000 men). Saladin, having a particular dislike for the Templars, these were all executed by decapitation as well as the Hospitallers. Only one Templar was spared, the Grand Master himself: Gérard de Ridefort.

After the fall of Jerusalem, a third crusade was launched from Europe. Richard the Lionheart found himself alone after the retreat of the majority of the german troops of Frederic Barberousse (who drowned) and the return of Philippe Auguste back to France. Richard made his army march along the seashore, which allowed him to in communication with his flotilla and assure the continuous supply for his troops. Forming a huge column, Richard had as his vanguard the Templars, followed by the Bretons and the Angevins, Guy de Lusignan with his fellow Poitevins, then the Normans and the English, and finally the Hospitallers in the rear. In the first moments of battle, Richard suffered under the initiative from Saladin but quickly took the situation in hand to finally put the army of Saladin in rout by two successive charges of the Frankish chivalry.

On the 8th of February 1250 raged the battle of Mansourah. The count Robert 1 of Artois, disobeyed the orders of his brother King St-Louis and decided to attack the egyptian troops despite the protests of the Templars which implored him to wait for the rest of royal army. The French entered the city of Mansourah, scattering themselves in the streets. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Muslim forces launched a counter-attack and harassed the francs. It was a real slaughter. All of the Templars, 295 of them, perished. Only 4 or 5 of them managed to escape. Robert d’Artois, himself , the instigator of this battle without any order and completely meaningless, lost his life.

So this gives you, Virilians an outlook of what the Templars accomplished during the Crusades. But that was not the only way that the “Templiers” are remembered for. Please follow when I present the mystique behind the Templars in part 111.

What do you think?

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Written by HistoryGal

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    • Yes, the series Knightfall is loosely based on the Knights Templars. I do not watch it as it is not aired where I reside. BTW sorry about the delay in answering your question and comment. Thank you for reading my article.

    • Well, I am not sure what is meant by “Dobar post! Pozdrav”, but I assume that it is good because of the exclamation mark. Thank you very much. I will have to look up what those words mean. Just found out Pozdrav means hello in Croatian and Dobar means good. Again thank you very much and also thanks for the Croatian lesson.

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