Skilled and well-armoured

Skilled and well-armoured

Skilled with the lance, sword and crossbow, and well-armoured, the Knights Templar and other military orders were the best trained and equipped of any members of a Crusader army.

For this reason, they were often deployed to protect the flanks, vanguard and rear of an army in the field.

The Templars were particularly renowned for their disciplined group cavalry charges when, in tight formation, they blasted through enemy lines and caused havoc which could then be exploited by allied troops following up their advance.

They were also highly disciplined both in battle and in camp, with severe penalties imposed on knights not following orders, including expulsion from the order for losing one's sword or horse through carelessness.

That being said, the order as a whole could prove difficult for a Crusade commander to keep check on, given that they were often the most zealous and eager troops to win honour and glory.

The Templars were frequently given the task of defending important passes such as at Amanus north of Antioch. They acquired lands and castles which the Crusader states were not able to maintain themselves for lack of manpower.

They also rebuilt destroyed or entirely new castles to better defend the Christian East. The Templars never forgot their original function as a protector of pilgrims either, and they manned many small forts along the pilgrim routes in the Levant or acted as bodyguards.

Although involved in many successes such as the siege of Acre in 1189-91, Damietta in 1218-19, and Constantinople in 1204, there were some major defeats along the way, and such was their martial reputation, the Templars could usually expect to be executed if ever captured.

At the battle of La Forbie in Gaza in October 1244, an Ayyubid army defeated a large Latin army and 300 Templar knights were killed. 230 captured Templar knights were beheaded after the Battle of Hattin in 1187, won by the army of Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria (r. 1174-1193).

More important members of the order, as was typical of the period were offered up for ransom. The Templar castle at Gaza had to be given up in order to gain release of the captured Master after the same battle.

Another heavy defeat came at 1250 the battle of Mansourah in Egypt during the Seventh Crusade (1248-1254). The vast network of convents, though, always seemed able to replenish any losses in resources and manpower.