Templars: The Round Church

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

Jerusalem lies at the centre of all medieval maps, and became the centre of the crusader’s world.  This became known throughout the world, as the most sacred place in the most sacred city, the supposed site of the burial of Jesus: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

It was here, the Crusader’s inherited a round church, and it was the goal of every pilgrim, who came under the protection of the Knights Templar, to reach the holiest site of all, and give prayer to their God.  For this was the building of all buildings on earth, that must be defended at all costs from its enemies… Many would lay down their lives, defending it at all costs.

The Templar’s built many round churches across Europe, and recreated the sanctity of the most holy place: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  In their eyes they believed if one was buried in a round church, it was as though they had been buried in Jerusalem.

Tomb of William the Marshall

Tomb of William Marshal

One who would be honoured in this way was William the Marshal, Earl of Pembroke who died in 1219, he had been adviser to King John and Regent to the boy King: Henry III.

Marshal who had taken the cross as an old man, laid recumbent with effigies of his sons in defence of their father.

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Scottish Poet and Freemason: Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Freemasonry has no greater name in its ranks, other than that of Robert Burns (Rabbie Burns). Higher tribute there is none for any man to say, justly, that the world is gentler and more joyous for his having lived; and that may truly be said of Robert Burns, whose very name is an emblem of pity, joy and brotherly love.

Robert Burns was born on the 25th January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland in a two roomed cottage, the home of a tenant farmer. His parents being William Burnes and Agnes Broun, who ran a small market garden.

In 1766, William Burnes faced a dilemma, he could no longer earn enough to support his growing family. The family set up home at Mount Oliphant Farm, a few miles down the road. It was at this time, William saw to it that his gifted son Robert received some form of education. By the spring of 1777 the family left Mount Oliphant before William faced financial ruin, and moved to Lochlea Farm.

The problems faced by William Burnes and other farmers at that time, was the short lease system, granted to farmers. If a farmer improved his land, he would find the rent would increase when it was time to renew his lease. So it was, they attempted to scrape a living from the poor soil, as best they could. William Burnes was one of these farmers.

On the 4th July 1781, aged just twenty-two Burns was initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry at St.David’s Lodge, Tarbolton as an Apprentice. The Second and Third degrees were conferred upon him that very night following his initiation.

In February 1781, peasant farmer William Burnes died. Robert and his brother Gilbert rented the farm of Mossgiel, from lawyer Gavin Hamilton. Robert would spend little time on the farm, he let his brother Gilbert take over the running of it, as he spent more time on his writing and love of women.

On the 27th July 1784, Burns was elected Depute Master of St.James Lodge at Tarbolton, a position he held until St.John’s Day 1788.

In 1785 Robert Burns had an affair with household servant, one Elizabeth Paton, which bore a child out of wedlock.

In 1785/86 Robert Burns had an affair with Jean Armour, resulting in the birth of twins in 1786, much to her father’s displeasure. The couple announced they be married, but Jean was forced into requesting an annulment by her father.

In 1786 Robert Burns released his book of “Kilmarnock Poems” which received much praise from his critics and public alike. In the same year he moved to Edinburgh as his fame as a poet grew, where he mingled within literary circles.

On the 26th October 1786, Burns was made an honary member of St.John’s Lodge, Kilmarnock, with the designation of being a “Poet.” Major William Parker master of the lodge, became a great friend of Burns, to the point of subscribing to thirty-five copies of his collection of poems.

In 1787 Burns was made a Royal Arch Mason in Eyemouth

With fame as a poet, Jean Armour’s Mason father consented to an official marriage between Robert Burns and Jean Armour in 1788.

Success was short lived, but Burns the poet had a family to support, and so in 1791 relocated to Dumfries to take up the position of an excise officer.

Burns had another love, collecting and composing traditional Scottish songs. He will always be remembered for his composition “ Auld Lang Syne” sung across the world, in celebration of New Year.

Robert Burns, famed Scottish poet died in Dumfries in 1796 at the age of 37. He lived for the day, his love was writing, women and drink, leaving behind a trail of illegitimate children and broken relationships.

Transformation: The Baltics

The Crusaders

The Baltic Crusades of 11th to 15th century formed the transformation of the Baltic region from pagan farming peasants paying tribute to which Lord prevailed to rule them, to the Christianized, market-oriental, foundation of modern Baltic society.

The rise and fall of the knighthood became indicative of the changes that occurred.  The knighthood institution represented Medieval European values, and the incursion of knightly orders into the Baltic countries, despite strong resistance from pagan people.  The Germans and Scandinavians who played their part in the Baltic Crusades, left critical political and social footprints, that affected historical Baltic events, that would evolve into the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Baltic Crusades; part of the Catholic crusading movement comprised of five main Crusades that took place between 1096 and 1221.  The Crusades; armed pilgrimages called for and blessed by the Pope, its main aim to reclaim Jerusalem and surrounding territory.  The enemies of Crusaders in the Holy Land were primarily followers of Islam.  In the 12th century, the balance of power shifted, the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople and the seat of the Christian Byzantine Empire attracted Crusader interest.  In the Baltic Crusades in Europe, motivation was more about acquisition of land and power rather than holiness.  An incentive put forward to these Crusaders by the Pope, was eternal salvation.

Crusader success in the conversion to Catholicism was much higher in the Baltic Crusades.  By the 13th century, all but the Lithuanians had converted to Catholicism.

Crusades against Baltic People

Baltic Crusade Knights

When one thinks of the Crusades, we think of the 11th – 13th century Muslim wars in the Holy Land.  However, another Crusade was going on in Eastern Europe; The Baltic Crusades.

Crusades against the Baltic people, was the forced expansion and occupation of the Baltic lands.  This occupation was performed by European nations.  No heroic deeds took place, no legendary battles fought in the name of freedom and honour.

The purpose of the Baltic Crusades was to bring culture to degenerated pagan tribes of the Baltic’s.  A people who lived like animals.

Battles and conflicts existed between Baltic people and its invaders.  Local tribes fought each other, plundering wealth and slaves.  They even aggravated surrounding countries like Denmark and Sweden, attacking merchant ships and joining in Scandinavian wars for power.  Old Prussian forces would strike out at the Poles, whilst Lithuanian and Latvian tribes plundered Russian borders.

All this changed in 1193, when Pope Celestine III called for a Crusade against the Pagan Baltic’s.

Baltic Crusades: Holy Frontiers

Crucifixion - Giotto

The Catholic Church sensed an intrusion by the Russian Orthodox Church, making inroads into the Baltic lands, and in the conversion of its people.

Meinhard, an Augustinian monk from Holstein, travelled by way of the Dauvaga River in the latter part of the 12th century.  His mission was to convert the people of Livoniato, building the first church and creating a Christian community.  His successor, Bishop Berthold used crusaders in the conversion of its people by force.  1198 is considered the starting point of the Baltic Crusades.

Bishop Albert successor to Berthold established the Swordbrothers, a Crusading Order in 1202, who received papal blessing in 1204, and by 1208 had converted the Kur and Lett people to Christianity by forcible means.  Bishop Albert established the City of Riga, a city built upon by merchants and crusaders.  He became a strong leader and fended off the Danish forces, prior to his death in 1229.

Baltic Crusades: Latvia

Catholic Preachers of Baltic Crusades

In the year 1180, Catholic preachers arrived in Latvia with German merchants by way of old Viking trading routes along the Daugava River.  Upon arrival, they established communities, built churches, went forth preaching and performing baptisms among the Livonian people.

These “Holy” men were welcomed by the pagan tribes of this land.  However, things changed, when Livonian’s refused to convert to the new religion, only then did the Catholic preachers show their true colours, by calling upon armed forces to aid them in their goal.

In the early years of the 14th century, after countless and bloodied battles, that the lands of Latvia and Estonia were eventually captured by German forces, and converted to Catholicism.

The new religion; Christianity saw the people of Latvia and Estonia baptized by force.  As many parts of this new religion was not forced upon the Baltic tribes, thousand’s of its people continued to practice their pagan customs and beliefs.

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