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ART. III.-1. History of the Knights Templars. By C. G.
ADDISON. London : 1842. 2. Monuments Historiques relatifs à la Condamnation des
Chevaliers du Temple. Par F. J. M. RAYNOUARD. Paris :
1813. 3. Histoire de la Condamnation des Templiers. Par PIERRE
Du Puy. Bruxelles : 1751. 4. Histoire des Croisades. Par J. F. MICHAUD. Fourth
edition Paris : 1825. Tue records of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth cen.
turies are essentially the records of incidents and biographies. Their history is signalised by episodes which dramatised for the moment the levels of human life; their facts, as surveyed from a latter-day standpoint, appear as though truth masqueraded in the garb of fiction and events under the semblance of an incredible romance. Moreover even the annals that chronicle the progress of thought are stamped with the impress of a personal note. We read in the pages of the past not the story of nations, but the lives of kings ; again and again the isolated exploit of one dauntless adventurer usurps the whole stage of vast wardramas; the personal fortunes of the discoverer eclipse the interest of the developements of science. The masses of mankind claimed as little attention from contemporary spectators as the shifting crowd in a theatrical time-scene. • Il y a dans l'homme deux hommes, l'homme de son siècle, • l'homme de tous les siècles,'* and the history of bygone ages is essentially the history of the individual in antithesis to the history of the species. Historians, moral and philosophic, have since arisen and with infinite pains and laborious deductions have turned their magnifying glass upon the common herd : peasant and artisan, agriculturist and merchant. They have detected phases of the thought and life of the multitude, and attained to some knowledge of the conditions, material, intellectual, and moral, of the undistinguished many. Their researches track the march, retrograde or progressive, of general civilisation. But to the unphilosophic reader the pictures their toil conjures from the mist are apt to produce that insurmountable impression of remoteness all telescopic vision conveys to the unscientific
Chateaubriand, ' Études Historiques.'
beholder. They lack the spirit of individualism to which the mediæval world owes its vividness, and the broad bird's-eye retrospects of accurate criticism tend rather to obscure than illuminate the narrow but vital images the elder records of men and actions evoke.
Indeed, historically, as in other fields, the memory of the unlearned shows but a small sense of proportion and persistently ignores the relative importance of things at large. The pageants of history abide with us, while the vast audiences who witnessed them are held of no account; and, further, in the acquisition of knowledge memory continually conspires with the trivial concrete as opposed to the momentous abstract of life. Its calendar is one of graphic details, it is by chance episodes it registers the upgrowths of social revolutions. Moreover its real appropriations, the permanent print it retains, are more often than not mere matters of individual sympathy and emotion. For emotion and sympathy sway remembrance with a potency few resist, and the issues of earth's widest battles are not seldom engraved upon its tablets only by the fate of one known face amid the thousands slain.
Few records betray a stronger tendency to such individualisation than those of the most conspicuous of the great military orders, the Order of the Temple. None transcend in dramatic interest the story of the Militia
Christi' who for two hundred years dominated the imagination of Christendom as the ideal soldiery of God, to close their career in ignominy, torture, and death as apostates from the religion whose cause they had for two centuries vindicated with their blood. Perhaps at this distance of time, and across the chasm dividing the sympathies of earlier and later generations, few institutions are more irreconcileable with modern sentiment than those of the warrior monks originated in the twelfth century. Churches, convents, secular and religious guilds and associations still exist among us, representing more or less adequately the church, the monastic life, the confraternities, spiritual or mercantile, of the middle ages. But the conception of a sacerdotal knighthood is one the renegade aspirations of a new world have instinctively transferred to the regions of Monsalvat, Sarras, and Corbenic, to the legends inscribed when the ecstatic fantasies of the soul wakened and the sane reason of humanity slept.
With mediævalism it was otherwise. It persistently identified the creed of the ideal with the creed of the possible. On this basis of identity it founded its societies of men and women whose lives were to demonstrate the practicabilities of the impossible. And, by coincidence, or by operation of some natural working of the human mind, belief in the attainability of superhuman perfection would seem never to have been more profound or more invulnerable than at the very epoch when the savage failures to scale those mora) heights were most grossly apparent; when every exploit to lift man above the tide of his vices and brutalities proved the fruitless endeavour of a forlorn hope. Perpetually frustrated, faith, in those days, may be said to have regarded defeat merely as an individual accident. With unflinching elasticity it devised new remedies to salve new woundings, new elixirs for the spiritual regeneration of a world of recreant souls. The enterprise of the monastic orders became, as their greatest modern apologist writes,' to re-temper the debased metal of humankind in a furnace of such virtue that the prodigies of evangelic perfection
might become the daily story of the Church.'* Measured by another standard the annals of conventual life rather serve to epitomise the hopes and overthrows of man's most tenacious aspirations than the successful embodiment of such a scheme of redemption. Sanctuaries at once of the most sublime ideals, and asylums of the most signal degradations of man, the monasteries summarised the special phase of religious devotion characteristic of the time, and while the conception of attainable holiness had reached the mountain summit illuminated with eternal snow and sunrise fire, the actual lives of men were steeped, if not in the deepest, at least in the most overt, physical criminality.
No order presented an ideal more resolutely incompatible with actuality than the Order of the Knights Templars. In their history the ideal and the actual, purpose and practice, confront each other in sharpest antagonism; each contending urgently for the prize--the souls of men, unstable, fashioned of earth, yet of earth in which gems crystallised. The ideal, few would be at pains to deny it, suffered defeat. Nevertheless blessed are they that have failed'-a new benediction accrues to such overthrows—and those to whom the honour of such defeat has never been accorded may echo the blessing. For, if Truth's divine certificate is an infinity transcending the grasp of finite intelligences, so it may well be, said the Divine Ideal would forfeit its warranty of divinity
* Montalembert, Les Moines de l'Occident,'
were it attainable by that undivine humanity which is man's mortal heritage.
The history of the Templars has been often and variously told; the controversy to which it has given rise seems likely to remain a drawn battle between their champions, apologists and foes. But howsoever the events be recorded, and despite the wide discrepancies of statements and the conflicting testimony of witnesses, the story conveys a curiously distinct and single-noted impression. Howsoever contradictory and incongruous the narratives of differing historians prove with regard to the annals of the rise and extinction of the Order, we are conscious of an underlying unity of feature, of a singular and uniform continuity of character, of-if one may so express it-a spiritual racedistinction, dividing the members of the confraternity, alike in good and ill doing, from their fellows.
Every event has its time.' Every phase of men's minds, and souls, and instincts has its epoch when it finds its incarnation in men's actions, or in that minor but potent form of action-men's words, spoken or written. The Order of the Templars must, to be understood aright, be regarded as one such embodiment of what may variously be defined as a phase of thought, of sentiment, or of instinct. It was the phase which, as expressed in the religions of the world, had localised the presence of the Godhead, and, by an inevitable sequence of ideas, had given birth to the sacramental principle—to the doctrine of the sanctity of material things. By the consecration of that Divine presence, and the virtues emanating from it, the common clay of earth became holy ground; the water of springs and rivers, the masonry of stones and rocks, all the manifold shapes of substantial and visible matter by Divine contact became possessed of qualities alien to their original condition. Henceforth to defraud them of reverence was to defraud the Godhead of worship. Other nations and later ages have done much to deconsecrate matter. They have eliminated spirit from substance, and for the sceptic, whether his scepticism be materialistic or spiritualistic, whether he deny soul to substance, or substance to soul, creation remains impoverished. Matter, incapable of spiritual infection, has been relegated to the impenetrable prison of its own nature. The fires of heaven are declared impotent to fuse the iron bars of its captivity, even in the crucible of Divine vitality.
But to the Westerns of the Dark Ages the holiness of God was a fiery furnace, the forms of earth might burn in it, unconsumed indeed, but impregnated to their very core with its inalienable heat; and from the recognition of this fusion sprang a whole idolatry of shrines and relics—fractions of the material world severed from the unvenerated residue. Secularised, the instinct of such associative sacredness abides among us. It is an instinct faded into an emotional sentiment. Abandoning the Divine, it clings to the human; in faint counterpart to those spiritual dedications of matter to God, the heart hallows its own relics of personal affection, and substitutes the consecrations of earth for the contagions of heaven. But such sentiments at their strongest are merely the wavering individualised shadows of that immense storm-tide impulse which of old drove the souls of men not to the train de luxe pilgrimages of the nineteenth century, but to the endurance of physical hardships, worldly calamity—the actual soldiership of our figurative Christianity. Metaphor, allegory, with us 'cette croisade spirituelle que • les chrétiens soutiennent jusqu'à la mort,' was for them a deed and a fact; die Wallfahrt zum heiligen Grabe' was with them no symbol of life—as Novalis defines it—but a literal actuality, and the lives of millions of men sought unflinchingly that single goal.
The translation of the conception, the embodiment of the instinct which prompted them to action, takes its place among the vast tragedies of humanity. It was a necessary tragedy; the incarnation of an idea predicates its passion, the Eternal only puts on mortality to die.
And with the pilgrim host its dying was in truth a death agony. It is difficult to grasp the immensity of suffering incurred by those motley hordes, outcasts and sinners, princes, peasants, vagabonds, scholars, poets, sages, with whom the idea of that imputed sanctity of place and matter, in its most emphatic phase, practically expired. Concentrated round the tomb of Christ the idea bore the semblance of a personal passion. Before the crusader the sepulchre 'arose as the form of a youth, pale and
stately, upon a massive stone in the midst of a savage ' multitude; cruelly maltreated, gazing upwards with mourn· ful countenance. Imaged after such a fashion, the doctrine became a trumpet call to arms. In the pollution of the holy place Christ was again defiled—in a desecrated Calvary Christ was recrucified. Cursed be he,' cried St. Bernard, as he summoned men to vindicate the outraged honour of
VOL. CXCII. NO. CCCXCIII.