09.09.03, Upton-Ward, ed., The Military Orders, Vol. 4

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Simon Phillips

The Medieval Review 09.09.03

Upton-Ward, Judi (ed.). The Military Orders, Volume 4: On Land and by Sea. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2008. Pp. xvii, 292. ISBN: 978-0-7546-6287-7.

Reviewed by:
Simon Phillips
University of Cyprus

This collection contains twenty-seven of the papers read at the fourth conference on the military orders held at Clerkenwell in September 2005. It shows just how diverse, both thematically and geographically, the study of the military orders has become. The book is divided into two sections, Chapters 1 to 8 covering general issues and the remainder addressing specific issues, though below I have tried to organise the essays thematically.

In Chapter 1 Alan Forey deals with those knights who offered temporary, unpaid service to the military orders in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Temporary service, both knightly and non-knightly, appears to have been common, as illustrated by its mention in contemporary literary sources. Forey's aim in the paper is to consider two main aspects, that is whether there were set terms for this type of service and the consistency of service over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. According to their early rule, in the Templar order knights offering temporary service worked hand in hand with fully professed brethren and were maintained by the order. The Teutonic order adopted a similar rule, but there is no mention of knightly service, but that of turcoples and squires or servants. Although the surviving sources give only brief details, enough remains to conclude that there was substantial variation in the terms of service of these temporary volunteers. It is also apparent that although there was voluntary knightly service throughout the period under discussion, it was more common in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Jochen Schenik (Chapter 17) also considers the theme of service to the military orders through non-noble family involvement with the Templars, in particular the growing influence of Templar sergeants. Their influence, it is argued, went beyond the everyday running of commanderies to influence recruitment practices and the general functioning of the Order, with a staggering number of family members in individual commanderies.

Another related theme in this collection is service by the military orders to others. In Chapter 13, Ignacio de la Torre gives a short comparative analysis of the financial services offered by the London and Paris Temples to the crown in the thirteenth century, concluding that the two branches did offer common services. In Chapter 15, Nicholas Morton reassesses the conduct of the Teutonic Order in the Ibelin-Lombard conflict and suggests that we should not assume that they were automatically imperial supporters. In Chapter 22, Carlos Barquero Goñi looks at the relations between the Hospitallers and Catholic kings of Spain in the late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries. The findings reveal similarities with other European kingdoms at this time, in that relations with the monarchy were generally good, with members of the Order involved in frequent service--military, economic and political--to the crown. The difficulties that the Hospitallers experienced in Spain again had parallels in other countries: disagreements over ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the monarchy's occasional judgements against the Hospitallers in disputes with their tenants were universal and perennial struggles.

The above essays implicitly suggest links between the Military Orders and the secular world, a third, more varied, strand in the compilation. One aspect that affected people in and out of the military orders was wellbeing. In Chapter 3 Piers Mitchell considers if archaeological techniques can enrich our knowledge of health in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The approach used here was to compare life expectancy, in particular infant mortality, in two twelfth century sites, the village of Parvum Gerinum (now Tel Jezreel), where the remains of fifty infants and children were found, and the castle of Vallis Moysis (now Al-Wua'yra), where fifteen children were buried. A number of findings and conclusions are made. Child mortality at the castle was higher at the time of birth or soon after, and some of those who lived suffered from scurvy. In contrast, children at the village died later on in their lives. The possible reasons for the differences include better diet in the village due to access to fresh fruit and vegetables, the different space limitations of a castle compared to a village, and genetic considerations, the village being populated by indigenous Christians whereas the castle had a population of both Europeans and locals. Combining the use of archaeological and historical techniques is always, in the view of the writer, advisable where possible, and in the case of health it is essential, given the lack of mention in the written sources. However, as Mitchell acknowledges, further evidence is required before a more rounded picture of health in the Latin East can be constructed.

In Chapter 4 Karl Borchardt addresses the competition that developed between the Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic order in central Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Given that they had similar functions and that available resources were limited, this led to rivalry to obtain donations and establish commanderies to finance the struggle with the infidels. It also appears that they were in competition when it came to recruitment, and Borchardt sites examples of brethren poached from the Hospitallers by the Teutonic order. One of the main conclusions reached is that support for the military orders was determined by competition between local rival elites, so that if one family supported one order, their nearby peers would opt for another order. In Chapter 10, Myra Bom considers the relationship between the Hospital of St John and caritas, the emotional side of God, concluding that, in the twelfth century at least, donors to the Hospital and intellectuals valued the order more for its charitable work than for any other role that it had. In Chapter 14, David Bryson tells us a possible medieval murder mystery, set in the Hospitaller preceptory of St Naixent (Dordogne). It is based around a dispute over lands between the said preceptory and Renaud of Pons IV, lord of Bergerac at the turn of the fourteenth century and the fact that the preceptor of St Naixent is described as "formerly preceptor," which Bryson interprets as meaning he was dead, possibly not by natural causes. However, we learn more than the possibility of a murder, in that what was thought an unimportant preceptory and the lands thereabouts were actually in a key strategic position, so much so that the kings of England and France presided over the outcome of the dispute. Bryson also provides an English translation of the agreement reached between the two parties.

In Chapter 16, Zsolt Hunyadi surveys Hospitaller estate management by the Hungarian-Slavonian priory in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, including an analysis of the priory leases over a twenty-year period. In Chapter 21, Pierre Bonneaud considers the measures taken by Hospitaller Grand masters between 1420 and 1433 to review the rules concerning the reception of brethren and their noble origins. This meant a tightening-up of the rules of admission into the Order so only those with "name and arms" should be admitted. One notes from other recent research that this mirrored contemporary concerns in lay society regarding status in the social order, such as the debate over lords' precedence in the English parliament. In Chapter 24, Henry Sire comments on the history of the Hospitallers' priory of Vrania in Croatia from 1163 to 1564, looking at land acquisitions, military service to lay rulers, and how during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries most of the incumbents of the priory were not members of the Order. In Chapter 25 Emanuel Buttigieg examines how the Hospitallers and Maltese viewed each other before the Great Siege of 1565, and how common interests on economic and military issues gradually brought about a change of attitude and greater association. Finally, in Chapter 27, Victor Mallia-Milanes looks at the Venetian Hospitaller Massimiliano Buzzaccarini Gonzaga on Malta between 1758 and 1776, how he viewed the role of the island and what the archival evidence tells us of relations between the Hospitallers and Venice. Throughout this time, Buzzaccarini Gonzaga upheld the importance of the Hospitallers on Malta for the protection of Christian Europe. He also promoted commercial links between Malta and Venice tirelessly and gave the Venetian state an improved understanding of Hospitaller Malta.

The next set of essays has the military orders "by sea" as their theme, though as with the previously discussed group, the first of these reveals the heavy influence of lay powers on these orders. In Chapter 8, Luís Adão da Fonseca focuses on the oceanic role of the Portuguese Military Orders. These orders benefitted from the privileges granted by the monarch and thus also had obligations to them, especially when military action was likely, such as when the gateway to the Indian Ocean was discovered. In Chapter 6, we are given a very thorough comparative assessment of the employment of ships by the main military orders in the medieval period. Jürgen Sarnowsky reaches a number of conclusions, including that all the major military orders owned ships, of various sizes, which were mostly finance by the orders themselves. The military orders would additionally employ ships owned by others, such as the Italian republics, both for regular transports and in times of war to enhance their fleets. Sometimes they used their ships in acts of piracy. Concerning the crews to operate the ships, as the medieval period drew to a close, feudal obligation became of less importance. Crews were normally mustered from harbour towns and sometimes mercenaries were used. Concerning protection from attack by sea, in Chapter 20, Michael Heslop analyses the Hospitallers' defensive system in southern Rhodes. He debates, amongst other things, what the Byzantines might have bequeathed to the knights, how the Mamluk attacks of the 1440s and fall of Constantinople forced the Hospitallers to form contingency plans in case of attack, and whether their defensive system was effective. Again on the subject of defence rather than attack, in Chapter 23, Theresa Vann discusses the maritime activities of the Hospitallers in the fifteenth century. The knights' naval resources were fairly limited, capable of defending their possessions, but only able to engage in large-scale activity with the assistance of other powers. That they did not build up their navy also suggests that, by the mid-fifteenth century, they were content to preserve the status quo and their economic interests, not to engage in all out crusade. Lastly, in Chapter 26, Christopher Gerrard and Robert Dauber offer a study of ship graffiti, made all the more intriguing as the graffiti considered comes from the preceptory of Ambel (Zaragoza), about 300 kilometres from the coast! The drawings of three ships provide a wealth of information, including clues to the authors' identities and that those who drew them knew their subject well.

A further aspect concerns those essays that have an archaeological, historiographical or methodological approach. In Chapter 2 Darius von Güttner Sporzyński discusses recent changes in approaches to the study of the Crusades in Poland brought about by the breakdown of the eastern bloc since the 1990s. Traditionally, it is argued, Polish historians have played down both the impact of the crusade idea in Poland and the input of Polish crusaders. This view intensified after 1945, as the Crusades were viewed as a movement that transcended class barriers and thus caused problems for the theory of class struggle. Elements of nationalism crept in, as the activities of the Teutonic order became synonymous with German militarism. In contrast, a new generation of Polish historians have suggested that Poles were some of the first and most fervent crusaders, and it is concluded that Poland followed a pattern of crusading similar in form to that in western European countries. In Chapter 7, Christer Carlsson aims to create a chronology of the Hospitaller and Teutonic orders in medieval Scandinavia by combining archaeological and historical sources. The source material informs us about economic trends within these military orders and the effects of the military orders' actions in the Mediterranean, such as how the Hospitaller conquest of Rhodes placed a burden on finances in the European priories. Other pan-European trends can be detected, such as the leasing out of lands to lay persons in order to raise income from the fourteenth century, and by the sixteenth century the actual sale of Hospitaller lands. In Chapter 11, Denys Pringle presents a summary of archaeological research on the layout of the Jerusalem Hospital in the twelfth century, which even in summary is too detailed to mention here. Suffice to say that a new layout is proposed, including the suggestion of a new conventual church that had been built by the mid-twelfth century. Also using archaeological evidence, in Chapter 19, Anna-Maria Kasdagli assembles what we know about the funerary monuments of Hospitaller Rhodes in the light of recent and ongoing excavations. Some of the conclusions include that Masters were buried in stone sarcophagi, though these were not of the same standard of funerary art as western European tombs. Additionally, those further down the social scale tried to imitate their betters, as far as they could, and this led to marblers settling on Rhodes and even locals taking up the profession.

A sixth and final group of essays relates to textual analysis. In Chapter 5 Kristian Molin considers how the various versions of the "Chronicle of Morea" can inform us about the military orders' crusading activities in southern Greece in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. His early comment about the "relative dearth" of particular information is not encouraging. There then follows a commentary on what the various versions offer, with the Aragonese version containing more information on the military orders' activities, which is explained given that the Grand Master of the Hospitallers was patron of this version. It is concluded that the orders' input in the Peloponnese in the thirteenth century appears minimal, most likely because their main campaigns were still in the Holy Land, where they were based, and that they used the Peloponnese as an economic resource. In contrast, a greater contribution to crusading activities in southern Greece was made in the fourteenth century and not only by the Hospitallers, but also by the Teutonic Knights, shattering the myth that their crusading activities in the late medieval period were solely concerned with campaigns in the Baltic. In Chapter 12, Malcolm Barber looks at the reputation of Gerard of Ridefort, Grand Master of the Temple, as reported in the contemporary--though sometimes conflicting--accounts. To some chroniclers, he is a hero who willing goes to his death for his reputation and order, while to others he is an arrogant mercenary. Barber looks for consistency in Gerard of Ridefort's actions by considering his motivation, while placing the chronicles in their late twelfth century milieu. In Chapter 18, Anne Gilmour-Bryson uses the testimonies of Templars across Europe to assemble useful and interesting statements on a number of issues, including their reasons for entering the Order, attitudes to the confession of sins and penance, charity, chapter meetings and oversees service, to mention a few. Last, but by no means least, Luis García-Guijarro Ramos (Chapter 9) takes a new perspective on Hugh of Payns' letter. Previous approaches, he argues, have concentrated on textual analysis at the expense of understanding the meaning of the letter, not only for the development of history of the Temple and other future military orders, but in the wider context of Latin Christendom. In contrast, this essay advocates a "proper historical treatment" that asks key questions to attain key answers. This is certainly a significant point. In the opinion of this reviewer, detailed micro studies do play a valid and important role in the discipline of History, but they should always be placed in their broader historical context, otherwise we run the danger of not seeing the wood for the trees. Similarly, a broad sweep approach without reference to detailed examples is best avoided. However, one wonders why more historians (and for that matter archaeologists) increasingly concentrate on the micro: is it a matter of choice, or do external pressures such as the interrelation between the number of publications and funding incline them towards short-term projects that can be completed relatively quickly?

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Simon Phillips

University of Cyprus