Christians against Muslims, the Crusades that began in the 11th century were wars for control of the Holy Land. The Crusaders themselves were a hybrid of warrior and priest, defending the pilgrim, attacking the Infidel. These Military Orders were also the first multinational corporations, and until their eventual destruction and diminishment, the Knights Templar, the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights held unparalleled power, enough to threaten whole kingdoms and the Papacy itself. Philip Coulter and his guests tell the story.
Life in the 11th century was nasty, brutish and short. Most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born, strangers were suspect, and danger lurked everywhere. Who was in charge was a matter of opinion: barons and local chiefs ruled as they wished, those who would be king faced a skeptical and hostile world. We take the modern world for granted, with its more-or-less stable patchwork of nation states, each with its body of law and governance, but in medieval times there was little in the way of a social safety net, little to protect the citizen from the cold winds. Except, there were the knights.
The medieval knights in many ways lived out a kind of secular social idea of how to live in community- they had military responsibilities to their masters, but they also took responsibility for the community around them. The other great presence in the community was the Church, and the monks of the great religious orders were a powerful force in shaping society. Then, after the first Crusade, in the early years of the 12th century, the two were fused - new orders, men who were both knights and priests, holy men with a sword, came along. The Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, the Teutonic Knights - they were answerable to almost no one. Perhaps the first multinational corporations, they shaped the making of the western world for 200 years.
Part 1: The Story of the Knights Templar - God’s Bankers
Part 2: The Story of the Knights Hospitaller - Charity and Honour
Part 3: The Story of the Teutonic Knights - The Iron Fist
Great podcast from the CBC. I finished listening to it last night and it was absolutely fascinating and very informative. I highly recommend it.