The Templars And The Crusades
The Third Crusade
The failure of the second crusade proved a defining moment for the people of Europe, whose confidence had been dented by the overwhelming defeat. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose passionate rallying had convinced thousands to leave their homes to fight for the Christian armies, was particularly hurt by the failure and wrote to the Pope apologising for the defeat. Attempts at launching a further crusade failed, the last action of Bernard’s life, dying in 1153.
The situation in the East was becoming darker for the Christians. Despite success in taking Ascalon and further inroads into Egypt, relations with the Byzantium Empire were strained, often leaving the armies lacking the necessary reinforcements. In 1171, the emergence of Saladin, nephew of Nur al Din Zangli of Aleppo, as Sultan of Egypt, proved decisive in uniting Egypt and Syria. Further problems arose when King Almalric of Jerusalem died in 1174, leaving Jerusalem without an alliance with the Byzantium Empire. His successor was Baldwin IV, who suffered from leprosy. His education was primarily under the guardianship of Guillaume of Tyre, famous for being the Templars’ chronicler.
November 1177 saw the defeat of Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard. For the next eight years combined efforts from the Templars and the forces of Baldwin IV saw Saladin kept in check, but their fortunes turned following Baldwin’s death in March 1185. Baldwin’s replacement was his nephew, Baldwin V, who had been crowned co-king in 1183, under the regency of Raymond of Tripoli. Baldwin’s death a year later caused tensions, as Sybilla, mother of Baldwin V and sister of Baldwin IV, crowned herself and husband Guy of Lusignan Queen and King. In the aftermath, Raymond’s defiance of the new rulers was illustrated by the taking of a rich caravan, and having its Moslem inhabitants jailed. Saladin’s requests for their safety were denied, despite the efforts of Guy, leading to Saladin’s decision to wage war. In 1187 he laid siege to the city of Tiberius, leading to Guy’s desire to reclaim it immediately, a decision he would live to regret. While marching to the Horns of Hattin, near Tiberius, the king was advised by Templar Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort to continue to the city, instead of staying near the water supply. On taking de Ridefort’s advice, the crusader army was annihilated by the Moslems, leaving Saladin free to take Jerusalem, which was surrendered without a fight.
News of the fall of Jerusalem was of great significance throughout Europe, leading to calls for another crusade. As pilgrims from Europe prepared to travel, the Templars remained in the East, protecting what remained, but before the year was out Saladin had taken the coastal port of Acre in Syria. The new Pope, Gregory VIII, proclaimed the loss of Jerusalem was a sign from God that the sins of the wicked were being punished, a statement aimed particularly at Henry II of England for the murder of Thomas Becket. In England and France a new ‘Saladin Tithe’ was launched, aimed at funding a ‘third crusade’ while Englishmen and Welsh were requested to ‘take up the cross’ leading to over 3,000 volunteers. Following Henry II’s death, his eldest surviving son Richard I, the Lionheart, took up the call and joined Philip II of France and the elderly Barbarossa The Holy Roman Emperor in launching the crusade.
The Templar oriented crusader armies defeated Saladin just outside Jerusalem at the Forest of Arsuf, followed by the Templar siege of Acre. The Moslems surrendered on 12 July 1191, following which the majority of the crusaders returned to Europe. Prolonged negotiations between Richard and Saladin’s intermediaries eventually saw a fragile truce between both forces with Richard agreeing to demolish Ascalon, west of Jerusalem, while Saladin agreed to acknowledge Christian possessions in the coastal regions. The negotiations allowed new trade links between the two peoples and Christian pilgrims once again entered Jerusalem.