Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Paladin (Part 2B): Historical Knightly Orders

"[A Templar Knight] is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith, just as his body is protected by the armor of steel. He is thus doubly-armed, and need fear neither demons nor men."
Bernard de Clairvaux, c. 1135, De Laude Novae Militae—In Praise of the New Knighthood
This is an amazing quote, and I will be referencing it again, as I think this is the embodiment of the paladin.

Before jumping across the pond to hit on the Arthurian mythos, I thought I would spend a moment or two to summarized several historical knightly orders. I picked these three for several reasons:

1. They are perhaps the most well known of the knightly orders
2. They existed at about the same time, and there were interactions between the three groups
3. They were endorsed/sponsered by the church, which I find very interesting, and I will expand upon that in the next sections
4. They are perhaps the closest real world example of the paladin concept .
I. The Knights Templar

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), commonly known as the Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple (French: Ordre du Temple or Templiers), were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders. The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages, founded in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096, with its original purpose to ensure the safety of the many Christians who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem after its conquest.

Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favored charity throughout Christendom, and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building many fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.

The Templars' existence was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded. Rumors about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, took advantage of the situation. In 1307, many of the Order's members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the "Templar" name alive into the modern day.
Coat of Arms
The Templars were famous for their white surcoats with a red cross.

II. Knights Hospitaller

The Knights Hospitaller were Knights of the Order of Saint John the Hospitaller who were also known by such names as Knights of Rhodes, Knights of Malta, Cavaliers of Malta, and Order of St John of Jerusalem. The Hospitallers grew out of a brotherhood for the care of sick pilgrims in a hospital at Jerusalem following the First Crusade in 1100 AD.

The History of the Knights Hospitaller can be dated back 600AD when Abbot Probus was commissioned by Pope Gregory the Great to build a hospital in Jerusalem to treat and care for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. In 1005 Jerusalem was taken by the Turcomans, who came from the kingdom of ancient Persia. 3000 Christians were massacred and the remaining Christians were treated so badly that throughout Christendom people were stirred to fight in crusades. The hospital was destroyed during the battle for Jerusalem. In 1023, merchants from Italy were given permission by the Caliph Ali az-Zahir of Egypt to rebuild the hospital in Jerusalem. The new hospital was built and served by the monks of the Benedictine Order during the First Crusade. The monastic hospitaller order was founded following the First Crusade by the Blessed Gerard, Gerard acquired territory and revenues for his order throughout the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in Europe. His successor was Raymond du Puy de Provence who established a new Hospital near to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Many knights joined the organization, which soon proved to be very useful in defending the Holy Land. The Hospitallers orders built many castles in Syria, the remains of which still impress the beholder. They established numerous branches in Europe and, by presents and legacies, acquired vast wealth. These orders of religious knights, much like the Vatican today, ended up having their own states, the Hospitallers the island of Rhodes then later Malta. The Knights Templar order was disbanded in the fourteenth century, but the Hospitalers continued to fight valiantly against the Turks long after the close of the crusading movement but can be said to have come to an end following their ejection from Malta by Napoleon.
Coat of Arms

The Hospitaller Knights were distinguished by wearing a black surcoat with a white cross.

III. Teutonic Knights

The Order of the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary's Hospital in Jerusalem (Latin: Ordo domus Sancte Marie Theutonicorum Ierosolimitanorum), or for short the Teutonic Order is a German Roman Catholic religious order. It was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals to care for the sick and injured. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, since they were also called on to aid as a crusading military order during the Middle Ages and much of the modern era. The membership was always small and whenever the need arose, volunteers or mercenaries arrived for military duties.

Formed at the end of the 12th century in Acre, Palestine, the medieval Order played an important role in Outremer, controlling the port tolls of Acre. After Christian forces were defeated in the Middle East, the Order moved to Transylvania in 1211 to help defend Hungary against the Cumans. They were expelled in 1225 after allegedly attempting to place themselves under Papal instead of Hungarian sovereignty.

Following the Golden Bull of Rimini, Grand Master Hermann von Salza and Duke Konrad I of Masovia made a joint invasion of Prussia in 1230 to Christianise the Baltic Old Prussians in the Northern Crusades. The knights were then accused of cheating Polish rule and creating an independent monastic state. The Order lost its main purpose in Europe, when the neighbouring country of Lithuania accepted Christianity. Once established in Prussia, the Order became involved in campaigns against its Christian neighbours, the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Novgorod Republic (after assimilating the Livonian Order). The Teutonic Knights had a strong economic base, hired mercenaries from throughout Europe to augment their feudal levies, and became a naval power in the Baltic Sea.

In 1410, a Polish-Lithuanian army decisively defeated the Order and broke its military power at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg). In 1515 at Vienna the emperor made marriage- inheritance arrangements with Sigismund I of Poland-Lithuania. Thereafter the empire failed to aid the Teutonic Order Grand Master against the same. Thus the Order steadily declined until 1525 when Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg resigned and converted to Lutheranism to become Duke of Prussia. The Grand Masters continued to preside over the Order's considerable holdings in Germany and elsewhere until 1809, when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered its dissolution and the Order lost its last secular holdings. The Order continued to exist, headed by Habsburgs through World War I and was outlawed by Hitler in 1938. After 1945 they resumed and today operate primarily with charitable aims in Central Europe.

Coat of Arms
The Knights wore white surcoats with a black cross. A cross pattée was sometimes used as their coat of arms; this image was later used for military decoration and insignia by the Kingdom of Prussia and Germany as the Iron Cross.
Paladin Series Summary
For ease of reading, I will provide the links to all the blogs in the series:


Matthew James Stanham said...

I think it is a mistake to equate the paladin too closely with the military orders. It is often done, but it should be remembered that when the orders are mentioned in the PHB it is with reference to the cleric and not the paladin.

The significance of this is important to understanding the exemplary secular nature of the paladin, and how that contrasts with those who join religious caste and take vows to fight spiritual and temporal wars as though they are one in the same.

Mr Baron said...

Good point. For the purposes of this particular post, these knightly orders are probably about the closest from a historical perspective to the Paladin, which one could argue is still not that close.