Knight Orders-Templars, Hospitallers, Teutonic Knights, Calatrava Order

History of knight orders. Knights Templar history. List of knight orders. Teutonic knights, Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Order of Calatrava (1098-1814), Hospitallers (Knights of st. John), Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, Order of Saint James.

Knights Templar

Knights Templar
Knights Templar

History of Knights Templar

In about 1120 a group of crusading knights, distressed at the plight of pilgrims set upon by marauding Muslims, dedicate themselves to their protection. Taking vows of poverty and chastity, they pledge obedience to the patriarch of Jerusalem. They are given quarters in the part of Jerusalem once occupied by the Jewish Temple, thus acquiring their official name – Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.

The order is organized on a military basis with four ranks – knights, sergeants, chaplains and servants. The knights, all of them noble, wear the famous white surcoat with a red cross. Only the knights and sergeants fight, vowing always to accept combat even at the adverse odds of three to one.

Like the Knights of St John, the Templars grow rapidly in numbers and in strength. They become an integral part of the defence of the Latin kingdom, with castles of their own. This powerful involvement in affairs of state, without the charitable function which nourishes the idealism of the Knights of St John, exposes the Templars to the temptations and the jealousies of political life.

After the fall of the Latin kingdom in 1291, the Templars withdraw to their vast estates in Europe – where the envy provoked by their wealth and power contributes, it would seem, to their mysterious and sudden end

On Friday, October 13, 1307 (a date sometimes incorrectly linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition). Philip IV (king of France) with agreement given by Clement V ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. The Templars were charged with numerous offenses (including apostasy, idolatry, heresy, obscene rituals and homosexuality, financial corruption and fraud, and secrecy).  Many of the accused confessed to these charges under torture, and these confessions, even though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris. After more bullying from Philip, Pope Clement then issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae on November 22, 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets.

Most Templar assets were transfered to Hospitallers.

There are numerous legends about Knights Templars and their wealth and rituals.

Templar Grandmaster Jacques de Molay burned
Templar Grandmaster Jacques de Molay burned

Knights Templar Hierarchy

Order’s peak there were between 15,000 and 20,000 Templars, of whom about a tenth were actual knights.

The organizational structure had a strong chain of authority. Each country with a major Templar presence had a Master of the Order for the Templars in that region. All of them were subject to the Grand Master, appointed for life, who oversaw both the Order’s military efforts in the East and their financial holdings in the West.

There was a threefold division of the ranks of the Templars: the aristocratic knights, the lower-born sergeants, and the clergy. Knights were required to be of knightly descent and to wear white mantles. They were equipped as heavy cavalry, with three or four horses and one or two squires. Squires were generally not members of the Order but were instead outsiders who were hired for a set period of time. Beneath the knights in the Order and drawn from lower social strata were the sergeants. They were either equipped as light cavalry with a single horse or served in other ways such as administering the property of the Order or performing menial tasks and trades. Chaplains, constituting a third Templar class, were ordained  priests who saw to the Templars’ spiritual needs.

Templar Warriors
Templar Warriors

Templars in Battles

1129 Damascus Defeat
1139 Damascus Defeat
1148 Damascus Defeat
1153 Ascalon Victory
1177 Montgisard Victory
1187 Cresson Springs Defeat
1187 Hattin Defeat
1187 Jerusalem Surrender
1191 Acre Victory
1191 Arsuf Victory
1218 Damietta Defeat
1244 La Forbie Defeat
1249 Damietta Victory
1250 Mansurah Defeat
1291 Saphet Defeat
1291 Acre Defeat

Knights Templar – Swords, Armor, Banners, Costumes, Seals

Teutonic Knights

Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights

When Acre is recaptured by the crusaders, in 1191, a group of German merchants form a fraternity to run a hospital in the town. At first they adopt a rule similar to that of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. But in 1198, when the German contingent in Palestine is short of fighting men, they are transformed into an order more akin to the Templars. Known in German as the Deutscher Ritterorden (‘German Order of Knights’), they are usually referred to in English as the Knights of the Teutonic Order.

Soon, from as early as 1211, they divert their energies to a different crusade – against pagans on the eastern borders of Germany. For three centuries they play an important role in Europe, particularly in Prussia.

The Battle of Grunwald 1410

Battle with king Jogaila leading the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in alliance against the knights of the Teutonic Order who were led by the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen. The engagement in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War (1409-1411) was one of the most important battles in Medieval Europe, and the largest battle to involve knights.

The forces of the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights were decisively defeated in the battle, but were able to defend their castles and retain most of their territories despite the long-term consequences they suffered as a result of losing the battle. The order never recovered its former power, and the financial burden of the ensuing reparations eventually caused a rebellion of cities and landed gentry.

Teutonic Knight

Teutonic Knight

Order of Calatrava

Calatrava order - Cross
Calatrava order

It was founded at Calatrava la Vieja in Castile, in the twelfth century by St. Raymond of Fitero, as a military branch of the Cistercian family.

Calatrava headquarters, which lay along the Guadiana River in southwestern Castile, fell to the Moors in 1195 but was retaken by the knights in 1212. The order participated in the Christian Reconquest of Andalusia and was rewarded with grants of land in both Castile and Aragon. By the 15th century it had a membership of 200,000 and an annual income of 45,000 ducats. As the pace of the Reconquest slowed, the order became increasingly involved in Castilian domestic politics. To neutralize this potential threat to the crown, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, with papal sanction, took over the administration of the order in 1489. From then until its dissolution in the 19th century, the order was little more than an honorary association of Spanish nobles.

Hospitallers (also known as Knights of St John of Jerusalem or Chevaliers of Malta)

Knight Hospitallers
Knight Hospitallers

The hospital of St John of Jerusalem is older than the crusades. Founded in the 11th century by Italian merchants from Amalfi to look after sick pilgrims in Jerusalem, the hospital takes its name from the nearby church of John the Baptist.

With the arrival of the crusaders in Jerusalem, in 1099, the hospital grows in importance and in wealth. Crusader knights, grateful to have their wounds healed or illnesses cured, devote themselves to the hospital’s cause or endow it from their estates. In 1113 the hospital is taken under papal protection. It becomes a religious order which the knights can join, committing themselves to chastity, to good works and to warfare for the Christian cause.

As they grow in power, the Knights of St John become an important part of the army of the kingdom of Jerusalem, fighting battles against the Muslims while also maintaining their charitable function in the care of the sick. It is a measure of their power that the great castle of Krak des Chevaliers is one of their strongholds – a hospital with thicker walls than most.

In their militant role the knights are matched by the other great 12th-century order, that of the Templars. Both orders have to leave the Holy Land after the fall of Acre in 1291. But the Knights of St John thrive elsewhere in later centuries.

Knights of the Cross with the Red Star (1233-present days)

Knights with Cross and Red Star
Knights with Cross and Red Star

The only knight order founded by woman. Order was founded by Agness a Czech princess. The order, which by 1253 had extensive possessions in Czech komgdom, soon spread to neighbouring lands – Poland and German lands.

Order success in hospital work is evidenced by the rapidity with which their houses multiplied, and the frequent testimony borne to it in documents of kings and emperors.

In the war with Sweden the members of the order justified their claim to the title of knights during the siege of Cheb, fighting side by side with the townspeople, and sharing with them their last crust.

Order of Saint James of the Sword (Order of Santiago)

Order of Saint James
Order of Saint James

The Order of Saint James began in Castile-León in circa 1171, as an Order of knights for the protection of pilgrims to Compostela  in Galicia. The Portuguese branch of the Order was separated from the Castilian-Leonese branch in 1290, a situation affirmed by Pope John XXII in 1320.

Pope Pius VI (1789) and the Queen Mary I reformed the order into a secular institution. In 1834 when the civil government of Portugal became anti-Catholic, after the defeat of King Miguel in the Civil War, under the constitutional monarchy the order lost its properties. The ancient Military Orders were transformed by the liberal constitution and subsequent legislation into mere Orders of Merit. The privileges which once had been an essential part of the membership of the old military orders were also ceased.

In 1910, when Portuguese monarchy ended, the Republic of Portugal abolished all the Orders except the Order of the Tower and Sword. However, in 1917, at the end of the World War I, some of these Orders were re-established as mere Orders of Merit to reward outstanding services to the state, the office of Grand Master belonging to the Head of State – the President of the Republic. The Military Order of St. James, together with the other Portuguese Orders of Merit, had its Statutes revised in several occasions, during the First Republic (1910–1926), then in 1962, and again in 1986.

The Military Order of Saint James, together with the Military Orders of Christ and of Aviz form the group of the “Ancient Military Orders”, governed by a Chancellor and a Council of eight members, appointed by the President of the Republic, to assist him as Grand Master in all matters concerning the administration of the Order. The Order, despite its name, can be conferred to Portuguese and foreigners for outstanding services to science, literature or art. The highest grade of the Order, that of Grand Collar, is a special award, conferred only to foreign Heads of State.

Medieval Costumes


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