The Knights Templar were an organization that fought for the word of God. However, as time went by, their ideals of being soldiers for Christ was not what they expected, nor did it satisfy them. Over time they evolved, and their small society gained presence, and decisions were made in the confines of fortifications all over the world.
The Templars erected many buildings in the west including preceptories, churches, and granges for administration purposes. They were simplistic and utilitarian in form with of course a few exceptions. There was no dictated form of Templar church architecture.
Over the years, misconceptions about the circular construction of temples in Paris have led people to believe that every circular building was constructed by the Templars. However, that was not the case.
Furthermore, the Templars did not the believe that money should be spent on elaborate church construction and ornate accessories. Furthermore, allowing the construction of overblown and over indulgent European castles would only be an economic liability.
There was one exception, that being the Iberian peninsula, where in Aragon and Portugal the Order was pledged to fight against the Moors, and needed castles just as it needed them in the Holy Land.
1. Al-Aqsa Mosque
n 1099, Jerusalem was captured by the crusaders and instead of the complete destruction of Solomons temple, it was turned into a royal palace for the crusaders. In 1119, the temple was turned into the main headquarters for the Knights Templar. Many renovations were made including new vaulted ceilings, and boundary walls around the interior worship areas to section off the rituals.
In most cases, these structures were built both for the use of a chapel and a fortress. They were aligned with the sea and the lookout towers were constructed in a way that made their surrounding fortresses more visible in case of attacks. Chastal Blanc was situated in the Safita’s three hills and from the tower the Templars were able to view their strongholds at Tartus and Ruad Island to the northwest, Chastel Rouge to the southwest, Akkar to the south, and Krak des Chevaliers to the southeast.The bottom floor is an Orthodox chapel maintained for the worship of Saint Michael and by the residents of Safita. The upper floor was used as a dormitory and the angled windows for archers.
3.Krak des Chevaliers
From a historical standpoint, Krak des Chevaliers is by far the best preserved feudal castle in the world. This fort was part of the network along the Mediterranean that controlled the fishing industry and watched for Muslim armies gathering in Syria. “In 1142 it was given by Raymond II, count of Tripoli, to the Hospitallers, contemporaries of the Knights Templar.” Keeping with the traditions of an inner sanction, more walls were built around the fortress forming almost a series of nesting areas.
There were drawbridges connecting the courtyard, a chapel, and 2 stone stables which held up to a thousand horses. Storage areas were built below the fortress, into the cliff-sides. “It is estimated that the Hospitallers could have withstood a siege for five years.”
In 1266, the Mamluk sultan Baybars wiped out the Christian Templar population and turned it into a Muslim town called Safad or Safat. According to al-Dimashqi (who died in Safed in 1327), writing around 1300, Baybars after levelling the old fortress, built a
“round tower and called it Kullah. Its height is 120 ells, and its breadth is 70. And to the terrace-roof (of the tower) you go up by double passage. Five horses can ride up to the top (of the tower) abreast by winding passage-way without steps. The tower is built in three stories. It is provided with provisions, and halls, and magazines. Under the place is a cistern for rain-water, sufficient to supply the garrison of the fortress from year´s end to year´s end.
Chastal Rouge was part of the network of fortresses including Chastel Blanc, Krak des Chevailiers, and Arima. The castle stands in the village of Yahmur between Tartus and Tripoli., and belongs to the Frankish family, vassals of the Counts of Tripoli. The counts entrusted the structure to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller and 400 gold pieces were given to the Montolieu for compensation.
Chastal Rouges history is still in question, although it is believed to be a secondary fortress of the Templar Knights.
In 1159, the land was givien to the Knights Templar and the Grand Master in Portugal, Gualdim Pais, laid the first stone of the Castle and Monastery that would become the Head-Quarters of the Order in Portugal in 1160. The Templar’s vowed to defend the peoples from Moorish attacks using the fortification as a shield. The foral or feudal contract was granted in 1162 by the Grand Master to the people. With the outpouring of criminals, they still were given certain rights in order to encourage a larger habitation. Women were also included in the order, which naturally they always were if they were the wife of a knight, however they were forbidden to bear arms or fight in battle. In 1190, the town was attacked by Almohad King Yakub, but the Templars were successful in defending their holding.
Around 1314, at the end of the Templar trials, the Pope was under extreme pressure to ban the Templars, so all the possessions and men were ordered to join the Order of Christ. All assets were then transferred and the Old Templar organization was reinstated in its new form, and recognized by the Pope John XXII.
The island of Ruad was used as a staging area by the Crusaders, as they attempted to retake Tortosa after they lost the city in 1291. Mongol leader Ghazan asked the Cypriots to meet him in Armenia, and from there the Cypriots formed a land troop consisting of Templars, Hospitallers, and men under the rule of Amalric of Lusigan.
They had some success in Tortosa, but they were in need of reinforcements which never came. This resulted in the Crusaders having to flee to Ruad. Ruad was the last piece of the Holy Land ever possessed by the Templars, as they were losing the battle to the Muslims.
8.Sidon Sea Castle
The Sidon Sea Castle was built by the Crusaders in 1228 A.D. , however all that remains after the fall of Acre to Mamluks are two towers overlooking the port town, as well as a connecting causeway. What fascinating about the construction of this particular sea fort is the use of Roman columns for reinforcements, a feature only seen at Roman sites.
The construction of Bagras dates back to the 12th century and was occupied by the Knights Templar until 1189 when they were forced to turn it over to the Sultan of Egypt and Syria. By 1191, it was in the hands of the Armenians who’s possession became a major contention between the Templars and the Antiochenes.
The Templars regained control in 1216, however the fortress was under siege at the same time by the forces of Aleppo, the oldest inhabited city in the world.
After the fall of Antioch to Baibars in 1268, the garrison lost heart, and one of the brothers deserted and presented the keys of the castle to him. The remaining defenders decided to destroy what they could and surrender the castle. Despite the loss of the castle, Hethum II of Armenia and Leo IV of Armenia soundly defeated a Mamluk raiding force in the nearby pass in 1305.
Trapessac is a fortress located north of the town of Kırıkhan in Hatay Province, Turkey. The feudal castle was erected in the 11th century by the Knights Templar, together with the nearby fortress at Bagras. Once again, after a bitter defeat, Saladin gained the key to the fortress in 1188. The Templars, along with the Armenians, were in a great pursuit trying to overtake the fortress in 1237, but they were ambushed and sadly, they were defeated.