Knights Hospitaller & Knights Templar: the difference

  

Knights

   The difference is simple, and not very subtle; the Templars ceased to exist, and the Hospitallers certainly exist right now, working for the sick. Originally the latter were of a military order, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. The name comes from the dedication to St. John the Baptist of their headquarters in Jerusalem.

These are not their only names: from 1310 they were the Knights of Rhodes, and from 1530 the Knights of Malta, but they were established themselves first in (or around) 1070 with Muslim permission, managing a hospital for sick pilgrims in Jerusalem. They only became a formal order of knights when the city fell to the first Crusaders in 1099.

They wore a black habit, with a white eight-pointed Maltese Cross. They elected a Master and under him were at first purely military, in an order which spread quickly across Europe. In questions of order and discipline they followed Augustinian rules (q.v.) and divided themselves into three classes or ranks: knights, chaplains and serving brothers.

Driven out of Jerusalem by Saladin himself they moved to Acre, from which they were expelled a century later, transferring to Cyprus. In 1310, however, they captured the island of Rhodes and remained there until 1522. Then Emperor Charles V made them a present of the island of Malta, which they had to defend by force against the Turks, but they could not deal in a similar fashion with Napoleon: by this time the Order had lost its influence and supporting voices.

Some members moved to Russia where they made Paul I Grand Master of their Order. He died in 1801 and the order collapsed temporarily in confusion, only to be restored again in England in the 1830s. Only the English branch now remains, and the aim of the Order, in the persons of doctors, surgeons, nurses etc., is to care for the sick. They stopped their military function around the end of the eighteenth century.

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The case of the Knights Templar is altogether different. The Order was founded around 1118 by Hugh de Payens or Payns, a knight from the region of Champagne in France. He called it The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon; he and seven companions promised to protect pilgrims travelling on the public roads in The Holy Land. In 1128 official approval was provided by the Treaty of Troyes on the understanding they they would follow Benedictine rules (q.v.) Here is the first notable difference: the Hospitallers were Augustinian, and Templars Benedictine.

The Templars rose rapidly in popularity, attracting many noble new members; the Order became very rich, acquiring much property throughout the Christian sphere. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1387 they moved to Acre with the Hospitallers – a grave mistake. Rivalry and mutual loathing developed between the two Orders, not without violent encounters. When the Hospitallers moved to Cyprus, so did the Templars, which was also a seriously bad career move. On this island they became bankers rather more than soldiers, and attracted half the nobility of Europe to invest with them. The Hospitallers complained that what was supposed to be a religious order was now simply making a fortune and had ceased to be Christian or even religious in tone.

Sadly, they attracted the attention and disapproval of a French king, Philip IV of France (q.v.), was decidedly hostile, for reasons that can only have been financial. Clever as ever,

Philip ‘the Fair’ persuaded Pope Clement to suppress the Order, enabling the wily Frenchman to grab their enormous wealth and property. One assumes that the Pope insisted on sharing it with ‘The Fair One’.

The Templars were assaulted in their castles, mostly killed, and their Grand Master was burnt at the stake for heresy. Historians of the epoch wrote of them as blasphemers, practitioners of Black Magic, sexually depraved (historians should know), cruel and unjust. Not surprisingly, given a very bad press, they failed to form up again and vanished from History, though the Ku Klux Klan in the US claimed to follow their example and creed. Such nonsense.

2 thoughts on “Knights Hospitaller & Knights Templar: the difference

  1. Richard

    You need to re-read your history. The Knights Templar were a Christian Religious order. They were the Soldiers of Christ. They were also smarter than the rest realizing to grow and survive meant you needed money; and they were exceptional in this area. Basically, creating our modern-day banking system and even travelers checks. Their power grew to the point that a bankrupt country, France, went to them and secured a loan to make them liquid again to continue their long fight against Great Britain. King Philip simply did not want to re-pay his loan so he labeled them as heretics. However, that was not good enough. His words carried very little weight. So, he went to Pope Clement and ask the Catholic Church to label the Knights as heretics. This was there undoing. They were rounded up, tortured and murdered. There are no official records of a single Templar Knight breaking his oath.
    Trying to distinguish between Benedictines and Augustinian is like splitting religious hairs. They were very similar with the Augustinians who pre-dated the Benedictines by a century. However, when the two came together they became what is now known as Monasteries with the Monks living together and not alone.
    Traditionally, Benedictines are cloistered; living within an enclosure with very little to no interaction with the world. Being a coenobitic order, their “world” is the monks around them, which they interact with frequently (community meals, community prayer, community work, etc.). The Benedictine “motto” is ora et labora; Prayer and Work. It is thus that outside of the Divine Office, a monk’s time it usually taken up with some sort of work, not allowing time You need to re-read your history. The Knights Templar were a Christian Religious order. They were the for idle hands.
    There was nothing evil about The Knights Templar. They existed in a time when most the population was un-educated. And anybody different and able to do things that the normal masses could do could be thought of as evil; this was simply ignorance due to lack of formal education.
    And as far as the death of the final Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. He was imprisoned for 7 years and was going to be spared until King Philip, The Fair, of France went mad and demanded the church carry out his murder. And as legend has it, a curse was put onto both King Philip and Pope Clement that they would die within the next 12 months; both did!
    “The cardinals dallied with their duty until 18 March 1314, when, on a scaffold in front of Notre Dame, Jacques de Molay, Templar Grand Master, Geoffroi de Charney, Master of Normandy, Hugues de Peraud, Visitor of France, and Godefroi de Gonneville, Master of Aquitaine, were brought forth from the jail in which for nearly seven years they had lain, to receive the sentence agreed upon by the cardinals, in conjunction with the Archbishop of Sens and some other prelates whom they had called in. Considering the offences which the culprits had confessed and confirmed, the penance imposed was in accordance with rule — that of perpetual imprisonment. The affair was supposed to be concluded when, to the dismay of the prelates and wonderment of the assembled crowd, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney arose. They had been guilty, they said, not of the crimes imputed to them, but of basely betraying their Order to save their own lives. It was pure and holy; the charges were fictitious and the confessions false. Hastily the cardinals delivered them to the Prevot of Paris, and retired to deliberate on this unexpected contingency, but they were saved all trouble. When the news was carried to Philippe he was furious. A short consultation with his council only was required. The canons pronounced that a relapsed heretic was to be burned without a hearing; the facts were notorious and no formal judgment by the papal commission need be waited for. That same day, by sunset, a pile was erected on a small island in the Seine, the Ile des Juifs, near the palace garden. There de Molay, de Charney, de Gonneville, and de Peraud were slowly burned to death, refusing all offers of pardon for retraction, and bearing their torment with a composure which won for them the reputation of martyrs among the people, who reverently collected their ashes as relics.

    Finally, the Templars do still exist; the Catholic Church will not recognize this fact.

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