While the Order of the Temple was defending pilgrims and waging war against the enemies of Catholic Christendom in the Middle East, it was also becoming involved in holy war on other European frontiers. In the Iberian peninsula and in eastern Europe it was involved in holy war against non-Christians and in economic expansion. In these areas it can be asked whether the Order of the Temple was acting as an exempt religious Order of the Catholic Church, answerable to no one on earth except the papacy, or whether it was acting more like a royal or episcopal militia, employed to meet the secular or religious prince's purposes - which might be religious or territorial. The fact that the Templars often operated alongside local Military Orders created by the local prince does suggest that they were being used for personal purposes; but as a supranational religious Order they offered certain advantages over local Military Orders, although they also created certain disadvantages.

The Order was used extensively in the Iberian Peninsula from early in the Order's history; it was used in a far more limited way in eastern Europe, and not until the thirteenth century.

The Iberian Peninsula and the 'reconquista'

The Iberian Peninsula had been part of the Roman Empire and was converted to Christianity in the fourth century. It was conquered in the early fifth century by the Visigoths, who were Arian Christians. After the battle of Guadalete in 711 the Muslims overran most of the peninsula, although the north was never conquered. The Christian rulers there and the Muslims further south evolved means of co-existing: for instance, Christian rulers allied themselves with the Muslim rulers and charged them tribute, called parias, in exchange for their alliance and in return for not attacking them. The historian Angus Mackay has aptly termed this system a 'protection racket'. The situation was similar to that in Holy Land in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries where the Latin Christian lords allied with Muslim lords for mutual advantage. As in the Holy Land, Christian rulers in Spain would also ally with Muslim rulers against other Christians.

There was a good deal of cooperation within each society between Christians and Muslims. In Muslim Spain lived Christians who had adopted Muslim customs but not converted to Islam; these Christians were known as Mosarabs. When Christian conquerers defeated Muslims in Christian Spain they often allowed them to follow their religion and mosques remained open. They did this because, just as in the crusader states, there were not enough Christians to populate the newly conquered land. Despite protection rackets, toleration and alliances the Christian rulers of the north were still determined to push south into the lands the Muslims had never colonized thoroughly. Although they presented this to their subjects and to other Christians as religious expansion into lands that were rightfully Christian (hence the term reconquista, 'reconquest', used to describe it)., they also intended to win new territory and wealth. Various factors enabled the Christian rulers to expand their territories more quickly.  As in the East, the most important of these was divisions among the Muslims themselves. From 756 the Iberian Peninsula was independent from the rest of Islam and from 929 it had its own caliph, or  religious leader. But by the early eleventh century the caliph's power was breaking down; the last caliph was deposed in 1031. The Muslim territories here split into Taifa states, or 'party states' identified with different ethnic groups, such as the Berbers on the south coast. The Taifa states were rivals, and there was no united front against the Christian attack. 

This power vacuum drew in the Christian rulers from the north. In the eleventh century the main Christian kingdoms were Leon, Castile and Aragon; in addition, there were the counties of Portugal and Barcelona. In 1085 Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile (d. 1109) captured Toledo, which had been the Visigothic capital before the Muslim invasion. This was a major propaganda coup, since Alfonso could claim to be restoring the Visigothic empire and to be the rightful ruler of the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, as the Visigothic king had been. The conquest also raised the prestige of Castile because Toledo possessed a large library, and kings of Castile became famed as patrons of learning. The support of the papacy also speeded up the 'reconquest' because this helped recruit warriors for campaigns in Spain. A letter of Pope Alexander II (1061-73) survives, which states that those who were intending to journey to Spain were to confess their sins but would not have to do any penance because the expedition would be penance enough. Alexander was offering incentives to warriors who "went to Spain" similar to those offered later to crusaders - although not a complete remission of all sins. Warriors came to Spain from Normandy, Aquitaine, Burgundy and elsewhere in France. After the First Crusade the pope recognized the war against the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula as a crusade. The Iberian kings had complained to the pope that their warriors wanted to go on crusade to the Holy Land, yet they needed them on the Iberian frontier to fight the Moors (the Iberian Muslims). In 1100 and 1101 Pope Paschal II (1099-1118) banned Spanish knights from going on crusade while the Moors were a danger in the Iberian Peninsula. He also declared that anyone going on crusade against the Moors would have the same remission of sins as if they had gone to Jerusalem. During the first few decades of the twelfth century the Iberian frontier came to be generally recognized both within the Iberian Peninsula and in the rest of western Europe as a crusading arena.

Yet the Moors were not a dying force. After the loss of Toledo in 1085 the Muslim ruler of Seville called in help from the Almoravids of North Africa who took over Muslim Iberia, defeated the Christians and temporarily halted the expansion south. The Almoravids also succeeded in imposing some unity on the Muslims in the peninsula. But by the 1140s they were losing control and Muslim Iberia was fragmenting again. During the Second Crusade, expeditions were launched in the Iberian Peninsula against the Muslims, which were reinforced by crusaders from outside the peninsula. These won territory from the Muslims, notably Lisbon in the west and Tortosa in the east. In the 1150s the Almohads moved in from North Africa and again imposed unity on Muslim Iberia, forcing the Christians on to the defensive.

The turning point came in 1212, when the Muslim forces were defeated by a Christian force made up from the various Iberian kingdoms at Las Navas de Tolosa. Muslim control of the Iberian Peninsula was destroyed, and the Christian rulers advanced south rapidly. By 1300 they had conquered the whole of the peninsula except Granada: the Muslim kingdom of Granada remained independent until it was captured by Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon-Castile in 1492.

The Military Orders

As in the crusader states, the concept of the Military Order was attractive to monarchs in the Iberian Peninsula, who were short of fighting power to defend frontiers and yet needed to keep up continual skirmishing along the frontier, as the Franks did in the East. There were two options: either to give territory to the Military Orders that had been set up in the East, and ask them to give assistance in the Iberian Peninsula, or to set up local Military Orders.

The Templars received their first land in the Iberian Peninsula in the 1120s and 1130s. The earliest donations were in Portugal. In 1128, Countess Teresa, countess of Portugal (1097-1128), gave the Order the castle of Soure, which had been recovered from the Muslims and repopulated a few years previously. As in the East, the Order provided only part of the defences of the area around the city of Coimbra, while Countess Teresa's son and successor Afonso Henriques, count of Portugal (1114-85), also built the castle of Leirena, which was garrisoned by his own forces. Until the early 1140s' there is no evidence that the Templars actually undertook military operations in Portugal; the first record of the Templars of Soure being involved in military action is in 1144. In 1147 they sent troops to assist Count Afonso Henriques in an assault on the Muslim-held town of Santarem, which was successful. As a reward for their assistance the Templars were given the churches of Santarem. When, after the capture of Lisbon in 1147, a bishop of Lisbon was established and the churches of Santarem given to him, the Templars were compensated with the castle of Cera on the River Tomar. In 1160 the Master of the Temple in Portugal, Gualdim Pais, founded a town here which he called Tomar; this became the Order's centre in Portugal, and was one of the most defensible castles in the kingdom. He had already constructed a castle further to the north, at Pombal. The Order had also been given 'reconquered' land to recolonize and cultivate. In 1145 the Brothers were given the castle of Longroiva. The archbishop of Braga gave them a pilgrim hospital at Braga, which had been originally established by an earlier archbishop; they were responsible for maintaining the hospital and keeping up pilgrim care. In 1170 Afonso Henriques gave the Order land beyond the River Tagus (Tejo), recently recovered from the Muslims. In addition to this, the Order could keep a third of all the land it could acquire and settle. The Order became well established in Portugal, and relations with the rulers of Portugal were close. In the Templars early days in the country Count Afonso Henriques referred to himself as a 'brother in your fraternity', indicating that he had become an associate or confrater of the Order. This meant that he had undertaken to give the Order regular gifts and to support and protect it, while in return the Brothers would pray for him, and he would receive spiritual benefit from their good works. Afonso Henriques's son, Sancho I (1185-1211), gave the Templars "extensive lands," and used their castle at Tomar as a safe depository for his treasure. In 1216 Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) decided that the castles of Montemor-o-Velho and Alenquer, which were being disputed between King Afonso II (1211-23) and two of his sisters, Teresa and Sancha, should be entrusted to the Templars as reliable neutral parties; this was done in 1223: The Templars supported Sancho II (1223-45) during the rebellion against him led by his brother Afonso, count of Boulogne; the Master in Portugal, Martim Martins, was a childhood friend of Sancho. But the rebellion was successful, Sancho lost his throne, and the Templars later lost territory because of their support for the deposed king.

Donations on the eastern side of the peninsula were slower than those in the west, but followed a similar pattern. The Templars may have had land in Aragon as early as 1130. In 1131 Ramon Berenguer III, count of Barcelona and marquis of Provence, joined the Order of the Temple as an associate or confrater, and also gave the castle of Granyena (Grahena) Tor the defence of Christendom, which is the purpose for which their Order of knighthood was set up. On his death, he gave the Order his horse, named Dane, and all his armour. Other rulers in the frontier zone, notably the counts of Urgel, also gave donations. In 1132 Armengold or Ermengaud VI, count of Urgel, gave the Templars his castle of Barbera (Barbara) in the Saracen - that is, on the frontier with the Muslims. In 1134 his lord Ramon Berenguer IV, count and marquis of Barcelona, repeated the donation; but apparently the Templars had not yet garrisoned either Granyena or Barbera. Ramon Berenguer IV also undertook to become a member of the Order for a year, obeying the Master and giving equipment for ten knight-Brothers and enough land to support them. Twenty-six of his knights also made vows to aid the Order.

Ramon Berenguer IV was clearly trying to persuade the Order to give him active military support, but the Order was slow to cooperate. At this stage it did not even own castles in the kingdom of Jerusalem, and lacked the manpower to begin operations from castles in the Iberian peninsula. In the early 1130s the Order's properties in the Iberian peninsula would have been its only source of income. It was not until Ramon Berenguer had become ruler of Aragori that he was able to bring more pressure to bear, and even then it was not until 1143 that he persuaded the Order to commit itself to military action in the peninsula, around the same time that the Order also became militarily active in Portugal.

Other rulers endowed both their own Military Orders and the supranational Orders. Alfonso Tof Aragon.(1104-34) dreamt of going on crusade to the Holy Land himself and he set up his own military Order at Monreal delCampo (1126-30). However, this was not successful, apparently because it lacked resources to be able to operate effectively. In 1131 Alfonso  drew up his will. He had no heir, so he bequeathed his whole kingdom to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Order of St John of Jerusalem (the Hospital) and the Order of the Temple. Perhaps he thought, that only these three Orders could defend the kingdom. Although at this time the Order of the Holy Sepulchre was not a military Order as such, knights and the Orders of the Temple and Hospital were associated with it in the early years of their development. Alternatively, perhaps he did not intend these Orders to fight - perhaps he was using them as a political tool.

The historian Elena Lourie has argued that Alfonso gave his kingdom to the Military Orders, who were under the direct protection of the pope, because he was worried that his stepson Alfonso VII of Castile (1126-57) would take over Aragon. He knew that the pope would protect the Military Orders' interests and prevent Alfonso Vll from invading Aragon. This was what happened. While the pope kept Alfonso VII out of Aragon, Alfonso's brother Ramiro, a monk, came out of his monastery, married, and fathered a daughter, Petronilla.. She was quickly engaged to the adult count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV, who took over the government of Aragon and Ramiro went back to his monastery. Lourie's theory has not been widely accepted, and most historians believe that Alfonso's will should be taken at face value. But whatever Alfonso intended, Ramon Berenguer IV became ruler of Aragon, and had to compensate the Orders of the Temple, Hospital and Holy Sepulchre.

His first charter for the Templars tried to combine compensation with persuading the Order to become militarily active in Barcelona-Aragon. He asked the Master, Robert de Craon, to send him ten Templar/Brothers who could act as the core of a Templar force in Aragon. He would support them; and he promised property, people and a tenth of everything he should acquire in the IberianPeninsula. This was not accepted by the Master, and so negotiations continued. In 1143 Ramon Berenguer issued a charter that set out the final terms. He conceded the castles of Monzon (plate 8), Montjoy, Barbera and others, with other property, a tenth of all his rents and a hundred sous a year income from Saragossa (Zaragoza); a fifth of the booty from every expedition that the Templars made; a tenth of everything he could  justly acquire with God's help; and a fifth of the land recovered from the Muslims. He would help them build castles and fortresses against the Moors, and he would not make treaties and truces without their advice. In addition, they were exempted from various dues.

This agreement marked the beginning of the Templars' military involvement in Aragon, and corresponded with the beginnings of the Templars' recorded military involvement in Portugal. Clearly, by the early 1140s the Order of the Temple had acquired sufficient properties both in the West and in the East and had recruited sufficient members to be able to carry out military operations on two fronts, in the East and in the Iberian Peninsula. The Brothers often formed part of the military force on all the king of Aragon's campaigns against the Muslims. They were also prominent in an advisory role. Yet their importance lay not their numbers, which were never large, but in the fact that they could mobilize quickly and could stay in the field for a long time - unlike the secular nobles and their forces, who went home after their forty days' service, or went to get in the harvest.

Ramon Berenguer IV continued to favour the Templars. In 1153 he gave them the castle of Miravet (plate 7) because he reckoned that they were trustworthy guardians; he also kept his promise to give them a fifth of conquests. His successor Alfonso II (1162-96) was not so conscientious in sticking to the 1143 agreement; instead of giving the Order conquered lands, he gave it the equivalent in lands away from the frontier. Presumably he considered that the Templars were getting rather powerful in Aragon and did not want them to build up large areas of potentially independent power. The Templars could still, however, conquer lands on their own initiative, so they continued to build up their territories. Alfonso II's successor, Peter II (Pedro or Pere II, 1196-1213) was even more cautious in giving the Order newly conquered territory, but he did make some grants in return for military aid. The change in patronage was not entirely because of royal concern about making the Templars too powerful; there was also competition from other Military Orders.


The Hospitallers had also become involved in military operations in the Iberian Peninsula during the 1140s; they and the Templars contributed troops to Ramon Berenguer's attack on Tortosa in 1148. By the 1180s the Hospitallers had become the favoured religious Order of the royal family of Aragon.

The Templars and Hospitallers played a significant role in the campaigns of King James I of Aragon (Jaume or Jaime I, 1213-76), assisting in his capture of the Balearic islands (Majorca and Minorca) from the Almohad ruler Abu Yahya in 1229-30, and his conquest of the kingdom of Valencia, completed in 1238. However, the Templars did not do so well out of their assistance as they might have hoped. In 1228 and 1229, before the attack on Majorca, the Cortes (parliament) met and decided that the land conquered during the proposed expedition should be divided according to the contingents that each group brought. Yet, according to James himself, the Hospitallers received as much as the Templars even though they arrived late and missed the fighting.

In James's autobiography the Templars performed the same sort of functions as they did in the Latin East and in Portugal: providing military forces which could be quickly mobilized and were reliable in the field, and providing military advice. It was on the advice of the Templar commander of Majorca (the nephew of the commander of Monzon) that James attacked Minorca. The Masters of the Hospital and Temple in Aragon also gave security for a loan James wished to take out, and the Templars and Hospitallers accompanied him when he set out on crusade in 1269 - although he had to turn back because of poor weather conditions at sea. During the voyage the Templars' ship lost its rudder and James sent over his own ship's spare rudder, although one of his advisers opposed this action, saying that the Templars should have brought their own spare. The Masters of the Temple and Hospital in Aragon were members of the council that advised James to turn back to Aragon. Yet throughout James's autobiography the Hospitallers received more favour than the Templars. The Prior of the Hospital in Aragon was Hugh of Forcalquier, James's personal friend —James had asked the Master of the Hospital in the East to appoint Hugh as prior in Aragon. The Master of the Temple was not so close to James. When James wanted to persuade the Templars to act as security for him, he plotted with Hugh of Forcalquier over how they could best be persuaded. While the Masters of both Orders in Aragon were members of his private council, Hugh could speak to James privately as a friend, whereas the Templar Master could not.

James did make many grants to the Templars, but he was apparently determined not to give them a leading role in the defence of the kingdom, and he did not adhere to the agreement of 1143. After 1244 Aragon no longer had a frontier with the Muslims, and possibilities of gaining wealth from conquest and booty were severely reduced. It can only be speculated whether James's determination not to let the Templars become too powerful in Aragon was a result of his having been brought up by the Templars at Monzon from the age of six to the age of nine. His account of this episode from his childhood does not indicate that he enjoyed being under Templar tutelage.

As the thirteenth century progressed the kings of Aragon complained more and more that the Military Orders were not meeting their military obligations. The Orders were genuinely short of money because of losses in the Holy Land and a fall in pious donations to all religious Orders in western Europe, and were therefore less able to undertake military responsibilities. The resources in their houses were not impressive: Alan Forey has noted that in 1289 the Templars' house at Huesca, on the order of the provincial Master of Aragon, had lent three hauberks, or mailshirts, and three other coats of mail to their house at Novillas, leaving only four hauberks and seven-and-a-half pairs of chausses (chainmail leggings). This major Templar house with military obligations  apparently had expected to have to arm only seven knights and three sergeants; but it is interesting that they kept one spare chausse handy.

Not only were the Military Orders short of military resources in Spain, but the kings were also asking more of them; they wanted the Military Orders to help defend the realm against Christian enemies as well as Muslims. In 1285 a French army invaded Aragon in a crusade that had been declared against Peter III of Aragon (1276-85) for his support of the rebels in Sicily in 1282. The Military Orders were theoretically only answerable to the pope (who had called the crusade) and one of their most important patrons was the king of France (who led it), but Peter III still expected them to support him against the crusaders. The crusade failed and the French retreated, but Peter died shortly afterwards. His successor Alfonso III (1285-91) attacked the Hospitallers for giving support to the king of France, after his own predecessors had given them so much support. James II of Aragon (1291-1327) made a request of the pope that the Templars should use their resources in the Iberian Peninsula for fighting the Moors of Granada, and should not send any forces to the East.

Elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula the Templars were less prominent than in Portugal and Aragon-Catalonia. In Castile they were made responsible for the frontier fortress of Calatrava, but gave it up in 1158. In 1236 Fernando III of Leon and Castile (king of Castile 1217-52; king of Leon from 1230) gave the Templars the castle of Capilla in south-central Castile. An illustration in the book of chess produced for King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (1252-84) shows two Templars playing chess, an indication that they were a common sight at the Castilian court (plate 12). The Order held some property on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella, including a fortress at Ponferrada. Yet the kings of Castile preferred to use locally founded Military Orders for military purposes rather than the supranational Orders, notably the Order of Calatrava,  which was  formed  in   1158   from  a knightly confraternity that took over the defence of the frontier fortress of Calatrava when the Templars gave it up; the Order of St James of Santiago, which was formed in 1170; and the Order of San Julian de Pereiro or Alcantara, which was founded in Leon in around 1176.        

These localized Military Orders could give the same assistance to the king as the supranational Orders: they were quickly mobilized and could remain a long time on campaign. They could garrison castles and give military advice in council. Because they were based in the Iberian Peninsula there was no danger of them withdrawing valuable forces to go to the aid of Christians in the East and abandoning their responsibilities in the peninsula (as the Templars abandoned Calatrava in 1158) or suffering such losses in the East that they were unable to help the Spanish cause. The king could control the election of Master of a local Military Order. In theory he could also do this for the Hospitallers and Templars, but because these Spanish Orders were dependent on the king they would not defy his authority, and they would not ally with his enemies. Their allegiances were not divided, as the allegiances of the Hospitallers and Templars were in 1285 in Aragon. But the localized Military Orders suffered from two drawbacks: they had only a small resource base and they were unable to act independently. Orders had to be dissolved or amalgamated into other Orders because they lacked the resources to continue their "operations, and the king" could use them for his own purposes even if this damaged their ability to fight the Muslims. This meant that they were distracted from their original purpose. In the sixteenth century the Iberian Military Orders were amalgamated to their respective royal families.

The Military Orders did more than provide supplementary military forces or the use of rulers in the Iberian Peninsula. As in the East, the Templars also assisted crusaders who arrived from elsewhere in Europe en route by sea to the Holy Land. Their assistance for Afonso Henriques of Portugal in 1147 in the capture of Santarem was followed by the attack on Lisbon, which was completed with the assistance of English, German, Flemish and Boulogne crusaders on their way to the East. They assisted in the attacks on Almeria by Alfonso VII of Castile and on Tortosa by Ramon Berenguer IV, ruler of Aragon, in 1147-8. In Portugal, the arrival of crusaders from the Rhineland going to join the Fifth Crusade in 1217 gave King Afonso II the means to attack the city of Alcacer do Sal; the Templars and Hospitallers also contributed troops. The attack was eventually successful.

The Military Orders also played an important economic role in encouraging recolonization and exploitation of newly conquered land. In addition, as in the East and elsewhere in Europe, they were used as depositaries for valuables as well as being trusted neutral parties who could guard castles or people of importance. For this reason the Templars were entrusted with the upbringing of the child King James I of Aragon, and with the defence of the disputed castles of Montemor-o-Velho and Alenquer in Portugal. In 1285 Peter III of Aragon found that his brother James, king of Majorca, had been in treasonable correspondence with King Philip III of France (1270-85); the incriminating evidence was in James's treasure chest in the Templars house at Perpignan.

The military and political importance of the Military Orders to the rulers of the Iberian Peninsula was demonstrated by events in 1274 at the Second Church Council of Lyons. Proposals were made to unify all the Military Orders into one, but the proposals were dropped because the Iberian rulers objected so strongly, arguing that one Order would be too powerful and if the local Iberian Military Orders were included in the new unified Military Order the crusade against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula would be overlooked in favour of the Holy Land. The same objections were made again after the arrest of the Templars in France in 1307; James II of Aragon suspected that Philip IV of France (1285-1314) wanted control of the Templars' possessions as a 'back-door' method of getting control of the most important strongholds in Aragon. He hotly opposed every proposal that the Hospital should receive the Templars' lands. His objections were echoed by the other rulers of the Iberian Peninsula. When the Order was dissolved in 1312 its property in Portugal and Valencia was exempted from the settlement, and was later used to set up new Military Orders.

The Military Orders in eastern Europe

In eastern Europe, the Templars' role was somewhat different from that in the Iberian Peninsula, although eastern Europe was also a frontier region. In the south-east of Europe, the Catholic kingdom of Hungary bordered the territory of the Greek Orthodox Serbs and Bulgarians to the south and the pagan Cumans to the east. In the east, although Bohemia was a part of the 'empire', it was not German but Czech, and from 1198 had its own kings - who were eager to acquire territory to their east if possible. The Catholic kingdom of Poland, Christian since the tenth century, had divided into dukedoms at the beginning of the thirteenth century, each duke anxious to increase his own power, authority and territory over the others. The kingdom of Poland as a single entity was not revived until 1295, and did not have a stable kingship again until 1320.

The whole of this area was underpopulated and under-cultivated in comparison with the rest of Europe. Unlike, for instance, England, where the primeval forest had been cleared by 1000 BC and even apparently untouched 'wilderness' was carefully managed by the local inhabitants, eastern Europe contained vast areas of forest, mountain and marsh that had never been subject to human cultivation. The economic revolution of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with its associated population growth, had led to great pressure on land in western and central Europe, and there were many poorer farmers from Germany in particular who were eager to acquire new landholdings in the east. The rulers of eastern Europe were for the most part anxious to have them, for cultivated land produces wealth. The German settlers were given the same tenancy rights as they enjoyed in Germany, which were generally better than those enjoyed by the local inhabitants.

The rulers of eastern Europe found that the best way of getting their empty land populated was to give it to religious Orders - traditional monastic Orders such as the Benedictines and Cistercians, and the more radical and adaptable ''new-style" Orders such as the Augustinian canons and the Military Orders. These religious Orders had the capital to found villages and towns and could bring in tenants from their lands further west. Tenants would be encouraged to move by promises of large landholdings and attractive terms of lease. Once the land became productive, the original donor could claim some benefit through an annual payment or a share of the produce. Whether or not the donation charter specified some sort of return to the donor, the donor would benefit from increased trade in the region, which would help to generate wealth throughout their territories.

Donors also hoped, through donation and colonization, to establish their ownership of frontier land. Whoever gave land to a religious Order was effectively demonstrating that it was their land to give in the first place, and henceforth the religious Order that held it would owe thanks and rent to the donor. In short, colonization meant increased prestige, wealth and territory for the landowner.

Colonization was the major reason for bringing religious Orders into this region during the Middle Ages, but there was another reason. The Orders could also play a role in the conversion of non-Christians. The whole of eastern Europe formed a frontier zone against pagans and Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians. The region was worth bringing into Catholic Christian Europe not only for its land but also because it was important for trade: the rivers of north-eastern Europe are effectively highways into the Euro-Asian interior.

The pagan frontier was managed in different ways in different parts of eastern Europe. In Hungary, an attempt to settle the Teutonic knights in south-eastern Hungary ended in the early 1220s when the Brothers were viewed as a threat to Hungarian dominance of the area. The pagan Cumans seemed less of a threat than the Germans; and the Cumans came to be regarded as allies to be assimilated rather than fought. In the north-east of Europe, the Russian Orthodox rulers preferred to exact tribute, while the Catholic Christians wanted to convert and/or conquer.

The Military Orders could play an important role in missionary campaigns. They could work alongside missionaries (typically Cistercian monks or Dominican or Franciscan friars), protecting them as they went preaching through the pagan lands. They also protected the new converts from attack by those who were still pagan, and could raid into pagan lands, taking prisoners and other booty, 'softening up' the pagans as a preliminary to the peaceful missionary work. Churchmen thought that demonstrating Christian military superiority would persuade the pagans to convert more readily. In the early thirteenth century Bishop Albrecht of Riga, a new trading post at the mouth of the River Duna in Livonia (now Latvia), founded the Order of Knights of Christ, or Swordbrothers, to support his mission to the pagan Livs, Letts, and Ests. The Order certainly made an impact on the local pagans and established widespread territorial authority before it was heavily defeated at Saule by the Lithuanians in 1236. In the following year it was amalgamated into the Teutonic Order. Likewise, in Prussia, Bishop Christian, who was leading the mission to the Prussians, set up a local military Order, the Order of Christ of Dobrin (the Polish town where it had its headquarters), which worked alongside his missionaries. This Order, too, was amalgamated into the Teutonic Order in the 1230s. Both of these Orders followed religious rules based on the Rule of the Templars.

The Templars' role in this area was far less significant than that of the Teutonic Order, or even the Hospital. They came into the north-east of Europe quite late, not acquiring significant properties until the 1220s. As this corresponds with the beginning of active crusading against the pagan Prussians, it appears that rulers began to favour the Templars because of their connection with holy war - even though the Templars were not being asked to fight the Prussians. Donations of frontier land to the Templars were given with declarations that the donor wished to help the Brothers' war against the infidel in the Holy Land, but in fact the donors believed that if they favoured the religious Order that was most connected with holy war, God would help them with their own causes. Yet it was also the case that the Templars were not well known in north-eastern-Europe before the 1220s. In fact they were not well known in central and eastern Germany before the late twelfth century. But the more German magnates from central and eastern Germany became involved in the crusade to the Holy Land and the more they saw the Order in action in the field, the more they liked what they saw. German magnates from Thuringia and Austria played a significant role in the Third Crusade of - 1189-92, - the landgrave of Thuringia joined the German Crusade of 1197-8, while the duke of Austria and the king of Hungary were prominent in the Fifth Crusade of 1217-21. From the late twelfth century the Templars began to receive generous donations in the German Empire. These donations continued throughout the thirteenth and into the fourteenth century, after all donations to religious Orders had fallen off in western Europe. So it appears that the decisive factor in donations to the Templars in German-speaking lands was the crusade, and widespread German involvement in the crusades. The Templars never held much property in Bohemia and Moravia, where the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Order received far more donations. The first donations to the Templars in this area were in around 1230. They had a house in the city of Prague, founded shortly after 1230; this had a chapel with a round nave, deliberately reminiscent of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In southern Moravia there was a fortified commandery at Cejkovice — now a baroque castle, with the Templar wall and tower built into it — and a castle at Templstein, constructed between 1281 and 1298. Presumably the castle was built to provide local security in response to dangerous neighbours. The Templars were not brought into Bohemia to fight. They were given lands partly in recognition of their piety and defence of Christendom in the East but also so that they would encourage colonizers to come into barren areas and make the land productive.

Again, the Templars did not hold wide properties in Hungary, although they were receiving gifts of land and buildings in Hungary from at least the 1160s. The monastery of St Gregory of Vrana in Dalmatia (Croatia), which was part of the kingdom of Hungary, was confirmed as theirs by Pope Alexander III (1159-81) in 1169, and by the 1170s the Order had so many properties in the area, that it established an administrative 'province' of Hungary. King Bela III (1172—96) and his sons Imre I (1196—1204) and Andrew II (1205-35) gave territory and privileges to the Order within their domains. The generosity of these kings to the Templars stemmed from their interest in crusading: Andrew himself joined the Fifth Crusade in 1217. These kings also endowed the Hospital of St John, and Andrew was a generous patron to the Teutonic Order.

Templar properties in central Hungary have not survived: two houses are known, at Kereszteny (now Egyhazasfalu) and Esztergom. More houses are known in-Croatia, where some churches and chapels that belonged to the Templars survive, and the remains of a fortress at Vrana. The Templars' activities at Vrana received some attention from contemporary writers. The 'History of the bishops of Salonika and Split' by Thomas of Split or Spalato (1200-68) mentions that in 1203 the king had deposited a quantity of silver with the Templars of Vrana. He also notes that in 1217 King Andrew of Hungary came to Split and entrusted the castle of Klis to Pons, Master of the Temple in Hungary, because none of his own nobles were prepared to garrison it.

Thomas also mentions the Templars in Croatia in April 1241, when Hungary was attacked by the Mongols. The Hungarian nobles, he states, were slow to make preparations to fight, and King Bela IV (1235-70) of Hungary was negligent. But at Sajo in Croatia, King Koloman (Bela's brother), his Archbishop Hugrin and a 'certain Master of the knighthood of the Temple' (James of Montreal) took action.    

As befitted active men, they did not give themselves over to quiet slumber like the rest but kept watch the whole night under arms. As soon as they heard the shout they at once burst out of the camp. Then, girded in military arms and grouped in one wedge they rushed boldly into the enemy army and fought with them for some time with much fortitude. But, since they were very few in number in comparison with the infinite multitude of Mongols, who bubbled from the ground everywhere like locusts, they returned to their camp, after killing more than they had lost themselves.

Having aroused the Hungarians to action, our heroes then launched a second attack on the Mongol army. Thomas described the sequel:

Archbishop Hugrin was borne between the most closely packed troops of the enemy with such great fortitude that they fled from him with a great noise as if they were fleeing from a bolt of lightning. In the same way, King Koloman and the Templar with his fellow Latin knights inflicted great slaughter on the enemy. But at last, unable to bear the blows of the multitude, Koloman and the archbishop barely escaped, bitterly wounded; with their men; while the Templar Master and the whole army of Latins fell.

As in the East, the Latin Christians could be accused of having acted rashly in engaging the enemy. The Mongols' retreat later in the year was nothing to do with the Christians' resistance. Yet Thomas's disgust at the cowardice of the Hungarian nobles and the inadequacy of King Bela as a general demonstrates why it was essential for them to act. Those who fled the enemy or who failed to meet the enemy in the field were accused of cowardice and lost their military reputation for ever - and a warrior who lost his reputation was better off dead. It was far better to attempt something against the enemy, even if it was hopeless, than to do nothing at all.

The Mongols also attacked Poland in April 1241. The Templars in Poland sent a letter to their Brothers in France asking for help, and the Master in France, Pons d'Aubon, wrote to King Louis IX of France, describing the disaster.

They have ransacked the land which belonged to Duke Henry of Poland [Silesia] and killed him and many of his barons ... and they have laid waste all the land of Hungary and Bohemia. They have three armies, which have divided up; one army is in Hungary, one in Bohemia and one in Austria ... and we fear that the same will happen in Germany ... And you should be aware that they spare no one; they kill everyone, poor and rich and small and great ... and if any messenger is sent to them, the leaders of the army blindfold him and lead him to their lord, who should be, they say, lord of the world. They do not besiege castles or strong towns, but they destroy everything ... And you should be aware that their army is so large, as we have been informed by our Brothers who have escaped from their army, that it is a good eighteen leagues long and twelve wide and they ride as far in a day as it is from Paris to the city of Chartres.

The Mongols devastated the Templars' possessions in the area, destroying two of their 'best towers' and three unprotected villages. The Templars and Hospitallers in Poland were among the army of Duke Henry II of Lower Silesia, which fought the Mongols at Liegnitz on 9 April 1241 and was heavily defeated. The duke was killed, and the Order lost knights and sergeant-Brothers and 500 other people in its service. In these battles against the Mongols the Order was not fighting a holy war but was fighting as a landowner. The ruler expected all landowners to help him defend his land — and theirs - if it were attacked.

The Templars' territories in eastern Germany and Poland formed part of the province of Alemannia and Sclavonia (Germany and Slavland), which was established in the 1220s. The Templars received their first lands before 1220 at what is now Tempelhof, south of modern Berlin by the River Oder, and nearby. This was land belonging to the margraves of Brandenburg, the Ascanier family, who continued to support the Templars into the second half of the thirteenth century.

In the 1220s the Ascaniers' neighbour and rival, Henry I of Breslau, a member of the Piast family and duke of Lower Silesia (d. 1238), was a generous donor to the Benedictine monks, Cistercians, Augustinian canons and the Templars. In 1226 or 1227 Henry gave the Templars Klein Oels (now Mala Olesnica) near Olava in Lower Silesia. In 1225 his neighbour and rival Wladyslaw Odonicz of Greater Poland had given the Templars some lands in his estates and in 1232 he gave them Quartschen, now Chwarszczany, with 1,000 hufen (an area of land: a huf— a hoof) and permission to found a city. The Templars founded a hous there, which became an important commandery. Odonicz also gave further large areas of land within Greater Poland, and the neighbouring bishops of Lebus and Kammin were also enthusiastic donors to the Templars.

In 1290 another large barren area of land in the same region was given to the Order by Duke Przemysl of Greater Poland. The Templars moved their commandery at Kron (now Walcz), founded in 1249, to this new site, which was called Tempelburg (now Czaplinek). The Templars set about colonizing this area with gusto: in 1933 the German historian Helmut Lupke estimated that before 1312 the Templars founded half the settlements that now exist in this region.

The Templars were also on friendly terms with Duke Henry V's wife Hedwige, who was recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint after her death. In her official 'Life' it is recorded that a Templar gave charitable assistance to her at a time of need: she had been wearing a tightly knotted belt of horsehair next to her skin as a penance, but when this wore out she had no means of obtaining another. However, a Templar came to court and presented the pious woman with a small bag containing a new horsehair belt. The gift was received by the duchess' companion Lady Anna, who opened the bag and rebuked the Templar for giving a lady such a gift; but the saint asked her to desist, for the Templar, she said, was doing God's will, and his action was well pleasing to God.

The Templars also received other lands in this area, nearly all of them on frontiers within Christian territory (between Brandenberg, Silesia, Pomerania arid Greater Poland), and on underdeveloped land within this region. None of the donors considered above actually expected the Templars to fight pagans nor even to fight their expansionist Christian neighbours. The Templars were given a territorial and symbolic rather than a military presence.

The Templars were not the only Military Order on the north-eastern European frontier. The Hospitallers had been in the east German and Polish lands since the mid-twelfth century. The Teutonic Order became established in the land of Culm (Chelmno), on the Polish/Prussian frontier, from 1230: this was the year Pope Gregory IX approved the charter by which Duke Conrad of Masovia-Cujavia had invited the Order to help him fight the pagan Prussians in return for Culm. While the Teutonic Order was invited specifically to help protect Polish territory against the pagan Prussians, the Hospitallers, like the Templars, were given land to assist their war against the Muslims in the East. These donations tailed off after 1250, when many of the lords of the area apparently decided that the religious Orders had been given enough land. The monasteries and the Templars and Hospitallers had to renew many of the agreements by which they held their land, and give up some of their territory. The Orders suffered because of their success in settling the area and setting down frontiers; in effect, their presence was no longer needed. Donations continued to be given in areas where the land remained unsettled and frontiers were disputed. However, in one area the Templars were invited to do more than colonize and settle frontiers. This was the town of Lukow in Poland.

The Templars first entered the area east of the River Vistula, well beyond 'German' frontier territory, in 1239. Duke Boleslaw of Krakow-Sandomir gave them three villages in the area, for the help of the Holy Land. Nothing more definite is heard of them in eastern Poland until 1257, when Pope Alexander IV (1254-61) commissioned the archbishop of Gniezno(Gnesen) to organize the establishment of a bishopric in the town of Lukow, and instal one Bartholomew as Bishop. This was done on the request of the duke of Krakow, his sister Salomea and the 'Master of the house of the knighthood of the Temple in Alamannia and Sclavonia', since the duke had given the castle of Lukow to the Master and his Brothers.

The duke and Bartholomew, a Franciscan friar, had been operating in the area for a while. Lukow was on the frontier with the pagan Jatwingians, a Lithuanian tribe. By 1249 the Teutonic Order had subjugated the pagan Prussians, imposed Christianity in Prussia, and quashed a rebellion. The Order then made an alliance with Mindaugas, a Lithuanian prince, who received baptism in 1251. The Teutonic Order hoped that Lithuania would soon follow Prussia into Christendom. Some of the Polish and Russian princes allied with the Teutonic Order, hoping to gain land or glory: for instance, in 1253 the Russian Prince Daniel of Gahch-Volym was crowned king at Drohiczyn (on the eastern Polish frontier) by the papal legate Otto of Mezzano in return for his support of the Teutonic Order. Others hoped to get a slice of Jatwingian territory when it was conquered.  


Other princes saw the Teutonic Order as a rival rather than an ally, perhaps because they were at war with the Teutonic Order's other allies. They hoped to get part of the Jatwingian lands for themselves through their own mission to the pagans. At the beginning of 1253, Duke Kasimir of Cujavia and Duke Boleslaw of Kxakow-Sandomir informed Pope Innocent IV (1243-54) that the pagans whose lands bordered their own wished to convert to Christianity, if their freedom were guaranteed (whereas, if the Teutonic Order converted them, they would be enslaved) and wanted to come under the lordship and protection of the dukes. The pope was delighted at the prospect of a peaceful mission of conversion, and gave his agreement.

Walter Kuhn, examining these events in detail, noted that the pope obviously did not have a map. If he had looked at one he would have realized that the mission of the two dukes covered exactly the area in which he had just given the Teutonic Order and its allies permission to wage a crusade. The Teutonic Order was furious at this intrusion on their 'territory' and complained to the pope. The pope, quite oblivious of the contradiction, agreed that only the Teutonic Order had the right to operate in that area. For its war against the Jatwingians the Teutonic Order won powerful allies, Daniel of Galieh-Volyn and Duke Semovit of Masovia, promising them a third of the pagan lands captured. King Ottokar II of Bohemia came to the Order's support in 1254. At this point Duke Kasimir abandoned his project of conversion.

Duke Boleslaw, however, pressed on. If he could not operate within Jatwingian territory he could still set up a new bishopric within his own territories and convert the Jatwingians from there. A Franciscan master from Prague, Bartholomew, came to lead his mission. But in 1255 the Lithuanians under Mindaugas attacked and devastated the area. The peaceful conversion now became a crusade. The Teutonic Order would: normally have taken control, but Duke Boleslaw asked the pope for a Polish crusade, to operate alongside the German one, with all lands conquered to fall to the Poles rather than the Germans. In August 1255 Pope Alexander IV approved his request.

The Teutonic Order saw the danger to their ambitions in the area, but Alexander - who, like Innocent IV, did not have a map of the Polish frontier - did not realize that again he had approved two rival crusades in one area. The Polish missionaries   complained   that   the   Teutonic   Order   was preventing free conversions. The Teutonic Order complained that dangerous rivals were invading their rights. It was at this point, in February 1257, that the pope approved the setting up of the bishopric at Lukow, and we learn that the Templars were responsible for guarding the castle. The Templars may have been there in 1255-6 as they made an appeal for help after the Lithuanians sacked Lukow. Presumably Bartholomew intended that the Templars would protect the new converts from attacks by the pagans and give military support to his missionaries in the field.

In June 1257 the Vice-Master of the Teutonic Order in Prussia made a special appeal to the pope. The pope gave his full support to the Order: no other group could preach the cross in the area and no one else could wage holy war. This was the end of the peaceful mission and the crusade at Lukow, and the Templars were not heard of again in the area.

In the Iberian peninsula and in eastern Europe, the Templars played a role in colonizing newly acquired or underpopulated land. By giving the Templars land and enabling them to set up a base, rulers, effectively established their own presence in the area: the Templars would be their representatives, looking after their interests and ensuring that no one else took over the land. The colonizers also generated wealth, which was to everyone's benefit. In addition, the Templars played a military role in the Iberian Peninsula and, briefly, in eastern Poland. As landowners and vassals of the duke of Silesia and the king of Hungary they joined the armies that went out to face the Mongols in 1241 and, true to their calling, died in battle against the infidel. They did not, however - except under pressure from the king of Aragon — fight other Christians. Their vocation remained the defence of Christendom against non-Christians, and all their activities were focused upon that end. Yet their presence at the courts of the kings of Portugal, Castile and Aragon and that of the duke of Silesia demonstrates their political importance in the courts of Europe. This will be considered at greater length in Chapter 6.





Keith Hunt