The contests between Saladin and the Templars—The vast privileges of the Templars—The publication of the bull, omne datum optimum—The Pope declares himself the immediate Bishop of the entire Order—The different classes of Templars— The knights—Priests—Serving brethren—The hired soldiers—The great officers of the Temple—Punishment of cowardice—The Master of the Temple is taken prisoner, and dies in a dungeon—Saladin’s great successes—The Christians purchase a truce—The Master of the Temple and the Patriarch Heraclius proceed to England for succour—The consecration of the TEMPLE CHURCH at LONDON.


“The firmest bulwark of Jerusalem was founded on the knights of the Hospital of St. John and of the Temple of Solomon; on the strange association of a monastic and military life, which fanaticism might suggest, but of which policy must approve. The flower of the nobility of Europe aspired to wear the cross and profess the vows of these respectable orders; their spirit and discipline were immortal; and the speedy donation of twenty-eight thousand farms or manors enabled them to support a regular force of cavalry and infantry for the defence of Palestine.”—Gibbon.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1170.

THE Master, Philip of Naplous, resigned his authority after a short government of three years, and was succeeded by Brother Odo de St. Amand, a proud and fiery warrior, of undaunted courage and resolution; having, according to William, Archbishop of Tyre, the fear neither of God nor of man before his eyes.*

The Templars were now destined to meet with a more formidable opponent than any they had hitherto encountered in the field, one who was again to cause the crescent to triumph over the cross, and to plant the standard of the prophet upon the walls of the holy city.

When the Fatimite caliph had received intelligence of Amalric’s invasion of Egypt, he sent the hair of his women, one of the greatest tokens of distress known in the East, to the pious Noureddin, who immediately dispatched a body of troops to his assistance, headed by Sheerkoh, and his nephew, Youseef-Ben-Acoub-Ben-Schadi, the famous Saladin. Sheerkoh died immediately after his arrival, and Youseef succeeded to his command, and was appointed vizier of the caliph. Youseef had passed his youth in pleasure and debauchery, sloth and indolence: he had quitted with regret the delights of Damascus for the dusty plains of Egypt; and but for the unjustifiable expedition of King Amalric and the Hospitallers against the infidels, the powerful talents and the latent energies of the young Courdish chieftain, which altogether changed the face of affairs in the East, would in all probability never have been developed.

* Will. Tyr. lib. xxi cap. 29.

As soon as Saladin grasped the power of the sword, and obtained the command of armies, he threw off the follies of his youth, and led a new life. He renounced the pleasures of the world, and assumed the character of a saint. His dress was a coarse woollen garment; water was his only drink; and he carefully abstained from everything disapproved of by the Mussulman religion. Five times each day he prostrated himself in public prayer, surrounded by his friends and followers, and his demeanour became grave, serious, and thoughtful. He fought vigorously with spiritual weapons against the temptations of the world; his nights were often spent in watching and meditation, and he was always diligent in fasting and in the study of the Koran. With the same zeal he combated with carnal weapons the foes of Islam, and his admiring brethren gave him the name of Salah-ed-deen, “Integrity of Religion,” vulgarly called Saladin.

At the head of forty thousand horse and foot, he crossed the desert and ravaged the borders of Palestine; the wild Bedouins and the enthusiastic Arabians of the far south were gathered together under his standard, and hastened with holy zeal to obtain the crown of martyrdom in defence of the faith. The long remembered and greatly dreaded Arab shout of onset, Allah achat, God is victorious, again resounded through the plains and the mountains of Palestine, and the grand religious struggle for the possession of the Holy City of Jerusalem, equally reverenced by Mussulmen and by Christians, was once more vigorously commenced. Saladin besieged the fortified city of Gaza, which belonged to the Knights Templars, and was considered to be the key of Palestine towards Egypt. The luxuriant gardens, the palm and olive groves of this city of the wilderness, were destroyed by the wild cavalry of the desert, and the innumerable tents of the Arab host were thickly clustered on the neighbouring sand-hills. The warlike monks of the Temple fasted and prayed, and invoked the aid of the God of battles; the gates of the city were thrown open, and in an unexpected sally upon the enemy’s camp they performed such prodigies of valour, that Saladin, despairing of being able to take the place, abandoned the siege, and retired into Egypt.*

The year following, Pope Alexander’s famous bull, omne datum optimum, confirming the previous privileges of the Templars, and conferring upon them additional powers and immunities, was published in England. It commences in the following terms:

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

“Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons, Odo, Master of the religious chivalry of the Temple, which is situated at Jerusalem, and to his successors, and to all the regularly professed brethren.

“Every good gift and every perfect reward† cometh from above, descending from the Father of light, with whom there is no change nor shadow of variety. Therefore, O beloved children in the Lord, we praise the Almighty God, in respect of your holy fraternity, since your religion and venerated institution are celebrated throughout the entire world. For although by nature ye are children of wrath, and slaves to the pleasures of this life, yet by a favouring grace ye have not remained deaf hearers of the gospel, but, throwing aside all earthly pomps and enjoyments, and rejecting the broad road which leadeth unto death, ye have humbly chosen the arduous path to everlasting life. Faithfully fulfilling the character of soldiery of the Lord, ye constantly carry upon your breasts the sign of the life-giving cross. Moreover, like true Israelites, and most instructed fighters of the divine battle, inflamed with true charity, ye fulfil by your works the word of the gospel which saith, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;’ so that, in obedience to the voice of the great Shepherd, ye in nowise fear to lay down your lives for your brethren, and to defend them from the inroad of the pagans; and ye may well be termed holy warriors, since ye have been appointed by the Lord defenders of the catholic church and combatants of the enemies of Christ.”

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

After this preamble, the pope earnestly exhorts the Templars to pursue with unceasing diligence their high vocation; to defend the eastern church with their whole hearts and souls, and to strike down the enemies of the cross of Christ. “By the authority of God, and the blessed Peter prince of apostles,” says the holy pontiff, “we have ordained and do determine, that the Temple in which ye are gathered together to the praise and glory of God, for the defence of the faithful, and the deliverance of the church, shall remain for evermore under the safeguard and protection of the holy apostolic see, together with all the goods and possessions which ye now lawfully enjoy, and all that ye may hereafter rightfully obtain, through the liberality of Christian kings and princes, and the alms and oblations of the faithful.

* Will. Tyr. lib. xx. xxi. xxii.

Omne datum optimum et omne donum perfectum desursum est, descendens a Patre luminum, apud quem non est transmutatio, nee vicissitudinis obumbratio.

“We moreover by these presents decree, that the regular discipline, which, by divine favour, hath been instituted in your house, shall be inviolably observed, and that the brethren who have there dedicated themselves to the service of the omnipotent God, shall live together in chastity and without property and making good their profession both in word and deed, they shall remain subject and obedient in all things to the Master, or to him whom the Master shall have set in authority over them.

“Moreover, as the chief house at Jerusalem hath been the source and fountain of your sacred institution and order, the Master thereof shall always be considered the head and chief of all the houses and places appertaining thereunto. And we further decree, that at the decease of Odo, our beloved son in the Lord, and of each one of his successors, no man shall be set in authority over the brethren of the same house, except he be of the religious and military order; and has regularly professed your habit and fellowship; and has been chosen by all the brethren unanimously, or, at all events, by the greater part of them.

“And from henceforth it shall not be permitted to any ecclesiastical or secular person to infringe or diminish the customs and observances of your religion and profession, as instituted by the Master and brethren in common; and those rules which have been put into writing and observed by you for some time past, shall not be changed or altered except by the authority of the Master, with the consent of the majority of the chapter

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

“. … . No ecclesiastic or secular person shall dare to exact from the Master and Brethren of the Temple, oaths, guarantees, or any such securities as are ordinarily required from the laity.

“Since your sacred institution and religious chivalry have been established by divine Providence, it is not fit that you should enter into any other order with the view of leading a more religious life, for God, who is immutable and eternal, approveth not the inconstant heart; but wisheth rather the good purpose, when once begun, to be persevered in to the end of life.

“How many and great persons have pleased the lord of an earthly empire, under the military girdle and habit! How many and distinguished men, gathered together in arms, have bravely fought, in these our times, in the cause of the gospel of God, and in defence of the laws of our Father; and, consecrating their hands in the blood of the unbelievers in the Lord, have, after their pains and toil in this world’s warfare, obtained the reward of everlasting life! Do ye therefore, both knights and serving brethren, assiduously pay attention to your profession, and in accordance with the saying of the apostle, ‘Let each one of you stedfastly remain in the vocation to which you have been called.’ We therefore ordain, that when your brethren have once taken the vows, and have been received in your sacred college, and have taken upon themselves your warfare, and the habit of your religion, they shall no longer have the power of returning again to the world; nor can any, after they have once made profession, abjure the cross and habit of your religion, with the view of entering another convent or monastery of stricter or more lax discipline, without the consent of the brethren, or Master, or of him whom the Master hath set in authority over them; nor shall any ecclesiastic or secular person be permitted to receive or retain them.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

“And since those who are defenders of the church ought to be supported and maintained out of the good things of the church, we prohibit all manner of men from exacting tithes from you in respect of your moveables or immoveables, or any of the goods and possessions appertaining unto your venerable house.

“And that nothing may be wanting to the plenitude of your salvation, and the care of your souls; and that ye may more commodiously hear divine service, and receive the sacraments in your sacred college; we in like manner ordain, that it shall be lawful for you to admit within your fraternity, honest and godly clergymen and priests, as many as ye may conscientiously require; and to receive them from whatever parts they may come, as well in your chief house at Jerusalem, as in all the other houses and places depending upon it, so that they do not belong to any other religious profession or order, and so that ye ask them of the bishop, if they come from the neighbourhood; but if peradventure the bishop should refuse, yet nevertheless ye have permission to receive and retain them by the authority of the holy apostolic see.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

“If any of these, after they have been professed, should turn out to be useless, or should become disturbers of your house and religion, it shall be lawful for you, with the consent of the major part of the chapter, to remove them, and give them leave to enter any other order where they may wish to live in the service of God, and to substitute others in their places who shall undergo a probation of one year in your society; which term being completed, if their morals render them worthy of your fellowship, and they shall be found fit and proper for your service, then let them make the regular profession of life according to your rule, and of obedience to their Master, so that they have their food and clothing, and also their lodging, with the fraternity.

“But it shall not be lawful for them presumptuously to take part in the consultations of your chapter, or in the government of your house; they are permitted to do so, so far only as they are enjoined by yourselves. And as regards the cure of souls, they are to occupy themselves with that business so far only as they are required. Moreover, they shall be subject to no person, power, or authority, excepting that of your own chapter, but let them pay perfect obedience, in all matters and upon all occasions, to thee our beloved son in the Lord, Odo, and to thy successors, as their Master and Bishop.

“We moreover decree, that it shall be lawful for you to send your clerks, when they are to be admitted to holy orders, for ordination to whatever catholic bishop you may please, who, clothed with our apostolical power, will grant them what they require; but we forbid them to preach with a view of obtaining money, or for any temporal purpose whatever, unless perchance the Master of the Temple for the time being should cause it to be done for some special purpose. And whosoever of these are received into your college, they must make the promise of steadfastness of purpose, of reformation of morals, and that they will fight for the Lord all the days of their lives, and render strict obedience to the Master of the Temple; the book in which these things are contained being placed upon the altar.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

“We moreover, without detracting from the rights of the bishops in respect of tithes, oblations, and buryings, concede to you the power of constructing oratories in the places bestowed upon the sacred house of the Temple, where you and your retainers and servants may dwell; so that both ye and they may be able to assist at the divine offices, and receive there the rite of sepulture; for it would be unbecoming and very dangerous to the souls of the religious brethren, if they were to be mixed lip with crowd of secular persons, and be brought into the company of women on the occasion of their going to church. But as to the tithes, which, by the advice and with the consent of the bishops, ye may be able by your zeal to draw out of the hands of the clergy or laity, and those which with the consent of the bishops ye may acquire from their own clergy, we confirm to you by our apostolical authority.”

The above bull further provides, in various ways, for the temporal and spiritual advantage of the Templars, and expressly extends the favours and indulgences, and the apostolical blessings, to all the serving brethren, as well as to the knights. It also confers upon the fraternity the important privilege of causing the churches of towns and villages lying under sentence of interdict to be opened once a year, and divine service to be celebrated within them.*

A bull exactly similar to the above appears to have been issued by Pope Alexander, on the seventh id. Jan. A.D. 1162, addressed to the Master Bertrand de Blanquefort.† Both the above instruments are to a great extent merely confirmatory of the privileges previously conceded to the Templars.

The exercise or the abuse of these powers and immunities speedily brought the Templars into collision with the ecclesiastics. At the general council of the church, held at Rome, (A.D. 1179), called the third of Lateran, a grave reprimand was addressed to them by the holy Fathers. “We find,” say they, “by the frequent complaints of the bishops our colleagues, that the Templars and Hospitallers abuse the privileges granted them by the Holy See; that the chaplains and priests of their rule have caused parochial churches to be conveyed over to themselves without the ordinaries’ consent; that they administer the sacraments to excommunicated persons, and bury them with all the usual ceremonies of the church; that they likewise abuse the permission granted the brethren of having divine service said once a year in places under interdict, and that they admit seculars into their fraternity, pretending thereby to give them the same right to their privileges as if they were really professed.” To provide a remedy for these irregularities, the council forbad the military orders to receive for the future any conveyances of churches and tithes without the ordinaries’ consent; that with regard to churches not founded by themselves, nor served by the chaplains of the Order, they should present the priests they designed for the cure of them to the bishop of the diocese, and reserve nothing to themselves but the cognizance of the temporals which belonged to them; that they should not cause service to be said, in churches under interdict, above once a year, nor give burial there to any person whatever; and that none of their fraternity or associates should be allowed to partake of their privileges, if not actually professed.*

* Acta Hymen, tom. i. ad ann. 1172, p. 30, 31, 32.

Wilcke, Geachichte des Tempelherrenordens, vol. ii. p. 230.

Several bishops from Palestine were present at this council, together with the archbishop of Caesarea, and William archbishop of Tyre, the great historian of the Latin kingdom.

The order of the Temple was at this period divided into the three great classes of knights, priests, and serving brethren, all bound together by their vow of obedience to the Master of the Temple at Jerusalem, the chief of the entire fraternity. Every candidate for admission into the first class must have received the honour of knighthood in due form, according to the laws of chivalry, before he could be admitted to the vows; and as no person of low degree could be advanced to the honours of knighthood, the brethren of the first class, i. e. the Knights Templars, were all men of noble birth and of high courage.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

Previous to the council of Troyes, the Order consisted of knights only, but the rule framed by the holy fathers enjoins the admission of esquires and retainers to the vows, in the following terms.

“LXI. We have known many out of divers provinces, as well retainers as esquires, fervently desiring for the salvation of their souls to be admitted for life into our house. It is expedient, therefore, that you admit them to the vows, lest perchance the old enemy should suggest something to them whilst in God’s service by stealth or unbecomingly, and should suddenly drive them from the right path.” Hence arose the great class of serving brethren, (fratres servientes), who attended the knights into the field both on foot and on horseback, and added vastly to the power and military reputation of the Order. The serving brethren were armed with bows, bills, and swords; it was their duty to be always near the person of the knight, to supply him with fresh weapons or a fresh horse in case of need, and to render him every succour in the affray. The esquires of the knights were generally serving brethren of the Order, but the services of secular persons might be accepted.

* 3 Concil. Lat. cap. 9.

The order of the Temple always had in its pay a large number of retainers, and of mercenary troops, both cavalry and infantry, which were officered by the knights. These, were clothed in black or brown garments, that they might, in obedience to the rule,* be plainly distinguished from the professed soldiers of Christ, who were habited in white. The black or brown garment was directed to be worn by all connected with the Templars who had not been admitted to the vows, that the holy soldiers might not suffer, in character or reputation, from the irregularities of secular men their dependents.†

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

The white mantle of the Templars was a regular monastic habit, having the red cross on the left breast; it was worn over armour of chain mail, and could be looped up so as to leave the sword-arm at full liberty. On his head the Templar wore a white linen coif, and over that a small round cap made of red cloth. When in the field, an iron scull-cap was probably added. We must now take a glance at the military organization of the order of the Temple, and of the chief officers of the society.

Next in power and authority to the Master stood the Marshal, who was charged with the execution of the military arrangements on the field of battle. He was second in command, and in case of the death of the Master, the government of the Order devolved upon him until the new superior was elected. It was his duty to provide arms, tents, horses, and mules, and all the necessary appendages of war.

The Prior or Preceptor of the kingdom of Jerusalem, also styled “Grand Preceptor of the Temple,” had the immediate superintendence over the chief house of the Order in the holy city. He was the treasurer general of the society, and had charge of all the receipts and expenditure. During the absence of the Master from Jerusalem, the entire government of the Temple devolved upon him.

The Draper was charged with the clothing department, and had to distribute garments “free from the suspicion of arrogance and superfluity” to all the brethren. He is directed to take special care that the habits be “neither too long nor too short, but properly measured for the wearer, with equal measure, and with brotherly regard, that the eye of the whisperer or the accuser may not presume to notice anything.”*

* Regula, cap. 20

† Cap 21, 22.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

The Standard Bearer (Balcanifer) bore the glorious Beauseant, or war-banner, to the field; he was supported by a certain number of knights and esquires, who were sworn to protect the colours of the Order, and never to let them fall into the hands of the enemy.

The Turcopilar was the commander of a body of light horse called Turcopoles (Turcopuli). These were natives of Syria and Palestine, the offspring frequently of Turkish mothers and Christian fathers, brought up in the religion of Christ, and retained in the pay of the Order of the Temple. They were lightly armed, were clothed in the Asiatic style, and being inured to the climate, and well acquainted with the country, and with the Mussulman mode of warfare, they were found extremely serviceable as light cavalry and skirmishers, and were always attached to the war-battalions of the Templars.

The Guardian of the Chapel (Custos Capelloe) had charge of the portable chapel and the ornaments of the altar, which were always carried by the Templars into the field. This portable chapel was a round tent, which was pitched in the centre of the camp; the quarters of the brethren were disposed around it, so that they might, in the readiest and most convenient manner, participate in the divine offices, and fulfill the religious duties of their profession.

Besides the Grand Preceptor of the kingdom of Jerusalem, there were the Grand Preceptors of Antioch and Tripoli, and the Priors or Preceptors of the different houses of the Temple in Syria and in Palestine, all of whom commanded in the field, and had various military duties to perform under the eye of the Master.

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

The Templars and the Hospitallers were the constituted guardians of the true cross when it was brought forth from its sacred repository in the church of the Resurrection to be placed at the head of the Christian army. The Templars marched on the right of the sacred emblem, and the Hospitallers on the left; and the same position was taken up by the two orders in the line of battle.†

An eye-witness of the conduct of the Templars in the field tells us that they were always foremost in the fight and the last in the retreat; that they proceeded to battle with the greatest order, silence, and circumspection, and carefully attended to the commands of their Master. When the signal to engage had been given by their chief, and the trumpets of the Order sounded to the charge; “then,” says he, “they humbly sing the psalm of David, Non nobis, non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam, ‘Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name give the praise;’ and placing their lances in rest, they either break the enemy’s line or die. If any one of them should by chance turn back, or bear himself less manfully than he ought, the white mantle, the emblem of their order, is ignominiously stripped off his shoulders, the cross worn by the fraternity is taken away from him, and he is cast out from the fellowship of the brethren; he is compelled to eat on the ground without a napkin or a table-cloth for the space of one year; and the dogs who gather around him and torment him he is not permitted to drive away. At the expiration of the year, if he be truly penitent, the Master and the brethren restore to him the military girdle and his pristine habit and cross, and receive him again into the fellowship and community of the brethren. The Templars do indeed practise the observance of a stern religion, living in humble obedience to their Master, without property, and spending nearly all the days of their lives under tents in the open fields.”* Such is the picture of the Templars drawn by one of the leading dignitaries of the Latin kingdom.

* Cap. 20, 27, of the rule.

Jac. De Vitr. Hist. Orient. Apud Martene thesaur. nov. anecdot. tom. iii. col. 276, 277.

We must now resume our narrative of the principal events connected with the Order.

In the year 1172, the Knight Templar Walter du Mesnil was guilty of a foul murder, which created a great sensation in the East. An odious religious sect, supposed to be descended from the Ismaelians of Persia, were settled in the fastnesses of the mountains above Tripoli. They devoted their souls and bodies in blind obedience to a chief who is called by the writers of the crusades “the old man of the mountain,” and were employed by him in the most extensive system of murder and assassination known in the history of the world. Both Christian and Moslem writers enumerate with horror the many illustrious victims that fell beneath their daggers. They assumed all shapes and disguises for the furtherance of their deadly designs, and carried, in general, no arms except a small poniard concealed in the folds of their dress, called in the Persian tongue hassissin, whence these wretches were called assassins, their chief the prince of the assassins; and the word itself, in all its odious import, has passed into most European languages.†

Raimond, son of the count of Tripoli, was slain by these fanatics whilst kneeling at the foot of the altar in the church of the Blessed Virgin at Carchusa or Tortosa; the Templars flew to arms to avenge his death; they penetrated into the fastnesses and strongholds of “the mountain chief,” and at last compelled him to purchase peace by the payment of an annual tribute of two thousand crowns into the treasury of the Order. In the ninth year of Amalric’s reign, Sinan Ben Suleiman, imaun of the assassins, sent a trusty counsellor to Jerusalem, offering, in the name of himself and his people, to embrace the Christian religion, provided the Templars would release them from the tribute money. The proposition was favourably received; the envoy was honourably entertained for some days, and on his departure he was furnished by the king with a guide and an escort to conduct him in safety to the frontier. The Ismaelite had reached the borders of the Latin kingdom, and was almost in sight of the castles of his brethren, when he was cruelly murdered by the Knight Templar Walter du Mesnil, who attacked the escort with a body of armed followers.*

* Narratio Patriarchæ Hierosolymitani coram summon Pontifice de statu Terrs Sanctæ. Ex M. S. Cod. Bigotiano, apud Martene thesaur. nov. anecdot. tom. iii. col. 276, 277.

† Dissertation sur les Assassins, Académic des Inscriptions, tom. xvii. p. 127, 170. De Guignes. Hist, des Huns.— Will. Tyr. lib. xx. cap. 31.

The king of Jerusalem, justly incensed at this perfidious action, assembled the barons of the kingdom at Sidon to determine on the best means of obtaining satisfaction for the injury; and it was determined that two of their number should proceed to Odo de St. Amand to demand the surrender of the criminal. The haughty Master of the Temple bade them inform his majesty the king, that the members of the Order of the Temple were not subject to his jurisdiction, nor to that of his officers; that the Templars acknowledged no earthly superior except the Pope; and that to the holy pontiff alone belonged the cognizance of the offence. He declared, however, that the crime should meet with due punishment; that he had caused the criminal to be arrested and put in irons, and would forthwith send him to Rome, but till judgment was given in his case, he forbade all persons of whatsoever degree to meddle with him.†

ODO DE ST. AMAND. A.D. 1172.

Shortly afterwards, however, the Master found it expedient to alter his determination, and insist less strongly upon the privileges of his fraternity. Brother Walter du Mesnil was delivered up to the king, and confined in one of the royal prisons, ultimate fate has not been recorded.

On the death of Noureddin, sultan of Damascus, (A.D. 1175), Saladin raised himself to the sovereignty both of Egypt and of Syria. He levied an immense army, and crossing the desert from Cairo, he again planted the standard of Mahomet upon the sacred territory of Palestine. His forces were composed of twenty-six thousand light infantry, eight thousand horsemen, a host of archers and spearmen mounted on dromedaries, and eighteen thousand common soldiers. The person of Saladin was surrounded by a body-guard of a thousand Mamlook emirs, clothed in yellow cloaks worn over their shirts of mail.

In the great battle fought near Ascalon, (Nov. 1, A.D. 1177), Odo de St. Amand, the Master of the Temple, at the head of eighty of his knights, broke through the guard of Mamlooks, slew their commander, and penetrated to the imperial tent, from whence the sultan escaped with great difficulty, almost naked, upon a fleet dromedary; the infidels, thrown into confusion, were slaughtered or driven into the desert, where they perished from hunger, fatigue, or the inclemency of the weather.* The year following, Saladin collected a vast army at Damascus; and the Templars, in order to protect and cover the road leading from that city to Jerusalem, commenced the erection of a strong fortress on the northern frontier of the Latin kingdom, close to Jacob’s ford on the river Jordan, at the spot where now stands Djiss’r Beni Yakoob, “the bridge of the sons of Jacob.” Saladin advanced at the head of his forces to oppose the progress of the work, and the king of Jerusalem and all the chivalry of the Latin kingdom were gathered together in the plain to protect the Templars and their workmen. The fortress was erected notwithstanding all the exertions of the infidels, and the Templars threw into it a strong garrison. Redoubled efforts were then made by Saladin to destroy the place.

* Jac. De Vitr. Hist. Orient. Lib. iii. p. 1142. Will. Tyr. lib. xx. cap. 32.

† Adjecit etiam et alia a spiritu superbicæ, quo ipse plurimum abundabat, dictate, quæ præsenti narrationi no multum necessarium est interserere.— Will. Tyr. lib. xx. cap. 32.


At a given signal from the Mussulman trumpets, “the defenders of Islam” fled before “the avengers of Christ;” the Christian forces became disordered in the pursuit, and the swift cavalry of the desert, wheeling upon both wings, defeated with immense slaughter the entire army of the cross. The Templars and the Hospitallers, with the count of Tripoli, stood firm on the summit of a small hillock, and for a long time presented a bold and undaunted front to the victorious enemy. The count of Tripoli at last cut his way through the infidels, and fled to Tyre; the Master of the Hospital, after seeing most of his brethren slain, swam across the Jordan, and fled, covered with wounds, to the castle of Beaufort; and the Templars, after fighting with their customary zeal and fanaticism around the red-cross banner, which waved to the last over the field of blood, were all killed or taken prisoners, and the Master, Odo de St. Amand, fell alive into the hands of the enemy.† Saladin then laid siege to the newly-erected fortress, which was of some strength, being defended by thick walls, flanked with large towers furnished with military engines. After a gallant resistance on the part of the garrison, it was set on fire, and then stormed. “The Templars,” says Abulpharadge, “flung themselves some into the fire, where they were burned, some cast themselves into the Jordan, some jumped down from the walls on to the rocks, and were dashed to pieces: thus were slain the enemy.” The fortress was reduced to a heap of ruins, and the enraged sultan, it is said, ordered all the Templars taken in the place to be sawn in two, excepting the most distinguished of the knights, who were reserved for a ransom, and were sent in chains to Aleppo.*

Saladin offered Odo de St. Amand his liberty in exchange for the freedom of his own nephew, who was a prisoner in the hands of the Templars; but the Master of the Temple haughtily replied, that he would never, by his example, encourage any of his knights to be mean enough to surrender, that a Templar ought either to vanquish or die, and that he had nothing to give for his ransom but his girdle and his knife.† The proud spirit of Odo de St. Amand could but ill brook confinement; he languished and died in the dungeons of Damascus, and was succeeded by Brother Arnold de Torroge, who had filled some of the chief situations of the Order in Europe.‡

* Will. Tyr. lib. xxi. cap. 20, 22, 23. Abulfeda Abulpharadge, Chron. Syr. p. 379.

† Capti sunt ibi de nostris, Otto de Sancto Amando militiæ Templi Magister, homo nequaquam superbus et arrogans, spiritum furoris habens in naribus, nec Deum timens, nec ad hominess habens reverentiam.— Will. Tyr. lib. xxi. cp. 29. Abulpharadge, Chron. Syr. p. 380, 381.

The affairs of the Latin Christians were at this period in a deplorable situation. Saladin encamped near Tiberias, and extended his ravages into almost every part of Palestine. His light cavalry swept the valley of the Jordan to within a day’s march of Jerusalem, and the whole country as far as Panias on the one side, and Beisan, D’Jenneen, and Sebaste, on the other, was destroyed by fire and the sword. The houses of the Templars were pillaged and burnt; various castles belonging to the Order were taken by assault; § but the immediate destruction of the Latin power was arrested by some partial successes obtained by the Christian warriors, and by the skillful generalship of their leaders. Saladin was compelled to retreat to Damascus, after he had burnt Naplous, and depopulated the whole country around Tiberias. A truce was proposed, (A.D. 1184), and as the attention of the sultan was then distracted by the intrigues of the Turcoman chieftains in the north of Syria, and he was again engaged in hostilities in Mesopotamia, he agreed to a suspension of the war for four years, in consideration of the payment by the Christians of a large sum of money.


Immediate advantage was taken of this truce to secure the safety of the Latin kingdom. A grand council was called together at Jerusalem, and it was determined that Heraclius, the patriarch of the Holy City, and the Masters of the Temple and Hospital, should forthwith proceed to Europe, to obtain succour from the western princes. The sovereign mostly depended upon for assistance was Henry the Second, king of England,* grandson of Fulk, the late king of Jerusalem, and cousin-german to Baldwin, the then reigning sovereign. Henry had received absolution for the murder of Saint Thomas á Becket, on condition that he should proceed in person at the head of a powerful army to the succour of Palestine, and should, at his own expense, maintain two hundred Templars for the defence of the holy territory.†

* Abulpharadge, Chron. Syr. ut sup. Menologium Cisterciente, p. 194. Bernardus Thesuurarius de acq. Terr. Sanc. cap. 139.

†Dicens non esse consuetudinis militum Templi ut aliqua redemptio daretur pro eis prater cingulum et cultellum. Chron. Trivet apud Hall vol. i. p. 77.

‡ Eodem anno quo captus est in vinculis et squalore carceris, nulli lugendus, dicitur obiisBe.— Will. Tyr. lib. xxi. cap. 29. Ib. lib. xxii. cap. 7. Gallia Christiana nova, tom. i. col. 258; ibid p. 172, instrumentorum.

§ Abulfeda, ad ann. 1182, 3. Will. Tyr. lib. xxii. cap. 16—20.

The Patriarch and the two Masters landed in Italy, and after furnishing themselves with the letters of the pope, threatening the English monarch with the judgments of heaven if he did not forthwith perform the penance prescribed him, they set out for England. At Verona, the Master of the Temple fell sick and died,‡ but his companions proceeding on their journey, landed in safety in England at the commencement of the year 1185. They were received by the king at Reading, and throwing themselves at the feet of the English monarch, they with much weeping and sobbing saluted him in behalf of the king, the princes, and the people of the kingdom of Jerusalem. They explained the object of their visit, and presented him with the pope’s letters, with the keys of the holy sepulchre, of the tower of David, and of the city of Jerusalem, together with the royal banner of the Latin kingdom. § Their eloquent and pathetic narrative of the fierce inroads of Saladin, and of the miserable condition of Palestine, drew tears from King Henry and all his court.* The English sovereign gave encouraging assurances to the patriarch and his companions, and promised to bring the whole matter before the parliament, which was to meet the first Sunday in Lent.

The patriarch, in the mean time, proceeded to London, and was received by the Knights Templars at the Temple in that city, the chief house of the Order in Britain, where, in the month of February, he consecrated the beautiful Temple church, dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, which had just then been erected.†

* Undo propter causas pradictas generali providentia statutum est, ut Jerosoly-mitanus Patriarch a, petendi contra immanissimum hostem Saladinum auxilii gratia, ad christianos principos in Europara mitteretur; sed maxime ad illustrem Anglorum regent, cujus efficacior et promptia opera sperabatur.—Hemingford, cap. 33; Radulph de Diceto, inter;Hist. Angl. X. script, p. 622.

† Concil. Magn. Brit. tom. iv. p. 788, 789.

‡ Arnauld of Troy. Radulph de Diceto, ut sup. p. 625.

§ Eodem anno (1185), Baldewinus rex Jerusalem, et Templares et Hospitalares, miserunt ad regem Angliae Heraclium, sancto civitatis Jerusalem Patriarcha, et summos Hospitalis et Templi Magistros una cum vexillo regio, et clavibus sepulchri Domini, et tunis David, et civitatis Jerusalem; postulantes ab eo celerem succursum . … qui statim ad pedes regis provoluti cum fletu magno et singultu, verba salutationis ex parte regis et principum et universe plebis terra Jerosolymitanae proferebant . … tradiderunt ei vexillum regium, etc. etc.—Hoveden, ad ann. 1185; Radulph de Diceto, p. 626.

** Matt. Westm. ad ann. 1185; Guill. Neubr. tom. i. lib iii. cap. 12, 13. Chron. Dunst.

† † Speed. Hist. Britain, p. 506. A.D. 1185.



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