Medieval Life

Chivalric Orders

Knights belonged to a multitude of specific Orders, each established for one purpose or another. Most orders emphasized components of piety, faith, humility, chastity or some other worthy ideals. Colorful names for these orders emerged. The Angelic Knights, the Golden Shield, the Palatine Lion, the Thistle of Bourbon, the White Falcon and the Wing of St. Michael are but a few of the knightly orders that existed during the Middle Ages.

Some had curious names such as: the Dog and Cock; the Fools; the Scarf and the Broom Flowers; the Slaves of Virtue and Neighborly Love; the Palm and the Alligator. An order of female knights defended Tortosa in Spain from invading Moors in 1149.

Three of the most well-known, were the Hospitallers, Templars, and Teutonic knights.

Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, were the first great orders of monastic knights to appear. These knights took monastic vows and wore black habits with white crosses. They lived in a monastery that could accommodate more than 2,000 guests and still have room to care for the sick and injured. These knights formed many communities in several European countries. Hospitality was the first obligation of the order.

Templars, the second of the great military orders, was founded in the early 12th century to protect pilgrims. These knights adopted Benedictine monastic rules and wore white tunics with red crosses. Like the Hospitallers, they rose to great power in medieval Europe and established communities throughout the continent. But by the beginning of the 14th century, rumors of corruption and heresy caused King Phillip of France to command all members of the order to be jailed. Most were put to torture and burned at the stake. Grand Master Jacques de Molay was crucified. There is a theory that the Shroud of Turin is, in fact, the burial cloth of de Molay.

Teutonic Knights formed the last great chivalric order. These knights were Germanic in origin, took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and wore white tunics with black crosses. After battling I the Crusades, this order turned its attention to the conquest of heathen Prussians and conquered the territory between the Vistula and the Memel. They were virtually destroyed by Poles and Lithuanians during a battle at Tannenberg in 1410.

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