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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1695 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #45 on: January 04, 2009, 11:38:58 pm »

p. 185

CHAPTER II.

First Hospital at Jerusalem--Church of Santa Maria de Latina--Hospital of St. John--The Hospitallers--Origin of the Templars--Their original Poverty--They acquire Consideration--St. Bernard--His Character of the Templars--The Order approved of and confirmed by the Council of Troyes--Proofs of the Esteem in which they were held.

IN consequence of the resort of pilgrims and traders from the West to Jerusalem it had been found necessary to build there, with the consent of the Saracens, hospitia, or places of entertainment for them during their abode in the holy city. For they could not, consistently with the religious animosity which prevailed between them and the Moslems, seek the hospitality of these last, and the Christians of the Greek church who dwelt in the Holy City, besides that they had no very friendly feeling towards their Catholic brethren, were loth to admit them into their houses, on account of the imprudent language and indecorous acts in which they were too frequently in the habit of indulging, and which were so likely to compromise their hosts with their Saracen lords. Accordingly the monk Bernard, who visited Jerusalem in the year 870, found there, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, near the church of the Holy Virgin, a hospital consisting of twelve mansions, for western pilgrims, which was in the possession of some gardens, vineyards, and corn-fields. It had also a good collection of books, the gift of Charlemagne. There was a market held in front of it, which was much resorted to, and every

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dealer paid two pieces of gold to the overseer for permission to have a stand there.

In the 11th century, when the ardour of pilgrimage was inflamed anew, there was a hospital within the walls of Jerusalem for the use of the Latin pilgrims, which had been erected by Italian traders, chiefly of Amalfi. Near this hospital, and within a stone's cast of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, they erected, with the permission of the Egyptian khalif, a church dedicated to the Holy Virgin, which was usually called Sta. Maria de Latina. In this hospital abode an abbot and a good number of monks, who were of the Latin church, and followed the rule of St. Benedict. They devoted themselves to the reception and entertainment of pilgrims, and gave alms to those who were poor, or had been rifled by robbers, to enable them to pay the tax required by the Moslems for permission to visit the holy places. When the number of the pilgrims became so great that the hospital was incapable of receiving them all, the monks raised another hospitium close by their church, with a chapel dedicated to a canonized patriarch of Alexandria, named St. John Eleëmon, or the Compassionate. This new hospital had no income of its own; the monks and the pilgrims whom they received derived their support from the bounty of the abbot of the convent of the Holy Virgin, or from the alms of pious Christians.

At the time when the army of the crusaders appeared before the walls of Jerusalem the Hospital of St. John was presided over by Gerard, a native of Provence, a man of great uprightness and of exemplary piety. His benevolence was of a truly Christian character, and far transcended that of his age in general; for during the period of the siege he relieved all who applied to him for succour, and not merely did the schismatic Greek share his bounty,

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even the unbelieving Moslem was not repelled when he implored his aid. When the city was taken, numbers of the wounded pilgrims were received, and their wounds tended in the hospital of St. John, and the pious Duke Godfrey, on visiting them some days afterwards, heard nothing but the praises of the good Gerard and his monks.

Emboldened by the universal favour which they enjoyed, Gerard and his companions expressed their wish to separate themselves from the monastery of Sta. Maria de Latina, and pursue their works of charity alone and independently. Their desire met no opposition: they drew up a rule for themselves, to which they made a vow of obedience in presence of the patriarch, and assumed as their dress a black mantle with a white cross on the breast. The humility of these Hospitallers was extreme. They styled the poor and the sick their lords and themselves their servants; to them they were liberal and compassionate, to themselves rigid and austere. The finest flour went to compose the food which they gave to the sick and poor; what remained after they were satisfied, mingled with clay, was the repast of the monks.

As long as the brotherhood were poor they continued in obedience to the abbot of Sta. Maria de Latina, and also paid tithes to the patriarch. But a tide of wealth soon began to flow in upon them. Duke Godfrey, enamoured of their virtue, bestowed on them his lordship of Montboire, in Brabant, with all its appurtenances; and his brother and successor, Baldwin, gave them a share of all the booty taken from the infidels. These examples were followed by other Christian princes; so that within the space of a very few years the Hospital of St. John was in possession of numerous manors both in the East and in Europe, which were placed under the management

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of members of their society. The Hospitaliers now coveted a total remission of all the burdens to which they were subject, and they found no difficulty in obtaining all that they desired. Pope Paschal II., in the year 1113, confirmed their rule, gave them permission, on the death of Gerard, to elect their own head, without the interference of any temporal or spiritual power whatever, freed them from the obligation of paying tithes to the patriarch, and confirmed all the donations made or to be made to them. The brotherhood of the Hospital was now greatly advanced in consideration, and reckoned among its members many gallant knights, who laid aside their arms, and devoted themselves to the humble office of ministering to the sick and needy.

The worthy Gerard died in the same year with King Baldwin I. (1118), and Raymond Dupuy, a knight of Dauphiné, who had become a brother of the order, was unanimously elected to succeed him in his office. Raymond, who was a man of great vigour and capacity, drew up a series of rules for the direction of the society, adapted to its present state of consequence and extent. From these rules it appears that the order of St. John admitted both the clergy and the laity among its members, and that both were alike bound to yield the most implicit obedience to the commands of their superior. Whether Raymond had any ulterior views is uncertain, but in the regulations which he made we cannot discern any traces of the spirit which afterwards animated the order of St. John.

Just, however, as Raymond had completed his regulations there sprang up a new society, with different maxims, whose example that of St. John found itself afterwards obliged to adopt and follow. The Holy Land was at that time in a very disturbed and unquiet state; the Egyptian power pressed it on the

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south, the Turkish on the north and east; the Arab tribes indulged in their usual predatory habits, and infested it with hostile incursions; the Mussulman inhabitants were still numerous; the Syrian Christians were ill affected towards the Latins, from whom they frequently experienced the grossest ill-treatment; the Latins were few and scattered. Hence the pilgrim was exposed to numerous dangers; peril beset him on his way from the port at which he landed to the Holy City, and new perils awaited him when he visited the banks of the Jordan, or went to pluck his branch of consecrated palm in the gardens of Jericho. Many a pilgrim had lost his life on these occasions.

Viewing these evils, nine valiant and pious knights resolved to form themselves into an association which should unite the characters of the monk and the knight, by devoting themselves to a life of chastity and piety at the tomb of the Saviour, and by employing their swords in the protection of the pilgrims on their visits to the holy places. They selected as their patroness the sweet Mother of God (La dote Mère de Dieu), and their resolution, according so perfectly with the spirit of the Crusades, which combined piety and valour, gained at once the warm approbation of the king and the patriarch. In the presence of. the latter they took the three ordinary vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and a fourth of fighting incessantly in the cause of pilgrims and the Holy Land against the heathen. They bound themselves to live according to the rule of the canons of St. Augustine, and elected as their first master Hugh de Payens. The king, Baldwin II., assigned them a portion of his palace for their abode, and he and his barons contributed to their support. As the palace stood close by the church and convent of the Temple, the abbot and canons gave them a street leading from it to the palace, for keeping their magazines and equipments

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