The Templar Power - Part II

The Defence of Acre

The Defence of Acre

It was a disaster for the Frankish population of the Holy Land. Thousands were sold into slavery while both Acre and Jerusalem fell into Saladin's hands. The Frankish kingdom had now shrunk to the states of Tyre, Tripoli, Antioch, and Tortosa.

By August of 1189, however, with reinforcements who had arrived from Italy, the Franks began a siege of the bastion of Acre. Reinforcements arrived continuously up until April of 1191, when the French monarch Philip arrived with a force to be joined shortly afterwards by a force led by the English King Richard 1. Faced with overwhelming odds against them, the Moslems were forced to surrender Acre by July. Despite an oath sworn by the Templars to Saladin that the prisoners would be spared, Richard ordered the slaughter of up to 3000 men women and children. Ironically, this butcher monarch has come down to us in history as the 'Lionheart' and is held up as a symbol ‑ of Christian virtue.

The following 100 years was a tangled web of Frankish gains and Frankish losses, Moslem gains, and Moslem losses. It was almost exactly 100 years after the Frankish victory at Acre, however, that the Crusaders would receive what proved to be their death blow.

In April 1291 a Mameluke army of 60,000 cavalry and 160,000 infantry laid siege to Acre ‑ defended by less than 15,000 battle‑trained Franks. A savage defeat was inflicted on the Franks, the civilian population fleeing to the quayside of the port in a bid to find craft that could take them to safety.

Captured Knights Templar

Captured Knights Templar

One account of this desperate bid to escape relates the rather un­-Christian behaviour of one of the Templars: "Horrible struggles took place on the crowded jetties and overloaded boats sank. A deserting Templar, Fra. Rutger von Blum, seized a galley and made his fortune by extorting ruinous passage from the hysterical ladies of Acre fleeing from rape, mutilation and death and at best slavery."

The atrocious behaviour of the Templar von Blum was offset by the behaviour of those Templars who remained to surrender Acre after a body of Moslems broke an oath not to harm civilians ‑ they were caught raping women and small boys. Eventually, towards the end of May, the defence was wiped out. Those who remained were slaughtered in an orgy of bloodlust.

By August, all that remained of the once great Frankish kingdom was the island of Ruad, off what had been the Frankish county of Tripoli. The Templars evacuated this in 1303, bringing to an end a military service that had spanned nearly 200 years.

Massacre of Christian prisoners

Massacre of Christian prisoners

It was also to mark the start of their fall from Christian grace.

With the evacuation of Ruad, the Templars had lost their raison d’etre. More importantly they now had to seek a new homeland in which to establish their headquarters. In common with the Hospitallers, they had established a new headquarters, in Limassol, in Cyprus, but friction between the two Orders led to the Templars seeking to establish its own headquarters in the Languedoc area of France.

Before this could be achieved, the death knell of the Templars was sounded.

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The Templar Power -
Part I

Rennes le Chateau

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