20110729

29JUL11 A brief History of the Crusading Military Orders...

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/did-medieval-knights-templar-influence-norway-gunman-161312473.html

The amount of ignorance today regarding the old Military Orders dating back to the Crusades is astounding...

Amid the amount of speculation regarding any links between Anders Behring Breivik and the Catholic Military Orders of the Crusades, I'm going to go through a brief history of the Military Orders, with a focus on the Knights Templar and their convoluted history pose Friday the 13th 1307 (the day they were ordered arrested in France by King Phillip the Fair who'd strong armed the Pope at the time for permission). First off, I strongly recommend reading some history of the Crusades and the Knights Templar before assuming Breivik or anyone else has any viable connection to this legendary order. A few good books are “Warriors of the Lord” by Michael Walsh for a general overview of most of the military orders that came with and after the Templars; and “The Templars” by Piers Paul Reid for a good study of the Knights Templar and a brief history of the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

One should never forget that the Crusades were also an outgrowth of the war between East and West, this time not between Greece and Persia, or Rome and Parthia, but between Christian Europe and the Islamic Middle East. After the Mohammad's death, Arab Muslims began an aggressive war of expansion and conversion (Jihad). Soon they took over and influenced most of the Middle East (essentially taking over the Sassanid Empire [formerly Parthia which was formerly Persia...], Egypt, and Arabia). Various Muslim kingdoms such as the Berbers invaded Spain and even got so far as Poitiers France before the being turned back in 732 (which is just shy of 300 years BEFORE the first Crusade). Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 A.D. In an attempt to unify Europe agains the threat of Islamic takeover. The First Crusade into Jerusalem wasn't the first Crusade by definition by any stretch, as the Reconquest (Reconquista) of Spain and campaigns against Pagan kingdomes in Europe occurred first.

Credited as the very first Military Order, the Knights Templar was founded in 1099 in Jerusalem by a knight who saw the need for a dedicated force to protect the pilgrims who'd come to Jerusalem for pilgrimage. Not much in that region had changed since the beginning of civilization, as thieves and raiders were a constant threat along the roads, on top of that the Crusaders had just conquered the region and obviously still faced endless military threats. There were too few Knights in the Outremer Kingdoms; and Hugh De Payn's believed it was his calling to take monastic vows and serve as a Knight of the Church itself. After approval, hundreds eventually joined, and with them they donated their belongings and brought tithes from their noble lords and families in the form of horses, swords, and armor as well as gold. Its hard to think of it these days, what a powerful gift a horse was; however think of it more as someone donating a modern main battle tank when they donated the horse, armor, sword, shield, and their son. Typically, the Knights who joined the military orders were the middle and younger sons of Lords who couldn't inherit their estates. Some were Widowers, others were Knights who were excommunicated and told they could only come back into union with the Church and receive the Sacrament (of Eucharist) if they served the Knights Templar (or other military order, or take part in a Crusade as a secular Knight).

While its easy today to call it blind hatred and religious bigotry (because of our very skewed perspective on history instigated by Secular Humanism, the Reformation, and other movements), it shouldn't be overlooked that 1099 was a major landmark in Western Military History. Not since the fall of Rome did the West have a Standing Army of professional soldiers not bound to the limits of Feudal Lords who would abandon a campaign on a whim. Its hard for Americans to imagine the idea of no standing national army, but that was the reality of Feudal Europe. Your only security came from the Lord of the estate on which you lived. The only soldiers where his Knights and Sergeants. When your Lord came and knocked on your door for taxes, you paid because you needed his protection, and he needed your resources to in turn pay his Lord... That, and at any moment, any able bodied male could be rounded up and organized by the Sergeants into a mass of peasants armed with farm equipment... But there was no national flag. You fought for your Lord, and when he decided to go home obviously you left with him. Should someone raid the land you worked, you would hope your Lord's Knights and Sergeants would be ready. Sadly, this wasn't the case... (Glad to be an armed American citizen now instead of European Peasant!). Vikings were feared for this reason. They started raiding only after Rome was crumbled and there were no standing Legions to march in a putative expeditions to crush their villages after they raided....

I'm not going into the negative aspects of the Military Orders, as you can ask anyone what they are today and you'll get all sorts of answers (and many with a modern context completely missing the context in which these Orders developed). After all, just watch the news and they will laugh them off as ignorant religious bigots that were just above the ape in intelligence (because we are so much smarter today... don't worry, someone 500 to 1000 years later will be laughing at our shortsightedness as well, especially at the stupid socialists who are bringing about another Dark Ages by collapsing capitalism for something inferior).

There is certain mythos to the Knights Templar. Post 1312 A.D. Many have claimed to have carried on the tradition in secret. Particularly the Masons. Yes, the Masons claim many things, and have even created a history of the world that revolves around them. Its no surprise they claim to have connections to the Knights Templar. During the French Revolution, the Grand Orient of France (the Parisian Masonic Order) utilized the suppression of the Knights Templar as propaganda against Royalists and the King of France. Its even rumored someone shouted “Jaques de Molay, you are avenged” when they beheaded the King during the Revolution. Enjoy The Grand Encampment of Knights Templar http://www.knightstemplar.org/ website for the Masonic claim to this order... Personally, I don't take the Masonic re-write of history centering around them very seriously, but then I don't take conspiracy theories very seriously either. Either pro-Masonic or anti-Masonic, I think the Masons feed the conspiracy crowd for public relations. Pretty ingenious!

There are also a few other groups, from drug cartels to what equates to neo-Nazi and other white supremacist groups that claim the Templar heritage and name in Europe, the US, and Mexico (the cartel).

Presently, some of the other Military Orders that weren't suppressed like the Templar with the degradation of Chivalry and the rise of Absolutist National Armies (“The Rise of Modern Warfare” by H.W. Koch is a good read about time between 1300 and 1812) continue to serve various functions today from being nothing but a Fraternal Country Club for the Noble Gentry in Europe, to being UN/IRC recognized NGO Ambulatory Agencies providing critical medical care to the disaster stricken areas of the world. After the Reformation, some of the Knights Hospitaller embraced Luther's teachings, and still retained the name Knights of St. John. In Europe today they continue the Hospital tradition and are organized in Ambulance Brigades, serving during disasters and World Cup Soccer games with stretchers at the ready (http://www.orderofstjohn.org/). On the Island of Malta, some of the Hospitallers remained, they continued not only as Knights, but also as Sailors, fighting the Islamic pirates and being pirates themselves to Islamic Kingdom shipping. Europes first standing Navy since the end of Rome... Later, Napoleon disbanded them when took over the Island of Malta and expelled the Order. However, they continued to exist in the city of Rome, and maintain their embassy there. Currently, the Order of Malta also maintains a fleet of aircraft, and they carry on the Hospital mission of their parent order. They are a sovereign order, and more can be found on their website http://www.orderofmalta.org/?lang=en

More Reading (web)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_order

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Templar


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Hospitaller

http://www.allianceofstjohn.org/

http://www.orderofstjohn.org/

http://www.orderofmalta.org/?lang=en

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