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    The Templar Code For Dummies 1st Edition

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    A captivating look into the society of the Knights Templar
    Brought to you by the author of Freemasons For Dummies,
    The Templar Code is more than an intriguing cipher or a mysterious symbol – it is the Code by which the Knights Templar lived and died, the Code that bound them together in secrecy, and the Code that inspired them to nearly superhuman feats of courage and endurance.
    The Templar Code for Dummies reveals the meaning behind the cryptic codes and secret rituals of the medieval brotherhood of warrior monks known as the Knights Templar. This intriguing guide will cover such topics as who the Knights Templar were, how they rose so high and fell so far, and most importantly why there is so much interest in them today. The Templar Code For Dummies will explore myths and theories of Christian history that appear in the Da Vinci Code such as the quest for the Holy Grail, the Catholic Church's relationship with women that are hotly debated now with special emphasis on the Templar connection. It also explores the surprising part the Templars have played in some of the most important historic events of these past seven centuries, including the French Revolution, the birth of groups such as the Freemasons, and even the American Civil War.

    Part I - The Knights Templar and the Crusades
    Chapter 1. Defining the Templar Code
    Chapter 2. A Crash Course in Crusading
    Chapter 3. The Rise of the Knights Templar

    Part II - A Different Kind of Knighthood
    Chapter 4. Living in a Templar World
    Chapter 5. The Poor Knights Crash and Burn: The Fall of the Templars
    Chapter 6. Cold Case Files: The Evidence against the Templars

    Part III - After the Fall of the Templars
    Chapter 7. Templars Survive in Legend and in Fact
    Chapter 8. "Born in Blood": Freemasonry and the Templars
    Chapter 9. Modern-Day Templars

    Part IV - Templars and the Grail
    Chapter 10. The Templars and the Quest for the Holy Grail
    Chapter 11. The 21st Century Dawns with a New Grail Myth

    Part V - Squaring Off: The Church versus the Gospel According to Dan Brown
    Chapter 12. Templars and The Da Vinci Code
    Chapter 13. The Suppression of the "Feminine Divine": Truth or Feminist Fiction?
    Chapter 14. Getting Our Acts Together: Constantine and the Council of Nicaea

    Part VI - The Part of Tens
    Chapter 15. Ten Candidates for the Site of the Holy Grail
    Chapter 16. Ten Absolutely Must-See Templar Sites
    Chapter 17. Ten Places That May Be Hiding the Templar Treasure

    You can tell a lunatic by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
    —Umberto Eco

    Last October, the two of us received some happy news; after a long process of outlining, cutting, pasting, re-outlining, meetings, major changes, and more meetings, our editor called to say that victory was ours. This somewhat unusual project had made it into the list for 2007; in fact, it would be out by June. We would be doing a project we cared about a great deal, The Templar Code For Dummies. Any author will tell you that this is always a thrill. But the next piece of news was a little unnerving. The official launch date for the project had been set for the following Friday, which happened to be Friday, October 13th.

    For one brief moment, a chill of premonition slithered down our backs, like ice cubes at a frat-house party. After a few seconds of silence, we did what many people do when they have an uncomfortable moment of premonition; we both burst out laughing. It did help the shiver.
    The chill we felt wasn’t because we’re particularly superstitious, at least, no more so than anyone else. It was something far more disconcerting than mere superstition. Because for anyone who knows the lore of the Knights Templar, Friday, October 13, 1307, was the date that the Order was rounded up all across France in one single day, by order of the French king, Phillip IV, to be indicted on various charges of heresy. In fact, this is sort of superstition in reverse, because the reason that Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day, so the legend goes, is because of what happened to the Templars on that fateful date, seven centuries ago. Whistling in the cemetery, we decided it was the perfect launch date for the book.

    That particular Friday was the 699th anniversary. By the time this book is on the shelves, it will be precisely 700 years since the Knights Templar were arrested, and seven centuries haven’t dimmed the fascination people have with this mysterious, courageous, and singular brotherhood of knights.

    What is known for certain about the Knights Templar is a story with a larger-than-life aura of myth, that finished in an abrupt and almost unbelievable tragedy. Founded in A.D. 1119 by nine crusading French knights, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (known as the Knights Templar) shot across the political landscape like a meteor, vaulting from obscure guardians of pilgrims in Jerusalem to the most powerful and influential force of their age. They were fierce warriors, devout monks, and international bankers. Within half a century of their birth, they were men who walked with kings and advised popes, brokered treaties, and built castles and preceptories on a massive scale. Then, even more inexplicable than their rise came their fall, a harrowing plunge into arrest, trial, flight, and execution that shocked the medieval world, both East and West. The charges against them of heresy and sodomy were equally shocking, and are still debated by historians today.

    In fact, theories about the Templars are hotter today than ever before. Historians, researchers, wishful thinkers, and dreamers have claimed that the Templars lived on after their destruction, placing them in Portugal, Scotland, Switzerland, Nova Scotia, and Massachusetts. They are alleged to have sailed pirate ships, founded banking dynasties, and given birth to the Freemasons. Their explorations in the Holy Land have led to speculation that they found the Ark of the Covenant, the True Cross of Christ’s crucifixion, the head of John the Baptist, the Spear of Destiny, and the Holy Grail. They have alternately been described as pious guardians of the most sacred secrets of Christianity, and as heretical practitioners of occult and satanic rites. And more than one suicidal doomsday cult has claimed to be descended from the Templars, living in wait for the Intergalactic Grand Master’s mother ship to enter low-earth orbit and beam them aboard.

    In 2003, an author named Dan Brown published a modest sequel to a moderately successful mystery entitled Angels & Demons. Little did he know that he was handling fissionable material. The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 60 million copies in 44 languages, and is the eighth most popular book ever published. In it, Brown told the tale of the “true” nature of the legend of the Holy Grail. If you’re one of the seven or eight people left on earth who haven’t read it yet, allow us to spoil the ending for you. According to Brown, the Grail was not some humble cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, or even a golden, jewel-encrusted chalice. It was the bloodline of Jesus, a child born to Mary Magdalene from a union with Christ. The book tells of a mysterious organization that was created to keep the secret, and to protect the offspring of Christ and Mary down through the centuries. And that group, through a succession of plot twists, was — you guessed it — the Knights Templar.

    Dan Brown undoubtedly set out to tell a good story, but he couldn’t possibly have known that he was writing what would become a worldwide phenomenon. How could he have known that his book would cause millions of people to reexamine their own beliefs and those of their neighbors, inspiring thousands to make pilgrimages to the sites of his book in France and the United Kingdom, in search of a sign or symbol that would reveal some hidden truth to them? He might not have intended it, but, whether by chance or fate, that’s exactly what happened. And curiously, in spite of what many alarmed religious leaders feared, the result has been a greater interest in the origins of Christianity, and a whole world of readers whose faith seems to have been strengthened by what they’ve found.

    Brown, like so many others, looked at the Knights Templar and was intrigued by what he saw. The unanswered mysteries and outlandish legends surrounding them didn’t just spring out of nowhere, or even out of Mr. Brown’s fertile imagination. The Templars have been a pillar of Western mythology for centuries, and there’s no end in sight for the world’s obsession with the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.

  • #2
    About This Book
    We wrote this book to assemble the vast, outlandish, popular, and confusing lore of the Knights Templar into one convenient volume. The first four parts of the book strictly tell the Templar story; their rise, their fall, and the forces at work in the world that gave them birth. If you first encountered this stuff in The Da Vinci Code, you can go straight to Part V; that entire part is devoted to the questions raised by the novel, including the bloodline of Christ, the “sacred feminine,” and the mysterious relationship between those concepts and the Templars. It’s a unique approach, but it should give you a great overview of the Templars and their world, as well as a definite leg up at the office holiday party when somebody wants to talk your arm off about the Black Madonna Cult or the Council of Nicaea.

    We’re both writers, both history fanatics, and both obsessed with the Knights Templar. While other people may loll about, wasting their vacations broiling on the beaches of Cancun or falling down the ski slopes of Aspen, history cranks like us spend our free time taking off every year for the backcountry of France and Britain, Portugal, and Turkey, up at dawn every day to strap on a backpack and go sweat our way up another ruin. We know how to have a good time. Who wants to spend a vacation lolling on the beach with an umbrella drink in his hand?

    We’re hoping that in this book, all that sweat paid off. Together we’ve stood in the prison cell of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, reading the messages scratched onto the walls by the imprisoned knights. And together we’ve stood on the Isle de la Cite in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, where de Molay was burned at the stake for the amusement of the crowd that was, to the vindictive king’s disappointment, sullen rather than boisterous.

    Generally, people in the 14th century enjoyed a good burning or hanging or quartering, but no one was indulging in any satisfaction on that tragic day. The Templars had been the most formidable knights of Europe, brave warriors as well as monks sworn to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

    No one gave up more for the sake of his faith than a Knight Templar.
    Consequently, the Poor Knights, as they were sometimes called, had the respect of the entire Christian world, and even many in the enemy camp.

    When the brilliant soldier Saladin won back the Holy Land from the Crusaders, the prisoners he took who were to be beheaded at once, without question of ransom or the slave market, were the Templars. As far as Saladin was concerned, they were just too dangerous an enemy to be left alive. And never once did a Templar knight beg for his life. After the disastrous Battle of Hattin, they queued up in their hundreds to be slaughtered, each calmly waiting his turn.

    Everyone knew the legends of their almost foolhardy courage, and everyone knew what the Templars had sacrificed in order to secure the Holy Land for the sake of Christian pilgrims, so that the souls of the men and women on this journey could be saved from purgatory or damnation. In fact, one particular biblical quote from John 15:13 was something of an unofficial motto for the Templars: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The general consensus of the somber crowd on that bleak execution day in 1314 has been the general consensus of most people ever since: that the Templars were getting a very raw deal, whether they had fallen victim to some Eastern heresy or not.

    For us, ever since that prophetic launch date, we’ve had the feeling that the martyred de Molay could be looking over our shoulders, which made for two very nervous writers. More than anything else, we wanted to get it right. We think we have.

    Conventions Used in This Book
    We don’t use many conventions in this book — why use conventions when you’re talking about such an unconventional group of guys? — but we do use a couple:

    ● Any time we define a term for you, we throw some italic on it and put the definition nearby, often in parentheses. (We sometimes use italic for emphasis, too, because our editor won’t let us type in all caps — something about sounding hostile.)

    ● Web addresses and e-mail addresses appear in a funky font called monofont. It’s there so you can easily tell what to type in your Web browser and what to leave out.

    When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that we haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So, when using one of these Web addresses, just type in exactly what you see in this book, pretending as though the line break doesn’t exist. And if you do see a hyphen in a Web address, that means you’re supposed to type it.

    What You're Not to Read
    You don’t actually have to read anything in this book — we won’t test you on it, we swear — but we know you won’t be able to resist turning the page. When you do, you can safely skip anything marked by the Technical Stuff icon (see “Icons Used in This Book” for more on that). You can also skip sidebars (text in gray boxes), because they’re not critical to your understanding of the subject at hand.

    Foolish Assumptions
    The Templar Code For Dummies was written for a lot of different people, but we make a few superficial assumptions about you, without even knowing you or asking your relatives about your most embarrassing moments. With luck, one of these descriptions fits you like a chain-mail gauntlet:

    ● You know nothing about the Templars. If so, the whole story is here: the Crusades from which they emerged; the Christian society back home in Europe and the strange combination of religions and cultures they were surrounded by in the Holy Land; their skyrocketing fame among the movers and shakers in Rome and the capitals of the world; their lavish wealth and their creation of the banking business; their mysterious reputation as the “Grail knights”; and their abrupt fall and destruction.

    ● You know a little about the Templars. If you’ve already studied some about the knights, this book will put it all in perspective for you. It covers the facts and the legends, from the plausible to the downright preposterous.

    ● You first heard about this stuff in The Da Vinci Code. The Templar Code For Dummies is the book you need to make sense of Dan Brown’s connections between the Templars, the Priory of Sion, the Holy Grail, and the sacred feminine. As good as The Da Vinci Code is, what Brown wrote wasn’t a new theory — it’s been around for a while — and he left a lot out of the whole picture. In this book, we explore what the connections really are and where they might have come from.

    ● You are either a Christian or an interested bystander. Especially if you’re a Catholic, or just wonder what they say about all this hullabaloo, we clue you in on the Church’s position on the Templars, Constantine, Opus Dei, celibacy, Black Madonnas, and killer albinos.

    ● You are a Freemason. If so, this book is an essential. The fraternity of Freemasons has a modern Order of Knights Templar, and though they don’t profess a direct descent from the original 12th-century knights, an awful lot of claims have been made over the years about the Templar origins of the Masons. There’s more to the Templars than what the Masonic version says, and in this book we clear up the confusion.

    How This Book Is Organized
    If you sped right past the Table of Contents without bothering to signal, go back and take a look. You’ll see this book is divided into six easily digestible slices. Feel free to read them in any order. We don’t care. Really. Here’s what you’ll find inside.

    Part I: The Knights Templar and the Crusades
    You can’t tell the players without a program, and you can’t understand the Knights Templar without knowing a little bit about the Crusades. In this part, we give you the overall lay of the Templar landscape. In Chapter 1, we set out the road map that leads from Jesus and Mary Magdalene to the Templars and the Holy Grail. In Chapter 2, we cram hundreds of years of crusading history into one densely packed, whirlwind tour of mucking about in the Holy Land. Finally, in Chapter 3, we trace the very beginnings of the Order as protectors of pilgrims, through their incredible rise in power and prestige as the bankers, landlords, and ecclesiastical fat cats of the Christian world.

    Part II: A Different Kind of Knighthood
    This section is the red meat of the Templar story — who they were, what they became, how they got whacked, and who did it to them. In Chapter 4, we give you a rundown on the harsh daily lives of the men who chose to become these warrior monks. Chapter 5 examines their annihilation just two centuries later by a king, a pope, and possibly their own successes and excesses. Chapter 6 takes a closer look at the accusations against the Order made during their trial, and pieces together the evidence that was used to make the case — from the serious and creepy, to the outlandish and cockamamie.

    Part III: After the Fall of the Templars
    In this part, we pick up the trail of mythology that followed the destruction of the Templars. Chapter 7 takes a closer look at what we do know about the Templars after their arrest, trial, and convictions, as well as what we think we know. Chapter 8 examines the possibility that the fraternity of Freemasons crawled out of the ashes of the Order, along with taking a peek at the modern-day Masonic Knights Templar. And in Chapter 9, you discover some other, lesser-known groups that claim to be the 21st-century heirs to the Templar legacy.

    Part IV: Templars and the Grail
    The Knights Templar and the story of the Holy Grail were twin sons of the same mother, born out of the Crusades. This part explores the Grail myths of the West, their connection to the Templars, and the place of the knights in the new Grail-mania brought on by The Da Vinci Code. Chapter 10 goes back to the beginning to examine the very first Grail stories, their links to both Christians and pagans, and how they led to the ideas of chivalry, courtly love, and King Arthur. Chapter 11 discusses the Grail myth of the 21st century, the supposed bloodline of Christ, starting in the b.d.b. (Before Dan Brown) era with the first modern researchers who proposed the startling notion that Jesus had a wife. From there the tale heads to the south of France, to the mysterious hill town of Rennes-le-Chateau, and to the legends of the Cathars, who play a major role in the Grail stories of the past and present.

    Part V: Squaring Off: The Church versus the Gospel According to Dan Brown
    If you picked up this book because The Da Vinci Code was the first place you’d ever read about the Templars and you wanted to find out more, you may want to turn to this part first. For every Christian reader who found new interest in the history of his faith, there was another who was upset or angered by Dan Brown’s alternative theories of his alleged “true” story of Christianity. And the Catholic Church wasn’t exactly thrilled with Brown’s version either.

    Dan Brown said that his famous novel was a fictional account based in fact, so this part examines the historical claims put forth in The Da Vinci Code. Chapter 12 looks at Dan Brown’s version of the Knights Templar as the warrior wing of the secretive Priory of Sion, their survival, and their ongoing secret mission to protect the bloodline of Christ. Chapter 13 explores Brown’s many assertions about the history of women before and after the Christian era, the Church’s real historical attitude toward women, and some surprising aspects about Christian women and the sacred feminine. Chapter 14 presents the amazing behind-the-scenes politics in the creation of the Bible we know today. We delve into the significance of the Apocryphal biblical books, and the story behind the recently discovered Gnostic Gospels that have caused many to change the entire structure of their faith. We fearlessly tread on the role of celibacy in history and in the Church, and its survival into the present day. We finish with the place of the Knights Templar in the newly emerging picture of Christianity, and the latest theories of Templar influence on the survival of these alternative gospels and the secrets they contain.

    Part VI: The Part of Tens
    This part of the book cuts to the chase and taunts travelers, tourists, treasure-trove hunters, and tall-tale tellers with tantalizing tidbits and Templar tchotchkes. (Please, make him stop.) Chapter 15 explores ten possible candidates for the location of the Holy Grail. Strap on your backpack, grab your camera, and strike out for the ten must-see Templar sites in Chapter 16. Chapter 17 points you in ten different directions to start hunting for the hiding place of the fabled Templar treasure: long forgotten gospels, secret documents, gold and silver, the fabled Ark of the Covenant, or even the Holy Grail itself.

    Where to Go from Here
    The best news you’ve heard all day is that this is not like a textbook. The genius of the For Dummies series is that it’s designed so you can come and go as you please. If you want to know it all, get all the hot dates, and find the secrets to cutting in line at the bank, start at the title page and read until you hit the back cover. If you prefer, you can skip chapters that don’t interest you without hurting our feelings. Does the prospect of reading about the Crusades make your head throb like you’re at a Bow Wow concert with your kid sister? If so, skip Chapter 2. Want to know why your grandfather has a sword in the attic that says he’s a Knight Templar, even though he can’t wear armor with his bad knee? Head over to Chapter 8. Want to know where the Holy Grail might be hiding so you can grab a pickax and get right to work chopping through some old church floor? (Don’t get caught.) Go directly to Chapter 15.


    • #3
      Part I
      The Knights Templar and the Crusades

      In this part . . .
      This part begins, appropriately enough, with a general overview of the Knights Templar — who they were and what they believed in, as well as a condensed version of the symbols, accomplishments, and legacy of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.

      You can’t tell the story of the Knights Templar without at least a nodding acquaintance with the turbulent period of bloodshed known as the Crusades, so buckle your seat belt for Chapter 2, which is the top-speed, full-blast, high-gear version of the medieval wars in the Holy Land. We start with the Very Big Picture — the battle between the Christian West and the Islamic East — and then narrow down to the Holy Land itself — the prize that both sides were after. Then we zoom in even closer in Chapter 3, to the incidents on the road to Jerusalem that gave birth to the Knights Templar, the most powerful force in Christendom, and how their meteoric rise to the halls of power and the splendor of gold catapulted them to a dizzying height.

      Chapter 1
      Defining the Templar Code

      In This Chapter
      ● Getting your feet wet on the subject of warrior/monks

      ● Following the Templars through the Holy Land

      ● Seeing Templars as bankers, diplomats, and nation builders

      ● Discovering Templar codes

      Thus in a wondrous and unique manner they appear gentler than lambs, yet fiercer than lions. I do not know if it would be more appropriate to refer to them as monks or as soldiers, unless perhaps it would be better to recognize them as being both. Indeed they lack neither monastic meekness nor military might. What can we say of this, except that this has been done by the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes. These are the picked troops of God, whom he has recruited from the ends of the earth; the valiant men of Israel chosen to guard well and faithfully that tomb which is the bed of the true Solomon, each man sword in hand, and superbly trained to war.
      —St. Bernard of Clairvaux, In Praise of the New Knighthood (1136)

      In A.D. 1119, the Order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon formed in the wake of the First Crusade, and the world had never seen anything quite like them. They were knights, dedicated to the same unwritten, medieval, chivalric code of honor that governed most of these fierce, professional fighting men on horseback throughout Europe and the Holy Land. But they also took the vows of devoutly religious monks, consigning themselves to the same strict code of poverty, chastity, and obedience that governed the brotherhoods of Catholic monks who spent their ascetic lives cloistered in monasteries. These were no mercenaries who fought for money, land, or titles. They were Christ’s devoted warriors, who killed when it was necessary to protect the Holy Land or Christian pilgrims.

      The Templars became the darlings of the papacy and the most renowned knights on the battlefields of the Crusades. They grew in wealth and influence and became the bankers of Europe. They were advisors, diplomats, and treasurers. And then, after an existence of just 200 years, they were destroyed, not by infidel warriors on a plain in Palestine, but by a French king and a pliant pope. In the great timeline of history, the Templars came and went in an astonishingly brief blink of an eye. Yet, the mysteries that have always surrounded them have done nothing but circulate and grow for nine centuries.

      In this chapter, we give you a quick tour of who the Knights Templar were, and the two seemingly contradictory traditions of war and religion they brought together to create the first Christian order of warrior monks. We also discuss the meanings of the codes they lived by, both the code of behavior that governed their daily lives and the secret codes that became part of their way of doing business.

      Knights, Grails, Codes, Leonardo da Vinci, and How They All Collide

      Everyone loves a mystery. Agatha Christie wrote 75 successful novels in a career that spanned decades, with estimated total sales of over 100 million. Her stories remain a fixture in the bookstore, as well as in film and television. But Agatha Christie always neatly wrapped up the mystery by the end of the story. The historical mysteries examined in the tale of the Templars are far more complex, and it’s rarely possible to tie them up with a ribbon and pronounce them solved.

      Interest in the Templars, the Holy Grail, and various mysteries of the Bible have something in common with lace on dresses or double-breasted suits; over the course of the last couple of centuries, the mania will climb, reach a peak, then recede into the background, consigned to the cutout bin of life, to be picked up, brushed off, and brought to rousing life once more by a new generation with a fresh perspective.

      The bare facts are simple. After two centuries of pride and power, the Templars went head to head with the dual forces that would destroy them — the Inquisition, and the man who used it as his chief weapon, Phillip IV, called Phillip the Fair, king of France, whose nickname definitely described his looks and not his ethics.

      In the heresy trials that followed, the Templars were often accused of being Cathars, a form of Gnostic Christianity that was deemed a heresy by the Catholic Church. We explain Gnosticism in greater detail in Chapter 14, but speaking simply, the Gnostics were dualists, believing that the world was a place of tension between good and evil, light and darkness. The Templar Code may best be defined in the same way — a dual ethic, with two meanings: the decidedly unspiritual violence of the warrior knights on the one side, contrasted with the devoutly spiritual nature of religious life as monks on the other. The most common image signifying the Templar Knights was that of two Templars, armed for battle and riding the same horse together (see Figure 1-1). It was the perfect shorthand for both their fierceness in fighting, and the vow of poverty they lived by.

      Figure 1-1: A statue outside of the London Temple church depicting two Templar Knights on the same horse — symbolizing both poverty and fierceness.


      • #4
        You’d be hard pressed to find a more important and enduring myth in the Christian West than that of King Arthur, his Table Round, and the quest of his knights for the Holy Grail. The Templars were always another pillar of Western mythology, side by side with the Holy Grail legends. The two fables cross constantly along the way, and the many parallels between the Templars and the story of Arthur and the Grail, the parable of a man’s reach exceeding his grasp, may explain, at least in part, the continuing hold of the noble Templar legend on the Western imagination, seven centuries after the destruction of the Order.

        And then Dan Brown wrote a book called The Da Vinci Code, and people’s perceptions of the Knights Templar, and just about everything in their world, changed almost overnight. The Templars were described as sinister gray eminences, dark powers behind the throne, keepers of the true Grail, the most dangerous secret of Christianity. Nowadays, truth can be almost anticlimactic. Yet the truth of the Templars is anything but a bore. It’s a story of the highest in the land brought low by greed and envy, of Crusader knights and Islamic warlords, of secret rituals, torture and self-sacrifice, and mysteries that still beguile the historians of the Middle Ages and beyond.

        Right now, we’re living in a time when interest in the Templars is at an all-time high, and the reason for it is the intriguing way that all these mysteries, and many more, weave in and out of one another, touching, drifting apart, and then coming together again: Templars, the Grail, the Gnostic Gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Spear of Destiny, the heresy of Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus — they’re all tied to one another, with all the same players, in all the same events. The Templar story begins 900 years ago.

        The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon
        Yep, that’s the full name of the Knights Templar. This name changes here and there, depending on the translation. Obviously, St. Bernard and the others who gave the order this final moniker wanted to make sure that everything about them but their shoe size was reflected in their title.

        The Temple of Solomon
        The origin of the temple that makes up the name of the Templars is King Solomon's Temple, described in the Old Testament books of 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings. It was believed to have been constructed in approximately 1,000 b.c. by the wise Solomon, son of King David.

        The temple was the most magnificent monument to man's faith constructed during the biblical era. Its innermost sanctuary, the Sanctum Sanctorum, was built to hold the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the sacred words of God—the tablets Moses was given that contained the Ten Commandments. (The temple complex occupied what is known as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, dominated by the Islamic Dome of the Rock; see the first image in this sidebar). It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 b.c.

        A second temple (see the second image in this sidebar) was rebuilt on the same spot by Zerubbabel in 516 b.c. after the Jews had been released by the Babylonians 70 years before. This Temple was of a slightly different design and was extensively renovated and enlarged by King Herod the Great in 19 b.c. (This is the temple that Jesus threw the moneylenders out of, described in Matthew 21.) The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in a.d. 70 during the Jewish rebellion.

        The Templars were granted the area of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, former site of King Solomon’s Temple (see the nearby sidebar “The Temple of Solomon”) as their Holy Land headquarters. This is where the term Templar originated.

        The Templars soon had a nickname, simply the Order of the Temple. Then later came Knights Templar, as well as White Knights, Poor Knights, and just plain Templars.

        Defining knighthood
        Templar Knights started life simply as knights. The word knight carries with it so much mythological baggage that it may seem a ridiculous question, but just what is a knight, anyway?

        You probably think you know all about knighthood, because you’ve seen Sean Connery, Orlando Bloom, and Heath Ledger each play one. Well, actually, if you have, then you do already know quite a lot. The Hollywood treatment of knighthood and its rituals has been right more often than it’s been wrong, which is an amazing thing from an industry known the world over for its cavalier contempt for historical accuracy.

        Roman origins
        The concept of knighthood is an old one. The word itself — whether it was knight in English, chevalier in French, or ritter in German — simply means a cavalry warrior, one who did battle from the back of a horse instead of clomping along in the mud with the infantry. In the beginning, this didn’t necessarily make him a person of higher rank than an infantryman. The cavalry warriors of the Roman army were called equitatae, a pretty squishy word that just means “mounted.”

        The medieval knight
        The cavalry knight of the Middle Ages grew into a powerful force as the centuries passed. And the knight was inseparable from the feudal system in which he lived. As with everything else in Europe, Rome had a hand in the creation of the feudal system. This feudalism, from its very inception, was essentially a contract. The knight and his own vassals made various promises to their lord, to pay taxes or to serve him in wartime for a certain number of days each year, often 40 days, while the lord also made various promises.

        Knights were proud and powerful men, with squires and servants, and so on, but their influence shouldn’t be overstated. Where the feudal chain of power was concerned, knights were close to the bottom, at least at first. A knight errant was a knight who had no lands, a little higher than a paid mercenary. For the knight errant, his first goal was to gain lands in battle, and he fought in the hope of being granted a fief by his overlord in gratitude for services rendered. Eventually, this knightly rank and vow of service became hereditary, and with these inherited titles came land and greater privileges.

        A strange development in the history of knighthood was that these warriors, who were not necessarily of noble birth or great wealth, were great military leaders. As a result, the nobility became envious of this “lower class” of men, and became knights themselves. Later orders of knights, Templars included, always preferred their knights to be at least the petty nobility to be a part of their groups, to lend them greater prestige. By this time, sons of earls, dukes, and even kings proudly bore the title of knight. Eventually, it made economic sense for the nobility to be knights — it was an expensive way of life to buy horses and equipment, and working slobs didn’t have the kind of leisure hours needed to train themselves for battle.

        The decline of the knight
        After the fall of Rome, battle tactics changed quite a bit in the following centuries. With the development of body armor, a mounted knight became a far more powerful adversary than a much larger number of men on foot, and knights formed the power core of armies in the way foot soldiers once had. Socially, the feudal system lingered for centuries. But the real end of knighthood, military knighthood, came with changing military tactics. More than any other factor, the development of greater speed, power, and accuracy in the bow and arrow would spell the doom of the knight in the field.


        • #5
          Flipping the bird: The sign of victory
          Like many coarse and vulgar Americanisms that have gone worldwide, if you travel in England, you'll see people from cabbies to pub brawlers use a classic American gesture of defiance — arm extended, fist closed, middle finger pointing in solitary contempt into the air. But this is a relatively recent development, the U.S. pollution of a much funnier British hand gesture. As late as The Benny Hill Show or the terrifically funny Carry On movies of the 1960s, you see the British using their own, centuries-old method of "flicking thine enemy the royal bird." The English version looked more like a victory sign — once more, arm extended, fist in the air, but with two fingers up, the index and middle finger. This gesture has a noble, if mythical, history. In several battles with the French, the British military discovered that their most valuable force against a superior number of mounted knights was their skilled archers. The technology of armor-piercing arrows was getting better all the time. And so, the government unleashed a program of training the peasantry in archery, with prizes awarded, clubs formed, and such, to try to make it fun, as well as a point of national pride. They succeeded. All across England, at dusk on the village green after the day's work was done, men practiced their archery, every day. At the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, British archers as a military force reached their peak of rapid fire, power, and skill, bringing down thousands of French mounted knights and winning a battle in which they had been greatly outnumbered.

          Consequently, the French cooked up a counteroffensive. Whenever a British foot soldier was captured in battle, the first two fingers of his right hand were amputated, so that he could never again draw a bow. For centuries afterward, when British soldiers wanted to razz the enemy, they would raise their two fingers high up into the air, with a "you didn't get mine, you froggy so-and-so" attitude, usually accompanied by colorful raspberries and shouts about the morals of the French soldiers' mothers. During the dark days of the Blitz in World War II, when Hitler's rockets rained down on London, killing thousands, it became, once more, a treasured symbol of British defiance. That's the legend, anyway.

          By the late 16th century and the development of field artillery, the warrior knight of the Middle Ages was already more of a mythic figure than an effective force on the battlefield. Though some still rode horses and wore armor, and hereditary knighthood continued to be passed from father to son, the legendary knights of the crusading period were already the stuff of moldy tapestries and mythic tales.

          Defining monasticis
          Monasticism grew out of an idea as old as knighthood. In even the most ancient pagan faiths, there were legends of monks and hermits, men who separated themselves from society, living in caves or the out of doors, in order to achieve a closer relationship to the spiritual. Despite the fact that monks live in communities, the word monasticism comes from the Greek word monachos, which means “living alone,” in reference to these lone hermits who inspired it. Not just Christianity, but Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Jainism (a peaceful Indian sect of ascetics) all practice monasticism. Organized Christian monasticism goes back at least as far as the fourth century. As the ideal picked up speed, it formed into the more common orders we know today — the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, and so on. But the name of the game was the same for all. Though each order had its own character, patron saint, and principle type of devotion (as in aiding the sick, teaching, or being strictly a “contemplative” order, devoted to prayer), all monks lived a bare and vigorous existence.

          Both jobs — knight and monk — were definitely enough to keep you busy. They were also about as opposite in their goals, actions, and beliefs as two occupations could be; monks were not even allowed to carry a weapon, no matter how dangerous was the pagan territory they were sent into to spread the gospel to the barbarians, mostly the descendants of the Visigoths and Huns who’d brought down the might of Rome. Nevertheless, rather than fight, monks were expected to die for their faith if necessary. Moreover, they were expected to die well, because first impressions are so important where nonbelievers are concerned.

          Warrior Monks: Their Purpose
          What made the Knights Templar unique in history was that they decided to take on both obligations, knight and monk. They would be warriors for God, sworn to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It was a startlingly new concept to the Christian West, and there was a great deal of resistance to it at first. But the idea seized the imagination of the charismatic figure of the Cistercian Order, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who pushed it through the ecclesiastical bureaucracy.

          And so, by papal command, the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon was born. They were also given, in a series of papal bulls, powers and privileges that had never before been extended to any single arm of the Church. (A papal bull is an official statement-of-position document issued by a pope, named for the bulla, or round wax seal, affixed to the document.) The Templars were, in effect, now answerable only to the pope in everything they did. But, like most things in life, that power came with a price.

          In the recent wave of books and movies featuring Templars, one thing seems to come across above all else: They were loaded. Everyone seems to know that there’s a lost Templar treasure out there. But this had nothing to do with the way a Knight Templar lived in the day to day. In the Middle Ages, faith was woven into the fabric of life in a way that would be nearly impossible to explain to the modern, secular mind. Only the life of a person in a religious cult would come close, and even that is a flawed comparison. In this medieval world of faith, laymen gave up all sorts of things for the sake of their belief in

          God. Monks, priests, and nuns gave up a great deal more: love, marriage, children, freedom, luxury, and any sort of self-indulgence, down to the smallest, most inconsequential comforts.
          But few gave up more for the sake of his faith than a Knight Templar. We discuss the daily life of a Templar in more detail in Chapter 4, but for the time being, suffice it to say that the wealth belonged to the order and most decidedly not to any individual knight. At that time, the holiest of men and women lived a life of asceticism, a constant state of self-denial. The quantity and quality of food was extremely limited; the Templars were allowed the luxury of meat three times a week on the theory that, as fighting men, they needed it. But eating it wasn’t much fun — for monks, nuns, and Templars, meals were taken in silence, generally while scripture was being read. The monastic day was roughly divided into four-hour sections, called the Liturgical Hours, or the divine office, the seven Catholic hours being Matins, Lauds, Vespers, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline. Each one represented another trip to chapel, for Mass or prayers or readings from Scripture and the Church fathers. Even a good night’s sleep was interrupted for a trip to the chapel to pray. No personal possessions were allowed under any circumstances; all that these people owned were the clothes on their back. Visits to and from family were discouraged, because it tied a person to his old life. A Templar was even expected to have light in his private chamber at all times, to prevent even the accusation of hanky-panky.

          Some other monastic orders had stricter rules for daily life, but they certainly weren’t risking their lives in battle. Along with giving up a wife and children, possessions, and freedom, Templars were also expected to give up their lives fighting for the faith. A Templar was not allowed to retire from the battlefield, even to regroup, unless the enemy had a three-to-one superiority. Whenever Crusader knights went into battle, the highest casualty rates were always among the Templars.

          There were perks, of course, here and there, particularly for the officers of a commandery. In the Holy Land, there were few higher in the new kingdom of Jerusalem than the Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He advised the court in all matters — foreign, domestic, and military. The Templars walked with popes and kings, their courage and their honesty never questioned, which is what made their breakneck fall from grace so much more shocking.


          • #6
            A vow of nine crusader knights
            We cover the concept of pilgrimage in more detail in Chapter 2. Here, we must explain one thing: The other two major monotheistic faiths — Judaism and Islam — both practiced the obligation of pilgrimage to holy places. Although pilgrimage isn’t written down in Christian ritual, it was no less important to medieval believers. Almost since the beginning, pilgrimage was considered a way to save a soul in peril. And Jerusalem was ground zero for Christians, the holiest of holies. Medieval mapmakers referred to it as the “navel of the earth,” the center of all things. When the Holy Land was in the hands of the Christian Byzantine Empire, this was no problem. The roads were hazardous, yet people generally got there alive. But when the property was stolen by waves of Islamic Seljuq Turks in the 11th century, pilgrims were risking life and limb to get there. They were attacked on the road constantly, not only by the Turks, but by various unsavory bands of thieves and cutthroats. Going in groups didn’t help; the brigands were a lot tougher than the people who had come to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

            After the First Crusade, Jerusalem was back in the hands of Christians for the first time in four centuries. But afterward, the majority of the knights went home, back to their feudal obligations. There were barely enough men to garrison the city; there were none to protect the countryside.

            One lone knight of Champagne named Hugues de Payens decided that there was something gravely wrong here. What good did it do to take back the Holy Land, if it was still too dangerous a place for pilgrims to visit? With the help of his brother in arms Godfrey de St. Omer of Picardy, they gathered together seven more knights, probably in the year 1119, and vowed to patrol the road from the coast to Jerusalem, in order to protect the Christian pilgrims. What made this vow remarkable — absolutely unprecedented in Christian history, in fact — was that they promised to live as monks as well. Theirs was the holiest of missions, and they decided that the drinking, whoring, and brawling of the typical knight was not appropriate for them. Instead, they voluntarily chose to live by the monastic rule, swearing poverty, chastity, and obedience, on top of the vow to put their lives on the line each day to see Christian pilgrims safely to Jerusalem.

            The Templar order grew, though we have no figures from such an early period. They applied for official recognition from King Baldwin of Jerusalem, which he granted eagerly, offering them the plum quarters of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, just opposite his own palace. The Christians did not call this place Al-Aqsa, but rather the Temple of Solomon. From here came the various legends of the Temple of Solomon that would forever be associated with their name.

            Don't leave home without it: The Templars' role as international bankers

            After a time, the Templars decided that simply protecting pilgrims physically wasn’t quite enough. Anything that they did to make the whole process easier was an act of grace. And the biggest problem pilgrims had was making safe passage carrying the money they needed to cover them for the long period of time that they’d be gone from home.

            The Templars also became something of a travel agency for pilgrims, recommending routes and carriers, offering aid for injured or lost travelers, and even providing security vaults in which pilgrims could store their most precious valuables until they returned. Even kings availed themselves of this service; King John of England once gave over the Crown Jewels to the Templars for safekeeping, during one of the many and various periods in which he felt his position on the throne to be a bit shaky.

            Templar banking was born, and it was a godsend to knights and pilgrims traveling such a distance. Out of it was created the West’s first international banking system, a system not dissimilar from the one we have today.

            Templars could help a Christian who wanted to mortgage his property to pay for his journey, giving him the cash, and then setting up various holding companies to help insure for the knight on Crusade that he didn’t find his property bought out from underneath him before his return.

            Say, for example, that you’ve decided to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

            You’re probably going to be gone at least a year. No matter how simply you travel, you’re going to need access to funds on your journey, and particularly on your arrival. But the state of the roads to Jerusalem, not to mention the routes by ship, with the toughs and uglies hanging out at the docks, would make carrying your money on your person an unbelievably stupid thing to do. With the help of the Knights Templar, a pilgrim could travel with relatively little cold hard cash in his money belt. He could deposit his money at his local Templar commandery or preceptory, which were the Templar centers of Europe and the Near East. At the height of their power, there were an astounding 9,000 of Templar properties in Europe alone (although, admittedly, not all were preceptories). After making the deposit, a pilgrim was given a check. On the way to the Holy Land, he could present this check at any Templar preceptory and withdraw some or all his money.

            They were definitely a full-service bank, and it’s easy to see from these services that the Templars very soon found themselves indispensable in the day-to-day lives of nobles, merchants, and landowners in the 12th and 13th centuries. And as the Crusader States (the four Latin states founded by the Crusaders in the Holy Land at the beginning of the 12th century) became a fixture in the Near East, the Templars were there, negotiating, brokering treaties, helping the kings of Europe to deal with the Saracens who seemed so alien to them. The Templars knew the language and the culture of Islam, and they got very buddy-buddy with many Muslims as the centuries passed. Too buddy-buddy, according to the Inquisition, who used the Templars’ knowledge of Eastern customs and faiths to build a case that their pure Christian faith had been “tainted” by this exposure to the infidel. Chapter 5 features a detailed discussion of this business of the “Syrianization” of the Frankish knights, and even more so of the Templars, a process that occurred over two centuries of contact with the exotic cultures of the East.

            Last but far from least, the Templars were builders. Many of their European preceptories were acquired properties, farms, and manor houses willed to them by the devout. But along the frontiers in Palestine, in Spain, and even in the Baltic, the Templars built magnificent commanderies to hold the Christian borders against the Muslims. These commanderies were like cities, and they had it all — chapel, armory, barracks, training grounds and classrooms, as well as equipment for fortification.

            Although some of the commanderies are no longer in existence, many still stand, like Tomar in Portugal or Atlit in Syria. They are a testament to Templar skill as architects and masons. In fact, one of the more common theories linking the Freemasons to the Templars is the fact that Templars had the best stonemasons in the world working for them, and Freemasonry grew out of the great medieval guilds of the stonemasons. Countless other secret societies throughout history have either been accused of being Templars, or have proudly claimed a tie that may or may not exist. (For more on these various theories of Templars in other secret societies, turn to Chapter 8.)

            Templars in Battle
            The Grand Master of the Knights Templar was a very important man in the war councils of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, as well as the other three Crusader States. The Crusader armies organized in Western Europe were a motley crew — true feudal knights in service to a crusading lord; the peasant vassals underneath them, who knew little of war but were tossed in to flesh out the troops; paid mercenaries in the service of the particular king or warlord on Crusade; and last but not least, the sea of pilgrims who drifted into the Holy Land during all the Crusades, the least militarily skilled of all. Men literally dropped by the local Crusader holdings in places like Acre after their arrival in Palestine, to see if they could pitch in and help for a few months, as if it were a barn raising. The Templars, with their skill and courage, were the cream at the top, as well as the glue that held this chaotic assortment together.

            The legend of Templar superiority on the battlefield was no myth. In 1177, King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and a force of 500 troops were pinned down by the Muslim warrior Saladin’s army of 26,000. A contingent of just 80 Templars arrived to assist Baldwin. Through surprise and shrewd battle tactics, the Christian forces attacked Saladin at Montgisard. Saladin was forced to retreat with less than 3,000 of his soldiers left. The Templars were revered for their policy of being the first to take up the battle and the last to retreat.

            The Templars, and the Frankish knights in general, depended more than anything else on the tactic of the mass charge, “the irresistible first shock,” as it was described by chronicler Anna Comnenus, daughter of the Byzantine emperor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the well-ordered charge of our own times. The Turks were lighter and quicker, as well as being excellent horsemen.

            In other words, if the target of the charge could get out of the way quickly enough, the charge could degenerate into a disorganized mob moving too quickly to be reined in, like a Roman candle that couldn’t be called back. When that happened, the enemy was often able to encircle the knights for a counterattack. The charge had to be timed just right, so that it routed the main body of the enemy, and not a phony one deployed to draw them in. If it did so, it was usually devastating. The infamous Frankish charge was feared throughout the Near East, and the Templars were usually in the lead.

            The most annoyingly effective Muslim tactic was to use their first-rate horsemen, quick and lightly armed for mobility, to harass the enemy while the enemy was on the march. This could go on for days at a time. The Turks loved to attack from the rear, a very effective ploy until the Templars began organizing lines with a powerful rear guard. The men hated the harassing rain of arrows that came, they said, like flies to cause them misery. There is evidence that, as time passed, the Templars moved forward with attempts to refashion the Christian army with some Eastern tactics. It’s a shame so many of the crusader kings were suspicious of the Templars and their “foreign ideas,” obstinately marching off their own way to destruction.

            Betrayed, Excommunicated, and Hunted
            There is one more generality about the Templars that is often tossed about, and that’s the simple fact that, with the loss of the last Christian possessions in the Middle East, usually dated at the fall of the city of Acre in 1291, the Knights Templar had lost their raison d’etre, the purpose for which they were formed. The problem with this theory is that, by that time, at the end of the 13th century, the Templars had undergone quite a metamorphosis, from a small band of fanatical Crusaders, to an unimaginably huge and influential organization of international bankers and diplomatic middlemen who had military commanderies and preceptories from London to the Slavic countries of the East, and all throughout the Mediterranean basin.

            Yet, there’s no denying the fact that as the gilded luster wore off the Crusades, they became an investment in money and blood that the nations of Europe were no longer willing to make, because they were back to their old habits of making war against each other back home. It probably seemed to the Templars’ enemies to be just the right time to bring the Poor Knights to heel — and to steal their vast wealth in the process.

            So where'd everybody go?
            It’s true — after the order was outlawed by Pope Clement V in 1312, the Templars did drop off the radar map of history. As for where they went, it probably wasn’t the same place for all of them. Many people offered refuge, such as the kings of Spain and Portugal, who created knightly orders to fight the Moors on the Iberian peninsula that strictly existed as a refuge for Templar knights. If Phillip the Fair didn’t want these skilled warriors, the kings of Aragon and Navarre certainly did.

            But there are dozens of theories about where the rest of the Templars went, and where the vast resources of their international operation disappeared to. Chapter 7 discusses the lost Templar treasure, which probably isn’t lost at all, and presents several pretty disappointing answers for what probably happened to it. But that doesn’t end the mystery. The Templar treasure of legend was the contents of the Templar commandery in Paris, their home office, as it were. The Templars were predominantly French knights; they became the virtual treasury of the French government in 1165. But there were lots of other commanderies and lots of other treasures, and all vanished without a trace. Chapter 17 takes a look at where some of the swag may have gone, so get out your shovel and your metal detector, and take a look.

            The riddle of Templar symbols
            Like all special, secret, or elite organizations or brotherhoods, the Templars had a wide variety of symbols and codes that helped to bind them together, as well as to hold them apart from the commonality. At places throughout this book, we discuss Templar secrets and rituals, but for now, here are two of the most common Templar symbols: the Dual Knights (see Figure 1-2) and the Chi-Rho Cross (see Figure 1-3).

            Figure 1-2: The symbol of the Dual Knights.

            Figure 1-3: The Chi-Rho Cross, or labarum, made up of the first two letters in the Greek word for Christ.


            • #7
              There is no question that, for a Templar, the symbol of the Dual Knights was the most important one to the Order, and the oldest. Other symbols changed over the years; this one did not. It was a seal (upon which the statue in Figure 1-1 was based) picturing two knights riding on one horse, a symbol of the poverty and brotherhood of the Order. Other medieval symbols, like the Tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters that symbolized the unspeakable name of God; see Figure 1-4) or the Chi-Rho Cross would be used by other organizations. But if you see two medieval knights on one horse, you’re looking at a Templar artifact.

              Figure 1-4: The Hebrew Tetragrammaton, the unspeakable name of God.

              All legends aside, the Cross that Constantine saw in the sky just before battle that converted him to Christianity was the Chi-Rho (pronounced like the Egyptian city Cairo) Cross. It consists of an X overlaid with a skinny P inside, often surrounded by a round or oval cartouche. Though the cross we know today was already taking over, the Chi-Rho Cross remained very popular with Templars. The Chi-Rho also flourished once again by the Renaissance. The symbol comes from the first two Greek letters in the word Christ; it’s sometimes called the labarum, the word for the banner Constantine carried into battle that bore this icon. Other Christian symbols used similar logic, such as the IHS or IHC symbol, from the first three Greek letters in the name Jesus. The most famous organization that uses the Chi-Rho Cross today is the Jesuits of the Catholic Church.

              Templars in the 21st Century
              Thanks to a wide variety of books and films, the Templars live on, almost as vibrantly as they did in the Victorian era, when the fascination with them was at its peak. As always, the Templars are tied to that other myth known to every English schoolboy, the Holy Grail. The Templars were the Grail knights, and as Grail theories change over the centuries, the outlook on the Templars changed along with it.

              Templars and the Grail quest
              To tell the truth, despite humanity’s fascination with the Grail, it had sort of gone out of fashion in the last few decades. From medieval troubadours to Celtic bards, Victorian poets to Hitler’s SS, many and various cultures have had a love affair with the Grail. But the post-World War II generation seemed to look on it as a relic of the distant past. John Boorman’s sumptuously gorgeous film Excalibur was the last time that a big money movie took the Grail legends seriously, instead of putting some post-modern occult twist on the story, or playing it for straight comedy, Monty Python-style. Those with a special interest in medieval history, or in the occult, as with the growing community of Wiccans and New Agers, have always had a special fascination with the Grail. But for the most part, it wasn’t a very popular myth anymore.

              Then The Da Vinci Code shambled into your nearest bookstore, and suddenly, without any PR behind it, the book was a smash, and the Grail was all over the place again, as it has been so many times in the past. That’s the measure of a truly great myth: It may wax and wane, but it’s always there to be picked up and reinterpreted for a new generation. Right now, amateur history buffs, seasoned archeologists, and various university-and privately-funded associations are questing for the Grail as never before. And many of them are convinced that the key to the discovery of the Grail lies in the history of the Templars, the Cathars, and many other organizations featured in this book.

              Templars and the fringe
              Yes, we know. We’re going to get called “judgmental,” “close-minded,” and “dogmatic,” not to mention the ever-popular “blinded by orthodoxy.” Or perhaps just willing stooges of the new world order. But we may just as well come right out and say it — the Knights Templar and the lunatic fringe have had a love affair going on for years. The birth of the Templar cock-and-bull industry occurred in 1798, with the publication of a book by a Frenchman named Cadet de Gassicout, called The Tomb of Jacques Molay. De Gassicourt, like everyone else in France, was standing amid the blood-soaked wreckage left behind after the French Revolution, trying to figure out how it all happened. There just had to be somebody to blame. Finding a scapegoat is, in essence, what de Gassicourt did.

              Thanks a lot, Sir Walter Scott
              Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is only the latest book to create renewed interest in the Knights Templar. Another book, written two centuries ago, almost single-handedly rescued the Templars from obscurity. Unfortunately, it cast the order in a less than admirable light.

              Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819) told the tale of Richard the Lionheart's return to England from the Crusades, and the evil plotting of his brother John to keep him off the throne. The story revolves around the character of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, a knight who was on Crusade with Richard, and his rival Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a decidedly impious Templar knight.

              Ivanhoewas unimaginably popular in England and the United States in the early 1800s. Apart from creating the modern legend of the character of Robin Hood, the book created an international mania for all things medieval, and was instrumental in spreading the cultural movement of Romanticism in literature. It was unquestionably responsible, in part, for the profusion of fraternal orders that sprang up all around the world in the 1800s, patterning themselves after medieval knights.

              The American satirist Mark Twain was less than enthusiastic. In his 1883 memoir Life On The Mississippi, Twain places the blame of the U.S. Civil War firmly at the feet of Sir Walter Scott and Ivanhoe. According to Twain, Scott set the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote.

              Absolutely everyone read Ivanhoe, and its tales of the knights so enthralled Southern society with its lofty titles of nobility and florid prose that it truly did affect the writing, speech, and social attitudes of the Southern aristocracy. Twain railed that Scott's influence made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created . . . reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. . . . Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war.

              Scott followed Ivanhoe with The Talisman (1825), which told the tale of King Richard in the Holy Land. A key character was the wise, virtuous, moral, and heroic Muslim warrior, Saladin (see Chapter 5). As in The Da Vinci Code, the facts didn't get in the way of a good story — again, the Templars were made the bad guys. Scott's fictional version of the Crusades, in which the 11th-century Muslims are kind, peace-loving pacifists attacked by thickheaded, brutish, kill-crazy Christians has enraged historians for almost 200 years, yet it influences popular perceptions to this day.

              For men like de Gassicourt, who thought of themselves as being civilized, finding someone to blame was essential, just so they could all go on looking into the shaving mirror every morning. De Gassicourt found his scapegoat in two places — the Templars and the Freemasons. Actually, as far as he was concerned, it was one place — they were, in his mind, one and the same. His theory was that the Templars, excommunicated and scattered, spent five centuries plotting their vengeance on the French crown. To get it, they founded the brotherhood of the Freemasons, and then awaited their opportunity to kill the king and take their vengeance, raining death on thousands of Frenchmen in the process. Contrived, unfounded, unprovable, and, for want of a better term, daffy, it nevertheless captured the imagination of a large portion of the public, that portion that had always had suspicions about the secret brotherhood of the Freemasons. The books came thick and fast throughout the 19th century, following in de Gassicourt’s footsteps. They were all very popular.

              Which brings us to the present, and a dynamic that hasn’t changed much in two centuries. The books out there with wacko theories about the Templars could fill a warehouse, running the gamut in their absurd conjecture, from Templars using a “death ray” from the Ark of the Covenant to win the Battle of Bannockburn for the Scots, to the Templars as shape-shifting reptilian aliens, left here eons ago by visitors from another planet. The shame of it is that the work of serious historians like Malcolm Barber, Stephen Dafoe, and Helen Nicholson can get lost in this avalanche of horse manure. So, when interesting speculation exists, as in books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail or The Templar Revelation, we present this information as speculation. As for the rest, it gets mentioned once in a while. You know, just for laughs.


              • #8
                Chapter 2

                A Crash Course in Crusading
                In This Chapter
                ● Uncomplicating the Byzantine: Discovering the causes of the Crusades

                ● Introducing the medieval Y1K crisis

                ● Nation-building in the Holy Land

                ● Counting till you run out of fingers: Crusading by the numbers

                You can’t understand the Templars without understanding the upheaval that gave them birth: the Crusades. This series of wars isn’t just the stuff of dusty history books. The Crusades are featured in today’s newspaper on a fairly regular basis.

                After the attacks of 9/11, one former and one sitting U.S. president each put a very large foot in their even larger mouths, and both on the very same day. George W. Bush made the blunder of referring to the war on terrorism as a “crusade,” while Bill Clinton felt compelled to “apologize” for the Crusades, which had occurred four centuries before Columbus set foot in America.

                Both were chastised, but not nearly hard enough.
                The Catholic pope was the juiciest target of all, when he made a pretty boring speech in September 2006 on “reason and faith.” In his address, Pope Benedict XVI quoted from a lot of sources. Unfortunately, one was a 14th-century Byzantine emperor named Manuel II, repeating part of his conversation with an unnamed “learned Persian,” on the subject of Islam’s practice of conversion by force, forbidden in early Islam, but encouraged later during periods of conquest. The pope quoted it to show just how old the argument is, that faith can’t be forced, but must come from reason. In his own glue-footed way, he was getting his licks in against the free-thinkers of the 18th-century Enlightenment, two centuries too late. But the quoted put-down of the Muslim faith set off a firestorm of protest in the world of fundamentalist Islam, with imams from Cairo to Mogadishu calling for the pope’s head, literally.

                All this brouhaha over wars that happened nine centuries ago seems incomprehensible to Americans; we have a hard time remembering who was vice president in the last administration. This chapter clarifies some of the vague facts you may know, and lets slip some startling ones you may not, about the series of wars between East and West, between Muslim and Christian, that history calls the Crusades.

                Getting a Handle on the Crusades
                The dictionary says that any “vigorous cause,” taken in concert to end an injustice or abuse, is a crusade. But historically, the word crusade generally means any war of the Christian West to gain control of the Holy City of Jerusalem, as well as other sites associated with the life of Jesus Christ. For most people, some very definite images come to mind when they think of the Crusades — some true, and some the product of myths and movies. The real Crusades, the ones closest to that image, lasted about two centuries, from 1096, until the loss of the last Crusader possessions in Syria in 1291.

                The First Crusade is pretty easy to understand, but as the centuries unfolded, the Crusades became more complicated. Historians can’t even seem to agree on how many Crusades there were, or how many years the crusading impulse lasted. Sir Stephen Runciman, the respected medieval scholar, sets the number at five in his three-book history of the Crusades. But some say there were really only four. Other say six, and still others go as high as eight. Sir Stephen dates the end of the Crusades as 1291, with the fall of the city of Acre, the last Crusader possession in the Holy Land. But some historians claim that the Crusades didn’t end until the late 14th century, and others contend they went on into the 16th and 17th centuries, right up to the doorstep of the Age of Enlightenment.

                So, if the chaotic jumble of the Crusades has always confused you, reading this chapter should make you sound like a pro to family, friends, and history professors alike. The first part of the chapter covers the cultural forces that led to crusading. The second part explains the whys and the wherefores of the very important First Crusade, and of the seven Crusades that followed.

                Or the six. Or maybe the four. At any rate, dive in and get the straight facts on the Crusades — all of them. Sir Stephen would be proud of you.

                So, what is a crusade anyway? Is a crusade any war between the Christian West and the Islamic East, or is it something more? For some historians, it’s like the infield-fly rule in baseball: Only an umpire can call that batter out.

                And only a pope can proclaim a real and legitimate Holy Crusade.

                Oddly enough, Islam has the same problem, today more than ever before.
                It’s a similar muddle resulting from definitions — just who has the right to declare jihad, when, and why? Jihad is something of an abused word. It simply means “struggle” — sometimes an inner, spiritual one; sometimes an outer struggle against an enemy. Nowadays, when people hear the word jihad, they think of an Islamic declaration of war against the West, the Muslim version of a Crusade. And when they hear the word fatwa, they think of a Muslim cleric putting out a hit on someone, like author Salman Rushdie, who’s been deemed an enemy of the faith, despite the fact that a fatwa is simply a declaration of canon law, something like a papal bull. At one time, the real power to proclaim a fatwa or a jihad generally lay with the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and his religious leader, the Mufti of Istanbul. (The Byzantine capital of Constantinople was renamed Istanbul by its conqueror and sultan, Mehmed II, in 1453.) Until the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims lived in the empire or one of its client states.

                Simply defined, the Crusades were a group of military campaigns that began late in the 11th century, sanctioned by popes and conducted in the name of Christianity. The original goal of the Crusades was to protect the Christian Eastern Orthodox Empire of Byzantium from invading Muslim forces, and to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic forces who had invaded and captured the city in A.D. 638.

                A Snapshot of the 11th Century
                To comprehend the domino theory that led tens of thousands of European Christians to wake up one morning and set off on a 10,000-mile stroll to the Holy Land and back, you need to understand how society was set up at the time. The whole idea of crusading may strike our modern minds as being pretty barbaric, not to mention bloodthirsty and arrogant. But the Crusades, as well as the political, spiritual, and military issues that gave birth to them, are way too complicated to be dismissed with a quick hipshot.

                Of course, looking at the key players and the main events, there’s plenty of ignorance, fanaticism, and brutality to go around. However, in the case of the fanatical and brutal Crusades, lots of things were going on at the dawn of the 11th century that seemed to lead the people of Europe, almost naturally, into this centuries-long conflict with the Islamic East.


                • #9
                  Fealty, fiefs, and feudalism

                  At the dawn of the crusading era, Europe was organized in a feudal system. Feudalism is like a chain of command, an iron bond of what was called “fealty,” rising up from the serfs, who did most of the work, all the way to the king.

                  Fealty comes from the Latin word for “faithfulness,” and in essence that’s what it means, though a better definition would be “obligation.” In the feudal system, each man was a vassal to the knight or earl or duke above him, which meant that he owed his overlord the obligation of fealty — meaning taxes or tribute in time of peace, and men and weapons in time of war.

                  One of the effects of feudalism is that these self-same barons, earls, and dukes became petty princelings, with a great deal of power. This is the essential problem with the system, as far as building a nation is concerned. Feudalism created powerful lords and a central authority, usually a king, who often isn’t quite powerful enough to control them — if there’s a king around at all.

                  So, you’ve got petty wars between petty kingdoms, dukedoms, and fiefdoms; a lousy centralized government that can’t create anything even resembling an infrastructure, like passable roads; and roving bands of lawless criminals and out-of-work mercenaries preying on anyone crazy enough to travel from one place to the next. It would seem that any king in 11th-century Europe would have enough to deal with without worrying about what was going on 5,000 miles away, yet the crusading impulse took root in the soil of feudalism.

                  In the 11th century, pilgrimage was hardly a new idea. Since very nearly the dawn of Christianity, the concept of pilgrimage had been an integral part of the faith. It was also occasionally a penance given to major sinners. You can only make someone repeat so many Hail Marys before the punishment loses its impact.

                  Though there were dozens of destinations for pilgrims, three were the most popular; clerics sometimes referred to them together as the Axis Mundi, the spiritual axis of the world:
                  ● Rome: Rome is the home of the Holy See and of numberless Christian relics and sites, like the prison cell of St. Peter and the place where St. Paul was executed.

                  ● Santiago de Compostela: This city in northwestern Spain was home to a chapel that contained the bones of St. James the Great, both an apostle and a Christian martyr. The city was sacked in 997 by the Umayyad vizier and general Muhammad Ibn Abu Amir al-Mansur, the commander of Moorish Cordoba, which did not endear the Muslims to the Christians of Europe.

                  ● Jerusalem: The greatest pilgrimage site was Jerusalem; it was the centerpiece to all the holiest shrines of Christendom. It was also the hardest one to get to, so it was considered the most powerful balm for the soul of pilgrims.

                  This business of making pilgrimages was a serious one, particularly considering the fact that travel was so difficult and dangerous. “Roads” were little more than cattle tracks. The Romans had built far better ones, ten centuries before; in fact, many of these were still in use, despite being overgrown and in poor repair. Inns and monasteries, where food and a place to sleep could be had, were far apart and miserably uncomfortable. Plus, a thousand or so years ago, the trackless distances between towns were infested with wild animals, and travelers were in danger of attack from wolf packs, boars, and other even more unusual animals, such as aurochs (similar to buffalo, but with a nastier disposition). Worse than the savagery of the animal kingdom was the savagery of man, in the form of the pitiless thieves and cutthroats lurking around every bend and behind every stand of shrubbery.

                  The difficulty of travel makes it all the more remarkable that most of the pilgrims to Jerusalem and other holy sites were not wealthy, but rather were simple peasants, dressed in coarse brown wool, carrying all their worldly possessions in a gunnysack called a scrip slung over their shoulders, and usually holding a staff and wearing a simple wooden cross. They chose to make the journey for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes they were seeking forgiveness for their own sins, and sometimes they were making the journey for a loved one whom they feared was in purgatory. Sometimes they were headed for a shrine to cure their own illness or that of a family member, and sometimes they were simply pious and devout, determined to see the site of Christ’s crucifixion before their death.

                  The nobility, too, went on pilgrimages, although a bit more comfortably. Sometimes pilgrimage was their sentence of penance for their sins, as in the case of Count Fulk III (“the Black”) of Anjou. The count had very much earned his dark nickname, having been a sinful man with many crimes on his conscience. When he reached middle age, and the grave yawned before him, he asked for a penance that would be the price of forgiveness for all his sins. Legend has it that he fainted when the sentence was passed. He was ordered to endure a triple Jerusalem pilgrimage, which was the worst thing his priest could come up with. He was forced to make the journey on foot, three times from France to Jerusalem, or a total of 15,300 miles. On his third arrival in the Holy City, barely able to stand, he was lashed through the streets of the Way of the Cross as a grand finale, dragged on by the monks each time he fell.

                  Along with the spiritual potency of a pilgrimage, the story of Fulk also highlights the power of the clergy, over high and low born. Even kings stood before the papal palace in sackcloth and ashes, sometimes for days on end, in the rain or snow if the pope were lucky, in order to have the dreadful judgment of excommunication lifted from them. They held in their hands the scissors and the rod, symbols that they were willing to be whipped or shorn, at the pope’s pleasure. In the days before Martin Luther, you just didn’t mess with Holy Mother Church.


                  • #10
                    Y1K: The end of days
                    The year A.D. 999 was a terrifying one for the Christians of the world. Respected theologians had been predicting for some time that the world would come to an end in the year A.D. 1000, which was precisely 1,000 years after the birth of Christ. Looking around themselves throughout the 900s, the virtuous saw a world packed to the brim with sin, violence, greed, and apostasy. A good deal of it was in the very bosom of the Church, with a line of popes throughout that century that were far worse than merely incompetent — they were downright heretical, Machiavellian, and unbelievably sinful. Between A.D. 872 and A.D.

                    1012, more than a third of those on the papal throne died violent deaths, usually at the hands of their successors. To the faithful, they were anti-Christs, masquerading as popes. It seemed clear that the world was mired in the “abomination of desolation” Jesus had spoken of in Matthew, a quote from the prophecy of Daniel concerning the signs pointing to the end of the world.

                    On the night of December 31, 999, Christians stood in frightened silence, filling St. Peter’s in Rome inside and out, while Pope Sylvester II prepared a special midnight Mass. Many of the worshippers were face-down, their arms spread to form a cross, waiting for the end of the world. Women fainted, old men succumbed to bad hearts, and it was, in general, one of the darkest nights of the soul mankind has ever endured.

                    But the sun came up on January 1, as the sun has a habit of doing. Which, of course, brought on the time-lag two-step. Maybe it wasn’t 1,000 years after the birth of Christ. Maybe it was 1,000 years after the crucifixion of Christ. Or maybe it was 1,000 years after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

                    Or maybe the numbers were out of whack because of the differences between the old Roman calendar and the present Julian calendar.

                    The upshot was that “millennial fever,” the fear that the world would soon end, lagged on throughout the tenth century, and on into the 11th. Perhaps a quick stroll down memory lane, to New Year’s Eve of 1999, will make it a little easier to understand the general aura of fear and unease during the millennium. After all, times change, but people don’t. Come on, you remember the hysteria over Y2K. The headlines ran the gamut, from warnings that folks might have a little trouble accessing their bank accounts by ATM, to terrifying predictions of nuclear apocalypse. In the United States, the authorities tried hard to keep a level head in public, but their advice on what to do to prepare for Y2K had a reasonable tone that just couldn’t hide the uncomfortable fact that the government was telling its citizens to store canned food and bottled water, set aside an extra sum of cash, and have plenty of batteries on hand. And maybe we should get Dad’s old pistol down from the closet and make sure it still works. Or buy a $5,000 space heater that runs on gasoline so we don’t freeze to death in January. Or maybe just build ourselves a nice, dry, fallout shelter in the basement.

                    These same millennial fears of doom had an effect on the period leading up to the Crusades. Pilgrimages increased throughout that nervous era, and any interruption of Christian access to the shrines of their God would have been looked upon with grave seriousness by the Church, as well as the Christian peoples of Europe. To a Christian pilgrim, being barred from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Way of the Cross was a worse crime than murder, because far more than his life was at stake — his very soul was on the line. Perhaps this fact makes the ideology behind the Crusades a little easier to understand.

                    The Spanish ulcer
                    Napoleon Bonaparte once made an ill-considered attempt to bring the Iberian Peninsula into the French empire. As the conflict wore on, Napoleon called it his “Spanish ulcer,” a galling sore that wouldn’t heal, but just kept bleeding him of men and money.

                    Spain presented a similar nagging sore in the 11th century. After the death of the Prophet Mohammed in A.D. 632, his followers swept out of Arabia at warp speed, converting the population to Islam by fire and sword. In less than a century, they had carved out a vast empire, one that extended from Spain to the steppes of Central Asia. When they had the Berber nations of North Africa in their pocket, it was an oh-so-easy jump across the Straits of Gibraltar into southern Spain, a leap they made in the year A.D. 711. From that time forward — in fact, for the next six centuries — Spain would be a battleground between the forces of the Christian north and the Islamic south, and the Mason-Dixon line between them shifted more often than the San Andreas fault. At the peak of Arabic power, Christian forces were hanging on to a tiny strip of property, chiefly Aragon and Navarre.

                    The wave of Arab conquests that flashed over Spain in 711 moved on, across the Pyrenees, and deep into the heart of Gaul (present-day France). At last they were turned back by the French king Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, in his stunning victory over the Saracens at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. For several centuries afterward, Europe seemed willing to look on Spain as simply a wall to keep Islam from going any farther. But continued Islamic-Christian wars there coincided with an unnerving cultural development in Spain. Various mystical and heretical brands of Christianity were growing, as well as melding their ideas with Islam, both of which in their turn were being influenced by other heretics, Sufis and Coptics and Maronites, as well as by the growing communities of Sephardic Jews, who’d been arriving since the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus in the first century. All this free-thinking and fusing of faiths really scared the Church, and every fresh Islamic conquest brought these heresies closer to their doorstep.

                    The Abbey of Cluny was in Saone-et-Loire in France, and its monks became a powerful force within the Benedictine order. It was the influential monks of Cluny who first began floating the idea of offering “warriors of Christ” salvation instead of a salary if they would take back Spain from the Moors. Templar historian Juan Garcia Atienza called it “a dress rehearsal for the East.”

                    By 1064 Pope Alexander II was issuing “collective indulgences” to Christian knights in Spain; he had the full support of Cluny in the person of his chancellor, Hildebrand, an influential Clunaic monk and scholar who would one day be pope himself, as St. Gregory VII. Eventually, these papal dispensations on a small scale led to the first Crusade Bull, issued by the newly-elected Urban II in 1089, granting dispensation to knights who fought to recapture Tarragona in northeastern Spain. Urban II, incidentally, had also once been a monk of Cluny. Drafting “warriors for Christ” doubtless wasn’t ethical, but tactically speaking, a glance at a map of the Mediterranean basin in the 11th century makes the shaky position of Christianity and the West crystal clear.

                    Figure 2-1 is a map of the entire area of the Mediterranean basin just before the Crusades. The Muslim onslaught that poured out of Arabia in the seventh century had swallowed up startling amounts of real estate, Christian, Persian, and pagan. The speed of these conquests was in the same vein as Alexander or Napoleon or Hitler. The Mediterranean had once been teeming with lucrative trade from East to West and back again, but Muslim corsairs were making trade impossible. It doesn’t take a cartographer or a military genius to see that Christian Europe was being roped in. Soon, all that the forces of Islam would have to do was tighten the noose.

                    The war in Spain, the battleground between East and West, became the precursor to the Crusades, the bony finger pointing to the next war that was bound to break out, sooner or later. The losses in Spain for Christians painted a very gloomy picture of what could happen elsewhere in medieval Europe.

                    Figure 2-1: Europe and the Mediterranean in A.D. 1000.


                    • #11
                      The dilemma of the second son
                      The annihilation of whole towns and villages by the bubonic plague was still three centuries off in the future, and in the 11th century, Europe was undergoing a steady increase in population. For that reason, it’s important to understand the meaning of the ten-dollar word primogeniture, the system of inheritance that was dominant throughout the feudal period. For any man of noble rank, everything — his title, his money, and his lands — went to the eldest son in the family. It may seem unfair, but the reasoning behind it was that it kept the fief or holding together, instead of breaking it up again and again through the generations until there was nothing left that was worth inheriting.

                      Unfortunately, this left second sons in a dicey position. Like the vice president of the United States, everyone knew what he was there for — he was the spare, in case war or pestilence carried off the firstborn. But in a time of rising population, families often had more than one, or even more than two, sons who survived to adulthood. Therefore, the typical medieval question was, “Whatever are we to do about Harry (or John or Phillip or Irving)?” He had a right to stick around in the household after the death of his father, and to be provided with at least a subsistence living from his elder brother. But for many knights, or simply proud young men, this was an intolerable situation in which to live, and they were usually gently but firmly encouraged to leave the nest, in order to keep jealousy and internal squabbling to a minimum.

                      Many younger sons of the nobility chose the Church as their profession; in fact, doing so was quite common, because it was a way that even a moderately intelligent young man of good family could achieve his own rank and respectability. It’s interesting to note just how coolly and clinically the Church understood the second-son dilemma: It was common practice, if the elder son were killed without having had any sons of his own, for the second son of the family to be released from his vows to Holy Mother Church so that he could return home to take up his earthly burden.

                      Feckless younger sons who were allergic to the discipline of the Church might choose to live on as dependants, despite the potential for humiliation. And handsome younger sons might marry well, perhaps a wealthy widow, in order to acquire a fiefdom of their own.

                      The final route to personal fulfillment for a second son was foreign adventure and conquest, if and when the opportunity presented itself. This despite the physical danger, and the very real possibility that he’d never see his homeland again. But as the 11th century drew to a close, another route to personal achievement for the second son was born, one that melded knightly opportunity with Christian grace — he could take the Cross, and become a Crusader. With the dawn of the age of crusading, the noble calling of serving God was added to the already potent blend of the opportunity to achieve personal wealth and military glory in a faraway and exotic foreign land.

                      Piracy and trade
                      This last is probably the easiest cultural factor to explain. At this time, there was a rising middle class in Europe. This business class would endure plague, war, and calamity, and just keep coming back for more. The wealth of this brand-new class was based on one thing more than any other: trade. By the time of the First Crusade, Arab pirates on land and sea were making trading expeditions very difficult and dangerous. The Silk Road, the 4,000 mile caravan route between Rome and the great Chinese city of Xi’an, with a large stopping-off juncture in the Levant, had been an artery of merchandise and ideas from East to West and back again since ancient times. Now it belonged to the Turks, and was no longer safe for business travelers. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean was becoming an Islamic backyard swimming pool. As the borders of Christian Europe shrank, their world becoming ever smaller, it was clear that something had to be done.

                      The First Crusade: A Cry for Help, a Call to Arms
                      Pope Urban II got a very unusual letter in 1095, while he was in Italy at an ecclesiastical conference. It was from the Emperor Alexius Comnenus, ruler of the Byzantine Empire. There was never any more than a polite civility between Catholic Christians in the West and Orthodox Christians in the East. In the last century in particular, a tiff over the Frankish Norman invasion of Byzantine territories in the south of Italy had set off a skirmish between the pope of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople, one that ended in mutual excommunication and a formal schism.

                      But the Emperor Alexius was asking Pope Urban to put aside those differences, and stand together as Christians to face an oncoming horde of Islamic Turkish warriors, the Seljuqs. In A.D. 1071, at Manzikert, Alexius had lost a major battle to the Seljuqs, who then took huge chunks of his empire, including Persia, Syria, and Palestine, before turning north to nest at Nicaea, on Alexius’ very doorstep. Urban II was one of many theologians who had dreamed of reconciliation between the two halves of Christianity. The timing must have seemed heaven-sent to him.

                      Meet the Byzantines
                      Most people don’t know very much about the Byzantine Empire, and it’s little wonder. The art, the architecture, and especially the religious icons of Byzantium are so very foreign to Western eyes that it makes their long and complex history seem even harder to understand. Many times, in U.S. history classes, textbooks go directly from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages, with perhaps an all-too-brief stop along the way to mention the other half of the old Roman empire, the half that didn’t fall — at least not for another ten centuries, when the Ottoman Turks overran the old empire in A.D. 1458.

                      For centuries, Westerners seemed to feel that there was a corruption at the core of Byzantium. The Byzantines had a reputation, right or wrong, for opulent decadence, serpentine court intrigues, and poison-in-the-wine-cup politics. The very word fell into the language of the West as a generally unflattering adjective. To say that a politician has the twists and turns of a byzantine mind still is no compliment.

                      But as far as the Byzantines were concerned, they weren’t some offshoot or weird eastern outcropping of the Roman Empire. They were the Roman Empire, period. All through its history the Roman Empire had contained a natural dividing line between the eastern and western halves, one that was eventually recognized by creating two emperors — one in the Latin West, the other in the Hellenic East. So, as far as the Byzantines were concerned, the western half of the Roman Empire may have dropped the ball, but they hadn’t.

                      The Byzantines were essentially Greek in character, while Europe was essentially Latin. As is so often true, everywhere in the world, cultural differences spring up from a difference in language.

                      No matter how different their churches or their vestments looked, the Byzantines were Christians, with the same essential belief system as Catholicism.

                      Go East, young man!
                      When Alexius sent his call for help to Pope Urban II, the pope had several very good reasons to answer it:

                      ● It was simply an ethical question of universal Christian unity.

                      ● That unity seemed more important in the face of Muslim encroachments, from the Spain to the Black Sea.

                      ● These Muslim incursions were now menacing the Christian West, not only emotionally in their invasion of the Holy Land, but politically and militarily, in Islam’s wildfire spread across the steppes of Asia to Constantinople, literally the gateway to the West. Worst of all, the Seljuq Turks were robbing and killing Christian pilgrims, as well as blocking access to Christian shrines.

                      Urban convened the Council of Clermont on November 18th, 1095. Most of the Catholic bureaucrats who attended were churchmen of the south of France. A series of canons were to be voted upon, including an important one on the subject of the Truce of God. This was a peace movement in France, an attempt to limit violence between feudal lords, and to protect the clergy and other travelers from being preyed upon on the roads. It was a movement that Urban very much favored, as well as an issue that becomes even more important later, in the story of the birth of the Templars. This was the perfect opportunity to present Alexius’s plea.

                      At the close of the Council, Urban had a chair brought outside to an open field where he had invited a gathering of the entire city to hear an important papal announcement. He explained Emperor Alexius’s predicament, and offered a plenary indulgence (the remission of all penance for sin) to anyone willing to go East and aid the Byzantine emperor in fending off the infidels. He wanted the Truce of God extended to all endangered Christians making their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

                      Historians have no reliable record of exactly what was said, but Urban definitely moved his listeners with his eloquence and idealism, and he managed to hit a collective nerve in the larger-than-expected crowd. Apparently, he spent a good deal of breath on the knights of France, reminding them of what knighthood had once meant in terms of chivalry and piety, and then delivered a verbal lashing to them for having become robbers, murderers, and blasphemers. He wanted them to turn that violent energy to a noble cause — freeing the Holy Land from the heavy hand of the Muslim invaders.

                      It seems likely that even the pope was astonished at the overwhelming reaction to his speech. Nothing on this sort of scale had ever before been proposed. Legend has it that people in the crowd began shouting over and over again, “Deus volt! Deus volt!” meaning “God wills it!” It must have seemed a little like a rock concert, as the faithful immediately began tearing up strips of cloth, to pin them to their clothing in the shape of a cross. The concept of “taking the Cross” was born, for men, women, and even children. It wasn’t a nodding up and down of heads, a few huzzahs, or even a general chorus of agreement — it was a literal stampede.

                      Urban had not envisioned this mass response. He tried his best to set reasonable limits on who could, and who should, make the journey. He forbade the elderly or the infirm, pleading that only fit young men take the Cross. Surprisingly, he also asked that married men consult with their wives first. And, if a wife wished, she could go along with her husband. Many did so, adding to the chaos of Crusader “armies” that looked like straggling columns of refugees.

                      France, being the most stable and powerful country in Europe at that time, would be the chief player in the First Crusade. England was still trying to pick up the pieces after the Norman invasion of A.D. 1066, while Spain was already fighting for its life in its own battle with Islam, which came to be called the Reconquista, the retaking of Spain. But the knights who could go, the Franks as they came to be called (because French was their common language), were all completely won over.

                      Preparations for the grand adventure began at once, with everyone packing, making arrangements for someone to watch the house, and muttering “tickets, passport, money” over and over again. The Church helped in any way it could, from holding mortgages on the property of Crusaders, to making them untouchable by civil courts — their lawbreaking would be handled by softball ecclesiastical courts.


                      • #12
                        Peter the Hermit
                        It was not Pope Urban, however, but an itinerate preacher named Peter the Hermit, who opened the floodgates to anyone of any age, sex, or condition to march with him to Constantinople. He is surely one of the oddest figures in history, especially for a man who would have so much influence on the events to follow.

                        These unarmed and untrained hordes of people set out at once for Constantinople, without waiting for the Crusader knights, in a mass exodus often called the “People’s Crusade” or the “Peasant’s Crusade.” They followed Peter the Hermit and his chief lieutenant, Walter the Penniless. This last was an apt nickname, because all these unruly, unarmed, and untrained people were short of money and supplies, racing headlong to disaster.

                        However, Peter did have one talent, albeit not a military one. As he preached his way through Europe, he gathered up several trunkloads of gold. Although it came from many supporters, it also seems Pete had a gift for extorting money out of the Jews of Europe. The Jews of this period had a reputation for being moneylenders, which was not entirely born of the rampant medieval anti-Semitism, but out of the fact that Jews in medieval Europe had very few ways to earn a living. They were forced to live in ghettos, the area of each large city set aside for them, and walled off to the main, Christian part of the city. Jewish physicians were renowned, and this often allowed them to cross over the wall. But Jews were not allowed into any of the trade guilds, and consequently, they could not earn their living in any of the typical professions of the period, such as masons or carpenters or blacksmiths. Moneylending became a way that Jews could earn a living, particularly because Catholics were forbidden to practice what was called “usury.” And so was born the repulsive myth of the money-grubbing and usurious Jew, with hoards of gold stashed away in his mattress. (The Knights Templar would later find a loophole around these rules and become the first international bankers; see Chapter 4.)

                        So, with about 25,000 Christians marching behind him, who’s going to tell the old hermit that they really aren’t interested in making a donation? Of course, these masses of people caused nothing but trouble along the way, even occasionally setting off a major battle. In the Hungarian city of Semlin, for example, an argument with a tradesman over the price of a pair of shoes erupted into a full-scale riot, then a battle, claiming the lives of over 4,000 people in the city.

                        The meanderings of Peter the Hermit illuminate one very important fact of crusading: that the lack of centralized authority in government under the feudal system was reflected in the same lack of organization of the Crusades. There was no single leader, no organized place of embarkation, and no central clearinghouse for weapons and supplies, not to mention information. As word of the Crusade was spread over Europe, the Christian West ambled its way to Asia Minor in ragtag bands, with no connection to one another apart from a determination to rendezvous at the gates of Constantinople. It’s difficult to grasp what 25,000 Christians on the march in one party must have been like. Many would die on the journey, and many would simply give up in despair, too short on food, supplies, and men to continue the journey. Entire contingents of thousands of Crusaders sometimes disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

                        Get out the beer, We're here!
                        Nearly a year after his distress call, a horrified Alexius woke up one morning, wandered out to the stoop in his jammies, and found an unimaginable mob of Christians headed for his doorstep, nearly as frightening as the Turks. There were not only thousands of armed soldiers, but also their women, children, squires, servants, donkeys, hunting dogs, and various and sundry whatnots.

                        It must have been something to see. According to the 12th century chronicler William of Tyre, Alexius had expected a small, well-armed force of Christian knights, just to help out. What he got was a horde the size of the population of Racine, Wisconsin.

                        Still, Alexius graciously met with Peter the Hermit, giving him gifts and thanks. But when the locals began to complain of thievery and trouble, he asked them very politely to cross the Bosporus and make camp on the Asian side, in the remains of a fortress there called Civetot. Small groups were let into the city each day to tour its wonders, while the rest remained on the other side, completely vulnerable. The Turks, having word of their arrival as well as their position, mounted a devastating attack that all but wiped out the entirety of Peter’s “army.” It was the first full-scale disaster of the Crusades, but hardly the last.

                        In August of 1096, the main military force of the Crusaders moved out for the East. By April of 1097, all of them had arrived, by various routes. There were many lords and knights, but the following were the principle players: Hugh of Vermandois, who was the brother of King Phillip I of France; Godfrey de Bouillon, along with his brothers Eustace and Baldwin; Bohemond of Taranto, a battle-hardened Norman warlord; Raymond de Saint-Gilles, the Count of Toulouse, who assembled the largest force of armed men; and Robert of Flanders, another powerful Norman warlord, who also happened to be the brother of the king of England, William II Rufus.

                        It was a vast army assembled before Constantinople. Alexius, who’d already dealt with Peter the Hermit, now had the time to try to absorb the pandemonium he had unleashed with a simple letter asking for a bit of help. But, as recorded in the fascinating journals of Alexius’ daughter, Anna Comnenus, he felt a little threatened by this combined force of over 4,000 mounted knights, and about 25,000 infantry — as well he might. After all, Alexius was himself a usurper, and he knew how easily a throne could be taken. Therefore, before anyone set off to battle any Turks, he asked for a parley with the principle leaders above, and then asked each of them to take a solemn oath that any lands they conquered that had once belonged to Byzantium would be returned to Byzantium. After a short huddle and a little grumbling, all three knights knelt to give their solemn vow. Only Raymond of Saint-Gilles would make any serious attempt to stick to their bargain.

                        Forward ho!
                        That uncomfortable business aside, everyone seemed chummy once again, and the official First Crusade started out fairly well. The Christian army, together with a contingent of Byzantine forces, marched on the city of Nicaea, taking it with relative ease. The city was promptly handed over to the Byzantines, as promised. Next they headed south and east for the great prize, the city of Antioch, in present-day Syria. Since Roman times, Antioch had been one of the most populous and powerful cities in the Levant.

                        The Levant is simply another term for the Holy Land, usually the important coastal areas. It comes from Old French, levaunt, the word for “rising,” a metaphor for the sun rising in the land of the East.

                        Now Antioch was a Christian city in the hands of the Seljuq Turks. To reach it, they had to slog their way through the miserably hot, dry, and mountainous region of Anatolia. On the way, they faced a major attack by the Turks on their advance guard and won a great victory, sharpening their appetite.

                        The Christian and Byzantine army arrived at Antioch on October 20, to begin a very long and grueling siege. When the Emperor Alexius never showed up to help them, as he had promised, the feelings against him began running very high. They took the city in the spring of the following year, and by agreement, Bohemond took charge of the city. It would remain with his descendants for two centuries.

                        There was by now a great restlessness amongst the crusading army, and a general desire to move on and to get the job done. Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, led the army south, toward the ultimate prize of Jerusalem.

                        The massacre of Jerusalem
                        The Christian army that arrived at the gates of Jerusalem on June 7, 1099, was considerably reduced in power from the army that had arrived at Alexius’ doorstep two years before. Casualties, epidemics, and those who’d just drifted away left them with roughly 1,500 knights of cavalry (perhaps less) and about 12,000 foot soldiers — still a considerable force.

                        The Crusaders began the construction of siege towers and scaling ladders, ignoring the frequent catcalls and raspberries from the Muslims guarding the walls of the city. The guards laughed as the entire Christian army, led by their priests, would walk the whole parameter of the city, finishing on the Mount of Olives to hear services from Peter the Hermit, who was just as incendiary as ever, despite the thousands he’d led to their deaths.

                        The fighting began in earnest on July 13, and by July 15 Godfrey de Bouillon had taken a section of the city’s walls. The north gate was opened, and the army poured through to take the city. And after the city was theirs, be it a holy city or not, the Crusaders gleefully did what the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, and the Turks had done there before them: They massacred everyone in sight whom they deemed an enemy — in other words, anyone who wasn’t a Christian.

                        At the Tower of David, the noble Tancred, the nephew of the not particularly noble Bohemond, escorted the governor and his entourage from the city in safety, promising that the al-Aqsa Mosque would not be touched, and no reprisals taken. It was a promise he couldn’t keep — in fact, the slaughter had already begun.

                        For the Christian Crusaders, this moment in history was something else altogether. The massacre in Jerusalem was a hypocritical betrayal of everything their faith had taught them. In the 11th century, most people couldn’t read, so the largest part of what they knew about their own religion had come to them from the words of priests and churchmen, many of whom put their own selfserving twist on Christ’s teachings. One tenth-century pope burned several Franciscans at the stake for having preached the “heresy” that Christ and his apostles lived in poverty.


                        • #13
                          Islam's warrior heritage
                          The massacre in Jerusalem has long formed a centerpiece of Crusader legend. They slaughtered the Muslims, despite the many beliefs of Christianity that are held to be true by Islam, as well. Jesus was the great prophet preceding Mohammed, the last prophet. But Islam is a very different religion, one founded by a constant soldier; it was a warrior's faith and a warrior's code, and their attitude about massacres was a bit different.

                          In A.D. 638, when Omar of the Umayyad caliphate captured Jerusalem, many a Christian there had cause to rejoice. All of Palestine contained many Christian sects considered heretical by the Byzantine emperor, and they had been persecuted under his rule. But during the next peaceful century, the Umayyads brought order and tolerance. Christians were allowed access to Jerusalem and were allowed to worship as they pleased. A century later, the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad drove the Umayyads into Spain and took the Near East. They disliked Christians, and many suffered under their rule, but things did settle down. The Abbasids got along very well with the Nestorians, their favorite brand of Christian. But three centuries later, the arrival of the newly-converted and warlike Turkish Muslims, the Seljuqs, spelled the end to any tolerance of Christians. They believed in the Five Pillars of Islam — belief in God and Mohammed as his prophet, prayer, fasting, the giving of alms to the poor, and pilgrimage to Mecca. But every warlike passage of the Koran and the Hadith became the special code of the Turks. (The Hadith is a body of the sayings and acts of the prophet, set down for the most part two or three centuries after his death; it is just as holy to Muslims as the Koran.)

                          "Know that Paradise is under the shade of swords," were the words of the Prophet Muhammad. "When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads . . ." (Koran 47:5). The Koran repeatedly calls unbelievers "the vilest of creatures" (Koran 8:65), leaving no doubt that their slaughter will not weigh heavily on the Islamic conscience. Therefore, Muslim warriors (as well as Persian warriors, Mongol warriors, and Berber warriors, not to mention a dozen others) had many times taken part in such massacres following a victory, in Egypt, in Cyprus, in Armenia — in fact, all over the East. In the medieval world, slaughter of the defeated seemed to be every bit as expected as a wrist carnation on a prom date. For these proud warriors, their own holy book, the Koran, permitted them the option of slaughtering unbelievers, particularly if they refused to convert — they were to "slay the unbelievers wherever you find them" (Koran 9:5).

                          When Muslims conquered a city, the citizens had three choices — convert, die, or pay the jizyah, which was a heavy tax on unbelievers. The ceremony of payment by the dhimmis, or unbelievers, was incredibly demeaning and generally included body blows and slaps on the face, or outrages to their women. "The dhimmi has to be made to feel that he is an inferior person when he pays, he is not to be treated with honor." They were generally made to dress in clothing identifying them as non-Muslims, and were subject to endless laws and edicts that increased the feeling of humiliation. Of course, in other instances, the prophet was far more blunt: "Kill any Jew that falls into your power," for instance. This quote is part of a long story in the hadith about Jewish perfidy in general — Mohammed had expected the Jews of Arabia to convert, and when they did not, he grew less tolerant of them. In keeping with this sentiment, Muhammad personally ordered the execution of between 600 and 900 Jews in Medina in a single day.

                          Yet Christianity was not, at its core, a warrior’s faith, and the words of the gentle carpenter from Nazareth would hardly inspire the slaughter of the innocents. Despite the fact that the romanticized image of the Crusaders would come into fashion again and again over the course of the centuries, there was always a tension between Christian lore and Christian belief. It was a tension that would worsen in many ways after the 15th century, when the miracle of Gutenberg’s printing press would soon put a Bible, in the everyday language of the people, into the hands of anyone who wanted to read it.

                          Though some of these knights were more savage than any foe, others, like Godfrey de Bouillon, were educated men who knew the words of the Bible. They would carry a heavy burden of guilt over the spilling of an ocean of blood in the City of God. It is a guilt that has remained with Christians to the present day.

                          A relief army from Egypt attempted to reach the city, but they were defeated by the victorious Christians. Now Jerusalem and the Palestinian territory surrounding it were in the hands of the Crusaders, without doubt.

                          The founding of Outremer
                          Despite the massacre at Jerusalem, and despite the chaotic disasters of the “People’s Crusade,” the First Crusade is really the only one that could be called a tactical success. The military goals of the leaders had been met, their targets taken, and Christian access to the shrines of their God ensured. As at the close of all wars, there was a general desire at that point to go home, and it didn’t seem to occur to most of the army that they couldn’t just walk away from their conquest and expect it to remain open to Christians. Like the proverbial dog that catches the car he’s chasing, they had the city by the bumper, with no idea what to do with it.

                          And so the powwows began. There was a strong sentiment that government in the city should be in the hands of the clergy, which many of the remaining knights saw as a tactical folly, because the city was still surrounded by enemies. At last, the respected Godfrey de Bouillon was elected to govern, at least temporarily, and he took the modest title of “Defender of the Holy Sepulcher.” Many Christians still felt that the governance of the Holy City should be, like the Vatican, in the hands of the Church, an open city for all faiths. But a year later, on Godfrey de Bouillon’s death, his brother Baldwin was called back from Edessa, and was crowned King of Jerusalem in November of 1100. For good or ill, the Crusader States, sometimes called the Latin States, were born.

                          Actually, there was another name for this new nation, one that isn’t heard as often. They called it “Outremer,” and though it sounds like a mythical land at the center of the earth in a Jules Verne story, Outremer was simply an invented French word for a faraway kingdom across the sea (mer being French for sea). And when wistful and homesick citizens of Outremer spoke of home, they called it Citremer, implying the civilization, or les cites (cities) across the sea.

                          Four kingdoms made up the Latin States:
                          ● The Kingdom of Jerusalem

                          ● The County of Edessa: This was to the north, in present-day Syria, and was populated mainly by Armenians and Syrians. The kingdom was established by Godfrey’s brother Baldwin, by means fair and foul that are still debated by Crusader scholars. When Baldwin became King of Jerusalem, he gave Edessa over to his cousin Baldwin Le Bourg.

                          ● The Principality of Antioch: It was ruled by Bohemond, the Norman warlord. After he was captured by the Muslims in 1100, it was given over to his nephew Tancred. They replaced the Greek patriarch with a Latin one, and bristled Christian sensibilities in the predominantly Greek, Syrian, and Armenian Eastern Orthodox population.

                          ● The County of Tripoli: It was founded by Raymond of Toulouse, who began the siege of the city in 1102, after his part in the failed Crusade of 1101. After his death in 1109, this kingdom was taken by Raymond’s descendants, creating a new baronial house.

                          Islamic politics were a mess at this time, and it wasn’t until the arrival of Saladin on the scene, nearly a century later, that Muslims began pulling their oars in the same direction. But the Christians knew they couldn’t count on Muslim factionalism as a defense forever. They began at once to build a line of defensive forts, many of which still exist. The Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller were a very important part of this building boom (see Chapter 3).


                          • #14
                            Let’s Give It Another Shot: The Second Crusade
                            A powerful Muslim warlord named Zengi of Mosul came out of the north in the mid-12th century, attacking Damascus first. In 1144, Zengi overran the County of Edessa, massacring the Franks and the Christians of the city. Pope Eugenius III issued a papal bull calling for another Crusade, and the war was on again.

                            There’s one fact to remember about all the Crusades that would follow the first: All were trying to imitate the success of the First Crusade, and for the most part, all of them failed. The pope abused his powers in later centuries by proclaiming a “crusade” against temporal powers that were giving him a headache, or, more commonly, against factions of Christianity that he considered “heretical.” These “Crusades” were not popular, and they ended by lowering the prestige of the Church.

                            Like the sinking of the Titanic, the marriage of George II to Caroline of Brunswick, or the 1972 Super Bowl, the Second Crusade was one of those grand and epic failures that leaves people hooting from the cheap seats, giving off Bronx cheers, despite the dignity that Bernard of Clairvaux brought to the whole affair.

                            Two powerful kings got on board for the Second Crusade: Louis VII of France, and Conrad III, emperor of Germany. Although the Third Crusade would be known as the Kings’ Crusade, the Abbot Bernard had drafted some impressive bluebloods into this debacle.

                            Arriving at Constantinople late in 1147, each king would face major defeats at the hands of the Turks. Conrad had brought with him a slew of nobles from Germany, as well as the King of Poland and the King of Bohemia, and none of them was any help whatsoever.

                            Conrad, in strange territory, was too proud to listen to the sound advice of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel, disdaining his recommendations on routes and supplies. As he waltzed his main force past Nicaea into the heart of Anatolia, his men weary and his supplies running out, he may just as well have been wearing a KICK ME sign on his back. He was attacked by a large Turkish force on October 25, and his army was virtually annihilated. Conrad gathered together the pathetic remnants of his forces and retreated to Nicaea.

                            Louis didn’t do much better. He had brought along his wife, the remarkable Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was related by blood to several of the powerful families of the Latin States. Shrewd, powerful, and immensely wealthy in her own right, she would be the wife of both the French king and the English one, and two of her sons would go on to become kings themselves. (For more on Eleanor of Aquitaine and her Court of Love, see Chapter 10.)

                            Even after Conrad’s humiliating defeat, Louis could still put a staggering 50,000 men into the field. Unfortunately, his marriage to Eleanor was sinking into the squabbling and accusations of adultery that would be its finish, and this had a great effect on his ability to think tactically. Louis stubbornly ignored the shrewd advice of Eleanor and her uncle, Prince Raymond of Tripoli, that he should attack the city of Aleppo, which was the center of power for the Crusaders’ new principle enemy, Nureddin, the son of Zengi. Digging in his heels, Louis refused to listen to either of them, and finally decided, for reasons unclear and probably capricious, to attack Damascus.

                            Unur, who was the Turkish commander of Damascus, was also afraid of Nureddin, and may well have been made an ally had Louis not had the bad taste to lay siege to his city.

                            The campaign was bungled all around, and on July 28, after a mere five-day siege, news came that Nureddin was approaching. Louis and his forces retired with their tails between their legs, looking incredibly foolish. This disaster, born out of a family squabble, led to bitter accusations of treachery all around. Louis went home in a huff, leaving the Latin States, and his wife’s family, to fend for themselves.

                            A dynamic new Muslim force
                            With the death of Nureddin in 1174, the Muslim forces of both Egypt and Syria fell to his tactically brilliant protege — the mighty Saladin (for more about Saladin, see Chapter 5). Unfortunately, in that same year, Nureddin’s principle enemy, King Amalric also died, leaving the Franks in a dynastic mess.

                            Amalric’s 13 year-old son, Baldwin IV, succeeded, but he had leprosy. With his death eminent, two parties began to form around the deathbed — one headed by the young king’s sister Sibyl and her husband, Guy of Lusignan, a newcomer to the East, and the other around the “old” baronial families, including Raymond III of Tripoli. It didn’t help Frankish nerves that their urgent appeals to Pope Alexander III for help had gone unanswered. In March of 1185, when the young Baldwin IV died, Raymond of Tripoli became regent for Sybil’s son, Baldwin V. But when Raymond died in 1186, the faction around Sibyl had its way and hastily crowned her queen. She, in turn, crowned her husband, Guy.

                            So, the Franks were already near to civil war when Reginald of Chatillon, lord of Kerak and Montreal, broke the truce they’d had with Saladin by attacking a caravan. Saladin proclaimed jihad against the Latin Kingdoms.

                            In 1187, he crossed the Jordan River and took up a position on the other side. The Crusaders had mobilized about 38,000 men, with about 1,200 in heavily armed cavalry, a larger force on horseback than the enemy, although Saladin probably had as many as 50,000 men.

                            The new king, Guy of Lusignan, would not exactly prove to be a tactical genius. Ignoring the wise advice of the old campaigners, who were certain that Saladin was baiting a trap for Guy in the city of Tripoli, the king led his men, who were exhausted from a long march, with not enough food and water, straight into Saladin’s trap. This was the battle at the Horns of Hattin, (an extremely important moment in Templar history; see Chapter 5). It was one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the Frankish forces. The foot soldiers broke and ran, causing chaos in the cavalry, and Saladin’s final charge finished them. The king’s life was spared, but Saladin ordered many executions, including the instant decapitation of Reginald of Chatillon, who’d attacked Saladin’s caravan, and the execution of every Templar or Hospitaller knight he could lay hands on, at least 200 of them. Saladin feared these warrior monks as he feared no others, and the rules of the game did not apply to them. As for the rest, it was the usual — highborn were ransomed, lowborn sold into slavery. At this point in time, there was really no military force left for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

                            Jerusalem falls
                            Saladin moved quickly, taking Tiberius, and then charging up the coast to take Acre. By September of 1187, he had most of the major Latin strongholds, including all the ports south of Tripoli except Tyre. There were only a handful of men to defend Jerusalem, and, on October 2, Saladin took the city. He wanted ransom rather than death. Inhabitants who could pay it were allowed to leave freely. Several thousand of the unredeemed poor were sold into slavery. Most who elected to stay were Syrian or Greek Christians. Later, he let some of the Jewish population back in. By 1189, Saladin was pretty much the lord of all he surveyed.

                            The news of the fall of Jerusalem reached the West even before the archbishop who had been sent by the Franks to appeal for aid. The new pope, Gregory VIII, promptly obliged with a crusade bull, calling for fasting and prayer as well. One quick recovery was made by Conrad of Montferrat, Baldwin V’s uncle, who put together a small force of Italian ships and took back the city of Tyre from Saladin, while he was busy marching on Jerusalem. The following year, Saladin released his prisoner, Guy of Lusignan, the king of Jerusalem, and, ominously, Montferrat would not submit his fealty. The Latin barons were still sniping at one another when the prayed-for ships appeared off Acre, bringing supplies and the joyous news that a new army was on its way.

                            The Third Crusade
                            There is a very definite aura around the Third Crusade, one that resembles the star power without a decent script that erupts into a big-budget Hollywood flop-buster. All style and big budget, no substance.

                            Insofar as the players are concerned, the Third Crusade is definitely the most famous of all the Crusades, but truth to tell, it didn’t accomplish much. It did restore the Latin States, sort of. It left them well-enough fortified to linger on for another century, which isn’t much of a victory, considering this Crusade’s size and splendor.


                            • #15
                              Cecil B. DeMille
                              In 1935, Hollywood's most powerful director, Cecil B. DeMille, was working on his latest oversized epic, The Crusades. He received a letter from an Islamic citizen's group, worried over his portrayal of Islam in his film. DeMille certainly had the power to file it in the circular, if he'd chosen to. But being a gentleman of the old school, he arranged a prescreening for the group, in order to ensure that he'd done nothing to offend them. At that "work print" stage, he would be able to alter anything that they found objectionable.

                              When the lights came up after the movie, Mr. DeMille found a roomful of people who were perfectly happy with his film. Actually, they were delighted with his film. In fact, they asked to see it again. When The Crusades had its initial run in Cairo, it played for an astonishing three years. And when DeMille went to Egypt to film The Ten Commandments in 1957, he was fawned over by no less a fan than President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who gushed that The Crusades was his favorite film, and as a boy he'd seen it 20 times.

                              This isn't at all hard for a historian to understand. DeMille was a very well-read man, and he'd been raised on the Crusader stories of the 19th century. In those stories, the larger-than-life figure of Saladin was a man of heroic proportions. He was the epic figure of an enemy worthy of a knight's steel — courageous and courteous, honorable and proud, with a deep spirituality that was matched by his skill as a warrior. This gave the troubadour tales an aura of tragedy; had Richard and Saladin been born on the same side, they would doubtless have been friends. As it was, the relationship between these two mythic figures was something of a mutual admiration society. In DeMille's film treatment of the Third Crusade, there's no question at all that the brave and noble Saladin, played by the handsome actor Ian Keith, comes off a whole lot better than Henry Wilcoxon's loutish and lunkheaded Richard. In fact, Richard very nearly loses the girl to Saladin's charms. This is hardly a case of fanatical Western Christians demonizing a Muslim.

                              Well, perhaps one other thing was accomplished. The Third Crusade became the wellspring for the West’s most enduring myths and legends of Crusader knights, their ladies fair, and their Muslim enemy. This was the Crusade of Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Robin Hood, and the evil Prince John. Unfortunately, these deeply engrained myths can overshadow truth.

                              Lately, a lot of books about the Crusades are skewed by what’s called “revisionist history,” a good thing so long as people aren’t blinded by a new, but equally unchallengeable, orthodoxy. As the pendulum swings in the opposite direction, and Crusaders become the bad guys, certain aspects can be particularly annoying. These works often suggest that the people of the West have always seen Muslim leaders like Saladin in a negative light. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be farther from the truth. Saladin was a legendary figure in Western mythology, sharing the stage with Richard the Lionheart. (See the nearby “Cecil B. DeMille” sidebar for more.)

                              The celebrity crusade
                              Here are the bare facts of the Third Crusade, starting with a list of the kings who dropped everything to answer the pope’s appeal. It was definitely the Hollywood Squares of the Crusades:

                              ● William II of Sicily, known as William the Good, in contrast to his father, who had been called William the Bad. Sicilians let you know what they think of you.

                              ● Frederick I Barbarossa, fabled emperor of the Holy Roman Empire,

                              who came at the age of 70, despite the fact that he’d been feuding with the pope off and on. He crossed Hungary into Byzantium with the largest Crusader force ever assembled. In 1190, he reached Iconium, after defeating a Turkish army on the way. He then crossed into Armenian territory, but on June 10, while riding ahead with his bodyguard, he was drowned fording a stream. His death broke the spirit of the German army, many of whom turned back, but smaller contingents kept on, under his son Frederick of Swabia, and Leopold of Austria. Saladin had been a little discomfited at the thought of facing the legendary Frederick in battle and thought his drowning an act of God.

                              ● Phillip II Augustus, king of France, son of Louis VII, and perennial enemy of Richard.

                              ● Henry II of England, who took the Cross but died before he could go, in 1189, passing the ball to his eldest son, Richard the Lionheart. The British and French were feuding with one another over territorial claims of the English in France, but they arrived together in 1190, three years after Hattin. In 1191, they laid siege to Acre.

                              Richard did stop along the way to conquer Cyprus. In all fairness, the renegade Comnenus there, Isaac Comnenus, was holding both Richard’s sister Joan and his fiance Berengaria as hostages, after they’d been shipwrecked there on the way to join Richard. It was a small event of the Third Crusade, though in later years Cyprus would prove to be a valuable tactical possession for the West.

                              Richard and Saladin
                              A month after the siege began, Acre fell to the Crusaders. The arguments started about ten minutes after the kings passed through the gates. Saladin seemed to be trying to dance out of signing a surrender agreement, and Richard massacred a couple thousand Muslim prisoners as a result.

                              This Crusade developed into something of a grudge match, since both forces were roughly equal, and both commanders, Richard and Saladin, tactically brilliant. They also had enormous respect for one another as adversaries. Both

                              could be ruthless, and both had an unusual and singular sense of honor that seemed to mirror one another’s, far more so than in the testy relationship between Richard and the other Christian kings. Consequently, the war was a stalemate; a diplomatic solution was needed, but both proved to be lousy diplomats. At last came the Treaty of Jaffa in 1192, which left the Franks in control of the coast from Acre to Jaffa, and gave Christians access to Jerusalem.

                              Tactically, the Third Crusade failed to retake Jerusalem, its principle objective, but it did take Acre and secure enough of the coastline to keep the Latin States going. Richard also conceded to the majority of the Latin barons that King Guy should be deposed, and he endorsed Conrad of Montferrat, who was assassinated soon after, another scandal that would involve the Templars in accusations of collusion with the Islamic cult of the Assassins (see Chapter 5). Guy was given the governorship of the new possession of Cyprus, which he managed not to screw up.

                              Unfortunately, Richard and Saladin, by that time, seemed to need each other in some way in order to function. Saladin died six months after the treaty was signed. Richard, himself very ill, was shipwrecked on his journey home. (It’s easy to see why the Crusaders eventually left the business of sea transport to the Venetians.) Later, Richard fell into the hands of Leopold of Austria, who had not forgotten Richard’s slights to him at Acre. He was held hostage until the English people could raise enough money to sooth Leopold’s hurt feelings.

                              The Final Curtain
                              It’s probably not fair to say that nothing of much importance happened in Crusades number 4, 5, 6 and 7. But the fact is, nothing of much importance happened, at least, not until the finale. Also, despite all that death and dysentery and derring-do, nothing much happened that is of great importance to the Templar story that we don’t cover in far greater detail in Chapter 5 on the fall of the Templars. So, what follows is a miniaturized, encapsulated, freeze-dried, and vacuum-packed version of the last four important Crusades.

                              The Fourth Crusade
                              If the Second Crusade was a disaster, the fourth played out like a darkly comic farce. Pope Innocent III tried to recapture the glory days of the First Crusade but made his biggest mistake in 1199 when he hired the Venetians, the trading lords of the Mediterranean, to ferry his army across to the Holy Land. Venice had once been a colony of Byzantium, and there was bad blood between them. Once again, as always, the Crusaders wanted to break the Cairo/Syrian axis by attacking Cairo, but Venice had close trading ties with Egypt.

                              Before long, the wily Venetians were running the show, talking the two chief knights of the Crusade, both of whom were married to Byzantine princesses, into overthrowing the emperor of Byzantium instead. The combined Latin and Venetian forces sacked Constantinople and set up their own government. When the pope tried to stop them, he was told to butt out.

                              It was the ugliest and most ignoble of all the Crusades. Chaos reigned, with no heroes in sight. Saladin was dead, and Muslim alliances were falling apart. In Europe, occasional outbreaks of mass hysteria resulted in tragedies like the “Children’s Crusade” and the “Shepherd’s Crusade,” in which thousands of innocent children marched off to Constantinople with the pope’s blessing, ending up dead or in the slave markets of the East. Meanwhile, the nobility was growing disenchanted with the whole mess.

                              The Fifth Crusade
                              Pope Innocent III was of the “if at first you don’t succeed” school of military planning. In May of 1218, he fast-talked the emperor of Germany into a Crusade, even dusting off the old plan that had failed twice before — attack and take Cairo, break the Egypt/Syria axis, and use the city as a bargaining chip to get back Jerusalem. It was an eight-year debacle. Many times the Egyptians were ready to make peace and a compromise, but the papal legates along for the ride kept interfering in military matters, and it all ended in a lot of blood spilled for nothing.

                              The Sixth Crusade
                              Civilization and common sense actually triumphed in this Crusade. Pope Gregory IX sent the German emperor to make war in Egypt, and instead he brokered a ten-year peace with the equally wise sultan of Egypt. Not a drop of blood was spilled, and warmongers on both sides were deeply disappointed. About five minutes after the peace ran out, early in 1239, the newly powerful Kwarezmian Turks invaded the Levant. Eventually the Egyptians joined them, and together they sacked Jerusalem in 1244.

                              The Seventh Crusade
                              Sacking Jerusalem was always an invitation to war with the Christians. In 1245, the truly brave and noble French king, Louis IX, drafted Pope Innocent IV into helping him put together a Crusade, reversing the process for once. He tried twice to take back the Holy City and was finally captured by the Muslims. When he was ransomed back in 1254, he was too weak and ill to fight any longer.

                              By 1260, two powerful new forces were slugging it out, using Palestine as a battleground:
                              ● The Mongols who were sweeping out of the East

                              ● The new dynasty of Mamluks out of Egypt, former slave-bodyguards of the sultans who were devastating warriors

                              Baybars, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, who is still a great hero in the Islamic world, drove out both the Mongols and the Franks, reducing the Crusaders to a few fortified coastal cities. He massacred the inhabitants of all the cities he took, on the flimsy pretext that they had aided the Mongols.

                              In what’s often called the Eighth Crusade, poor Louis IX, still weak in health, felt guilty over all the massacres that wouldn’t have happened if he had succeeded. He returned in 1270, though he could get no other king to accompany him. Both Louis and his son died in Egypt within the year, and the army lost more men to fever and dysentery than to war. Louis’s brother Charles evacuated what was left of the army, and when a small force of English knights arrived to relieve him (the Ninth Crusade?) they were too late. So everybody went home, where they probably should have stayed to begin with.

                              In 1274, at the Council of Lyon, Pope Gregory X called for another Crusade to rescue the Holy Land. He got dead silence in reply, punctuated by a few cricket noises. European kings were now in debt up to their eyeballs, most were at war or planning to be with one another, and they were all sick of pumping money into the Middle East. By 1291, the Mamluks conquered the last Crusader stronghold of Acre on the Levantine coast, massacring anyone left alive. The era of the Crusades was finished.