Military monastic orders

Military orders arose from the Crusades. Their members took the standard monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but were warriors who had dedicated their lives and their arms to the service of Christ. We have already noted the Knights of the Sword and the Teutonic Knights. More famous were the Templars and Hospitallers. The former were founded in 1119 with headquarters near the temple site in Jerusalem. Their purpose was to protect pilgrims and fight in defense of the Holy Land. They were popular as symbols and guardians of the Holy Places and became wealthy through the gifts of the pious. Wealth brought them enemies and their independence of the bishops, aroused the dislike of these ecclesiastics. In 1312 the Pope suppressed the order and much of its property went to the Hospitallers. The Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John, were based upon a hospital in Jerusalem near the church of St. John Baptist which had been originally founded by Charlemagne. As their name indicates, the first purpose of the Hospitallers was to care for the sick, but in the twelfth century they were made into a military order. They long maintained headquarters on the island of Rhodes and then (until 1798) on Malta. There were other crusading orders, among them one in Portugal, the Order of Christ, which succeeded to the property of the Templars in that kingdom. One of its Grand Masters, Prince Henry the Navigator, in the fifteenth century directed the exploring expeditions along the west coast of Africa which were to outflank the Moslem world and prepare the way for the extensive spread of Christianity in the South and East of Asia.

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