Monday, July 10, 2017

Financing the crusades - the role of the military orders

"Through the military orders of warrior-monks, the church provided directly for the defense of the Holy Land. The most important of these orders were the Knights of the Temple and the Brethren of the Hospital of St. John, although for a time the Teutonic Knights added their strength and resources to the common task.

The orders formed permanent corps of crusaders stationed in the east with reserves in Europe. Each created an elaborate organization with houses of various ranks throughout Europe as well as Outremer. In the west these houses acted as recruiting stations and managed the resources of the orders locally. Early in the thirteenth century James of Vitry wrote of the orders, "They have been prodigiously increased by vast possessions both on this side of and beyond the sea, for they own villages, cities and towns.

The records more than bear out his statement. Each house of the orders, as James went on to say, sent "a certain sum every year for the defense of the Holy Land to their grand master", whose seat was in the east. The sum sent by preceptories of the Hospital seems normally to have been a third of their revenues, paid twice a year before the regular spring and autumn passages to the east. The financial organization of the orders not only supplied their own needs, but also permitted them, especially the Templars, to act as bankers for the crusades. Their part in the collection of the general taxes of 1185 and 1188 has already been noted, and they also received clerical taxes in 1201 and 1215.

Their regular passages offered facilities for other crusaders to resupply themselves. Deposits with houses in the west could be withdrawn in the east, and money could also be borrowed from them in the Holy Land to be repaid in Europe. They preferred to deal in coin and apparently did not develop credit operations beyond transfers. Yet they remained the crusade bankers par excellence, serving the papacy and princes as well as lesser men, while their own resources gave them a prime place in the defense of the Holy Land"

Blog quotes from Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The impact of the Crusades on Europe  (1989), Chapter IV, "Financing the Crusades". The quotes presented here focus on the situation in the first half of the 12th Century. Illustration coins Knights Templar France. Philip IV Le Bel, 1268-1314 AD; source

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