Hugh de Payns Takes the Templars on the Road

By 1127, the Knights of the Temple were established in the Holy Land. Even in their early state, they had so impressed Fulk of Anjou that, in 1124, he had given them thirty thousand livres from the rents of his lands.1 Other lords had also donated property, especially in Hugh de Payns’ home county of Champagne.

But the number of men who had decided to devote their lives to the order was still far too few. So it was decided that Hugh, along with fellow knights Godfrey of St. Omer, Payns of Montdidier, and Robert of Craon, would undertake a journey of recruitment.2 It is interesting that the men chosen were from various parts of France. Godfrey was from Picardy in the north and Robert was a Burgundian.

The group probably made a stop at Rome, although there is no record of it or of a meeting with the pope, Honorius II. They then went on to Troyes, the seat of the counts of Champagne. Although Hugh of Champagne was still alive, he did not accompany the party. His nephew, Thibaud, was now count. Thibaud welcomed the knights and here Hugh may have seen his family for the first time in over ten years and made further arrangements for the disposal his own land.

Next, in early 1128, the men went to Anjou, where their old friend Fulk renewed his donation to the order. He also made a new donation that was split among the Templars, the bishop of Chartres, the abbey of the Trinity at Vendome, and the abbey of Fontevrault.3 At this point, Fulk probably received the offer from King Baldwin to marry his eldest daughter, Melisande. On Ascension Day (May 28) of 1128 Fulk decided to take the cross (and the kingdom). Hugh was present for this ceremony, as was Gautier de Bure, the constable of Jerusalem, who had been sent expressly to bring the marriage proposal.4

The party went on to the county of Poitou, northwest of Anjou, where various lords gave generously to the new order. It would be nice to think that at this time Hugh may have seen the young Eleanor of Aquitaine, who would one day make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, on the Second Crusade, as the wife of Louis VII of France. But there is no evidence that she or her father, the count of Poitou, met with the Templars.

Hugh then visited King Henry I of England at his court in Normandy, before going on to England and Scotland. Henry apparently gave the Templars “gold and silver” and annually added “many subsidies in arms and other equipment.”5

The chronicles of Waverley Abbey in England tell of Hugh’s trip “with two knights of the Temple and two clerics.” The knights went all over England and as far north as Scotland, “and many took the cross that year and those following and took the route for the Holy places.”6

At the next stop, Hugh felt confident of a good reception. Thierry, count of Flanders, was well disposed to the Templars. He also encouraged his barons to be generous. On September 13, 1128, Thierry held a solemn assembly before the bishop of Thérouanne at which he confirmed the donations made to the Templars by his predecessor, William Clito. Present to witness it were Hugh, Godfrey of St. Omer, Payns of Montdidier, “and many other brothers.”7 It’s never made clear, but I believe that these “other brothers” were some of the new recruits that the Templars so desperately needed. A public gathering such as this would be a perfect place for a rousing speech. A young man carried away by the moment would find it hard to renounce a vow taken before so many people.

Finally the party returned to Troyes sometime around January 1129. There they received a house, a grange, land and fields near the suburb of Preize from a Raoul Crassus (the fat) and his wife, Hélène. This donation almost certainly became the commandery of Troyes.8 Witnessing it were Hugh, Godfrey, and Payns along with Templars named Ralph and John. It seems that the trip had been worth it.

Only one thing more was needed to make sure the Order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon was securely established. And Hugh was about to get it.

1Orderic Vitalis, The Eccesiastical History of Oderic Vitalis vol. VI, ed. and tr. Margery Chibnall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978) pp. 310-11.

2Thierry LeRoy, Hugues de Payns. (Troyes: Maison du Boulanger, 1999) pp. 72-76.

3Ibid., p. 195.

4Ibid., p. 76.

5Robert of Torigni, Gesta Normannorum Ducam Vol. II, Book VII, pp. 32-34, ed. and tr. Elisabeth M. C. Van Houts (Oxford: Oxford Medieval Texts; 1995) p. 257. I say apparently because there isn’t any record of Henry’s generosity, except Robert’s account.

6Quoted in LeRoy, p. 76.

7Marquis d’Albon, Charter no. 16.

8Ibid., Charter no. 22.

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