The Church through the pope or church council authorized knightly or military orders during the 12th and 13th centuries. The three most important were the Teutonic Knights, the Templars, and Hospitallers. These military orders were "true orders" of the Roman Catholic Curch. They were governed by the same rules that governing monks, similar to the Benedictine or Augustinian Rules. These orders were essentially only answerable to the authority of the pope. They also had some feudal fealties to both lay and other clerical bodies, which varied somewhat. Substantial numbers of knights and other individuals joined theseorders and became monks. They often joined these military orders and were used to garrison castles and other fortifications rather than join monastic orders. Like other monks, most of these knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These military orders played a prominent role in the Crusades and in the military history of Feudal Europe. These knights tried to live up to two important ideals of the 12th century, the ideals of the Catholic Church and that of knighthood and chilvery.
Medieval monastaries and abbys were great repositories of value. They were often the target of the Norsemen and other raiders because they were largely undefended. Some knights in the 11th century formed informal lay associations or fraternities to defend abbys and monestaries. This may have been the impetus for the formation of actual military orders in the 12th centuries. Here the pope played the leasing role to help invigiorate the crusades. The Church badly needed crack troops, shock troops in the modern parlance. These troops would devote their lives to the Church and its crusades. Thusmilitary orders were founded. These monks of war were knights who vowed poverty, chastity, and obedience. They were cimmitted to wage eternal war on the heretic enemies of the cross. The Knights Templar are perhaps the best known. The Knights of Malta fought to hold Jerusalem and Rhodes. Lter in the north, the Teutinic Knights destroy the Pruseei and brought Prussia into exisrence. The Templars brought a grisly end as the Church upressed the Catars. The Grand Master, Jacques de Molay was slowly burned to death. Soime of these orders endure today as relgious orders. [Seward]
The Church through the pope or church council authorized knightly or military orders during the 12th and 13th centuries. Part of the reason for the creation of these orders was the sam reason that the Church organized the Crusades. The Church not only desired to retake the Holy Land, but to reduce some of the intracine warfare persued by the nobility that was tearing Christian Europe apart. The first real military orders were founded in the Holy Land in the early 12th century in association with the Crusades. These orders were became the principal military force of the kingdoms established in the Crusades. The Crusades were mounted by the Pope and Western Catholic kingdomes. There was no desire to retuen the Holy Lands to the faltering Byzantine Empire. As a result, the Crusaders set up independent kingdoms. The military orders which sustained the Crusader kingdoms were notable as the professional standing armies in the West since he fall of Rome.
The Medieval code of chilvery was becoming widely accepted. An element here was the Christian idel. Knights were expected in the popular mind to fulfill a Christian duty to defend women, children and the weak.
The Crusades are the series of religious wars launched by the Medieval kingdoms of Euroope during the 11th-13th centuries to retake the Hollyland from Islamic rulers. Christian pilgrims after the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries had to travel through Islamic lands to venerate the great shrines in Jeruselum and other Biblical sites in the Holy Land. In addition the Ottoman Turks were increasingly encroaching on the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. The Turks apparently preyed upon Christian pilgrims. Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, perhaps concerned about the plight of the pilgrims, more likely seeking allies against the Turks, wrote to a friend Robert, the Count of Flanders, in 1093. He recounted the alegeded atrocities inflicted on the pilgrims by the Turks. Count Robert forwarded Comnenus' letter to Pope Urban II. Pope Urban like Emperor Comnenus perhaps
concerned about Christian pilgrims, more likely seeing a political opportunity, decided to promote a military crusade to seize the Holy Land from the infidel Turks. European Christians at the time were locked in intractable dynastic wars in England, France, Italy, and other domains, destabilizing large areas of Europe. The Pope sought to redirect the fighting to an infidel adversary. Pope Urban's crusade, the First Crusade, was launched in 1095.
The creation of these orders was controversial in the 12th century Catholic Church. There were churchmen felt that militarizing monastic orders was a violation of cannol law. They argued that priests were not supposed to kill. Others insisted that there was no violation of cannon law because the knights were lay brother and not clerics. There were some clerics in the military orders, but they were chaplains and did not serve as knights, sergeants or squires. Other critics in the Church complained that the military orders contravened the monastic ideal of withdrawing from the world. There was in the 11th century, however, a movement in the Church to use the teaching of the Church in daily life. The Peace and Truce of God movements were part of this reform. The Church began to establish colleges of canons, who lived in the world while still following religious rule.
There were numerous military orders authorized by the Church. Three were of special importance. The three most important were the Teutonic Knights, the Templars, and Hospitallers. These military orders were "true orders" of the Roman Catholic Curch. Besides these three major military orders there were a number of smaller less well known orders which developed in several European countries. In Spain were the orders of Santiago, Alcantara and Calatrava. In the Baltic were the orders of the Sword and of Dobrin. In England there was the order of St. Thomas of Acre. In Syria there was even an order composed of lepers, the Order of St. Lazarus.
They were governed by the same rules that governing monks, similar to the Benedictine or Augustinian Rules.
These orders were essentially only answerable to the authority of the pope. They also had some feudal fealties to both lay and other clerical bodies, which varied somewhat.
Substantial numbers of knights and other individuals joined these orders and became monks. They often joined these military orders and were used to garrison castles and other fortifications rather than join monastic orders.
Like other monks, most of these knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These military orders played a prominent role in the Crusades and in the military history of Feudal Europe. These knights tried to live up to two important ideals of the 12th century, the ideals of the Catholic Church and that of knighthood and chilvery.
The military irders were first established in the Crusader kingdoms, but the were employed in Europe as well. The military orders were employed in the Reconquistra against the Moors in Spain. They were used against the still pagan Slavs in the Baltics and Prussia. They were also used against the heretic Chartist movement in southern France.
With the battle to unify Germany in the 19th century, historians looked back and found heros in not only the German tribes which fought the Romans, but the Teutonic Knights that fought the Slavs on Germany's eastern borders. Infact, Germany's military symbol the iron cross was the heraldic symbol of the Teutonic Knights. The NAZIs in the 20th century were especially attracted to the mythology of the Teutonic Knights. Heinrich Himmler's father was a great devotee of German history and Medieval lore and greatly romantisized German history. His son Heinrich shared his interest and the deadly Schutzstaffel (SS) was modeled on the Teutonic Knihghts.
Some of these Medieval military orders still exist today. Some of these orders did nor survive the expulsion of the Christians from the Holy Land by the Muslim Turks in the 13th century. Others played a further role in European hidtory, such as the Teutonic Knights in wars with the Slavs iin Prussia and the Baltics. Some including the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights, and St. Lazarus, exist today as charitable organizations.
Crawford, Paul. "The Military Orders: Introduction, " The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies (1996).
Seward, Desmond. The Monk of War.
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