Post-classical history

Gerard of Ridefort (d. 1189)

Master of the Order of the Temple (1185-1189).

A knight of Flemish or Anglo-Norman origin, Gerard entered the service of Count Raymond III of Tripoli in the early 1170s and became marshal of the kingdom of Jerusalem by 1179. However, in 1180 he joined the Templars and rapidly rose within the order, becoming seneschal by 1183 and master by 1185. Gerard supported the claims of Princess Sibyl and her husband Guy of Lusignan to the throne of Jerusalem after the death of the young Baldwin V in 1186; he was thus in opposition to the party led by Raymond of Tripoli. Gerard facilitated the coronation of Sibyl and Guy by surrendering the Temple’s key to the royal treasury (where the crowns were located) and by collecting the key that the master of the Hospital, Roger of Les Moulins, had discarded. The chronicle known as Eracles ascribes Gerard’s actions to his enmity toward Raymond of Tripoli. Raymond had promised Gerard an advantageous marriage, and around 1180 Gerard had expected to marry the heiress of Botron (mod. Batrûn, Lebanon) in the county of Tripoli; however, Raymond had given her to a wealthy Pisan merchant instead. It is possible that this disappointment prompted Gerard to join the Templars.

Faced with the growing threat from Saladin, King Guy selected Gerard as one of a delegation that was intended to make peace with Raymond of Tripoli in April 1187. At the Templar castle of La Fève, he and Roger of Les Moulins learned of a large Muslim force in Nazareth. Accounts vary as to whether both masters decided to attack or whether Gerard persuaded Roger against his better judgment. Roger was killed, along with most of the Christian forces, at the ensuing battle of the Springs of Cresson (1 May 1187); Gerard was one of only three Templar knights who escaped. The defeat reduced Christian forces, and Gerard hired mercenaries with the money that King Henry II of England had deposited with the Templars.

When Saladin mounted his great invasion of Galilee later that year, Gerard advised King Guy to fight Saladin, contrary to Raymond of Tripoli’s counsel. Gerard was the only Templar to survive the defeat at Hattin (4 July 1187), and was apparently ransomed in exchange for the Templar castle at Gaza. He joined King Guy’s army in besieging Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) in August 1189 and died during the siege on 4 October 1189.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!