Piers Paul Read on how the Knights Hospitaller adjusted to the post-Crusades era
The Knights Hospitaller in Great Britain
By Michael Hodges, St Omer’s Press, 156pp, £20
After the conquest of Jerusalem by the First Crusade, two military orders were formed to protect the pilgrims – the Templars and the Knights of St John who, having run a hospital in Jerusalem prior to the crusade, became known as the Hospitallers. Disciplined by their oath of obedience, and unafraid of death, the two orders became an indispensable force in further crusades, and the defence of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The orders were paid for by endowments from devout Christians in Europe. “Donations,” we are told by Michael Hodges in the introduction to this detailed survey of the orders’ properties in Britain, “tended to be made by knights who had been on crusade or by those salving their consciences for not going on crusade.”
The orders became rich and, after the fall of Acre and the apparent loss of their raison d’être, attracted the covetous attention of King Philip the Fair of France.
The Hospitallers had wisely withdrawn from Acre to Rhodes (later to Malta), and became a maritime power out of the reach of European monarchs.
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