Richard Coeur de Lion joins the Templars before Acre—The city surrenders, and the Templars establish the chief house of their order within it—Coeur de Lion takes up his abode with them—He sells to them the island of Cyprus— The Templars form the van of his army— Their foraging expeditions and great exploits—Coeur de Lion quits the Holy Land in the disguise of a Knight Templar—The Templars build the Pilgrim’s Castle in Palestine—The state of the Order in England—King John resides in the Temple at London— The barons come to him at that place, and demand MAGNA CHARTA—The exploits of the Templars in Egypt—The letters of the Grand Master to the Master of the Temple at London—The Templars reconquer Jerusalem.
“Therefore, friends, As far as to the sepulchre of Christ (Whose soldier now under whose blessed cross We are impressed and engag’d to fight), Forthwith a power of English shall we levy, Whose arms were moulded in their mother’s womb, To chase these pagans, in those holy fields, Over whose acres walked those blessed feet, Which, fourteen hundred years ago, were nail’d, For our advantage, on the bitter cross.”
WALTER A.D. 1191.
WALTER A.D. 1191.
IN the mean time a third crusade had been preached in Europe. William, archbishop of Tyre, had proceeded to the courts of France and England, and had represented in glowing colours the miserable condition of Palestine, and the horrors and abominations which had been committed by the infidels in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The English and French monarchs laid aside their private animosities, and agreed to fight under the same banner against the infidels, and towards the close of the month of May, in the second year of the siege of Acre, the royal fleets of Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur de Lion floated in triumph in the bay of Acre. At the period of the arrival of King Richard the Templars had again lost their Grand Master, and Brother Robert de Sablé, or Sabloil, a valiant knight of the Order, who had commanded a division of the English fleet on the voyage out, was placed at the head of the fraternity.* The proudest of the nobility, and the most valiant of the chivalry of Europe, on their arrival in Palestine, manifested an eager desire to fight under the banner of the Temple. Many secular knights were permitted by the Grand Master to take their station by the side of the military friars, and even to wear the red cross on their breasts whilst fighting in the ranks.
ROBERT DE SABLE. A.D. 1191.
The Templars performed prodigies of valour; “The name of their reputation, and the fame of their sanctity,” says James of Vitry, bishop of Acre, “like a chamber of perfume sending forth a sweet odour, was diffused throughout the entire world, and all the congregation of the saints will recount their battles and glorious triumph over the enemies of Christ, knights indeed from all parts of the earth, dukes, and princes, after their example, casting off the shackles of the world, and renouncing the pomps and vanities of this life and all the lusts of the flesh for Christ’s sake, hastened to join them, and to participate in their holy profession and religion.”†
ROBERT DE SABLE. A.D. 1191.
On the morning of the twelfth of July, six weeks after the arrival of the British fleet, the kings of England and France, the Christian chieftains, and the Turkish emirs with their green banners, assembled in the tent of the Grand Master of the Temple, to treat of the surrender of Acre, and on the following day the gates were thrown open to the exulting warriors of the cross. The Templars took possession of three localities within the city by the side of the sea, where they established their famous Temple, which became from thenceforth the chief house of the Order. Richard Coeurde Lion, we are told, took up his abode with the Templars, whilst Philip resided in the citadel.‡
When the fiery monarch of England tore down the banner of the duke of Austria from its staff and threw it into the ditch, it was the Templars who, interposing between the indignant Germans and the haughty Britons, preserved the peace of the Christian army.§
During his voyage from Messina to Acre, King Richard had revenged himself on Isaac Comnenus, the ruler of the island of Cyprus, for the insult offered to the beautiful Berengaria, princess of Navarre, his betrothed bride. The sovereign of England had disembarked his troops, stormed the town of Limisso, and conquered the whole island; and shortly after his arrival at Acre, he sold it to the Templars for three hundred thousand livres d’or.*
* Hist, de la maison de Sablé, liv. vi. chap. 5. p. 174, 175. Cotton MS. Nero, E. vi. p. 60. folio 466, where he is called Robert de SambeU. L’art de Verif. p. 347.
† Jac. de Vitr. cap. 65.
‡ Le roi de France ot le chastel d’Acre, ot le fist garner et le roi d’Angleterre se herberja en la maison du Temple. ––Contin. Hist. bell. Sacr. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 634
§ Chron. Ottonis a S. Blazio, c. 36. apud Scriptores Italicos, tom. vi. col. 892.
ROBERT DE SABLE. A.D. 1191.
During the famous march of Richard Coeur de Lion from Acre to Ascalon, the Templars generally led the van of the Christian army, and the Hospitallers brought up the rear.† Saladin, at the head of an immense force, exerted all his energies to oppose their progress, and the march to Jaffa formed a perpetual battle of eleven days. On some occasions Coeur de Lion himself, at the head of a chosen body of knights, led the van, and the Templars were formed into a rear-guard.‡ They sustained immense loss, particularly in horses, which last calamity, we are told, rendered them nearly desperate.§
The Moslem as well as the Christian writers speak with admiration of the feats of heroism performed. “On the sixth day,” says Bohadin, “the sultan rose at dawn as usual, and heard from his brother that the enemy were in motion. They had slept that night in suitable places about Caesarea, and were now dressing and taking their food. A second messenger announced that they had begun their march; our brazen drum was sounded, all were alert, the sultan came out, and I accompanied him: he surrounded them with chosen troops, and gave the signal for attack.”… “Their foot soldiers were covered with thick-strung pieces of cloth, fastened together with rings so as to resemble coats of mail. I saw with my own eyes several who had not one nor two but ten darts sticking in their backs and yet marched on with a calm and cheerful step, without any trepidation!” **
ROBERT DE SABLE. A.D. 1191.
Every exertion was made to sustain the courage and enthusiasm of the Christian warriors. When the army halted for the night, and the soldiers were about to take their rest, a loud voice was heard from the midst of the camp, exclaiming, “ASSIST THE HOLYSEPULCHRE,”which words were repeated by the leaders of the host, and were echoed and re-echoed along their extended lines.†† The Templars and the Hospitallers, who were well acquainted with the country, employed themselves by night in marauding and foraging expeditions. They frequently started off at midnight, swept the country with their turcopoles or light cavalry, and returned to the camp at morning’s dawn with rich prizes of oxen, sheep, and provisions.*
* Contin. Hist. bell. sacr. Martene, tom. v. col. 633. Trivet, ad. ann. 1191. Chron. de S. Denis, lib. ii. cap. 7. Vinisauf, p. 328.
† Primariam aciem deducebant Templarii et ultimam Hospitalarii, quorum utrique strenue agents magnarum virtutum prætendebant imaginem.–– Vinisauf, cap. xii. P. 350.
‡ Ibi rex præordinaverat quod die sequenti primam aciem ipse deduceret, et quod Templarii extremæ agminis agerent custodiam.— Vinisauf cap. xiv. p. 351.
§ Deducendæ extremæ legioni præfuerant Templarii, qui tot equos eâ die Turcis irruentibus, a tergo amiserunt, quod fere desperati sunt.—Ib.
** Bohadin, cap. cxvi. p. 189.
†† Singulis noctibus antequam dormituri cubarent, quidam ad hoc deputatus voce magnâ clamaret fortiter in medio exercitu dicens, ADJUVA SKPULCHRUM SANCTUM; ad hanc vocem clamabant universi eadem verba repetentes, et manus suas cum lacrymis uberrimis tendentes in caelum, Dei misericordiam poetulantes et adjutorium.—Vinisauf cap. xii. p. 351.
In the great plain near Ramleh, when the Templars led the van of the Christian army, Saladin made a last grand effort to arrest their progress, which was followed by one of the greatest battles of the age. Geoffrey de Vinisauf, the companion of King Richard on this expedition, gives a lively and enthusiastic description of the appearance of the Moslem array in the great plain around Jaffa and Ramleh. On all sides, far as the eye could reach, from the sea-shore to the mountains, nought was to be seen but a forest of spears, above which waved banners and standards innumerable. The wild Bedouins,† the children of the desert, mounted on their fleet Arab mares, coursed with the rapidity of the lightning over the vast plain, and darkened the air with clouds of missiles. Furious and unrelenting, of a horrible aspect, with skins blacker than soot, they strove by rapid movement and continuous assaults to penetrate the well-ordered array of the Christian warriors. They advanced to the attack with horrible screams and bellowings, which, with the deafening noise of the trumpets, horns, cymbals, and brazen kettledrums, produced a clamour that resounded through the plain, and would have drowned even the thunder of heaven.
ROBERT DE SABLE. A.D. 1191.
The engagement commenced with the left wing of the Hospitallers, and the victory of the Christians was mainly owing to the personal prowess of King Richard. Amid the disorder of his troops, Saladin remained on the plain without lowering his standard or suspending the sound of his brazen kettle-drums, he rallied his forces, retired upon Ramleh, and prepared to defend the road leading to Jerusalem. The Templars and Hospitallers, when the battle was over, went in search of Jacques d’Asvesnes, one of the most valiant of King Richard’s knights, whose dead body, placed on their spears, they brought into the camp amid the tears and lamentations of their brethren.‡
The Templars, on one of their foraging expeditions, were surrounded by a superior force of four thousand Moslem cavalry; the Earl of Leicester, with a chosen body of English, was sent by Coeur de Lion to their assistance, but the whole party was overpowered and in danger of being cut to pieces, when Richard himself hurried to the scene of action with his famous battle-axe, and rescued the Templars from their perilous situation. § By the valour and exertions of the lion-hearted king, the city of Gaza, the ancient fortress of the Order, which had been taken by Saladin soon after the battle of Tiberias, was recovered to the Christian arms, the fortifications were repaired, and the place was restored to the Knights Templars, who again garrisoned it with their soldiers.
* Ibid. cap. xxxii. p. 369.
† Bedewini horridi, fuligine obscuriores, pedites improbissimi, arcus gestantes cum pharetris, et ancilia rotunda, gene quidem acerrima et expedita.—Vinisauf, cap. xviii. p. 355.
‡ Vinisauf cap. xxii. p. 360. Bohadin, cap. cxx.
§ Expedite descenderunt (Templarii) ex equis suis, et dorsa singuli dorsis sociorum habentes haerentia, facie versâ in hostes, sese viriliter defendere coeperunt. Ibi videri fuit pugnam acerrimam, ictus validissimos, tinniunt galea a percutientium collisione gladiorum, igneæ exsiliunt scintillæ, crepitant arma tumultuantium, perstrepunt voces; Turci se viriliter ingerunt, Templarii strenuissime defendunt.—Ib. cap. xxx. p. 366, 367.
As the army advanced, Saladin fell back towards Jerusalem, and the vanguard of the Templars was pushed on to the small town of Ramleh.
At midnight of the festival of the Holy Innocents, a party of them sallied out of the camp in company with some Hospitallers on a foraging expedition; they scoured the mountains in the direction of Jerusalem, and at morning’s dawn returned to Ramleh with more than two hundred oxen.*
When the Christian army went into winter quarters, the Templars established themselves at Gaza, and King Richard and his army were stationed in the neighbouring town of Ascalon, the walls and houses of which were rebuilt by the English monarch during the winter. Whilst the Christian forces were reposing in winter quarters, an arrangement was made between the Templars, King Richard, and Guy de Lusignan, “the king without a kingdom,” for the cession to the latter of the island of Cyprus, previously sold by Richard to the Order of the Temple, by virtue of which arrangement, Guy de Lusignan took possession of the island and ruled the country by the magnificent title of emperor.†
When the winter rains had subsided, the Christian forces were again put in motion, but both the Templars and Hospitallers strongly advised Coeur de Lion not to march upon Jerusalem, and the latter appears to have had no strong inclination to undertake the siege of the holy city, having manifestly no chance of success. The English monarch declared that he would be guided by the advice of the Templars and Hospitallers, who were acquainted with the country, and were desirous of recovering their ancient inheritances. The army, however, advanced within a day’s journey of the holy city, and then a council was called together, consisting of five Knights Templars, five Hospitallers, five eastern Christians, and five western Crusaders, and the expedition was abandoned.‡
ROBERT DE SABLE. A.D. 1192.
The Templars took part in the attack upon the great Egyptian convoy, wherein four thousand and seventy camels, five hundred horses, provisions, tents, arms, and clothing, and a great quantity of gold and silver, were captured, and then fell back upon Acre; they were followed by Saladin, who immediately commenced offensive operations, and laid siege to Jaffa. The Templars marched by land to the relief of the place, and Coeur de Lion hurried by sea. Many valiant exploits were performed, the town was relieved, and the campaign was concluded by the ratification of a treaty whereby the Christians were to enjoy the privilege of visiting Jerusalem as pilgrims. Tyre, Acre, and Jaffa, with all the sea-coast between them, were yielded to the Latins, but it was stipulated that the fortifications of Ascalon should be demolished.*
* Vtnisauf cap. xxxii. p. 369.
† Ib. cap. xxxvii. p. 392. Contin. Hist. Bell. Sacr. apud Martene, r. col. 638.
‡ Vinisauf, lib. v. cap. 1, p. 403. Ibid. lib. vi. cap. 2, p. 404.
After the conclusion of this treaty, King Richard being anxious to take the shortest and speediest route to his dominions by traversing the continent of Europe, and to travel in disguise to avoid the malice of his enemies, made an arrangement with his friend Robert de Sable, the Grand Master of the Temple, whereby the latter undertook to place a galley of the Order at the disposal of the king, and it was determined that whilst the royal fleet pursued its course with Queen Berengaria through the Straits of Gibraltar to Britain, Coeur de Lion himself, disguised in the habit of a Knight Templar, should secretly embark and make for one of the ports of the Adriatic. The plan was carried into effect on the night of the 26th of October, and King Richard set sail, accompanied by some attendants, and four trusty Templars.† The habit he had assumed, however, protected him not, as is well known, from the cowardly vengeance of the base duke of Austria.
The lion-hearted monarch was one of the many benefactors to the Order of the Temple. He granted to the fraternity his manor of Calow, with various powers and privileges.‡
GILBERT HORAL. A.D. 1195.
Shortly after his departure from Palestine, the Grand Master, Robert de Sablé, was succeeded by Brother Gilbert Horal or Erail, who had previously filled the high office of Grand Preceptor of France. § The Templars, to retain and strengthen their dominion in Palestine, commenced the erection of various strong fortresses, the stupendous ruins of many of which remain to this day. The most famous of these was the Pilgrim’s Castle,** which commanded the coast-road from Acre to Jerusalem. It derived its name from a solitary tower erected by the early Templars to protect the passage of the pilgrims through a dangerous pass in the mountains bordering the sea-coast, and was commenced shortly after the removal of the chief house of the Order from Jerusalem to Acre. A small promontory which juts out into the sea a few miles below Mount Carmel, was converted into a fortified camp. Two gigantic towers, a hundred feet in height and seventy-four feet in width, were erected, together with enormous bastions connected together by strong walls furnished with all kinds of military engines. The vast inclosure contained a palace for the use of the Grand Master and knights, a magnificent church, houses and offices for the serving brethren and hired soldiers, together with pasturages, vineyards, gardens, orchards, and fishponds. On one side of the walls was the salt sea, and on the other, within the camp, delicious springs of fresh water. The garrison amounted to four thousand men in time of war.* Considerable remains of this famous fortress are still visible on the coast, a few miles to the south of Acre. It is still called by the Levantines, Castel Pellegrino. Pococke describes it as “very magnificent, and so finely built, that it may be reckoned one of the things that are best worth seeing in these parts. … It is encompassed,” says he, “with two walls fifteen feet thick, the inner wall on the east side cannot be less than forty feet high, and within it there appear to have been some very grand apartments. The offices of the fortress seem to have been at the west end, where I saw an oven fifteen feet in diameter. In the castle there are remains of a fine lofty church of ten sides, built in a light gothic taste: three chapels are built to the three eastern sides, each of which consists of five sides, excepting the opening to the church; in these it is probable the three chief altars stood.”† Irby and Mangles referring at a subsequent period to the ruins of the church, describe it as a double hexagon, and state that the half then standing had six sides. Below the cornice are human heads and heads of animals in alto relievo, and the walls are adorned with a double line of arches in the gothic style, the architecture light and elegant. To narrate all the exploits of the Templars, and all the incidents and events connected with the Order, would be to write the history of the Latin kingdom of Palestine, which was preserved and maintained for the period of ninety-nine years after the departure of Richard Coeur de Lion, solely by the exertions of the Templars and the Hospitallers. No action of importance was ever fought with the infidels, in which the Templars did not take an active and distinguished part, nor was the atabal of the Mussulmen ever sounded in defiance on the frontier, without the trumpets of the Templars receiving and answering the challenge.
PHILIP DUPLESSIES. A.D. 1201.
The Grand Master, Gilbert Horal, was succeeded by Philip Dulplessies or De Plesseis.‡ We must now refer to a few events connected with the Order of the Temple in England.
* Ib. cap. iv. v. p. 406, 407, &c. &c.; cap. xi. p. 410; cap. xiv. p. 412. King Richard was the first to enter the town. Tune rex per cocleam quandaxn, quam forte prospexerat in domibus Templariorum solus primus intravit villam.—Vinisauf, p. 413, 414.
† Contin. Hist Bell. Sacr, apud Martene, tom. v. col. 641.
‡ Concessimus omne jus, omne dominium quod ad nos pertinet et pertineat, omnem potestatem, omnes libertates et liberas consuetudines quas regia potestas conferre potest. Cart. Ric. 1. ann. 5, regni sui.
§ Hispania Illustrata, tom. iii. p. 59. Hist, gen. de Languedoc, tom. iii. p. 409. Cotton, MS. Nero E. VI. 23. i.
** Castrum nostrum quod Peregrinorum dicitur, see the letter of the Grand Master Matt. Par.p. 312, and Jac. de Vitr. lib. iii. apud Gest. Dei, p. 1131.
* “Opus egregium,” says James of Vitry,” ubi tot et tantas effuderunt divitias, quod mirum est undo eas accipiunt.”—Hist. Orient. lib. iii. apud Gest. Dei, tom. i. pars 9, p. 1131, Martene, tom. iii. col. 288. Hist. capt. Damietæ, apud Hist. Angl. script. XV. p. 437, 438, where it is called Castrum Filii Dei.
† Pococke, Travels in the East, book i. chap. 15.
‡ Dufresne, Gloss. Archives d’Arles. Cotton, MS. Nero E. VI.
PHILIP DUPLESSIES. A.D. 1213.
Brother Geoffrey, who was Master of the Temple at London at the period of the consecration of the Temple Church by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, died shortly after the capture of the Holy City by Saladin, and was succeeded by Brother Amaric de St. Maur, who is an attesting witness to the deed executed by King John, A. D. 1203, granting a dowry to his young queen, the beautiful Isabella of Angouleme.* Philip Augustus, king of France, placed a vast sum of gold and silver in the Temple at Paris, and the treasure of John, king of England, was deposited in the Temple at London.† King John, indeed, frequently resided, for weeks together, at the Temple in London, and many of his writs and precepts to his lieutenants, sheriffs, and bailiffs, are dated therefrom.‡ The orders for the concentration of the English fleet at Portsmouth, to resist the formidable French invasion instigated by the pope, are dated from the Temple, and the convention between the king and the count of Holland, whereby the latter agreed to assist King John with a body of knights and men-at-arms, in case of the landing of the French, was published at the same place.§
In all the conferences and negotiations between the mean-spirited king and the imperious and overbearing Roman pontiff, the Knights Templars took an active and distinguished part. Two brethren of the Order were sent by Pandulph, the papal legate, to King John, to arrange that famous conference between them which ended in the complete submission of the latter to all the demands of the holy see. By the advice and persuasion of the Templars, King John repaired to the preceptory of Temple Ewell, near Dover, where he was met by the legate Pandulph, who crossed over from France to confer with him, and the mean-hearted king was there frightened into that celebrated resignation of the kingdoms of England and Ireland, “to God, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to the holy Roman church his mother, and to his lord, Pope Innocent the Third, and his catholic successors, for the remission of all his sins and the sins of all his people, as well the living as the dead.”** The following year the commands of King John for the extirpation of the heretics in Gascony, addressed to the seneschal of that province, were issued from the Temple at London,†† and about the same period the Templars were made the depositaries of various private and confidential matters pending between King John and his illustrious sister-in-law, “the royal, eloquent, and beauteous” Berengaria of Navarre, the youthful widowed queen of Richard Coeur de Lion*The Templars in England managed the money transactions of that fair princess. She directed her dower to be paid in the house of the New Temple at London, together with the arrears due to her from the king, amounting to several thousand pounds.†
* Acta et Foedera, Rymeri, tom. i. p. 134, ad. ann. 1203, ed. 1704.
† Rigord in Gest. Philippi. Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 165, 173.
‡ Itinerarium regis Johannis, compiled from the grants and precepts of that monarch, by Thomas Duff Hardy, published by the Record Commissioners.
§ Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 170, ad. ann. 1213. ** Matt. Par. ad. ann. 1213, p. 234, 236, 237. Matt. Westr. p. 271, 2. Bib. Cotton. Nero C. 2. Acta Rymeri tom. i. p. 172, 173. King John resided at Temple Ewell from the 7th to the 28th of May.
†† Teste meipso apud Novum Templum London . … Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p . 105. ad. ann. 1214, ed. 1704.
PHILIP DUPLESSIES. A.D. 1215.
John was resident at the Temple when he was compelled by the barons of England to sign Magna Charta. Matthew Paris tells us that the barons came to him, whilst he was residing in the New Temple at London, “in a very resolute manner, clothed in their military dresses, and demanded the liberties and laws of King Edward, with others for themselves, the kingdom, and the church of England.‡
King John was a considerable benefactor to the Order. He granted to the fraternity the Isle of Lundy, at the mouth of the river Severn; all his land at Radenach and at Harewood, in the county of Hereford; and he conferred on the Templars numerous privileges. §
WILLIAM DE CHARTRES. A.D. 1217.
The Grand Master Philip Duplessies was succeeded by Brother William de Chartres, as appears from the following letter to the Pope:
WILLIAM DE CHARTRES. A.D. 1217.
“To the very reverend father in Christ, the Lord Honorius, by the providence of God chief pontiff of the Holy Roman Church, William de Chartres, humble Master of the poor chivalry of the Temple, proffereth all due obedience and reverence, with the kiss of the foot.
“By these our letters we hasten to inform your paternity of the state of that Holy Land which the Lord hath consecrated with his own blood. Know that, at the period of the departure of these letters, an immense number of pilgrims, both knights and foot soldiers, marked with the emblem of the life-giving cross, arrived at Acre from Germany and other parts of Europe. Saphadin, the great sultan of Egypt, hath remained closely within the confines of his own dominions, not daring in any way to molest us. The arrival of the king of Hungary, and of the dukes of Austria and Moravia, together with the intelligence just received of the near approach of the fleet of the Friths, has not a little alarmed him. Never do we recollect the power of the Pagans so low as at the present time; and may the omnipotent God, O holy father, make it grow weaker and weaker day by day. But we must inform you that in these parts corn and barley, and all the necessaries of life, have become extraordinarily dear. This year the harvest has utterly disappointed the expectations of our husbandmen, and has almost totally failed. The natives, indeed, now depend for support altogether upon the corn imported from the West, but as yet very little foreign grain has been received; and to increase our uneasiness, nearly all our knights are dismounted, and we cannot procure horses to supply the places of those that have perished. It is therefore of the utmost importance, O holy father, to advertise all who design to assume the cross of the above scarcity, that they may furnish themselves with plentiful supplies of grain and horses.
* “Formam autem rei prolocutae inter nos et ipsoa, scriptam et sigillo nostro sigillatam. … in custodiam Templariorum commisimus.”—Literœ Regis sorori suœ Reginœ Berengariœ, ib. p. 194.
† Berengaria Dei gratiâ, quondam humilis Angliæ Regina. Omnibus, &c. salutem. … Hanc pecuniam solvet in domo Novi Templi London. Ib. p. 208, 209, ad. ann. 1215.
‡Matt. Par. p. 253, ad. ann. 1215.
§ Monast. Angl. vol. vi. part ii.
“Before the arrival of the king of Hungary and the duke of Austria, we had come to the determination of marching against the city of Naplous, and of bringing the Saracen chief Coradin to an engagement if he would have awaited our attack, but we have all now determined to undertake an expedition into Egypt to destroy the city of Damietta, and we shall then march upon Jerusalem. …”*
WILLIAM DE CHARTRES. A.D. 1218.
It was in the month of May, A.D. 1218, that the galleys of the Templars set sail from Acre on the above-mentioned memorable expedition into Egypt. They cast anchor in the mouth of the Nile, and, in conjunction with a powerful army of crusaders, laid siege to Damietta. A pestilence broke out shortly after their arrival, and hurried the Grand Master, William de Chartres, to his grave.† He was succeeded by the veteran warrior, Brother Peter de Montaigu, Grand Preceptor of Spain .‡
PETER DE MONTAIGU. A.D. 1218.
James of Vitry, bishop of Acre, who accompanied the Templars on this expedition, gives an enthusiastic account of their famous exploits, and of the tremendous battles fought upon the Nile, in one of which a large vessel of the Templars was sunk, and every soul on board perished. He describes the great assault on their camp towards the middle of the year 1219, when the trenches were forced, and all the infantry put to flight. “The insulting shouts of the conquering Saracens,” says he, “were heard on all sides, and a panic was rapidly spreading through the disordered ranks of the whole army of the cross, when the Grand Master and brethren of the Temple made a desperate charge, and bravely routed the first ranks of the infidels. The spirit of Gideon animated the Templars, and the rest of the army, stimulated by their example, bravely advanced to their support. … Thus did the Lord on that day, through the valour of the Templars, save those who trusted in Him.”§ Immediately after the surrender of Damietta, the Grand Master of the Temple returned to Acre to repel the forces of the sultan of Damascus, who had invaded the Holy Land, as appears from the following letter to the bishop of Ely.
* Ital. et Raven. Historiarum Hieronymi Rubei, lib. vi. p. 380, 381, ad ann. 1217. ed, Ven. 1603.
† Jac. de Vitr. lib. iii. ad. ann. 1218. Gesta Dei, tom i. 1, para2, p. 1133, 4, 5.
‡ Gall. Christ nov. tom. ii. col. 714, torn vii. col. 229.
§ Jac. de Vitr. Hist. Orient, ut sup. p. 1138. Bernard Thesaur. apud Muratori, cap. 190 to 200.
“Brother Peter de Montaigu, Master of the Knights of the Temple, to the reverend brother in Christ, N., by the grace of God bishop of Ely, health. We proceed by these letters to inform your paternity how we have managed the affairs of our Lord Jesus Christ since the capture of Damietta and of the castle of Taphneos.” The Grand Master describes various military operations, the great number of galleys fitted out by the Saracens to intercept the supplies and succour from Europe, and the arming of the galleys, galliots, and other vessels of the Order of the Temple to oppose them, and clear the seas of the infidel flag. He states that the sultan of Damascus had invaded Palestine, had ravaged the country around Acre and Tyre, and had ventured to pitch his tents before the castle of the Pilgrims, and had taken possession of Cæsarea. “If we are disappointed,” says he, “of the succour we expect in the ensuing summer, all our newly-acquired conquests, as well as the places that we have held for ages past, will be left in a very doubtful condition. We ourselves, and others in these parts, are so impoverished by the heavy expenses we have incurred in prosecuting the affairs of Jesus Christ, that we shall be unable to contribute the necessary funds, unless we speedily receive succour and subsidies from the faithful. Given at Acre, xii. kal. October, A.D. 1222.”*
The troops of the sultan of Damascus were repulsed and driven beyond the frontier, and the Grand Master then returned to Damietta, to superintend the preparations for a march upon Cairo. The results of that disastrous campaign are detailed in the following letter to Brother Alan Marcel, Preceptor of England, and Master of the Temple at London. “Brother Peter de Montaigu, humble Master of the soldiers of Christ, to our vicegerent and beloved brother in Christ, Alan Marcel, Preceptor of England.
PETER DE MONTAIGU. A.D. 1222.
“Hitherto we have had favourable information to communicate unto you touching our exertions in the cause of Jesus Christ; now, alas! such have been the reverses and disasters which our sins have brought upon us in the land of Egypt, that we have nothing but ill news to announce. After the capture of Damietta, our army remained for some time in a state of inaction, which brought upon us frequent complaints and reproaches from the eastern and the western Christians. At length, after the feast of the holy apostles, the legate of the holy pontiff, and all our soldiers of the cross, put themselves in march by land and by the Nile, and arrived in good order at the spot where the sultan was encamped, at the head of an immense number of the enemies of the cross. The river Taphneos, an arm of the great Nile, flowed between the camp of the sultan and our forces, and being unable to ford this river, we pitched our tents on its banks, and prepared bridges to enable us to force the passage. In the mean time, the annual inundation rapidly increased, and the sultan, passing his galleys and armed boats through an ancient canal, floated them into the Nile below our positions, and cut off our communications with Damietta.” … “Nothing now was to be done but to retrace our steps. The sultans of Aleppo and Damascus, the two brothers of the sultan, and many chieftains and kings of the pagans, with an immense multitude of infidels who had come to their assistance, attempted to cut off our retreat. At night we commenced our march, but the infidels cut through the embankments of the Nile, the water rushed along several unknown passages and ancient canals, and encompassed us on all sides. We lost all our provisions, many of our men were swept into the stream, and the further progress of our Christian warriors was forthwith arrested. The waters continued to increase upon us, and in this terrible inundation we lost all our horses and saddles, our carriages, baggage, furniture, and moveables, and everything that we had. We ourselves could neither advance nor retreat, and knew not whither to turn. We could not attack the Egyptians on account of the great lake which extended itself between them and us; we were without food, and being caught and pent up like fish in a net, there was nothing left for us but to treat with the sultan.
* Epist. Magni Magistri Templi apud Matt. Par. p. 312, 313.
“We agreed to surrender Damietta, with all the prisoners which we had in Tyre and at Acre, on Condition that the sultan restored to us the wood of the true cross and the prisoners that he detained at Cairo and Damascus. We, with some others, were deputed by the whole army to announce to the people of Damietta the terms that had been imposed upon us. These were very displeasing to the bishop of Acre,* to the chancellor, and some others, who wished to defend the town, a measure which we should indeed have greatly approved of, had there been any reasonable chance of success; for we would rather have been thrust into perpetual imprisonment than have surrendered, to the shame of Christendom, this conquest to the infidels. But after having made a strict investigation into the means of defence, and finding neither men nor money wherewith to protect the place, we were obliged to submit to the conditions of the sultan, who, after having exacted from us an oath and hostages, accorded to us a truce of eight years. During the negotiations the sultan faithfully kept his word, and for the space of fifteen days furnished our soldiers with the bread and corn necessary for their subsistence. “Do you, therefore, pitying our misfortunes, hasten to relieve them to the utmost of your ability. Farewell.”†
PETER DE MONTAIGU. A.D. 1223.
Brother Alan Marcell, to whom the above letter is addressed, succeeded Amaric de St. Maur, and was at the head of the Order in England for the space of sixteen years. He was employed by King Henry the Third in various important negotiations; and was Master of the Temple at London, when Reginald, king of the island of Man, by the advice and persuasion of the legate Pandulph, made a solemn surrender at that place of his island to the pope and his Catholic successors, and consented to hold the same from thenceforth as the feudatory of the church of Rome.*
* Our historian, James de Vitry; he subsequently became one of the hostages. Contin. Hist. apud. Martene, tom. v. col. 698
† Matt. Par. ad. ann. 1222, p. 314. See also another letter, p. 313.
PETER DE MONTAIGU. A.D. 1224.
At the commencement of the reign of Henry the Third, the Templars in England appear to have been on bad terms with the king. The latter made heavy complaints against them to the pope, and the holy pontiff issued (A.D. 1223) the bull “DEINSOLENTIATEMPLARIORUM REPRIMENDA,”in which he states that his very dear son in Christ, Henry, the illustrious king of the English, had complained to him of the usurpations of the Templars on the royal domains; that they had placed their crosses upon houses that did not belong to them, and prevented the customary dues and services from being rendered to the crown; that they undutifully set at nought the customs of the king’s manors, and involved the bailiffs and royal officers in lawsuits before certain judges of their own appointment. The pope directs two abbots to inquire into these matters, preparatory to further proceedings against the guilty parties;† but the Templars soon became reconciled to their sovereign, and on the 28th of April of‡the year following, the Master, Brother Alan Marcell, was employed by King Henry to negotiate a truce between himself and the king of France. The king of England appears at that time to have been resident at the Temple, the letters of credence being made out at that place, in the presence of the archbishop of Canterbury, several bishops, and Hubert, the chief justiciary.§ The year after, the same Alan Marcell was sent into Germany, to negotiate a treaty of marriage between King Henry and the daughter of the duke of Austria.**
At this period, Brother Hugh de Stocton and Richard Ranger, knights of the convent of the New Temple at London, were the guardians of the royal treasure in the Tower, and the former was made the depositary, of the money paid annually by the king to the count of Flanders. He was also entrusted by Henry the Third with large sums of money, out of which he was commanded to pay ten thousand marks to the emperor of Constantinople.††
Among the many illustrious benefactors to the Order of the Temple at this period was Philip the Second, king of France, who bequeathed the sum of one hundred thousand pounds to the Grand Master of the Temple.*
* Actum London in domo Militiæ Templi, II. kal. Octob. Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 234, ad ann. 1219.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. i. ad ann 1223, p. 258.
‡ Mittimua ad vos dilect. nobis in Christo, fratrem Alanum Marcell Magistrum militiæ Templi in Angliâ, &c. … .Teste meipso apud Novum Templum London coram Domino Cantuar––archiepiscopo, Huberto de Burgo justitiario et J. Bath––Sarum episcopis. Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 270, ad ann. 1224.
§ Ib. p. 275.
** Ib. p. 311, 373, 380.
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1236.
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1237.
The Grand Master, Peter de Montaigu, was succeeded by Brother Hermann de Perigord.† Shortly after his accession to power, William de Montserrat, Preceptor of Antioch, being “desirous of extending the Christian territories, to the honour and glory of Jesas Christ,” besieged a fortress of the infidels in the neighbourhood of Antioch. He refused to retreat before a superior force, and was surrounded and overwhelmed; a hundred knights of the Temple and three hundred cross-bowmen were slain, together with many secular warriors, and a large number of foot soldiers. The Balcanifer, or standard-bearer, on this occasion, was an English Knight Templar, named Reginald d’Argenton, who performed prodigies of valour. He was disabled and covered with wounds, yet he unflinchingly bore the Beauseant, or war-banner, aloft with his bleeding arms into the thickest of the fight, until he at last fell dead upon a heap of his slaughtered comrades. The Preceptor of Antioch, before he was slain, “sent sixteen infidels to hell.”‡
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1239.
As soon as the Templars in England heard of this disaster, they sent, in conjunction with the Hospitallers, instant succour to their brethren. “The Templars and the Hospitallers,” says Matthew Paris, “eagerly prepared to avenge the blood of their brethren so gallantly poured forth in the cause of Christ. The Hospitallers appointed Brother Theodore, their prior, a most valiant soldier, to lead a band of knights and of stipendiary troops, with an immense treasure, to the succour of the Holy Land. Having made their arrangements, they all started from the house of the Hospitallers at Clerkenwell in London, and passed through the city with spears held aloft, shields displayed, and banners advanced. They marched in splendid pomp to the bridge, and sought a blessing from all who crowded to see them pass. The brothers indeed uncovered, bowed their heads from side to side, and recommended themselves to the prayers of all.”§
Whilst the Knights Templars were thus valiantly sustaining the cause of the cross against the infidels in the East, one of the holy brethren of the Order, the king’s special counsellor, named Geoffrey, was signalising his zeal against infidels at home in England, (A.D. 1239), by a fierce destruction and extermination of the Jews. According to Matthew Paris, he seized and incarcerated the unhappy Israelites, and extorted from them immense sums of money.* Shortly afterwards, Brother Geoffrey fell into disgrace and was banished from court, and Brother Roger, another Templar, the king’s almoner, shared the same fate, and was forbidden to approach the royal presence.† Some of the brethren of the Order were always about the court, and when the English monarch crossed the seas, he generally wrote letters to the Master of the Temple at London, informing him of the state of the royal health.‡
* Sanut, lib. iii. c x. p. 210.
† Cotton, MS. Nero E. VI. p. 60. fol. 466. Nero E. VI. 23. i.
† Cecidit autem in illo infausto certnmine illustris miles Templarius Anglicus natione, Reginaldus de Argentomio, eâ die Balcanifer; … indefessus vero vexillum sustinebat, donec tibiæ cum cruribus et manibus frangerentur. Solus quoque eorum Preceptor priusquam trucidaretur, sexdecim hostium ad inferos destinavit.—Matt. Par. p. 443, ad ann. 1237.
§ A Clerkenwelle domo sua, quæ est Londoniis, per medium civitatis, clypeis circiter triginta detectis, hastis ele vat is, et prævio vexillo, versus pontem, ut ab omnibus viden-tibus, benedictionem obtinerent, perrexerunt eleganter. Fratres vero inclinatis capitibus, hinc et inde caputiis depositis, se omnium precibus commendaverunt.—Matt. Par. p. 443, 444.
It was at this period, (A.D. 1240), that the oblong portion of the Temple church was completed and consecrated in the presence of King Henry the Third. §
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1236
The Grand Mastership of Brother Hermann de Perigord is celebrated for the treaty entered into with the infidels, whereby the Holy City was again surrendered to the Christians. The patriarch returned thither with all his clergy, the churches were reconsecrated, and the Templars and Hospitallers emptied their treasuries in rebuilding the walls.
The following account of these gratifying events was transmitted by the Grand Master of the Temple to Robert de Sanford, Preceptor of England, and Master of the Temple at London.
“Brother Hermann de Perigord, humble minister of the knights of the poor Temple, to his beloved brother in Christ, Robert de Sanford, Preceptor in England, salvation in the Lord.
“Since it is our duty, whenever an opportunity offers, to make known to the brotherhood, by letters or by messengers, the state and prospects of the Holy Land, we hasten to inform you, that after our great successes against the sultan of Egypt, and Nassr his supporter and abettor, the great persecutor of the Christians, they were reluctantly compelled to negotiate a truce, promising us to restore to the followers of Jesus Christ all the territory on this side Jordan. We despatched certain of our brethren, noble and discreet personages, to Cairo, to have an interview with the Sultan upon these matters. … .”
The Grand Master proceeds to relate the progress of the negotiations, and the surrender of the Holy City and the greater part of Palestine to the soldiers of Christ. … “whence, to the joy of angels and of men,” says he, “Jerusalem is now inhabited by Christians alone, all the Saracens being driven out. The holy places have been reconsecrated and purified by the prelates of the churches, and in those spots where the name of the Lord has not been invoked for fifty-six years, now, blessed be God, the divine mysteries are daily celebrated. To all the sacred places there is again free access to the faithful in Christ, nor is it to be doubted but that in this happy and prosperous condition we might long remain, if our Eastern Christians would from henceforth live in greater concord and unanimity. But, alas! opposition and contradiction arising from envy and hatred have impeded our efforts in the promotion of these and other advantages for the land. With the exception of the prelates of the churches, and a few of the barons, who afford us all the assistance in their power, the entire burthen of its defence rests upon our house alone.
* Et eodem anno (1239) … passi sunt Judæi exterminium magnum et destructionem, eosdem arctante et incarcerante, et pecuniam ab eisdem extorquente Galfrido Templario, Regis speciali consiliario.—Matt. Par. p. 489, ad ann. 1239.
† In ipsâ irâ aufugavit fratrem Rogerum Templarium ab officio eleemosynariæ, et a curiâ jussit elongari.—Ib.
Rymer, tom. i. p. 404.
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1242.
“For the safeguard and preservation of the holy territory, we propose to erect a fortified castle near Jerusalem, which will enable us the more easily to retain possession of the country, and to protect it against all enemies. But indeed we can in nowise defend for any great length of time the places that we hold, against the sultan of Egypt, who is a most powerful and talented man, unless Christ and his faithful followers extend to us an efficacious support.”*
* Matt. Par. p. 615.