Oishi Yoshio a Role model for eternity.

In this stupid times, in so-called global world where some kind heroes are produced in reality shows, there is no place for people like Oishi Yoshio. Those times of moral, loyalty, honour are gone but why some Stupid Idiot from Hollywood can “create” so stupid, and ridiculous  film about such a glorious man as Oishi was, with actor as Keanu Reeves. In “my” world death penalty have been for this kind of things. Artistic freedom is shit!

The story of the Chūshingura (literally, the ‘Loyal League’), better known in the West as the ‘Forty-Seven Ronin’ (a ronin – literally “wave man” – is a masterless samurai, one who is tossed about, like a wave in the sea) is perhaps the most-known story of Japanese history, both inside and outside Japan, described by one noted Japan scholar as the country’s “national legend”. It is also one that offers a great insight into the Japanese character, during the feudal period and beyond. It is not far wrong to think of it as the Japanese equivalent of one of the great Shakespearean dramas.

It concerns a group of samurai who were left masterless in 1701 by the execution of their master, for assaulting a court official whom he felt had insulted him. After over a year of patient waiting and plotting, they succeeded in avenging him by killing the court official. Although they had committed murder, they had done so for that most noble of reasons (to the Japanese) – in obedience to their duty. As a result, they were allowed an honourable death.

With little embellishment, the true story was popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, dedication and honor which all good people (but especially samurai) should persevere in their daily lives.

It was rapidly turned into a series of Kabuki plays. The most popular, the Kanedehon Chūshingura (literally, “Treasury of Loyal Retainers”), was originally written in 1748 for the bunraku (puppet) theatre, and was quickly adapted for Kabuki, in twelve acts. The names, as well as the action, were slightly changed from the real ones (because of a prohibition on plays about recent history), and the stage version is set in the fourteenth century.

It quickly became (and remains) one of the staples of the Kabuki repertoire, and remains one of the two most popular Kabuki plays, still performed every year; it has always been regarded as a cure for declining attendance, drawing audiences when nothing else will.

At the start of the eighteenth century, in 1701, two nobles, Kamei Sama and Asano Takumi-no-Kami Naganori, were appointed to receive an envoy from the Emperor at the court of the Shogun (the military governor of Japan). To teach them proper court etiquette, a high official named Kira Yoshinaka, whose title was Kotsuke noh Suke, was assigned. He became upset at the small presents they offered him (in the time-honoured compensation for such an instructor), and he treated them poorly, insulting them, and not bothering to teach them their duties properly.

While Asano bore all this stoically, Kamei Sama became enraged, and prepared to kill Kira to avenge the insults. However, the quick thinking counsellors of Kamei Sama averted disaster for their lord and clan (for all would be punished if Kamei Sama killed Kira) by quietly giving Kira a large bribe. Kira thereupon began to treat Kamei Sama very nicely, which quenched his anger.

However, Kira now began to treat Asano even worse, because he was upset that the latter had sent no present. Finally, Kira insulted Asano as a country boor with no manners, and Asano could no longer restrain himself. He attacked Kira with a dagger, but only wounded him on the head with his first blow, and his second blow missed and hit a pillar. Guards then quickly separated them.

The council met, and decided that because Asano had attacked Kira within the grounds of the Shogun’s palace, which was strictly forbidden, he would be ordered to commit ritual suicide, his goods and lands would be confiscated, his family ruined, and his retainers made into ronin. As such, masterless samurai, they were without means of support, and the position is generally somewhat disreputable.

As a indication of the humiliation felt by samurai who became ronin, Lord Redesdale records that during his stay in Japan, when he lived two hundred yards from the graves of the Forty-Seven Ronin, a roninkilled himself at their graves. He left a note saying that being a ronin, and without means of honourably earning a living, he had tried to enter the service of the Prince of Choshiu, but was refused. That having been refused, he wanted to serve no other master, and being a ronin was hateful, so he had decided to kill himself, and what more fitting place could he find? Lord Redesdale reports that he himself saw the spot only a hour or two later, and the blood was still on the ground.

The Ronin Plot Revenge

Amongst the dispossessed retainers of Asano was a principal counsellor, Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshio, and together with forty-six other faithful retainers they banded together to avenge their master, by killing Kira. However, the latter was well guarded, to prevent just this event. They saw that they would have to put him off his guard, before they could succeed.

So, they split up, and took up various professions, such as carpenters, merchants, etc. Their chief, Oishi, took up residence in Kyoto. He began to lead an extremely dissipated life, spending all his time and money on alcohol and women, as if nothing were further from his mind than revenge.

Meanwhile, Kira feared a trap, and sent spies to watch the former retainers of Asano.

One day, as Oishi returned drunk from some haunt, he fell down in the street and went to sleep, and all the passers-by laughed at him. A Satsuma man, passing by, was infuriated by this behaviour on the part of a samurai, both his lack of courage to avenge his master, as well as his current debauched behaviour. The Satsuma man abused and insulted him, and kicked him in the face (to even touch the face of asamurai was a great insult, let alone strike it), and spat on him.

Not too long after, Oishi’s loyal wife of twenty years went to him and complained that he seemed to be taking his act too far. He divorced her on the spot, and sent her away with their two younger children; the oldest, a boy, Oishi Chikara, remained with his father. In his wife’s place, the father bought a pretty young concubine.

All this was reported to Kira, who became convinced that he was safe from the retainers of Asano, who must all be bad samurai indeed, without the courage to avenge their master; he then relaxed his guard.

The rest of the faithful retainers now gathered in Edo, and in their roles as workmen and merchants, gained access to Kira’s house, becoming familiar with the layout of the house, and the character of all within. One of the retainers went so far as to marry the daughter of the builder of the house, to obtain plans. All of this was reported to Oishi.

The Attack

In 1702, when Oishi was convinced that Kira was thoroughly off his guard, and everything was ready, he fled from Kyoto, avoiding the spies who were watching him, and the entire band gathered at a secret meeting-place in Edo.

On the night of December 14/15, during a heavy fall of snow, according to a carefully laid-out plan, the Forty-Seven Ronin split up into two groups and attacked. One, led by Oishi, was to attack the front gate, and the other, led by his son, Oishi Chikara, was to attack the house via the back gate. A drum would sound the simultaneous attack, and a whistle would signal that Kira was dead.

Once he was dead, the Forty-Seven Ronin planned to cut off his head, and lay it as an offering on their master’s tomb. They would then turn themselves in, and wait for their expected sentence of death. All this had been confirmed at a final dinner, where Oishi asked them to be careful, and spare women, children and other helpless people.

At midnight, in a driving wind, the Forty-Seven Ronin attacked. Oishi had four men scale the fence and enter the porter’s lodge, capturing and tying up the guard there. He then sent messengers to all the neighbouring houses, to explain that they were not robbers, but retainers out to revenge the death of their master, and no harm would come to anyone else, who were all perfectly safe. His neighbours, who all hated Kira, did nothing.

After posting archers, to prevent those in the house (who had not yet woken up) from sending for help, Oishi sounded the drum to start the attack. Ten of Kira’s retainers held off the party attacking the house from the front, but Oishi Chikara’s party broke into the back of the house.

Kira, in terror, took refuge in a closet in the verandah, along with his wife and female servants. The rest of his retainers, who slept in a barracks outside, attempted to come into the house to his rescue. After overcoming the defenders at the front of the house, the two parties of father and son joined up, and fought with the retainers who came in. The latter, perceiving that they were losing, tried to send for help, but their messengers were killed by the archers posted to prevent that.

Eventually, after a fierce struggle, the last of Kira’s retainers were killed. Of Kira, however, there was no sign. They searched the house, but all they found were crying women and children. They began to despair, but Oishi checked Kira’s bed, and it was still warm, so he knew he could not be far.

The Death of Kira

A renewed search disclosed a hidden entrance to a secret courtyard holding a small building for storing charcoal and firewood, where two more hidden armed retainers were overcome and killed. A search of the building disclosed a man hiding, who attacked the searcher with a dagger, but was easily disarmed. He refused to say who he was, but the searchers felt sure it was Kira, and sounded the whistle.The Forty-Seven Ronin gathered, and Oishi, with a lantern, saw that it was indeed Kira – as a final proof, his head bore the scar from Asano’s attack.

At that, Oishi went on his knees, and in consideration of Kira’s high rank, respectfully addressed Kira, telling him they were retainers of Asano, come to avenge him as true samurai should, and inviting Kira to die as a true samurai should, by killing himself. Oishi indicated he personally would act as a second (a person who assisted someone who was to commit suicide, and killed the person quickly with a sword-blow, to stop the pain).

However, no matter how much they entreated him, Kira crouched, speechless and trembling. At last, seeing it was useless to ask, Oishi killed him, and cut off his head with the same dagger that Asano had used to kill himself. They then extinguished all the fires in the house (lest any cause the house to catch fire, and start a general fire that would harm the neighbours), and left, taking the head.

One of the Ronin was ordered to travel to Asano’s old fiefdom and inform the people there that their revenge had been completed. (Though his role as a messenger is the most widely-accepted version of the story, other accounts have him running away before or after the battle, or being ordered to leave before the Ronin turned themselves in.)

As day was now breaking, they quickly made their way to their master’s tomb, causing a great stir on the way. The story quickly went around as to what had happened, and everyone on their path praised them, and offered them refreshment. Arriving at the temple where their master was buried, they washed and cleaned Kira’s head, and laid it, and the fateful dagger, before Asano’s tomb.

They then offered prayers at the temple, and gave the abbot of the temple all the money they had left, asking him to bury them decently, and offer prayers for them. They then waited patiently for the orders of the government. As expected, they were ordered to commit suicide for the crime of murder, and did so, after which their bodies were all buried at the temple, in front of the tomb of their master.

The clothes and arms they wore are preserved in the temple, and Lord Redesdale personally inspected them. The armor was all home-made, as they had not wanted to possibly arouse suspicion by purchasing any. The tombs became a place of great veneration, and people flocked there to pray.

One of those who came was a Satsuma man, the same one who had mocked and spat on Oishi as he lay drunk in the street. Addressing the grave, he begged for forgiveness for his actions, and for thinking that Oishi was not a true samurai. He then comitted suicide himself on the spot, and is buried next to the graves of the Forty-Seven Ronin.


What should be the ideals of chivalry?!

The term chivalry usually implies a historical phenomenon that had emerged and lasted during the feudal era in Europe. If this phenomenon is analyzed in a narrow sense, and only from the historical point of view, this is true. However, taken in a broader sense, the phenomenon of chivalry represents a certain perception and understanding of reality, as well as acting in this reality, with all the auspice of the integrated ideological system. Taken this way, the phenomenon of chivalry represents a universal category, which is applicable in all circumstances, at all times and in all situations. Chivalry as a way of perceiving and affecting, both on the individual and social level, is more than necessary in the time we live in. In this sad time when all the civilization’s achievements are crumbling, in the time of great atomization of society and in the time of loss of meaning of any social or individual action.

Chivalry was founded between the eighth and ninth century in Europe, which were the politically and economically turbulent centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It was a time of strengthening of the caste of armed men, who had been increasing their possessions and social impact by providing their services as professional warriors to the rulers and to the church. Over time, the chivalry caste was gradually incorporated into the nobility, thus separating itself from the ordinary soldiers. The code of conduct, thought and action of this caste, as well as the caste of military aristocracy itself, define the term chivalry. Chivalry had reached its full bloom between the eleventh and thirteenth century, when the church made a decisive influence, by interweaving it with the spiritual, Christian contents. Chivalry experienced a gradual decline in the late medieval and early modern time, due to the development of new social and especially economic circumstances. However, the precious echo of chivalry can still be felt in various segments of the modern life – in certain political and ideological postulates, in theoretical systems with traditionalist denomination, in armies, in few surviving authentic orders of knights and others.

The circumstance that had largely dealt the final blow to chivalry is the creation and development of the new socio-economic conditions, that have gradually replaced the feudal social structure, which was one of the main pillars of the chivalry caste. In economic terms, it was the development of capitalist economic relations and the strengthening of the bearers of these relations – the class of merchants. The principle of quality, as a social paradigm, was replaced by the principle of quantity. The concept of truth was replaced by the concept of wealth. All the aspects of society have become just a decor for the flow of capital.In brief, next are defined the basic starting points and the most common denominators of chivalry;

  1. Sacrifice

The most significant and basic element of chivalry is the willingness to self-sacrifice. It is this element that is the fundamental demarcation line between the bourgeois, mercantilist view of the world and the chivalrous view of the world. The merchant always has, in the first place, on his mind an interest, a profit or a comfort. The knight always has, in the first place, on his mind the willingness to sacrifice. For the faith, for the crown, for an idea, for the state, for the master, for the weak… Never for any vulgar, profane or earthly goal. But instead, for an ideal, that to those with a mercantilist view seems very abstract and incomprehensible. The willingness to sacrifice, places a knight in the realm of pure spirituality, as someone who has transcended the secular sphere of materialistic, cause and effect relationships. In addition, the willingness to sacrifice shows a knight’s willingness to overcome pride, which represents the greatest obstacle on the spiritual path. Also, what is especially important in our world, where materialism and hedonism are prevailing, is to overcome the temptation of material goods, which tend to hinder him. A knight always looks upon interest and benefit, the two sad achievements of the modern society, with contempt and indifference.

A perfect example of sacrifice is the act of Prince Lazar Velikomucenik (Great Martyr) and his nobles, on the eve of the most significant event in the Serbian history – the Battle of Kosovo. This battle, which took place on Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day), June 28th, 1389, between the Serbian and Ottoman armies, and despite the fact that both rulers died – Lazar and Murat, was a defeat for Serbia. After Prince Lazar, with the exception of a brief period under the rule of Despot Stefan Lazarevic, Serbia fell into the darkness of Turkish imposed rule, that will last until the early nineteenth century. The key to understanding the Battle of Kosovo and its symbolism is not the battle itself, but the situation that had preceded it. In fact, King Lazar Hrebeljanovic had full awareness and insight into the superiority of the former Ottoman Empire and the crisis of the medieval Serbian state. He also had an alternative, in relation to the battle with the Turks. He could have accepted the vassal status of Serbia and avoided the war and defeat. Together with his nobles, Prince Lazar did not do this, but instead he chose self-sacrifice. The reasons for this decision are in the spiritual sphere. Before him, Lazar had not only the political or ethical dilemma, but rather a spiritual and metaphysical one, embodied in the choice between approaching God or Devil (synonyms: freedom or slavery, honor or dishonor, one’s own perception of truth or accepting the imposed). He had a choice between preserving integrity of the earthly existence, that is his own life, or preserving the spiritual integrity. He faced a temptation. His choice was the Lord. Lazar’s godliness manifests itself in the conscious sacrifice, which created a symbol for the whole forthcoming history. This was a symbol which created the model for choices and actions of the Serbian nation through all subsequent centuries. Lazar’s sacrifice, in a sense, was similar to the sacrifice of the Christ himself. On the eve of the battle, he addressed his knights with the following words: “Death in the feat is better than the life with shame. It is better to die by the sword in the battle, than to kneel to the enemy. We lived enough for the people, so let us bear the feat of sacrifice, so that we may live forever in the heavens.” To this, they replied to him: “Let us die, so we may live forever. We put ourselves on the altar of sacrifice… Let us not spare our lives, so that we may become a bright example to the others.

  1. Spirituality

The definition that best describes chivalry is harmony or synergy between the spiritual perfection and secular power. It follows that the spiritual sphere is the most important determinant of chivalry. From the historical point of view, it is the influence of the Christian church on the class of military aristocracy on the eve of the First Crusade that encapsulated chivalry as an integral system of understandings, ideas and actions of this class. Spirituality is one ennobling factor that rises the knight above the ordinary soldier. The first orders of knights in the Holy Land, were structured as monastic orders and the brother who would enter, apart from the constant practice of military skills, was imposed with a strict monastic way of life, in the spirit of Christianity. In the broader sense, a way of life whose main fore-token is the spiritual ladder, rises the individual above the plebeian and mercantilist system of values. Spiritual development and discipline, provide a knight the only safe ground, where he is safe from the temptations and hindering factors such as pride, materialism, doubt, fear and others.

  1. Traditionalism

Traditionalism, as a theoretical system, is a way of perceiving and thinking peculiar to the military aristocracy. Traditionalism means respecting all the elements that traditionally make up the organic model of civilization and its heritage. The organic model of civilization indicates something that was being created for some considerable period of time and is based on certain precise archetypes, that are constantly repeated throughout the ages. This may be a nation, a group of nations under the umbrella of a particular empire, or a group of nations under the umbrella of a common spiritual and cultural identity. Traditionalism, as an ideological form, is contrary to the myth of progress that is typical of the society formed after the First bourgeois revolution in 1789. The myth of progress implies that things are constantly changing and improving from a less perfect state to a more perfect one. Traditionalism, on the other hand assumes that, although formally dynamic and seemingly changing, circumstances remain always based on the same essences or archetypes. Also, traditionalism does not exclude the possibility of anti-progress or counter-initiation. A powerful illustration of this are the majority of relevant manuscripts that deal with spirituality and eschatology. From the Vedas to the Holy Scriptures, there is always a similar epilogue at the end of time – a gradual regression from a perfect to a less perfect form, until the final “endkampf” and the end of time.

  1. Cult of the ancestors

The cult of ancestors, or respecting those who were here before us, is an element of traditionalism. The cult of ancestor veneration is an expression of our confrontation with our own egoism and pride, which are suggesting that everything before or after us does not matter. Likewise, the respect for ancestors on a collective level represents affiliation with a particular tradition (a nation, an organic model of civilization…), which is a guarantee of movement in the same or similar direction, so that the continuity of this tradition will be extended and even more built upon. Also, on a collective level, the respect for ancestors, which is not merely a fossilized form, is an expression of our responsibility towards our own tradition, or the awareness that we must responsibly dispose with our ancestors’ legacy. In mystical terms, the cult of ancestors is a form of synergy outside the real time of all the members of our tradition – those who are no longer here, ourselves and those that will come after us. It is us who are in the real time, that are the messengers within this dialogue, and therefore our responsibility is great.

  1. Collectivism

Collectivism is a category opposite to the prevailing individualism of today. Individualism, as the legacy of bourgeois society, is nothing more than a hypertrophied egotism, which stems from pride. Individualistic emphasis on ego and self-sufficiency has led to the fact that the individual in the contemporary social context is alienated – from others and from himself. Individualism, in addition to one’s alienation from the modern society, has led to a complete atomization of the society, in which it has lost all its meaning. All the paradigms of traditional society are reduced to the level of simulacrum, that is, to the level of a pale image of its original meaning. A return to the position of collectivism seems necessary. The only alternative to the absurdity of modern atomized society is organizing, in which an individual stands in organic and constructive relationship with the group, which he is a part of. Thus, he ceases to be discarded, unneeded wheel of a dehumanized social machinery that tolerates only absolute subordination to the production of capital. An individual within the collective ceases to be proud, self-sufficient and exclusively occupied with his own gain and pleasure, but approaches the collective, with a desire to give something and not just take. He no longer takes himself first and foremost, but wants to sacrifice his own interests for the collective to which he belongs. He wants to obey the authority within the hierarchy as a natural state. In such a situation, giving becomes two-way – the collective returns in the same way. In this way, an organic unity of the individual and collective is created. A situation is created in which the interest of oneself and of the collective to which one belongs, are not opposed. Thus, an organic society is created. It is important to understand that the readiness to sacrifice is embodied in the will of the individual to submit to the collective interests and to serve them, and is a prerequisite for the collective to begin to respond by serving to the individual. Collectivism is a form of social organization that does not tolerate pride in the slightest. Collectivism is based on the basic paradigm of chivalry – the sacrifice.

  1. Self-discipline

Self-discipline is a method that brings an individual out of his initially imperfect inner state to a better state. The starting point is that every individual is imperfect at the beginning, in the spiritual, intellectual and physical sense. The process of working on oneself, or self-discipline to which one willingly subjects oneself, leads to a better state of being. This cultivation of one’s being embodied through the process of self-discipline applies to all three main spheres of propagation of the human being: the spirit, the intellect and the body. Historically, it may be the concept of chivalry, as an integral system of life and action, in which for the first time in European civilization, we meet the synergy of simultaneous development of one’s own spirit, body and intellect. A knight had to strictly adhere to the Christian liturgical process by living as a monk, he had to constantly improve his body by practicing military skills and he had to expand his knowledge by studying the concepts of strategy, military science and history. This method is not confined only to the period of feudalism. On the contrary, it is applicable in all situations and in all epochs. It is only important to understand that man is not perfect and that he can always reach a better state, if he undergoes a process of strict and uncompromising self-discipline.

  1. Compassion

One of the important elements of chivalry is compassion. Compassion indicates a relationship that a knight has with others, on the basis of his own spiritual perfection and the willingness to sacrifice. Especially for those who need assistance or are under a threat. A knight does not treat them with contempt, so typical for the relationship with the weak in the modern mercantilist society, but with love. The main expression of that love is compassion. The practical articulation of compassion is to protect and to serve. A knight always protects the one who is in danger, in distress or weak, and in this way, he serves them.

“Sovereign Military Order of the Dragon-Serbia”

Byzantium the Lost Empire

Byzantine Empire or Byzantium, a state that arose in the fourth century during the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire and lasted until the middle of the 15thcentury.

The capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople, which was founded by the emperor Constantine I between 324 and 330 on the site ofthe former Megaran colony of Byzantium (hence the name of the state Byzantium, which was introduced by the humanists after the empirefell). With the founding of Constantinople the Byzantine Empire began to become autonomous within the heart of the Roman Empire. (Thehistory of the empire is usually dated from this time.) The culmination of this independence is generally considered to have taken place in 395,when, after the death of Theodosius I, the last emperor of a unified Roman state, who reigned from 379 to 395, the final division of the RomanEmpire into the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Western Roman Empire took place. Arcadius (395-408) be-came the emperor ofthe Eastern Roman Empire. The Byzantines called themselves Romans (in Greek, Romaioi) and their state “The Empire of the Romans.”Throughout the course of its existence the Byzantine Empire experienced many changes in its territorial possessions.

The ethnic composition of the empire was mixed: the population included Greeks, Syrians, Copts, Armenians, Georgians, Jews, Hellenizedminor Asiatic tribes, Thracians, Illyrians, and Dacians. With the curtailment of Byzantine territory (beginning in the seventh century) some ofthese peoples were left outside of the frontiers of the empire. At the same time new peoples settled on Byzantine land (for example, the Gothsin the fourth and fifth centuries, Slavs in the sixth and seventh centuries, Arabs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, and Pechenegs andCumans in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries). From the sixth to the 11th centuries the population of the Byzantine Empire included ethnicgroups from which the Italian nationality was later formed. The dominant role in the economic, political, and cultural life of the empire wasplayed by the Greek population. The official language of the empire from the fourth to the sixth centuries was Latin; from the seventh centuryuntil the end of the empire’s existence it was Greek.

There are many complex problems in the socioeconomic history of the Byzantine Empire, and there are different conceptions of their solutionsin modern Byzantine scholarship. One example is the determination of the Byzantine Empire’s period of transition from a slaveholding societyto a feudal one. In the opinion of N. V. Pigulevskaia and E. E. Lipshits, slavery in the Byzantine Empire had already lost its importance by thefourth, fifth, and sixth centuries; but according to Z. V. Udal’tsova (and A. P. Kazhdan), until the sixth and seventh centuries slaveholding waspredominant in the empire. (Although he agrees in general with this point of view, M. la. Siuziumov considers the period between the fourth andllth centuries “prefeudal.”)

The history of the Byzantine Empire can roughly be divided into three major periods. The first period (from the fourth century to the middle of theseventh) is characterized by a disintegration of the slaveholding system and the beginning of the establishment of feudal relations. Thedistinguishing feature of the genesis of feudalism in the Byzantine Empire was the spontaneous growth of a feudal system within a decayed,slaveholding society while a late classical government structure was being preserved. Agrarian relations in the early Byzantine Empire werecharacterized by the retention of masses of the free peasantry and peasant communes, the widespread extension of the coloni and long-termtenant leases (emphyteuses), and a distribution, more intensive than in the West, of portions of land in the form of peculia among slaves. In theByzantine village in the seventh century there was an undermining or a complete abolition of large-scale land ownership based on slaveholding.A system of peasant communes was established on the territories of former estates. In the remaining large estates (primarily in Asia Minor)the labor of coloni and slaves began to be substituted by the increasingly extensive use of the labor of free peasants, or tenant farmers.

The Byzantine city of the fourth and fifth centuries basically remained a classical slaveholding polis; but at the end of the fourth century thesmaller poleis began to decline and to turn into agrarian settlements, and during the fifth century new cities arose that were no longer city-states, but trading, craft, and administrative centers. The largest city in the empire was Constantinople, the center of crafts and internationaltrade. The Byzantine Empire conducted a brisk trade with Iran, India, China, and other countries; moreover, in its trade with Western Europeanstates around the Mediterranean Sea it enjoyed hegemony. The Byzantine Empire was ahead of the countries of Western Europe in its level ofdevelopment of crafts and trade and in the degree of intensity of its urban life during this period. In the seventh century, however, the city-statesdeclined completely—a considerable number of them underwent agrarianization, and the center of public life shifted to the village.

During the fourth and fifth centuries the Byzantine Empire was a centralized, military-bureaucratic monarchy. Complete power wasconcentrated in the hands of the emperor (basileus). The Senate was an advisory organ to the emperor. The free population was divided intoorders, the highest of which was the senatorial estates. Political parties of a sort known as demes were a serious social force in the fifthcentury and thereafter. The most important of these were the Veneti (led by the highest dignitaries) and the Prasinoi (which reflected theinterests of the upper layers of tradesmen and craftsmen). In the fourth century Christianity became the dominant religion. (In 354 and 392 thegovernment issued laws against paganism.) From the fourth to the seventh centuries Christian dogma was developed and a church hierarchytook shape. At the end of the fourth century monasteries began to be built and the church became a rich organization that possessednumerous landholdings. The clergy were freed from the payment of taxes and duties (with the exception of the land tax). As a result of theconflict between various tendencies within Christianity (Arianism, Nestorianism, and so forth), Orthodoxy became completely dominant in theByzantine Empire during the reign of the emperor Justinian in the sixth century (although as early as the end of the fourth century the emperorTheodosius I attempted to reestablish church unity and transform Constantinople into the center of Orthodoxy).

In the 370’s both the foreign and domestic policy of Byzantium were determined by its relations with the barbarians. In 375, with the forcedconsent of the emperor Valens, the Visigoths settled on Byzantine territories south of the Danube. In 376 the Visigoths, enraged by theiroppression at the hands of the Byzantine authorities, rose in revolt. In 378 the combined units of the Visigoths and sections of the rebelliouspopulation utterly routed the army of Valens at Adrianople. With great difficulty (at the price of concessions to the barbarian aristocracy) theemperor Theodosius succeeded in crushing the uprising in 380. In July 400 the barbarians almost occupied Constantinople, and they weredriven from the city only because of the intervention in the battle of the broad strata of the urban population. By the end of the fourth century,with the increase in the number of mercenaries and foederati, the Byzantine army was barbarized; due to the barbarians’ settlement there wasa temporary extension of small-scale free land ownership and colonization. Whereas the Western Roman Empire, which experienced aprofound crisis, fell under attack by the barbarians, the Byzantine Empire proved to be economically and politically more viable, and thisallowed them to stand up against the barbarian incursions. (In the Byzantine Empire the crisis of the slaveholding economy occurred with lessforce and the cities were preserved as centers of crafts and trade and retained a powerful apparatus of authority.) During the 470’s and 480’sthe empire repelled the onslaught of the Ostrogoths.

At the end of the fifth century and during the sixth century a period of economic upturn and a certain political stabilization began in theByzantine Empire. Financial reform was adopted in the interest of the upper echelons of the trade and crafts groups in the important cities ofthe Byzantine Empire, primarily Constantinople. For example, they abolished the chrysargyron (the tax that was collected from the urbanpopulation), farmed out the taxes that had formerly been collected by the state, and collected land taxes in money. Social dissatisfactionamong the plebeian masses led to a sharpening of the conflict between the Veneti and the Prasinoi. In the eastern provinces of the empirethere was intensified opposition from the Monophysitic religious movement, which combined the ethnic, ecclesiastical, social, and politicalinterests of various classes of the populations of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. At the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the sixth,Slavic tribes began to enter Byzantine territories from the north across the Danube (in 493, 499, and 502). During the reign of the emperorJustinian I (527-565) the Byzantine Empire reached the highest point of its political and military power. Justinian’s major goals were thereestablishment of the unity of the Roman Empire and the strengthening of the authority of a single emperor. He relied politically upon thebroad circles of the middle and small landowners and slaveholders and limited the claims of the senatorial aristocracy; at the same time hemade an alliance with the Orthodox Church. The first few years of Justinian’s reign were marked by major popular movements (for example, in529 and 530 the uprising of the Samaritans in Palestine, and in 532 the Nika revolt in Constantinople). The government of Justinian carried outa codification of the civil law. Justinian’s laws, directed to a considerable degree at strengthening slaveholding relations, nevertheless reflectedthe changes that had occurred in Byzantine social life. It facilitated the standardization of forms of property and the equalization of thepopulation’s civil rights, established a new system of inheritance, and compelled heretics to convert to Orthodoxy under threat of deprivation oftheir civil rights and even capital punishment. During Justinian’s reign, centralization of the government was intensified and a strong army wascreated. This made it possible for Justinian to repulse the attacks of the Persians in the east and the Slavs in the north and conduct extensiveconquests in the west (in 533 and 534 the Vandal state in North Africa, in 535-555 the Ostrogoth kingdom in Italy, and in 554 the southeasternregions of Spain). The conquests of Justinian, however, proved to be unstable; in the western regions that had been won back from thebarbarians, the rule of the Byzantines and their restoration of slavery, as well as the Roman tax system, inspired revolts among the population.(An uprising within the army in 602 became a civil war aad led to a change of emperors; the throne passed to the centurion Phocas.) At theend of the sixth century and during the seventh the Byzantine Empire lost the regions it had conquered in the west (with the exception ofsouthern Italy). Between 636 and 642 the Arabs conquered the richest eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire (Syria, Palestine, and UpperMesopotamia), and between 693 and 698 its possessions in North Africa. By the end of the seventh century the territory of the ByzantineEmpire included no more than one-third of Justinian’s domains. At the end of the sixth century the settlement of the Balkan Peninsula bySlavic tribes began. In the seventh century they settled a considerable number of territories within the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire (inMoesia, Thrace, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Istria, and parts of Greece; and a number of slaves even in Asia Minor), although they pre-served theirown language, daily life-style, and culture. There was also a change in the ethnic composition of the population in the eastern part of AsiaMinor; settlements of Armenians, Persians, Syrians, and Arabs appeared. With the loss of some of its eastern provinces, however theByzantine Empire as a whole became ethnically more uniform; its central territory consisted of lands that were settled by Greeks or Greek-speaking Hellenized tribes.

The second period (from the middle of the seventh century to the beginning of the thirteenth) was characterized by an intensive development offeudalism. As a result of the decrease in its territory at the beginning of this period, the Byzantine Empire was primarily a Greek state, andduring the llth and 12th centuries (when it included Slavic lands) it was a Greco-Slavic state. Despite its territorial losses it remained one of thestrongest powers in the Mediterranean area. In the Byzantine village from the eighth century to the first half of the ninth century the free ruralcommune began to predominate; the communal relations of the Slavic tribes that had settled in the Byzantine Empire also facilitated thestrengthening of the local Byzantine peasant communes. The legislative landmark of the eighth century that is known as the Farmers’ Lawtestifies to the presence of neighborhood communes, the property differentiations within them, and the beginning of their disintegration. Fromthe eighth century to the first half of the ninth century the Byzantine cities continued to experience a decline. During the seventh and eighthcenturies important changes took place in the administrative structure of the empire. The old dioceses and provinces were replaced by new,military-administrative districts known as themes. All the military and civil authority in a theme was concentrated in the hands of thecommander of the theme army—the strategus. The free peasants who made up the army, the stratiotai, were enrolled by the government in theclass of hereditary owners of military land sections in return for undergoing military service. The theme system essentially signified thedecentralization of the state. It strengthened the empire’s military potential and made the achievement of success in wars against the Arabsand Bulgars possible during the reigns of Leo Ill (717-741) and Constantine V (741-775). Leo Ill’s policy was directed at combating theseparatist tendencies of the local aristocracy (as is shown by the publication in 726 of the collection of laws entitled Ecloga, which divided thethemes into smaller units) and at limiting the self-government of the cities. During the eighth century and the first half of the ninth century anextensive religious and political movement known as iconoclasm began in the Byzantine empire, reflecting primarily the op-position of thepopular masses to the ruling church, which was closely linked to the higher aristocracy of Constantinople. Iconoclasm was used by theprovincial aristocracy in its own interests and was led by the emperors of the Isaurian dynasty, who confiscated monastery and churchtreasuries for their own use in the course of their struggle with the iconodules. This struggle raged with particular force during the reign of theemperor Constantine V. In 754 he convoked a church assembly that condemned the veneration of icons. The policy of the iconoclast emperorsstrengthened the provincial aristocracy. The growth of large landowning and the attack of the feudal lords on the peasant communes led to asharpening of the class struggle. In the middle of the seventh century the popular-heretical movement of the Paulicians began in the easternpart of the Byzantine Empire in western Armenia, spreading throughout Asia Minor in the eighth and ninth centuries. Another major popularmovement in the Byzantine Empire during the ninth century was the uprising of 820-825, led by Thomas the Slav (died 823), which took placeon imperial territory in Asia Minor and in some parts of Thrace and Macedonia, and from the very beginning was antifeudal in thrust. Thesharpening of the class struggle frightened the feudal lords; it compelled them to overcome the schism in their ranks and reestablish theveneration of icons in 843. The truce among the government, the military aristocracy, the higher clergy, and the monasteries was accompaniedby fierce persecutions of the Paulicians. The Paulician movement, which became an armed uprising during the middle of the ninth century, wassuppressed in 872.

The second half of the ninth century and the whole tenth century belonged to a period in which the Byzantines created a centralized feudalmonarchy with a strong government and a pervasive bureaucratic administrative apparatus. One of the principal ways of exploiting the peasantsduring this time was the centralized rent, which was collected in the form of numerous taxes. The presence of a strong central authorityexplains to a considerable extent the absence in Byzantium of a feudal-hierarchical structure. In contrast to Western European states, thevassal-lien system remained undeveloped in the empire; feudal troops were detachments of bodyguards and retinues rather than an army of afeudal magnate’s vassals. Two strata of the ruling class played the major role in the country’s political life: the big feudal lords (dinati) in theprovinces and the bureaucratic aristocracy connected with the trade and craft circles in Constantinople. These social groupings, constant rivalsof each other, transferred power back and forth. By the 11th century feudal relations in the Byzantine Empire had basically become dominant.The utter defeat of the popular movements made it easy for the feudal lords to attack the institution of the free peasant commune. Theimpoverishment of the peasants and the military settlers (stratiotai) led to a decline in the general levy of the stratiotai and reduced thepeasants’ capacity to pay. (The peasants were the principal taxpayers.) Several emperors of the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056) relied on thearistocratic officials and the trade and craft circles of Constantinople and had an interest in obtaining taxes from the peasants, so they tried toretard the process whereby the commune members were deprived of their lands, the disintegration of the peasant communes, and theformation of feudal patrimonies. But their efforts were not at all successful. During the llth and 12th centuries the formation of the basic feudalinstitutions in the Byzantine Empire was completed. Patrimonial exploitation of the peasants had come to fruition. The free commune remainedonly in the empire’s outlying regions; elsewhere the peasants became feudally dependent people (paroikoi). Slave labor had lost all itsimportance in farming. In the llth and 12th centuries the pronoia (a form of conditional feudal landholding) gradually became widespread. Thegovernment distributed to the feudal lords the right of exkuseia (a special form of immunity). A specific trait of feudalism in the ByzantineEmpire was the combination of seignorial exploitation of dependent peasants with the collection of a centralized rent for the benefit of the state.

In the second half of the ninth century there was an upturn in the Byzantine cities. The growth of craft production was connected primarily withan increased demand for crafted items on the part of the strengthened Byzantine feudal aristocracy, but also with the growth of the empire’sforeign trade. The flourishing of the cities was facilitated by the policy of the emperors, who provided privileges to the trade and craft corporateguilds and other organizations. By the tenth century Byzantine cities had acquired the traits characteristic of medieval cities: small-scale craftproduction, the formation of trade and craft corporate guilds, and the regulation of the activity of these organizations by the state. A feature ofthe Byzantine city was the retention of the institution of slavery, although the main figure in production became the free artisan. In the tenth andllth centuries most Byzantine cities were no longer only fortresses or administrative or episcopal centers; they became a point of concentrationfor crafts and trade also. Until the middle of the 12th century Constantinople remained the center of transit trade between the East and theWest. Byzantine seafaring and trade played an increasingly important role in the basin of the Mediterranean Sea despite competition from theArabs and Normans. In the 12th century changes occurred in the economies of the Byzantine cities. There was a certain curtailment of craftproduction and a lowering of the standard of production techniques in Constantinople, although there was an upturn in the provincial cities—forexample, Thessaloniki, Corinth, Thebes, Athens, Ephesus, and Nicaea. The penetration into the Byzantine Empire of the Venetians and theGenoese, who obtained considerable trading privileges from the Byzantine emperors, ruinously affected the economy of the Byzantine cities.The development of Byzantine crafts (especially in the capital) was hindered by government regulation of the corporate guilds’ activity.

In the second half of the ninth century the church’s influence increased. During the patriarchate of Photius (858-867), the Byzantine church,usually submissive to the emperors, began to defend the idea of the equality of the spiritual and the secular authorities and called for the activeChristianization of neighboring peoples with the aid of church missions; there was an attempt to introduce Orthodoxy into Moravia and theChristianization of Bulgaria was carried out around 865 by the mission of Cyril and Methodius. Differences between the patriarchate ofConstantinople and the papal throne, which sharpened during the patriarchate of Photius, led in 1054 to an official schism between the easternand western churches. (From this time on the eastern church was called the Greco-Catholic [Orthodox] and the western church, the RomanCatholic.) The final separation of these churches occurred, however, after 1204.

The foreign policy of Byzantium from the second half of the ninth century to the llth century was characterized by continual wars against theArabs, Slavs, and later the Nor-mans. In the middle of the tenth century the Byzantine Empire won back from the Arabs Upper Mesopotamia,part of Asia Minor, Syria, Crete, and Cyprus. In 1018 the empire conquered the kingdom of western Bulgaria, and the Balkan Peninsula as faras the Danube River came under Byzantine rule. During the period of the ninth to 11th centuries relations with Kievan Rus’ began to play alarge role in Byzantine foreign policy. After the siege of Constantinople by troops of the Kievan prince Oleg (907), the Byzantines werecompelled in 911 to conclude a trade agreement that was advantageous for the Russians and facilitated the development of trade ties betweenRus’ and the Byzantine Empire along the great route “from the Varangians to the Greeks.” During the last third of the tenth century the empirefought Rus’ for control of Bulgaria, and despite initial successes by the Kievan prince Sviatoslav Igorevich, the Byzantine Empire was victorious.An alliance was concluded between Byzantium and Kievan Rus’ during the reign of the Kievan prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich. The Russianshelped the Byzantine emperor Basil II put down the feudal revolt of Phocas Bardas (987-989), and Basil II was forced to agree to the marriage ofhis sister Anna to the Kievan prince Vladimir; this facilitated the alliance between the Byzantine Empire and Rus’. At the end of the tenthcentury Christianity was adopted by Russia from the Byzantine Empire (in the form of the Orthodox rite).

From the second third of the llth century to the early 1080’s the Byzantine Empire underwent a period of crisis. The state was shaken by“troubles” and a struggle was being waged by the provincial feudal lords against the aristocracy and officials of the capital (the feudal revolts ofManiaces [1043], Tornikios [1047], and Isaac Comnenus [1057], who temporarily seized the throne [1057-59]). The empire’s position vis-à-visforeigners also worsened; the government was forced to repulse simultaneously the attacks of the Pechenegs and the Seljuk Turks. After thedefeat of the Byzantine army by the Seljuk troops in 1071 at Manzikert (in Armenia) the empire lost most of Asia Minor. The West inflictedequally heavy losses on the Byzantine Empire. By the middle of the 11th century the Normans had seized the greater part of the empire’spossessions in southern Italy; in 1071 they occupied the last point of Byzantine resistance, the city of Bari (in Apulia).

The struggle for the throne sharpened in the 1070’s and culminated in 1081 with the victory of the Comnenian dynasty (1081-1185), whichrepresented the interests of the provincial feudal aristocracy and relied upon a narrow layer of the aristocracy that was united to it by maritalbonds. The Comneni tore the state administration away from the old bureaucratic system and introduced a new system of titles to be awardedonly to the higher aristocracy. Power in the provinces was transferred to the military commanders (duxes). Instead of the general people’s levyof the stratiotai, the importance of which had declined as early as the tenth century, during the reign of the Comneni a major role began to beplayed by the heavily armed cavalry (katafraktoi), which resembled Western European knights, and by foreign mercenaries. The strengtheningof the state and the army allowed the Comneni to make gains in their foreign policy at the end of the llth century and the beginning of the 12th(repulsing the Norman offensive in the Balkans, winning back a considerable part of Asia Minor from the Seljuks, and establishing sovereigntyover Antioch). Manuel I compelled Hungary to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Byzantine Empire (1164) and consolidated his power inSerbia. But in 1176 the Byzantine army was defeated by the Turks at Myriocephalum. Along all its borders it was forced to go on the defensive.After the death of Manuel I a popular revolt began in Constantinople (1181), caused by dissatisfaction with the government’s policy of grantingprotection to Italian merchants and Western European knights who had joined the imperial service. Andronicus I (1183-85), a representative of alateral branch of the Comnenus family, made use of this revolt to come to power. His reforms were directed at setting the state bureaucraticapparatus in order and fighting corruption. Failures in the war against the Normans, dissatisfaction among the burghers with the tradingprivileges that the emperor had granted to the Venetians, and the use of terror against the feudal magnates alienated even the former allies ofAndronicus I. In 1185 the Angeli dynasty (1185-1204) came to power as a result of an insurrection by the Constantinople magnates; its rulemarked the decline of the Byzantine Empire’s domestic and foreign power. The country underwent a profound economic crisis; feudaldisintegration was intensified, there was a de facto independence of the provincial governors from the central authority, the cities fell into decay,and the army and navy grew weak. The disintegration of the empire had begun. In 1187, Bulgaria broke away, and in 1190 the empire wascompelled to acknowledge the independence of Serbia. At the end of the 12th century there was a sharp increase in the number of conflictsbetween the Byzantine Empire and the West. The papacy strove to subordinate the Byzantine church to the Roman curia; Venice succeededin pushing its competitors, Genoa and Pisa, out of the empire; and the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire nurtured schemes of subduingByzantium. As a result of the interweaving of all these political interests the direction of the Fourth Crusade (1202-04) was changed; instead ofgoing to Palestine it went to Constantinople. In 1204, under the attack of the crusaders, Constantinople fell, and the Byzantine Empire ceasedto exist as a real empire.

The third period (1204-1453) was characterized by a further intensification of feudal disintegration, a decline of the central authority, and acontinuous struggle against foreign invaders. Elements of the disintegration of the feudal economy began to appear. The Latin Empire (1204-61)was established in an area of Byzantine territory that had been conquered by the crusaders. The Latins suppressed Greek culture inByzantium, and the dominance of the Italian trader-merchants hindered the rebirth of the Byzantine cities. Because of the resistance of thelocal population the crusaders did not succeed in extending their power over the entire Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor. On the Byzantineterritories that they failed to subdue, independent Greek states came into being: the Nicaean Empire (1204-61), the Trebizond Empire (1204-1461), and the state of Epirus (1204-1337).

The Nicaean Empire played the leading role in the struggle against the Latin Empire. In 1261 the Nicaean emperor Michael VIII Palaeologusreconquered Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire with the support of the Greek population of the Latin Empire. The Palaeologandynasty (1261-1453) was consolidated on the throne. During the final period of its existence Byzantium was only a small feudal state. TheTrebizond Empire (until the end of the Byzantine Empire’s existence) and Epirus (until its annexation by Byzantium in 1337) remainedindependent. During this period feudal relations continued to predominate in Byzantium; under conditions of the complete domination of thegreat feudal lords in the Byzantine cities, the Italian economic predominance, and the Turkish military threat (from the end of the 13th centuryto the beginning of the 14th) the first manifestations of early capitalist relations (for example, tenant rent of the enterprise type in the village)quickly perished. The intensification of feudal exploitation brought about popular movements in the countryside and the city. In 1262 there wasthe uprising of the Bithynian border-fighters—frontier military settlers in Asia Minor. In the 1340’s, during a period of bitter struggle between twofeudal cliques over the throne (the followers of the Palaeologan dynasty and those of the Cantacuzene), antifeudal uprisings raged in Thraceand Macedonia. A unique characteristic of the class struggle of the popular masses during this period was the joint action of the urban andrural populations against the feudal lords. The popular movement developed with particular strength in Thessaloniki, where the uprising was ledby the Zealots (1342-49). The victory of the feudal reaction and the continual occurrence of feudal internecine conflicts weakened Byzantium,which could not stand up against the attacks of the Ottoman Turks. At the beginning of the 14th century they seized the Byzantinepossessions in Asia Minor (in 1354, Gallipoli, and in 1362, Adrianople, whither the sultan transferred his capital in 1365), and later they tookpossession of all of Thrace. After the defeat of the Serbs at Maritsa (1371), Byzantium followed the example of Serbia and acknowledged itsvassal dependence on the Turks. The defeat of the Turks by the forces of the Middle Asiatic conqueror Tamerlane in 1402 in a battle at Ankarapostponed the fall of Byzantium for several decades. In this situation the Byzantine government sought support from the countries of WesternEurope in vain; nor was there any real aid forthcoming from the Council of Ferrara-Florence, which in 1439 provided for a union between theOrthodox and Catholic churches on condition that the primacy of the papal throne be acknowledged. (This union was rejected by the Byzantinepeople.) The Turks renewed their attacks on Byzantium; and the economic decline of the latter, the sharpening of class conflicts, feudalinternecine warfare, and the self-seeking, greedy policy of the Western European states all facilitated the victory of the Ottoman Turks. After atwo-month siege, Constantinople was captured and plundered by an onslaught of the Turkish army on May 29, 1453. In 1460 the conquererssubdued Morea, and in 1461 they seized the Trebizond Empire. By the early 1460’s the Byzantine Empire had ceased to exist, and itsterritories were included in the Ottoman Empire.

Bury, J. The Imperial Administrative System of the Ninth Century, 2nd ed. New York, 1958.
Dölger, F. Beiträge zur Geschichte der byzantinischen Finanzverwaltung. Munich, 1960.
Ostrogorski, G. Istorija Vizantije. Belgrade 1969.


The end of the order of Knights Templars ( 13.10.1307)

The Templar Order
was established in 1118 to ensure the custody of the Holy places and to protect the pilgrimage ways.  The Knights Templar considered themselves knights of God, upholding the honor of the church and Christianity. The Templars fought with  other Crusaders in the battles for the Holy Lands. It was a very well organized military force and they were the clash forces in all the Crusades.

In 1305, the new Pope Clement V, based in France, sent letters to both the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the Hospitaller Grand Master Fulk de Villaret to discuss the possibility of merging the two Orders. Neither was amenable to the idea but Pope Clement persisted, and in 1306 he invited both Grand Masters to France to discuss the matter.

De Molay arrived first in early 1307. Villaret was delayed for several months. While waiting, De Molay and Clement discussed charges that had been made two years prior by an ousted Templar.

It was generally agreed that the charges were false but Clement sent King Philip IV of France a written request for assistance in the investigation. King Philip was already deeply in debt to the Templars from his war with the English and seized upon these rumours for his own purposes.

Philip began pressuring the Church to take action against the Order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts. On Friday October 13, 1307 Philip ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. The Templars were charged with numerous heresies and tortured to extract false confessions. The confessions, despite having been obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris.

Again under pressure from Philip, Pope Clement issued the bull Pastoralis praeeminentiae on November 22, 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs throughout Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets.

Pope Clement called for papal hearings to determine the Templars’ guilt or innocence. Once freed of the Inquisitors’ torture, many Templars recanted their confessions. Some had sufficient legal experience to defend themselves in the trials, but in 1310 Philip blocked this attempt, using the earlier forced confessions to have dozens of Templars burned at the stake in Paris.

With Philip threatening military action unless the Pope complied with his wishes, Pope Clement agreed to disband the Order, citing the public scandal that had been generated by the confessions.

At the Council of Vienne in 1312, he issued a series of papal bulls, including Vox in excelso, which officially dissolved the Order, and Ad providam, which turned over most Templar assets to the Hospitallers.

The elderly Grand Master Jacques de Molay, had confessed under torture, but retracted his confession. Geoffrey de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, followed de Molay’s example, and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to burn alive at the stake in Paris on March 18, 1314.

According to legend, he called out from the flames that both Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God. Pope Clement died a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident within the year.

With the Order’s leaders killed, remaining Templars around Europe were either arrested and tried under the Papal investigation, absorbed into other monastic military orders, or pensioned off and allowed to live out their days peacefully.

Some may have fled to other territories outside Papal control, such as Scotland (then under excommunication) or to Switzerland. Templar organisations in Portugal escaped lightly through the imaginative expedient of changing their name from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ.

In 2001, a document known as the “Chinon Parchment” was found in the Vatican Secret Archives, supposedly after having been misfiled in 1628. It is a record of the trial of the Templars, and shows that Clement absolved the Templars of all heresies in 1308, before formally disbanding the Order in 1312.In October 2007, the Scrinium publishing house published secret documents about the trial of the Knights Templar, including the Chinon Parchment, never the less many historians who are experts in Knights Templars  history are sure that document that this document is not copy of original.

Templique Salomonici-The Grand Masters (1118-1314)

The Grand Master was the spiritual, political and military leader of the Order. He was chosen by a complex electoral system similar to that used in Venice to elect the Doge. The Preceptors in the Holy Land would usually choose a provisional leader until an electoral colleges, drawn from the international Order’s chapters, could be established. Eventually after a whittling down process, the next Grand Master, who was in theory supposed to be an experienced, professed brother of the Order, and not a partisan outsider.

The Grand Master presided from Jerusalem, and subsequently from Acre (and from Cyprus in the final years). He was normally installed for life, though there was precedent for a Grand Masters resigning. The Grand Master did not quite have autocratic powers within the Order, despite the emphasis on obedience as a sacred duty. He could not access the Order’s treasury on his own; one key was retained by the Commander of Jerusalem, who was also the Treasurer. He in theory ruled with the advice of a council, the Chapter, and rather as in an important monastic institution, important decisions were usually made at chapter meetings. The Chapter had to approve any decision to make war or to accept peace treaties. Moreover the Grand Master’s power seems to have been limited when it came to appointing regional preceptors. The local brethren were able to have a say in this.

The Grand Masters; 1118-1314

Hugues de Payens
(C. 1170-1136)
Hugues de Payens (or Payns) was the presumed founder and first Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He was a Knight probably from Payens, ten miles from Troyes, a vassal of Hugh, Count of Champagne, and a relative of the Lords of Montigny. He was apparently married and had at least one son. A tradition, apparently originating within Freemasonry has it that Hugues de Payens’ wife was one Catherine St Clair, but this is not verified. The claim seems to be contradicted by French charters that tend to suggest Hugues was married to one Elizabeth de Chappes. At any rate one of his son apparently was the Theobald who became abbot of Saint Colombe-de-Sens in 1139. Hugues de Payens was presumably widowed (or abandoned his wife) before 1114.
It is unclear whether Hugues de Payens took part in the First Crusade. However Hugues and the Count did visited Jerusalem in 1104 and again in around 1115, probably forging links with the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1118 or 1119 Hugues, along with Godfroi de St Omer and the others, approached Baldwin II in Jerusalem and won royal approval for their new military/religious Order, originally known as the Militia (or the Poor Fellow Soldiers) of Christ. They were probably endorsed at the Council of Nablus (1120) and soon given quarters in the former Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount. The knights apparently swore religious vows before the Patriarch in the Holy Sepulchre and pledged their swords to the defence of pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem. By 1123 Hugh was being referred to as the Master of the Knights of the Temple (Magister Militum Templi). William of Tyre claims that after nine years there were still just nine knights, another source, Michael the Syrian, mentions thirty founding companions.
Hugues de Payens returned to Europe in 1127 seeking support for his new brotherhood and recruiting volunteers to aid the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He won the support of the influential Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, and after three requests received from the Abbot a missive endorsing the Order, titled De Laude Novae Militiae (In Praise of the New Knighthood). Armed with this (presuming it originated from this period) Hugh toured France, Flanders, England and Scotland and having gained the favour of the rulers of these lands. He also met Fulk V, Count of Anjou, who would become one of the first honorary associates and a great supporter of the Order in the Holy Land. Hugues addressed the ecclesiastical Council of Troyes in 1129, giving an account of the Templars purpose and way of life. He had an input into the Latin Rule, which was produced and ratified at the council, making the Knights Templar an official arm of the Catholic Church. Hugues returned to the Holy Land, and saw action in Baldwin’s unsuccessful campaign against Damascus. He apparently died peacefully seven years later, and was succeeded by Robert de Caron.

Robert de Craon
(C. 1100-c.1147)
Robert de Craon became the second Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1136. Although known as ‘the Burgundian’, he was born in Anjou, and was a younger son of Renaud de Craon. He had given up a fiancée in Aquitaine to join the newly formed Order in Jerusalem, serving under Hugues de Payens. He was also present at the Council of Troyes. He oversaw the continuing growth of the Order and saw it gain extensive privileges when as a result of the Papal Bull Omne Datum Optimum. Robert participated in some inconclusive campaigns against the forces of Aleppo in the Holy Land. He was succeeded by Everard des Barres, who arrived from France with the forces of the Second Crusade.

Everard des Barres
(Died 1174)
Everard des Barres was the third Grand Master of the Knights Templar. From an aristocratic family of Meaux, Champagne, he entered the Order in his teens, and by 1143 had risen to the rank of Grand Preceptor of France. He was chosen to lead the order on the death of Robert de Caron. He was close to King Louis VII of France and accompanied him on the Second Crusade, soon after his elevation in 1147. The embarkation followed a chapter meeting held in Paris, attended by King Louis, by Pope Eugenius III and by 120 Knights of the Temple, including some summoned by Everard from Spain. It was probably at this meeting that the Order received the right to wear the red cross of martyrdom on their white habits.
Everard des Barres was one of those sent ahead of Louis to Constantinople, where he met with Manuel I Comnenus. Subsequently Templar discipline and courage saved the Louis’s army from destruction, fending off the attacking Turks amid the Cadmus Mountains in Anatolia. Odo of Deuil praised Everard for his piety and for the wise example with which he furnished the others. The Grand Master later assisted Louis with a substantial loan of two thousand silver marks. He also took part in the ill-fated campaign against Damascus, which may have planted a seed of disillusionment in him. Everard returned to France with the King after the ignominious end of the Crusade, apparently stricken with guilt over the failure of the venture. He resigned from the Templars in around 1151, and joined the Cistercian Order at Clairvaux in order to do penance. He was replaced as Grand Master by Bernard de Tremelay.

Bernard de Tremelay
(Died 1153)
Bernard de Tremelay was the fourth Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He was elected following the abdication of Everard des Barres, and led the Order in the aftermath of the unsuccessful Second Crusade. Bernard was probably a Burgundian, from a family originating near Dijon. Bernard and the Templars supported King Baldwin III of Jerusalem in his 1153 campaign against Ascalon, the only coastal town still in Muslim hands. A preliminary to this had been the strengthening of the castle at Gaza, which the Templars had taken over. This had severed Ascalon’s land connection to Egypt. The Christians laid siege to Ascalon itself on 23 January 1153. Bernard de Tremelay had a wooden siege tower built and moved it close to the walls. The Egyptian defenders of the city succeeded in setting this on fire, but the wind changed direction, carrying the flames towards Ascalon. The walls themselves came crashing down. According to the chronicler William of Tyre (who was seldom one to ascribe the best motives to the Knights Templar) the Templars rushed into the breech without the King’s knowledge, while Bernard de Tremelay prevented the other Crusaders from following, hoping to keep the greater part of the plunder. If so it was foolish over-confidence, for the next day the Egyptians hung the beheaded bodies of the Grand Master and forty of his men over the ramparts. The Christians fought on and the city fell to Baldwin soon after. Meanwhile André de Montbard succeeded as Grand Master of the Temple.

André de Montbard
André de Montbard was a Burgundian of noble birth. He was one of the early members of the Knights Templar. He went on to become fifth Grand Master of the Order, presiding between 1153 and 1156.
André was a younger son of Bernard, Lord of Montbard and Humberge de Ricey. André’s brother Rainard succeeded to the title. André was also an uncle of Bernard of Clairvaux, Bernard apparently being the son of André’s much older half sister Aleth. André’s access to St Bernard and Bernard’s influence within the Catholic Church helped ensure the official recognition of the Templars at the Council of Troyes. André apparently arrived in Europe some time before the other founding Templars, charged with gaining support for the Holy Land and negotiating with Fulk V, Count of Anjou, to come East to marry Melisende, the heiress to the kingdom of Jerusalem. André returned to the Holy Land, and served as Seneschal of the Order under Everard des Barres, to whom he wrote while the Grand Master was absent in France, urging his return with additional knights and money. André also served under Bernard de Tremelay. He participated in the capture of Ascalon from the Egyptians in 1153. He was elected Grand Master after de Tremelay perished there.

Bertrand de Blanquefort
Bertrand de Blanquefort (or Blanchefort/Blancfort) was elected as the sixth Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1156. He presided during the reign of Baldwin III, and seems to have been one of the first Grand Masters to use the symbol of the two riders on his official seal. Blanquefort is known for extending and revising the Templars’ Rule, adding a number of regulations dealing with specifically military situations and the hierarchy of the Order, which had by this time become more complex. (The original Rule had been primarily concerned with monastic living.)
In 1159 Bertrand de Blanquefort was captured by the Sultan Nur ed-Din of Damascus, after being ambushed by the Saracens in the Jordan Valley. He was released three years later, at Byzantine instigation, after the Emperor Manuel I Comnenus negotiated an alliance between Byzantium and Nur ed-Din, against the Turks of Anatolia. Subsequently Bertrand de Blanquefort recommended to the King of Jerusalem that they should make an alliance with Fatimid Egypt against Nur ed-Din. Amalric I, the new King, instead preferred a policy of aggression against Egypt. Bertrand accompanied the King against Egypt in 1163. However in 1168 Bertrand refused to allow any Templar involvement in Amalric’s last invasion of the Nile, arguing that it violated a truce and probably fearing that the army’s departure from the Kingdom would leave Jerusalem vulnerable. Blanquefort died the following year and was succeeded by Philip de Milly of Nablus.

Philip de Milly of Nablus
(Died 1178)
Philip of Nablus was the Lord Nablus, and then of Oultrejordan, holding the castle of Kerak. He would become a Templar Grand Mater. Philip was son of Guy de Milly, a Crusader from Picardy. He was well connected, being a step-brother of the lord of Ramla, and brother in law of Barisan of Ibelin, who was married to his sister Helvis. Philip became an influential baron in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He was loyal to Queen Melisende, and formed part of her response to the fall of Edessa in 1144, at a time when Baldwin III was being sidelined for political reasons. Later, Philip fought alongside Baldwin and the Knights Templar at the capture of Ascalon. He is said to have been a gifted linguist, knowing French, Latin, Arabic and Armenian. At some point he also made a pilgrimage to the Monastery of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the Sinai. He joined the Templars himself some time before 1166, probably after the death of his wife Isabella. In 1169 he was elected the Order’s seventh Grand Master, succeeding Bertrand de Blanquefort. Philip was the first Grand Master to have been born in the orient. The probably led the Order during the defence of Gaza against an attack by Saladin. Philip resigned as Grand Master in 1171 for reasons unknown. In his place Odo de St Amand was elected. Philip then became a royal envoy, to Constantinople. Philip’s daughter Stephanie de Milly was remarried to Reynald de Châtillon, upon his release from a Nur ed-Din’s dungeons. Reynald thus became lord of Kerak.

Odo de St Armand
(Died 1180)
Odo de St Amand hailed from an aristocratic family of Limousin. He came east and served as Marshal of Jerusalem, before joining the Knights Templar. Odo went on to became the eighth Grand Master of the Templars in 1171, during the reign of Amalric I of Jerusalem. He succeeded Bertrand de Blanquefort, with whom he apparently had been captured and held prisoner after the battle of Banyas, against Nur ed-Din. Relations between the Order and the King continued to be difficult, and the troubles came to a head in 1172, when the Templar Walter de Mesnil ambushed an envoy of the Assassin sect, returning to Syria from negotiations with Amalric. According to a disapproving William of Tyre, Odo refused to hand over de Mesnil to royal justice, asserting the Temple’s independence, but claiming that he would send Walter for judgement in Rome. Amalric seized de Mesnil, in the event, and was considering pressing his case against the Templars when he died.
Under Amalric’s son, Baldwin IV, relations between the crown and the Order improved. In 1177 Odo and the Templars supported Baldwin and played a critical part in his victory over Saladin at Montguisard. Odo also defeated an army of Saladin’s at Ramlah. The Grand Master was less lucky in 1179, when he was captured in battle, a few months before the fall of the castle of Jacobs Ford. William of Tyre, recording his capture, expressed little sympathy, and condemned Odo as an evil man, full of pride and arrogance ‘in whose nostrils dwelt the spirit of fury’. He also claimed that many held Odo responsible for the military disaster. Odo refused to be ransomed, in accordance with the Rule, and died in chains in prison the following year. He was succeeded in his absence by Arnold de Tarroja.

Arnold de Tarroja
(Died 1184)
Arnold de Tarroja was elected the ninth Grand Master of the Knights Templar in about 1180. Taking advantage of a two-year truce agreed between Baldwin IV and Saladin, Arnold set out to tour the courts of Europe to appeal for support for the Holy Land. He had been dispatched by a council in Jerusalem along with the Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Roger des Moulins the Grand Master of the Hospitallers. They hoped especially to secure the support of Henry II of England (who had sworn to take the Cross as part of his penance for his part in the death of Thomas à Becket.) However Arnold of Tarroja fell sick, and died before he could get any further than Verona. His companions had to carry on without him.

Gerard de Ridefort
(Died 1189)
Gerard de Ridefort (or van Ruddervoorde) was the tenth Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He presided at the time of the disasters that befell the Kingdom of Jerusalem in and around 1187. He was an ally of Guy de Lusignan, Queen Sibylla and Reynald de Chatillon. Gerard has been portrayed as a sinister firebrand and a warmonger of the same cast as Reynald, pursuing policies and tactics inconsistent with the best interests of the Kingdom. He did not seem to lack personal courage, however, and perhaps if he had been blessed with more luck he would be better thought of. Still, given his clearly immoderate nature, it is difficult to account to his rise to the top of the Order of the Temple, especially considering that he was not a career Templar.
Gerard was probably of Flemish extraction. Like Reynald he may have been a member of the Second Crusade, who chose to remain in the East. Gerard took service as a secular knight under Raymond III of Tripoli, on the understanding that he would be rewarded with a grant of land and the hand of the heiress Lucia of Botrun. Raymond later reneged on the arrangement, and Gerard joined the Templars, nursing a bitter grudge against Raymond. (Gerard’s rival was a Pisan merchant named Plivano. It seems Plivano had offered Lucia’s weight in gold to Raymond in order to claim to the heiress’s hand and power in Botrun). Gerard’s rise within the Order of the Temple may be attributed to ‘driving ambition and aggressive self-confidence’ He became Seneschal in 1183, and had reached the top by 1185. The following year the death of the boy king Baldwin V plunged the Kingdom of Jerusalem into crisis. Raymond III led the barons opposed the accession of Sibylla and Guy de Lusignan. Gerard supported Guy and Sibylla, perhaps as much to spite Raymond as for any other reason. The support of the Knights Templar (who were sworn to obey their master whatever the cost) swung events in favour of the de Lusignan faction, and facilitated Guy’s coronation as co-ruler.
Gerard seems to have believed in his own invincibility. In May 1387 a 7,000 strong Muslim force scouted into Crusader Galilee. Gerard, with around 130 knights including 90 Templars, heard of it, and intercepted it on its return journey at Cresson. He decided to attack, despite the objections of more judicious companions including the Hospitaller Grand Master Roger de Moulins and the Marshal of the Temple Jacques de Mailly. (Gerard may not have been so rash, however. Ibn al-Athir presents the Templars’ action not as an unprovoked charge but as a defence of Sephoria, which was under attack from al-Afdal’s forces, and the battle seems to have been a close run thing). At any rate it seems only Gerard and a couple of others escaped death or capture. Al-Afdal’s army finished sacked and pillaging the land then returned safely to spread the ‘joyful news’. They considered it a great accomplishment for the Military Orders were the ‘backbone of the Frankish army’.
Later that year Saladin’s full host (some 40,000- 60,000 warriors) crossed the Jordan and beset Tiberias. The army of Jerusalem assembled, perhaps 20,000 including about six hundred of the knights of the Temple and the Hospital. Raymond advised Guy not to take the army to Tiberias but to force Saladin to come to them. Again Gerard (along with Reynald) felt the need to advocate the opposite policy. Gerard visited King Guy in the night, to persuade him to advance across the blazing desert, even though Raymond had warned that such a march would drastically weaken the army and leave Jerusalem itself vulnerable. Gerard said that Raymond was a traitor, and persuaded Guy that that if as King he failed to act decisively against Saladin and to save Tiberias, then he would seem weak and unworthy.
So came to pass the Battle of Hattin. The weary and parched Christians fought bravely but under the circumstances victory was impossible. The Templars and Hospitallers who had been taken prisoner were beheaded. Saladin spared only Gerard de Ridefort and kept him for ransom, though given the sequence of disasters he had precipitated, it is a wonder anyone wanted him back. The Templar Brother Terric led the Order in the meantime. Gerard was finally released in May 1189. He went on to lead the Templars again at the Siege of Acre. Again he led his companions in an excessively bold charge, leading to their slaughter. This time, it is recorded, he declined the chance to save himself lest it bring shame and scandal on the Templars, and he fell with the slain.

Robert de Sablé
(Died 1193)
Robert de Sablé was a widowed Knight from Maine, France, and an Angevin vassal. He was lord of Brillary and La Suze He fought under Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade. He was formerly commanded a division of Richard’s fleet, and was a close associate of the King. Richard’s support helped gain Robert the position of Grand Master of the Temple (the eleventh) in 1191, though he had only recently entered the Order. He succeeded Gerard de Ridefort, and led the Order at the capture of Acre. He also presided over the Order’s short-lived acquisition of Cyprus, dispatching twenty knights and their retainers to govern the island. He was eventually succeeded by Gilbert Horal.

Gilbert Erail
Gilbert Erail (or Erill or Horal) was a Templar from Aragon. He had joined in his teens and risen to be Master of the Temple in the Aragon and Provence, and had seen action in the Reconquista as well as in the Holy Land. He became the twelfth Grand Master succeeded Robert de Sable in around 1194. Unlike Gerard de Ridefort, Gilbert Erail favoured peaceful relations with the Muslims. This caused tension between the Templar and the Hospitallers who at this time were the more militant party. Gilbert’s conciliatory policy towards the Muslims also set him at odds with Pope Innocent III and the more militant of the Catholic clergy who wanted eternal war against the infidel. The Bishop of Sidon excommunicated Gilbert. However the Pope overturned this excommunication, on the basis that only Popes had the authority to excommunicate a Templar, and because it created a scandal. Gilbert died in December 1200 and was eventually succeeded by Philip de Plessiez.

Philip de Plessiez
Philip de Plessiez was a knight from the region of Anjou. He may have been born in the castle of Plessis-Macé near Angers. He participated in the Third Crusade as a secular knight, and at some point thereafter joined the Knights Templar. He became the thirteenth Grand Master in early 1201. He kept the Templars out of the Fourth Crusade, perhaps anticipating that it would be hijacked by the Venetians and diverted against Byzantium. Philip was in favour of continuing the diplomatic policy of Gilbert Erail, and extending the peace treaty with the Muslims, which had ended the Third Crusade, much to the anger of Pope Innocent III and his legates. Philip did, however, launch an expedition to recover the castle of Baghras from the Armenians.

Guillaume de Chartres
(Died 1219)
Guillaume de Chartres became the fourteenth Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1209. He was probably born into the nobility of the Champagne region, and became a Templar in Sours, near Chartres, in around 1200. As Grand Master he was best known for building the impregnable fortress known as Pilgrims’ Castle. He died of fever in 1219 during the Crusaders’ siege of Damietta in Egypt, the first major engagement of the Fifth Crusade. He was succeeded by Peter de Montaigu.

Peter de Montaigu
(Died 1232)
Peter (Pierre, or Pedro) de Montaigu became the fifteenth Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1219. He succeeded Guillaume de Chartres as who died of fever during the siege of Damietta during the Fifth Crusade. Peter had been the Master of the Temple in Provence and Aragon, and had fought at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. Peter de Montaigu was the brother of Garin de Montaigu, who was Grand Master of the Hospitallers from 1208-1228. This was the only time when two members of the same family presided over the two leading Military Orders. It secured some years of harmonious relations between them. During the Sixth Crusade, Peter became a bitter enemy of the Emperor Frederick II who ratified the return of Jerusalem in a treaty with al Kamil in a treaty without the Grand Masters’ seal. Peter and the Templars were suspected of plotted against Frederick, who retaliated by besieging them in Acre.

Armand de Perigord
(1178-1244 or 1247)
Armand (or Hermann) de Perigord was the sixteenth Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He was elected in about 1232. He was probably from the Guienne, of noble birth, and had been Preceptor of Calabria and Sicily. There was tension among the Christian factions at this time of his election. The Hospitallers were supporting the imperial party (those loyal to Frederick II and his representative Ricardo Filangieri) and favouring an alliance with Egypt. The Templars, under Armand’s predecessor Pierre de Montaigu had sided with the Ibelin lords against the Imperial faction, supporting the claim of Alice, Queen of Cyprus to regency in the vestigial Kingdom of Jerusalem, and tended to favour an alliance with Damascus. The anti-Imperialist party gained ground, expelling Frederick’s forces from Cyprus and restricting them to Tyre on the Levantine mainland. In 1237 the Templars lost 120 knights after a Skirmish with forces from Aleppo, encroaching between Atlit and Acre. Armand trust the Egyptians even less than the Syrians, accusing them of imprisoning Templar ambassadors in Cairo. In 1242, he abandoned a peace treaty with Egypt that had been arranged by Richard of Cornwall. He initiated a violent attack on Hebron, which had remained in Egyptian hands. The Templars then retook Nablus and acted with uncharacteristic brutality against then Muslim population there.Armand also led the Templars into open conflict with the Hospitallers (under Pierre deVielle Bride) at Acre. The Hospitallers allied with the imperial agent Filangieri, in an attempt to re-impose Frederick II’s authority in the City. The Templars joined the Ibelins to oppose this, and ended up besieging the Hospitallers in their compound. The Templars also turned against the Teutonic Knights, and ejected the imperial party from Tyre. Armand de Perigord organized a coalition with Damascus, meeting al-Mansur Ibrahim, the Muslim Prince of Homs at Acre to seal it. The prospect of a Damascene/Frankish alliance unnerved the Sultan of Egypt, who called on the services of the Khoresmians, a Turkic tribe from East of Persia who had been displaced westward from their homeland by the Mongol advance. The Egyptians engaged these Khoresmians as mercenaries, and the tribesmen descended on the relatively defenceless Jerusalem, where they massacred the Christian population and defiled the churches.
The forces of Acre, under Walter of Brienne, and including Armand de Perigord and the Templars, joined with the Damascenes to confront the Khoresmians, who now joined forces with the Egyptians. They clashed at the battle of La Forbie in October 1244, where the Egyptians and Khoresmians triumphed. Armand de Perigord was among hundreds of prisoners taken to Egypt. It is possible he died or that he lived three more years in captivity. In any event Richard Des Bures effectively replaced him as Grand Master.

Richard de Bures
(Died 1247)
Richard de Bures (or des Barres) was probably the seventeenth Grand Master of the Knights Templar, elected in 1244, and succeeding Armand de Perigord, who was either killed or captured at the Battle of La Forbie. Little is known about this period in the Order’s history and Richard is omitted from some lists of Grand Masters. He was succeeded by Guillaume de Sonnac.

Guillaume de Sonnac
(Died 1250)
Guillaume de Sonnac became the eighteenth Grand Master of the Knights Templar. He was elected in a general chapter held in Pilgrim’s Castle in 1247. He led the Order during the Seventh Crusade, under King Louis IX. He and the Templars rode in the vanguard of the crusade as it moved south from captured Damietta, ahead of the main body of the crusade, along with Robert, Count of Artois and an English detachment under William Longespee.
The advance party attacked a Muslim camp under Fakhr al-Din and routed the defenders. Then, over confident, the Count of Artois decided to pursue the enemy into the town of Mansourah itself without waiting on the rest of the Crusaders. De Sonnac and Longespee counselled against it, (according to the version of events recorded by Matthew Paris ) but Count Robert goaded them with accusations of cowardice and treachery and then charged against the town. De Sonnac and Longespee followed. The Mameluks used a variation of their standard tactic- feigning a retreat and then springing an ambush. They fell back through the narrow streets. When the Crusaders followed, the Muslims shut off their escape route then sprang on them from the side streets. The knights were unable to manoeuvre to defend themselves. Longespee and the Count of Artois and some three hundred other knights were killed in the ensuing bloodbath. De Sonnac and one other Templar made it out alive, though the de Sonnac had been wounded and lost an eye.
By this time Louis arrived and after fierce fighting drove the Mameluks back into the town. Over the following weeks they established a fortified camp below Mansourah, making a rampart from captured Egyptian siege engines. The Mameluks launched out in a sortie against the Crusaders’ camp, supported by numerous archers and catapults throwing Greek fire on the Crusaders’ wooden bastion, which caught fire. Seeing that the Templars were few in number the, Mameluks dashed through the collapsing structure. And though they were repelled Guillaume de Sonnac, leading the remaining Templars, lost first his remaining eye and then his life. Guillaume was replaced as Grand Master by Reynald de Vichiers.

Reynald de Vichiers
(Died 1256)
Reynald de Vichiers became the nineteenth Grand Master in 1250 after the death of Guillaume de Sonnac at Mansourah in Egypt, during the Seventh Crusade. Previously he had been Marshal of the Temple, and had contributed to the preparation of the Crusade, arranging shipping for Louis IX’s armies. Reynald soon proved his worth as a redoubtable warrior, with an independent streak. Jean de Joinville’s chronicle recalls how on the march south from Damietta, King Louis IX had ordered that none was to break formation in the face of enemy harassment. Then one of the Muslims gave a Knight Templar in the first rank so heavy a blow with his battle-axe that it felled him under the hooves of Reynald de Vichiers’s horse. The marshal cried out: ‘At them in the name of God for I cannot longer stand this!’ He spurred his horse at the enemy, followed by his brethren, and, as the Templars’ horses were fresh and the Turks’ already weary, not a single enemy escaped.
Reynald de Vichiers accompanied Louis IX to the Acre, following the defeat in Egypt. There, with Louis’s backing, he was confirmed as the Grand Master. He acted as godfather to a son born to Louis and Marguerite of Provence, (born within Pilgrims Castle). Relations later deteriorated, when Louis started to feel that the Templars had overstepped their authority, negotiating independently with Damascus. The king decided to make an example of the Order, compelling Reynald de Vichiers to exile from the Holy Land Hugues de Jouy, the new Marshall of the Order, who was made a scapegoat. The king subsequently tried to curtail the Order’s independence. Reynald de Vichiers also had to kneel before the King publicly and apologize. Reynald was ultimately succeeded by Thomas Berard.

Thomas Berard
(d. 1273)
Thomas Berard became the twentieth Grand Master of the Templars in 1256. It was he who sent word to Europe of the threat from the advancing Mongols, who had blazed their way across the Middle East. He reported their atrocities and predicted that unless help was given a horrible annihilation was inevitable. Berard presided at the time when the Mameluks under Baybars were putting great pressure on the Crusader States, especially the Principality of Antioch. While based in Acre, Berard heard of the fall of Antioch, and that Baghras was under siege. Unable to send relief, and knowing that the castle could not withstand the siege, Berard sent a message ordering the beleaguered brethren there to surrender and withdraw to la Roch Guillaume. It was found that the garrison had already surrendered. Berard did not have them permanently expelled, but held them to account, especially for failing to destroy everything before departing.

Guillaume de Beaujeu
Guillaume de Beaujeu was the twenty-first Grand Master of the Knights Templar and the last to preside in the Holy Land. He was elected in 1273, on the death of Thomas Berard. Guillaume had been a long serving Templar Knight. In 1261 he had been captured in a raid and subsequently been ransomed. He had also gone on to serve as Preceptor of the County of Tripoli and then of Sicily. He was also a distant relation of the Capetian monarchy, and was suspected by many of being too much a partisan to the French cause.
As Grand master, Guillaume attended Pope Gregory X’s Council of Lyons in 1274, and advocated a passagium particulate, with professional troops being mustered to reinforce Acre, and also proposed a blockade of Egypt to weaken it economically. He also argued that the Crusaders would need to establish their own fleets so that they did not depend on the Maritime Republics of Genoa and Venice, which were only interested in making money from trading with the Muslims. (The Venetians, at the time, were evens selling swords to the Mameluks). After touring the Order’s European Preceptories, Guillaume de Beaujeu returned to the Holy Land. His closeness to the Capetians compromised his position among the Palestinian-Frankish barons of the Holy Land, who saw him as an agent of Charles of Anjou (who claimed the throne of Jerusalem). Indeed the Templars under de Beaujeu had thwarted King Hugh of Cyprus in his attempts to assert his rival claim. The Templars were involved in another quarrel besides, with Bohemond VII of Antioch, which weakened Christian unity at a time when it was desirable. (Little had changed in a century in that respect). Meanwhile when the war broke out over control of Sicily between Aragon and Charles of Anjou, it ended all hope of western relief materialising for the Holy Land.
By 1180, Baybars had been succeeded as Sultan by the Mameluk General Qalawun. Qalawun sent armies to farther reduce the Frankish presence in the Holy Land. Guillaume de Beaujeu learned from a paid informer, the Emir al-Fakhri, that the Mameluks planned to attack Tripoli, and wrote to warn the citizens. Unfortunately the leaders of Tripoli neither trusted the Grand Master nor believed his warning, and consequently the Mameluks found Tripoli unprepared and took the city with relative ease. Guillaume’s informer also told him of Qalawun’s planned attack on Acre, but again Guillaume’s warning went unheeded. Guillaume then tried to arrange a payment to buy off the Mameluk assault but this was rejected by the Haute Cour in Acre, who accused Guillaume of treachery.
Qalawun mustered his massive armies in 1290, but fell ill and died before he reached Acre. The campaign was carried on however by his son al-Ashraf Khalil. The defenders were severely outnumbered, but made a determined and courageous resistance. Guillaume de Beaujeu fought valiantly, leading the Templars in a sortie against the Mameluk camp. He combined with the Hospitallers to defend St Anthony’s gate, pushing the Mameluks back over the walls. The moats filled with bodies as the Mameluks pressed their attack. The City’s great defensive towers began to crumble, undermined by Muslim siege engineers. Meanwhile when de Beaujeu learned that the Muslims had taken the so-called Accursed Tower he rushed to counter attack, but was wounded and driven back. He was carried to the Templar fortress by the sea, where he died of his wounds. The Templars battled on but the end was nigh.

Theobald Gaudin
(Died c.1293)
Theobald Gaudin was a Knights Templar who had served in the Order for 30 years. He had held the ranks of Turkopolier and Preceptor of Acre (Grand Preceptor). Acre had fallen under the massive onslaught of al-Ashraf Khalil and his Mameluk forces in May 1291.
While still serving under Guillaume de Beaujeu, Theobald had attempted in vain to prevent a violent clash between Pisan and Genoese parties in Acre. However he and the Grand Master had succeeded in preventing some captive Pisan sailors being sold into slavery. Gaudin was elected the twenty-second (and penultimate) Grand Master of the battered remnants of the Order of the Temple, after the deaths of de Beaujeu and Peter de Sevrey in the battle. Theobald escaped from Acre by sea, three days before the final fall of the Templars’ fortress, sailing to Sidon with the Order’s treasure. In the month after the fall of Acre, Tyre had surrendered and Sidon seemed hardly defensible. Gauidin withdrew to Cyprus, intending to return to Sidon with reinforcements. However the Templars seem to have been demoralised, and soon Sidon, Beirut and the fortresses of Tortosa and even Pilgrim’s Castle were also abandoned. Only the garrison on Arwad remained, off shore from Tortosa. The mainland was entirely lost. Gaudin was succeeded on Cyprus by Jacques de Molay.

Jacques de Molay
Jacques de Molay (or Molai) was the twenty-third and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and is one of the best known on account of the circumstances of his death in Paris.
De Molay was a relation of the Lords of Longwy in Franche-Comte. He was initiated into the Order in around 1266, in the Preceptory of Beune near Autun, according to his Chinon confession, and was received by Humbert de Pairaud (the father of Hugues de Pairaud). In 1291 he possibly fought at the siege of Acre, and two years later on Cyprus was elected Grand Master. De Molay was one of the foremost advocates of action to recover the Holy Land. He visited Rome, Paris and London, in 1294, raising support and gathering a new Templar force. Back in the Levant he sought alliances with the Mongols and Armenians, and strengthened the garrison on the island of Arwad. De Molay even purchased six war galleys from Venice with a view to invading Tortosa, and re-establishing a Christian foothold in Syria. The operation ended in costly failure, though, when Arwad itself was lost a Mameluk invasion fleet of sixteen galleys.
In 1306 de Molay was summoned from Cyprus by Pope Clement V. He and Fulk de Villaret, his opposite number in the Hospitallers, were invited to discuss plans for a new Crusade, and also a proposal to amalgamate the Orders of the Temple and the Hospital. De Molay prepared a paper on the subject, conceding that there would be some advantages to the proposed merger, but that on the whole it was a bad idea because the rivalry between the two orders was healthy and spurred them on to greater efforts in the Christian cause. Fulk kept quit on the matter, but apparently felt the same. Meanwhile on the matter of a new Crusade both Grand Masters expressed the view that only a large scale Passagium generale would succeed in re-establishing the Christian kingdom in the Holy Land.
De Molay went next to the Paris Temple. On 13 October 1307 he and his brethren were arrested there. This was in accordance with orders secretly issued a month before hand by King Philip the Fair, accusing the Templars of blasphemous crimes and heresy. De Molay had attended the funeral of the King’s sister in law as a pallbearer only the day before the arrests however, and seems to have been taken by surprise when the raid came. De Molay was interrogated by Royal agents and the Inquisition, probably being held in the Templars’ own dungeons at the Paris Temple. He was probably subjected to torture. On 24 October he confessed to some of the accusations- namely spitting on the Cross and denial of Christ. He would not, however, confess to homosexual practices. He was obliged to repeat his confession publicly the following day to the masters of the University of Paris, and also to urge his brethren likewise to confess. The Grand Master’s early capitulation, forced as it may have been, did much to undermine the defence of the Order and was a propaganda coup for the Capetian authorities. It prejudiced the wider world against the Templars and lent credence to the astonishing accusations. It also made it impossible for the Pope to continue in a critical stance regarding the King’s actions.
With the other leading Templars that had been captured, (Raymbaud de Caron, Hugues de Pairaud, Geoffroi de Charney and Geoffroi de Gonneville), Jacques De Molay was moved to the castle of Chinon. There these Templars again gave a partial confession to three Cardinals sent by the Pope, who afterwards bestowed absolution on them. All the Templar dignitaries except de Caron were subsequently brought back to Paris to testify at the tribunal called the Papal Commission.
Jacques de Molay retracted his confession at the end of the year. Over the following years, he wavered, evidently worn down by his captivity. He offered little leadership to the Templars wishing to defend the Order, but at times seemed willing to assert the Order’s honourable nature. He apparently remained imprisoned throughout 1310 when the Archbishop of Sens, Philip de Marigny incapacitated the Templars’ defence at the Papal commission by taking and burning 54 Templars; and through 1312 when the Council of Vienne abolished the Order of the Temple and consigned it to oblivion. He and the three other dignitaries of the late Order were eventually brought out before an assembly of prelates (including Cardinal Arnold Novelli and Archbishop de Marigny), lawyers, university theologians and the public on 18 March 1314, and to hear their sentence of perpetual imprisonment. Hugues de Pairaud and Geoffroi de Gonneville persisted in their confessions and accepted their fate. Jacques De Molay, though, stunned his persecutors by making a lucid and passionate last minute defence of the Order. He was supported by Geoffroi de Charney.
The rebellious Templars were passed to the prévôt of Paris and flung back into jail. When the King learned what had happened, he went into a rage, and ordered the two Templars to be condemned as relapsed heretics. Before night fell they were taken to the Ille des Javiaux in the Seine, and burned to death. It was recorded that their courage and constancy impressed and surprised the onlookers. The next day, recorded the Chronicler Giovanni Villani, came friars and other religious persons, who gathered up the ashes of the Templar martyrs and carried them away to holy places.

Source: “A-Z of the Knights Templar’ by Gordon Napier”



The Orthodox Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre

The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre

The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, or The Holy Community of the All-Holy Sepulchre, is the Orthodox monastic fraternity that for centuries has guarded and protected the Christian Holy places in the Holy Land. A sepulchre is a burial chamber and in this case Holy Sepulchre refers to the burial chamber of Jesus, believed to be in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Orthodox Brotherhood of Holy Sepulchre is part of of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre founded by Constantine the Great in 335, after he had removed a pagan temple on the site that was possibly the Temple of Aphrodite built by Hadrian. Constantine had sent his mother St. Helen to find the site; during excavations she is said to have discovered the True Cross.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The church was built around the excavated hill of the Crucifixion and was actually three connected churches built over the three different holy sites, including a great basilica (the Martyrium visited by the nun Egeria in the 380s), an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) built around the traditional Rock of Calvary, and a rotunda, called the Anastasis (“Resurrection”), which contained the remains of the cave that St. Helen and St. Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, had identified with the burial site of Jesus. The surrounding rock was cut away, and the Tomb was encased in a structure called the Edicule (from the Latin aediculum, small building) in the center of the rotunda. The dome of the rotunda was completed by the end of the 4th century.

This building was damaged by fire in 614 when the Persians under Khosrau II invaded Jerusalem and captured the Cross. In 630, Emperor Heraclius, who had captured the Cross from the Persians, marched triumphantly into Jerusalem and restored the True Cross to the rebuilt Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Under the Muslims it remained a Christian church, unlike many other churches, which suffered destruction or conversion into mosques. The early Muslim rulers protected the city’s Christian sites, prohibiting their destruction and their use as living quarters, but after a riot in 966, where the doors and roof were burnt, the original building was completely destroyed on October 18, 1009, by the “mad” Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who hacked out the church’s foundations down to bedrock. The east and west walls and the roof of the Edicule were destroyed or damaged (contemporary accounts vary), but the north and south walls were likely protected by rubble from further damage.

However, after a peace treaty between the Byzantine emperor Romanos III and the caliphate, the church was gradually rebuilt between 1024 and 1048. In 1048, a series of small chapels was erected on the site by Constantine IX Monomachos under stringent conditions imposed by the caliphate. The rebuilt sites were taken by the knights of the First Crusade on July 15, 1099. Crusader chief Godfrey of Bouillon, who became the first “king of Jerusalem,” decided not to use the title “king” during his lifetime, and declared himself Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri, “Protector (or Defender) of the Holy Sepulchre.” The chronicler William of Tyre reported on the reconstruction. The Crusaders began to renovate the church in a Romanesque style and added a bell tower. These renovations, which unified the holy sites, were completed during the reign of Queen Melisende 50 years later in 1149. The church was also the site of the kingdom’s scriptorium. The church was an inspiration for churches in Europe like Santa Gerusalemme in Bologna and the “Round Church” of Cambridge, England.

After defeating the crusaders, Saladin brought down the Cross and turned the church into a mosque from 1187 to 1190. After an agreement with the Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos, Saladin gave the church back to the Christians; by 1390 a number of new repairs were made to the church.

Until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Orthodox Patriarchs kept the keys of the church. This law, by Patriarch Dorotheos, was renewed by Sultan Suleiman in 1517. With the new law of Suleiman, they keys were given to a Muslim family in 1545. During this period the canopy of the Holy Sepulchre was also repaired.

In 1545 Patriarch Germanos added a small dome to the church, and the Franciscan monks renovated it further in 1555, as it had been neglected despite increased numbers of pilgrims. During 1719-1720 the church was repaired further by the Orthodox and also the Catholics.

In 1808, the Armenians set the church on fire, which severely damaged the structure, causing the dome of the rotunda to collapse and smashing the edicule’s exterior decoration. The rotunda and the edicule’s exterior were rebuilt in 1809 and 1810 by Orthodox people worldwide, especially by the Greek architect Komnenos Mitilineos.

In 1834 and 1836, two earthquakes damaged the church. The repairs from this damage began in 1867-1869 after a great delay, but the temple dome is finally renovated through the assistance of the Russians, the French and the Turkish. The 1808 fire did not reach the interior of the edicule, and the marble decoration of the tomb dates mainly to the 1555 restoration. The current dome dates from 1870.

In more recent times, the small dome was destroyed in 1927 by an earthquake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale. In 1931-33 the church was rebuilt through the financial assistance of the Greek State. In 1948 the big dome of the Church was damaged and repaired within the same year. By 1958, after an agreement between the three churches of Jerusalem (the Greeks, the Armenians, and the Catholics), extensive modern renovations began, including a rebuilding of the big dome (1978-1985) and a redecoration of the big dome (1994-1997). In 1995 the exterior of the dome of the katholikon was repaired with copper, and restoration works continue to the present time.

Several Christian communions cooperate in the administration and maintenance of the church and its grounds, under a fiat of status quo that was issued by the Sublime Porte in 1852, to end the violent local bickering. The three, first appointed when Crusaders held Jerusalem, are the Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Churches. These remain the primary custodians of the church. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. An agreement regulates times and places of worship for each communion. For centuries, two neutral neighboring Muslim families appointed by Saladin, the Nuseibeh and Joudeh families, were the custodians of the key to the single door.

When a fire broke out in 1840, dozens of pilgrims were trampled to death. On June 20, 1999, all the Christian communions who share control agreed in a decision to install a new exit door in the church.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, called Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) by Eastern Christians, is a large Christian church within the Old City of Jerusalem. The ground the church rests on is venerated by many Christians as Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary where the New Testament records that Jesus Christ was crucified. It also contains the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century, and the portions of it administered by the Orthodox are in the care of the Church of Jerusalem.

Holy Land. A sepulchre is a burial chamber and in this case Holy Sepulchre refers to the burial chamber of Jesus, believed to be in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Brotherhood also administers the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the chief, president, governor, and hegumen of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre and is commemorated as “Our Father and Lord, the Most Holy Beatitude, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and of all Palestine.”

Members of the Brotherhood are the administrative officers of the Patriarchate; and the metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, archimandrites, hieromonks, hierodeacons, and monks of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are members of the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre was traditionally founded in 313 (which corresponds with the Edict of Milan and legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire) and the foundation of the Churches in the Holy Land by Constantine and St Helen, which is traditionally dated to 326. At first, it bore the name “Order of the Spoudaeoi (studious, zealous, industrious, serious),” or “The Spoudaeoi of the Holy Resurrection of Christ.”

The Brotherhood consisted of the ordained clergy charged with the care and preservation of the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places in Jerusalem. They were distinguished primarily for their observance of uninterrupted mental prayer and heartfelt supplication. At the same time, the Members of the Brotherhood were renowned for their virtuous and diligent ascetic life. According to findings of contemporary researchers, they were living ascetic lives before 326 and were organized as an Order during the visit of St Helen to the Holy City. St Cyril of Jerusalem makes mention of them.

Holy places

The Holy places that the Brotherhood has preserved over the centuries include: the Holy Sepulchre; the Dreadful Golgotha; the site where St Helen discovered the Precious Cross (these three are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre); the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; the Tomb of the Mother of God in Gethsemane; the Pool of Siloam; Mount Tabor; the site of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan; Nazareth, the city of the Annunciation; the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Lake of Gennesaret, and the Sea of Tiberius); the Mount of Olives, the site of Christ’s Ascension; Cana; Bethesda; Capernaum, a city of Galilee; the Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany; and Jacob’s Well in Nablus.


The history of the Brotherhood is closely linked with the history of the Christian Church in Palestine which began in the Apostolic Age.

Following Constantine’s Peace of the Church in 313, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was founded under the patronage of St Helen, at the time of Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem.

At about the same time, St Hilarion introduced monasticism in Palestine, erected the first monastery, ordered and regulated monastic life, and formed the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. Besides devotional duties, the purpose of the Brotherhood is the support and protection of all of the Holy places in Palestine, including the Holy Sepulchre, Golgotha.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council (451) elevated the Bishop of Jerusalem to the rank of Patriarch because of the special significance acquired between the First and Fourth Ecumenical Councils; the erection of magnificent Churches; the conversion of Palestine to Christianity; the coming together of pilgrims from around the world; the importance of outstanding bishops, monks, and teachers of the Church of Jerusalem; the struggles of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher on behalf of Orthodoxy; and the support of various Emperors of Byzantium.

The Brotherhood had to struggle to preserve the holy places began during this period. The Persians occupied Jerusalem in 614 and took Patriarch Zachariah prisoner, along with the palladium of Christianity, the Precious Cross. Chrysostomos Papadopoulos writes in his history of the Patriarchate: “The Churches and the monasteries, inside and outside Jerusalem, were destroyed; the Christians were brutally slaughtered … thousands of prisoners purchased by Jews were slaughtered. Anything good that existed was destroyed or was plundered by the invaders. The monks were slaughtered mercilessly, especially those of St Savvas Monastery.”

Between 617-626, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt by Patriarch Modesto.

In 637, after a long siege of Jerusalem, Patriarch Sophronius surrendered Jerusalem to Caliph Umar. In the Covenant of Umar I, the Patriarch managed to save the shrines from destruction and, at the same time, to secure the ownership of the holy places as well as the privileges of the Brotherhood.

During this period, the Church of Jerusalem and the Brotherhood suffered many persecutions and trials. The shrines were repeatedly ransacked and defaced by the successors of Umur, and there was great persecution all around. The most deadly persecution occurred during the time of the Fatamid Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (1007–1009), a schizophrenic, named the “Nero of Egypt” for his merciless acts. He persecuted ferociously both Christians and Jews. He ordered that in public Jews were to wear masks representing the head of an ox and bells around their necks; Christians were to wear mourning apparel and crosses one yard in length. Also, Al-Hakim ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the 11th century, the Caliph Ali az-Zahir, under a treaty with Byzantium, permitted the reconstruction of the shrines.

During the Crusades, the Brotherhood confronted new persecutions. Being expelled by the Latin clergy from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other holy places, the Brotherhood regrouped in the Metochion of the Lavra of St Savvas and eventually regained possession of the holy places in 1185.

With the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, Patriarch Athanasios went to Constantinople and there received from Mehmed II the document that confirmed the ownership of the holy places by the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood continued to struggle against the Latins and the Armenians who the Brotherhood regarded as encroaching on their traditional rights and authority over the Holy places, both of which they claimed had been confirmed by Byzantine and then Muslim authorities.

During this period the Brotherhood undertook the following construction works:

repairing the canopy of the Holy Sepulchre in 1545 by Patriarch Germanos;

rebuilding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1808 after it was burnt by the Armenians;

rebuilding the small dome over the Holy Sepulchre in 1927;

rebuilding the ædicule surrounding the Holy Sepulchre in 1931-1933; and,

repairing and refurbishing the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem in 1842.

Modern status

The Brotherhood was reconstituted during the period of the British Mandate in Palestine before and after World War I, and continues its defence of the religious status quo, especially in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Jordanian Law No. 227, dated 16 January 1958, regulates the Brotherhood’s government.

The immovable ladder. Detail from photograph of main entrance above, 2005

After the renovation of 1555, control of the church oscillated between the Franciscans and the Orthodox, depending on which community could obtain a favorable firman from the Sublime Porte at a particular time, often through outright bribery, and violent clashes were not uncommon. In 1767, weary of the squabbling, the Porte issued a firman that divided the church among the claimants. This was confirmed in 1852 with another firman that made the arrangement permanent, establishing a status quo of territorial division among the communities.

The primary custodians are the Greek Orthodox Church, which has the lion’s share, the Custodian of the Holy Land, an official of the Franciscans and affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic Churches. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. Times and places of worship for each community are strictly regulated in common areas.

Under the status quo, no part of what is designated as common territory may be so much as rearranged without consent from all communities. This often leads to the neglect of badly needed repairs when the communities cannot come to an agreement among themselves about the final shape of a project. Just such a disagreement has delayed the renovation of the edicule, where the need is now dire, but also where any change in the structure might result in a change to the status quo disagreeable to one or more of the communities.

A less grave sign of this state of affairs is located on a window ledge over the church’s entrance. Someone placed a wooden ladder there sometime before 1852, when the status quo defined both the doors and the window ledges as common ground. The ladder remains there to this day, in almost exactly the same position. It can be seen to occupy the ledge in century-old photographs and engravings.

None of the communities controls the main entrance. In 1192, Saladin assigned responsibility for it to a Muslim family. The Joudeh Al-Goudia a noble family with a long history were entrusted with the keys as custodians. This arrangement has persisted into modern times.



Personal thoughts!
This month all over Europe countries are remembering WWI, or Big War. The War which took many life’s, the War that change world in all aspects. After WWI four big monarchies did not exits anymore, and many new states raised from that big and unnecessary disaster. Al this facts are well known, and many countries from bout sides are remembering this with different emotions. Public tribunes, books, movies, etc. are done about WWI, about big generals, kings and tsars that stopped to be important after WWI.
This is different story! This story about „SMALL” people! “SMALL” because many of them did not know about problems that led to WWI, did not know too much about global politics, but when vortex of war took them, they become Warriors, The Knights, the become HEROES that will live forever. One of those people had been Milinka Savic. The true Knights although she did not plan to be hero. Milunka was only women  who  received the French Legion d’Honneur twice, the Russian Cross of St. George (awarded for “undaunted courage by a non-commissioned officer), the British Medal of the Order of St. Michael, the Serbian Milos Obilic Medal, and was the only woman from World War I to receive the French Croix de Guerre (the highest bravery award they have). She received more medals than most generals, but she was forgotten after the war. She did not ask much, she did not ask anything. She returned to her normal life until she died. This story is dedicated to all “SMALL HEROES” which become bigger  then  empires.


Considering that she’s the single most-decorated female soldier in world military history, a grizzled seven-year veteran of three wars fought across two continents, a two-time recipient of her country’s highest award for military bravery, and a poor farm girl who single-handedly captured at least fifty enemy combatants and two enemy trenches during her career, there’s not a whole lot of digital ink on the Internet dedicated to Sergeant Milunka Savic that isn’t printed in a language with so many consonants and accent marks that it looks like someone fell asleep on the keyboard with their character map open. There should be!

Milunka Savic was born in Koprivnica, Serbia, some time in either 1888 or 1889, depending on whether you’re down with the Gregorian Calendar or if you’re still hung up on that Julian Calendar bullshit. We don’t know much about her early life in this tiny rural mountain village, except that in 1912, at the age of 24, she got bored of her regular life, chopped off all her hair, dressed in men’s clothing, and volunteered for the Serbian Army to help fight the First Balkan War and drive the Ottoman Turkish Empire out of Europe forever on a tsunami of bullets and brain matter. Some sources claim she did some Mulan-style Freaky Friday shit and took her brother’s spot after her bro was drafted in to the King’s service, though I wasn’t able to confirm this because shockingly I don’t actually speak a hell of a lot of Serbo-Croatian (although I am trying to learn…seriously). Either way, she enlisted, and since nobody realized she wasn’t a dude (or at least they didn’t give a shit if she was or wasn’t) they handed Milunka a rifle and a helmet and a couple of hand grenades and sent her on her merry way to blast the entrails out of the enemies of the Serbian people with a chuckable sphere of explosives the size of a softball.

Savic face-shanked her way through the First Balkan War with a razor-sharp bayonet and a handful of 7.62xmmR ammunition, participating on the front lines of several key battles as the combined armies of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and a couple other countries smashed the armies of the crumbling Ottoman Empire and drove their shattered remnants back across the Bosporus and out of the Balkans forever. Unfortunately, however, this was just the beginning of some pretty fucking dark days in Southeastern Europe. You see, apparently some expansionist assholes in Bulgaria got their panties in a wad about wanting to add Macedonia to their Empire, but since Serbia is the one that captured it from the Turks they of course said take a long hike up the slopes of Mount Doom and dump your balls in the lava when you get to the top. The Bulgarians took this out of context, got mad, and sent their entire army into Macedonia to wrench it from the cold dead hands of every Serbian they could find, two million soldiers mobilized on either side of the border, and mere months after the Balkans had miraculously united in a common cause (death-hate for the Turks) the Bulgarian and Serbs went right back to beating the shit out of each other with lead pipes and pitchforks.

Pvt. Savic barely had time to swap the dried blood from her rifle before the Second Balkan War was on like Donkey Kong, and once again this estrogenocidal kicker of other peoples’ nutsacks was back out on the front lines lobbing grenades with reckless abandon like the Ikari Warriors or a tennis ball machine juryrigged by the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Positioned at the dead center of the Serbian lines during the Battle of Bregalnica, Milunka Savic and the now-famous Serbian “Iron Regiment” bore the brunt of the Bulgarian attack, withstanding the full might of their forces and then launching a desperate series of counter-attacks aimed at breaking their onslaught. On her tenth (!) combat charge leading a squad of men straight-on over barbed wire towards Bulgarian machine guns, artillery guns, and bayonets, Savic was hit by an enemy grenade and blown off her feet with shrapnel wounds throughout her body, and could only watch and bleed as her countrymen managed to carry this final attack, defeat the Bulgarians, and capture two divisions of enemy soldiers in the process. The badly-wounded Savic was carried to the field hospital, where the doc working on her was fairly surprised to learn that she had girl parts where her man-junk was supposed to be.

Once she was healed of her wounds, Private Milunka Savic was brought before her commanding officer to try and explain what the hell was the deal with the whole not having a dong thing. She stood at attention and said, yeah, sure, I’m a girl, but I also just fucking charged face-first into artillery fire while spewing large-caliber rifle fire in every direction and dishing out hand grenades like parking tickets, so deal with it. Her commander offered her a transfer to the nursing corps, where she could hang back from the front lines and patch up wounded soldiers and let the real men handle all the messy bayonet-to-the-crotch work.

She told him she would not accept any position that did not allow her to carry a gun, charge into combat wherever it presented herself, and fight the enemies of her people.

He told her he’d think about it, and that she should come back tomorrow for his decision.

he stayed at full attention and told him, “I will wait”.

He made her stand there for about an hour before he agreed to let her stay in the infantry. He also promoted her to Junior Sergeant, because, fuck it, she probably had bigger balls than any man in her unit anyways.

The Second Balkan War ended in 1913, but even more nasty shit went down in Sarajevo Town on June 28, 1914, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand – a man famous solely for his ability to be shot to death – was assassinated by a Serbian Anarchist named Gavrilo Princep. Certainly you’ve heard this story before, particularly if you’re a big fan of hipster music, but basically the Austro-Hungarians were good buddies with the Bulgarians, and Princep was like “fuck that” because his people had just been to war with Bulgaria, etc. Long story short, Austria-Hungary was pissed, and they invaded Serbia. Serbia was allies with the United States, England, France, and Russia, and Austria-Hungary was friends with the Turks and the German Empire, and the next thing you know you’ve got World War I on your hands and the Austro-Hungarian Empire is marching half a million jackbooted Teutonic goons with stupid hats and large rifles across the Serbian border to turn their entire country into a flaming inferno.

The Austo-Hungarian Empire sent out 450,000 men from a hardcore, battle-tested, professional army that was equipped with top-of-the-line German and Austrian artillery and machine guns and drilled to lock-step precision in every aspect of military combat. The Serbian Army consisted of 250,000 citizen-soldiers, mostly volunteers, carrying cast-off weaponry handed down to them from the Imperial Russian Army (you know, the guys who had just lost a humiliating war to Japan and who were about to get massacred by the Germans). So, as you can expect, some crazy shit was about to go down. That crazy shit was that the entire Serbian Armed Forces formed up in one place and full-on balls-out charged a force that was nearly twice the size of their own.

Sergeant Milunka Savic, commander of the Iron Regiment’s Assault Bomber Squad, charged into the Battle of the Kolubara River armed with her Mosin-Nagant rifle and three bandoliers of hand grenades – one across each shoulder and one worn across her waist like a belt. She single-handedly assaulted an Austrian trench, rushing across No Man’s Land (I feel like there’s an Eowyn / Return of the King joke to be made here) hurling grenades out like Mardi Gras beads and blasting the fuck out of everything around her, then diving feet-first into an Austrian bunker with her bayonet at the ready. Inside, she found 20 men, all of whom threw their weapons down and surrendered to her. Once those POWs were secured, she continued on, dropping bombs like a Predator Drone and smoking enemy machine gun nests from distances so impressive that from this day forth her nickname was “The Bomber of Kolubara”, stopping only when an enemy artillery shell landed next to her and planted a couple pieces of shrapnel in her head. For her exploits on the battlefield, Savic received the Karadjordje Star with Swords, the highest award for bravery offered by the Kingdom of Serbia, and the battle was such a success that the Serbs pushed the Austrians out of Serbia completely. They didn’t return for 10 months.

Well, shrapnel in the head or not, there was still a war to fight, and Sergeant Savic went right back into action just a few months later. At this point, Serbia was in deep shit – they were alone, without any support, badly outnumbered, and being attacked from all sides by armies from Bulgaria, Austria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. Savic fought like a demon as the Serbian Army scrapped for their lives, earning a second Karadjordje Star at the Battle of Crna Reka in 1916 when she attacked a Bulgarian trench, cleared it out with grenades, rifle fire, and a bayonet, and single-handedly took 23 Bulgarian soldiers prisoner.

But the war was going badly for Serbia, and with the vengeful Bulgarians and Austrians burning Serb cities the Serbian Army evacuated as many civilians as they could and began a long, brutal fighting withdrawal through the knee-deep snow drifts and snow-covered mountains of Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo as they withdrew to the coast. Milunka Savic was wounded seven more times during this fighting retreat (bringing her total wounds to nine!) as she and her people desperately attempted to evacuate tens of thousands of civilians and save the core of her army. When she reached the coast and was evacuated by French and British warships, she was one of just 125,000 soldiers left in the Serbian Army.

The Serbian Army withdrew to Corfu, then Greece, where they joined up with the French Army and continued the war against the Turks and Krauts and other assorted villainy. Serving in the Serbian Brigade of the French Army, Sergeant Savic continued commanding the Assault Bomber Squad, fought through the rest of the war, ended up on the front page of some European Newspapers, and ended up winning enough awards from her service that her ribbon board weighed roughly the same as a suit of medieval plate armor. She received the French Legion d’Honneur twice, the Russian Cross of St. George (awarded for “undaunted courage by a non-commissioned officer), the British Medal of the Order of St. Michael, the Serbian Milos Obilic Medal, and was the only woman from World War I to receive the French Croix de Guerre (the highest bravery award they have).

The best story from this time period, however, is this. While stationed on a base in Thessalonica, some French officer got word that she was fucking brutal with hand grenades. He laughed at the idea that a woman could be that badass, so he took a bottle out of a case of ultra-expensive 1880 Cognac, set it on a post 40 meters (131 feet) away, and dared her the rest of the case that she couldn’t hit it. She drilled it on her first try. That night her unit blew through 19 bottles of the finest Cognac on Earth.

After the war ended and Serbia was liberated, Milunka Savic declined an offer from the French government to move her to Paris and put her up with a nice pension, instead opting to return to her homeland. She got married, had a kid, got a job at a bank, and adopted three children who had been orphaned by the war. When the Germans came through Belgrade during the Second World War in 1940, Savic refused an invitation to attend a banquet held in honor of the city’s New German Overlords – a feat that got her a ten-month stint in Banjica Concentration Camp. She survived that as well, however, and after the war she was offered a state pension for being such a ridiculousy-hardcore war hero.

Milunka Savic, the world’s most decorated female war hero, died in Belgrade on October 5, 1973, at the age of 84. She was buried in a famous cemetery there with full military honors.


Battle for freedom …Battle for Christianity…Battle at Kosovo at 28.06. 1389 A.D: at St. Vitus’ Day (VIDOVDAN)


Saint Lazar the Great Martyr of Kosovo

Prince Lazar !was born in 1329 in Prilepac to the aristocrat family Hrebeljanovic. His father Pribac was a Logotet-secretary doing very confidential work for King Dusan the Powerful in the royal palace. Young Lazar was raised in the palace, and was respected by the King who entrusted him with the rule of two parts of his kingdom: Srem and Macva. Lazar married Milica the daughter of an important aristocrat named Vratko also known as Yug Bogdan – a very wise and honorable man from the Nemanjic family. Lazar had three sons: Stevan, Vuk and Lazar and five daughters: Jelena, Mara, Despa, Vukosava and Mileva.

King Dusan the Powerful died unexpectantly in 1355 at the age of 48. This led to a weakening of Serbia’s central government. Many dukes used this opportunity to secede from the Kingdom with the land that had been entrusted to them. The young son of Dusan Uros took over the throne and soon was killed. Vukasin Mrnjacevic proclaimed himself the King of Serbia. At this time, Turks were advancing toward the Kingdom of Serbia. In a battle on the river Marica in 1371, Vukasin was killed leaving behind him a weakened, poor and torn Serbia. Serbia was in desperate need of a gifted statesman, rich in virtue and deserving of God’s Grace: a man similar to St.Sava and his father St. Stefan Nemanja who had founded the Serbian state. The Church recognized just such a man in Prince Lazar. His talent for leadership, wisdom and experience lifted him above those who would seize the throne by force and sought their own glory and importance.

Prince Lazar, first sought to consolidate and strengthen the Kingdom. As was the custom of that day and age, he married his daughters to the rebellious Serbian aristocrats. This enlarged and stabilized Serbia. Having thus secured the loyalty of dissident aristocrats, Prince Lazar turned to those countries which bordered his own, seeking to deepen Serbia’s relationship with them.


At this time, the Serbian Orthodox Church was in a dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople. King Dusan the Powerful wanted Serbia to have an independent Church. He single-handedly sought to elevate the Serbian archbishop to the level of a patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople utterly rejected this act and broke relations with the Church in Serbia. This was a very serious problem and one which King Lazar managed to solve by reconciling the Serbian Church and that of Constantinople. It was a result of this reconciliation that gave the Serbian Church its first canonical Patriarch.

The expansion of that Ottoman state, and increasingly frequent Turkish raids into his land, warned Prince Lazar that the time for a decisive battle was drawing near. Lengthy preparation on both sides preceded this confrontation. The fact that the armies were led by the Turkish ruler Murad 1 and by King Lazar of Serbia illustrates the importance of this battle. It was decided that the site of the battle would be a field in Kosovo (Kosovo Polje).


Prince Lazar knew that his chances against the Turkish aggressor were small and on the eve of the Battle of Kosovo he gathered his upper aristocracy and asked if they should fight for the Holy cross and Golden Freedom or surrender to their adversaries and live as slaves of the Muslims. They had to chose between the Heavenly Kingdom and earthly one. In the true spirit of Christianity they preferred to place their hope in Christ and Eternal Life. The Prince and all of this warriors took Holy communion and went into battle on Saint Vitus Day, Tuesday June 15th 1389.

In the beginning of the battle Serbian warriors were able to advance. Milos Obilic, the most famous hero of this Kosovo Battle, killed the Turkish King Murad. Despite this unexpected development, the Turkish army re-grouped and over ran the Serbs. They captured Prince Lazar alive, but beheaded him shortly thereafter.

Today his earthly remains are amazingly preserved intact and kept in the monastery Ravanica which was founded by him, along with many others churches and monasteries. The faithful gather from all Serbia just as they have through centuries to venerate his Holy relics and to get comfort and healing and to inspire them in the hope and belief that better days will come.



The Serbian culture endured through five centuries of Turkish occupation, although the Turks offered security and prosperity, for conversion to Turkish life styles. This Serbian culture was retarded for five centuries, after the Serbian defeat on the plain of Kosovo.

From a culture that led Europe and the Balkans during the Medieval period, the Serbian culture degenerated and stagnated, to the point that when it regained its freedom it had centuries to recover. The Turkish victory at Kosovo, was not as much political as it was cultural. “Turkish historians lay more stress on the Battle of Maritza eighteen years before, which they call Serb Sindin (Serbian defeat).” The military destiny of Serbia was sealed at Maritza. Contemporary chroniclers, without the benefit of hindsight, felt that Kosovo was only one of a series of bloody engagements, leading to the collapse of the Serbian kingdom.

What then is the importance of the Battle of Kosovo?
It was a cultural defeat, a religious defeat. It became the symbol of Turkish power and Serbian defeat, not to be forgotten . . . revenge was always over the horizon. The grand Serbian culture, which flourished under Tzar’s Dushan and Milutin, was only a memory, after Serbia’s knights, armies and hopes died at the field of Kosovo.

“The State was destroyed, but underneath was born from pain and from battle a strong people.” It was this strong people, that clung to their own culture, or a remnant of it against time and the Turks. The Battle at Kosovo Polje is one of the focal points of their memories, and as such played a vital role in the Serbian culture.

The binding force in Serbian Culture is its national religion. When in 1190 Nemanja set up a state, from the chaos of the third crusade, the people’s religion was not a national concern. His son, now known as St. Sava, brought the Eastern Orthodox Church to Serbia, and set up an oriental culture, leaning toward Byzantium. St. Sava also separated the church from Byzantine rule, and placed the church establishment in the service of the nation. This was the first national church, untied to either Greek Orthodox or Roman dictates. This policy of separation was continued through Tzar Dushan’s reign (1331-1355) when he planned and executed all possible activities halting the influence of the Roman church in his state.

This national religion needed a base, or platform to be effective. The monastery was “chosen” for this purpose. In fact by 1430 there were 3,000 monasteries and churches in Serbia. These institutions were the basic educational and cultural establishments of their day. An example of the high culture prevalent in the monasteries at the end of the thirteenth century, Queen Jelena founded a type of “womans’ home keeping school” at Brnjeval near today’s Kosovska Mitrovica. The building and maintaining of monasteries and church institutions are shown in many of the ballads from the period, “The Building of Ravanitsa” (a monastery) is one example. This poem speaks of the construction of a church institution as a duty of the Tzar.

In the Serbian society literacy was limited to a narrow circle, mainly religious in character. However, there are proofs that literacy often passed the bounds of the religion sector. An example of the literature of the time is a biography of St. Sava written by Monk Teodisije in the thirteenth through fourteenth centuries. The monasteries besides being centers of education and literature were centers of art.

In these monasteries were created beautiful frescos, paintings, tapestries and handicrafts. The art of Serbia of the thirteenth century is considered independent and “convincingly superior” to the art of Byzantium. “On the vast territory of Dusan’s empire there were a number of smaller provincial centers of art . . . in spite of their local character, the works produced there had two great assets; they were numerous and of high technical accomplishment,” The architecture of the monasteries also represents a special achievement for its time.

Other cultural achievements of the Serbs lie in the field of politics and government. Militarily the Serbs had been on the rise continually and under Tzar Dushan they controlled Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and parts of Greece. At the time of his death, Tzar Dushan was planning to resist the Turks and attack Constantinople. Under Tzars Milutin through Dushan, Serbia was moving toward its real mission as a nation with wealth and power. The advances were not only in military spheres. Tzar Dushan also gave to the Serbs a law which has importance to the Serbs and to Southern Slave in general. This law, the Zakonk, was born of Byzantine and other prevalent laws of the time, and can be said to be a picture of the Serbian social structure of justice based on law.

After Dushan’s death the military strength of the autocracy decreased. In 1377 Knez Lazar (ruler of Serbia) was forced to accept the crowning of Tvrtka I at Milesevo (St. Sava’s grave) making him (Tvrtka I) king of Bosnia, with rights over Serbia. The clash with the Turks found the Serbs at the teak of their national feeling and culture.

When fourteenth century Serbia achieved its political peak most European countries were second-rate powers. Individual nation states were only evolving in Europe at the time when Serbia’s star was already falling. The “countries” of Europe were still subservient to the church of Rome, until the seventeenth century, while Serbia developed a national church in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This superior culture faced the Ottoman Turks. This was a clash of not only military strength, but of faiths and ways of life.

Though the major motivating forces were political, cultural and religious feelings and motives also played a part in the battle of Kosovo. “The Turkish system of occupying conquered countries with military colonies and carrying off the original inhabitants, excited a great national opposition in the year 1389.” This policy which would destroy the culture and religion of Serbia as well as the state, enraged the people. They felt that “the Ottomans were alien barbarians with a lesser civilization and a religion totally different from that of the conquered.” Both the Turks and Serbs were motivated by religious Ideals; the Turks for Islam, and the Serbs for Christianity.

Barring other motives, both parties were politically opposed. The conflict had begun with small marauding raids the Turks pushed across the Dardanelles. When they established a foothold in the Balkans the conflict “. . . progressed too more serious . . . and finally to a full scale campaign.”

It is felt that Tzar Dushan might have held back the Turks, but at his death his empire fragmented. Lacking a common culture or political tradition the empire collapsed, leaving. Its remnants open to Turkish encroachment.

“Of course the great task for the Serbian statesman of that time was, how to stem the further progress of the Ottoman Turks and drive them back to Asia.” Knez Lazar as elected chief of Serbia tried to unify tie country and stop the Turks. “While Prince Lazar was Infusing fresh vigor into the Serbian State, the danger from the Turks was becoming increasingly pressing.” Knez Lazar began to form a Christian league against the Turks. It was revealed to Sultan Murad, who promptly invaded Bulgaria and Serbia to destroy the Christian league. The political desires of the two nations were diametrically opposed; the Turks wanted Serbian lands, and the Serbs survival.

The final military struggle, the clash at Kosovo, was a conflict of both empires, economic systems, religions and hopes. Bulgaria was subdued first and then in 1339 Amurath (Murad I) marched against Knez Lazar, ruler of Serbia. “A great assault on Serbia was organized by the Sultan Murad I . . . he penetrated to the field of Kosovo.” “In great haste he (Lazar) had to summon his noblemen to hurry with their retinues to Kosovo to meet the Turkish army.” Though Knez Lazar called all his vassals, only some came, some were late, and some never started.

Lazar wished to delay the battle, hoping more reinforcements would arrive, but on July 15 (28), 1389 the Turks surprised the Serbs with an unexpected attack. (The date discrepancy is due to the acceptance of the Gregorian calendar by the Serbs later than Europe). The Serbs led an army of Bulgarians, Bosnians, Skepitars of Albania, with men from Hungry, Wallachia and Poland. It appeared that in the beginning, the Turks with an array of their vassals, were losing. In truth, history knows little or nothing of the facts. It appears that the battle was one of courage rather than tactics.

“It was not a fight to the bitter end.” Before the battle started, it was lost, for the Serbs fearing treachery, lost courage. “Victory is never won by those who feel they are going to lose.” “All the legends agree in suggesting that the Issue of the battle was determined by treason. A certain Vuk Brankovitch Is represented as the Serbian Judas who led his forces over to the enemy at the crucial moment.” However, the treachery of Vuk Brankovic is not a proven historical fact. “Treachery is always the excuse of the vanquished, for it assuages the bitterness of defeat.”

Beyond excuses and legend, both leaders, Knez Lazar and Sultan Amurath were killed during the battle. We know nothing historically of how either leader died. It is said that Murad was killed by a false deserter, and that dying he had Knez Lazar brought before him and beheaded. However, that is only legend. At the reports of Murads death the western world thought that Serbia had won, but his death did not affect the course of the battle except that “It considerably increased the severity of Bayazids’ treatment of his Serbian captives.” This led to the battle’s major political importance, for Bayazid, Murad’s heir, killed most of the Serbian princes and nobles either in battle, beheaded them immediately after it, as revenge for his father’s death.

The two new rulers, Bayazid of the Ottoman’s and Stephan Lazarovitch of the Serbs, made peace. The truce of peace which followed “. . . established the inferior position of the Serbians.” “The terms of the treaty then agreed to were very moderate. Instead of being incorporated In the Ottoman Empire . . . Serbia was to be an autonomous state under vassalage to the Ottoman Empire . . . ” It is known that this liberal peace came from the “enforced” marriage of Stephan’s sister Oliva to Bayazid.

After the battle of Kosovo the Serbs did not deceive themselves, It was the death-knell to independence. It destroyed all that was done in the way of Statehood and freedoms since the eleventh century and Nemanja. Even further destruction came in 1459 when Serbia was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire proper. After that time Serbia was no longer a true state.

“The battle of Kosovo, one of the most decisive moments in the century-long struggle of the Serbs against the Turks, quickly became the subject of legend.” The poets, bards or minstrels of Serbia were touched to their poetic souls, and wrote the legend of Kosovo. They were affected because there was a foreigner, a conqueror, an occupier in their land. The legends, or poems are probably the most important effect, political or cultural that the battle at Kosovo Polje had. They are important because they helped the Serbs to remember the battle and what their past was. The greatness of the legends or poems lies in their honesty. The guslari (minstrels) did not hide the weaknesses which led to the defeat, but glorified them. “…what amazes one is the curious fact that the very folk songs that glorify Saint Lazar and lament Kosova reveal a frank and true picture of the events and prove how little warrant there is for the legend.”

The legends were needed, however, to help maintain the culture of the Serbs. The Turkish victory cut off and destroyed the work of Serbia’s leaders and founders, leaving the people alienated from their culture. To maintain a remnant of their culture, the guslari sung their songs of defeat and of God’s will to the people. As there are few cultural or artistic expressions as powerful as the guslari, they had a great impact on their time. In the poems are all the social relationships, portrayed and examined, the culture idealized. All that was good remembered, the bad forgotten. For cultural reasons these legends were essential. If not for the legends, the Serbian people might have forgotten their past and adapted Turkish life styles. The epic poems prevented their forgetting the past, as the poems taught in the schools, filled the minds of the people with heroes, and a heritage. Their religion also glorified in the epics also needed a tool for survival, and the legends complied. Once again the legends helped the people remember their religion, and to be proud of the heritage they possessed.

In the legends themselves are suggestions “. . . for a future struggle against the Turks . . . ” This led to the peoples hope for a future, thus for survival. The poems glorify the defeat as an act of God. They assuage the bitterness of defeat by using scapegoats, and traitors. In addition they bring to mind the “good old days” of heroes and heroines fighting for their country, king, and Christianity.

These epics “helped the Christian peasant to preserve his ethnic individuality and his faith.” The memories are still strong, “. . . and in token of mourning for that great national calamity (the Watterloo of the Serbian Empire) the Montenegrins still wear a black band on their caps . . . Murad’s heart is still preserved on the spot where he died; Lazar’s shroud is still treasured by the Hungarian Serbs in the monastery of Vrdnik; and in many a lonely village the minstrel sings to the sound of the gusle the melancholy legend of Kosova.” It Is these memories which prevented the Serbs from self-pity, but steeled them against submission. When they needed support most the epics which “. . . so majestically touched on the defeated Serbian nation . . . ” gave them the strength to withstand the slavery and look toward freedom. Even today, years later, upon the rise of modern Serbian nationalism Kosovo became the symbol for their national Identity.

The quality of the epics can also be spoken of. “In their description of the events, especially where the poets narrated the terrible tortures during battle and afterwards, they bring to mind the Italian poet Dante’s Divine Comedy which also dates between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.” The Divine Comedy Is considered one of the Western world’s greatest classics. It was also said of the poems that they were as good as, If not better than any Greek or Latin poems ever written. This was said by Jurag Sisgoric (1487) in his work De Situ Illyriae et civitate Sibenici.

These legends and poems held the Serbian people together in their memories of pride and honor. The poems can be said to be one of the major causes for Serbia’s continued cultural and religious survival. However, the battle of Kosovo also had direct negative effects on the Serbian people. There was a terrible set back of their language, civilization, nationality, religion and of all they held dear. This great catastrophe tested Serbian moral, religious, and physical strength.

After the battle of Kosovo the Turks were tolerant of religion except when it went into political spheres or sided with rebels. Since there were rebellions and struggles and since the church worked with the rebellious people, she also suffered the wrath of the Turks. Of the 3,000 different Church institutions half were destroyed or desecrated by the nineteenth century.

Despite these persecutions the Serbian faith in their national religion made it impossible for Islam to take over as it had in Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. In Serbia the Turks ruled but could not destroy its national identity.

Though under difficult conditions Stephan Lazarovitch gathered together the intelligencia of Serbia to a monastery at Velika Morava, called Resava. In this monastery scribes and translators worked, and frescos covered the walls. Between Knez Lazar and his son the Moravska school of art and studies developed in the Velika Morava area.

Other contributions to the culture of Serbia after Kosovo mainly related to the battle, commemorating it, and its heroes, were: Konstantin Mihajiovic wrote a biography of Stephan Lazarovic; and the nuns Jefinije and Grigorije who made a tapestry dedicated to the death of Knez Lazar, which is an object of great cultural importance to medieval art in general.

After Kosovo, Serbian books were printed at Gorazde, Gracanica, Rujio, Milesvo, Beograde and Skadar. The Turks persecuted and destroyed these publishers because they served the Serbian national purpose. The situation after the battle was so bad for the people, that in a letter from a Dubrovnik family to Serbian friends, the Serbians were invited to go to Dubrovnik, “If they could not support themselves.”

Despite the persecutions and bad economic conditions, the Serbian people always had a feeling of optimism, remembering past glories and looking to future greatness. They survived five centuries of alien subjugation. During those five centuries neither culture advanced, both Serbs and Turks remained in a pocket of Feudal, Medieval life, till the nineteenth century. This stagnated culture, the culture of the Serbs held down, from flourishing as it had, sprang back to life when it regained its freedom. Although the Serbs missed both renaissance and enlightenment, due to the Turkish occupation, they rapidly advanced, once freed, due to the heritage which they so zealously protected through some five centuries.

They are advancing because of their spirit and hopes. They are advancing because of their pride and convictions. They are advancing because they remember, the humiliation of their fathers. Their memory is long, but vital and strong. It is this memory of the battle of Kosovo that kept the Serbian culture alive.

The Battle of Kosovo was a military loss to the Serbs. They lost country, language, and hopes. Yet from this loss came the epic poems of Serbia, the stories of their past. I feel that this loss of a battle enabled the Serbs to win the war . . . of cultural survival.


The Role of St. Vitus’ Day( VIDOVDAN) ;We shall neither submit, nor yield!

In 1887, on the occasion of the celebration of Vidovdan (Saint Vitus’ Day) in the Serbian Monastery of Ravanica, Nikanor, the bishop of Pakrac, addressed his flock with these words: “I shall not make a long sermon. It is enough to tell you: Brethren, today is Vidovdan!”

For Serbs, scattered over the central, northern, and western Balkans, living in 2 independent Serbian states born through revolutions and wars during the 19th century, as well as subjected to the Ottoman and Habsburg rule, Vidovdan embodied their “historical memory.” It became synonymous for the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, which took place on that day, and which determined the Serbian people’s collective and individual destiny. Vidovdan was imbedded in the Serbian ethnic and national self-awareness. It became the incentive for survival, the inspiration in the struggle for personal and national liberation. The myth and legend of Kosovo and Vidovdan were transmitted to posterity by the popular epic poetry, by the Serbian Orthodox Church, by intellectuals and historians, as well as by national and political leaders in modern times. Generations of Serbs and historians divided the national past into 2 periods: before and after the Kosovo Battle. Later, following the birth and ascendancy of the modern Serbian state in the 19th and 20th centuries, 3 kinds of traditions emerged: the old cult of the Kosovo Battle, the reverence for the 1804-1815 uprisings, and the commemoration of the 1912-1918 wars. The first marked the defeat of the medieval Serbian state, the second announced the beginning and the third the victory of the reborn state.

Among Serbian national holidays, Vidovdan occupied a place of particular importance. It symbolized the death and resurrection, the despair and hope, and the end of an epoch and the beginning of a new era. During the Ottoman rule, it offered a fatherland even before it was organized. It was woven in the texture of modern Serbian nationalism in recent times. In 1889, in agreement with religious authorities, the Serbian government confirmed Vidovdan as the day consecrated to all those who sacrificed their lives for the faith and the fatherland. Intentionally, or by historical coincidence, on Vidovdan 1876 the war against the Ottomans was declared, the 1881 Secret Convention with Austria-Hungary was signed, the 1914 Sarajevo assassination took place, the 1921 Yugoslav Constitution was proclaimed, and the 1948 Resolution of the Cominform was declared. Until the end of World War II, Vidovdan marked the end of the school year when awards were bestowed upon the best students.

Reference to the past characterized the development of modern nationalism in Europe during the “age of national renaissance” after 1815. In the search for the “national soul” the celebration of the days of fallen heroes was to confirm the national identity and unity. In the study of the cult of St. Vitus’ Day among the Serbs my esteemed colleague and old friend, Professor Ekmecic from Sarajevo, compared this observance with the “Fete de la Federation” inaugurated in 1790 in France as a token of the “united and indivisible nation,” practically as in the same manner as Bastille Day or the “Totenfest” introduced by Wilhelm III in Prussia. The celebration of Vidovdan among the Serbs expressed, in general terms, similar trends of modern nationalism. But, at the same time, there was 1 difference. Days celebrating fallen heroes were in Europe decreed from above, by rulers or governments. Vidovdan truly emerged among the Serbs from the grassroots, from the illiterate village community. Until officially celebrated, it already existed in the people’s minds, in oral history, refreshed and adapted in epic ballads as a part of the folk tradition. This tradition was spread by Serbian migrations over the regions in which they settled during the Ottoman period. At the beginning, it contributed to the feelings of ethnic unity of the Serbs and, later, to their affiliation with their modern nation.

From the day of their conversion to Christianity the South Slavs celebrated St. Vitus’ Day, dedicated to an Italian saint from Lucania. The conservative peasant community for centuries preserved customs related to the pagan god Svevid or Vid, the Slavic name for St. Vitus. According to Milan Milicevic, in the 1880’s peasant girls would soak the herb “vidovica” in water and wash their faces with it. However, the Battle of Kosovo, which took place on the saint’s day, gave another meaning to it. According to peasants’s belief, the rivers will turn red on Vidovdan, colored by the blood of fallen heroes at Kosovo. After the battle, Kraljevic Marko fell asleep to wake up on the day when Kosovo will be avenged. In Montenegro women wore black scarves around their heads and the men’s caps were embroidered with black for mourning the Vidovdan Kosovo Battle. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Serbian Church marked Vidovdan with red letters in religious calendars.

Seeded in the people’s mind through being chanted by peasant bards, whose poems Vuk Karadzic collected, the Vidovdan message was further modified and adapted to contemporary needs of the modern epoch. Historians and intellectuals referred to the cult of Vidovdan in transforming the instinctive popular national feelings into modern, mass nationalism. Supported by the Church, the leaders of the gradually developing Serbian statehood in the 19th century offered their support to the Vidovdan legacy.

Although Karadjordje appeared in the popular mind as the avenger of Kosovo, the leadership of the 1804 Serbian uprising extolled the medieval state tradition and the cult of Stefan, the First Crowned King. It symbolized the ascendancy of statehood, while Kosovo meant its collapse. The tragic defeat suffered in 1813 invigorated the memory of the sacrifice of 2 central figures of the Vidovdan myth: the martyrdom of Prince Lazar and the heroic regicide of Milos Obilic. During the reign of the Obrenovici (1815-1842), the accent was placed on the 1815 uprising, while the cult of the previous 1804-1813 movement was deliberately neglected. Along with the further consolidation and organization of the Serbian state, as well as through the extension of the Serbian national program, the legacy of Emperor Dusan the Mighty was brought into focus. Garasanin’s Nacertanije, written in 1844, quoted the crucial effects of the Kosovo Battle, but found the country’s future in the restoration of the pre-Kosovo Serbian state tradition. Both Serbian dynasties, the Obrenovici and Karadjordjevici, presented themselves as heirs and successors of medieval rulers. The later organized political parties, during the last decades of the century, modified the Vidovdan message according to their ideological and political polarizations. The conservatives remembered Prince Lazar’s oath on the eve of Vidovdan, which called for unity. Domestic political dissent caused, according to them, the 1389 defeat. On the contrary, the liberals referred to the democratic resistance of the people, to the message of the Mother Jugovic and the servant Goluban, and the popular struggle for freedom.

Whatever the pragmatic approach to the Kosovo message might be, Vidovdan continued to be commemorated by the public at large. As a writer from Vojvodina described its influence, “… the cult of Kosovo heroes was presented to children at Christmas, at the slava, and was quoted in proverbs and curses.”

The Church took the leading role in organizing Vidovdan commemorations during the first decades of the century. Ecclesiastical calendars presented Vidovdan as the “Emperor Lazar’s Day,” mentioning St. Vitus only additionally. Vidovdan was dedicated to the day of “national grievance and repentance.” Vidovdan was considered in general as the day of national mourning. Later on, during the last decades of the century, the churches were on Vidovdan draped in black, black flags were put out on houses, national standards were at half-mast, and invitations for the commemoration were printed with black margins.

The cult of Vidovdan blossomed during the period of romanticism in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Formed in 1847, the Society of Serbian Youth chose Vidovdan for the founding day when “our heroic forefathers sacrificed themselves for freedom.” A founding member made the inflammatory appeal: “Do we will, can we, do we dare to go to Kosovo!” Historians of the romanticist school idealized the past. Portraits of Kosovo warriors were reproduced and displayed in peasant and urban homes. Vidovdan became the major topic in literature, dramatic arts, and paintings. Student associations glorified the sacrifice of their ancestors, which culminated in the national euphoria of the Omladina in the 1870’s.

While the Church, the youth, and the nationalistic public were commemorating Vidovdan, the state authorities were forced to take a cautious attitude. Until 1878, Serbia was in a vassal relationship with the Ottoman Empire. The international status of Serbia was fragile, which was manifested during the Crimean War, national upheavals during the 1860’s, and the eruption of the Eastern Crisis in 1875. Until 1867, Turkish nizams were still patrolling the streets of Belgrade, while the pasha was residing in the city’s fortress. Serbian governments were involved in underground revolutionary activities aiming toward the liberation and unification of Serbs then under Habsburg and Ottoman rule. However, to openly and officially organize celebrations and commemorations of a battle in which the Serbs fought the Turks and 1 of their knights assassinated the sultan would be an affront to the Ottoman suzerain. The first public celebration of Vidovdan took place in the Beograd reading room in 1847. But when in 1851 state officials participated in the organization of Vidovdan festivities, the Ottomans protested vehemently and the Serbian government had to fire the incriminated officials. In 1865, when invited to write the text for the Serbian national anthem, the poet Jovan Jovanovic-Zmaj from Novi Sad was explicitly warned from Belgrade not to mention Vidovdan, in regard to the Turkish reaction. With the consolidation of the Serbian international position and the 1878 recognized independence, the situation improved, although the constant threat of Ottoman reactions was present until the 20th century. In 1882, when Serbia was proclaimed a kingdom, King Milan was named “The First Crowned King After Kosovo.” In that moment references to the past were mainly used for domestic political purposes.

During the 19th century, Vidovdan was com-memorated among Serbs in the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, under the watchful eye of the respective authorities, sensitive to the outburst of Serbian national feelings. The Vidovdan cult was the strongest in Vojvodina, due to the advanced Serbian community and the role which the Church played in it. Especially after the revolutionary days of 1848, Vidovdan was remembered at church gatherings, popular fairs, and youth festivals as a token of national solidarity, pride, and self-confidence. From 1869 the Orthodox calendars in Bosnia dedicated Vidovdan as the day of “Emperor Lazar, Patriarch Yephremos, and the Martyr Vitus.” When the 1875 uprising started in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the call addressed to peasants to join the movement quoted almost verbatim Prince Lazar’s oath on the eve of Vidovdan 1389.

Vidovdan found its place in the formative stage of the Yugoslav movement in Croatia. In 1840 the day was celebrated by students of the Zagreb seminary. Danica Ilirska, the journal of the Illyrian movement, published Kosovo epic poems. Its leader, Ljudevit Gaj, wrote in 1853 a series of essays on Vidovdan. On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Kosovo Battle in 1889 a solemn session of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts was held in Zagreb, with speeches by the 2 most prominent Croatian scholars:Franjo Racki and Toma Maretic. At the beginning of the 20th century, the world-famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic designed the “Vidovdanski Hram” (St. Vitus Temple). It was never realized, although the most important figures from the Kosovo epic were already made in marble in 1908. Mestrovic’s artistic vision was the greatest glorification of Vidovdan ever attempted.

The memory of Vidovdan was kept alive among the Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. The Orthodox seminary in Prizren, founded in 1871, became the nursery of the Vidovdan cult. The students association, “Rastko,” named after St. Sava’s lay name, commemorated Vidovdan in order to promote national propaganda, and was exposed to the constant pressure of the Ottoman-Albanian hostile environment.

The outburst of Serbian national dynamism at the dawn of the 20th century further enlivened the cult of Vidovdan. To “avenge Kosovo” became the slogan of the day. Among the Serbian and Montenegrin war aims in the 1912 war, the priority was to reconquer and liberate Kosovo. As a result, the campaign had the character of a holy war. After the victory, students and citizens visited the Kosovo monasteries. Visits were scheduled mainly on Vidovdan to attend the solemn service in Gracanica. It was there in 1914 that a group of students from Sarajevo learned the news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. There is no doubt that Gavrilo Princip, planning the regicide, was greatly influenced by the aura of deity which the Bosnian nationalistic youth assigned to Milos Obilic, as well as by Vidovdan, the day when the Austrian crown prince visited the Bosnian capital.

The Vidovdan cult reappeared again during World War I, when the Serbian army retreated to Kosovo, on its exodus to the Adriatic shores. In that dramatic moment the flamboyant Vojvoda Misic proposed a counter-offensive from Kosovo, imbued with the same Vidovdan alternative to win or to perish.

Vidovdan was celebrated in British schools during the war. The 3rd detachment of volunteers from the United States embroidered on their flag “Vidovdanski borci iz Amerike,” and a group of volunteers on the Salonika front took the name “Vidovdanski borci.”

During the century from 1889 until 1989, celebrations of centenaries of the Kosovo Battle mirrored the spirit of the people and the needs of the times in which they lived. In 1889, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary commemoration, Serbia was facing the crisis caused by the domestic struggle for constitutionalism and parliamentarism, the victory of liberalism enacted by the 1888 Constitution, followed by the abdication of King Milan and the succession to the throne of his minor son, Alexander. The popular and official celebration of Vidovdan 1889 had, besides the national cause, the desire to consolidate the shaken dynasty and to strengthen the new liberal regime. On Vidovdan, June 15th (by the old calendar) a solemn requiem to the Kosovo warriors was held in Krusevac, the ancient capital of Prince Lazar, and the foundation of the monument dedicated to the Kosovo martyrs was laid. In the following days the young King Alexander was anointed in the Zica Monastery as “the first anointed Serbian king after Kosovo.” The anniversary was celebrated in Montenegro, Vojvodina, and other parts where Serbs Iived.

In 1939, 50 years later, the 550th anniversary of Vidovdan was commemorated in the atmosphere of the coming crisis and under the stormy clouds which announced to Europe the outbreak of World War II. Requiems of Vidovdan in Gracanica, both Monasteries of Ravanica in Resava and Srem, as well as the 2 Lazarica Churches in Krusevac and Dalmatia, were held in the presence of the representatives of the government and the army, the military, and national societies. They delivered the message to the expected invader: “Niti cemo se pokoriti, niti ukloniti!” (We shall neither submit, nor yield!).


The Serbian people, faithful to their historical legacy, paid dearly for this commitment during the World War II. Under the new Communist regime imposed after the end of the war, public and official commemorations of Vidovdan were not allowed, and the Vidovdan memory was intentionally swept under the carpet. The only organization which kept it alive for more than 40 years was the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, the destruction of the historical legacy proved to be an illusion. The national revival of the Serbs, subjected to an artificial “national symmetry” in the Yugoslav multinational state, which divided them and deprived them of authority over their own territory, erupted like a volcano in recent years. The Vidovdan message became resurrected as a cornerstone in Serbian history. As happened in centuries past, the cults of St. Sava and Kosovo became again the cement to unify the nation in the struggle for national and human rights. On the eve of Vidovdan 1989 the splendid, new Church of Saint Sava was consecrated in Belgrade, and the next day over one-and-a-half million Serbs from all over the country attended the 600 years requiem to the Kosovo martyrs in Gracanica, as well as the official ceremony in Gazimestan, where the 1389 Battle took place. Popular gatherings in Romanija (Bosnia) and Knin (Croatia) followed. Scholarly symposia in Belgrade, Sarajevo, and other places dealt with the historical importance of the 1389 Battle for the Serbs, Yugoslavs, the Balkans, and Europe.

The historical heritage has a double meaning: that of fiction and that of reality. It mirrors the past and projects the future. The Vidovdan message was and is for the Serbs, wherever they live, a token of their past and present destinies.


The Order of Christ (Ordem Militar de Cristo, “Ordo Militiae Jesu Christi”)

The Portuguese Templars had contributed to the conquest of Algarve from the Moslems; they were still defending that conquest when their order was suppressed (1312) by Pope Clement V. King Diniz, who then ruled Portugal, regretted the loss of these useful auxiliaries all the more because, in the trial to which the order had been submitted everywhere throughout Christendom, the Templars of Portugal had been declared innocent by the ecclesiastical court of the Bishop of Lisbon. To fill their place, the king instituted a new order, under the name of Christi Militia (1317)

Ordem Militar de Cristo

The  Alfonsine Ordinances  only record the current idea in the fifteenth century: the Templars – religious-military order created in Palestine in 1120 by Hugo de Payens – have been deleted for its many sins, including sodomy (Lehmann, 1989: 165). The numerous objections raised in proceedings brought by the king of France, Philip IV the Fair   (1285-1314), did not prevent the king of Portugal, Dom Dinis (1279-1325), acted differently with the Portuguese Templars.

The charges were: “… bestiality, idol worship, denial of sacraments, to sell his soul to the devil and worship him as a big cat; sodomy between them and relations with demons and succubi, started to require who deny God, Christ and the Virgin; spitting three times, urinating and stepping on the cross, and give the “kiss of shame” in the prior Order, mouth, penis and buttocks … “(TUCHMAN, 1990: 41 ).

The transfer of assets to the Templar Order of St. John of Jerusalem – as decided by the Council of Vienne (1311-1312) – did not happen in Portugal – the Order of St John was created in Palestine just before the First Crusade (“.. . amalfitanas two families, Mauris and Pantaleonis, in 1048, asked the Caliph Mustansir Billah Fatimid [1036-1094], by rich presents, Muslim permission to build a hospice, a hospital and a convent […] in order to welcome and accommodate pilgrims who flocked to the city of Jerusalem “- COSTA 1994: 14).

Subsequently, the Order of the Hospital was adapted to a military order, without giving up their welfare origin). As we shall see, Dinis acted extremely timely manner, to nationalize the assets of the Temple, further strengthening the Lusitanian crown against the papacy.

This article discusses the suppression of the Templars and the creation of the Order of Christ, placing them within a larger context, the slow formation of a Portuguese national identity. This process, early in relation to other European powers enabled the lusos the lead in maritime expansion of the XVI-XVII centuries. For this, we must first introduce the topic in space and time with respect.

The Templars cause interpretative difficulties to historians: “… are today (and especially today) a difficult institution to understand” (HAIL, 1988: 265). In a recent and still unpublished lecture given at the University Estacio de Sa (1993), Dr. Rui Vieira da Cunha, referring to the Templars, stressed he did not want to appear “new ghosts.”

This is partly due to the great number of legends that have formed from the execution of the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and Masonic orders that call themselves heirs of the Knights Templar. Jacques de Molay would cast a curse on the French king and his descendants until 13. Third generation at the time of his execution on the island of Seine, 03/18/1314 summoned Philip the Fair and Pope Clement V to meet him before God within a year.

The fact is that Clement V died a month later and Philip after seven months at age 46. Furthermore, “… in succession, Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV reigned less than six years each and died at 27, 28 and 33 years, respectively, while male successor, despite having all three together total Six Wives “(TUCHMAN, 1990: 43).


Leaving aside this mystical path, remains confine ourselves to sources. In order to raise the questions posed above, it is necessary to trace the political path taken by King Dinis in the short period of 1307-1319, years that encompass the arrest of the Templars in France and the creation of the Order of Christ in Portugal. We will not cover the procedure itself, already well known (Barber, 1991), but what happened in Portugal, particularly the relationship between Dinis and the papacy.

Already in 1306, pressured by Philip the Fair  , Pope Clement V (1305-1314) ordered that a council would meet in Spain with the aim of investigating the behavior of the Templars in the Peninsula. The meeting took place in Salamanca, with the presence of the Archbishop of Santiago, besides eleven bishops, including Lisbon, João de Soalhães (ALMEIDA, Volume I 1967: 154). The fact is that nothing has been found to compromise the friars of the Temple.

After the arrest of the Templars in France in 1307, Clement V, through bull  Callidis serpentis  (12/30/1308), Dinis asked to do the same with the Portuguese Templars. The Portuguese king did not grant the request of the pope. Moreover, the Templars and his master, Frei D. Vasco Fernandes, had been absent from the kingdom, for unknown reasons.


Fortunato de Almeida raises the possibility of having gone to justify to the pope (ALMEIDA, Volume I 1967: 155). We consider this unlikely. Since 1309 the papacy thought in Avignon, near the mouth of the Rhone, a fief of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, but under political influence of France (TUCHMAN, 1990: 25); French Templars were arrested. D. Vasco Fernandes would not risk being captured by simple attempt to talk to Clement V. is more likely to be waiting the course of events.

We discuss the position taken by D. Dinis. Portugal had already had numerous problems with the Church: In 1192 Cardinal Rinério launched sentences of excommunication and interdict on Portugal and Leon; in 1208, Sancho was excommunicated and died in that condition, in 1210. Only in 1213 Pope Innocent III ordered the ecclesiastical judges to absolve him of excommunication Afonso II (with a fine of 50,000 crossed).

But the dispute between Portugal and the Church did not stop there: in 1218 the bishop of Lugo renews the process of excommunication; in 1220, the archbishop of Braga excommunicated Alfonso II again. Honorius III confirmed the excommunication and threatened to expose the kingdom of Portugal to conquer other sovereign, and absolving his vassals the oath of allegiance. Alfonso II also died excommunicated in 1223. In 1231, Portugal suffered another papal interdict, raised in 1233 by Pope Gregory IX. Conflicts desembocaram in 1245, the deposition of Sancho II and civil war (MATTOSO, s / d).

Now the time was ripe to try to resolve the issue of the Templars goods: the Temple had an immense territory in lusas land space that would be delivered to the papacy in Avignon, therefore, under the direct influence of Philip the Fair  . Everyone knows that the Iberian Peninsula mirrored the rivalry between France and Britain – who later would end the Hundred Years War, in 1328: Castile, pro-France, Portugal, pro-England. With the outbreak of war the position of Portugal was: Afonso IV opted for England in level of military neutrality (diplomatic relations and trade agreements).


In this intricate international political game, the Templars assets could create a schism in Portuguese geopolitical realm. Furthermore, there were marriage proposals from both hierosolimitanas orders, Templars and Hospitallers (DEMUGER, 1986: 236). This would mean the union of the Lusitanian assets of the Hospital and the Temple: it would be a “state within the state” since rival the Portuguese king in terms of manorial possessions.

Given the position of King Dinis, Clement V in 1310, determined that the new council should take place, again to investigate the conduct of Iberian Templars. Met two meetings: one in Medina del Campo – where the Templars were cited of Castile and Leon – and another again in Salamanca, with the presence of the Bishop of Lisbon, Joao Guard, and the Bishop of Guarda, D. Vasco. The accused were again acquitted, but “the bishops abstained purposes of sentencing, which reserved to the Pope” (ALMEIDA, Volume I 1967: 155)

To guard against any papal measure, Dinis signed a pact with his son, Ferdinand IV of Castile (1285-1312). The monarchs undertook to defend the Templar possessions of their respective kingdoms (ALMEIDA, Volume I 1967: 155) (January 21, 1310 The King of Aragon could if I wanted to enter the covenant.).

The firm stance of the kings of Portugal and Castile took Clement V to include the following clause in his bull  Ad providam  (May 2, 1312): all goods of the Temple would be transferred to the Order of the Hospital, except those located in the realms of Castile, Aragon, Portugal and Majorca.

Inserted in this same bull, had the following condition: the kings of the Peninsula were obliged not to sell the Templar properties, until the Church take a final decision.

With the new pope, John XXII (1316-1334), the Portuguese prosecutors alleged that the transfer of assets to the Templar Order of the Hospital would cause damage to the crown. Although the Hospitallers from Friar Alfonso Peres flour, were always in affinity with the crown, the fact is that the Portuguese Order of the Hospital was subordinate to the Grand Commander of Hispania, who resided in Castile (MATTOSO 1986:. Vol II, 164 ).

The Grand Commander was the highest authority of the order on the Peninsula, directly subordinated to the grand master, who lived during this period on the island of Rhodes – in 1291 the order had been expelled from Palestine by the Muslims. This would cause future problems regarding the management of assets in Portuguese lands, besides providing the king of Castile some sort of territorial claim in wartime.

This relative autonomy in relation to the Portuguese Hospitaller commander of Hispania would not be sufficient to solve some hierarchical question of utmost importance: the Grand Commander of the Order resided in Castile eternal rival Portugal. How Erdmann says, “Just interested him (D. Dinis) that rich heritage (Templar) not to leave out of the country.’s What would have happened, at least in part, if the goods has passed to the Knights of St. John “(Erdmann 1940: 51).


Concern Dinis with the territorial demarcation of the kingdom of Portugal was not unjustified; Portuguese friars of the Order of Santiago (or Calatrava), which since 1288 were no longer subject to the master of Castile by decision of Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292), returning now to be so, by decree of Boniface VIII (1294 – 1303). The subordination of the Portuguese Order of Santiago master of Castile was officially settled in 1319 by Olim felicis  inserts  (February 27, 1319) and  should Tunc  (1 July of the same year), both of Pope John XXII; Portuguese friars of Calatrava were no longer subject to Castile (Bull of Pope Nicholas IV:  Pastoralis officii  [17 September 1288]; bull of Boniface VIII:  Antiquis retro Ab  [20 July 1295] – ALMEIDA, Volume I, 1967 : 151).

Distribution of the fortifications of military orders took into account the military protection of the cities of Lisbon and Santarém. The  Hospitallers  (map, their domains are marked by  vertical gray stripes ) defended the entrance to the north by the Tagus, from Zêzere based on Belver and Crato. Likewise, the  Templars  (tilted to the right stripes), had fortifications in Castelo Branco, Soure, Pombal and Tomar. Knights of the Order of Avis  ( orange horizontal stripes ), controlled the route coming from Badajoz and Mérida. The  Order of Santiago  ( green stripes  tilted to the left) participated directly in victorious conquest of the Alentejo. Thus, received in exchange control of the road coming from the South: Mértola, Beja and Aljustrel until Alcacer do Sal should be noted, finally, the geographical whittle the kingdom of Portugal, almost entirely based on the existence of military orders to go to war or to the activities of resettlement. The main castles are marked by red dots; monasteries in blue squares.  In :. MATTOSO, Joseph (ed.)  History of Portugal – The Feudal Monarchy (1096-1480 ), Lisbon, Editorial Stamps, s / d, p. 212.

This could cause serious inconvenience to the crown, as the Knights of Santiago received the Portuguese kings castles with many neighboring kingdom of Castile. The order of importance had grown ever since the conquest of the Algarve during the military campaign of 1249-1250 and the subsequent donation of Afonso III (1245-1279) (Marques 1994: 125-152). Adding this to the issue of subordination of the Portuguese master of Castile Hospitallers, created to be an essential problem for Portuguese sovereignty. Both orders (Santiago and Hospital) had a vast territory in the realm, beyond the Templar problem.

But back to the case of the Temple. Portuguese prosecutors presented to John XXII the following proposal: in Castro Marim, Algarve Kingdom Castle, on the border with Muslims, would be established one (new) Portuguese monastic-military order of chivalry, and Dinis donate the castle and all rights that exerted on it.

The pope agreed (bull of John XXII,  Ad and ex quibus ) (ALMEIDA, Volume I 1967: 351), and the order was established in the said castle, with the parish church of Santa Maria do Castelo, in the bishopric of Silves, following the rule Santiago (Calatrava) – shortly after, in about 1338, the Temple moved to Tomar.


The pope, through leaflets   and  Ad Venientes and ex quibus  (15 and 14 March 1319), was named the Knighthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with Gil Marques occupying the position of master (was already master of the house of Avis, other religious-military order of major political force in Portugal). Future teachers would be elected by the professed friars, and supervision order was under the responsibility of the Abbot of Alcobaca.

Dungeon of the castle in Castelo Branco.  In : MILK, Ana Cristina.  Castelo Branco . Lisbon: Editorial Presençsa, 1991, p. 11. “I, Peter Alvito, master Militia of the Temple with the convent of Portugal, and we want to restore people Castelo Branco. Unto, present and future, give the forum and habits of Elvas, and two parties of knights go to fossado and the third part is at the Village, and do fossado once a year “( First Foral de Castelo Branco , c. 1213).


Gil Marques as Master of the Order of Christ, Dinis solve the problem of control over the Temple. The Order of Christ received from the Portuguese crown all Templar property, the town of Castro Marim, and the most ex-friars of the Temple. According to its statutes, made in 1321, the Order of Christ had a relatively small effective: 69 armed and mounted knights, clerics 9 and 6 sergeants, a total of 84 friars.

Sergeants ( sergeants ) were sort of squires. Served the monk-knights, dressed them and prepared their weapons, taking care of horses and cleaning service. With the passage of time, have received the religious habit. The effective was shortly thereafter changed since the Constitution of 1326 Taking it says the following: “We enjoin, and set, and we grant that forever there in our order said eighty-six friars, at least, as is said. of which are seventy-one riders friars, stews horses, weapons, and other (fifteen) are clerics, and sergentes “(ALMEIDA, Volume I 1967: 156).

This reduced number characterized the Order of Christ as an elite military corps, permanently ready for combat. Hence its importance for the Portuguese crown and to the process of Reconquista, for as Humberto Baquero Moreno says, “… in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages was not an army armed with character of permanence body, carrying only the recruitment of men when the needs of the military nature thus imposed “(Moreno, 1991: 29-40).

Thus, this elite corps supplied vital for the consolidation and strengthening of the Portuguese state necessity. He, like the other military orders in Portuguese soil, catered to the need of the state to possess a standing army, even though limited in number.

Anyway, just took the nationalization of the Templars goods in Portuguese lands. The Order of Christ was so “virtually at the mercy of the crown” (MATTOSO, 1986: vol II, 164.). Dinis showed great political acumen, seizing the moment that offered him. Portugal strode to the affirmation of their national identity, forged from Afonso Henriques with a mindset cross, which had the military orders – especially now in their proper order – its biggest paradigm.


The Order of Christ, situated within the political sphere of the crown, from the fifteenth century, widened her horizons, directing and leading the Lusitanian maritime expansion. As we understand, the creation of a Portuguese military order is inserted into the slow formation process, vital to the process of expansion of the Lusitanian Portuguese national identity following centuries: “But the ease of communication was not enough to dilute the localist purpose and spirit neighborhood that animated all municipalities during the Middle Ages, helping to stem the outbreak of a national consciousness that only the unity of language and the need for defense against the Spanish were able to end cementing “(Marques, 1987: 02).

His biggest supporter was Prince Henry, third son of King John I (1385-1433), who, in 1420, at age 26, became a Portuguese master of the order, fighting the Moors in Ceuta and helping Portugal to to expand overseas:

Infants … was, until his death, the main driver of developments discovery (…) Thanks to his immense wealth and property of the Order of Christ, that became Grand Master, could afford the huge expenditure required expeditions (TEYSSIER, 1992).

The permanence of this crusade mentality, who insisted on not beyond the XII-XII centuries, took Portuguese navigators to unknown paths; this same mentality motivated the cross, the African (1432-1481) King Afonso V, in the words of Armindo de Souza, “a cross out of season, the last crusader”, to dare to penetrate in Africa: “In 1458, achievement is Alcacer Ceguer. In 1463-1464,-tries to Tangier, but folds up. In 1469 it is the turn of ANAFE, the current Casablanca, which was soon abandoned, by getting uncomfortably situated south. Arzila In 1471 falls. ” (SOUZA, s / d: 505-506).


This impulse conqueror brought Portugal to a prominent role on the biggest stage of human acts in history. At the heart of these achievements is his mentality crusade, medieval holdover Finally, direct legacy of military orders:

We knew … that the penetration in Africa would be a war to the Moors as the previous multi-secular struggles. Also saw themselves in Moroccan ‘Moors’ (…) Following these achievements in Morocco, sea travel developed along the West African coast. We allude to the party behind them had the Order of Christ, continuator of the Templars (…). The role played by the idea of ​​cross from the Portuguese discoveries is therefore closely linked to their previous developments in the wars with the Moors (ERDMANN 1940: p 57-58.).

In fact, it is the Portuguese Cabralian the last crusader. The caravels that dock in Brazil have their stamp on the old Templar cross, eternal symbol of the crusade against the “other.” This was a bigger reason for the training of Portuguese national identity.


Order of Dragon and Stefan Lazar, Prince of Serbia

In December 12, 1408, the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund von Luxemburg and his Queen Barbara of Cilli, founded “Societas Draconistrarum” (latin for: Society of Draconists), which is renowned today as the Order of Dragon. Its statutes, were written in Latin and it was a military monarchical chivalric order coequal to “Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici” (Latin for: The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon). The society was modeled after the earlier Hungarian monarchical order, known as “the Fraternal Society of Knighthood of St George”, who was founded by King Carol Robert of Anjou in 1318. Likewise, the society, adopted St. George as its patron saint, whose legendary defeat of a dragon was used as a symbol for the military troops and religious ethos of the order.

The purpose of the society, was mainly to protect the principles of the Emperor, with the help of the Hungarian nobility, led by the families of Gara and Cilli. Like many other orders at that time, its duties were also to protect the king and his family, to protect and defend the empire, to protect the widows and children, and to propagate Christianity. The members who founded the order were 23 nobles of the kingdom, who drew a pact with the king and swore to observe the “true and pure fraternity” within the “Society of Draconists”. They were all engaged in serving with loyalty no matter the price. The members were led by the despot Stefan Lazar, the leader of Serbia. Amongst the noble leading members, were also Nicolae of Gara, the Hungarian prince, Stibor of Stibericz, the prince of Transylvania, Pipo of Ozora and the Ban (local ruler) of Severin.

The society, was renowned as “a secret society” because the ultimate aim was to gain political supremacy in Europe for the House of Luxemborg. However, the image of the society gained its prestige during battles, shortly after February 1431, when the Wallachian prince, Vlad Dracul, was admitted to the society as a vassal to the Emperor. The spreading of the image of the dragon by Vlad was through a large circulation of the symbol throughout his Kingdom. He made small coins and heraldic stone carvings who had powerful impressions on its enemies and his people. In addition, Vlad Dracul, initiated his son, Vlad Tepes (Count Dracula), to the society, who’s cruel and unorthodox acts, spread rumors and fears amongst Kingdoms.

Shortly, after the death of the Emperor in 1437, to importance of the society declined and the society remained in abeyance. The fraternal image of the society, was conserved by noble families in: Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania.

The symbol

In 1408, the symbol of the society became a circular dragon with its tail twisted three times around its neck. On the back of the dragon was attributed the red cross of St. George. Dragons, were considered to be masters of authority and a deliverers of good fortune. They were regarded as a divine beast, resilient and noble. The symbol of dragon, represents three things: honor, strength and loyalty. The three circles that the dragon makes around its neck, represent: unity, self-sacrifice and continuous life service.

Those who were of noble nature, had to wear the insignia (a brooch) of the golden dragon curved into a circle, with the red cross of St. George on its back. The cross above the dragon, was mainly reserved to the rulers of the society, and the eight points of the four arms of the cross represent the eight qualities of a noble knight: Loyalty, Nobility, Generosity, Justice, Mercy, Bravery, Piety and Hope.

Those who were considered as a second class, such as the knights, had to wear a necklace portraying the symbol of the dragon and the red cross of St. George. Moreover, during ceremonies, every member was expected to wear red garments and a green mantle.

In spite of that, every member was required to wear at all times the “Signum Draconis” (latin for: The Sign of Draconists), as it placed a sacred trust and held a remembrance that they were all bound for life. The symbol and the necklace, were prowess and fealty, service-ability and service. They were also considered sacred trusts because they served life, light and love.

Military activities

Military debacle knight ” Order of the Dragon ” experience when trying to attack 1410. ( From the south ) to the Kingdom of Poland ( polj. Królestwo Polskie ) . The conflict was part of the poor ( and insincere ) support the king of Hungary his allies Teutonic Knights , in their conflict with an intense Polish -Lithuanian coalition. Practically , during the whole of German- Polish conflict , King Sigismund only briefly tried to undermine the Poles , expecting the political, economic and military weakening both sides the same , ie extracting benefit for themselves . He is obviously trying to use a member of the Order , not only to fight against the Turks , or for some more goals , but also for their personal interests , so for example on May 16, 1412th year , called on all members of the “Order of the Dragon ” to preparing for war against the Friedrich – IV (1382-1439) Duke called . Front of Austria (ruled : 1402-1439 ) and Duke of Tyrol ( 1406-1439 ) , or his brother Ernst I von Habsburg ‘s ( 1377-1424 ) , Austrian dukes and members of the Order . Despite the popular belief that the Knights ‘ Order of the Dragon ” were invincible , the reality was much dugačija , ie . It all came down to the individual abilities of individuals . Accidents of this knightly order was that it was founded on the tradition of warfare without significant use of firearms , and they fought the very time its all important applications. This proved fatal for the nobles , members of the Order in the number of large losses ( 1420, 1421, 1422, 1426, 1427, 1431 ) , which has suffered Sigismund von Luxemburg , king of Hungary (reigned : 1387-1437 ) and Holy Roman Emperor (reigned : 1433-1437) into the so-called . The Hussite Wars ( 1420-1434 ) . Tactics ” Hussites ” was adapted for maximum efficiency increasingly popular firearm , but also they are not slaves to the rigid rules of knightly warfare , which proved to be a very good tactical potez.Uspehe or partial success , he is the king Sigismund and his knightly order , only the battles the Apennines ( Italy today ) and Hum peninsula.

Pan-European knights tournament when the great Hungarian Parliament and the accompanying pan-European knightly tournament , which was staged on May 22, 1412th year , in Buda , by the Hungarian King Sigismund ‘s, in honor of the Polish king Władysław II Jagiełło , gathered and numerous members of the ” Order of dragon. ” This is a very luxurious and a great set of rulers and nobles to whom it was said as many as 17 jezika.Sve anticipated , knight – Tournament ceremony , held in the city of Buda and the Danube on a nearby island Čepelj (Hungarian: Csepel – sziget ) . We should not forget that they all came from his company, and got there and a lot of players , trumpeters and a variety of service, which arrived as a mighty entourage feudalaca.Na said tournament came as three kings, one despot , 13 captains, 21 Count, 26 nobles (excluding Hungary ), and one cardinal, three archbishops , 11 bishops , 1,500 knights and 3,000 pages in the . Among those attending nobles were knights from all over Europe, Russia, Lithuania , Poland, Czech Republic , Prussia , Germany, Austria , Hungary, Wallachia , Moldavia , Serbije , Croatia, Bosnia , Turkey, Tatar country , Greece, Epirus ( Albania ), Italy , France and England . Bosnia’s (each with his entourage ) came four leading nobles , at the invitation of the Hungarian king Sigismund von Luxemburg ‘s. So they got there : – King Stephen Ostoja (ruled : 1398-1404 and 1412-1418 ) – Grand Duke Hrvoje Vukčić ( 1350-1416 ) – Grand Duke Sandalj Hranić harvestmen ( 1370-1435 ) – Prince Paul Radenović – Jablanović (13 ? -1415 ) , only his name is not explicitly mentioned in the tournament , but only “ein Graf von Bossen ” – but all historians agree that at the time only four nobles controlled Bosnia ( which are listed here noblemen ), and that Paul must have been in this knightly games. From Serbske despotate this tournament is accompanied by his leading the Knights / Warriors came despot Stefan Lazarevic , the first knight of the “Order of the Dragon .” It was noted that at the time was handsome and he sowed ” a star next to the moon ,” and also that his entourage had 1,000 horses . With this despot in the wake came a serbski Bishop . Attentive Polish chronicler , noted that the European nobility came to Buda with 40,000 horses . There were Tatars (representatives of the Golden Horde) , the aristocratic delegation of Turkish pretender to the position of Sultan Mehmed I – Čelebia ( 1382-1421 ) , Lithuanian Vytautas ( Witold ) – Large, Germans Sigismund von Luxemburg , Heinrich von Plauen ( 1370-1429 ) , 27 – my great master of the Teutonic order of knights, Hermann II . von Cilli and Frederick II von Cilli , Hungarian Nicholas II Garai , Austrians Ernst von Habsburg and Albrecht II . von Habsburg, Croats Ivan and Ivan Marotić Kurjaković , Polish Władysław II Jagiello Dobka z Oleśnicy , Mikołaj z Powai Taczewa , and ( from an influential clan Ostoja ) Ścibor ze Ściborzyc , Ścibor Jedrzny , Mikołaj Bydgoski ze Ściborzyc , Zawisza Czarny z Garbow and his brother Firlej z Garbow , … etc. . During these knightly competitions especially stood out with his stasitošću and courage (Alta et procerae , staturae , strenui et ANIMOSE ) Knights of Bosnia , which led serbski Duke Hrvoje Vukčić . It is understood that the competition took place in the various disciplines of chivalry , and one became famous knight serbski Despot Stefan Lazarevic , speaking so . ” Wreath of victory .” The overall winner of the tournament in the category of knights was a Polish knight Zawisza Czarny z Garbow , known as the ” Black Knight ” . As a reward , Zawisza got horses , potkovanog Golden Horseshoe and covered with a gorgeous mantle. Nicknamed ” The Black Knight ” got the black armor in which he fought . Zawisza is up to the tournament in Buda, was known for his victories in many knightly tournaments , and here he managed to take the victory and in the presence of no less than 1,500 for the Knights . Historians are we saved by the fact that he took the win and 1416th year to another great knights’ tournament in Perpignan ( in the province of Roussillon , in southern France ) . The pages in the category , winning in Buda He took an Austrian , who also won the award as a horse , but this time potkovanog silver horseshoes and covered with decorative mantle. Buda celebration continued for a week , after the knight tournaments and organized a trip to the hunt (near Buda ) , and then the guests returned to Budapest on holiday Telova , when on June 2, 1412th year , held a magnificent and splendor to distinctively procession / parade through the city.


Stefan Lazar, Prince of Serbia

Stefan Lazarevic (Serbian: Стефан Лазаревић) known also as Stevan the Tall (Стеван Високи; c. 1374 / 19 July 1427) was the son of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović (кнез Лазар Хребељановић) and a ruler of Serbia. He held a title of prince (1389-1402) and despot (1402-1427). In his time he was regarded as one of the finest knights and military leaders, and because of his literature works he is regarded as one of the best Serbian writers in the Middle ages. After the death of his father on the Kosovo Field in 1389, he became ruler of Moravian Serbia and ruled with his mother Milica Hrebeljanović (Милица Хребељановић), until he reached adulthood in 1393. His reign and his personal literary works are sometimes associated with early signs of the Renaissance in Serbian lands. He introduced knightly tournaments, modern battle tactics, and firearms to Serbia.

As an Ottoman vassal, Lazarevic was leader of Serbian auxiliary squads in battle of Rovine, Nicopolis and Angora. After the battle of Angora, Lazarevic received, from Byzantines in Constantinople, the title of despot in 1402. In the year 1403-1404 he became vassal of Hungarian king Sigismund and received Mačva, Belgrade (which became Lazarevic’s capital in 1405), Golubac and other domains, such as Srebrnica in 1411.

After the Ottoman defeat on Angora, civil war erupted in the empire and also clashes among Serbian nobility. First, between Lazarević and Branković, secondly between Stefan and his younger brother Vuk. Clashes in Serbia has ended in 1412, with the conciliation of Stefan and his nephew Đurađ. After the death of Balša III Balšić, he inherited kingdom of Zeta and waged the war against Venetians. Since he didn’t have any children, on the assembly in Srebrnica (1426), Stefan proclaimed his nephew Đurađ Branković as his heir.

On the domestic front, he broke the resistance of the Serbian nobles, and used the periods of peace to strengthen Serbia politically, economically, culturally and military. On the 29th January 1412 he issued the “Code of mines” (Законик о рудницима), with a separate section on governing of Novo Brdo – the largest mine in the Balkans at that time. This code increased the development of mining in Serbia, which has been the main economic backbone of Serbian Despotate. At the time of his death, Serbia was one of the largest silver producers in Europe. In the field of architecture, he continued development of Morava school.

He was a great patron of the arts and culture by providing shelter and support to scholars from Serbia, and refugees from neighboring countries that have been taken by the Ottomans. In addition, he was himself a writer, and his most important work is “The Discourse of Love,” which is characterized by the Renaissance lines. Beside despot’s literature work, in this period there were other authors such as Constantine the Philosopher and Gregory Tsamblak. During his reign Resava copying school has been formed.

Stefan was the son of Lazar and his wife Milica, a lateral line of Nemanjić. Hrebeljanović’s father Prince Vratko was a direct descendant of Vukan, eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. In addition to Stefan, they had seven other children.

Stefan was the son of Prince Lazar, whom he succeeded in 1389. Nikola Zojić attempted to overthrow Stefan Lazarević at the end of 14th century and used Ostrvica as haven after his attempt failed.[6] Lazarević participated as an Ottoman vassal in the Battle of Rovine in 1395, the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, and in the Battle of Ankara in 1402. He became the Despot of Serbia in 1402 after the Ottoman state temporarily collapsed following Timur’s invasion of Anatolia with the Battle of Ankara, where he and his Serbian Knights fought well and a good portion of his forces survived.Then stopping at Constantinople on his way home,he was well received by the Emperor who granted him the title of Despot by which he was to be known from then on and by which his successors were also to be known. At first Stefan’s policy seems to have been to take advantage of Ankhara to shed Ottoman vassalage and to assert Serbia’s independence. Stefan’s nephew George Brankovic who had no love for Stefan soon lined up with Suleyman a son of Bayezid (Ottoman Sultan 1389-1402) against Stefan. Not surprisingly Stefan was receptive when Sigismund of Hungary approached him for an alliance.Sigismund was very generous in his terms. He offered Stefan Lazarevic Macva including Beograde for Stefans lifetime if he would accept Hungarian suzerainty for it. In the interim, In November 1402 Stefan defeated Brankovics’s forces (which included troops from Suleyman) at Tripolje. At this time Stefan also acquired from Sigismund the important fortress of Golubac on the Danube.In 1403 he proclaimed Belgrade his capital. He built a fortress with a citadel which was destroyed during the Great Turkish War in 1690; only the Despot Stefan Tower remains today.

Stefan II became an ally of the Kingdom of Hungary and a knight of a special order, so when the Hungarian king Sigismund renewed the Order of the Dragon (Societas draconistrarum) in 1408, Despot Stefan Lazarević was the first on the list of members. In 1404, Sigismund gave Lazarević land in the present-day Vojvodina (and Pannonian part of present-day Belgrade), including Zemun (today part of Belgrade), Slankamen, Kupinik, Mitrovica, Bečej, and Veliki Bečkerek. In 1417, Apatin is also mentioned among his possessions. Under his rule, he issued a Code of Mines in 1412 in Novo Brdo, the economic center of Serbia. In his legacy, Resava-Manasija monastery (Pomoravlje District), he organized the Resava School, a center for correcting, translating, and transcribing books.

Stefan Lazarević died suddenly in 1427, leaving the throne to his nephew Đurađ Branković. His deeds eventually elevated him into sainthood, and the Serbian Orthodox Church honors him on August 1. Despot Stefan is buried in the monastery Koporin which he had built in 1402, as he did the bigger and more famous Manasija monastery in 1407. In fact, Manasija was intended as his own burial place, but due to a sudden nature of his death in perilous times it was his brother Vuk that is buried there.

Apart from the biographical notes in charters and especially in the Code on The Mine Novo Brdo (1412)

Stefan Lazarević wrote three original literary works:

The Grave Sobbing for prince Lazar (1389)

The Inscription on the Kosovo Marble Column (1404)

Founding members of the order: 

Sigismund von Luxemburg, King of Hungary

Stefan Lazar, Prince of Serbia


Count Hermannus Zagoriae

Nicolae of Gara, the palatine of Hungary

Alfonso V, King of Aragon

Cristophe III of Danemark

Stibor of Stiboricz

Joannes son of Henry and Thamassy

Pipo Zewreniensis of Ozora, Lebanon

Nicolaus of Zeech Teutonic Royal Master

Corbauia of Charles, the last king’s treasurer

Symon Konye Zecheen

John of Corbauia, the steward

Joannes son of George Alsaan Butler

Petrus of Lewa aganzonum royal master

Nicolaus de Chak

Ernest of Austria

Bishop Ladislau II

Paulus Byssenus, Governor of Dalmatia

Michael, Son of Solomon king of Sicily

Petrus de Peren

Emericus Ham secretary of the royal chancellor

Joannes, son of the late Lord Nicholas of Gara palatine

Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic, Grand Duke of Bosnia

Other famous members:

Vlad Dracul II, Prince of Wallachia

Stibor of Stiboricz, Voivode of Transylvania

Vladislas II of Bohemia and Hungary

Nicolae Perenyi, General of King Sigismund
Pipo de Ozora, Confidant of King Sigismund

Talloci Francisc, General of King Sigismund

Lazar Stefan IV, Son of Prince Lazar

Nicholas Garay II, Palatine of Hungary

Hermann II, Count of Celje

Bethlen Gabriel, Prince of Transylvania

Lazar Andras, a notable Szeckler

Lazar Janos I, Son of Andras

Lazar Istvan IV, Confidant of Bethlen Gabriel

Lazar Ferenc

Lazar Gheorghe

Famous associates and allies of the order:

 Padova and Verona, Leaders of Venezia

Oswald von Wolkenstein

Henry V of England

Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

King Ladislas of Poland