The Templars and the Hospitallers, 1274-1565: Disaster and Adaptation
OF the three great international Military Orders whose chief function, in 1274, was the defence of the Holy Land, the most successful in the late Middle Ages was the Teutonic Order. Its achievements in colonizing and governing Prussia and Livonia, and in waging a prolonged war against Lithuania, will be recounted in Chapter 11.1 The older Orders of the Hospital and the Temple followed very different paths. The Knights of St John found the task of adaptation to changing circumstances after 1291 a painful one. Although they quickly succeeded in finding a new base for their operations at Rhodes, more than a century passed before they evolved a new role as a front-line power in Christendom's struggle against the Turks; and that role was essentially a reactive one, the result of Ottoman successes and the gradual realization, at Rhodes and in the West, of the island-fortress's strategic importance. As for the Templars, the trial and suppression of their entire Order between 1307 and 1312 represented a catastrophic sequence of events whose causality and significance remain highly problematic.
In their attempt to explain the destruction of the Templars, historians have naturally paid considerable attention to the activities and reputation of both the Templars and the Hospitallers during the decades leading up to the trial. This has meant examining the role played by the two Orders in the last years of Latin Syria, and assessing the changing public image of the Orders in the West. It is clear that the Orders exercised an impact on the political life of the Frankish states in Syria which grew as the thirteenth century progressed. This occurred both because of the weakness and confused condition of the monarchy in the Kingdom of Jerusalem,____________________