The conquest of Jerusalem by the Carizmians--The
slaughter of the Templars, and the death of the Grand Master--The exploits of
the Templars in Egypt--King Louis of France visits the Templars in
Palestine--He assists them in putting the country into a defensible
state--Henry II., king of England, visits the Temple at Paris--The magnificent
hospitality of the Templars in England and France--Benocdar, sultan of Egypt,
invades Palestine--He defeats the Templars, takes their strong fortresses, and
decapitates six hundred of their brethren--The Grand Master comes to England
for succour--The renewal of the war The fall of Acre, and the final extinction
of the Templars in Palestine.
"The Knights of the TEMPLE ever maintained
their fearless and fanatic character; if they neglected to live they
were prepared to die in the service of Christ."--Gibbon.
A.D. 1242. SHORTLY after the recovery of
the holy city, Djemal’eddeen, the Mussulman, paid a visit to Jerusalem. "I
saw," says he, the monks and the priests masters of the Temple of the Lord. I
saw the vials of wine prepared for the sacrifice. I entered into the Mosque al
Acsa, (the Temple of Solomon,) and I saw a bell suspended from the dome. The
rites and ceremonies of the Mussulmen were abolished; the call to prayer was
no longer heard. The infidels publicly exercised their idolatrous practices in
the sanctuaries of the Mussulmen." *
By the advice of Benedict, bishop of
Marseilles, who came to the holy city on a pilgrimage, the Templars rebuilt
A.D. 1243. and formidable castle of Saphet.
Eight hundred and fifty workmen, and four hundred slaves were employed in the
task. The walls were sixty French feet in width, one hundred and seventy in
height, and the circuit of them was two thousand two hundred and fifty feet.
They were flanked by seven large round towers,. sixty feet in diameter, and
seventy-two feet higher than the walls. The fosse surrounding the fortress was
thirty-six feet wide, and was pierced in the solid rock to a depth of
forty-three feet. The garrison, in time of peace, amounted to one thousand
seven hundred men, and to two thousand two hundred in time of war.
The ruins of this famous castle crowning the summit of a lofty mountain, torn
and shattered by earthquakes, still present a stupendous appearance. In
Pococke's time "two particularly fine large round towers" were entire, and Van
Egmont and Heyman describe the remains of two moats lined with freestone,
several fragments of walls, bulwarks, and turrets, together with corridors,
winding staircases, and internal apartments. Ere this fortress was completed,
the Templars again lost the holy city, and were well-nigh exterminated in a
bloody battle fought with the Carizmians. These were a fierce, pastoral tribe
of Tartars, who, descending from the north of Asia, and quitting their abodes
in the neighbourhood of the Caspian, rushed headlong upon the nations of the
south. They overthrew with frightful rapidity, and the most terrific
slaughter, all who had ventured to oppose their progress; and, at the
instigation of Saleh Ayoub, sultan of Egypt, with whom they had formed an
alliance, they turned their arms against the Holy Land. In a great battle
fought near Gaza, which lasted two days, the Grand Masters of the Temple and
the Hospital were both slain, together with three hundred and twelve Knights
Templars, and three hundred and twenty-four serving brethren, besides hired
soldiers in the pay of the
Order. The following account of these disasters was forwarded to Europe by the
Vice-Master of the Temple, and the bishops and abbots of Palestine.
"To the reverend Fathers in Christ, and to all
our friends, archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other prelates of the church in
the kingdoms of France and England, to whom these letters shall come;--Robert,
by the grace of God, patriarch of the holy church of Jerusalem; Henry,
archbishop of Nazareth; J. elect of Cæsarea; R. bishop of Acre; William de
Rochefort, Vice-Master of the house of the soldiery of the TEMPLE, and
of the convent of the same house; H. prior of the sepulchre of the Lord;
B. of the Mount of Olives, &c. &c. Health and prosperity."
"The cruel barbarian, issuing forth from the
confines of the East, hath turned his footsteps towards the kingdom of
Jerusalem, that holy land, which, though it hath at different periods been
grievously harassed by the Saracen tribes, hath yet in these latter days
enjoyed ease and tranquillity, and been at peace with the neighbouring
nations. But, alas! the sins of our christian people have just now raised up
for its destruction an unknown people, and an avenging sword from afar . . .
." They proceed to describe the destructive progress of the Carizmians from
Tartary, the devastation of Persia, the fierce extermination by those savage
hordes of all races and nations, without distinction of religion, and their
sudden entry into the Holy Land by the side of Saphet and Tiberias, "when,"
say they, "by the common advice, and at the unanimous desire of the Masters
of the religious houses of the chivalry of the Temple and the Hospital, we
called in the assistance of the sultans of Damascus and Carac, who were bound
to us by treaty, and who bore especial hatred to the Carizmians; they promised
and solemnly swore to give us their entire aid, but the succour came slow and
tardy; the Christian forces were
A.D. 1244. few in number, and were obliged
to abandon the defence of Jerusalem . . . ."
After detailing the barbarous and horrible
slaughter of five thousand three hundred Christians, of both sexes--men,
women, children, monks, priests, and nuns,--they thus continue their simple
and affecting narrative:
"At length, the before-mentioned perfidious
savages having penetrated within the gates of the holy city of Israel, the
small remnant of the faithful left therein, consisting of children, women, and
old men, took refuge in the church of the sepulchre of our Lord. The
Carizmians rushed to that holy sanctuary; they butchered them all before the
very sepulchre itself, and cutting off the heads of the priests who were
kneeling with uplifted hands before the altars, they said one to another, 'Let
us here shed the blood of the Christians on the very place where they offer
up wine to their God, who they say was hanged here.' Moreover, in sorrow
be it spoken, and with sighs we inform you, that laying their sacrilegious
hands on the very sepulchre itself, they sadly disturbed it, utterly battering
to pieces the marble shrine which was built around that holy sanctuary. They
have defiled, with every abomination of which they were capable, Mount
Calvary, where Christ was crucified, and the whole church of the resurrection.
They have taken away, indeed, the sculptured columns which were placed as a
decoration before the sepulchre of the Lord, and as a mark of victory, and as
a taunt to the Christians, they have sent them to the sepulchre of the wicked
Mahomet. They have violated the tombs of the happy kings of Jerusalem in the
same church, and they have scattered, to the hurt of Christendom, the ashes of
those holy men to the winds, irreverently profaning the revered Mount Sion.
The Temple of the Lord, the church of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where the
Virgin lies buried, the church of Bethlehem, and the place of
A.D. 1244. the nativity of our Lord, they
have polluted with enormities too horrible to be related, far exceeding the
iniquity of all the Saracens, who, though they frequently occupied the land of
the Christians, yet always reverenced and preserved the holy places . . . . .
They then describe the subsequent military
operations, the march of the Templars and Hospitaliers, on the 4th of October,
A.D. 1244, from Acre to Cæsarea; the junction of their forces with those of
the Moslem sultans; the retreat of the Carizmians to Gaza, where they received
succour from the sultan of Egypt; and the preparation of the Hospitallers and
Templars for the attack before that place.
"Those holy warriors," say they, "boldly rushed
in upon the enemy, but the Saracens who had joined us, having lost many of
their men, fled, and the warriors of the cross were left alone to withstand
the united attack of the Egyptians and Carizmians. Like stout champions of the
Lord, and true defenders of catholicity, whom the same faith and the same
cross and passion make true brothers, they bravely resisted; but as they were
few in number in comparison with the enemy, they at last succumbed, so that of
the convents of the house of the chivalry of the Temple, and of the house of
the Hospital of Saint John at Jerusalem, only thirty-three Templars and
twenty-six Hospitallers escaped; the archbishop of Tyre, the bishop of Saint
George, the abbot of Saint Mary of Jehoshaphat, and the Master of the Temple,
with many other clerks and holy men, being slain in that sanguinary fight. We
ourselves, having by our sins provoked this dire calamity, fled half dead to
Ascalon; from thence we proceeded by sea to Acre, and found that city and the
adjoining province filled with sorrow and mourning, misery and death. There
was not a house or a family that had not lost an inmate or a relation. . . . .
A.D. 1244. "The Carizmians have now pitched
their tents in the plain of Acre, about. two miles from the city. The whole
country, as far as Nazareth and Saphet, is overrun by them, so that the
churches of Jerusalem and the christian kingdom have now no territory, except
a few fortifications, which are defended with great difficulty and labour by
the Templars and Hospitaliers
"To you, dearest Fathers, upon whom the burthen
of the defence of the cause of Christ justly resteth, we have caused these sad
tidings to be communicated, earnestly beseeching you to address your prayers
to the throne of grace, imploring mercy from the Most High; that he who
consecrated the Holy Land with his own blood in redemption of all mankind, may
compassionately turn towards it and defend it, and send it succour. Do ye
yourselves, dearest Fathers, as far as ye are able, take sage counsel and
speedily assist us, that ye may receive a heavenly reward. But know,
assuredly, that unless, through the interposition of the Most High, or by the
aid of the faithful, the Holy Land is succoured in the next spring passage
from Europe, its doom is sealed, and utter ruin is inevitable.
"Since it would be tedious to explain by
letter all our necessities, we have sent to you the venerable father bishop of
Beirout, and the holy man Arnulph, of the Order of Friars Preachers, who will
faithfully and truly unfold the particulars to your venerable fraternity. We
humbly entreat you liberally to receive and patiently to hear the aforesaid
messengers, who have exposed themselves to great dangers for the church of
God, by navigating the seas in the depth of winter. Given at Acre, this fifth
day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand twelve hundred and
The above letter was read before a general
council of the
A.D. 1244. church, which had been assembled
at Lyons by Pope Innocent IV., and it was resolved that a new crusade should
be preached. It was provided that those who assumed the cross should assemble
at particular places to receive the Pope's blessing; that there should be a
truce for four years between all christian princes; that during all that time
there should be no tournaments, feasts, nor public rejoicings; that all the
faithful in Christ should be exhorted to contribute, out of their fortunes and
estates, to the defence of the .Holy Land; and that ecclesiastics should pay
towards it the tenth, and cardinals the twentieth, of all their revenues, for
the term of three years successively. The ancient enthusiasm, however, in
favour of distant expeditions to the East had died away; the addresses and
exhortations of the clergy now fell on unwilling ears, and the Templars and
Hospitaliers received only some small assistance in men and money.
The temporary alliance between the Templars and
the Mussulman sultans of Syria, for the purpose of insuring their common
safety, did not escape animadversion. The emperor Frederick the Second, the
nominal king of Jerusalem, in a letter to Richard earl of Cornwall, the
brother of Henry the Third, king of England, accuses the Templars of making
war upon the sultan of Egypt, in defiance of a treaty entered into with that
monarch, of compelling him to call in the Carizmians to his assistance; and he
compares the union of the Templars with the infidel sultans, for purposes of
defence, to an attempt to extinguish a fire by pouring upon it a quantity of
oil. "The proud religion of the Temple," says he, in continuation, "nurtured
amid the luxuries of the barons of the land, waxeth wanton. It hath been made
manifest to us, by certain religious persons lately arrived from parts beyond
sea, that the aforesaid sultans and their trains were received with pompous
alacrity within the gates of the houses of the Temple, and that the Templars
suffered them to perform
A.D. 1244. within them their superstitious
rites and ceremonies, with invocation of Mahomet, and to indulge in secular
The Templars, notwithstanding their disasters, successfully defended all their
strong fortresses in Palestine against the efforts of the Carizmians, and
gradually recovered their footing in the Holy Land. The galleys of the Order
kept the command of the sea, and succour speedily arrived to them from their
western brethren. A general chapter of knights was assembled in the Pilgrim's
Castle, and the veteran warrior, brother WILLIAM DE SONNAC, was chosen Grand
Master of the Order.
A.D. 1245. Circular mandates were, at the
same time, sent to the western preceptories, summoning all the brethren to
Palestine, and directing the immediate transmission of all the money in the
different treasuries to the head-quarters of the Order at Acre. These calls
appear to have been promptly attended to, and the Pope praises both the
Templars and Hospitaliers for the zeal and energy displayed by them in sending
out the newly-admitted knights and novices with armed bands and a large amount
of treasure to the succour of the holy territory. The
aged knights, and those whose duties rendered them unable to leave the western
preceptories, implored the blessings of heaven upon the exertions of their
brethren; they observed extraordinary fasts and mortification, and directed
continual prayers to be offered up throughout the Order. Whilst the proposed
crusade was slowly progressing, the holy pontiff wrote to the sultan of Egypt,
the ally of the Carizmians, proposing a peace or a truce, and received the
following grand and magnificent reply to his communication:
A.D. 1246. "To the Pope, the noble, the
great, the spiritual, the affectionate, the holy, the thirteenth of the
apostles, the leader of the sons of baptism, the high priest of the
Christians, (may God strengthen him, and establish him, and give him
happiness!) from the most powerful sultan ruling over the necks of nations;
wielding the two great weapons, the sword and the pen; possessing two
pre-eminent excellencies--that is to say, learning and judgment; king of two
seas; ruler of the South and North; king of the region of Egypt and Syria,
Mesopotamia, Media, Idumea, and Ophir; King Saloph Beelpbeth, Jacob, son of
Sultan Camel, Hemevafar Mehameth, son of Sultan Hadel, Robethre, son of Jacob,
whose kingdom may the Lord God make happy.
"IN THE NAME OF GOD THE MOST MERCIFUL AND
"The letters of the Pope, the noble, the great,
&c. &c. . . . . have been presented to us. May God favour him who earnestly
seeketh after righteousness and doeth good, and wisheth peace and walketh in
the ways of the Lord. May God assist him who worshippeth him in truth. We have
considered the aforesaid letters, and have understood the matters treated of
therein, which have pleased and delighted us; and the messenger sent by the
holy Pope came to us, and we caused him to be brought before us with honour,
and love, and reverence; and we brought him to see us face to face, and
inclining our ears towards him, we listened to his speech, and we have put
faith in the words he hath spoken unto us concerning Christ, upon whom be
salvation and praise. But we know more concerning that same Christ than ye
know, and we magnify him more than ye magnify him. And as to what you say
concerning your desire for peace, tranquillity, and quiet, and that you wish
to put down war, so also do we; we desire and wish nothing to the contrary.
But let the Pope know,
A.D. 1247.that between ourselves and the Emperor
(Frederick) there hath been mutual love, and alliance, and perfect concord,
from the time of the sultan, my father, (whom may God preserve and place in
the glory of his brightness;) and between you and the Emperor there is, as ye
know, strife and warfare; whence it is not fit that we should enter into any
treaty with the Christians until we have previously had his advice and assent.
We have therefore written to our envoy at the imperial court upon the
propositions made to us by the Pope's messenger, &c. . . .
"This letter was written on the seventh
of the month Maharan. Praise be to the one only God, and may his
blessing rest upon our master Mahomet." *
The year following, (A.D. 1247,) the
Carizmians were annihilated; they were cut up in detail by the Templars and
Hospitallers, and were at last slain to a man. Their very name perished from
the face of the earth, but the traces of their existence were long preserved
in the ruin and desolation they had spread around them.
The Holy Land, although happily freed from the destructive presence of these
barbarians, had yet everything to fear from the powerful sultan of Egypt, with
whom hostilities still continued; and Brother William de Sonnac, the Grand
Master of the Temple, for the purpose of stimulating the languid energies of
the English nation, and reviving their holy zeal and enthusiasm in the cause
of the Cross, despatched a distinguished Knight Templar to England, charged
with the duty of presenting to king Henry the Third a magnificent crystal
vase, containing a portion of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which had
been poured forth upon the sacred soil of Palestine for the remission of the
sins of all the faithful.
A.D. 1249. A solemn attestation of the
genuineness of this precious relic, signed by the patriarch of Jerusalem, and
the bishops, the abbots, and the barons of the Holy Land, was forwarded to
London for the satisfaction of the king and his subjects, and was deposited,
together with the vase and its inestimable contents, in the cathedral church
of Saint Paul. *
In the month of June, A.D. 1249, the galleys of
the Templars left Acre with a strong body of forces on board, and joined the
expedition undertaken by the French king, Louis IX., against Egypt. The
following account of the capture of Damietta was forwarded to the Master of
the Temple at London.
"Brother William de Sonnac, by the grace of God
Master of the poor chivalry of the Temple, to his beloved brother in Christ,
Robert de Sanford, Preceptor of England, salvation in the Lord.
"We hasten to unfold to you by these
presents agreeable and happy intelligence . . . (He details the landing of the
French, the defeat of the infidels with the loss of one christian soldier, and
the subsequent capture of the city.) " Damietta, therefore, has been taken,
not by our deserts, nor by the might of our armed bands, but through the
divine power and assistance. Moreover, be it known to you that king Louis,
with God's favour, proposes to march upon Alexandria or Cairo for the purpose
of delivering our brethren there detained in captivity, and of reducing, with
God's help, the whole land to the christian worship. Farewell."
The Lord de Joinville, the friend of king
Louis, and one of the bravest of the French captains, gives a lively and most
interesting account of the campaign, and of the famous exploits of the
Templars. During the march towards Cairo, they led the van of the christian
army, and on one occasion, when the king of France had given strict orders
that no attack should be made upon the infidels, and that an engagement should
be avoided, a
A.D. 1249. body of Turkish cavalry advanced
against them. "One of these Turks," says Joinville, "gave a Knight Templar in
the first rank so heavy a blow with his battle-axe, that it felled him under
the feet of the Lord Reginald de Vichier's horse, who was Marshall of the
Temple; the Marshall, seeing his man fall, cried out to his brethren, 'At them
in the name of God, for I cannot longer stand this.' He instantly stuck spurs
into his horse, followed by all his brethren, and as their horses were fresh,
not a Saracen escaped." On another occasion, the Templars marched forth at the
head of the christian army, to make trial of a ford across the Tanitic branch
of the Nile. "Before we set out," says Joinville, "the king had ordered that
the Templars should form the van, and the Count d’Artois, his brother, should
command the second division after the Templars; but the moment the Compte
d’Artois had passed the ford, he and all his people fell on the Saracens, and
putting them to flight, galloped after them. The Templars sent to call the
Compte d’Artois back, and to tell him that it was his duty to march behind and
not before them; but it happened that the Count d’Artois could not make any
answer by reason of my Lord Foucquault du Melle, who held the bridle of his
horse, and my Lord Foucquault, who was a right good knight, being deaf, heard
nothing the Templars were saying to the Count d’Artois, but kept bawling out,
'Forward! forward!' ("Or a eulz! or a eulz!") When the Templars
perceived this, they thought they should be dishonoured if they allowed the
Count d’Artois thus to take the lead; so they spurred their horses more and
more, and faster and faster, and chased the Turks, who fled before them,
through the town of Massoura, as far as the plains towards Babylon; but on
their return, the Turks shot at them plenty of arrows, and attacked them in
the narrow streets of the town. The Count d’Artois and the Earl of Leicester
were there slain, and as many as three hundred other knights. The Templars
A.D. 1250. lost, as their chief informed
me, full fourteen score men-at-arms, and all his horsemen." *
The Grand Master of the Temple also lost an
eye, and cut his way through the infidels to the main body of the christian
army, accompanied only by two Knights Templars. There he again mixed in the
affray, took the command of a vanguard, and is to be found fighting by the
side of the Lord de Joinville at sunset. In his account of the great battle
fought on the first Friday in Lent, Joinville thus commemorates the gallant
bearing of the Templars:--
"The next battalion was under the command of
Brother William de Sonnac, Master of the Temple, who had with him the small
remnant of the brethren of the order who survived the battle of Shrove
Tuesday. The Master of the Temple made of the engines which we had taken from
the Saracens a sort of rampart in his front, but when the Saracens marched up
to the assault, they threw Greek fire upon it, and as the Templars had piled
up many planks of fir-wood amongst these engines, they caught fire
immediately; and the Saracens, perceiving that the brethren of the Temple were
few in number, dashed through the burning timbers, and vigorously attacked
them. In the preceding battle of Shrove Tuesday, Brother William, the Master
of the Temple, lost one of his eyes, and in this battle the said lord lost his
other eye, and was slain. God have mercy on his soul! And know that
immediately behind the place where the battalion of the Templars stood, there
was a good acre of ground, so covered with darts, arrows, and missiles, that
you could not see the earth
beneath them, such showers of these had
been discharged against the Templars by the Saracens!" *
A.D. 1252. The Grand Master, William de
Sonnac, was succeeded by the Marshall of the Temple, Brother Reginald de
Vichier. King Louis, after his release from captivity,
proceeded to Palestine, where he remained two years. He repaired the
fortifications of Jaffa and Cæsarea, and assisted the Templars in putting the
country into a defensible state. The Lord de Joinville remained with him the
whole time, and relates some curious events that took place during his stay.
It appears that the scheik of the assassins still continued to pay tribute to
the Templars; and during the king's residence at Acre, the chief sent
ambassadors to him to obtain a remission of the tribute. He gave them an
audience, and declared that he would consider of their proposal. "When they
came again before the king," says Joinville, "it was about vespers, and they
found the Master of the Temple on one side of him, and the Master of the
Hospital on the other. The ambassadors refused to repeat what they had said in
the morning, but the Masters of the Temple and the Hospital commanded them so
to do. Then the Masters of the Temple and Hospital told them that their lord
had very foolishly and impudently sent such a message to the king of France,
and had they not been invested with the character of ambassadors, they would
have thrown them into the filthy sea of Acre, and have drowned them in despite
of their master. 'And we command you,' continued the masters, 'to return to
your lord, and to come back
A.D. 1254. within fifteen days with such
letters from your prince, that the king shall be contented with him and with
The ambassadors accordingly did as they
were bid, and brought back from their scheik a shirt, the symbol of
friendship, and a great variety of rich presents, "crystal elephants, pieces
of amber, with borders of pure gold," &c. &c. *"
You must know that when the ambassadors opened the case containing all these
fine things, the whole apartment was instantly embalmed with the odour of
their sweet perfumes."
The Lord de Joinville accompanied the Templars
in several marches and expeditions against the infidel tribes on the frontiers
of Palestine, and was present at the storming of the famous castle of Panias,
situate near the source of the Jordan.
At the period of the return of the king of
France to Europe, (A.D. 1254,) Henry the Third, king of England, was in
Gascony with Brother Robert de Sanford, Master of the Temple at London, who
had been previously sent by the English monarch into that province to appease
the troubles which had there broken out. King Henry proceeded to the French
capital, and was magnificently entertained by the Knights Templars at the
Temple in Paris, which Matthew Paris tells us was of such immense extent that
it could contain within its precincts a numerous army. The day after his
arrival, king Henry ordered an innumerable quantity of poor people to be
regaled at the Temple with meat, fish, bread, and wine; and at a later hour
the king of France and all his nobles came to dine with the English monarch.
"Never," says Matthew Paris, "was there at any period in bygone times so noble
and so celebrated an entertainment. They feasted in the great hall of the
Temple, where hang the shields on every side, as many as they can place along
A.D. 1255. four walls, according to the
custom of the order beyond sea. . ." *
The Knights Templars in this country likewise exercised a magnificent
hospitality, and constantly entertained kings, princes, nobles, prelates, and
foreign ambassadors, at the Temple. Immediately after the return of king Henry
to England, some illustrious ambassadors from Castile came on a visit to the
Temple at London; and as the king "greatly delighted to honour them," he
commanded three pipes of wine to be placed in the cellars of the Temple for
their use, and ten fat bucks to be brought them at the same place from the
royal forest in Essex. He, moreover, commanded the mayor and sheriffs of
London, and the commonalty of the same city, to take with them a respectable
assemblage of the citizens, and to go forth and meet the said ambassadors
without the city, and courteously receive them, and honour them, and conduct
them to the Temple.
A.D. 1256. The Grand Master, Reginald de
Vichier, was succeeded by Brother Thomas Berard, who wrote several letters to
the king of England, displaying the miserable condition of the Holy Land, and
earnestly imploring succour and assistance. The English
monarch, however, was too poor to assist him, being obliged to borrow money
upon his crown jewels, which he sent to the Temple at Paris. The queen of
France, in a letter "to her very
A.D. 1261.dear brother Henry, the illustrious
king of England," gives a long list of golden wands, golden combs, diamond
buckles, chaplets, and circlets, golden crowns, imperial beavers, rich
girdles, golden peacocks, and rings innumerable, adorned with sapphires,
rubies, emeralds, topazes, and carbuncles, which she says she had inspected in
the presence of the treasurer of the Temple at Paris, and that the same were
safely deposited in the coffers of the Templars.
The military power of the orders of the
Temple and the Hospital in Palestine was at last completely broken by Bibars,
or Benocdar, the fourth Mamlook sultan of Egypt, who, from the humble station
of a Tartar slave, had raised himself to the sovereignty of that country, and
through his valour and military talents had acquired the title of "the
Conqueror." He invaded Palestine (A.D. 1262) at the head of thirty thousand
cavalry, and defeated the Templars and Hospitaliers with immense slaughter.
After several years of continuous warfare, during which the most horrible
excesses were committed by both parties, all the strongholds of the
Christians, with the solitary exception of the Pilgrim's Castle and the city
of Acre, fell into the hands of the infidels.
On the last day of April, (A.D. 1265,) Benocdar
stormed Arsuf, one of the strongest of the castles of the Hospitallers; he
slew ninety of the garrison, and led away a thousand into captivity, The year
following he stormed Castel Blanco, a fortress of the Knights Templars, and
immediately after laid siege to their famous and important castle of Saphet.
After an obstinate defence, the Preceptor, finding himself destitute of
provisions, agreed to capitulate, on condition that the surviving brethren and
A.D. 1266. their retainers, amounting to
six hundred men, should be conducted in safety to the nearest fortress of the
Christians. The terms were acceded to, but as soon as Benocdar had obtained
possession of the castle, he imposed upon the whole garrison the severe
alternative of the Koran or death. They chose the latter, and, according to
the christian writers, were all slain. *
The Arabian historian Schafi Ib’n Ali Abbas, however, in his life of Bibars,
or Benocdar, states that one of the garrison named Effreez Lyoub,
embraced the Mahommetan faith, and was circumcised, and that another was sent
to Acre to announce the fall of the place to his brethren. This writer
attempts to excuse the slaughter of the remainder, on the ground that they had
themselves first broken the terms of the capitulation, by attempting to carry
away arms and treasure. "By the death of so many knights of both orders,"
says Pope Clement IV., in one of his epistles, "the noble college of the
Hospitaliers, and the illustrious chivalry of the Temple, are almost
destroyed, and I know not how we shall be able, after this, to find gentlemen
and persons of quality sufficient to supply the places of such as have
perished. The year after the fall of Saphet, (A.D.
1267,) Benocdar captured the cities of Homs, Belfort, Bagras, and Sidon, which
belonged to the order of the Temple; the maritime towns of Laodicea, Gabala,
Tripoli, Beirout, and Jaffa, successively fell into his hands, and the fall of
the princely city of Antioch was signalized by the slaughter of seventeen and
the captivity of one hundred
A.D. 1268. thousand of her inhabitants. The
utter ruin of the Latin kingdom, however, was averted by the timely assistance
brought by Edward Prince of Wales, son of Henry the Second, king of England,
who appeared at Acre with a fleet and an army. The infidels were once more
defeated and driven back into Egypt, and a truce for ten years between the
sultan and the Christians was agreed upon. Prince
Edward then prepared for his departure, but, before encountering the perils of
the sea on his return home, he made his will; it is dated at Acre, June 18th,
A.D. 1272, and Brother Thomas Berard, Grand Master of the Temple, appears as
an attesting witness. Whilst the prince was pursuing his voyage to England,
his father, the king of England, died, and the council of the realm, composed
of the archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the bishops and barons of the
kingdom, assembled in the Temple at London, and swore allegiance to the
prince. They there caused him to be proclaimed king of .England, and, with the
consent of the queen-mother, they appointed Walter Giffard, archbishop of
York, and the earls of Cornwall and Gloucester, guardians of the realm.
Letters were written from the Temple to acquaint the young sovereign with the
death of his father, and many of the acts of the new government emanated from
the same place.
King Henry the Third was a great benefactor to
[paragraph continues] He granted them
the manors of Lilleston, Hechewayton, Saunford, Sutton, Dartfeld, and Halgel,
in Kent; several lands, and churches and annual fairs at Baldok, Walnesford,
Wetherby, and other places, and various weekly markets.
A.D. 1273. The Grand Master, Thomas Berard,
was succeeded by Brother William de Beaujeu, who came to England for the
purpose of obtaining succour, and called together a general chapter of the
order at London. Whilst resident at the Temple in that city, he received
payment of a large sum of money which Edward, the young king, had borrowed of
the Templars during his residence in Palestine. The
Grand Master of the Hospital also came to Europe, and every exertion was made
to stimulate the languid energies of the western Christians, and revive their
holy zeal in the cause of the Cross. A general council of the church was
opened at Lyons by the Pope in person; the two Grand Masters were present, and
took precedence of all the ambassadors and peers at that famous assembly. It
was determined that a new crusade should be preached, that all ecclesiastical
dignities and benefices should be taxed to support an armament, and that the
sovereigns of Europe should be compelled by ecclesiastical censures to suspend
their private quarrels, and afford succour to the desolate city of Jerusalem.
The Pope, who had been himself resident in Palestine, took a strong personal
interest in the promotion of the crusade, and induced many nobles, princes,
A.D. 1275. knights to assume the Cross; but
the holy pontiff died in the midst of his exertions, and with him expired all
hope of effectual assistance from Europe. A vast change had come over the
spirit of the age; the fiery enthusiasm of the holy war had expended itself,
and the Grand Masters of the Temple and Hospital returned without succour, in
sorrow and disappointment, to the East.
William de Beaujeu arrived at the Temple
of Acre on Saint Michael's Day, A.D. 1275, and immediately assumed the
government of Palestine. *
As there was now no hope of recovering the lost city of Jerusalem, he bent all
his energies to the preservation of the few remaining possessions of the
Christians in the Holy Land. At the expiration of the ten years' truce he
entered into a further treaty with the infidels, called "the peace of Tortosa."
It is expressed to be made between sultan Malek-Mansour and his son
Malek-Saleh Ali, "honour of the world and of religion," of the one part, and
Afryz Dybadjouk (William de Beaujeu) Grand Master of the order of the Templars,
of the other part. The truce is further prolonged for ten years and ten months
from the date of the execution of the treaty, (A.D. 1282;) and the contracting
parties strictly bind themselves to make no irruptions into each other's
territories during the period. To prevent mistakes, the towns, villages, and
territory belonging to the Christians in Palestine are specified and defined,
together with the contiguous possessions of the Moslems.
This treaty, however, was speedily broken, the war was renewed with various
success, and another treaty was concluded, which was again violated by an
unpardonable outrage. Some European adventurers, who had arrived at Acre,
plundered and hung nineteen Egyptian merchants, and the sultan of Egypt
A.D. 1291. hostilities, with the avowed
determination of crushing for ever the christian power in the East. The
fortress of Margat was besieged and taken; the city of Tripoli shared the same
fate; and in the third year from the re-commencement of the war, the christian
dominions in Palestine were reduced within the narrow confines of the strong
city of Acre and the Pilgrim's Castle. In the spring of the year 1291, the
sultan Khalil marched against Acre at the head of sixty thousand horse and a
hundred and forty thousand foot.
"An innumerable people of all nations and
every tongue," says a chronicle of the times, "thirsting for christian blood,
were assembled together from the deserts of the East and the South; the earth
trembled beneath their footsteps, and the air was rent with the sound of their
trumpets and cymbals. The sun's rays, reflected from their shields, gleamed on
the distant mountains, and the points of their spears shone like the
innumerable stars of heaven. When on the march, their lances presented the
appearance of a vast forest rising from the earth, and covering all the
landscape." . . . "They wandered round about the walls, spying out their
weaknesses and defects; some barked like dogs, some roared like lions, some
lowed and bellowed like oxen, some struck drums with twisted sticks after
their fashion, some threw darts, some cast stones, some shot arrows and bolts
from cross-bows." *
On the 5th of April, the place was regularly invested. No rational hope of
saving it could be entertained; the sea was open; the harbour was filled with
christian vessels, and with the galleys of the Temple and the Hospital; yet
the two great monastic and military orders scorned to retire to the
neighbouring and friendly island of Cyprus; they refused to desert, even in
its last extremity, that cause which they had sworn to maintain with the last
drop of their blood. For a hundred and seventy years
A.D. 1291. their swords had been constantly
employed in defending the Holy Land from the profane tread of the unbelieving
Moslem; the sacred territory of Palestine had been everywhere moistened with
the blood of the best and bravest of their knights, and, faithful to their
vows and their chivalrous engagements, they now prepared to bury themselves in
the ruins of the last stronghold of the christian faith.
William de Beaujeu, the Grand Master of
the Temple, a veteran warrior of a hundred fights, took the command of the
garrison, which amounted to about twelve thousand men, exclusive of the forces
of the Temple and the Hospital, and a body of five hundred foot and two
hundred horse, under the command of the king of Cyprus. These forces were
distributed along the walls in four divisions, the first of which was
commanded by Hugh de Grandison, an English knight. The old and the feeble,
women and children, were sent away by sea to the christian island of Cyprus,
and none remained in the devoted city but those who were prepared to fight in
its defence, or to suffer martyrdom at the hands of the infidels. The siege
lasted six weeks, during the whole of which period the sallies and the attacks
were incessant. Neither by night nor by day did the shouts of the assailants
and the noise of the military engines cease; the walls were battered from
without, and the foundations were sapped by miners, who were incessantly
labouring to advance their works. More than six hundred catapults, balistæ,
and other instruments of destruction, were directed against the
fortifications; and the battering machines were of such immense size and
weight, that a hundred wagons were required to transport the separate timbers
of one of them. *
Moveable towers were erected
A.D. 1291. by the Moslems, so as to overtop
the walls; their workmen and advanced parties were protected by hurdles
covered with raw hides, and all the military contrivances which the art and
the skill of the age could produce, were used to facilitate the assault. For a
long time their utmost efforts were foiled by the valour of the besieged, who
made constant sallies upon their works, burnt their towers and machines, and
destroyed their miners. Day by day, however, the numbers of the garrison were
thinned by the sword, whilst in the enemy's camp the places of the dead were
constantly supplied by fresh warriors from the deserts of Arabia, animated
with the same wild fanaticism in the cause of their religion as that
which so eminently distinguished the military monks of the Temple. On the
fourth of May, after thirty-three days of constant fighting, the great tower,
considered the key of the fortifications, and called by the Moslems the
cursed tower, was thrown down by the military engines. To increase the
terror and distraction of the besieged, sultan Khalil mounted three hundred
drummers, with their drums, upon as many dromedaries, and commanded them to
make as much noise as possible whenever a general assault was ordered. From
the 4th to the 14th of May, the attacks were incessant. On the 15th, the
double wall was forced, and the king of Cyprus, panic-stricken, fled in the
night to his ships, and made sail for the island of Cyprus, with all his
followers, and with near three thousand of the best men of the garrison. On
the morrow the Saracens attacked the post he had deserted; they filled up the
ditch with the bodies of dead men and horses, piles of wood, stones, and
earth, and their trumpets then sounded to the assault. Ranged under the yellow
banner of Mahomet, the Mamlooks forced the breach, and penetrated sword in
hand to the very centre of the city; but their victorious career and insulting
shouts were there stopped by the wail-clad Knights of the Temple and the
A.D. 1291. who charged on horseback through
the narrow streets, drove them back with immense carnage, and precipitated
them headlong from the walls.
At sunrise the following morning the air
resounded with the deafening noise of drums and trumpets, and the breach was
carried and recovered several times, the military friars at last closing up
the passage with their bodies, and presenting a wall of steel to the advance
of the enemy. Loud appeals to God and to Mahomet, to heaven and the saints,
were to be heard on all sides; and after an obstinate engagement from sunrise
to sunset, darkness put an end to the slaughter. On the third day, (the 18th,)
the infidels made the final assault on the side next the gate of St. Anthony.
The Grand Masters of the Temple and the Hospital fought side by side at the
head of their knights, and for a time successfully resisted all the efforts of
the enemy. They engaged hand to hand with the Mamlooks, and pressed like the
meanest of the soldiers into the thick of the battle. But as each knight fell
beneath the keen scimitars of the Moslems, there were none in reserve to
supply his place, whilst the vast hordes of the infidels pressed on with
untiring energy and perseverance. The Marshall of the Hospital fell covered
with wounds, and William de Beaujeu, as a last resort, requested the Grand
Master of that order to sally out of an adjoining gateway at the head of five
hundred horse, and attack the enemy's rear. Immediately after the Grand Master
of the Temple had given these orders, he was himself struck down by the darts
and the arrows of the enemy; the panic-stricken garrison fled to the port, and
the infidels rushed on with tremendous shouts of Allah acbar! Allah acbar!
"GOD is victorious." Three hundred Templars, the sole survivors of their
illustrious order in Acre, were now left alone to withstand the shock of the
victorious Mamlooks. In a close and compact column they fought their way,
accompanied by several
hundred christian fugitives, to the Temple, and
shutting their gates, they again bade defiance to the advancing foe.
A.D. 1291. The surviving knights now
assembled together in solemn chapter, and appointed the Knight Templar Brother
Gaudini Grand Master. The Temple at Acre was a place of great strength, and
surrounded by walls and towers of immense extent. It was divided into three
quarters, the first and principal of which contained the palace of the Grand
Master, the church, and the habitation of the knights; the second, called the
Bourg of the Temple, contained the cells of the serving brethren; and the
third, called the Cattle Market, was devoted to the officers charged with the
duty of procuring the necessary supplies for the order and its forces.
The following morning very favourable terms
were offered to the Templars by the victorious sultan, and they agreed to
evacuate the Temple on condition that a galley should be placed at their
disposal, and that they should be allowed to retire in safety with the
christian fugitives under their protection, and to carry away as much of their
effects as each person could load himself with. The Mussulman conqueror
pledged himself to the fulfilment of these conditions, and sent a standard to
the Templars, which was mounted on one of the towers of the Temple. A guard of
three hundred Moslem soldiers, charged to see the articles of capitulation
properly carried into effect, was afterwards admitted within the walls of the
convent. Some christian women of Acre, who had refused to quit their fathers,
brothers, and husbands, the brave defenders of the place, were amongst the
fugitives, and the Moslem soldiers, attracted by their beauty, broke through
all restraint, and violated the terms of the surrender. The enraged Templars
closed and barricaded the gates
A.D. 1291. of the Temple; they set upon the
treacherous infidels, and put every one of them, "from the greatest to the
smallest," to death. Immediately after this massacre the Moslem trumpets
sounded to the assault, but the Templars successfully defended themselves
until the next day (the 20th.) The Marshall of the order and several of the
brethren were then deputed by Gaudini with a flag of truce to the sultan, to
explain the cause of the massacre of his guard. The enraged monarch, however,
had no sooner got them into his power than he ordered every one of them to be
decapitated, and pressed the siege with renewed vigour. In the night, Gaudini,
with a chosen band of his companions, collected together the treasure of the
order and the ornaments of the church, and sallying out of a secret postern of
the Temple which communicated with the harbour, they got on board a small
vessel, and escaped in safety to the island of Cyprus.
The residue of the Templars retired into the large tower of the Temple, called
"The Tower of the Master," which they defended with desperate energy. The
bravest of the Mamlooks were driven back in repeated assaults, and the little
fortress was everywhere surrounded with heaps of the slain. The sultan, at
last, despairing of taking the place by assault, ordered it to be undermined.
As the workmen advanced, they propped the foundations with beams
of wood, and when the excavation was
completed, these wooden supports were consumed by fire; the huge tower then
fell with a tremendous crash, and buried the brave Templars in its ruins. The
sultan set fire to the town in four places, and the last stronghold of the
christian power in Palestine was speedily reduced to a smoking solitude. *
A few years back the ruins of the christian city of Acre were well worthy of
the attention of the curious. You might still trace the remains of several
churches; and the quarter occupied by the Knights Templars continued to
present many interesting memorials of that proud and powerful order.
165 Michaud Extraits Arabes, p. 549.
166 Steph. Baluz Miscell., lib. vi. p.
167 Marin Sanut, p. 217.
170 Matt. Par. p. 631 to 633, ad ann.
1244. "Huic scripto originali, quod erat hujus exemplum, appensa fuerunt
172 Matt. Par. p. 618-620.
172 Cotton MS. Nero E. VI. p. 60, fol. 466, vir
discretus et circumspectus; in negotiis quoque bellicis peritus.
172 Hospitalarii et Templarii milites neophitos
et manum armatam cum thesauro non modico illuc ad consolationem et auxilium
ibi commorantium festinanter transmiserunt. Epist. Pap. Innocent IV.
172 Matt. Par. p. 697, 698.
174 Literæ Soldani Babyloniæ ad Papam missæ, a
quodam Cardinali ex Arabico translatæ.--Matt. Par. p. 711.
174 Ibid. p. 733.
175 Matt. Par. p. 735.
175 Ib. in additamentis, p. 168, 169.
177 Quant les Templiers virent-ce, it se
penserent que it seroient honniz se it lessoient le Compte d’Artois aler
devant eulz; si ferirent des esperons qui plus plus, et qui miex miex, et
chasserent les Turcs. Hist. de San Louis par Jehan Sire de Joinville,
177 Nec evasit de totâ illâ gloriosâ militiâ
nisi duo Templarii.--Matt. Par. ad ann. 1250. Chron. Nangis, p.
178 Et à celle bataille frere Guillaume le
Mestre du Temple perdi l’un des yex, et l’autre avoit il perdu le jour de
quaresm pernant, et en fu mort ledit seigneur, que Dieux absoille.--Joinville,
178 Et sachez que il avoit bien un journel de
terre dariere les Templiers, qui estoit si chargé de pyles que les Sarrazins
leur avoient lanciées, que il n’i paroit point de terre pour la grant foison
179 Joinville, p. 95, 96.
179 Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 474, ad ann.
180 Matt. Par. ad ann. 1254, p. 899,
180 . . . Mandatum est Johanni de Eynfort,
camerario regis London, quod sine dilatione capiat quatuor dolia boni vini, et
ea liberet Johanni de Suwerk, ponenda in cellaria Novi Templi London. ad opus
nuntiorum ipsorum.--Acta Rymeri, tom i. p. 557, ad ann. 1255.
180 Et mandatum est Ricardo de Muntfichet,
custodi forestæ Regis Essex, quod eadem forestâ sine dilatione capiat X. damos,
et eos usque ad Novum Templum London cariari faciat, liberandos prædicto
Johanni, ad opus prædictorum nuntiorum.--Ib.
180 Acta Rymeri, p. 557, 558.
180 MCCLVI. morut frère Renaut de Vichieres
Maístre du Temple. Apres lui fu fait Maistre frère Thomas Berard.--Contin.
hist. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 736.
180 Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 698, 699,
181 Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 730, 878, 879, ad
181 Furent mors et pris, et perdirent les
Templiers tot lor hernois, et le commandeor du Temple frère Matthieu le
Sauvage.--Contin. hist. bell. sacr. ut sup. col. 737. Marin Sanut, cap.
182 Marin Sanut Torsell, lib. iii. pars
12, cap. 6, 7, 8. Contin. hist. bell. sacr. apud Martene, tom. v. col.
74.2. See also Abulfed. Hist. Arab. apud Wilkens, p. 223. De Guignes,
Hist. des Huns, tom. iv. p. 141.
182 Michaud, Extraites Arabes, p. 668.
182 De Vertot, liv. iii. Preuve. xiii.
See also epist. ccccii. apud Martene thesaur. anec. tom. ii. col. 422.
183 Facta est civitas tam famosa quasi solitudo
deserti.--Marin Sanut, lib. iii. pars. 12, cap. 9. De Guignes,
Hist. des Huns, tom. iv. p. 143. Contin. Hist. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 743.
Abulpharag. Chron. Syr. p. 546. Michaud, Extraits Arabes, p.
183 Marin Sanut ut sup. cap. 11, 12.
Contin. Hist. apud Martene, col. 745, 746.
183 En testimoniaunce de la queu chose, a ceo
testament avons fet mettre nostre sel, et avoms pries les honurables Bers
frere Hue, Mestre de l’Hospital, et frere Thomas Berard, Mestre du Temple, ke
a cent escrit meisent ausi lur seul, etc. Acta Rymeri, tom. i. p. 885,
886, ad ann. 1272.
183 Trivet ad ann. 1272. Walsingham, p. 43.
Acta Rymeri, tom, i. p. 889, ad ann. 1272, tom. ii. p. 2.
184 Monast. Angl., vol. vi. part 2, p. 800-844.
184 MCCLXXIII. a viii. jors d’Avri morut frere
Thomas Berart, Maistre du Temple le jor de la notre dame de Mars, et fa fait
Maistre a xiii. jors de May, frere Guillaume de Bieaujeu qui estoit outre
Commendeor du Temple en Pouille, et alerent por lui querire frere
Guillaume de Poucon, qui avait tenu lieu de Maistre, et frere Bertrand de Fox;
et frere Gonfiere fu fait Commandeor gran tenant lieu de
Maistre.--Contin. Hist. apud Martene, tom. v. col. 746, 747. This is the
earliest instance I have met with of the application of the term COMMANDER to
the high officers of the Temple.
184 Acta Rymeri, tom. ii. p. 34, ad ann.
185 Contin. hist. bell. sacr. apud Martene,
tom. v. col. 748.
185 Life of Malek Mansour Kelaoun. Michaud,
Extraits Arabes, p. 685, 686, 687.
186 De excidio urbis Aconis apud Martene
vet. script. tom. v. col. 767.
187 The famous Abul-feda, prince of Hamah,
surnamed Amod-ed-deen, (Pillar of Religion,) the great historian and
astronomer, superintended the transportation of the military engines from
Hasn-el-Akrah to St. Jean d’Acre.
190 Ex ipsis fratrem monachum Gaudini elegerunt
ministrum generalem. De excidio urbis Acconis apud Martene, tom. v. col
191 Videntes pulchros Francorum filios ac
filias, manus his injecerunt.--Abulfarag, Citron. Syr. p. 595.
Maledicti Saracen mulieres et pueros ad loca domus secretiora ex eisdem
abusuri distrahere conabantur, turpibus ecclesiam obscœnitatibus cum nihil
possent aliud maculantes. Quod videntes christiani, clausis portis, in
perfidos viriliter irruerunt, et omnes a minimo usque ad maximum occiderunt,
muros, turres, atque portas Templi munientes ad defensam.--De excid. Acconis
ut sup. col. 782. Marin Sanut ut sup. cap. xxii. p. 231.
191 Per totem noctem illam, dum fideles
vigilarent contra perfidorum astutiam, domum contra eos defensuri, fratrum
adjutorio de thesauris quod potuit cum sacrosanctis reliquiis ecclesiæ Templi,
ad mare salubriter deportavit. Inde quidem cum fratribus paucis auspicato
remigio, in Cyprum cum cautelâ transfretavit.--De excid. Acconis, col. 782.
192 De excidio urbis Acconis apud Martene,
tom. v. col. 757. De Guignes, Hist. des Huns, tom. iv. p. 162.
Michaud, Extraits Arabes, p. 762, 808. Abulfarag. Chron. Syr. p. 595.
Wilkens, Comment. Abulfed. Hist. p. 231-234. Marin. Sanut Torsell, lib.
iii. pars 12, cap. 21.