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In a rude and primitive condition of mankind might constitute right and strength and daring give rank. The aristocracy, therefore, will consist of the warriors while the weak, the young, the old and the women will occupy an inferior position. An uncivilized race is always at war. A system of mutual fear, hatred and injury seems to be the normal condition of savage man, in all ages and in every part of the world. As civilization progressed in Europe and Asia, the use of the horse in battle led to another distinction. The warrior who fought on horseback was superior to him who fought on foot; hence the title of knight or chevalier, the soldier who fought on horseback, a cheval. But though these facts may be noticed as general principles, the system of Chivalry or Knighthood properly so called can hardly be said to have existed till about the eleventh century. The Roman and Greek civilizations were gone. The hordes of northern tribes had swept over Europe one after another, and with reckless waste had not merely sacked towns and murdered their inhabitants, but had leveled the noble monuments of antiquity, destroyed cities and temples, burned libraries and reduced the fairest and most civilized countries in the world to silent deserts. Impenetrable forests took the place of cornfields and vineyards and wild beasts roamed where the arts and sciences had been cultivated for centuries. The strong will and powerful arm of Charlemagne had done something for the reconstitution of society, and the spread of Christianity was slowly working out its great and noble purposes. But in the mean time something that was not far removed from anarchy reigned. Each chief settled in some fortified place and with his dependents defended himself as best he could against all comers. Everyman’s hand was against his neighbor. Every one sallied out when he chose and attacked some one else, either to be slain in battle, or to return laden with booty. Merchants v/ere waylaid, and their goods carried off to the stronghold, castles were surprised, the men killed in fair fight, the women made prisoners. It was to remedy these miseries, and to introduce order and mutual trust, respect for the rights of others and mercy to the weak that, chiefly by the influence of Christianity, the system of Chivalry or Knighthood was created...
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Copyright © 2016 by Frederick Woodhouse
Published by Ozymandias Press
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PART I.THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM OR KNIGHTS HOSPITALLERS
PART II.THE KNIGHTS OF TEMPLARS
PART III.THE TEUTONIC KNIGHTS
PART IV.PORTUGUESE AND SPANISH ORDERS
PART V.ENGLISH ORDERS
THE ORIGIN OF CHIVALRY – PRIMITIVE LAWS OF RANK – THE USE OF THE HORSE IN WAR – THE TERM CHEVALIER – THE GROWTH OF THE MEDIEVAL SYSTEM OF KNIGHTHOOD – CHARLEMAGNE – THE SUPPRESSION OF BRIGANDAGE – KING ARTHUR – THE FEUDAL LORD AND THE BISHOP – CEREMONIAL FOR THE CREATION OF A KNIGHT – THE VALUE OF CHIVALRY AS AN AID TO CIVILIZATION – KNIGHT ERRANTRY – IMPROVEMENT OF WOMAN’S SOCIAL POSITION – THE PAGAN AND THE CHRISTIAN WARRIOR COMPARE – THE DUTIES OF A TRUE KNIGHT
“A glorious company, the flower of men,
To serve as model for the mighty world,
I made them lay their hands in mine, and swear
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad, redressing human wrongs.
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity.”
In a rude and primitive condition of mankind might constitute right and strength and daring give rank.
The aristocracy, therefore, will consist of the warriors while the weak, the young, the old and the women will occupy an inferior position. An uncivilized race is always at war. A system of mutual fear, hatred and injury seems to be the normal condition of savage man, in all ages and in every part of the world.
As civilization progressed in Europe and Asia, the use of the horse in battle led to another distinction. The warrior who fought on horseback was superior to him who fought on foot; hence the title of knight or chevalier, the soldier who fought on horseback, a cheval.
But though these facts may be noticed as general principles, the system of Chivalry or Knighthood properly so called can hardly be said to have existed till about the eleventh century.
The Roman and Greek civilizations were gone. The hordes of northern tribes had swept over Europe one after another, and with reckless waste had not merely sacked towns and murdered their inhabitants, but had leveled the noble monuments of antiquity, destroyed cities and temples, burned libraries and reduced the fairest and most civilized countries in the world to silent deserts. Impenetrable forests took the place of cornfields and vineyards and wild beasts roamed where the arts and sciences had been cultivated for centuries.
The strong will and powerful arm of Charlemagne had done something for the reconstitution of society, and the spread of Christianity was slowly working out its great and noble purposes. But in the mean time something that was not far removed from anarchy reigned. Each chief settled in some fortified place and with his dependents defended himself as best he could against all comers. Everyman’s hand was against his neighbor. Every one sallied out when he chose and attacked some one else, either to be slain in battle, or to return laden with booty. Merchants v/ere waylaid, and their goods carried off to the stronghold, castles were surprised, the men killed in fair fight, the women made prisoners.
It was to remedy these miseries, and to introduce order and mutual trust, respect for the rights of others and mercy to the weak that, chiefly by the influence of Christianity, the system of Chivalry or Knighthood was created.
The German tribes had always been distinguished by a regard for truth and a respect for women, not commonly found among barbarous nations, and it was among their descendants that these principles were gradually developed by the gentle hand of Christianity into a system which saved Europe from barbarism, and laid the foundation of the civilization which we now enjoy.
First one powerful and virtuous prince and men another set himself to suppress robbery and violence in his own dominions, and to restrain the petty chiefs who were more or less subject to him.
It is impossible now to disentangle fact from myth in the story of King Arthur, but in the high purposes and noble aims that are ascribed to him by later writers, we see undoubtedly the sort of reformation that great and good men like him were ever and again attempting in all parts of Europe with greater or less success.
No historian has written the annals of these pioneers of civilization; they have passed away and their good deeds are unrecorded, but their work remains and we reap the fruit which they labored and suffered to plant and to protect.
The feudal lord and the bishop, if they were such as we have described, conspired together to make the subject chieftains honorable men, who would restrain their lower passions by high and holy principles. They induced them to send their sons to be trained and educated at the court till they attained full manhood. And so these bachelors, or has chevaliers, as they were called, being removed from the rude surroundings of their country homes, became acquainted, in the capital of their country, with all the highest knowledge and the gentlest manners that the times could boast. And when they came to man’s estate they received their dignity as Knights with much ceremony, and with the sanction of religion.
The candidate fasted and prayed, confessed his sins, and received the Holy Communion. Then, in the church he was girded with his sword, and his spurs were buckled to his heels, and some old and noble Knight striking him with his sword, as he humbly knelt before him, admitted him to the rank of Knight, after he had solemnly sworn to be brave and true, to defend women, and to keep from violence and robbery.
All this may seem to us to be strange and fanciful, but if we remember what the times were, and how great a step this implied towards all that we esteem and value, we shall appreciate the far-seeing wisdom of those who devised all this system and ceremonial and understand that they did indeed that which was best for the age in which they lived and for those that were to come after.
A powerful prince may by main force suppress violence, and secure respect for law and justice as far as his arm can reach, and during his lifetime, but it is a far greater and more lasting achievement to teach other men to adopt and to insist upon these principles, and so become centers of light and order themselves.
By these means war was carried on with less ferocity; mercy to the vanquished and to non-combatants came to be esteemed as essential to the true Knight as courage and endurance and courtesy and regard for truth as indispensable as strength of arm, and a firm seat upon the charger. The Knight scorned to take an unfair advantage of his enemy, and trusted alone to the justice of his cause and his own prowess for victory in the combat.
The savage deems any fraud or artifice legitimate that will give his enemy into his power, and when he has him he delights to torture him with every ingenious cruelty, but the Christian knight would fight only on equal terms, and would treat his prisoner with every courtesy. He fought for God and for his lady-love, and believed that crime and broken troth would be more fatal to his success than the might of his adversary.
Instead of the hideous and dreadful combats of the old world, when naked gladiators and wild beasts fought even in the presence of women, the Tournament was invented, in which skill in the use of the lance, and in the management of the horse, were as much required as courage and mere brute force.
Strict rules, the presence of ladies, and the absolute law of courtesy kept even hot blood from driving men to extremities.
There arose, too, the extraordinary phenomenon of Knight-Errantry.
Not satisfied with the combats and adventures that might fall in his way in war, or in his own country, the young and ardent knight would sally forth to seek fields for his prowess in unknown lands.
To right wrong, to avenge the oppressed, especially to protect or release ladies in distress or captivity, these were the objects of the Knight-Errant’s quest. By these he desired to gain honor and fame, or to perish honorably in the attempt.
We know that all this was carried to excess, and degenerated into folly and extravagancies, till Cervantes covered it with ridicule in his Don Quixote, and, as it is said, brought it to an end.
But still it had its place in the history of European civilization and progress. It did its work, and then passed away; but whatever may have been its faults, it certainly had its good side and helped to lift man from the savagery into which he naturally tends to degenerate, up towards the high and noble Christian ideal.
And if Chivalry did much for men, it did, if possible, more for women.
In savage life woman is a toy or a drudge. Even among the more civilized ancient nations she had but a mean place in the affairs of life and of the world. But Chivalry lifted her up into an ideal, and regarded her with a romantic devotion and respect, and woman so esteemed, esteemed herself and all her beautiful and glorious attributes came into active and beneficent prominence. Not losing her natural modesty, she nevertheless exercised mighty influence by gentle and unobtrusive agencies and more than repaid men for their gallantry by making them gentle and chaste and courteous.
Woman was no more a mere cipher in human life, but was felt to be an essential element in society, with her own peculiar duties and functions which she alone could fulfill, and without whom civilization and true progress could not be hoped for.
Let any one compare Achilles with the Chevalier Bayard, and it will be seen what strides had been made in true human elevation. Both are brave, with high animal courage, but while the former is vindictive and cruel, and displays all the faults of an overgrown child, the latter is generous and enduring, and is full of all the noble and supernatural qualities that Christ came into the world to display, and to teach men to imitate. In the one human infirmities are seen unelevated, uncorrected; in the other we see that some higher principle has been at work, and that while human nature has lost none of its good qualities, it has gained many new ones, and been taught to curb the evil, and to raise and convert the unworthy and the base.
The following were anciently held to be the necessary duties of every true Knight:
“It behoves every Knight to fear God, and with all his power to maintain the Christian faith
“To be charitable, and comfort those who are afflicted
“To serve faithfully and to defend his prince and country courageously
“To forgive the follies and offences of other men, and sincerely embrace the love of friends.
“To esteem truth, and without respect to maintain it
“To avoid sloth and superfluous ease
“To spend his time in honest and virtuous actions
“To reverence magistrates, and converse with persons of honor
“To eschew riot, and detest intemperance
“To frequent the wars, and use military exercises
“To eschew dishonest pleasures, and endeavor to do good to others
“To accommodate himself to the humor of honest company and be no wrangler
“To shun the conversation of perverse persons, and behave himself modestly
“To be sober and discreet, no boaster of his own acts, no speaker of himself
“To desire no excessive riches, and patiently endure worldly calamities
“To undertake just enterprises, and defend the rights of others
“To support the oppressed, and help widows and orphans
“To prefer honor before worldly wealth and be both in words and deeds just and faithful.”
“Record we too, with just and faithful pen,
That many hooded cenobites there are,
Who in their private cells have yet a care
Of public quiet.”
THE ELEVENTH CENTURY – PIKGRIMAGE TO JERUSALEM – DIFFICULTIES OF PILGRIMS FROM EUROPE – THE TWO ITALIAN MERCHANTS – THE FIRST HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN AT JERUSALEM – JERUSALEM TAKEN BY THE TURCOMANS – NEW MISERIES OF PILGRIMS – PETER THE HERMIT – THE FIRST CRUSADE
“Then blame not those who by the mightiest lever
Known to the moral world, Imagination,
Upheave, so seems it, from her natural station
All Christendom. They sweep along (was never
So huge a host to tear from the unbeliever
The precious Tomb, their haven of salvation.”
In the middle of the eleventh century Jerusalem was in the hands of the Sultan of Egypt.
Great multitudes of pilgrims came every year to visit the Holy Sepulchre, and the other Sacred Places both from the East and West, being required to pay for the privilege to the Mahometan masters of the Holy Land.
The Eastern Christians, or Greeks, many of whom were subjects of the Sultan, were permitted to build houses within the city, where they cold lodge their countrymen during their stay in the city.
But the Western Christians, or Latins, had no such privilege accorded to them, and they were consequently subjected to great hardship and danger, and had the utmost difficulty in finding shelter of any kind within the city. The Mahometans would not admit them into their houses, through their hatred of Christianity; while the Greeks, on account of the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, regarded them in much the same way that the Samaritans regarded the Jews in the time of our Lord.
It was at this time that some Italian merchants of Amalfi set themselves to provide some means to remedy this evil. Their business enabled them to gain access to the Sultan of Egypt, and by means of presents to him and to his principal courtiers, they succeeded in obtaining permission to build a house for the shelter of Latin pilgrims in Jerusalem, near the Holy Sepulchre.
Having obtained this they lost no time in carrying out their charitable purpose. Partly from their own resources and partly by means of alms collected by them from others, they built a convent and church. The former was filled with Benedictine monks, the latter was dedicated to St. Mary ad Latinos.
To this convent were attached two great Hospitals, one for men and one for women, each with its chapel, the one dedicated to St. John the Almoner, the other to St. Mary Magdalene.
No sooner was it known that a Hospital had been founded at Jerusalem for the reception of pilgrims of the Latin Church, than many devout persons left home and country to devote themselves to the service of its inmates. Others collected alms in Europe, and sent them to the Benedictine monks, who fed, clothed, and nursed their guests, many of whom had been stripped, wounded, and otherwise ill-treated by robbers or Mahometans on their road to Jerusalem.
But this good work had only just become established when it was well-nigh destroyed.
The Turcomans, leaving their native plains in Tartary, were fired with a desire for conquest, and burst in vast numbers upon Asia, and everywhere carried havock and desolation upon its towns and inhabitants.
In 1065, Jerusalem fell into their hands, and they committed the most terrible cruelties upon the Saracen and Christian population, almost all of whom were tortured and put to death. The buildings of the city were for the most part destroyed, the Holy Sepulchre being spared from mercenary motives, because permission to visit it might be made a fruitful source of revenue.
The miseries of pilgrims now became greater than ever. The permission to enter the city and visit the Holy Sepulchre could only be purchased for a large sum, the amount depending on the caprice or the covetousness of the chief who happened to be appointed to the charge for the time being; so that many unfortunate persons who had sold everything to enable them to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after enduring the hardships of a long voyage and journey, sickness, robbery, and other dangers, often found themselves at the gates of Jerusalem without sufficient money to gain an entrance, and were obliged to return without a sight of the object of their arduous undertaking, or even died in penury, uncared for, and friendless, without any reward for their labors and sufferings.
Tidings of all this were gradually brought to Europe and the East, and everywhere caused the deepest grief and the highest indignation.
But still nothing was done, or even suggested, to remedy the terrible evil. Some man was wanted to concentrate the feelings of Christendom, and to point out a line of action.
This man was at last found in Peter the Hermit. This remarkable man possessed the faculty, not given to many, of rousing enthusiasm and creating a popular and universal course of action.
He addressed himself first to the Patriarch of Constantinople, as being the fit person to lead the Eastern Christians to rise for the defense of the Holy Places, and for the vindication of the right of Christians to visit them. But the Eastern Church, intimately connected as it was with the Eastern empire, shared also its weakness and lethargy, and Peter could do nothing at Constantinople.
Indeed, everything in the East pointed to coming ruin. Emperor after emperor was raised by faction, and put to death by violence; women and eunuchs ruled, and the successor of Constantine was but an ignoble puppet, without power, and without manliness.
Peter, therefore, turned his back upon Constantinople and appeared before the Pope; and then traversed the greater part of Europe, visiting one king after another, and pleading the cause of the suffering Christians in the East, and everywhere arousing the greatest enthusiasm for his projects; till, in 1095, the Councils of Placentia and Clermont brought matters to a definite issue, and the first Crusade was determined upon.
THE HISTORY OF THE HOLY PLACES – THE EGYPTIANS – THE GREEKS – MECCA – INDIA — THE JEWS – THE CHRISTIANS – TESTIMONY OF PRIMITIVE WRITERS – THE HOLY SEPULCHRE – THE EMPRESS HELENA – CHOSROES – OMAR – CHRISTIAN PILGRIMAGE – ITS ABUSES – EARLY PROTESTS AGAINST THEM – THE CRUELTIES INFLICTED ON PILGRIMS BY THE MAHOMETANS – THE COUNCIL OF CLERMONT.
As far as to the Sepulchre of Christ,
Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross
We are impressed, and engaged to fight.
Forthwith a power of English shall we levy.
Whose arms were moulded in their mother’s womb
To chase these pagans in those holy fields,
Over whose acres walked those blessed Feet,
Which, fourteen hundred years ago, were nailed
For our advantage on the bitter Cross.”
In order to understand in any degree the meaning and object of the Crusades which drew so many of the best and noblest of Europe to fight, to suffer, and to die in the East for century after century, we must know something of the history of the Holy Places which drew them there.
In almost all ages and all countries, wherever at least religion in any form has been vigorous, and has held real sway over men’s minds, either by devotion or superstition, there we find certain places esteemed sacred, and thither men have resorted.
The Egyptians possessed temples that were specially honored, either on account of events in their sacred history which were believed to have taken place upon their site, or because they enshrined relics or images to which were attributed peculiar sanctity.
The greater temples of Greece and Asia Minor attracted pilgrims from distant parts.
The Temple at Mecca was a place of pilgrimage long before Mahomet was born.
In India thousands of pilgrims for ages have wended their way to the temples of Juggernaut, Elephanta, Ellora and others.
In China and Tartary, there are sacred places to which the devout Buddhist has gone for centuries.
The divine religion of the Jews, by its fundamental principles, not only encouraged but actually enforced a system of pilgrimage. There was but one Temple for the whole country, and thither every Israelite was bound to resort three times every year at the least, however distant his home might be from this, the centre of his devotion.
It is not wonderful, therefore, that an idea and a practice that seem to be so innate in the soul of man, and which, to say the least, have not been discouraged by divine revelation, should find a place in the Christian system.
The sepulchers of the great have ever been honored. It was especially the practice of the Jews to reverence the tombs of their prophets and their ancestors. The Cave of Machpelah, where the bones of Abraham still rest, has never been lost sight of, during all the chequered history of his descendants.
The tombs of kings, from those of Egypt, to those of our own day, have ever been esteemed worthy of respect and care.
It was to be expected, therefore, that those places that were connected with the life and death of Christ, the Savior of the world, would be remembered and honored and that His disciples and followers in succeeding generations would wish to visit them, and excite or gratify their devotion by the sight of the spots where events of such interest to them and to the world had transpired.
Nor would the tombs of apostles and martyrs be forgotten. St. Augustine, in his “City of God,” says that the sepulcher of St. Stephen, the protomartyr, attracted a multitude of pilgrims. St. Chrysostom speaks of the tombs of the apostles as frequented by a host of visitors, while the tombs of the mightiest emperors and kings were deserted and silent. St. Jerome despairs of being able to enumerate the kings, bishops, and great men, who ever since the Ascension of our Lord have gone to Jerusalem persuaded that their religion was deficient and their Christian life incomplete, so long as they had not worshipped their Lord in the very spots where His doctrine had been enunciated and His Church founded.
From all this we may rest assured that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, in which the sacred Body of our Lord rested from Good Friday till Easter morning, would not only never be lost sight of, but would be esteemed holy and venerable by the Christians of the first age. Its solid and durable character would assist its preservation, for we know that it was a cave hollowed out of the live rock, near the place of our Lord’s Crucifixion.
We do not know how the Holy Sepulchre was treated when Jerusalem was taken in the year A.D. 70, by the Emperor Titus. But as the city was by no means entirely destroyed, and many Christians as well as Jews continued to live there after its capture, we may be quite sure that the site at least would be remembered. The Romans would have no interest in destroying it then and without deliberate and laborious effort it could not be injured.
In A.D. 134, the Jews again revolting were more severely punished, their restored buildings were ruined, and they were forbidden to live in Jerusalem by the Emperor Hadrian. Three years after, a temple of Jupiter was built upon the site of the Holy Sepulchre.
This remained till the year 327, when Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, pulled down the temple, and searched beneath it for the Cross upon which our Lord had suffered, which tradition reported had been buried there. This Cross was said to have been found, and its history is closely connected with that of the Holy Places and the Crusades. Helena is said to have also rediscovered the Holy Sepulchre, and to have built a church over and around it, cutting away some of the rock and encasing the rest with marble.
An immense impulse was given to pilgrimage by these events. St. Jerome, in his epitaph for St. Paula, mentions that she had visited the Holy Sepulchre and we know that he himself lived at Bethlehem, in the vicinity of the grotto of the Nativity, which Helena also enclosed in a beautiful church. St. Augustine speaks of Christians collecting and preserving with veneration the very dust from the Holy Sepulchre.
Helena’s church was destroyed by Chosroes and his Persian host in 614, but another church was soon after built, following the plan of its predecessor.
Then came the Mahometan invasion and the capture of Jerusalem by the Saracen Caliph Omar in 637. The places venerated by the Christians were respected, and pilgrims allowed to visit them, but fines, fees, and exactions, began to be levied, and robberies and outrages were committed upon the unfortunate pilgrims, when on their way to or from Jerusalem. Many of them were poor, and many fell sick with the fatigues and hardships of their long journey, and from the heat of the country. This led pious and charitable persons to establish hospitals in which to receive the sick and poor, some of which, as we shall see, became the cradles of Religious Orders.
It must not, however, be supposed that all this could go on without evils and abuses. Pilgrimage was not always undertaken from pure and religious motives. A love of change, curiosity, loss of character at home, all these sometimes induced men to set out to the Holy Land.
Pilgrims did not always bear a good reputation. The word saunterer, an idle strolling vagabond, was derived from Sainte Terre, for those who had visited the Holy Land often wandered about for years afterwards, living by begging, and by relating their adventures, real or feigned, rather than by honest and steady labor.
And in still earlier days sober men had lifted up their voices in protest against the growing fashion of making pilgrimage, and the abuses that followed in its train. Thus St. Augustine, in one of his sermons, says, “Our Lord never said, go to the east to find righteousness, travel to the west to obtain pardon. Do not think of making long journeys; believe, and stay where you are; He who is everywhere present is found by loving, not by traveling.” St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks in the same strain, and especially warns women of the perils they will encounter by the way. He adds that Jesus Christ is not more in one place than in another, and complains that those who live at Jerusalem, always in sight of the holy places, are often themselves unholy in their life and conversation. St. Jerome, too, though he himself made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and finally settled down for life at Bethlehem, protests that the gate of heaven is in Britain as truly as in the most sacred localities and those multitudes of holy men and women had lived and died without seeing Jerusalem.
But pilgrimage assumed a new phase when, in the eleventh century, the Turks became masters of Palestine. Their capture of Jerusalem was followed by a massacre of its inhabitants, and by most cruel tortures inflicted upon the Christian clergy; the pilgrims were ill-treated on their way, and if they reached Jerusalem alive, they were often mutilated, or murdered soon after. Those who survived returned to Europe, and spread far and wide the report of the miseries and indignities to which they had been subjected. Indignation spread and grew and when Constantinople was threatened by the Turks, and the Emperor appealed to the Pope against these enemies of civilization and of Christ, Pope Gregory VII bestirred himself to arouse the princes of Christendom to unite to defend their faith from the destruction that seemed to be imminent.
Then came the mission of Peter the Hermit, and the enthusiasm which his preaching excited, and finally at the Council of Clermont, 1095, the first Crusade was determined on, and its acceptance carried by the acclamations of the multitude, who cried, “God wills it!”
JERUSALEM IN THE HANDS OF THE CRUSADERS – ST. JOHN’S HOSPITAL – THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN – ITS GROWTH AND INCREASE – GERARD – RAYMOND DUPNY – THE ORDER BECOMES MILITARY – ITS CONSTITUTION – CERMONY FOR THE RECEPTION OF A KNIGHT
“Parmi les contradictions qui entrent dans Ie government de ce monde, ce n’en est pas une petite que cette institution de moines armies qui font voeu de vivre Ia a fois en anchorites et en soldats.” – VOLTAIRE
After the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099, the work of the Hospitallers of St. John was greatly increased and developed. Many wounded soldiers were received and carefully tended, and the self-denying devotion of Gerard, who was then the administrator of the Hospital, and his brethren, excited the admiration of all who visited it. Several men of noble birth, who had joined the Crusade, laid aside their arms, and devoted themselves to the care of the sick and the pilgrims in the Hospital. Others endowed the Hospital with lands. Among the first of these was Godfrey de Bouillon himself, who gave his estates in Brabant.
The increase in the number of persons attached to the Hospital, and the acquisition of so much property, made it desirable that some corporate union should be formed for the better administration of the whole scheme. The members were therefore formed into a confraternity of brothers and sisters, taking the usual three monastic vows, and assuming a black habit, with a white cross of eight points on the left breast.
The institution was subsequently confirmed by the Pope, Paschal II, who also exempted the Hospital from the payment of tithes, confirmed all the grants of property made to it, and gave the Hospitallers the power to elect their own superior after the death of Gerard.
Jerusalem being now in the hands of the Christians, the number of pilgrims largely increased; multitudes from every part of Christendom wended their way to visit the Holy City and its Sacred Places, and found in St. John’s Hospital a welcome and a home. Gratitude followed charity, and benefactions were freely bestowed upon the brethren who had proved themselves such true friends of the stranger and the homeless. Larger buildings were erected, together with a magnificent church dedicated to St. John Baptist, who seems to have been gradually associated with St. John of Jerusalem as a patron of the Order.
The work was also extended to other places besides Jerusalem. Hospitals were founded in the principal seaports of Europe, where pilgrims were received on their way to Palestine, their passage secured in suitable vessels, and guides provided for them.
It was during the reign of Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem that Gerard, the father and virtual founder of the Order of the Hospitallers, died. He had attained a great age, and in spite of this and his constant activity in carrying out the work of the Order, superintending all its details, and extending its sphere of usefulness, he enjoyed to the last the use of all his faculties, and exemption from most of the infirmities that befall the aged. There was scarcely any illness; the venerable man died peacefully and gently in the arms of his brethren, being gathered like some fruit fully ripe, A.D. 1118.
By a unanimous vote of the Knights and members of the Order, Raymond Dupuy was elected to succeed Gerard in the government of the Hospitallers. He was a member of a noble and ancient family in Dauphiny and proved himself worthy of the dignity to which he was called. To him the Order owed its distinctly military character, and that wonderful organization, combining the care of the sick and poor with the profession of arms, which characterized the Knights of St. John during all their subsequent history.
Soon after his election he called the members of the Order together to deliberate with them on the schemes which had for some time been thought over in his own mind.
The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem at this time was but a small and isolated territory, surrounded on all sides by enemies. Constant attacks were made upon its towns and fortresses, either by the Turcomans or the Saracens, and the most horrible outrages and cruelties were committed. Bands of half savage men frequently surprised and entered the Christian strongholds, putting the men to death and carrying off women and children into miserable and shameful slavery.
Dupuy detailed to his assembled brethren the sad tale of all this misery and violence and then proposed that they should resume the arms they had laid aside when they devoted themselves to the care of the inmates of their hospitals, and become soldiers of the Cross, and the champions of the poor and helpless.
The proposal filled the brethren with surprise. They alleged that they had put off their armor and sheathed their swords, with no intention of ever resuming them that they had taken the monk’s cowl, and vowed themselves to the perpetual service of the sick, the poor, and the pilgrim and that they could not go back from their engagement.
In this difficulty recourse was had to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the scruples of the brethren were submitted to his judgment.
The Patriarch had no hesitation in dispensing the Hospitallers from their renunciation of the use of arms, and gave his sanction to the proposed extension of the plan and work of the Order.
A new and revised constitution was drawn up, by which it was provided that there should be three classes of members.
First, the Knights, who should bear arms and form a military body for service in the field against the enemies of Christ in general, and of the kingdom of Jerusalem in particular. These were to be of necessity men of noble or gentle birth.
Secondly, the Clergy or Chaplains who were required to carry on the services in the churches of the Order to visit the sick in the hospitals and to follow the Knights to the field and undertake ministration to the wounded.
Thirdly, the Serving Brethren, who were not required to be men of rank, and who acted as esquires to the Knights, and assisted in the care of the hospitals.
All persons of these three classes were considered alike members of the Order, and took the usual three monastic vows, and wore the armorial bearings of the Order, and enjoyed its rights and privileges.
As the Order spread and the number of its members and convents increased, it was found desirable to divide it further into nations or Langes, of which there were ultimately seven, viz., those of Provence, Anvergne, France, Italy, Aragon, Germany, and England.
The habit was a black robe with a cowl, having a cross of white linen of eight points upon the left breast. This was at first worn by all Hospitallers, to whichever of the three classes they belonged; but Pope Alexander IV afterwards ordered that the Knights should be distinguished by a white cross upon a red ground.
Dupuy also obtained statutes and a constitution for his Order, by which its government was vested in the hands of a council, of which the Master was president. The council appointed senior Knights to manage the estates of the Order, and to superintend its affairs in the several countries and provinces where they had possessions and convents. These officers held their posts solely during the pleasure of the council, and were named Preceptors.
The ceremonies for the reception of a knight were very solemn and impressive.
The following account of them is given by a modern author: —
The postulant presented himself with a lighted taper in his hand, and carrying his naked sword. After blessing the sword, the priest returned it to him with these words: “Receive this sword in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen, and use it for thy own defense, and that of the Church of God, to the confusion of the enemies of Jesus Christ and of the Christian faith, and take heed that no human frailty move thee to strike any man with it unjustly.” Then he replaced it in the sheath, the priest saying, as the Knight girded himself, “Guard thyself with the sword of Jesus Christ, and remember that it is not with the sword, but with faith that the saints have conquered kingdoms.
The Knight then once more drew his sword, and these words were addressed to him: “Let the brilliancy of this sword represent to thee the brightness of faith; let its point signify hope, and its hilt, charity. Use it for the Catholic faith, for justice and for the consolation of widows and orphans, for this is the true faith and justification of a Christian knight.” Then he brandished it thrice, in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The brethren then proceeded to give him his golden spurs, saying, “Seest thou these spurs? They signify that as the horse fears them when he swerves from his duty, so shouldest thou fear to depart from thy post or from thy vows.”
Then the mantle was thrown over him, and they pointed to the cross of eight points embroidered on the left side, and said, “We wear this white cross as a sign of purity; wear it also within thy heart as well as outwardly, and keep it without soil or stain. The eight points are the signs of the eight beatitudes which thou must ever preserve, viz., 1. Spiritual joy. 2. To live without malice. 3. To weep over thy sins. 4. To humble thyself to those who injure thee. 5. To love justice. 6. To be merciful. 7. To be sincere and pure of heart. 8. To suffer persecution.”
Then he kissed the cross, and the mantle was fastened, whilst the ministering knight continued, “Take this cross and mantle in the name of the Holy Trinity, for the repose and salvation of thy soul, the defense of the Catholic faith, and the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. I place it on thy left side near thy heart that thou mayest love it and that thy right hand may defend it, charging thee never to abandon it, since it is the standard of our holy faith. Shouldest thou ever desert thy standard, and fly when combating the enemies of Jesus Christ, thou wilt be stripped of this holy sign, according to the statutes of the Order, as having broken the vow thou hast taken, and shall be cut off from our body as an unsound member.”
On the mantle were embroidered all the instruments of the Passion; each of them was pointed out to the new-made Knight, with the words: “In order that thou mayest put all thy hope in the Passion of Jesus Christ, behold the Cord whereby He was bound; see, too, His Crown of Thorns; this is the Column to which He was tied; this is the Lance which pierced His Side; this is the Sponge with which He was drenched with vinegar and gall; these are the Whips that scourged Him; this is the Cross on which He suffered. Receive, therefore, the yoke of the Lord, for it is easy and light, and will give rest unto thy soul; and I tie this cord about thy neck in pledge of the servitude thou hast promised. We offer thee nothing but bread and water, and a simple habit and of little worth. We give thee and thy parents and relations a share in the good works performed by the Order and by our brethren now and hereafter throughout the world. Amen.” He was then received with the kiss of peace.
ANTIOCH BESIEGED BY THE TURCOMANS – THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN IN THE FIELD – PAPAL BRIEF – INCREASED WEALTH OF THE ORDER – DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS – ABUSES – THE SECOND CRUSADE – DECLINE OF CHRISTIAN POWER IN THE EAST – SALADIN – JERUSALEM CAPTURED – LEGEND OF SALADIN – LETTER OF THIERRY THE TEMPLAR – FEELING IN EUROPE – A NEW CRUSADE – RICHARD CESAR DE LION – THE SIEGE OF ACRE – DESCRIPTION OF THE CITY
“O God, the heathen are come into Thine inheritance, Thy holy temple have they defiled and made Jerusalem an heap of stones.
“The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meant unto the fowls of air and the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the land.”
It was not long before the new Order found a field for the exercise of its arms.
The city of Antioch was hard pressed by the Turcomans and its small garrison was altogether unequal to cope with their overwhelming forces.
Petitions for aid were sent to Jerusalem, and Baldwin’s army was reinforced by a contingent of the Knights of St. John, together with a large body of serving brothers and hired troops who fought on foot. The arrival of this force soon turned the tide of war in favor of the Christians. The Knights were everywhere in the front of the battle, and the enemy was beaten off, and Antioch relieved.
From this time the Hospitallers were always found in the ranks of the Christian army in every battle that was fought with the Moslems, and the fame of their gallantry and bravery soon spread far and wide, and attracted fresh recruits to their ranks from the noblest families of every country of Europe.
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