The conquest of Jerusalem by the Carizmians —The slaughter of the Templars, and the death of the Grand Master—The exploits of the Templars in Egypt— King Louis of France visits the Templars in Palestine—He assists them in putting the country into a defensible state—Henry II., king of England, visits the Temple at Paris—The magnificent hospitality of the Templars in England and France—Benocdar, sultan of Egypt, invades Palestine—He defeats the Templars, takes their strong fortresses, and decapitates six hundred of their brethren—The Grand Master comes to England for succour—The renewal of the war— The fall of Acre, and the final extinction of the Templars in Palestine.
“The Knights of the Temple ever maintained their fearless and fanatic character; if they neglected to live they were prepared to die in the service of Christ.”—Gibbon.
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1242.
Shortly after the recovery of the holy city, Djemal’eddeen, the Mussulman, paid a visit to Jerusalem. “I saw,” says he, “the monks and the priests masters of the Temple of the Lord. I saw the vials of wine prepared for the sacrifice. I entered into the Mosque al Acsa, (the Temple of Solomon), and I saw a bell suspended from the dome. The rites and ceremonies of the Mussulmen were abolished; the call to prayer was no longer heard. The infidels publicly exercised their idolatrous practices in the sanctuaries of the Mussulmen.”*
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1243.
By the advice of Benedict, bishop of Marseilles, who came to the Holy City on a pilgrimage, the Templars rebuilt their ancient and formidable castle of Saphet. Eight hundred and fifty work-men, and four hundred slaves were employed in the task. The walls were sixty French feet in width, one hundred and seventy in height, and the circuit of them was two thousand two hundred and fifty feet. They were flanked by seven large round towers, sixty feet in diameter, and seventy-two feet higher than the walls. The fosse surrounding the fortress was thirty-six feet wide, and was pierced in the solid rock to a depth of forty-three feet The garrison, in time of peace, amounted to one thousand seven hundred men, and to two thousand two hundred in time of war.* The ruins of this famous castle crowning the summit of a lofty mountain, torn and shattered by earthquakes, still present a stupendous appearance. In Pococke’s time “two particularly fine large round towers” were entire, and Van Egmont and Heyman describe the remains of two moats lined with freestone, several fragments of walls, bulwarks, and turrets, together with corridors, winding staircases, and internal apartments. Ere this fortress was completed, the Templars again lost the holy city, and were well-nigh exterminated in a bloody battle fought with the Carizmians. These were a fierce, pastoral tribe of Tartars, who, descending from the north of Asia, and quitting their abodes in the neighbourhood of the Caspian, rushed headlong upon the nations of the south. They overthrew with frightful rapidity, and the most terrific slaughter, all who had ventured to oppose their progress; and, at the instigation of Saleh Ayoub, sultan of Egypt, with whom they had formed an alliance, they turned their arms against the Holy Land. In a great battle fought near Gaza, which lasted two days, the Grand Masters of the Temple and the Hospital were both slain, together with three hundred and twelve Knights Templars, and three hundred and twenty-four serving brethren, besides hired soldiers in the pay of the Order.† The following account of these disasters was forwarded to Europe by the Vice-Master of the Temple, and the bishops and abbots of Palestine.
* Michaud Extraits Arabes, p. 549.
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1244.
“To the reverend Fathers in Christ, and to all our friends, archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other prelates of the church in the kingdoms of France and England, to whom these letters shall come;— Robert, by the grace of God, patriarch of the holy church of Jerusalem; Henry, archbishop of Nazareth; J. elect of Cæsarea; R. bishop of Acre; William de Rochefort, Vice-Master of the house of the soldiery of theTEMPLE, and of the convent of the same house; H. prior of the sepulchre of the Lord; B. of the Mount of Olives, &c. &c. Health and prosperity.”
“The cruel barbarian, issuing forth from the confines of the East, hath turned his footsteps towards the kingdom of Jerusalem, that holy land, which, though it hath at different periods been grievously harassed by the Saracen tribes, hath yet in these latter days enjoyed ease and tranquillity, and been at peace with the neighbouring nations. But, alas! the sins of our Christian people have just now raised up for its destruction an unknown people, and an avenging sword from afar …” They proceed to describe the destructive progress of the Carizmians from Tartary, the devastation of Persia, the fierce extermination by those savage hordes of all races and nations, without distinction of religion, and their sudden entry into the Holy Land by the side of Saphet and Tiberias, “when,” say they, “by the common advice, and at the unanimous desire of the Masters of the religious houses of the chivalry of the Temple and the Hospital, we called in the assistance of the sultans of Damascus and Carac, who were bound to us by treaty, and who bore especial hatred to the Carizmians; they promised and solemnly swore to give us their entire aid, but the succour came slow and tardy; the Christian forces were few in number, and were obliged to abandon the defence of Jerusalem …”
* Sleph. Baluz Miscell., lib. vi. p. 357.
† Marin Sanut, p. 217.
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1244.
After detailing the barbarous and horrible slaughter of five thousand three hundred Christians, of both sexes—men, women, children, monks, priests, and nuns—they thus continue their simple and affecting narrative:
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1244.
“At length, the before-mentioned perfidious savages having penetrated within the gates of the Holy City of Israel, the small remnant of the faithful left therein, consisting of children, women, and old men, took refuge in the church of the sepulchre of our Lord. The Carizrnians rushed to that holy sanctuary; they butchered them all before the very sepulchre itself, and cutting off the heads of the priests who were kneeling with uplifted hands before the altars, they said one to another, ‘Let us here shed the blood of the Christians on the very place where they offer up wine to their God, who they say was hanged here.’ Moreover, in sorrow be it spoken, and with sighs we inform you, that laying their sacrilegious hands on the very sepulchre itself, they sadly disturbed it, utterly battering to pieces the marble shrine which was built around that holy sanctuary. They have defiled, with every abomination of which they were capable, Mount Calvary, where Christ was crucified, and the whole church of the resurrection. They have taken away, indeed, the sculptured columns which were placed as a decoration before the sepulchre of the Lord, and as a mark of victory, and as a taunt to the Christians, they have sent them to the sepulchre of the wicked Mahomet. They have violated the tombs of the happy kings of Jerusalem in the same church, and they have scattered, to the hurt of Christendom, the ashes of those holy men to the winds, irreverently profaning the revered Mount Sion. The Temple of the Lord, the church of the Valley of Jehoshapliat, where the Virgin lies buried, the church of Bethlehem, and the place of the nativity of our Lord, they have polluted with enormities too horrible to be related, far exceeding the iniquity of all the Saracens, who, though they frequently occupied the land of the Christians, yet always reverenced and preserved the holy places …”
They then describe the subsequent military operations, the march of the Templars and Hospitallers, on the 4th of October, A.D. 1244, from Acre to Cæsarea; the junction of their forces with those of the Moslem sultans; the retreat of the Carizmians to Gaza, where they received succour from the sultan of Egypt; and the preparation of the Hospitallers and Templars for the attack before that place.
“Those holy warriors,” say they, “boldly rushed in upon the enemy, but the Saracens who had joined us, having lost many of their men, fled, and the warriors of the cross were left alone to withstand the united attack of the Egyptians and Carizmians. Like stout champions of the Lord, and true defenders of catholicity, whom the same faith and the same cross and passion make true brothers, they bravely resisted; but as they were few in number in comparison with the enemy, they at last succumbed, so that of the convents of the house of the chivalry of the Temple, and of the house of the Hospital of Saint John at Jerusalem, only thirty-three Templars and twenty-six Hospitallers escaped; the archbishop of Tyre, the bishop of Saint George, the abbot of Saint Mary of Jehoshaphat, and the Master of the Temple, with many other clerks and holy men, being slain in that sanguinary fight. We ourselves, having by our sins provoked this dire calamity, fled half dead to Ascalon; from thence we proceeded by sea to Acre, and found that city and the adjoining province filled with sorrow and mourning, misery and death. There was not a house or a family that had not lost an inmate or a relation. …
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1244.
“The Carizmians have now pitched their tents in the plain of Acre, about two miles from the city. The whole country, as far as Nazareth and Saphet, is overrun by them, so that the churches of Jerusalem and the Christian kingdom have now no territory, except a few fortifications, which are defended with great difficulty and labour by the Templars and Hospitallers. …
“To you, dearest Fathers, upon whom the burthen of the defence of the cause of Christ justly resteth, we have caused these sad tidings to be communicated, earnestly beseeching you to address your prayers to the throne of grace, imploring mercy from the Most High; that he who consecrated the Holy Land with his own blood in redemption of all mankind, may compassionately turn towards it and defend it, and send it succour. Do ye yourselves, dearest Fathers, as far as ye are able, take sage counsel and speedily assist us, that ye may receive a heavenly reward. But know, assuredly, that unless, through the interposition of the Most High, or by the aid of the faithful, the Holy Land is succoured in the next spring passage from Europe, its doom is sealed, and utter ruin is inevitable.
“Since it would be tedious to explain by letter all our necessities, we have sent to you the venerable father bishop of Beirout, and the holy man Arnulph, of the Order of Friars Preachers, who will faithfully and truly unfold the particulars to your venerable fraternity. We humbly entreat you liberally to receive and patiently to hear the aforesaid messengers, who have exposed themselves to great dangers for the church of God, by navigating the seas in the depth of winter. Given at Acre, this fifth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand twelve hundred and forty-four.”*
HERMANN DE PERIGORD. A.D. 1244.
The above letter was read before a general council of the church, which had been assembled at Lyons by Pope Innocent IV., and it was resolved that a new crusade should be preached. It was provided that those who assumed the cross should assemble at particular places to receive the Pope’s blessing; that there should be a truce for four years between all Christian princes; that during all that time there should be no tournaments, feasts, nor public rejoicings; that all the faithful in Christ should be exhorted to contribute, out of their fortunes and estates, to the defence of the Holy Land; and that ecclesiastics should pay towards it the tenth, and cardinals the twentieth, of all their revenues, for the term of three years successively. The ancient enthusiasm, however, in favour of distant expeditions to the East had died away; the addresses and exhortations of the clergy now fell on unwilling ears, and the Templars and Hospitallers received only some small assistance in men and money.
The temporary alliance between the Templars and the Mussulman sultans of Syria, for the purpose of insuring their common safety, did not escape animadversion. The emperor Frederick the Second, the nominal king of Jerusalem, in a letter to Richard earl of Cornwall, the brother of Henry the Third, king of England, accuses the Templars of making war upon the sultan of Egypt, in defiance of a treaty entered into with that monarch, of compelling him to call in the Carizmians to his assistance; and he compares the union of the Templars with the infidel sultans, for purposes of defence, to an attempt to extinguish a fire by pouring upon it a quantity of oil. “The proud religion of the Temple,” says he, in continuation, “nurtured amid the luxuries of the barons of the land, waxeth wanton. It hath been made manifest to us, by certain religious persons lately arrived from parts beyond sea, that the aforesaid sultans and their trains were received with pompous alacrity within the gates of the houses of the Temple, and that the Templars suffered them to perform within them their superstitious rites and ceremonies, with invocation of Mahomet, and to indulge in secular delights.”† The Templars, notwithstanding their disasters, successfully defended all their strong fortresses in Palestine against the efforts of the Carizmians, and gradually recovered their footing in the Holy Land. The galleys of the Order kept the command of the sea, and succour speedily arrived to them from their western brethren. A general chapter of knights was assembled in the Pilgrim’s Castle, and the veteran warrior, brother was chosen Grand Master of the Order.* Circular mandates were, at the same time, sent to the western preceptories, summoning all the brethren to Palestine, and directing the immediate transmission of all the money in the different treasuries to the headquarters of the Order at Acre. These calls appear to have been promptly attended to, and the Pope praises both the Templars and Hospitallers for the zeal and energy displayed by them in sending out the newly-admitted knights and novices with armed bands and a large amount of treasure to the succour of the holy territory.† The aged knights, and those whose duties rendered them unable to leave the western preceptories, implored the blessings of heaven upon the exertions of their brethren; they observed extraordinary fasts and mortification, and directed continual prayers to be offered up throughout the Order.‡ Whilst the proposed crusade was slowly progressing, the holy pontiff wrote to the sultan of Egypt, the ally of the Carizmians, proposing a peace or a truce, and received the following grand and magnificent reply to his communication:
* Matt. Par. p. 631 to 633, ad ann. 1244. “Huic scripto originali, quod erat hujus exemplum, appensa fuerunt duodecim sigilla.
† Matt. Par. p. 618—620.
WILLIAM DE SONNAC. A.D. 1246.
“To the Pope, the noble, the great, the spiritual, the affectionate, the holy, the thirteenth of the apostles, the leader of the sons of baptism, the high priest of the Christians, (may God strengthen him, and establish him, and give him happiness!) from the most powerful sultan ruling over the necks of nations; wielding the two great weapons, the sword and the pen; possessing two pre-eminent excellencies—that is to say, learning and judgment; king of two seas; ruler of the South and North; king of the region of Egypt and Syria, Mesopotamia, Media, Idumea, and Ophir; King Saloph Beelpheth, Jacob, son of Sultan Camel, Hemevafar Mehameth, son of Sultan Hadel, Robethre, son of Jacob, whose kingdom may the Lord God make happy.
“IN THE NAME OF GOD THE MOST MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE.
WILLIAM DE SONNAC. A.D. 1247.
“The letters of the Pope, the noble, the great, &c. &c. … have been presented to us. May God favour him who earnestly seeketh after righteousness and doeth good, and wisheth peace and walketh in the ways of the Lord. May God assist him who worshippeth him in truth. We have considered the aforesaid letters, and have understood the matters treated of therein, which have pleased and delighted us; and the messenger sent by the holy Pope came to us, and we caused him to be brought before us with honour, and love, and reverence; and we brought him to see us face to face, and inclining our ears towards him, we listened to his speech, and we have put faith in the words he hath spoken unto us concerning Christ, upon whom be salvation and praise. But we know more concerning that same Christ than ye know, and we magnify him more than ye magnify him. And as to what you say concerning your desire for peace, tranquillity, and quiet, and that you wish to put down war, so also do we; we desire and wish nothing to the contrary. But let the Pope know, that between ourselves and the Emperor (Frederick) there hath been mutual love, and alliance, and perfect concord, from the time of the sultan, my father, (whom may God preserve and place in the glory of his brightness;) and between you and the Emperor there is, as ye know, Btrife and warfare; whence it is not fit that we should enter into any treaty with the Christians until we have previously had his advice and assent. We have therefore written to our envoy at the imperial court upon the propositions made to us by the Pope’s messenger, &c. …
* Cotton MS. Nero E. VI. p. 60, fol. 466, vir discretus et circumspectus; in negotiis quoque bellicis peritus.
† Hospitalarii et Templarii militea neophitos et manum armatam cum thesauro non modico illuc ad consolationem et auxilium ibi commorantium festinanter transmiserunt. Epist. Pap. Innocent IV.
8225; Matt. Par. p. 697, 698.
“This letter was written on the seventh of the month Maharan. Praise be to the one only God, and may his blessing rest upon our master Mahomet.”*
The year following, (A.D. 1247), the Carizmians were annihilated; they were cut up in detail by the Templars and Hospitallers, and were at last slain to a man. Their very name perished from the face of the earth, but the traces of their existence were long preserved in the ruin and desolation they had spread around them.† The Holy Land, although happily freed from the destructive presence of these barbarians, had yet everything to fear from the powerful sultan of Egypt, with whom hostilities still continued; and Brother William de Sonnac, the Grand Master of the Temple, for the purpose of stimulating the languid energies of the English nation, and reviving their holy zeal and enthusiasm in the cause of the Cross, despatched a distinguished Knight Templar to England, charged with the duty of presenting to King Henry the Third a magnificent crystal vase, containing a portion of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which had been poured forth upon the sacred soil of Palestine for the remission of the sins of all the faithful.
WILLIAM DE SONNAC. A.D. 1249.
A solemn attestation of the genuineness of this precious relic, signed by the patriarch of Jerusalem, and the bishops, the abbots, and the barons of the Holy Land, was forwarded to London for the satisfaction of the king and his subjects, and was deposited, together with the vase and its inestimable contents, in the cathedral church of Saint Paul.‡
In the month of June, A.D. 1249, the galleys of the Templars left Acre with a strong body of forces on board, and joined the expedition undertaken by the French king, Louis IX., against Egypt. The following account of the capture of Damietta was forwarded to the Master of the Temple at London.
“Brother William de Sonnac, by the grace of God Master of the poor chivalry of the Temple, to his beloved brother in Christ, Robert de Sanford, Preceptor of England, salvation in the Lord.
* Literæ Soldani Babyloniæ ad Papam missæ, a quodam Cardinali ex Arabico translatæ.— Matt. Par. p. 711.
† Ibid. p. 733.
‡ Matt. Par. p. 735.
“We hasten to unfold to you by these presents agreeable and happy intelligence.” (He details the landing of the French, the defeat of the infidels with the loss of one Christian soldier, and the subsequent capture of the city.) “Damietta, therefore, has been taken, not by our deserts, nor by the might of our armed bands, but through the divine power and assistance. Moreover, be it known to you that King Louis, with God’s favour, proposes to march upon Alexandria or Cairo for the purpose of delivering our brethren there detained in captivity, and of reducing, with God’s help, the whole land to the Christian worship. Farewell.”*
The Lord de Joinville, the friend of King Louis, and one of the bravest of the French captains, gives a lively and most interesting account of the campaign, and of the famous exploits of the Templars. During the march towards Cairo, they led the van of the Christian army, and on one occasion, when the king of France had given strict orders that no attack should be made upon the infidels, and that an engagement should be avoided, a body of Turkish cavalry advanced against them. “One of these Turks,” says Joinville, “gave a Knight Templar in the first rank so heavy a blow with his battle-axe, that it felled him under the feet of the Lord Reginald de Vichier’s horse, who was Marshall of the Temple; the Marshall, seeing his man fall, cried out to his brethren, ‘At them in the name of God, for I cannot longer stand this.’ He instantly stuck spurs into his horse, followed by all his brethren, and as their horses were fresh, not a Saracen escaped.” On another occasion, the Templars marched forth at the head of the Christian army, to make trial of a ford across the Tanitic branch of the Nile. “Before we set out,” says Joinville, “the king had ordered that the Templars should form the van, and the Count d’Artois, his brother, should command the second division after the Templars; but the moment the Compte d’Artois had passed the ford, he and all his people fell on the Saracens, and putting them to flight, galloped after them. The Templars sent to call the Compte d’Artois back, and to tell him that it was his duty to march behind and not before them; but it happened that the Count d’Artois could not make any answer by reason of my Lord Foucquault du Melle, who held the bridle of his horse, and my Lord Foucquault, who was a right good knight, being deaf, heard nothing the Templars were saying to the Count d’Artois, but kept bawling out, ‘Forward ! forward !’ (“Or a eulz! or a eulz!”) When the Templars perceived this, they thought they should be dishonoured if they allowed the Count d’Artois thus to take the lead; so they spurred their horses more and more, and faster and faster, and chased the Turks, who fled before them, through the town of Massoura, as far as the plains towards Babylon; but on their return, the Turks shot at them plenty of arrows, and attacked them in the narrow streets of the town. The Count d’Artois and the Earl of Leicester were there slain, and as many as three hundred other knights. The Templars lost, as their chief informed me, full fourteen score men-at-arms, and all his horsemen.”*
* Ib. in additamentis, p. 168, 169.
WILLIAM DE SONNAC. A.D. 1250.
The Grand Master of the Temple also lost an eye, and cut his way through the infidels to the main body of the Christian army, accompanied only by two Knights Templars.† There he again mixed in the affray, took the command of a vanguard, and is to be found fighting by the side of the Lord de Joinville at sunset. In his account of the great battle fought on the first Friday in Lent, Joinville thus commemorates the gallant bearing of the Templars:
“The next battalion was under the command of Brother William de Sonnac, Master of the Temple, who had with him the small remnant of the brethren of the Order who survived the battle of Shrove Tuesday. The Master of the Temple made of the engines which we had taken from the Saracens a sort of rampart in his front, but when the Saracens marched up to the assault, they threw Greek fire upon it, and as the Templars had piled up many planks of fir wood amongst these engines, they caught fire immediately; and the Saracens, perceiving that the brethren of the Temple were few in number, dashed through the burning timbers, and vigorously attacked them. In the preceding battle of Shrove Tuesday, Brother William, the Master of the Temple, lost one of his eyes, and in this battle the said lord lost his other eye, and was slain. God have mercy on his soul! And know that immediately behind the place where the battalion of the Templars stood, there was a good acre of ground, so covered with darts, arrows, and missiles, that you could not see the earth beneath them, such showers of these had been discharged against the Templars by the Saracens!”‡
REGINALD DE VICHIER. A.D. 1252.
The Grand Master, William de Sonnac, was succeeded by the Marshall of the Temple, Brother Reginald de Vichier.* King Louis, after his release from captivity, proceeded to Palestine, where he remained two years. He repaired the fortifications of Jaffa and Cæsarea, and assisted the Templars in putting the country into a defensible state. The Lord de Joinville remained with him the whole time, and relates some curious events that took place during his stay. It appears that the scheik of the assassins still continued to pay tribute to the Templars; and during the king’s residence at Acre, the chief sent ambassadors to him to obtain a remission of the tribute. He gave them an audience, and declared that he would consider of their proposal. “When they came again before the king,” says Joinville, “it was about vespers, and they found the Master of the Temple on one side of him, and the Master of the Hospital on the other. The ambassadors refused to repeat what they had said in the morning, but the Masters of the Temple and the Hospital commanded them so to do. Then the Masters of the Temple and Hospital told them that their lord had very foolishly and impudently sent such a message to the king of France, and had they not been invested with the character of ambassadors, they would have thrown them into the filthy sea of Acre, and have drowned them in despite of their master. ‘And we command you,’ continued the masters, ‘to return to your lord, and to come back within fifteen days with such letters from your prince, that the king shall be contented with him and with you.’”
* Quant les Templiers virent-ce, il se penserent que il seroient honniz se il lessoient le Compte d’Artois aler devant eulz; si ferirent des esperons qui plus plus, et qui miex miex, et chasserent les Tures. Hist. de San Louis par Jehan Sire de Joinville, p. 47.
† Nec evasit de tatâ il’â gloriosà militia nisi duo Templarii.— Matt. Par. ad ann. 1250. Chron. Nangis, p. 790.
‡ Et à celle bataille frere Guillaume le Mestre du Temple perdi l’un des yex, et l’autre avoit il perdu le jour de quaresm pernant, et en fu mort ledit seigneur, que Dieux absoille.— Joinville, p. 58.
REGINALD DE VICHIER. A.D. 1254.
The ambassadors accordingly did as they were bid, and brought back from their scheik a shirt, the symbol of friendship, and a great variety of rich presents, “crystal elephants, pieces of amber, with borders of pure gold,” &c. &c.† “You must know that when the ambassadors opened the case containing all these fine things, the whole apartment was instantly embalmed with the odour of their sweet perfumes.”
The Lord de Joinville accompanied the Templars in several marches and expeditions against the infidel tribes on the frontiers of Palestine, and was present at the storming of the famous castle of Panias, situate near the source of the Jordan.
At the period of the return of the king of France to Europe, (A.D. 1254), Henry the Third, king of England, was in Gascony with Brother Robert de Sanford, Master of the Temple at London, who had been previously sent by the English monarch into that province to appease the troubles which had there broken out.‡ King Henry proceeded to the French capital, and was magnificently entertained by the Knights Templars at the Temple in Paris, which Matthew Paris tells us was of such immense extent that it could contain within its precincts a numerous army. The day after his arrival, King Henry ordered an innumerable quantity of poor people to be regaled at the Temple with meat, fish, bread, and wine; and at a later hour the King of France and all his nobles came to dine with the English monarch. “Never,” says Matthew Paris, “was there at any period in bygone times so noble and so celebrated an entertainment. They feasted in the great hall of the Temple, where hang the shields on every side, as many as they can place along the four walls, according to the custom of the Order beyond sea…”* The Knights Templars in this country likewise exercised a magnificent hospitality, and constantly entertained kings, princes, nobles, prelates, and foreign ambassadors, at the Temple. Immediately after the return of King Henry to England, some illustrious ambassadors from Castile came on a visit to the Temple at London; and as the king “greatly delighted to honour them,” he commanded three pipes of wine to be placed in the cellars of the Temple for their use,† and ten fat bucks to be brought them at the same place from the royal forest in Essex.‡ He, moreover, commanded the mayor and sheriffs of London, and the commonalty of the same city, to take with them a respectable assemblage of the citizens, and to go forth and meet the said ambassadors without the city, and courteously receive them, and honour them, and conduct them to the Temple. §
* Et sachez que il avoit bien un journel de terre dariere les Templiers, qui estoit si chargé de pyles que les Sarrazins leur avoient lanciées, que il n’l paroit point de terre pour la grant foison de pyles.—Ib.
† Joinville, p. 95, 96.
‡ Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 474, ad ann. 1252.
REGINALD DE VICHIER. A.D. 1252.
The Grand Master, Reginald de Vichier, was succeeded by Brother Thomas Berard,** who wrote several letters to the king of England, displaying the miserable condition of the Holy Land, and earnestly imploring succour and assistance.†† The English monarch, however, was too poor to assist him, being obliged to borrow money upon his crown jewels, which he sent to the Temple at Paris. The queen of France, in a letter “to her very dear brother Henry, the illustrious king of England,” gives a long list of golden wands, golden combs, diamond buckles, chaplets, and circlets, golden crowns, imperial beavers, rich girdles, golden peacocks, and rings innumerable, adorned with sapphires, rubies, emeralds, topazes, and carbuncles, which she says she had inspected in the presence of the treasurer of the Temple at Paris, and that the same were safely deposited in the coffers of the Templars.*
THOMAS BERARD. A.D. 1256.
The military power of the Orders of the Temple and the Hospital in Palestine was at last completely broken by Bibars, or Benocdar, the fourth Mamlook sultan of Egypt, who, from the humble station of a Tartar slave, had raised himself to the sovereignty of that country, and through his valour and military talents had acquired the title of “the Conqueror.” He invaded Palestine (A.D. 1262) at the head of thirty thousand cavalry, and defeated the Templars and Hospitallers with immense slaughter.† After several years of continuous warfare, during which the most horrible excesses were committed by both parties, all the strongholds of the Christians, with the solitary exception of the Pilgrim’s Castle and the city of Acre, fell into the hands of the infidels.
* Matt. Par. ad ann. 1254, p. 899, 900.
† … Mandatum est Johanni de Eynfort, camerario regis London, quod sine dilatione capiat quatuor dolia boni vini, et ea liberet Johanni de Suwerk, ponenda in cellaria Novi Templi London, ad opus nuntiorum ipsorum.—Acta Rymeri, tom i. p. 5.57, ad ann. 1255.
‡ Et mandatum est Ricardo de Muntfichet, custodi forestæ Regis Essex, quod eadem forestâ sine dilatione capiat X. damos, et eos usque ad Novum Templum London cariari faciat, liberandos prædicto Johanni, ad opus prædictorum nuntiorum.—Ib.
§ Acta Rymeri, p. 557, 558.
** MCCLVI. morut frère Renaut de Vichieres Maistre du Temple. Apres lui fu fait Maistre frère Thomas Berard.—Contin. hist, apud Martene, tom. v. col. 736. †† Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 698, 699, 700.
THOMAS BERARD. A.D. 1266.
THOMAS BERARD. A.D. 1268.
On the last day of April, (A.D. 1265), Benocdar stormed Arsuf, one of the strongest of the castles of the Hospitallers; he slew ninety of the garrison, and led away a thousand into captivity. The year following he stormed Castel Blanco, a fortress of the Knights Templars, and immediately after laid siege to their famous and important castle of Saphet. After an obstinate defence, the Preceptor, finding himself destitute of provisions, agreed to capitulate, on condition that the surviving brethren and their retainers, amounting to six hundred men, should be conducted in safety to the nearest fortress of the Christians. The terms were acceded to, but as soon as Benocdar had obtained possession of the castle, he imposed upon the whole garrison the severe alternative of the Koran or death. They chose the latter, and, according to the Christian writers, were all slain.‡ The Arabian historian Schafi Ib’n Ali Abbas, however, in his life of Bibars, or Benocdar, states that one of the garrison named Effreez Lyoub, embraced the Mahommetan faith, and was circumcised, and that another was sent to Acre to announce the fall of the place to his brethren. This writer attempts to excuse the slaughter of the remainder, on the ground that they had themselves first broken the terms of the capitulation, by attempting to carry away arms and treasure. § “By the death of so many knights of both orders,” says Pope Clement IV., in one of his epistles, “the noble college of the Hospitallers, and the illustrious chivalry of the Temple, are almost destroyed, and I know not how we shall be able, after this, to find gentlemen and persons of quality sufficient to supply the places of such as have perished.* The year after the fall of Saphet, (A.D. 1267), Benocdar captured the cities of Homs, Belfort, Bagras, and Sidon, which belonged to the Order of the Temple; the maritime towns of Laodicea, Gabala, Tripoli, Beirout, and Jaffa, successively fell into his hands, and the fall of the princely city of Antioch was signalized by the slaughter of seventeen and the captivity of one hundred thousand of her inhabitants.† The utter ruin of the Latin kingdom, however, was averted by the timely assistance brought by Edward Prince of Wales, son of Henry the Second, king of England, who appeared at Acre with a fleet and an army. The infidels were once more defeated and driven back into Egypt, and a truce for ten years between the sultan and the Christians was agreed upon.‡ Prince Edward then prepared for his departure, but, before encountering the perils of the sea on his return home, he made his will; it is dated at Acre, June 18th, A.D. 1272, and Brother Thomas Berard, Grand Master of the Temple, appears as an attesting witness. § Whilst the prince was pursuing his voyage to England, his father, the king of England, died, and the council of the realm, composed of the archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the bishops and barons of the kingdom, assembled in the Temple at London, and swore allegiance to the prince. They there caused him to be proclaimed king of England, and, with the consent of the queen-mother, they appointed Walter Giffard, archbishop of York, and the earls of Cornwall and Gloucester, guardians of the realm. Letters were written from the Temple to acquaint the young sovereign with the death of his father, and many of the acts of the new government emanated from the same place.**
* Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 730, 878, 879, ad ann. 1261.
† Furent mors et pris, et perdirent les Templiers tot lor hernois, et le commandeor du Temple frère Matthieu le Sauvage.— Contin. hist. bell. sacr. ut sup. col. 737. Marin Sanut, cap. 6.
‡ Marin Sanut Torsell, lib. iii. pars 12, cap. 6, 7, 8. Contin. hist. bell. sacr. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 742. See also Abulfed. Hist. Arab. Apud Wilkens, p. 223. De Guignes, Hist. des Huns, tom. iv. p. 141.
§ Michaud, Extraites Arabes, p. 668.
King Henry the Third was a great benefactor to the Templars. He granted them the manors of Lilleston, Hechewayton, Saunford, Sutton, Dartfeld, and Halgel, in Kent; several lands, and churches and annual fairs at Baldok, Walnesford, Wetherby, and other places, and various weekly markets.††
WILLIAM DE BEAUJEU. A.D. 1273.
The Grand Master, Thomas Berard, was succeeded by Brother William de Beaujeu,* who came to England for the purpose of obtaining succour, and called together a general chapter of the Order at London. Whilst resident at the Temple in that city, he received payment of a large sum of money which Edward, the young king, had borrowed of the Templars during his residence in Palestine.† The Grand Master of the Hospital also came to Europe, and every exertion was made to stimulate the languid energies of the western Christians, and revive their holy zeal in the cause of the Cross. A general council of the church was opened at Lyons by the Pope in person; the two Grand Masters were present, and took precedence of all the ambassadors and peers at that famous assembly. It was determined that a new crusade should be preached, that all ecclesiastical dignities and benefices should be taxed to support an armament, and that the sovereigns of Europe should be compelled by ecclesiastical censures to suspend their private quarrels, and afford succour to the desolate city of Jerusalem. The Pope, who had been himself resident in Palestine, took a strong personal interest in the promotion of the crusade, and induced many nobles, princes, and knights to assume the Cross; but the holy pontiff died in the midst of his exertions, and with him expired all hope of effectual assistance from Europe. A vast change had come over the spirit of the age; the fiery enthusiasm of the holy war had expended itself, and the Grand Masters of the Temple and Hospital returned without succour, in sorrow and disappointment, to the East.
* De Vertot, liv. iii. Preuve. xiii. See also epist. Ccccii. Apud Martene thesaur. anec. Tom. ii. col. 422.
† Facta est civitas tam famosa quaasi solitude deserti.—Martin Sanut, lib. iii. pars. 12, cap. 9. De Guignes, Hist, des Huns, tom. iv. p. 143. Contin. Hist. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 743. Abulpharag. Chron. Syr. p. 546. Michaud, Extraits Arabes, p. 681.
† Marin Sanut ut sup. cap. II, 12. Contin. Hist, apud Martene, col. 745, 746.
§ En testimoniaunce de la queu chose, a ceo testament avons fet mettre nostre sel, et avoms pries les honurables Ben frere Hue, Mestre de l’Hospital, et frere Thomas Berard, Mestre du Temple, ke a cest escrit meisent ausi lur seus, etc. Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 885, 886, ad ann. 1272.
** Trivet ad ann. 1272. Walsingham, p. 43. Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 889, ad ann. 1272, tom, ii. p. 2.
†† Monast. Angl., vol. vi. part 2, p. 800—844.
WILLIAM DE BEAUJEU. A.D. 1275.
William de Beaujeu arrived at the Temple of Acre on Saint Michael’s Day, A.D. 1275, and immediately assumed the government of Palestine.‡ As there was now no hope of recovering the lost city of Jerusalem, he bent all his energies to the preservation of the few remaining possessions of the Christians in the Holy Land. At the expiration of the ten years’ truce he entered into a further treaty with the infidels, called “the peace of Tortosa.” It is expressed to be made between sultan Malek-Mansour and his son Malek-Saleh Ali, “honour of the world and of religion,” of the one part, and Afryz Dybadjouk (William de Beaujeu) Grand Master of the Order of the Templars, of the other part. The truce is further prolonged for ten years and ten months from the date of the execution of the treaty, (A.D. 1282); and the contracting parties strictly bind themselves to make no irruptions into each other’s territories during the period. To prevent mistakes, the towns, villages, and territory belonging to the Christians in Palestine are specified and defined, together with the contiguous possessions of the Moslems.* This treaty, however, was speedily broken, the war was renewed with various success, and another treaty was concluded, which was again violated by an unpardonable outrage. Some European adventurers, who had arrived at Acre, plundered and hung nineteen Egyptian merchants, and the sultan of Egypt immediately resumed hostilities, with the avowed determination of crushing for ever Christian power in the East. The fortress of Margat was besieged and taken; the city of Tripoli shared the same fate; and in the third year from the re-commencement of the war, the Christian dominions in Palestine were reduced within the narrow confines of the strong city of Acre and the Pilgrim’s Castle. In the spring of the year 1291, the sultan Khalil marched against Acre at the head of sixty thousand horse and a hundred and forty thousand foot.
* MCCLXXIII. a viii. Jors d’Avri morut frere Thomas Berart, Maistre du Temple le jor de la notre dame de Mars, et fu fait Maistre a xiii. jors de May, frere Guillaume de Bieaujcu qui estoit outré Commendeor du Temple en Pouille, et alerent por lui querire frere Guillaume de Poucon, qui avait tenu lieu de Maistre, et frere Bertrand de Fox; et frere Gonfiere fu fait Commandeor gran tenant lieu de Maistre.––Contin. Hist. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 746, 747. This is the earliest instance I have met with of the application of the term COMMANDER to the high officers of the Temple.
† Acta Rymeri, tom. ii. p. 34, ad ann. 1274.
‡ Contin. hist. bell. sacr. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 748.
WILLIAM DE BEAUJEU. A.D. 1291
“An innumerable people of all nations and every tongue,” says a chronicle of the times, “thirsting for Christian blood, were assembled together from the deserts of the East and the South; the earth trembled beneath their footsteps, and the air was rent with the sound of their trumpets and cymbals. The sun’s rays, reflected from their shields, gleamed on the distant mountains, and the points of their spears shone like the innumerable stars of heaven. When on the march, their lances presented the appearance of a vast forest rising from the earth, and covering all the landscape.” … “They wandered round about the walls, spying out their weaknesses and defects; some barked like dogs, some roared like lions, some lowed and bellowed like oxen, some struck drums with twisted sticks after their fashion, some threw darts, some cast stones, some shot arrows and bolts from cross-bows.”† On the 5th of April, the place was regularly invested. No rational hope of saving it could be entertained; the sea was open; the harbour was filled with Christian vessels, and with the galleys of the Temple and the Hospital; yet the two great monastic and military orders scorned to retire to the neighbouring and friendly island of Cyprus; they refused to desert, even in its last extremity, that cause which they had sworn to maintain with the last drop of their blood. For a hundred and seventy years their swords had been constantly employed in defending the Holy Land from the profane tread of the unbelieving Moslem; the sacred territory of Palestine had been everywhere moistened with the blood of the best and bravest of their knights, and, faithful to their vows and their chivalrous engagements, they now prepared to bury themselves in the ruins of the last stronghold of the Christian faith.
WILLIAM DE BEAUJEU. A.D. 1291.
William de Beaujeu, the Grand Master of the Temple, a veteran warrior of a hundred fights, took the command of the garrison, which amounted to about twelve thousand men, exclusive of the forces of the Temple and the Hospital, and a body of five hundred foot and two hundred horse, under the command of the king of Cyprus. These forces were distributed along the walls in four divisions, the first of which was commanded by Hugh de Grandison, an English knight. The old and the feeble, women and children, were sent away by sea to the Christian island of Cyprus, and none remained in the devoted city but those who were prepared to fight in its defence, or to suffer martyrdom at the hands of the infidels. The siege lasted six weeks, during the whole of which period the sallies and the attacks were incessant. Neither by night nor by day did the shouts of the assailants and the noise of the military engines cease; the walls were battered from without, and the foundations were sapped by miners, who were incessantly labouring to advance their works. More than six hundred catapults, balistæ, and other instruments of destruction, were directed against the fortifications; and the battering machines were of such immense size and weight, that a hundred wagons were required to transport the separate timbers of one of them.* Moveable towers were erected by the Moslems, so as to overtop the walls; their workmen and A.D. 1291. advanced parties were protected by hurdles covered with raw hides, and all the military contrivances which the art and the skill of the age could produce, were used to facilitate the assault. For a long time their utmost efforts were foiled by the valour of the besieged, who made constant sallies upon their works, burnt their towers and machines, and destroyed their miners. Day by day, however, the numbers of the garrison were thinned by the sword, whilst in the enemy’s camp the places of the dead were constantly supplied by fresh warriors from the deserts of Arabia, animated with the same wild fanaticism in the cause of their religion as that which so eminently distinguished the military monks of the Temple. On the fourth of May, after thirty-three days of constant fighting, the great tower, considered the key of the fortifications, and called by the Moslems the cursed tower, was thrown down by the military engines. To increase the terror and distraction of the besieged, sultan Khalil mounted three hundred drummers, with their drums, upon as many dromedaries, and commanded them to make as much noise as possible whenever a general assault was ordered. From the 4th to the 14th of May, the attacks were incessant. On the 15th, the double wall was forced, and the king of Cyprus, panic-stricken, fled in the night to his ships, and made sail for the island of Cyprus, with all his followers, and with near three thousand of the best men of the garrison. On the morrow the Saracens attacked the post he had deserted; they filled up the ditch with the bodies of dead men and horses, piles of wood, stones, and earth, and their trumpets then sounded to the assault. Ranged under the yellow banner of Mahomet, the Mamlooks forced the breach, and penetrated sword in hand to the very centre of the city; but their victorious career and insulting shouts were there stopped by the mail-clad Knights of the Temple and the Hospital, who charged on horseback through the narrow streets, drove them back with immense carnage, and precipitated them head-long from the walls.
* Life of Malek Muusour Kelaoun. Michaud, Extruits Arabes, p. 685, 686, 687.
† De excidio urbis Aconis apud Martene vet. script, tom. v. col. 767.
* The famous Abul-feda, prince of Hamah, surnamed Amod-ed-deen, (Pillar of Religion), the great historian and astronomer, superintended the transportation of the military engines from Hasn-el-Akrah to St. Jean d’Aere.
At sunrise the following morning the air resounded with the deafening noise of drums and trumpets, and the breach was carried and recovered several times, the military friars at last closing up the passage with their bodies, and presenting a wall of steel to the advance of the enemy. Loud appeals to God and to Mahomet, to heaven and the saints, were to be heard on all sides; and after an obstinate engagement from sunrise to sunset, darkness put an end to the slaughter. On the third day, (the 18th), the infidels made the final assault on the side next the gate of St. Anthony. The Grand Masters of the Temple and the Hospital fought side by side at the head of their knights, and for a time successfully resisted all the efforts of the enemy. They engaged hand to hand with the Mamlooks, and pressed like the meanest of the soldiers into the thick of the battle. But as each knight fell beneath the keen scimitars of the Moslems, there were none in reserve to supply his place, whilst the vast hordes of the infidels pressed on with untiring energy and perseverance. The Marshall of the Hospital fell covered with wounds, and William de Beaujeu, as a last resort, requested the Grand Master of that order to sally out of an adjoining gateway at the head of five hundred horse, and attack the enemy’s rear. Immediately after the Grand Master of the Temple had given these orders, he was himself struck down by the darts and the arrows of the enemy; the panic-stricken garrison fled to the port, and the infidels rushed on with tremendous shouts of Allah acbar! Allah acbar! (“God is victorious!”) Three hundred Templars, the sole survivors of their illustrious order in Acre, were now left alone to withstand the shock of the victorious Mamlooks. In a close and compact column they fought their way, accompanied by several hundred Christian fugitives, to the Temple, and shutting their gates, they again bade defiance to the advancing foe.
GAUDINI. A.D. 1291.
The surviving knights now assembled together in solemn chapter, and appointed the Knight Templar Brother Gaudini Grand Master.* The Temple at Acre was a place of great strength, and surrounded by walls and towers of immense extent. It was divided into three quarters, the first and principal of which contained the palace of the Grand Master, the church, and the habitation of the knights; the second, called the Bourg of the Temple, contained the cells of the serving brethren; and the third, called the Cattle Market, was devoted to the officers charged with the duty of procuring the necessary supplies for the Order and its forces.
The following morning very favourable terms were offered to the Templars by the victorious sultan, and they agreed to evacuate the Temple on condition that a galley should be placed at their disposal, and that they should be allowed to retire in safety with the Christian fugitives under their protection, and to carry away as much of their effects as each person could load himself with. The Mussulman conqueror pledged himself to the fulfilment of these conditions, and sent a standard to the Templars, which was mounted on one of the towers of the Temple. A guard of three hundred Moslem soldiers, charged to see the articles of capitulation properly carried into effect, was afterwards admitted within the walls of the convent. Some Christian women of Acre, who had refused to quit their fathers, brothers, and husbands, the brave defenders of the place, were amongst the fugitives, and the Moslem soldiers, attracted by their beauty, broke through all restraint, and violated the terms of the surrender. The enraged Templars closed and barricaded the gates of the Temple; they set upon the treacherous infidels, and put every one of them, “from the greatest to the smallest,” to death.* Immediately after this massacre the Moslem trumpets sounded to the assault, but the Templars successfully defended themselves until the next day (the 20th). The Marshall of the Order and several of the brethren were then deputed by Gaudini with a flag of truce to the sultan, to explain the cause of the massacre of his guard. The enraged monarch, however, had no sooner got them into his power than he ordered every one of them to be decapitated, and pressed the siege with renewed vigour. In the night, Gaudini, with a chosen band of his companions, collected together the treasure of the Order and the ornaments of the church, and sallying out of a secret postern of the Temple which communicated with the harbour, they got on board a small vessel, and escaped in safety to the island of Cyprus.† The residue of the Templars retired into the large tower of the Temple, called “The Tower of the Master,” which they defended with desperate energy. The bravest of the Mamlooks were driven back in repeated assaults, and the little fortress was everywhere surrounded with heaps of the slain. The sultan, at last, despairing of taking the place by assault, ordered it to be undermined. As the workmen advanced, they propped the foundations with beams of wood, and when the excavation was completed, these wooden supports were consumed by fire; the huge tower then fell with a tremendous crash, and buried the brave Templars in its ruins. The sultan set fire to the town in four places, and the last stronghold of the Christian power in Palestine was speedily reduced to a smoking solitude.* A few years back the ruins of the Christian city of Acre were well worthy of the attention of the curious. You might still trace the remains of several churches; and the quarter occupied by the Knights Templars continued to present many interesting memorials of that proud and powerful order.
* Ex ipsis fratrem monachum Gaudini elegerunt ministrum generalem. De excidio urbis Acconia apud Martene, tom. v. col 782.
* Videntes pulchros Francorum filios acfilias, manus his injecerunt.–– Abulfarag, Chron. Syr. p. 595. Maledicti Saraceni mulieres et pueros ad loca domus secretiora ex eisdem abusuri distrahere conabantur, turpibus ecclesiam obscœnitatibus cum nihil possent aliud maculantes. Quod videntes christiani, clauses portis, in perfidos viriliter irruerunt, et omnes a minimo usque ad maximum occiderunt, muros, turres, atque portas Templi munientes ad defensam.–– De excid. Acconis ut sup. col. 782. Martin Sanut ut sup. cap. xxii. P. 231.
† Per totam noctem illam, dum fideles vigilarent contra perfidorum astutiam, domum contra eos defensuri, fratrum adjustorio de thesauris quod potuit cun sacrosanctis reliquiis ecclesiæ Templi, ad mare salubriter deportavit. Inde quidem cum fratribus paucis auspicato remigio, in Cyprum cum cautelâ transfretavit.–– De excid. Acconis, col. 782.
* De excidio urbis Acconis apud Martene, tom. v. col. 757. De Guignes, Hist, ties Huna, tom. iv. p. 162. Michaud, Extraits Arabes, p. 762, 808. Abulfarag. Chron. Syr. p. 595. Wilkens, Comment. Abulfed. Hist. p. 231—234. Marin. Sanut Torsell, lib. iii. pars 12, cap. 21.