The Holy Land…

The Eastern Roman Empire were the custodians of the Holy Land…

The Roman Emperor Constantine was the first Emperor to convert to Christianity, after witnessing a cross in the sky, along with his entire army.  However, his spiritual growth did not happen overnight.  For it was some years later, in 300 AD that Emperor Constantine became a Christian.  Shortly thereafter he moved his headquarters to the Holy City of Constantinople.

Constantine devoted himself completely to God, and chose to immerse himself in the inspired writings.  He made the priests of God, his closest advisers, for he believed it was his duty to pay homage to the God who had appeared to him, in his vision of the cross.

In the year 614AD, the Holy Land was lost to the Persians, and in 636AD Mohammed the Arab, claimed a new religion under his Islamic banner, as he captured Jerusalem.

In Norman times the Turks originally from present day Kazakhstan over ran Persia, converted to Islam, and expanded eastwards to rule the Holy Land and Egypt and to threaten Anatolia, to the east of the Bosporus.  The Byzantine Emperor Romanus set forth from Constantinople to annihilate the Islamic Turks but instead at the land-mark battle of Manzikert (1071) the Christian East Roman armies were routed by the mounted archers of the Turks.  This battle proved to the Muslims that they could beat a crack Christian army, and for the next five hundred years the Islamic Turks steadily advanced westwards, conquering all of Europe east of Hungary except Austria, until they captured the Christian city of Constantinople.  After Manzikert, the Emperor of Constantinople asked the Pope in Rome for military support. 

Unfortunately, Pope Urban II saw the request as an opportunity not only to push the Muslims out of Anatolia but also to recapture Jerusalem for Rome, thus pulling a fast one over his Christian theological rivals in Constantinople.

Had the two Christian groups worked together the outcome might have been different and today’s problem’s in modern day Jerusalem non-existent.  However, the same could be said for the Muslims who were then as now split between the Sunni and Shia factions.

Generally speaking, the Crusades were a failure.  The first actually recovered Jerusalem and Antioch but the Turks were too powerful and the Christians were expelled.  English King Richard I was involved in the 3rd Crusade but his main achievement was taking Cyprus from the Christian Byzantium’s and neglecting his subjects back home.  The 4th Crusade during the reign of England’s King John coincides when England lost most of its possessions in France.  This Crusade is remembered for the Crusaders diverting from their intended target of Jerusalem, to the headquarters of their allies in Constantinople, with the intention of looting the city, which they did having been invited through the city gates by those who thought they be friends.

There were eight crusades in all.  The first during the reign of King William II and the last in the reign of King Henry III.  Plantagenet King Richard I was the most famous crusader from the line of English Kings but was so involved that his English subjects hardly ever saw him, and his French lands were neglected.

Knights Templar: St.George’s Cross

Knights Templar Cross

The red cross on a white background, was associated with the Knights Templar, and by 1188, the English and French troops of Phillip II of France and Henry II of England, proudly displayed it, as part of their tunic.

It became a symbol, worn by many troops, announcing they be warriors fighting crusades in the Holy Land.

So where does the Red Cross on a white background originate from?

One Georgios Gerontios, born of the 3rd century, a tribune in the Roman Army; imprisoned, tortured and finally beheaded on the 23rd April AD303 in Nicomedia, for not turning from his Christian faith.  On the 23rd April, he became known as Saint George.

Stories were written of this martyr; Saint George through the ages.  His reputation grew as warriors returning from the crusades, spoke of Saint George leading them into battle, wearing upon his person the red cross on a white background… it gave the troops confidence in battle.

On the 28th June 1098, crusaders at the siege of Antioch, stated that a great army on white horses, led by Saint George led them into battle.

So it was, the Red Cross on a white background was adopted in the 12th century by Genoa, with Saint George as their patron.

The Red Cross was worn by English troops during the reign of Edward I in the 1270’s.  In 1348 Edward III established a premier order of Knighthood in England, with Saint George as its patronage.

There is no historical proof, that Saint George is linked with the Red Cross on a white background.  Saying that, when warriors talk of being led into battle by Saint George, one believes a connection could have existed.

During the reign of Henry V, many soldiers believed they witnessed Saint George fighting at the “Battle of Agincourt” for the English in 1415, where they achieved victory.

The legend of Saint George, a Knight who died a martyrs death for his Christian faith, a knightly figure who many believe comes to their assistance in battle, wearing the red cross emblazoned across his chest.  As the Knights Templar also wore, when they were first created.

Is there a connection between Saint George, the Red Cross and the Knights Templar.  I will let you make up your own mind…

Image: Wikipedia

Origin of the Crusades

Ten Commandments a

The Ten Commandments

To understand the history of the Knights Templar and the Crusades in the Holy Land, we have to go back in time some 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus.

King Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem

King Solomon’s Temple

In the year 993 BC, King David conquered Jerusalem and between 958-951 BC, David’s son Solomon built a temple to his God;  “King Solomon’s Temple.”  In the temple’s inner sanctum, known as the “Holy of Holies” was housed the “Ark of the Covenant.”  A wooden casket designed to hold the stone tablets, upon which were carved the laws of the land; “The Ten Commandments,” which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.

For the Jewish nation, Jerusalem is significant, for it is where Abraham would prove himself to God, by sacrificing his own son; Isaac.  God stepped in, and sent a Ram for sacrificial purposes.

Sacrifice of Isaac - Tiepolo

Sacrifice of Isaac

Genesis Chapter 32 v 12-13
He said “Do not lay hands on the lad or do anything to him; for now that I know you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, from me.”  Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Crucifixion - Giotto


Jerusalem was also the city where the son of a carpenter; Jesus was condemned to death by crucifixion, upon the order’s of Pontius Pilate, and rose from the dead.  Overnight, Jerusalem became a place of Christian pilgrimage.

According to history, Solomon’s Temple is said to have been twice the size of the Tabernacle and the centre piece in Jerusalem.  It was built by Phoenician craftsmen over a seven year period.  The inner walls were lined in gold, with marble blocks and fine emeralds adorning the temple.

Upon the death of King Solomon, he was succeeded by his son; Rehoboam who became King of Israel.  In the fifth year of his reign, Shishak the King of Egypt, ransacked Solomon’s Temple and for the next 367 years it lay in decline, for its wealth, splendour and importance was gone.

In the year 586 BC, the Babylonians led by King Nebuchadnezzar totally destroyed Solomon’s Temple.

The construction of the Second Temple started in 535 BC and was completed in 515 BC.

Persian rule of the area, gave way to Greek rulers, followed later by the Romans.

Herod the Great remained ruler under Roman rule from 47-04BC.  He was responsible for enlarging the Second Temple with courts and walls.  The work was started in 20 BC and took eighty-three years to complete.

In 70 AD, the Jews rose up and revolted against their Roman Rulers, and Titus their Roman General, later known as Caesar replied by besieging the city, which led to the destruction of the Second Temple by fire.

In 326 AD, Hadrian’s Temple had been built by the Roman’s to their God; Venus built on Calvary and was torn down by order of Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.

Temple Mount - Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock

In 691 a shrine was built upon the site and called “Dome of the Rock” with the Al-Aqsa mosque built alongside by 715.  Some two earthquakes later, it had been destroyed.

In 1035 a new Al-Aqsa mosque was built upon the former site.  Around 1118, part of the site became the headquarters in the Holy Land for the Knights Templar.

By 1056 the Muslims refused Christian pilgrim’s access to Jerusalem, yet they still kept coming.  In 1064 the pilgrim situation had worsened, which led to the slaughter of hundreds of Christian pilgrims, as they neared Jerusalem.

By 1071, Seljuks a Turkish tribe had captured the Holy Land, and many sacred places were desecrated or even destroyed.

In 1074, the Byzantine Emperor; Michael VII pleaded with Pope Gregory VII, for help… he who had expected mercenaries would come to his rescue, was disappointed when his call went unanswered.

In 1095 the Byzantine Emperor; Alexius I appealed to the Council of Piacenza for help against the Seldjuk Turks.

Pope Urban II

Pope Urban II

On the 27th November 1095, at The Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II preached about the oppression being inflicted upon Christians in the Middle East by Muslim Seljuks.  He called upon knights and warriors to pick up their arms, and fight as one; “Warriors for God.”  Wear his cross as your badge, and if you be killed, know your sins will be pardoned.

Peter the Hermit, a French monk upon hearing the speech given by his Pope, believed it be his duty to rally support, for a crusade to the Holy Land and free Christians and preserve the Holy Sepulchre.

Dressed in nothing more than a coarse cloth robe tied at the waist with a rope, with no shoes upon his feet.  This humble monk travelled across Italy, France and Germany, preaching in churches and streets, enlisting an army to join with him, on a crusade to the Holy Land.

Peasants Crusade

Peoples Crusade

Thousands of warriors, men, women and children went on the “People’s Crusade” led by “Peter the Hermit,” in April 1096.  Each wore the emblem of the cross upon their shoulder.  They had no provisions, and intended to live off the land.

When the army of Peter the Hermit, reached Cologne, they called a halt to take advantage of the food supplies on offer.

The first known holocaust of the Crusades, would take place against German Jews, by bands of followers, claiming to be followers of Peter the Hermit, against Rhineland towns of Mainz, Cologne, Spier, Trier, Worms and Metz.

The Jewish communities came face to face with forced baptisms into the Christian faith, and refusal led to death.

Massacre of Jews

Massacre of Jews

These communities were unlucky, for they lay in the path of Crusader’s on route to Jerusalem.  Many were murdered, homes and synagogues destroyed, and money shared among unscrupulous Crusader’s.

The Jews of Mainz, upon hearing of the slaughter in other towns, feared for their lives against an army out of control.  They sought shelter with Bishop Ruothard, placing their treasures and life, firmly in his hands.

Count Emich, an enemy of the Jews; showed no mercy towards the old and young women, and slew their young men.

On the 27th May 1096, Emich and his follower’s attacked the Bishop’s Palace with death in their hearts.

Emich’s forces fought these men of Israel at the gatehouse, and overwhelmed them, they had chance against battle hardened warriors.  As they moved into the courtyard, the Bishop’s men had fled leaving the Jews at the mercy of Emich; they were slaughtered.

Those located within the Palace, knew they faced a horrific death.  “There is none like God and we can do nothing better than to sacrifice our life to him,” was shouted out… The men and women slaughtered their off-spring, then each other, rather than be butchered.

Walter the Penniless also known as Walter Sans Avoir, chose to take some of the army and continue on their quest.  As they passed through Semlin in Hungary, disputes broke out when his warriors stole food.  At Belgrade they pillaged the surrounding area for food, as the harvest had not been gathered.  The Belgrade garrison attacked Walter’s forces; some 60 who took shelter in a chapel were burnt alive.

Supplies were sent by Alexius Comnenus and an escape to march them into Constantinople.

Peter the Hermit following up behind Walter the Penniless reached Semlin, only to discover spoils taken from Walter’s men were displayed on the city walls.

At Constantinople Peter’s army were welcomed, but lack of supplies for such a large army, led to attacks and thefts from surrounding villages.  It had been suggested by Emperor Alexius that Peter’s forces should wait for the fully trained forces of the first crusade before they moved on.  However the pressure on feeding the people of Constantinople and Peter’s army forced their departure.

The People’s Crusade moved on to Civetot a former army base, where they attacked surrounding area in search of food.  They came under attack, when the base was attacked by Turks, who slaughtered most of the crusaders.

Peter the Hermit joined with the forces of Godfrey of Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade.  Whose armies had departed for Byzantium in the August of 1096, led by; Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Godfrey of Bouillon, Hugh of Vermandois and Bohemond of Taranto.

The first target for these crusaders, eager for battle was the fortress city of Nicea, which was taken with ease.

The second target was Antioch, a strongly protected Turkish city, which took seven months to crack.  The city of Antioch was developed into a Norman State within the Holy Land.

It is believed some 70,000 people died during a massacre of Jews and Muslims after the city had been taken by the Crusader’s.  The streets of Jerusalem, were said to run red with blood.  The city was ransacked for treasure.

Finally on the 15th July 1099, the Turks surrendered.  The Muslim flag was torn down and replaced by a banner flying a single cross.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was created with Godfrey of Bouillon as its first King.  Upon his death, he was succeeded by his brother; Baldwin of Boulogne in 1100.

Four large settlements; Jerusalem, Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli were established, each guarded by castles, giving the Crusader’s the upper hand in the region.  This lasted until the fall of Edessa in 1144.

Peter the Hermit, a French monk from Amiens, preached from the Mount of Olives, and shortly afterwards returned to Europe where upon he founded a monastery in France, and lived out the remainder of life there, until his death in 1131.

(Images) King Solomon’s Temple – Sacrifice of Isaac – Pope Urban II: Wikipedia
(Images) Massacre of Jews – Peoples Crusade: Wikipedia
(Image) Sacrifice of Isaac: Tiepolo   Crucifixion: Giotto
(Image) Solomon’s Temple: ishareimage