Images of the Military Orders, 1128-1291: Spiritual, Secular, Romantic
thesisposted on 06.10.2009, 09:51 by Helen Jane Nicholson
The intention of this study is to examine attitudes towards the military orders, in particular the international orders of the Temple, the Hospital and the Teutonic order, between papal recognition of the order of the Temple in 1128, and the final destruction of the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291, both in the light of recent studies of attitudes towards crusading, and seeking to illuminate the circumstances behind the trial and destruction of the order of the Temple in the early fourteenth century. The study examines the opinions held of the military orders in different sections of society, the rulers of Catholic Christendom, the clergy and the laity. It also discusses the fictional image woven around the orders by chroniclers and the writers of epics and romances; the former adapting traditional topoi, the latter drawing on reality. Finally, there is an examination of the measures taken by the orders to form and improve their image in the eyes of Christendom. Much of the criticism of the military orders was directed at them as regular orders, but they received less criticism than other groups within the Church. In the second half of the thirteenth century the orders' relative unpopularity decreased, as the friars' privileges began to attract criticism, and as European interest in the Holy Land waned. They retained a good reputation as knights of Christ, even after the loss of Acre. Although all of the military orders attracted praise and criticism, the main attention of chroniclers and storytellers was on the order of the Temple, which was seen to epitomize the concept of the military order. It claimed to be, and was widely recognized as, above all others responsible for the defence of the Holy Land; hence it was more vulnerable to criticism than the other military orders.