Triumph and Tragedy History Essay
The Knights Templar were once a large and illustrious organization. Formed from the crusades they participated in every major battle of that time period. However they were disbanded and persecuted for their wealth they gained from the holy land. The papacy and the royalty of France effectively destroyed them, issuing decrees that cut the Templars support. "We strictly forbid anyone, of whatever state or condition, to interfere in any way in this matter of the persons and property of the Templars."(Vox In Excelso, Pope Clement V) The destruction of the Knights Templar caused the inevitable fall of the Outremer or the Middle Eastern Latin Kingdoms, a tragedy that cannot be forgotten.
The Crusades were a series of military expeditions led by Latin lords compelled by the papacy to reclaim the holy land from the Muslim Abbasids, known as the "infidel." After the first crusade lands conquered by the crusaders became the Out Remer. For years the Out Remer were harassed by the Muslims, still simmering from the conquest of their lands and the carnage inflicted at Jerusalem. They and the myriad of bandits in the region made pilgrimage to the newly captured holy city difficult for travelers.
Out of these difficult times the Knights Templar were formed. From the original 9 knights in the Temple of Solomon, a large and cumbersome military order was formed. The Templars frequently gave their support to crusaders and local lords in the form of military assistance and monetary support. Often Templars would be the first to charge into battle, lend exorbant amounts of money to crusaders, kept the peace between warring Christian powers.
The Templar participated in every major battle from the second crusade to the fifth, and were responsible for the partial success of those campaigns despite difficulties and inept leadership. In the second crusade during the march to Attalia, difficulty plagued the crusading army of Conrad of Germany and Louis of France. The Armies marched to Attalia on the road to Antioch, when Conrad fell ill and returned to Constantinople. During his time away his army and provisions were decimated by a flood of the stream that they camped near. With the large remainder of their forces they marched through the mountains of Turkey, Turkish armies launching sorties against them. Morale began to fail and the crusade was almost lost to a night raid in which their camp was burned to the ground by Turkish forces. Among the leaders a vote was cast and it was determined that the company of the Knights Templar would lead the army on the remainder of the march. Under their leadership the crusader armies eventually reached Antioch and eventually arrived at Jerusalem. Although the second crusade was a partial success what little victory that could be gained was a result of the Templar.
In the third crusade Richard of England and Phillip of France marched side by side in the third attempted conquest of the holy land. The armies met in Italy and journeyed to the holy land by sailing the Mediterranean Sea. Richard first attack the isle of Cyprus, held in Muslim hands. Already the island would be difficult to conquer; however reinforcements including a company of Templars, and in the end he succeeded by parleying with the local ruler. Later in the third crusade Saladin drew Richard the lion into a pitched battle with overwhelming numbers. Richard lined up his cavalry and waited for Saladin's advance. Two Templar charged and the rest of the cavalry followed; Saladin's army was routed, guarantying a safe march for the Christian forces to Jerusalem.
While the Templar did not participate in the fourth crusade for political and religious reasons, they were an integral part of the fifth crusade. They along with several lords attacked Egypt to cut its influence of the holy land. While this campaign was not a success what little victory was accomplished that day was due to the Templar advice and guidance. It was only through the Templar reinforcements that the crusaders were able to capture Dalmietta and gain a small measure of reasoning with the Fatamids of Egypt. In the end however the crusade failed because of poor leader ship and judgment of the lords. However this served a purpose, a treaty was struck and Egypt no longer interfered with matters concerning the holy land.
The Knights Templar owned vast amounts of monetary wealth. While the origin of this wealth is disputed, many historians agree that it came from ruling aristocrats to show favor with the newly formed military order. Never the less the Templar put the wealth to use in their goal of protecting the holy land from the "infidel." The Templar became the worlds first bankers, loaning money to the rulers of the Outremer so that the may defend themselves and support the struggling kingdoms. Without the Templar the Outremer might have collapsed from economic pressure rather than from outside parties.
For example in the third crusade Richard the Lion was marching to Jerusalem, during the long campaign his funding had run low and he sold the island of Cyprus, which he had conquered earlier, to the Templar. Cyprus is one of the only conquests of the crusades that remained in Christian hands after the rise of the Ottomans. This is an example of the wealth of the Templar.
The Templar were very wealthy, they owned estates across Europe and the Middle East. While it was against Templar code to own anything of great value they used these estates to support their army and often lent the land out to local lords and barons in return for a monetary gift.
The actual destruction of the Knight Templar came well after the crusades. The persons responsible are King Phillip the Fair of France and the pope that he placed in power, Pope Clement V. The original proposal began in the Council of Lyons, where leaders of the time where discussing a way to end the rivalry between the two Christian military orders, the Knights Templar and the Hospitaliers. Phillip of France desired possession of Templar gold and lands in France after the country was in poverty; all its money collected in taxes for two years was spent of the crusade. Phillip could not accomplish this without the threat of excommunication; he deposed the pope and put his own supporter, Pope Clement V in power.
With riots breaking out in France, Phillip used the ruse that the Templar encouraged the rioters and were heretics to gain all the authority to go through with his scheme.
Pope Clement asked the Bishops, 23 out of 24 French, to prove the Templar guilty of the accusations. When many denied the Templar heresy the Pope issued the Vox In Excelsio, giving all Templar possessions to their rivals, The Hospitaliers. Many European kingdoms soon followed through with the Papal Bull and the Templar were seized across Europe, although many escaped and are rumored to have fled to Scotland. Their lands were given to the Hospitaliers although Phillip of France controlled them in reality until his death. The fabled Templar wealth disappeared along with their grand masters and is also rumored to be in Scotland.
The absence of the Templar caused a power vacuum in the Middle East, with the Latin Outremer infighting to fill that void, with no one to mediate between them. The Templar kept the kingdoms from destroying each other and safe from outside threats like the Muslims, but in their absence and the ineptitude of the Hospitaliers to maintain order and stability there was nothing to prevent their squabbles. Only ten years after the fall of the Templar war broke out among the Outremer and in domino fashion the collapse began.
In the years that followed the Ottoman Empire began its unstoppable expansion and with out the support of the Knights of the Temple began to conquer the Outremer one by one. The Ottomans quickly subdued the Latin states and never again were they controlled by Christians.
The crusades put the known world into a state of never ending warfare. Out of this chaos the Knights Templar were formed. From humble beginnings in the Temple Mount they rose to power and prestige through war and conquest and became the single largest and most powerful monastic order the world has seen. They participated in the crusades and were instrumental in the formation and maintenance of the Latin Outremer. Their destruction and banishment created a vacuum into which the fragile kingdoms collapsed. The tragedy of their destruction spelled the end to the kingdoms forged of the crusades and put an end to the crusading spirit of the middle ages and shaped the out look of the western world for the rest of history.