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The Knights Templar and Hospitaller

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"Surely it is an intrepid knight, protected on every side, who clothes his body with the armor of iron and his soul with the armor of faith."
Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

Early in the twelfth century, two orders of knights were founded, the Hospitallers and the Templars. The Hospitallers were not originally knights, but civilians managing the pilgrims' hospital of St. John at Jerusalem. In the mid-11th century the merchants of Amalfi founded the Hospital of Saint John at Jerusalem, which gave its name to the Hospitallers.

Hospices for pilgrims had been established along the routes leading from west to east before the crusades. Under Raymond of LePuy, the Hospitallers' second grand master, the order became a military order. Insecurity was prevailing throughout the Holy Lands and the military order, made up of lay brethren skilled in warfare, provided needed protection.

The Templars began as a small group of knights who undertook the protection of pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. Their earliest center was the ancient Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. As recruits came from Europe the orders grew rapidly in numbers. The Hospitallers and the Templars had the same status. The orders played a decisive part in defending the area's borders. They formed permanent armies whose ranks were constantly augmented by new recruits. The defense of fortresses and castles - whose upkeep and enlargement proved a financial burden for the monarchy or the lords - was handed over to the military orders.

With the quality, number and organization of their soldiers the military orders should have been a formidable asset to the western powers, however they were an independent and aggressive group. Later, both orders would be criticized for their independence from the king and the Church.

Next page: A Brief History of the Knights Templar.

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