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Origins of the Cross of the Martyr/St George's Cross
Saint George (ca. 275/281 – 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalised in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.
St George's Cross was originally the flag of Genoa and was adopted by England and the City of London in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the powerful Genoese fleet. The maritime Republic of Genoa was rising and going to become, with its rival Venice, one of the most important powers in the world. The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege. It was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers during the Crusades of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, particularly by the Knights Templar.
Non-combatant members of the Order
Non-combatant members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building many fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.
After the fall of Jerusalem - Decline
Jerusalem eventually fell and was taken by the Muslims in 1291. The Temple of Solomon was later demolished by the Muslims and a mosque was built on the site, now known as the Al Aqsa Mosque.
The Templars' success was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, began pressuring Pope Clement V to take action against the Order. Getting rid of them was a convenient way of cancelling his debts. In 1307, many of the Order's members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. Pope Clement was convinced that while the Templar’s had committed some grave sins, they were not heretics. However, in 1312, Pope Clement, under continuing pressure from King Philip, disbanded the Order.
- Active c. 1119–1314
- 15,000–20,000 members at peak, 10% (1500-2000) of whom were knights
Grand Master Gérard de Ridefort was beheaded by Saladin in 1189 at the Siege of Acre.
The last Grand Master was Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake in Paris in 1314 by order of King Philip IV.
Knight is the term for a social position originating in the Middle Ages. Elsewhere, the Portuguese Cavaleiro (like the following, related to "chivalry"), the Spanish Caballero, the Italian Cavaliere, the French "Chevalier", the German Ritter (like the following, related to "rider"), the Swedish Riddare are commonly used in Continental Europe.
Origins of medieval knighthood
The Franks came to dominate Western and Central Europe after the fall of Rome. They generally fielded armies composed of large masses of infantry, with infantry elite, the comitatus, which often rode to battle on horseback rather than marching on foot. Riding to battle had two key advantages: it prevented fatigue, particularly when the elite soldiers wore armour and it gave the soldiers more mobility to react to the raids of the enemy, particularly the invasions of Muslim armies which started in the 7th century. So it was that the armies of the Frankish ruler and warlord Charles Martel, which defeated the Islamic Umayyad Arab invasion at the Battle of Tours in 732, were still largely infantry armies, the elites riding to battle but dismounting to fight in order to provide a hard core for the levy of the infantry war-bands.
These types of knights were increasingly seen as the only true soldiers of Europe.
Knightly Chivalric Code
Knights of the medieval era were asked to "Protect the weak, defenceless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all." These few guidelines were the main duties of a medieval knight, but they were very hard to accomplish fully. Rarely could even the best of knights achieve these goals. Knights trained, inter alia, in hunting, fighting, and riding. They were also trained to practise courteous, honourable behaviour, which was extremely important. Chivalry (derived from the French word chevalier implying "skills to handle a horse") was the main principle guiding a knight’s life style. The code of chivalry dealt with three main areas: the military, social life, and religion.
The military side of life was very important to knighthood. Along with the fighting elements of war, there were many customs and rules to be followed as well. A way of demonstrating military chivalry was to own expensive, heavy weaponry. Weapons were not the only crucial instruments for a knight: horses were also extremely important, and each knight often owned several horses for distinct purposes. One of the greatest signs of chivalry was the flying of coloured banners, to display power and to distinguish knights in battle and in tournaments. Warriors were not only required to own all these belongings to prove their allegiance: they were expected to act with military courtesy as well.
In the years of boyhood, these future warriors were sent off to a castle as pages, later becoming squires. Commonly around the age of 20, knights would be admitted to their rank in a ceremony called "dubbing". Although these strong young men had proved their eligibility, their social status would be permanently controlled. They were expected to obey the code of chivalry at all times, and no failure was accepted.
Chivalry and religion were mutually influenced. The early Crusades helped to clarify the moral code of chivalry as it related to religion. As a result, Christian armies began to devote their efforts to sacred purposes.
The Code of Chivalry continued to influence social behaviour long after the actual knighthood ceased to exist, influencing for example the 19th Century Victorian perceptions of how a "gentleman" ought to behave.
Orders of knighthood
- Knights Hospitaller, founded during the First Crusade, 1099
- Order of Saint Lazarus established around 1100
- Knights Templar, founded 1118, disbanded 1307
- Teutonic Knights, established about 1190, and ruled the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia until 1525
Other orders (Crusader movements) were established with the purpose of re-conquering the Iberian peninsula (Spain) from the Muslims. The orders were under the influence of the orders in the Holy Land. They are known as the Crusader movements of the Reconquista:
- Order of Aviz, established in Avis in 1143
- Order of Alcántara, established in Alcántara in 1156
- Order of Calatrava, established in Calatrava in 1158
- Order of Santiago, established in Santiago in 1164.
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