In 1289, the Flemish satirical poet Jacquemart Gielee composed Renart le Nouvel ('The new Renart') in which he described how the amoral, unscrupulous fox Renart takes over the whole of society, including the Church. At last Renart's fame reaches even the kingdom of Jerusalem, where the patriarch of Jerusalem and the masters of the Temple and Hospital want Renart to rule over them so that they may triumph over their enemies. Summoned to the papal court to plead their respective cases, the advocates of the two Orders are soon in bitter debate. The Templar declares:

We demand Renart by right. For it is common knowledge that we are defenders of and fighters for the Holy Church. We have sergeants and knights, we must employ many mercenaries and spend much gold and silver, all to defend the Holy Church. Throughout the towns we have many houses, estates and garrisons, under the authority of many powerful lords who often do us great wrong, so we have a great need for someone to maintain us and uphold our rights against everyone. For if we do not increase in wealth we will have little power to sustain the Holy Church; and instead we will, all have to flee and abandon the land of Syria. Then the sultan of Cairo will come over here with a fleet. Holy Father, you must realize that our men defend the Holy Church and Christendom against the unbelievers:1

This is a fair description of the situation of the Order of the Temple in 1289, just before the final loss of the kingdom of Jerusalem to the Mamluks of Egypt. The Brother's warning that the Order would have to abandon the Holy Land if help were not forthcoming was a threat actually made many times by the Order during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.2 

The fact that Gielee included it indicates that it was familiar to his audience; so familiar that it had become almost a joke. Yet this did not mean that what Gielee's Templar said was not true. The Order regarded itself, and was regarded by others, as the defender of Christendom; if not the sole defender, then certainly the most important. It was so prominent in this role that the author Wolfram von Eschenbach identified the Grail Castle in his verse romance Pafzival as Jerusalem by making 'Templars' its guardians.3 

Although the Order of the Temple was criticized by a number of commentators for various aspects of its activities in the Holy Land, it was regarded as the major military force of Christendom and the group most responsible for the defence of the Holy Land, even after the final loss of the crusader states in 1291.    

The history of the crusader states

The history of the crusader states can be conveniently considered in three stages. 

In the first stage, 1100-1193, the Muslim powers that surrounded the crusader states recovered their unity. Under outstanding leaders such as Zangi of Mosul (d.1146), his son Nur al-Din (d. 1174), and Saladin (d. 1193), Muslim armies won lasting gains in territory from the crusader states. By 1193 the city of Jerusalem had been lost and the kingdom of Jerusalem had been reduced to a narrow strip of coastal territory with its capital at the port of Acre. 

In the second stage, 1193—1260, Saladin's empire was divided between his brother and sons. The Ayyubids (so-called because they were descendants of Saladin's father, Ayyfib) were often at war with each other and allied with Christian leaders against other Muslim leaders. The Latin or Roman Catholic Christians in the Middle East took advantage of this situation to gain territory: for instance, the city of Jerusalem was recovered by a treaty with the Ayyubid Egyptian sultan al-Kamil in 1229 and held until 1244. This period saw a series of five-to ten-year truces between Muslims and Latin Christians, each followed by a crusading campaign and then followed by another truce. During a truce, all raiding and sieges stopped.

In the final stage, 1260-1300, the Muslims were unified under the Mamluks following the Mamluk victory over the Mongols (nomadic mounted warriors from eastern Asia) at 'Ayn Jalut in Galilee in September 1260. The Mamluks had initially come to power in Egypt in 1250 as the result of a palace coup. Under the Mamluk sultan Rukn al-Din Baibars Bunduqdari (d. 1277) and his successors, the Mamluks continued to advance. The Mongols were a constant threat to Mamluk dominance in the Middle East and the Latin Christians' hoped to take advantage of this rivalry to regain territory, but without significant military aid from the West they could do nothing. As they were unable to equal the Mamluks in the field, they had to fall back on negotiating truces. This period saw the progressive retreat of the Latin Christians. Finally, the city and port of Acre, capital of the kingdom of Jerusalem, fell to the Mamluk sultan of Egypt al-Ashraf Khalil in May 1291.

The strength and unity of the Muslim powers was the most important factor in determining the eventual fate of the crusader states. The states' internal history was less important, although it did affect the political influence of the Order of the Temple, and was marked by succession crises caused by the ruler's death without a suitable heir, through accidents or illness. 

Figure 3 illustrates how often succession problems occurred in the monarchy of the kingdom of Jerusalem. The problems were already becoming crises during the long-term illness of King Baldwin IV (1174-85), who suffered from childhood from a debilitating skin disease identified as leprosy. After his death he was succeeded by his nephew, the child Baldwin V, who died in 1186 and was succeeded by his mother, Sibyl, and her spouse, Guy of Lusignan. Guy came from the county of Poitou in western France and was thoroughly disliked by some of the Latin Christian nobility in the crusader states. After the death  of Sibyl and her daughters in 1190, Guy was deposed. Sibyl's half-sister Isabel was made ruler of the kingdom. But first Isabel was forced to divorce her husband, Humphrey of Toron, whom many of the leading nobles did not want as king, and she was then married to a succession of eligible men, all of whom died in unpleasant accidents: her second husband, Marquis Conrad of Montferrat, was assassinated in spring 1192; her third husband, Henry of Champagne, fell to his death from a first-floor window in 1197; while her fourth died of food poisoning in 1205, shortly before Isabel's own death. Those who believed in divine judgement would have declared that this was God's punishment on them for marrying a woman forcibly separated from her first lawful spouse, whom (a witness said) she had loved dearly. Isabel's eldest daughter, Maria, married the French nobleman John of Brienne. In 1225, their daughter, Isabel II of Jerusalem, was married to the emperor Frederick II of Germany (king of Germany, 1212—50). Frederick then insisted that John of Brienne surrender the throne of Jerusalem to him, as John had only been king of Jerusalem by right of his wife Maria, and she had died in 1212. Isabel II - herself died in childbirth in 1228, leaving a baby son, Conrad. Frederick claimed the right "to act as regent for his son, but the custom of the kingdom of Jerusalem was that the regent should be the next in line to the throne: in this case Alice of Champagne, dowager queen of Cyprus (d. 1246). As neither Conrad nor his son Conradin ever came to the East, those with political influence in the kingdom of Jerusalem were divided over who had the best claim to govern on their behalf.

After Conradin's death in 1268 the king of Cyprus, now Hugh of Antioch-Lusignan (king 1267-84), expected to inherit the throne of Jerusalem, but Maria of Antioch was one generation closer. Yet neither Hugh nor Maria could win control of the kingdom. In 1277 Maria sold her claim to Charles, count of Anjou and king of Naples, who hoped to acquire authority in the eastern Mediterranean. Charles's claim to the kingdom of Jerusalem was supported by his relative William de Beaujeu, Master of the Temple (1273-91). William would not recognize any king of Cyprus as king of Jerusalem while Charles lived. Only after Charles's death in 1285 was the king of Cyprus, now Henry II (d. 1324), able to gain full recognition as king of Jerusalem and unite behind him the nobles and political powers in the crusader states. By the time of Henry's coronation as king of Jerusalem in 1286, the kingdom was severely threatened by the Mamluk sultans of Egypt, and the new king could not prevent the final loss of the kingdom in 1291.     

During the succession crises to the kingdom of Jerusalem, various factions struggled to control the kingdom, either by acting as regents or by supporting one or more of the claimants to the kingdom. The nobility, made up the first and most influential of these factions. The lords of the kingdom were very rich, mainly from trade and rents from the towns. By the late twelfth century the most important family were the Ibelins. They opposed King Guy before the Third Crusade and the Emperor Frederick II during his crusade of 1228-29 and during the 1230s. Without their support, no one could rule the kingdom.  

In contrast, the Church in the crusader states was not particularly powerful. It   had few outstanding leaders: Archbishop William of Tyre in the twelfth century and James Pantaleon, patriarch of Jerusalem and later Pope Urban IV (1261-64), were notable exceptions. However, the Church did produce some new religious Orders, such as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Carmelite friars and the Military Orders. The Church in the crusader states did not control large ecclesiastical lordships as it did in Europe, although as in Europe Church leaders had to provide troops to help defend the kingdom. It was usual for Church properties in the crusader states to be fortified, in defence against Muslim raiders. 

Because of the military needs of the crusader states, the military religious Orders became highly influential in political affairs. In addition to the Order of the Temple, officially established in 1120, other Military Orders developed. Soon after 1120 the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, which had been set up in the 1060s or 1070s to care for sick poor pilgrims to the city, began to employ mercenaries to defend pilgrims, and in 1136 King Fulk gave the Hospital the castle of Beit Jibrin near Ascalon specifically to guard the Latin Christian territory against Muslim raids.4 

As these two religious Orders developed they worked alongside each other in raids on the Muslims, in campaigns and in the royal council. Further Military Orders were founded, most developed from pilgrim hospitals: the most important of these was the Order of St Mary of the Teutons (or the Teutonic Order), which began as a field hospital at the siege of Acre in 1189-91, and became a Military Order in 1198.5 

However, the similarity of these religious Orders activity meant that they came into conflict over policy and territory. When the Holy Land was lost some commentators in the West blamed the Military Orders for quarrelling between themselves when they should have been fighting the Muslims.

The Italian communes were at least as influential in the crusader states as the Military Orders. These were made up of merchants from the Italian trading cities, most importantly Genoa, Venice and Pisa. While some of the Italians would have lived in the East for several years: at a time, many others came to the crusader states each year in-spring and in autumn to buy and sell merchandise; they had their own quarters in the major ports such as Acre and Tyre, where they enjoyed various privileges such as being able to hold their own courts to deal with their own legal business. They were vital to the crusader states because they provided the link with Europe that brought pilgrims and colonists and supplies, and they carried the trade, which made the crusader states so wealthy in addition, they brought the kingdom sea power, which gave the Latin Christians an advantage over the Muslims. Yet the Italian city republics were rivals, often at war with each other, and they brought their wars to the Holy Land. Venice and Pisa usually sided against Genoa, and made such disputes worse. In addition, as they traded with the Muslims, some European commentators complained that they were strengthening the enemy at the expense of Christians.

The Templars in the crusader states

It is difficult to say how many Templars there were in the Latin East (as historians call the crusader states and kingdom of Cyprus) but it has been suggested that the Orders of the Temple and the Hospital could each put an army of 300 Brothers in the field, knights and armed sergeants (non-knights), as well as mercenaries or hired soldiers.6 

The Orders had houses of Brothers in the major towns of the Latin East and held manors, villages and fortresses which they had been given in pious donation or had bought, including a few-fortresses they themselves constructed.

The Templars impact on their Muslim adversaries indicates their effectiveness as warriors. Muslim commentators regarded the Military Orders in general as a terrible menace to Islam. Saladin's secretary Tmad al-Dim described the Templars as rebels, demons, evil men; with their castles built on inaccessible crags which were the lairs of wild beasts. Every victory over the Templars and their comrades in evil the Hospitallers gave grounds for rejoicing. After the battle of Hattin on 4 July 1187, when Saladin's army destroyed the army of the kingdom of Jerusalem and captured King Guy and the leading nobles, Saladin paid the Muslims who had captured the Templars and Hospitallers, and then had the prisoners killed. Muslim holy men and theologians lined up to have the honour of executing one of these outstanding enemies of their faith. 'Imad al-Din claimed that Saladin declared: 'I will cleanse the land of these two impure Orders.'7


The Templars received their first fortresses in East in the 1130s, not in the kingdom of Jerusalem but in the north of the crusader states, beyond Antioch in the Amanus Mountains which divided Antioch from the Christian state of Cilician Armenia. These castles included Baghras (called Gaston by the Franks), Darbsaq, Roche Roussel and Port Bonnel, and the mysterious Roche Guillaume whose site is not identified and which may have been identical with Roche Roussel. These castles guarded the mountain passes not so much against Muslims as against the Cilician Armenians and the Byzantine Greeks. The Templars held Baghras by 1142, when the Byzantine emperor John Comnenos invaded the area and attacked Antioch. All these castles fell to Saladin in 1188. Baghras was occupied by the Cilician Armenians after Saladin's withdrawal, and the Templars had a great deal of trouble in recovering it with the support of Bohemond IV, Prince of Antioch.8 

Their problems will be described in more detail below. Other castles were not recovered.

In the kingdom of Jerusalem the Templars received the castle of Latrim, otherwise known as Toron des Chevaliers, which according to a Castilian chronicle was built by Count Rodrigo Gonzalez of Toledo between 1137 and 1141 while he was in the Holy Land fighting the Saracens. After garrisoning and equipping the castle, he gave it to the Templars.9 

After the Second Crusade, in 1149, the Brothers received the fortress of Gaza. This was on the main north-south coastal road and was constructed by King Baldwin III and the nobles of the kingdom of Jerusalem as part of a strategy of surrounding the Muslim-held city of Ascalon, which was on the coast ten miles to the north of Gaza. The castle was entrusted to the Templars, who guarded it and used it as a base not only for raids against Ascalon but also for protecting the southern frontier of the kingdom of Jerusalem against Egypt, A generation, later William of Tyre recorded in his history of the crusader states that the Templars discharged their responsibilities well, but Gaza was only the latest in a series of castles constructed around Ascalon by the kings of Jerusalem.10 

Apparently it was not until 1149 that the king believed that the Order of the Temple was capable of guarding the castle and defending the frontier, an interesting contrast with the situation in the Iberian Peninsula.

In 1152 Bishop William I of Tortosa asked the Templars to take over responsibility for the castle at Tortosa to protect the town against the threat from Nur al-Din, who had captured Tortosa in spring 1152, sacked it and withdrawn. The bishop gave the Templars extensive rights in the town: their chapels were exempt from his authority and their payments of tithes (the tenth of all produce which should be-paid to the Church) were reduced. The Templars were to build a new castle to protect the bishop and people of the town.11

In 1188 the Templars, commanded by the Master Gerard de Ridefort (1185-9), successfully defended their fortress against Saladin, who retired without capturing it. 

In the 1160s the castle of Safed in Galilee was entrusted to the Order, but was lost to Saladin in December 1188 after a bitterly fought siege. The Order recovered the castle in the summer of l240 as a result of a treaty between the Ayyubid lord of Damascus, al-Salih Ismail, and the crusaders led by Theobald, king of Navarre and .count of Champagne, supported by the Templars. Urged on by the bishop of Marseilles, who had been involved in the crusade, the Templar undertook the restoration of the castle. To publicize the rebuilding and raise funds for the work, a cleric wrote a tract, De constructione castri Saphet, 'the construction of Safed Castle'. The castle finally fell to Baibars in the summer of 1266, and the whole Templar garrison was massacred.12

From the 1250s the Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights were given or sold many castles by the secular nobility of the crusader states, who could no longer afford to maintain and garrison them. After the Mongols sacked Sidon in 1260, the lord of Sidon gave the Templars his lordship, which included the castle of Beaufort.13 

The Templars lost Beaufort to Baibars in 1268, but held Sidon until 1291. Sidon was evacuated without a fight after the final loss of Acre. These gifts and sales made the Military Orders powerful and influential within the crusader states, but at the same time loaded them with a financial burden which their resources could not meet. 

The Templars also constructed new castles. In 1178-79 they were involved in the construction of a new fortress at Jacob's Ford or Vadum Jacob on the Jordan river, called the chastellet or little castle. According to William of Tyre, here writing as a contemporary of events, King Baldwin IV was responsible for the construction of the castle and then entrusted it to the Templars. In the 1220s the author of the first part of the chronicle attributed to Ernoul and Bernard the treasurer of Corbie Abbey wrote that it was the Templars who had decided that a castle was needed at this site. The king could not build it himself because he had a peace treaty with Saladin, which prohibited the construction of castles on the frontier, whereas the Templars were not constrained by any such treaty. In any case, its first enclosure was complete but the outer enclosures had not yet been built when in 1179 Saladin attacked the castle, captured it, executed the Templar garrison and demolished it.14 

During the Fifth Crusade (1217—21) the Templars replaced their small watchtower, called Le Destroit ('the Pass'), at 'Atlit on the coast road south from Haifa to Caesarea with a major fortress constructed on the nearby headland. This was named Castle Pilgrim in honour of the crusaders (pilgrims) who had assisted the construction. The builders reused stones from a previous Phoenician wall and in the course of their work they found a hoard of ancient coins, which were put towards the cost of the building. Many springs of sweet water were also discovered, to provide a water supply for the castle. In 1219 Duke Leopold VI of Austria and Earl Ranulf of Chester (d. 1232) made additional generous donations of money towards the construction. Oliver the schoolmaster of Cologne Cathedral, later bishop of Paderborn (d. 1227), described the building of the castle in detail in a letter to his colleagues in Cologne; his letter was copied into the Great Annals of Cologne and thence found its way into the chronicle of Roger of Wendover, chronicler of St' Albans Abbey in England. The new bishop of Acre, Jacques de Vitry (1216—c. 1228), reported on the new castle to Pope Honorius III (1216-27): he was amazed at the Templars readiness to invest all their wealth in the construction, and declared 'it is a wonder where they get it all from'. Perhaps he had not heard about the discovery of the hoard of coins. In fact, the large donations given by leading crusaders indicates that the bulk of the expenses were met by the crusaders themselves, as was appropriate for 'their' castle.15

Castles had various functions. They were administrative centres, from which estates were governed. For the Military Orders, they were a centre of religious life. Some scholars have noted that the concentric castle-plan which developed from the mid-twelfth century was particularly well suited to the Military Orders, as the central enclosure could house the Brothers and their chapel, cut off from the rest of the world, while outer enclosures housed mercenaries and other lay people. It has even been suggested that the Military Orders developed the concentric castle deliberately to meet their religious need for enclosure. Other scholars, however, believe that the concentric castle developed primarily to meet the danger from the new Muslim siege machinery.16 

This does seem more likely, for castles were first and foremost military centres. They varied in size from simple towers to large and complex fortresses.

Military Order castles were garrisoned by a small number of Brothers and a large garrison of hired-mercenaries. At the Templars castleof Safedin Galilee in the 1260s there were fifty knight-Brothers, thirty armed sergeant-Brothers, fifty turco-poles (native lightly armed  mercenaries) and also 300 hired archers.17

Garrisons were called on to fight in the field when necessary. For instance, according to the chronicle attributed to Ernoul, on 1 May 1187 Gerard de Ridefort, Master of the Temple 1185-89, took nearly the whole of the garrison of the small castle of La Feve ("theBean') to enlarge his small force of Templars and Hospitallers for an engagement with Saladin's forces at the Spring of the Cresson, near Nazareth. When Balian of Ibelin, who was folio wing behind, arrived at La Feve a few hours later he was amazed to find no one around and sent his squire Ernoul ('this was he who had this tale written down') to search; Ernoul found only two invalids, who knew nothing of what was going on. As Balian and Ernoul left, a Brother of the Temple rode out of the castle behind them and hailed them although Ernoul had not seen him while searching the castle. The Brother told them of the disaster at the Spring of the Cresson: the Master of the Hospital and all the Templars dead except for three Brothers and the Master of the Temple, who had escaped. The whole account has the atmosphere of romance: the mysteriously empty castle, and a knight appearing from nowhere. Perhaps Ernoul exaggerated the situation to emphasize the strategic foolishness of taking the whole garrison of a castle to fight a battle, leaving the castle completely indefensible.18

Yet even a well-defended Castle could not hold out for ever against a determined besieger. Saladin's secretary Imad al-Din described at length the magnificent fortifications of Baghras: 'erect on an unshakeable summit, rising on an impregnable hill top, its floor touching the sky'-- and went on to describe how Saladin set up his siege machines and bombarded the fortress until at last the commander came out and surrendered. According to the custom of war the commander was correct to surrender if he knew that he had no hope of relief. In military terms, if there was no hope of being relieved it was better to surrender and save the lives, of the Brothers and mercenaries to fight another day, rather than to lose everything without any gain to the Order and Christendom except the honour of dying a martyr.19

But opinions differed as to when a commander should decide that there was no hope of being relieved. William of Tyre records the fury of King Amaury of Jerusalem (1163-74) when twelve Templars surrendered a royal castle which they had been defending against a Muslim siege and which he had intended to relieve. They hanged the Templars responsible. In 1268 the Templar garrison of Baghras surrendered the castle to Sultan Baibars because there was no hope of relief; they were later in trouble with their Order because they had surrendered the castle before receiving instructions to do so and they had not destroyed everything inside it, making it indefensible, before withdrawing.20

From their castles the Templars performed various military functions: they conducted raids (chevauchees - that is, 'rides') against Muslim territory, property or people; they escorted pilgrims on the pilgrim routes from the coastal ports to Jerusalem and the Jordan valley and back again; they played a military role in major military campaigns led by; the king or his representative and gave military advice.  Although the Templars had extensive rights and territories in the county of Tripoli, in other areas they were not autonomous. Even their castles in the Amanus march between Antioch and Cilician Armenia were in territory subject to the prince of Antioch. Instead, in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, the Templars worked in cooperation with the king of Jerusalem— or, in the north of the crusader states, the prince of Antioch or count of Tripoli, although in theory they were subject only to the pope on earth, in practice they operated more like a special sort of royal or seigneurial militia.

The Templars raids on the Muslims were as much offensive as they were defensive. The object was not to conquer land but to capture animals and humans and other booty, which could be used or turned into wealth (for instance, by ransoming the humans back to their families). This raiding and counter-raiding was, and is, typical of frontier societies. The castle of Gaza was deliberately constructed to enable the Templars to launch raids on the city of Ascalon and on the caravans which the caliph of Egypt sent regularly to supply the city. It was in such a raid in 1154 that the Templars ambushed a party of wealthy Muslims coming from Egypt, including Rukn al-Din 'Abbas and his son Nasr al-Din, who had just murdered the caliph al-Zafir and plundered his goods. 'Abbas was killed and Nasr was captured. A Premonstratensian monk from the diocese of Reims or Laon recorded this event in around 1155, depicting the Templars as God's instruments of justice. Guy of Bazoches, who wrote a chronicle in the 1190s, recorded these events similarly (although under the wrong date) and emphasized the image of the Templars as God's instruments of justice by adding that the Templars handed Nasr al-Din over to his enemies to be punished for his involvement in the murder of the caliph. A similar account was given by Baldwin of Ninove in the second half of the thirteenth century. The Muslim historians supported this version of events, adding that when Nasr was returned to Egypt he was executed and his body was hung on a cross on the city gate — the standard punishment for traitors.21

The fact that Nasr's body was hung on a cross led some Christian contemporaries to believe that he was a Christian when he died. Thirty years after his death both William of Tyre in the East and Walter Map in the West recorded that Nasr had converted to Christianity while he was in the Templars' prison, but that the Templars had sold him back to the Egyptians for a large ransom, because they preferred money to converts. There is no evidence for this conversion in the contemporary Christian or Muslim accounts.22

In 1157 the Templars reported a successful raid on a Muslim wedding party, in which around 230 Muslims were either captured or killed.23 

This was a small-scale raid; some were much larger; involving royal, noble, and or other Military Orders' forces. Raids were also risky. William of Tyre noted a raid against an invading Turkish force near Hebron in 1139, led by the Templar Master, Robert de-Craon, at which one Bernard Vacher carried the king's banner. This attack was a disaster, and many nobles were killed.24

The St Albans chronicler Matthew Paris recorded in his Chronica, majora ('Great Chronicle') and in his Historia Anglorum ('History of the English') how in 1237 the Templars and Hospitallers set off from Baghras to attack Darbsak, but rode into an ambush and were cut to pieces.25 

In 1261 the Templars of Acre, Safed, Beaufort and Castle Pilgrim set out under their Marshal, Stephen de Sissy or Cissey, with the marshal of the kingdom of Jerusalem, John of Gibelet, and the Ibelins, and attacked the Turcomans. John of Ibeliri, lord of Beirut, John of Gibelet, Matthew le Sauvage the Commander of the Temple and many other knights and men at arms were captured and the Templars lost all their equipment.26

Castles were not only aggressive, but also defensive. They could be a refuge for the Brothers and their tenants when a Muslim raid swept over the countryside; after the raiders had gone, the people could emerge and go back to their homes. William of Tyre complained that in 1180 when Saladin's forces ravaged the land the Templars and Hospitallers sat tight in their fortresses and did not go out to engage him, but the Brothers clearly considered that in this case it was better to keep their forces safe rather than risk them in attack against overwhelming odds.27

A castle could also be a point of refuge for the Order's allies and for those fleeing from the Muslims. Some time before 1179 a renegade Christian knight engineered the capture of Saladin's great-nephew, Shahanshah, son of Saladin's nephew Taqi al-Din. He took him to the Templars at Safed where he was held prisoner for many years, until Saladin ransomed him for a large sum and many Christian prisoners.28   

For pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Order's most important role was the protection of pilgrims. Their castles guarded the pilgrim routes, while their warriors provided a military escort for pilgrims as they travelled around the holy places. Theodoric, a pilgrim to the Holy Land in around 1162, describes the Templars and Hospitallers escorting bands of pilgrims down to the Jordan to bathe in the holy river, watching over them while they stayed the night there, and protecting pilgrims on the Jordan plains.29 

In 1172 Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony (d. 1195) came East on pilgrimage; he was entertained in Jerusalem by King Amaury, visited the Jordan with a military escort of Templar knights to guard against Muslim attack, and then proceeded to Antioch, again with an escort of Templars.30 

He gave generous gifts to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Templars and the Hospitallers. Sometimes pilgrims and their Templar escorts were involved in battles with the Muslims. In around 1163 Geoffrey Martel, brother of the count of Angouleme in western France, and Hugh le Brun of Lusignan (in Poitou, western France) were on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Having visited the holy places they were on their way north to Antioch when they were attacked by Nur al-Din. The pilgrims and their escort of Templars, led by the English nobleman Gilbert de Lacy (who had joined the Order of the Temple some years previously), defeated their attackers and put them to flight.31

The Order also assisted in various military expeditions and gave military advice. In 1177 Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders (d. 1191) came out to the Holy Land. He had been anxiously awaited by the barons and Church, as the king, Baldwin IV (1174-85), was seriously ill. The nobles of the kingdom hoped that the count, who was Baldwin's first cousin, would take over the regency. But Philip refused, and set off north with an army including a large number of Templars, to besiege the Muslim town of Hama in northern Syria. Failing to capture Hama, he went on to besiege Harenc (now Harim, in Syria). When the city was on the point of falling, the Muslim garrison paid Philip to withdraw.32 

The contemporary sources for this siege do not mention that the Templars were involved in the negotiations, but thirty years later Roger, former royal clerk and parson of Howden in Yorkshire (d. 1204), claimed that the Templars had urged Philip to accept the Muslims' peace terms. He went on to claim that when Philip and the earl of Mandeville (who had accompanied him) looked at the money which the Muslims had paid they found it was nothing but copper and brass.

In telling this story Roger was echoing an ancient story of greedy men who are fooled by supernatural beings or non-Christians into accepting gold which later turns out to be false: there are versions of this story in the writing of Gregory of Tours (c.539-94) and in the Welsh Mabinogion. But Roger did not mention miraculous divine retribution or magic. His story suggests that the Muslims were trying to pass off bad coin, a practice that both Muslims and Christians were often guilty of. Yet the Muslim sources make no reference to bad coin being used at the siege of Harenc. Philip certainly was paid to abandon the siege, but as one of the principal purposes of military activity in the East at this period was to acquire booty and prisoners rather than to acquire castles which could not be held, he had achieved one of his main aims by forcing the Muslims to pay him a large sum of money.33


Meanwhile, Saladin had taken advantage of Philip's expedition in the north to attack the kingdom of Jerusalem. Led by Reynald de Chatillon, lord of Transjordan, and King Baldwin, the Franks won a decisive victory at Montgisard, notable for an impressive use of the Templars' cavalry charge. Ralph of Diss (in Latin, Diceto), dean of London, recorded an eyewitness account of the battle, presumably given to him by a pilgrim returning from the Holy Land.

Odo the Master of the Knighthood of the Temple, like another Judas Maccabaeus, had eighty-four knights of his Order with him in his personal company. He took himself into battle with his men, strengthened by the sign of the cross. Spurring all together, as one man, they made a charge, turning neither to the left nor to the right. Recognizing the battalion in which Saladin commanded many knights, they manfully approached it, immediately penetrated it, incessantly knocked down, scattered, struck and crushed. Saladin was smitten with admiration, seeing his men dispersed everywhere, everywhere turned in flight, everywhere given to the mouth of the sword. He took thought for his own safety and fled, throwing off his mailshirt for speed mounted a racing camel and barely escaped with a few of his men.34

The cavalry charge was the most high-profile military manoeuvre in warfare in this period. Although pitched battles were very much the exception rather than the rule - warfare usually consisted of ravaging enemy territory and besieging castles - when battle was engaged there was a set system of manoeuvres to follow. These had been described in Vegetius' famous treatise De re militari ('on military matters') written in the late fourth century ad; which was the standard written work on warfare in the West during the Middle Ages. Vegetius had suggested various ways in which battle could be joined, but by the twelfth century commanders generally used only one.

First the artillery would fire (the artillery were the archers; stonethrowers were usually only used in sieges), with the aim of breaking up the enemy lines. Then, when the artillery had run put of ammunition, the cavalry would charge and break the enemy lines. They would be followed by the footsoldiers, who would kill the soldiers knocked down by the mounted knights. Knights also fought on foot, but in a battle situation being on horseback gave an advantage of height and speed. Mounted warfare required more skill, more training and more financial investment in horse and weapons. It was therefore more prestigious. 

The Military Orders excelled at mounted warfare. They were highly trained professional soldiers whose rules demanded that they keep formation and fight as a group on behalf of Christendom, not seeking their own individual glory. The accounts of the crusader army just before the battle of Arstif on 7 September 1191 describe the rearguard, which was commanded by the Hospitallers, as riding 'so close together that an apple thrown into their midst would not fall to the ground without touching people on horses.'35 

Such a tightly grouped squadron, if it kept its close formation when charging, would have a devastating impact on the enemy lines. A pilgrim account of the Holy Land written during the period 1167—87 and known as the Tractatus de locis et statu sanctae terrae ('Tract on the places and state of the Holy Land') includes a stirring account of the Templars' military role and discipline:

There are two religious houses in that Jerusalem region, the Temple and Hospital, who have a great deal of wealth from revenue collected from the whole of Europe, and have very large revenues and possessions in the Land of Promise. When the Lord's Cross [the standard of the kingdom of Jerusalem] proceeds to battle these two escort it, one on-each side: the Templars on the right and the Hospitallers, on the left. The Templars are excellent knights, wearing white mantles with a red cross. Their bicoloured standard. which is called, the 'baucant' goes before them into battle. They go into battle in order and without making a noise, they are first to desire engagement and more vigorous than others; they are the first to go and the last to return, and they wait for their Master's command before acting. When they make the decision, that it would be profitable to fight and the trumpet sounds to give the order to advance, they piously sing this psalm of David: 'Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name give the glory' [Psalm 115:1], couch their lances and charge into the enemy. As one person, they strongly seek out the units and wings of the battle, they never dare to give way they either completely break up the enemy or they die. In returning from the battle they are the last and they go behind the rest of the crowd, looking after all the rest and protecting them. But if any of them turns their back on the enemy or does not act with sufficient courage, or bears weapons against Christians, he is severely disciplined. The white mantle with the cross which is the sign of knighthood is ignominiously taken away and he is thrown out of the community and eats for a year on the floor without a napkin, and if the dogs trouble him he is not allowed to complain. After the year, if the Master and Brothers judge that he has paid for his crime, his original knighthood is returned to him with all honour. Those Templars carry on a harsh religious observance, obeying humbly, doing without personal property, eating and dressing moderately, living all the time out of doors in tents.36

Likewise, Oliver, the schoolmaster of Cologne Cathedral, described a charge by the Templars at the siege of Damietta, in July 1219, during the Fifth Crusade:

After a long assault [the Muslims] crossed the ditch at the point where the knighthood of the Temple were, burst violently through the barriers and turned our footsoldiers in flight, so that the whole Christian army was endangered. The knights and horsemen of France tried three times to drive them back outside the ditch, but they could not. The Saracens within our ramparts broke the entrenched lines of horsemen and footsoldiers and drew up their army. Their voices rose in derision, all their multitude prepared the pursuit, and timidity grew in the Christians; but the spirit which clothed Gideon [Judges 6: 11— 8: 35] aroused the Templars. The Master of the Temple, with the Marshal and the rest of the Brothers who were there then, made a charge through a narrow exit and manfully put the unbelievers to flight. The Teutonic Order and counts and knights of various nations, seeing that the knighthood of the Temple was in danger, hastily brought them aid through the gates near them. Thus the Saracens foot-soldiers were destroyed and their shields thrown down, except for those whose headlong flight snatched them from their attackers ... Thus the Lord saved those who hoped in Him, through the courage of the Templars and of those who worked with them and committed themselves to danger.37

These accounts by Ralph of Diss, the anonymous pilgrim, and Oliver the schoolmaster of Cologne indicate the value of the Templar cavalry in the field. In a battle situation, a small, well-disciplined force hitting the enemy ranks at just the right time and place could have a decisive impact. At Montgisard and at Damietta the Christians were heavily outnumbered, but quick, decisive action by the Templar Master won victory for the Christians. Such accounts illustrate why the Muslim generals regarded the Military Orders with such respect.

The hierarchical statutes of the Order of the Temple laid down the procedures for military action. There are sections on 'How the Brothers should make camp', 'How the Brothers should form the Line of March', 'How the Brothers should go in a Squadron', and 'How the Brothers should charge'. The chief military official of the Order was the Marshal. Contemporary accounts depict the Master as taking military command, but the Order's own statutes indicate that the Marshal was in military command over the army. In practice, the Master would normally be in command if he were present, but the written procedures allowed the Marshal to take command if the Master were not present.

What happened if the two disagreed? A later adaptation of the chronicle attributed to Ernoul gives a description of a quarrel between the Master (Gerard de Ridefort) and the Marshal before the battle of the Spring of the Cresson on 1 May 1187. According to this writer, the Marshal advised the Master not to attack, at which the Master accused the Marshal of being a coward; the Marshal retorted that he was no coward but he would see the Master flee from the field while he himself went down fighting - which was in fact what happened. However, as almost every witness to this supposed dispute died in the engagement that followed, this account is dubious. The more contemporary accounts of the battle do not mention the quarrel. Yet this story does indicate that sometimes the Master and Marshal disagreed in the field, and that when they did the Master's decision was final.38 

On this particular occasion, the charge did not win the battle for the Christians, just as it did not at Hattin on 4 Jury But, as Vegetius himself had pointed out, in a battle situation, a great deal must always be left to chance. The statutes indicate that the cavalry charge was the sole feature of the Order's military tactics, and everything else was centred upon it. There is no indication of the role of the foot-soldiers or archers the Order might employ, except to note that the unarmed sergeants could act as they thought best and retire when they felt it appropriate. The squires employed by the Order were there to assist the knights, not to fight on foot.39 

Clearly, in raids across Muslim territory a mounted force was advantageous, as speed and manoeuvrability were the keys to success. But a cavalry charge would not always be the most suitable tactic, and the Templars could and did dismount to fight when necessary.40 

So why this emphasis upon the cavalry charge? Simply, the cavalry charge was a most problematic military manoeuvre, which needed to be employed with care, organized correctly and well disciplined for maximum impact. The activities of foot-soldiers and archers were, far less problematic and did not need to be set down in writing. 

Royal expeditions and crusades

 It was in royal service that the Order made its largest military impact during the twelfth and early thirteenth century. At least three Masters of the Temple were royal ministers before they joined the Order, to become Master. Philip de Milly (1169-71), Odo de St Amand (1171-79). and Gerard de Ridefort (1185-89). Odo had been royal butler in 1171, while Gerard was royal marshal in 1179.41

The Order was involved in a royal expedition against Damascus in 1129; the expedition of 1139 was under the royal banner; the Order was present at King Baldwin Ill's siege of Ascalon in 1153, and was involved in Amaury's invasions of Egypt in the 1160s. Even though William of Tyre recorded that the Templars opposed the Egyptian expedition of 1168, the contemporary Annals of Cambrai of Lambert Wattrelos show that they accompanied the expedition nevertheless.42 

In early July 1187 Master Gerard de Ridefort led a Templar contingent when King Guy took the forces of the kingdom of Jerusalem to relieve the town of Tiberias, then under siege by Saladin. The chronicle attributed to Ernoul blamed Gerard for giving Guy bad advice, leading directly to the disastrous defeat at Hattin. Yet Ernoul, as a squire of Balian of Ibelin, would have wanted to acquit the Ibelin's ally Count Raymond III of Tripoli (d. 1187) from accusations of treachery and being in alliance with Saladin. Other contemporary and near-contemporary sources blamed Count Raymond for the defeat at Hattin and did not mention Gerard de Ridefort's advice to King Guy.43

The Order worked alongside King John of Brienne during the Fifth Crusade (1217-21).44 

After 1225 there was no king present in the kingdom of Jerusalem until 1286. The Order also worked alongside and in cooperation with royal leaders of crusading expeditions throughout the history of the crusader states.

The Templars played a significant role in all the crusading expeditions to the Holy Land. They guarded the vanguard or the rearguard while the crusading army was on the march. This was a prominent role during the Third Crusade, during the march from Acre to Jaffa in the autumn of 1191, when the crusaders had shown that they lacked the discipline to keep the army together. The Templars covered the crusaders' retreat when they were trapped by the flooding Nile at the end of the Fifth Crusade in August 1221. Even during the crusade of the Emperor Frederick II, the Templars and Hospitallers accompanied the crusader army, although they were not supposed to associate with the emperor because he was excommunicate.45 

They also offered to help him refortify Jerusalem, although he declined the offer.

During crusades the Military Orders would take responsibility for the defence of part of the crusader camp and guard it if it were attacked, as in the description given by Oliver the schoolmaster of Cologne, above. The Templars and Hospitallers gave military advice, notoriously during the Third Crusade (1189-92) in June 1192, when they advised Richard I of England not to advance to attack Jerusalem as the city could not be held if it were captured.46 

At Mansurah in February 1250, during the first crusade of King Louis IX of France, the Templars and Hospitallers advised against a cavalry charge, but were overruled by Count Robert of Artois, the king's younger brother, who (according to some accounts) accused them of cowardice. The result was a disaster for the crusade. Hardly anyone escaped alive, and the count himself was killed; but the Military Orders were vindicated.47

The Military Orders supplied artillery, stone-throwers and other siege, machinery; at the siege of Acre during the Third Crusade; the Templars had a large stone-thrower which 'wreaked impressive devastation' on the walls of the city, while at the siege of Damietta during the Fifth Crusade the Templars placed fortifications on one of their ships and used it to attack the city walls from the water. They also owned one of three powerful trebuchets - huge-stone-throwers - that bombarded the city walls; they were given this by Duke Leopold VI of Austria. The other two were owned by the Romans and by the Hospital of St John.48 

The Templars lent money to crusading leaders, supplying King Louis IX with his ransom money after he was captured by the Muslims during his crusade to Damietta in 1250.49 

They also led negotiations with the Muslims, as Muslim leaders trusted them.50

During the Third Crusade, they purchased the island of Cyprus from Richard I, providing him with much needed cash.51     


Because the Military Orders were so prominent in the military forces of the crusader states, any failure was likely to be blamed on them by western commentators. An early example of this was the failure of the Second Crusade. 

Odo of Deuil, who wrote an account of King Louis VII of France's journey to Jerusalem during the crusade, was full of praise for the Templars' discipline and the military aid which the Templars gave the crusader army as it passed through Asia Minor. Not only did the Templars excel in the field (again, employing the cavalry charge against the Turks) but they also introduced discipline and order to the crusading army.52 

When the expedition reached the Holy Land a decision was taken to besiege the city of Damascus, in order to prevent Nur al-Din capturing it. As the siege proceeded slowly, the leaders decided to move the besieging army to a new position:— which turned out to be disastrous as there was no water supply. The siege was abandoned.53  

The failure of the siege of Damascus led to great controversy. A generation later Archbishop William of Tyre wrote that he had spoken with many people who remembered the siege and found that there was no agreement over what had gone wrong. Some blamed Count Thierry of Flanders; others said that the enemy bribed certain people, but that by a miracle afterwards the money that they had been given turned out to be worthless - another version of the story of the false gold. William himself, was uncertain as to what had actually gone wrong.54

In the West, blame was initially placed on the 'men of Jerusalem', that is, the Franks who had settled in the crusader states.55 

The author of Casus monasterii Petrlhusensis' blamed certain 'knights of God.'56 

This could have meant any of the crusaders, but may have meant the Templars and Hospitallers. The English cleric John of Salisbury, writing in around 1163, recorded that some blamed the crusaders, and some the Templars for the failure to capture Damascus, but the king of France always tried to exonerate the Templars. John of Wurzburg, travelling to Jerusalem in the early 1160s, was convinced that the Templars were to blame for the failure. The most vehement condemnation of the Templars' actions at Damascus came from John's fellow-countryman, the annalist of Wurzburg, who claimed that the Templars had betrayed the crusade for money, and he accused the Brothers of greed, fraud, jealousy (presumably jealousy of the western crusaders) and pride.57 

These accusations sound like the complaints brought against the Order by the clergy at the Third Later Council of 1179. The date of the Wurzburg annalist's work is not known, so he may have been writing nearer to 1179 than 1148.

A number of accounts claimed that "men of Jerusalem" had received money from the Muslims for lifting the siege, money which later turned out to be false coin - either by a miracle or as a deliberate ploy by the Muslims.58 

The English Cistercian chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall (d. 1216) recorded that the siege had failed because the Templars were bribed by Nur al-Din to persuade the crusader army to withdraw.59 

He did not mention false coin, simply implying that the Templars put money before Christian victory. His contemporary Gervase of Canterbury (d. 1210) wrote that Templars had treacherously negotiated with the Damascenes under pretence of leading the attack, and had accepted three jars of gold besants (the currency of the Middle East) in exchange for ending the siege. But when the crusaders had withdrawn and the Templars received the money, they found that the jars contained only copper, which they ascribed to a miracle.60 

Gervase did not explain why this should be a miracle rather than Muslim treachery; but he clearly preferred to give the credit to God as this made a better moral point and fitted neatly into his scheme of history. The chronicle ascribed to Ernoul and Bernard the Treasurer, which reached its present form in the 1220s, has the Templars and Hospitallers receiving packhorse loads of false coin in return for making the crusaders lift the siege. The author did not explain when or how the Brothers discovered that the money was false. Albert Milioli, notary of Reggio, included a version of the story in his chronicle of the emperors, written between 1281 and 1286: here the Templars, the Hospitallers and King Baldwin III of Jerusalem, stimulated by jealousy or corrupted by money, withdrew from the siege; Albert remarked that it served them right that the money was false.61

When all the stories are put together, it is striking that the most discerning of these historians, and the historian often most critical of the Templars and Hospitallers, on this occasion made no mention at all of the Military Orders being to blame for the failure. This historian was William of Tyre. William's version of events can never be lightly dismissed, and on this occasion he himself hesitated to ascribe blame. As he omitted the Military Orders from his list of culprits, it is safe to assume that they were not principally responsible for the failure of the siege. John of Salisbury also notes that King Louis VII of France was adamant that the Templars were not to blame. Perhaps they supported whoever gave the disastrous advice that led to the failure of the siege; but they were not the main wrongdoers. In 1148 the Templars and the Hospitallers were still too lacking in personnel and influence in the East to have had the disastrous impact on the siege that later historians credited to them. The fact that writers after the event considered the Templars or the Templars and Hospitallers to be the principal culprits does not reflect the Templars' actions in 1148 but their actions later, when they had become two of the most powerful groups in the crusader states.

William, however, did blame the Templars for their actions during the siege of Ascalon in 1153. According to him, after the Christian army under King Baldwin III had besieged Ascalon for many months, the Templars broke in through a breach in the wall. They would not allow any other Christians to follow them, even holding them back with their swords, because they wanted all the booty from the captured city, which they would win if they were able to capture the city by themselves. As a result they were all killed and their bodies hung by the Muslims from the walls of the city. So the city was not taken, because of the Templars' greed. However, the Christians rallied, and the city fell shortly afterwards.

William was not in the Holy Land when these events occurred, and, as in his account of the Second Crusade, he must have made enquiries of those who were there and their descendants. Ascalon was a large city; later accounts state that it had fifty-three large towers, as well as smaller ones.62 

During a general assault, people who were not immediately next to the Templars would not have realized that they had broken into the city. Their accounts would have been based on what was said later, after the Templars had been killed. As the king was greatly distressed by what had happened, the rest of the military leaders would have been extremely anxious to clear themselves of blame for the massacre. Their descendants, recounting events to William of Tyre, would have been equally anxious to clear their ancestors of blame.  

Contemporary accounts of the siege give a different picture. The Muslim sources do not mention the Templars' deaths, but two contemporary accounts from the Low Countries do: one written at the abbey of Anchin at Pecquencburt near Waziers in what is now north-eastern France, and the other at Affligem in the duchy of Brabant. The second of these notes that the account came from a person who was present at the siege. Both accounts state that after the wall of Ascalon was breached, the Master of the Templars, Bernard de Tremblay (1152-3), and his troop broke into the city, and reached the centre, where they made a stand. However, the streets were narrow, the walls were high and they received no support from the rest of the Christian forces, who did not follow them into the breach. They were surrounded and crushed by the enemy. Their beheaded bodies were hung from the city walls. Three days later the Christians made another assault and captured the city.63 

These accounts are stronger evidence than William of Tyre's version., as they were written soon after the event and rely on an eyewitness who had no interest in distorting events; William was writing at least twenty years later and was relying on sources that had ample motives for misepresenting the facts. Apparently, what really happened at Ascalon was that the Templars succeeded in breaking into the city through the breach in the wall, but the other Christian attackers did not realize that they had done so, or were reluctant to follow them into probable death. The Templars were killed, and the king was angry. His generals, excused themselves by saying that the Templars had prevented them from following them into the city - and this was the account that they and their children gave to William of Tyre.  

Still, the Templars were rather rash in bursting into the city without making sure that the rest of the Christian army was following them. In 1179 the Master of the Temple, Odo de St Amand, made a rash charge during a battle at Marj 'Uyun and was captured; he died in prison. In 1187 Saladin defeated the Military Orders at the Spring of the Cresson near Nazareth after the Master of the Temple, Gerard de Ridefort, had led a charge of a small force of Templars and Hospitallers against Saladin's army; almost the entire Christian force was killed. On 4 October 1189 Gerard was killed in a battle against Saladin's forces outside the city of Acre, when the Templars had gone on too far ahead of the rest of the crusader forces. This raises the question of whether the Templars were unreasonably rash in their military tactics.64

Some contemporaries certainly thought that they were. After the defeat at Marj 'Uyun a Benedictine monk, Nigel Wireker, wrote that he (or, rather, his anti-hero Burnel the Donkey) would not join the Templars because the Order had petty and silly rules and Saladin would have his guts for shoelaces. In the first decade of the thirteenth century the knight-turned-luniac monk Guiot de Provins wrote that he admired the Templars' courage, but they could fight without him. But these writers were religious, not soldiers; and not even all religious writers agreed with them. Bernard of Clairvaux and a whole succession of popes praised the Order's self-sacrificing courage, declaring that it showed Christian love in action. The Brothers, they wrote, were prepared to lay down their lives for their fellow-Christians. Jacques de Vitry, bishop of Acre, praised the Order's devotion, telling the story of the Templar who rode into battle declaring to his horse Morel ('Blackie') that today he would carry him to paradise.65

In laying down their lives for Christendom, the Templars were following in Christ's steps, and emulating the great Christian warriors of the past such as Roland, half-legendary nephew of the Emperor Charlemagne (d. 814), who (according to legend) had refused to call on the emperor's assistance when the rearguard which he was commanding was treacherously attacked by the Muslims, preferring to die in arms with honour rather than to live knowing that his courage and steadfastness could be called into question. As Roland says in the oldest  surviving version of the epic-poem telling of his death:

In his Lord's service a man-must suffer harsh straits and endure great heat and great cold, and even lose-hair! and hide. Now everyone take care to give strong blows, so that no one may ever sing a derogatory song about us! The Pagans [Muslims] are in the wrong and the Christians have the right; I will never give a bad example of how a warrior should act. (Lines 1010—16). May it not please our Lord God or His angels that France ever lose her strength because of me! I would rather die than be dishonoured; the emperor will love us more for our good blows. (Lines 10-89-92) 

The stories of Roland and other such Christian heroes of the Carolingiamage were very popular among the warrior class of the twelfth and thirteenth century. With such examples to follow, how could the Templars, as Christ's knights, do other than to throw themselves fearlessly into seemingly impossible situations, trusting in God to give them the victory? For very often their apparently rash charges did win the day.

The Franks in the crusader states, and the Military Orders in particular, were dependent for their survival on support from the West. They had plenty of financial resources, but were lacking in personnel. As a result, they had always to bear in mind how their actions, would look to their well wishers and potential donors in the West. They could not afford to seem unenthusiastic about attacking the Muslims; and when, for example, in June 1192 they advised Richard I against advancing on Jerusalem, they were criticized for their approach by western commentators. During the German Crusade of 1197—8 the Templars were involved in some sort of disagreement with the German leaders that led to the abandonment of the siege of Tibnin, for which the Templars later were blamed by the German commentator Otto of St Blasien (writing between 1209 and l222).66

Yet western commentators often did not appreciate the subtle power-politics of the Middle East, strategic considerations, the need for truces, or the cost of keeping so many warriors ready and able to fight and keep so many fortresses in a defensible condition. During the two centuries of the crusader states existence the Military Orders, the Church and the secular authorities in the East tried to keep westerners informed by sending a steady stream of information to the West, in the form of letters addressed to the pope, leading officials of the Church, kings and leading nobles. Most of these letters are now lost, although some remain in administrative registers, while others were copied into chronicles. The Annals of Burton (upon Trent, England) contain a letter written in March 1260 by Thomas Berard, Master of the Temple 1256-73, to Brother Amadeus, commander of the houses of the Temple in England, setting out the danger from the Mongols. The Order was desperately in need of aid because it had seven castles to keep garrisoned and, defensible, and was also responsible for the defence of the city of Acre. Following the war of St Sabas and because of the danger in the kingdom, there were no merchants in Acre at present and it was therefore impossible to raise loans, but at the same time the Order had to quadruple its expenses to meet its military obligations, and the mercenaries wanted 'danger money' on top of their usual pay. The Order was prepared to pawn its Church plate to meet its financial needs, if only someone could be found to lend: the Master asked Amadeus to press King Henry III of England (1216:-72) to lend the Order 10,000 silver marks (6,667 pounds-sterling).67 

Thomas Berard obviously did not know that Henry's own crusading ambitions in Sicily had brought him into financial crisis, that Henry's barons had taken over his financial affairs and he was certainly in no position to lend anything. The danger from the Mongols was ended by the Mamluk victory at 'Ayn Jalut in September 1260, but was replaced by an even greater danger from the now all-powerful Mamluks.

Such letters did not always achieve their purpose. Events could change quickly in the East, and it too often happened that by the time the West had received one report, the situation had completely altered. In 1243 Hermann de Perigord, Master of the Temple 1232-44, reported to the West that the whole of Jerusalem had been recovered by treaty with the sultan of Damascus, along with other territory, and that the Christians were making great progress. The Templars hoped to build a castle near Jerusalem to help protect the newly recovered territory, but they needed aid from the West. However, Matthew Paris, who copied this letter into his Chronica majora., remarked sourly that this good news was not believed in the West because the Templars and Hospitallers were not trusted: it was believed that they had no interest in conquering the Muslims and wanted to prolong the war as a pretext for extorting money. In addition, they fought each other. The Templars had 9,000 manors in the West, the Hospitallers 19,000 (exaggerated figures!), and they could perfectly well support their war by themselves; but they were fooling Christendom.

Matthew's sourness was expressed after the event; shortly after the Master's letter was received in the West, terrible news followed. Al-Salih Ayyub, sultan of Egypt, reacted defensively to the Latin Christian truce with Damascus and called on a troop of Khwarismian Turks, originally led by the Uzbek warlord Jalal al-Dlu Menguberdi or Mingburnu, for military assistance. On 23 August 1244 the Khwarismians took Jerusalem, and on 17 October 1244 the combined Latin Christian-Damascene forces were heavily defeated at La Forbie,' near Gaza, by the combined forces of the Khwarismians and Egyptians. Matthew included in his chronicle various letters from the East reporting these disasters, including a letter from the Emperor Frederick II to his brother-in-law, Earl Richard of Cornwall, crusader and King Henry Ill's younger brother, in which Frederick condemned the Templars' truce with the Damascenes, which, he said, had brought about the disaster. The Templars had received Muslims within their own house and allowed them to carry on their superstitious rites under their roof. Their defeat was God's judgement on them. Frederick had started a policy of alliance with Egypt while he was in the Holy Land in 1228-9, and he resented the exchange in policy that had followed the defeat of his regent in the East in the spring of 1242. Against later events, Hermann de Perigord's letter could certainly have appeared misleading, but it had been written in good faith.68 

Complaints against the Templars' alliances with Muslims had some basis in fact. It was true that the Military Orders did keep up diplomatic relations with Muslim leaders and dignitaries in the East. The Templars' friendship with the Arab-Syrian gentleman and warrior Usamah ibn Munqidh is well known: the Brothers allowed him to pray in a side chapel in the Aqsa mosque when he came to Jerusalem. But this friendship did not stop the Templars of Gaza almost killing Usamah when they ambushed Rukn al-Din 'Abbas and his son Nasr al-Dln in 1154: Usamah was part of 'Abbas's party, and barely escaped with his life.69 

Such diplomatic contacts and a nealthy respect for a formidable enemy were essential for the Templars as part of their battle to defend Christendom in the East. Truces and alliances with Muslims enabled the crusader states to live to fight another day. The fact that Muslim writers always rejoiced over the Templars when they were defeated and depicted them as evil enemies of Islam shows that, despite alliances and friendships, in reality the Templars always remained what they claimed to be, fanatical Warriors of Christ. 

William of Tyre and Walter Map believed that the Templars were too fanatical: they refused to make peace with the Muslims even when it would help Christendom. They cited the case of Nasr al-Din as one example of this; another was that of the Assassins. William recorded that in 1173 the Templars thwarted the conversion of the Shi'ite Assassins. One of the terms of the conversion was that the Assassins would no longer pay the Templars an annual tribute, and William blamed the Templars for preferring money to converts. In 1911 the historian Friedrich Lundgreen suggested that William himself had been involved in the negotiation of the treaty with the Assassins and was incensed when it fell through.70 

William's story of the Templars' murder of the Assassins' envoy was widely reported by later European chroniclers, but was not mentioned by any other contemporary or near-contemporary eastern source. Jacques de Vitry bishop of Acre, repeated the story but did not blame the Templars for the murder, simply saying that one of the Christians responsible for escorting the Assassins' envoy back to his country, murdered him on the way.71 

What actually happened on this occasion is not clear.


Matthew Paris's complaint that the Military Orders fought between themselves had a good basis. Modern historians have pointed out that the Orders often cooperated: this was indeed the case, but their contemporaries expected them to work together and so did not comment when they did. But Orders that were vowed to the service of Christ should not disagree with each other or with other leaders on political policy, and this (contemporaries believed) they did too often, and for petty reasons.72 

For instance, three historical accounts written in the early thirteenth century accused Master Gerard de Eidefort of opposing Count Raymond of Tripoli and bringing about the catastrophic Christian defeat at Hattin on 4 July 1187 simply because of a broken promise. When Gerard was a knight in Raymond's service (the story went) Raymond had promised him the hand in marriage of the next heiress who became available, but when the heiress of Botron was due to marry he sold her to an Italian merchant rather than bestowing her on Gerard.73

However, Guy of Bazoches and the Anglo-Norman historical writers, such as William of Newburgh, Roger of Howden, Ambroise the trouvere and the author of the second version of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum, blamed the count of Tripoli and his treaty with Saladin for the disasters of 1187.74

In the first decade of the thirteenth century the Templars and Hospitallers were in conflict over the succession to the principality of Antioch. Following the death of Prince Bohemond III in 1201, the Templars supported the claim of Bohemond's second son, Bohemond of Tripoli, while the Hospitallers supported Raymond-Rupen, Bohemond Ill's grandson by his eldest son Raymond. Raymond had married Alice, niece of King Leon of Cilician Armenia, but had died in 1197. Cilician Armenia was an independent Christian state in southern Asia Minor; its people were Armenian Christians, not Roman Catholics like the western Europeans. Its prince, Leon, had won recognition as king in 1198 from the chancellor of the western emperor, Henry VI (ruled 1190-97), and the papal legate, and was now planning to unite Cilician Armenia and the principality of Antioch under the person of Raymond-Rupen, who was his own heir. Raymond-Rupen had been recognized as heir to Antioch by the papal-legate, but in 1201 he was not yet five years old, and therefore an Armenian regent would be appointed. Yet the population of the city of Antioch was not prepared to submit to Armenian domination, and supported Bohemond of Tripoli as prince.

The Templars supported Bohemond of Tripoli against the Cilician Armenians because Leon had seized some of their castles in the Amanus Mountains after Saladin's withdrawal from the area and was refusing to give them up. The Hospitallers supported Raymond-Rupen, who, with Leon of Armenia, granted them territories and privileges in Cilician Armenia. Leon of Armenia complained to Pope Innocent III about the Templars using arms against him, but the pope pointed out that their behaviour was understandable, as he was holding their castles illegally. In 1211 open war broke out between the Templars and Leon. Eventually, in spring 1213, a peace was negotiated by which the Templars got back some of their castles, but they did not get Baghras until 1216, when Raymond-Rupen won control of the principality of Antioch.

His success was short-lived. He quarrelled with Leon and alienated many of his supporters. In 1219 Bohemond of Tripoli recovered Antioch by conspiracy. Following Leon's death in the same year, the Hospitallers supported Raymond-Rupen's attempt to claim the Cilician throne, but he was defeated, captured, and died in prison. The Hospitallers continued to support the Cilician Armenians, while the Templars continued to support the princes of Antioch.75

Such disputes, which involved fighting Christians and sometimes forming alliances with the Muslim enemies, did not do the Military Orders' reputation any good, but were not well known in the West. The political disputes which marked the crusade of Emperor Frederick II and its aftermath were far more damaging. In 1228—9 both the Hospital and the Temple had tried to cooperate with Frederick (so far as they could; cooperate with an excommunicate crusade leader). Relations between the Templars and Frederick broke down apparently because the latter, as father of the infant King Conrad of Jerusalem, tried to enforce royal authority by taking over the Templars' strong fortress of Castle Pilgrim. When the Templars refused to surrender the fortress, Frederick besieged their house in Acre, but failed to capture it.76

Despite Frederick's attack, the Templars tried to preserve the truce which he had made. The emperor had also confiscated the Templars' and Hospitallers' properties in Sicily under his mortmain regulations: (which tried to stop property falling into the hands of religious institutions, which would pay no taxes or dues on it). Pope Gregory IX (1227-41) tried to negotiate: the Orders would do all they could to protect Christendom and uphold the truce, but Frederick must return their Sicilian properties, which were essential to them. In fact it is not clear when or whether Frederick returned the properties of the Hospital and Temple in Sicily, but by 1239 diplomatic relations between the Hospital and Frederick had been restored. The Templars in Frederick's own domains worked with him, but in the Holy Land relations were less cordial.

During the crusades of Theobald, count of Champagne and king of Navarre, and Fiarl Richard of Cornwall in 1239-42, the Hospitallers supported the emperor's policy of making peace with Egypt and maintaining war against Damascus.  The Templars, the Italian communes and many of the barons of the kingdom of Jerusalem preferred to make peace with Damascus and maintain war against Egypt. In 1243 the leaders of the kingdom abandoned the truce with Egypt and made a treaty with Damascus by which Jerusalem and other properties were handed over to the Franks. Al-Salih Ayyub, sultan of Egypt, reacted by calling in the Khwarisrriian Turks, who captured Jerusalem and defeated the Latin Christians and Damascenes at La Forbie in 1244; and Emperor Frederick II blamed the Templars for abandoning his policies.     

Between 1256 and 1258 civil war broke out in Acre. This was the so-called war of St Sabas, which began between the Italian communes of Genoa and Venice over the property of the abbey of St Sabas in Acre. The Hospital supported Genoa; the Templars supported Venice. There is no evidence that the two Military Orders were actually involved in the fighting, but the episode added to their reputation for rivalry. The Genoese were defeated and driven out of Acre, leaving Thomas-Berard to complain in 1260 that he could, not raise loans because of the absence of the Genoese merchants.77 

In 1276 Hugh of Antioch-Lusignan, king of Jerusalem and Cyprus, left Acre and went to Tyre, leaving no regent or representative behind him, because he had so many disputes with the religious orders and communes and fraternities in the kingdom that he could not govern. The immediate cause of his departure, according to the writer of the Estoire de Eracles, a continuation of William of Tyre chronicle, was that the Master of the Temple, William de Beaujeu, had bought a village or castle called La Faueonerie from a knight of Acre without informing the king of the transaction. No military sendee or homage was due to the king in rent for the castle, but the king still considered that he should have been informed and allowed to give or withhold his consent. The king's problem was that for many years there had been no active monarch in the kingdom of Jerusalem to take a role in its government and enforce royal authority, and that therefore government structures had not developed in the kingdom in the thirteenth century as they had in western European kingdoms. As a result when a king did take office he lacked the structures and procedures through which to impose his authority. What was more, William de Beaujeu and the commune of Venice did not recognize Hugh as king, preferring the hereditary claim of Maria of Antioch to the realm. Maria sold her claim to Charles I of Anjou in 1277. When Hugh left Acre, the Templars and Venetians would not support attempts to persuade him to return, and William de Beaujeu worked on behalf of Charles of Anjou, hoping that he would come east to claim the throne.78

It is easy to blame William de Beaujeu for opposing the king of Cyprus's authority and so prolonging the governmental problems of the kingdom of Jerusalem. His actions could be interpreted as purely selfish, promoting his relative Charles of Anjou against the interests of the kingdom. Yet it is clear that William cared deeply about the kingdom of Jerusalem. On his first arrival in Acre as Master of the Temple in October 1275, he wrote to King Edward I of England, who had been in the Holy Land on crusade a few years previously and was much interested in the state of the country. William observed that there was nothing good to say about the situation: the land and its inhabitants were destitute; the sultan of Egypt was in Damascus waiting for the Mongols to return - but the Christians believed he was planning another attack on them. The Order of the Temple was in a weaker state than it had ever been, with many expenses and almost no revenues, as its possessions had all been plundered by the sultan. The Order's revenues from Europe were not enough to support it, and it had enormous expenses in the upkeep of castles and defending the Holy Land; William feared that the Order would not be able to continue its work. He asked Edward to send aid to enable the Order to keep going until the crusade planned by Pope Gregory X (1271-6) arrived.79

In the event, the pope's planned crusade was abandoned on his premature death, and the Holy Land was left to cope alone. In these circumstances, it was for each of the political leaders in the crusader states to judge the best policy to follow. William de Beaujeu believed that his cousin Charles of Anjou had the initiative, vision and drive to succeed in the eastern Mediterranean: as uncle of the king of France he had immense influence at the French court; the pope supported him; he was already king of Naples and Sicily and had ambitions to become emperor of Constantinople. As king of Jerusalem, he would be able to raise the supplies of money and warriors needed not only to defend what remained but to win back what had been lost. In contrast, the king of Cyprus lacked the resources and influence of Charles of Anjou and his family. For William, the choice of Charles of Anjou as king of Jerusalem must have seemed like simple common sense.

Yet some of William de Beaujeu's other policies seem less reasonable in view of the poor state of the country. While he was defending the rights of the Order, he was weakening the country as a whole. Between 1275 and 1282 the Templars were involved in the succession dispute in the county of Tripoli, Bohemond VI died in 1275; the regent was his widow Sibyl, daughter of King Hetoum I of Cilician Armenia and mother of the young Prince Bohemond VII. Sibyl appointed as her chief minister Bishop Bartholomew of Tortosa, vicar of Patriarch Opizo of Antioch, but the Latin Catholic clergy in Tripoli resented Bartholomew being brought in over their heads. The opposition was led by young Bohemond's great-uncle, Paul, of Segni, bishop of Tripoli, who was a Dominican friar and a confrere, or associate, of the Templars. Another player in the conflict was one of the young prince's vassals, Guy II of Gibelet. After a dispute with the prince, Guy left Tripoli, went to Acre and became a Templar confrere. The Master of the Temple, William de Beaujeu, took up Guy's case. When open war broke out between the two factions in the county of Tripoli the Templars were in the centre of the conflict. The Templars' house in Tripoli was destroyed. The Master besieged Tripoli, had the castle of Botron destroyed, and tried to take Nephim, where twelve Brothers were captured. The Master then returned to Acre, while the men of Gibelet and thirty Templars defeated their opponents at Tripoli. A truce was made.

Early in 1278 the Templars tried to attack Tripoli by sea but were driven back by a storm; Bohemond VII occupied the Templars' island fortress near Sidon. In 1279 Guy of Gibelet attempted to attack the town of Tripoli in cooperation with the Templars, but because of various mishaps — such as Guy failing to see the signal that it was safe for his ships to come to shore, his sailors mistaking a bright star for the morning star and retreating because they thought that dawn was coming, and simple mis-timing - three attempts at attack failed. Guy was captured, tried, blinded and imprisoned.

In 1287 Bohemond VII died and his mother tried to make Bartholomew of Tortosa regent for her daughter Lucia. The people of Tripoli opposed Bartholomew, elected one of the Gibelet family as their leader and called on Genoese aid. The disputes were ended by the loss of Tripoli to the Mamluk Sultan Qalawan in March 1289.80

The end of the crusader states

Yet, even if the crusader states had had strong leadership and unity and avoided factional infighting, could they have survived? From 1240 western Christendom was distracted by the war between the Emperor Frederick II and the papacy, and the papacy's attempts to prevent Frederick's relations from holding any power in Sicily because they were threatening papal territory in Italy. In England the king and his barons were at loggerheads from 1258, and peace was not fully restored until after 1267. After the death of Emperor Frederick II in 1250 (and even beforehand) there was no single generally recognized authority in Germany. In short, Europe had its own problems. The papacy was anxious that heresy and his political enemies should be crushed in Europe before a new crusade was launched, for God would not support the crusaders if they were tainted by sin. During the 1260s the people of the Holy Land watched with indignation as European crusaders were diverted to fight papal wars in Sicily at the same time as their castles were falling one by one before Baibars's inexorable advance. The Templar poet Ricaut Bonomel complained:

The pope is very generous with his indulgences

Against Italians, to Charles and the French;

But he makes great profits out of us,

For he pardons for money people who have taken our cross;

And if anyone wishes to swap the Holy Land

For the war in Italy

Our legate lets them do so

For he sells God and indulgences for cash.

O French lords! Alexandria

Has done you more harm than Italy,

For here the Turks are overrunning us,

Capturing and conquering and giving us away for cash.81

Other factors combined to weaken the Latin Christian states in the East. The wars between the Italian communes damaged trade. The Mongol conquests in central Asia and incursions into Mesopotamia caused the trade routes to move north during the 1250s, so that the important entrepots, which had been such an important source of income to the crusader states, now received far less trade, and the lords of the kingdom grew poorer. But the all-important change was the unification of the Muslims under the Mamluks. Faced by a united, militarily efficient enemy, the Franks were too few to hold out for long. They survived by a series of truces, but in the end any pretext would serve to give the sultan an excuse to wipe out the infidel on his doorstep.

On 6 April 1291, Acre, the last major European Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, came under attack from the troops, of Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil. The siege lasted over a month. The Muslims began their final assault on 18 May. Contemporary writers described the final battle in the city streets. The Military Orders were generally praised: the Teutonic Order fought to the last man, the Templar Master William de Beaujeu was killed in action. Several commentators on the last battle judged that his death was the last blow, sealing the fate of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem; if only he had not died, the city could still have been saved.82 

Those of the population of the city who could escape fled to the port to seek ships. The Military Orders assisted with the evacuation. Those who escaped capture fled to Cyprus, which continued to resist the Mamluks. In late summer 1291, the chronicler of St Peter's, Erfurt (in Germany), wrote an account of the last defence of Acre: 

Also, it is said that a good 7,000 people fled to the house of the Templars, [in Acre]. Because it was located in a strong part of the city, overlooking the sea shore, and was surrounded by good Walls, they defended it for perhaps twelve days after the capture of the city [by the Muslims]. But when the Templars and the others who had fled there realised that they had no supplies and no hope of being supplied by human help, they made a virtue of necessity…. With devoted prayer, and after confession, they committed their souls to Jesus Christ, rushed out strenuously…. on the Saracens and strongly threw down many of their adversaries. But at last they were all killed by the Saracens.83

This was a fitting end to the great Military Order; its last Brothers dying in the defence of the capital of the kingdom. In fact, the chronicler knew that the Templar fortresses of Sidon and Castle Pilgrim still held out after the fall of Acre, as well as the cities of Tyre, Beirut and Tortosa. He hoped that the Christians would be able to rally their forces again and recover. their kingdom, in the East, as they had done after Saladins victories in 1187, when only Tyre had held out under the command of Marquis Conrad of Montferrat. But in 1187 Saladin had had his own problems with his commanders and his troops, and western Christendom had been ready and able to send aid under powerful leaders: the emperor of Germany, the kings of France and England, as well as important lesser nobles such as the duke of Austria and the landgrave of Thuringia. In 1291 England and France were on the verge of war, there was no emperor in Germany, and the pope was preoccupied with the situation in Sicily, where his favoured regime had been thrown out by revolt in 1282 and replaced by a regime supported by the royal dynasty of Aragon. Without hope of being relieved, the remaining Latin Christian fortresses in the East rapidly surrendered: Tyre in May, Sidon and Beirut in July, Tortosa and Castle Pilgrim in August. Their garrisons retreated to Cyprus, there to plan their next move and initiate negotiations for a new crusade.

Meanwhile, when Pope Nicholas IV (1288-92) heard the news, he summoned provincial Church Councils to meet in 1292 to discuss how the Holy Land could be recovered. High on the agenda was the question of whether the Military Orders should be unified - thus neatly throwing the blame for the loss of the Holy Land onto the Military Orders.84   

Were the Templars an asset to the crusader states?

Writing between his return to the kingdom of Jerusalem from a university career in Italy in 1165 and his death in around 1184, William, archbishop of Tyre, had regarded the Templars and Hospitallers as a force for disintegration and lawlessness in the kingdom. Although their beginnings had been propitious, he saw that by his day they had become too rich and proud refusing to obey the authorities set over them by God, the patriarch of Jerusalem and the king. Describing their deeds after 1150, he brushed over their successes, minimized their positive role and emphasized their failures. The disastrous campaign against Egypt in 1168 was all the fault of the Hospitallers; the failure of the negotiations with the Assassins, was all the fault of the Templars. Yet examination of William's account and comparison with other, often more contemporary sources, indicates that his picture of the Military Orders was not accurate. If twelve Templars had defied their king by surrendering a castle too quickly, the king had been able to hang them, thereby restoring his authority; and the pope and the Order not been able to do anything to stop him. His account of the Templars' rash greed at Ascalon was based at best on misinformation; even his account of the death of the Assassins' envoy was not entirely accurate, to judge from the later account of Jacques de Vitry. The Templars may have refused to accompany the Egyptian campaign of 1168, but Lambert Wattrelos's account makes it clear that they had to go whether they liked it or not, because the king commanded it. William certainly disliked Odo de Saint-Amand, Master of the Temple, but this appears to have been for personal reasons: at Montgisard Odo proved his worth to the king of Jerusalem. Certainly the Masters of the Temple had their own military strategies, but at least three of them had previously been royal servants, and they would hardly openly oppose their old master.

William's attitude to the Templars, and also the Hospitallers, was part of the message of his History. He was writing for the people of the kingdom of Jerusalem to encourage them to be proud of their homeland, to show them what had gone wrong and how the kingdom could be saved. After he attended the Third Lateran Council of 1179 he was also writing for the people of western Christendom, to show them, too, how the kingdom of Jerusalem could be saved. He repeatedly demonstrated that Christians from the West - such as Thierry of Flanders and his son Philip of Alsace - did not understand the kingdom and did not act in its best interests; describing the childhood and reign of King Baldwin IV, whose tutor he had been and whose chancellor he was, he was aware that he was writing against a background of papal anxiety that the king's leprosy indicated God's anger, that God had abandoned the kingdom of Jerusalem to the Muslims, and that only western Christendom could save it. Popes were telling western Christians to give their aid to the Templars and Hospitallers and to crusaders rather than to the natives of the kingdom. William's message was that this attitude was completely misconceived. The crusaders and the Military Orders were the greatest danger to the kingdom. The natives of the kingdom knew how the kingdom could best be saved and they deserved the support of western Christendom.85

To judge from a perspective of over 700 years later, the Military Orders in general and the Templars in particular appear to have been generally beneficial to the crusader states. They were a vital military force: they kept up military pressure on the Muslim neighbours of the crusader states in raids, they formed part of the military forces of the crusader-states when the secular rulers led their armies in the field; they protected pilgrims, who brought money and personnel to the kingdom. Their fine buildings in Jerusalem and later in Acre greatly impressed pilgrims with the Orders' piety and power. The Templars played an important political role, advising the king of Jerusalem (until 1225), or initiating policy in the absence of a monarch.

Yet the Masters of the Temple and of the other Military Orders had their own views on the best policies to follow, and this certainly caused problems within the crusader states. As the secular nobles and the Church lost resources after 1250 and were unable to maintain fortresses and protect their territory, the Military Orders took over almost all the fortresses and became not only the most effective military unit in the crusader states but almost the only military unit there. This had never been intended, and they became - as William of Tyre had foreseen - a force for disintegration rather than for unity. Nevertheless, they united in the face of common danger, in 1260 against the Mongols and in 1291 at Acre. They fought bravely and died honourably during the final battle for Acre, fulfilling what Latin Christendom expected of them. And even after the loss of the crusader states in the Holy Land they were expected to lead the army that would recapture the Holy Land., once a few necessary reforms had made them more efficient.










Keith Hunt