The former Templar stronghold of Acre in modern Israel has been throwing up some interesting discoveries of late.
A team from Haifa University found the wreck of a long lost crusader ship in the bay with a horde of golden coins lying next to it on the seabed. The gold is dated with certainty to the latter half of the 13th century and that fits with the fall of Acre to the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt in 1291. It seems that Christian soldiers, faced with certain defeat, gathered up their wealth and tried to make a getaway.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports on the story HERE. There has always been a great deal of speculation as to what happened to the treasure amassed by the Templars in the Holy Land. This will fuel the suspicion that they spirited a good deal of it back to their preceptories in Europe – making them a target for resentment later on.
Another team from Haifa University has made yet another incredible discovery outside the Ottoman walls of the city. They have found the headquarters of the Teutonic Order, another militarised monastic warrior elite force during the crusades.
After the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, Acre became the centre of crusader operations in the Holy Land. The Christian territories were much diminished by 1291 and looking back, it does seem that defeat was inevitable.
When it came though, the clock began ticking against the Knights Templar. Driven out of all their mainland fortresses in the Holy Land – what was their raison d’etre? How could they claim to have God on their side when defeat after defeat suggested otherwise? Within 20 years after the fall of Acre, the Templar order would be wiped out by the French monarchy and the papacy acting in concert.
In 2012, I visited the ancient town of Acre in modern Israel (now called Akko). It’s still dominated by the castle built by the Knights Templar and underneath this might medieval construction is a secret tunnel – its purpose still shrouded in mystery.
In 1099, Christian crusader armies stormed into Jerusalem and established kingdoms along the Mediterranean coastline. But two hundred years later, the crusaders – and the Knights Templar – were in retreat. Jerusalem had reverted to Muslim control. The Templars found themselves holed up in Acre.
In 1291, Acre finally fell and with that the crusades began to disintegrate. By 1302, there was no crusader presence in the Holy Land. This undoubtedly spelt doom for the Knights Templar. Their reason to exist had disappeared.
As is often said, the Templars were the first multinational corporation – through a network of preceptories across Europe and the Middle East, engaged in farming, shipping and finance to fund their crusading activities.
The Templar Timeline
1118 – Foundation of the Knights Templar by nine knights
1118 – Hugh de Payens becomes first Grand Master
1127 – First Templar church and preceptory in London
1129 – Council of Troyes establishes the rules that will govern the Templars
1139 – Omne datum Optimum – a papal bull makes the Templars answerable only to the pope
1147 – the Second Crusade with the fall of Edessa and its aftermath brings the Templars centre stage in the Holy Land
1174 – the rise of Saladin
1187 – disaster at the Battle of Hattin and the loss of Jerusalem
1192 – Templars in Acre
1204 – the Fourth Crusade ends with the plundering of Constantinople
1248 – the crusade of King Louis
1291 – Acre falls to the Mamluks and the Templars edged out of the Holy Land
1302 – Ruad falls and Templars massacred
1307 – Templars arrested under orders of the King of France and Pope Clement V
Here’s an interesting video on the origins of the Knights Templar: