OF THE ORIGIN OF THE TEMPLARS

Hugh de Payens went to Jerusalem to earn fame. There was a pool just outside the city where pilgrims were able to water their horses but, as any watering hole is likely to do, it attracted predators and the pilgrims were regularly attacked there by Saracens who saw them as easy pickings.

So Hugh also took to lying in wait himself and attacking the robbers as they were about to attack the pilgrims and so was able to rescue many. However the Saracens, rather dishonourably, increased the numbers in their robber bands, making Hugh’s job more difficult and it was eventually decided that the only sensible course was to abandon this reservoir.

Dissatisfied with this state of affairs, Hugh asked the Regular Canons who controlled the Temple to give him one of their large halls. In return he took a vow of poverty, devoting his wealth to buying horses and armour and advertising for pilgrims who were knights and who were prepared to surrender themselves to a life serving Christ, or, if that was going a bit far, at least for a year or so. In return he would equip them well and give them a surcoat emblazoned with the sign of the cross.

Many of these knights proved skilled in battling the Saracens and one in particular won great renown. Inevitably the Saracens hated him on the reasonable account of the number of their men that he had killed. But the wheel of fortune is ever turning and one day he was captured by his fearsome enemies.

He was tied to a stake and the great and the good of Saracen society flooded to the place where he was being held captive. Those who had captured him sold darts to the nobles to shoot at him and, despite the high price of these darts, there was no shortage of takers, happy to pay up for the chance of inflicting pain on this infidel who had caused them so much pain. Even the Sultan himself turned up and kept encouraging the knight to renounce his faith before each shot but the knight would not.

It was during these festivities that news came that a young man of the Sultan’s close family had been captured. The Sultan, desperate to get the youth back, freed the knight and let him return to his own people on his agreeing that the boy would be returned safely to the Sultan within a given time. The knight vowed to return to his captors after the expiry of this time if the lad had not been returned. Relieved, the knight returned to Jerusalem, only to discover that the young man had died while trying to escape. However there was great rejoicing among his brother knights that he had, by whatever means, escaped from the Saracens’ clutches.

The joy was not shared by the knight, who explained the terms of his release and that he was now honour bound to return to his captors. The King of Jerusalem and all the nobles of the city forbade him to keep his promise but the knight could not be persuaded and went so far as to saddle his horse in preparation. At this point the king ordered him to be forcibly detained and promised him many masses and all that would be necessary for the expiation of a broken vow.

Although it was an honourable confinement in his own quarters, the knight remained obdurate and remained fixed on his purpose to return to his enemies and face whatever fate awaited him. His fellows were equally intent on keeping him locked away until the day of promised return was over.

Time passed and it came to the eve of his vowed return. Now he seemed resigned and agreed that, if he was released, he would remain in the city. On this promise he was freed. But, on the night following his release, he secretly saddled his horse and rode out of the city gates to return to his captors.

Meanwhile, at the Saracen camp, the youth’s death had become known and the Sultan was being roundly condemned behind his back for making such a promise to a heathen who was without honour. He feared that it would not be long before things started to be said to his face. So it was with great amazement that, on the day he was due to return, the knight surprised everyone by riding into the camp. The Sultan, grateful that the knight had not humiliated him and, to show his own magnanimity, let him go free and no one could say he had behaved badly.

In the increasingly bitter war a cleric was captured and tied to a stake, where the Saracen nobility amused themselves by shooting arrows at him. A renegade, who had renounced his faith to save his life, stood a little distance from the stake and, after each arrow had either narrowly missed or struck home, would ask the man: “How do you like that?” But the cleric remained silent in his torment. The renegade became so angry with this show of piety that in the end he could stand it no longer and dashed forward and cut off the captive’s head.

“How do you like that now?” he laughed, to which the head replied: “Now I like it very well, for I am going to my Lord.”

There was a certain knight named Hameric, a man of great wealth but small renown. One day he was on his way to a tournament with a small group of other knights. As they were journeying through a dark forest he heard a far off bell tolling for morning mass. He angered his companions by riding off in search of it as they saw it as a poor excuse of avoiding the hardships of the tournament.

In his searching Hameric came across a hermitage and the hermit invited the knight to take part in the mass the hermit was about to celebrate and Hameric was happy to do so. After the mass he set off back the way he had come, intent on re-joining his companions but a dark forest is not the easiest place to navigate and, before long, he was hopelessly lost. He wandered about all that day and, by nightfall, had only succeeded in finding his way back to the hermit. He spent a sleepless night thinking that his companions would think the worst of him for his failure to reappear.

The following day went the same way with fruitless search and eventual return to the hermitage. On the third day the hermit himself agreed to show him the way back to the road. At least from there he would be able to make his way home and await his friends’ return and their snide comments. But, when he reached the road, he found his companions just coming along the road and was surprised when they started congratulating him on his performance at the tournament. He was immediately suspicious and thought they were making fun of him.

At their evening camp he privately approached the man he most trusted in the group and asked him about the tournament.

“We did very well, thanks to you. I have never seen you ride so well or display such skill with the lance. But then, yesterday, when were setting off home, you seem to have disappeared, no one could find any trace of you. Your squire said that, as soon as you had given him your arms, you rode off and was not seen again until you came out of the bushes with that old man. Why would you do that when everyone was singing the praises of a knight who had previously been taxed with want of courage?”

Hameric realised that the Lord had supplied him with a substitute lest his friends despise him for attending a mass rather than a tournament. He was so overwhelmed that he straightaway joined the Templars and proved one of their greatest knights.

It is well known that the Old Man of the Mountains, the leader of the feared Assassins, applied to the patriarch of Jerusalem for a copy of the Gospels and an interpreter. These were given him and were welcomed, so much so that he asked for a priest and some deacons to come to him so that he could receive baptism. However, the Templars got wind of this plan, laid an ambush for the party and killed them, to ensure that peace did not reign and they lose their purpose.

 

 

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