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Flags of the Crusades 1099-1291

Christian or 'Latin' States

Last modified: 2001-09-14 by santiago dotor
Keywords: crusade | crusader states | christian states | latin states | little armenia | antiochia | galilee | tripoli | edessa | rohez |
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Christian or Latin States

The Crusaders established several Christian States in the conquered Holy Land:

  • The Kingdom of Jerusalem, later "of Jerusalem, Acre and Cyprus"
  • The Kingdom of Armenia (Little Armenia)
  • The Principality of Antiochia
  • The Principality of Galilee
  • The County of Tripoli
  • The County of Edessa (or Rohez)

Santiago Dotor, 24 March 1999

Crusader Orders

The Hospitallers, the Templars, and the Teutonic Knights were all originally Crusading Orders, but with the fall of Acre in 1291, effectively lost their raison-d'etre, and ended up wandering around Europe [see Religious Orders].

The Hospitallers, or Knights of St John of the Hospital, were originally a group which cared for weary pilgrims at the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem. After their incorporation as a military order, they continued to run the hospital, which gained them respect and prestige. After the fall of Acre in 1291, they moved first to Cyprus, then to the island of Rhodes (Rhodos) in 1307, then Malta in 1522-23. Their symbol was originally (1248) a white cross on black, changed in 1259 to a white cross on red.

The Templars, or Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, were originally a group which escorted and protected pilgrims while they were travelling through the Seljuk lands. They lived in a hostel near the Temple of Solomon, thus the name Templars. They had many estates in Europe, and once Acre fell in 1291, retired to their European estates, and became involved in banking and diplomacy, which made them unpopular, to the point where King Philippe the Just of France burnt the Grand Master and two senior officers at the stake for supposed heresies. In 1312, Pope Clement V issued a decree suppressing the Order. Their symbol was a red cross on white.

As to the shapes of these crosses, the cross of the Hospitallers may have evolved into the present-day shape of the Maltese Cross, but as to the Knights Templar, and the earlier Hospitallers, I've found that the shapes can be said to be elongated Iron Crosses [i.e. crosses formy].

Georges G. Kovari, 25 June 2001

The two shapes of crosses don't present a case of evolution form one to the other. The elongated Iron Crosses, the sort of thing that in the Templar case gave rise to the St George's Cross of England, were used by both the Templars and the Hospitallers as their banners and arms. I haven't come across anything about the white-on-black to white-on-red change of the Hospitallers, but several orders with some sort of descent from the Hospitallers use the inverted English flag in some form to this day. At the same time, both then and now, the eight-pointed Maltese, or St John, Cross was used as a badge. It actually originated as the badge of the republic of Amalfi, and quite possibly was not originally a cross, but an emblem made up of four arrowheads. It was adopted by the Brotherhood of the Hospital in Jerusalem (even before the foundation of the Order) when the merchants of Amalfi re-purchased the site of the hospital established around 600AD and rebuilt it. At the formation of the Order (formally recognised in 1113), the monks wore black robes with the eight-pointed cross on the left breast. It seems correct to understand that the white cross on red was mainly used by the Knights of the Order in their military activities, and the eight-pointed cross while at the convent.

No doubt the use of the two symbols over the many years since varied, and was most likely at many times not well defined, I guess, but there is a lot of evidence of the use of both during the time when the Order of St John had one of the strongest naval fleets of the Mediterranean, when the use of the eight-pointed, or as it became known, Maltese Cross on a red background became more common as a flag. I guess the modern Maltese civil ensign can be seen as a result of this.

Jonathan Dixon, 26 June 2001

Original name of the Templars was Pauperes commilitiones Christi templique Salomonici. The order was established in 1119 by a group of eight knights led by Hugue de Payns and Godefried de St. Omer in order to give escort to pilgrims and just some years lated king Baldwin II gave them part of the royal palace which was Al-Aqsa mosque (known as Solomon's Temple by the crusaders) on the temple mount which gave the order its name.

Dov Gutterman, 28 June 2001