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Templars and Muslims

Outremer, French for “across the sea” refers to the Crusader states, especially to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The crusader states were founded as a result of the first crusade, launched by Pope Urban II in 1095. Several factors contributed to the notion of a crusade to liberate the Holy Land, which had fallen to Muslim rule in 638. For much of the time between 638 and the end of the ninth century, Christian pilgrims from Europe were free to enter Jerusalem and experienced no great hardship once there, although a tax had to be paid (Howarth 24).

However, in 1009 Hakim, the Fatimid ruler of Egypt desecrated the Church of the Holy Sepulchrer. Hakim (996-1021) was almost certainly mad: his successor oversaw the rebuilding of the Church (Riley-Smith 10). Jerusalem, though, became contested territory between the Fatimids of Egypt, who were Shi’a and the Sunni Seljuks, who controlled the Abbasid Caliphate. The political situation in the area made pilgrimage a more dangerous enterprise. The Seljuks took Jerusalem in 1071 then lost it to the Fatimids in 1098 (Riley-Smith 26).

In Spain, where Christians were engaged in the re-conquest of Andalusia from Muslim rule, success in winning back Toledo in 1085 persuaded the Pope that Muslims could be defeated and that the time was right to liberate Jerusalem. Behind these events, too, was the growing expectation that Jesus was soon returning, since a thousand years had passed after his Ascension. When the Byzantine Emperor, increasingly vulnerable to attacks from Turkish nomads appealed to the West for help, the scene was set to declare a crusade (Riley-Smith 2).

The Crusade aimed to liberate Eastern Christians from Muslim rule and to bring Jerusalem under Christian rule. Crusaders, many of whom were knights, nobles and royalty, vowed to pilgrimage to Jerusalem and also to liberate the holy city. Crusading was also an act of penance. Antioch fell in 1098, after a seven and a half month siege. The Crusaders then pushed on to Jerusalem. Enmity between the Shi’a rulers of Egypt and the Sunni rulers of Syria helped the Crusaders drive a wedge between them.

Jerusalem fell to the crusaders July 15, 1099, becoming the Latin Kingdom (1099-1187) of which Antioch was a Latin Principality (1098-1268), Tripoli (1109-1289) and Edessa (1098-1144) Counties (Courbage and Fargues 47). Saladin, Egypt’s new Sunni ruler, entered several treaties with the Crusades, being preoccupied with consolidating his grip on Egypt. The King of Jerusalem, as overlord, commanded the army. A Latin Patriarchate was also created. After 1099, many crusaders went home, having fulfilled their vows.

Some stayed in Outremer but the rulers knew that without more European settlers, they could not defend Jerusalem. Although the Byzantine Emperor had supported the venture, the Crusaders looked with disdain at Eastern Christians and rarely enlisted their help. Many were Nestorians and Jacobites, who did not acknowledge the Byzantine Emperor. Culturally and linguistically, they had more in common with Muslims than with Western Europeans. In fact, it was only recently that Muslims had become a small majority in the region (Courbage and Fargues 45).

Later, some indigenous Christians formally recognized the Pope, becoming Catholics but retaining their local rites. Converts from Islam faced many “humiliations” – for example, military service was compulsory – and very few accepted baptism (Courbage and Fargues 52). It was into this geo-political context that the first Roman Catholic military order, the Knights Templars was formed in 1119, initially as an informal brotherhood of eight men under Hugues de Payens dedicated to protecting pilgrims. Effectively, this meant defending Jerusalem and the crusader states.

By 1128, the order had an official rule. There were different levels of members, knights, serjeants, farmers and chaplains. Later, priests were added. The order, which was placed directly under the Pope, was exempt from the authority of secular rulers and of local bishops. In Jerusalem, this gave the Order’s Grand Master considerable status and power. The order attracted many recruits, and quickly became the main defender of the Latin Kingdom alongside the Hospitallers, the second military order, which did not enjoy the same privileges.

The Templars quickly developed a reputation among the royal houses of Europe. It took its name from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the head\quarters was housed but branches sprung up throughout Europe. Numerous Castles were built in Europe and in the Holy Land, which served as monasteries and as barracks (Moeller). The knights were originally called “poor fellow soldiers of Jesus” (Read 3) and lived on charity. The Templars, who were not subject to the authority of the king, could make their own treaties, which they did on several occasions, including entering treaties with various Muslim rulers.

Saladin respected them and some genuine friendships developed between Templars and Muslims (Howarth 126- 127). They knew that treaties and friendship could keep Jerusalem Christian as well as using the sword. Despite the order’s wealth, and despite what has been written about their alleged heresy and their controversial demise (1314), the knights had a reputation for simplicity, moral conduct (many in Outremer were morally lax), for piety as well as for their military skill. Due to their reputation for honesty, they became bankers to Europe.

The Paris citadel was one of Europe’s most important financial centers (Read 183). Initially, they gave pilgrims a “check” which they cashed after reaching Jerusalem. It was no fault of the Templars that insufficient settlers came from Europe, so over time Outremer could not be defended. Outremer’s cities fell one by one, the last in 1289. Bibliography Courbage, Youssed and Fargues, Phillipe. Christians and Jews Under Islam. London: I. B Tauris, 1998. Howarth, Stephen. The Knights Templar. NY: Barnes & Noble. 1982/ Moeller, Charles. “The Knights Templars.

” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. Accessed 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www. newadvent. org/cathen/14493a. htm>. Newman, Sharan. The Real History Behind the Templars. New York: Berkley Books, 2007. Ralls, Karen. Knights Templar Encyclopedia: The Essential Guide to the People, Places, Events, and Symbols of the Order of the Temple. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2007. Read, Piers Paul. The Templars. [S. l. ]: Da Capo Press, 2001. Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2nd ed 2005.

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