Simon Phillips

title.none: Bronstein, The Hospitallers and the Holy Land (Simon Phillips)

identifier.other: baj9928.0706.013 07.06.13

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Simon Phillips, Winchester University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Bronstein, Judith. The Hospitallers and the Holy Land: Financing the Latin East 1187-1274. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. x, 190. $90.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 1-84383-131-7, ISBN-13: 978-1-81843-131-0 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.06.13

Bronstein, Judith. The Hospitallers and the Holy Land: Financing the Latin East 1187-1274. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. x, 190. $90.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 1-84383-131-7, ISBN-13: 978-1-81843-131-0 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Simon Phillips
Winchester University

In the last fifteen years, even if we limit ourselves to publications in English, studies on the Hospitallers have diversified greatly, in both focus and chronology. Building on the pioneering works of Anthony Luttrell and Jonathan Riley-Smith, three fine general histories of the Order have appeared (Sire, 1994; Riley-Smith, 1999; Nicholson, 2001), and contemporary research has dealt with subjects, to name but a few, as diverse as Hospitaller relations with commercial powers in the Mediterranean (Mallia-Milanes, 1992), Hospitaller medicine (Savona- Ventura, 2004), Hospitaller women (Luttrell and Nicholson, 2006), local studies on particular commanderies (Nicholson, 2005; Tapper, 2005), regional studies (Borchardt, 1999; Selwood, 1999), and studies that aimed to bridge the gap between centre and periphery (O'Malley, 2005; Burgtorf and Nicholson, 2006).[1]

Into this last category comes another fine volume from Boydell, in which Dr. Bronstein has enhanced her doctoral thesis (supervised by Riley-Smith), discussing the Hospitallers as an organisation, and how they contributed to the survival of the Christian settlements in the East. The book covers a crucial stage in Hospitaller history, from the battle of Hattin until the Second Council of Lyons, stopping short of the Hospitallers' expulsion from the Holy Land in 1291, after the loss of Acre. Bronstein argues that Hattin had a profound effect on the Hospitallers, confirming them in their role as a military order, and altering their economic policies in the western provinces. After Hattin, their investments in land and property came secondary to the need to transfer revenues to the East.

The book has four main chapters. Starting with a narrative of the Hospitallers in the Holy Land and asserting convincingly their commitment to the Latin East, Chapter One proceeds to analyse their financial activities in the Holy Land. It is shown that after Hattin, the Hospitallers were not content to rely on their European lands as sources of supplies and income, but were active in restoring, and expanding, their property in the Holy Land. This they did with some success until the battle of La Forbie (1244), after which no similar recovery took place. There then follows a superb chapter, rich in its use of manuscript sources, linking the Order's activities in the west to the crises in the East through the example of the "French" Priories (the priories of France, St. Gilles, and Auvergne). Significant changes in policies in these priories, it is argued, attest to their awareness of and response to the situation in the East. Chapter Three portrays the interplay between the papacy, Hospitallers and Holy Land. In the aftermath of Hattin, the papacy recognised and supported the Hospitallers' military function, including the right to raise funds by selling indulgences. However, the Hospitallers' support of Emperor Frederick II during the pontificate of Gregory IX (1227-1241) cost them, and the Latin East, dearly. Chapter Four discusses, briefly, the members of the order serving in the east and the French Priories, with the aim of identifying places of recruitment, service, and mobilisation of brethren. The accompanying appendix enhances the deductions made, though one wonders whether some of the material might have been further integrated into the final chapter. Bronstein, perhaps wisely, has erred on the side of caution, given that the lists of serving brethren are not comprehensive.

Dr. Bronstein makes some important conclusions, not the least of which is that the economic policies of the French priories were in harmony with, not contrary to, those of the Hospitaller headquarters in the Holy Land. Just as important is the observation that the papacy's quarrels with the Western emperor and involvement in secular leader's struggles had an adverse effect on the Hospitallers in the Holy Land and the survival of the Latin East. In contrast to the views of some contemporaries, echoed in the writings of modern historians, the Hospitallers, it is asserted (in my view correctly), were not disinterested in the fortunes of the Latin settlements and aspired to preserve a Christian presence in the East.

This is a well written and easy to follow book, which makes a substantial contribution to our knowledge of the Hospitallers, especially how, in practice, their priories in the West contributed to their activities in the East. It is of value to historians and students of the Hospitallers, the papacy, and the Latin East, as well as those with a general interest in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Although one must be careful not to automatically apply the conclusions reached on the French priories to the rest of Europe, Bronstein has provided a short comparison with the priories of Sicily, England, and the Iberian peninsula, to support her hypothesis. We await the results of similar research on other priories with which to compare these findings.

NOTES [1] Henry Sire, The Knights of Malta (New Haven, Connecticut, and London, 1994); Jonathan Riley-Smith, Hospitallers: The History of the Order of St John (London, 1999); Helen Nicholson, The Knights Hospitaller (Woodbridge, 2001); Victor Mallia-Milanes, Venice and Hospitaller Malta, 1530-1798: Aspects of a Relationship (Malta, 1992); Charles Savona-Ventura, Knight Hospitaller Medicine in Malta: 1530-1798 (Malta, 2004); Anthony Luttrell and Helen Nicholson, Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages (Aldershot, 2006); Helen Nicholson, "The Sisters' House at Minwear, Pembrokeshire: Analysis of the Documentary and Archaeological Evidence," in Archaeologia Cambrensis, 151, 2002; Audrey Tapper, The Knights Templar and Hospitaller in Herefordshire (Little Logaston, 2005); Karl Borchardt, "The Hospitallers, Bohemia and the Empire, 1250-1330," in Mendicants, Military Orders and Regionalism in Medieval Europe, Jurgen Sarnowsky (Aldershot, 1999), 201-231; Dominic Selwood, Knights of the Cloister. Templars and Hospitallers in Central-Southern Occitania, c.1100-c.1300 (Woodbridge, 1999); Gregory O'Malley, The Knights Hospitaller of the English Langue 1460-1565 (Oxford, 2005); Jochen Burgtorf and Helen Nicholson, International Mobility in the Military Orders (Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries): Travelling on Christ's Business (Cardiff, 2006).