Knights Templar

Knights Templar

The capture of Jerusalem in 1099 led to a surge of Christians traveling to the Holy Land. The city of Jerusalem was under secure control, but the territory around the city, Outremer, was rife with bandits and marauders. It was not uncommon for pilgrims to be robbed or killed by these outlaws. In 1119, the French knight Hugues de Payens, approached Baldwin II of Jerusalem with the intention of creating a monastic order to protect the pilgrims. With the request granted de Payens formed the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ of the Temple of Solomon, or more popularly known, the Knights Templar. During the initial formation of the Knights Templars, the order had few resources and relied on donations to survive. This would change following the advocacy of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who would encourage noblemen throughout Europe to donate and join the order, establishing the Templars as a powerful force in the Crusades.

With the support of Pope Innocent II and the Christian monarchs of Europe, the Templars grew rapidly. While initially formed to protect pilgrims, the Templars took on military roles to support the Crusaders armies in the Holy Land. During the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, 500 Templar knights helped a small force of infantrymen defeat a large Muslim army under the command of Saladin. By the latter part of the 12th century, the tide began to turn in the Holy Land. In 1187, the Ayyubids achieved a stunning victory over the Crusaders in the Battle of Hattin. The Templars served as a vanguard for the Crusader force in the Battle of Hattin, and suffered debilitating casualties in the battle. Saladin ordered all captured Templars to be executed, knowing the order would launch a rescue attempt to save these knights.

By the start of the 13th century, the Crusader holdings in the Holy Land began to wane. Following the capture of Jerusalem by Muslim forces, the Templars were forced to relocate to the seaport fortress of Acre. In 1291 Muslim armies besieged Acre, capturing the last Crusader stronghold in the Holy Land. Pushed out of the Holy Land, the Templars were targeted by the French king Philip IV. Deeply in debt to the order, Philip requested the Catholic Church take action against the Templars. On 13 October 1307, Templar knights were arrested across France. Accusations of fraud, conspiracy, and pagan practices were leveled against the order. The Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay was imprisoned and executed by French officials on 18 March 1314. With the death of Molay, the order was officially disbanded.

Look for more information regarding the Crusades in the upcoming Strategy & Tactics issue #299 article “The First Crusade” and join the conversation on Facebook!

About The Author

Kyle is a Military Historian and Senior Editor at Strategy & Tactics Press. A fourth-generation combat Veteran, Kyle retired from the United States Army in 2010. He specializes in military operations from 1945-Present and has written extensively regarding the future of asymmetrical warfare.

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