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8-08-2015, 16:05


Constant warfare, especially against the Muslims, gave rise to a new type of military man—one who combined the character and role of both monk and warrior. These knights, organized into military orders, served officially under the Pope but were essentially independent. Their grand master was both an abbot and a general. They lived under a modified Cistercian rule, and they took monastic vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. As monks, in theory they owned nothing; for example, their horses and armor were loaned to them by the order. In practice they became a wealthy and often arrogant standing army. Having studied Byzantine and Muslim castles and warfare, they built huge castles that changed castle design in Europe. These military orders were founded to protect the Christian holy places and to help pilgrims going to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem or to other shrines such as the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Two major orders were the Hospitalers and the Templars. The Hospitalers (the Brotherhood of the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem) was founded about 1070 to assist pilgrims. About 1120 they became a military order known as the Knights of St. John. The knights wore a distinctive black cape with a white cross. When Muslim forces finally drove the Christians from the Holy Land in 1191, they moved first to Rhodes, where they remained until 1522, and then to Malta. There they became the Order of Maltese Knights, and their cross with its split and spreading ends is now called the Maltese Cross. The German branch of the Hospitalers, approved by the Pope in 1199 to care for German pilgrims, became the Teutonic Knights. The Teutonic Knights could be recognized by their white cloaks with black crosses. In 1410 the Teutonic Knights established themselves in Prussia. The Order of the Temple of Jerusalem was founded in 1118 by Hugues de Payens. The Templars became an international order with over 9,000 commanderies and estates and 870 castles. In Palestine alone they built and manned eighteen castles, and they also fought in Spain and Portugal. Eventually they used their wealth to become international bankers. Suppressed in 1312 by the Pope at the instigation of the French king, Philip the Fair, their leaders were executed and their wealth confiscated. Surviving knights joined the Order of St. John or a new order, the Order of Christ founded by King Dinis of Portugal, in 1319/20. Their emblem was an equalarmed red cross with wide terminals, which they wore on a white cape. In 1160, the Knights of the Order of Christ had built a monasteryfortress at Tomar in Portugal, on the border between Christians and Moors. A huge rotunda—a two-story octagon with encircling passageway— commemorates the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. When the suppressed Templars moved to Tomar in 1356, they began to build a vast monastery. The addition of a nave in the sixteenth century turned the original Templar chapel into the sanctuary of the church. In the fifteenth century the Knights of Christ experienced a period of unprecedented influence when the king’s uncle, Prince Henry the Navigator (1418–60), was their grand master. The prince built two more cloisters at Tomar and building continued in the sixteenth century. Prince Henry used the enormous wealth of the order to finance the expeditions into the Atlantic and along the coast of Africa that eventually led to the explorations that rounded Africa and reached the Indies. Carrying the red cross of the order on their sails, the ships reached the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, India in 1498, and Brazil in 1500. The three ships of Columbus that sailed to America had the cross of the Order of Christ on their sails.