Holy Orders in England, 13th c.

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Holy Orders in England, 13th c.

Postby dan_vasey » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:37 pm

Evening all. Small question, really. Did any of the Holy Orders have a presence in England in the 13th century, in particular either the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar?
I was thinking of more ways we could add to and diversify our living history displays, but I don't want to be going about suggesting a holy order if they only had a more Eastern presence.

Thanks in advance!

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Holy Orders in England, 13th c.

Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:49 pm

The first Knights Templar Preceptory (house, or more precisely a monastic or administrative complex) in England was established in High Holborn, London in the middle of the 12th century. These premises were soon to prove too small, so construction began in about 1165 on the famous Temple "church" - actually a vast complex of monastic, admin, training, recruitment and other buildings as well as the surviving round church.

As with all such Preceptories in England, brother knights would have been a rare sight (and it is very unlikely that armour was ever worn in these places) - the staff would have been lay brothers, clerical serjants, priests and other non-military sections of the Order. Once inducted and trained, new recruits would have been rapidly shipped off to the war zones before their monastic vows had time to sink in.

Some Templar sites, like Temple Ewell in Dover and Cressing Temple, were initially not much more than a manor complex dealing with food production, raising livestock and turning a profit. A Preceptory was added in about 1170 at Temple Ewell, which was conveniently close to Dover harbour.

By the 13th century there were a large number of Templar holdings (Preceptories and other establishments) all over England, with the primary aim of recruiting new members and providing agricultural, financial and other support for the fighting men overseas. Anywhere with "Temple" in its name would be a Templar holding: Temple Bruer, Lincs, is just one example:


The Knights Hospitaller seem to have had much less of a presence in England; their main establishment was the Priory of St John of Jerusalem, Clerkenwell - another recruitment and admin complex; they took over the church of St Swithin at Quenington in 1193, but this simply means they had the right to appoint priests when necessary. Only a couple of other Preceptories are known in England.

All the activities in these centres would have been either mundane, financial, religious or educational (in terms of "indoctrinating" recruits with the appropriate Rule, the hierarchy of the Order and tactics on the battlefield), which makes for fairly dull re-enactment compared with the usual image of crusading knights.

Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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