During the eleventh century Europe saw a resurgence of religious ardour led by the preaching of Peter the Hermit. This translated itself into chivalry and taking up of arms to secure the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the Moslems. The consequence was the formation of the monastic orders of the Trinitarians; Knights of St John and Jerusalem; Knight Templers; and the Teutonic Knights or Knights of St Mary of Jerusalem
The Trinitarians were founded by John de Matha and Felix de Valois, two pious men who lived an austere and solitary life at Cerfroy in the diocese of Meaux, France. Founded in the latter part of the twelfth century the Order was a response to the large numbers of Christians being taken prisoner in Palestine and were endorsed by the popes Honorius III and Clement V. Also known as the `Brethren of the Holy Trinity` and Mathurins ( from their monastery in Paris where there was a chapel consecrated to St Mathurin; and the “Brethren of the Redemption of Captives”). Their prime task was to obtain release of Christian captives, to which they were required to employ a third part of their revenues. Initially a very austere organisation this was mitigated from time to time by the indulgence and lenity of Roman pontiffs.
The Knights of St John arose from the need to aid and assist the enormous number of pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre. Provision was made for their accommodation by establishment of two hospitals, the chapels of which were consecrated to St. John the Almoner, the seventh century Patriach of Alexander who had aided Christians when Jerusalem fell to the Saracens; and St. Mary Magdalen. Benedictine monks were responsible for the religious comfort and the charitable aspects by pious Europeans who had retired to Palestine. Notably the humanitarian aspects were far more important than religion, such that all faiths, including Moslems, were assisted. A prime supporter were the people of Amalfi in Italy whose alms helped pay for necessities, the merchants of that town were in many ways the trustees of the Order. In the troubled eleventh century the Orders fortunes varied but benefited greatly from grateful Crusaders whom they took in; included in one donation was an estate in Brabant from Godfrey of Bouillion, ( called the `Christian Hercules` and first King of Jerusalem in 1099). There followed many other generous gifts. Under Gerard the Order decided to become a religious Order and assume the habit of monks. Thus the lay brethren separated themselves from St John the Almoner and became a congregation under St John the Baptist. Their vows were accepted by the patriarch of Jerusalem and invested them with a plain black robe with a white linen cross on the left breast. The dress varied subsequently (sometime between 1278 and 1289) when engaged in military duties they wore a red military cassock with a white cross. The long black robe was always worn in house and their dress rules were strict requiring them to dress decently and handsomely, whilst forbidding particularly short clothes unless on a journey, aboard ship or on guard.
The Order had received great benefit from Rome when its protection was given to the see by Pope Paschal II in 1113. They were given the privilege of electing their own superintendent and exempt from paying tithes. That and generous benefactions meant that the revenue of the hospital exceeded needs. This factor was of consideration when Raymond du Puy, then head of the Order, offered to make war on the Mahometans. Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, agreed and Rome also gave its support. At this point the order was reorganised into three classes – the knights of illustrious birth who fought; the priests who officiated in their chapels; and the serving brethren or common soldier. As a fighting Order they gained many great victories and garnered much acclaim; as a hospital they were most sedulous in caring for the wounded and the worn out pilgrims.
When Christianity was forced out of Palestine the Order removed to Cyprus and to the Isle of Rhodes. From here the Turks forced them out and they received the grant from the Emperor Charles V to the Island of Malta The Order came to England during the reign of Henry I and established at Clerkenwell by Jordan Briset (of Wellinghall, Kent). Their original residence was destroyed by Wat Tyler and rabble in the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and it was not until 1504 that the replacement building was finished. Bucklands, Somerset, was the principal house for the nuns or sisters of the Order of St John.
The Knights Templars got their name from a palace adjoining the Temple in Jerusalem which was appropriated to their use by Baldwin I. The Order was founded there by Hugh de Payens and Geoffrey de St Aumer and seven other persons, in 1118 AD. They dedicated themselves to the service of God and took monastic vows. Approved by the Council of Troyes, they followed the discipline and Rule of St Bernard. On joining the applicants were warned of the severe hardships they were expected to endure, to suffer hunger and thirst, and they must go to a different country than the one of their preference. Their duty was to defend and support the cause of Christianity by force of arms; defend the public roads, and protect pilgrims who came to Jerusalem from the insults and barbarity of the Mahometans. Pope Honorius II gave them a plain white mantle without a cross as their regular habit. Later Pope Eugene III commanded them to wear red crosses. They were taught that the white mantle was symbolical of the purity of their cause and the red crosses emblematical of the martyrdom they would willingly undergo in defending the Holy Land from the infidels.
Their strong minded attitudes were renowned. They professed that they were more anxious to be feared than admired, and sought either certain victory or a holy and honourable death. Their endeavours gained them great power and dignity; their services were repaid in a sense by general exemption from the control of the clergy and payment of tithes. They wore linen coifs with red caps; shirts and stockings of twisted mail, a sopra vest, and broad belt with swords tucked in. Over the whole ensemble was a floor length white cloak. At variance with other orders, they grew long beards. Their first house was during King Stephen`s reign (1135-1154), in Holborn, London. But afterwards moved to Fleet Street. A great benefactor in England was Roger de Mowbray who granted them several manors in Leicestershire and repaid his generosity by ransoming him from the Saracens after the battle of Tiberias. Their independence and subsequent arrogance eventually led to their privileges being revoked and the Order suppressed by a decree at the Council of Vienne, in the fourteenth century.
A less well known Order in England were the Teutonic Knights. Similar in purpose to the Trinitarians their full title was the Teutonic Knights of St Mary of Jerusalem and appeared following the battle of Acre in 1190 AD. During the long siege merchants from Bremen and Lubeck determined to devote themselves to the service of the sick and wounded soldiers. They created a makeshift hospital and gave constant attendance to the needy with the result that the German Princes at the siege formed a fraternity of German knights to continue the good works. The Order was confirmed by a Papal Bull of Celestine III in 1192. None was accepted into the Order unless of illustrious birth but they were expected to follow the austerity and frugality of the Order. Their dress was a white mantle with a black cross. When they were driven from Palestine by the Turks they made themselves masters of Prussia, Livonia and Courland, but eventually went the way of all flesh, and deprived of much of their provinces. As such they did not have an establishment in England, although they fought the common Christian cause in the Holy Land.
The Augustine Orders
The Benedictine Orders.