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Title: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages
Author: Keightley, Thomas, 1789-1872
Language: English
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                         THE LIBRARY


                   ENTERTAINING KNOWLEDGE.

                      SECRET SOCIETIES

                           OF THE

                        MIDDLE AGES.


_Chairman._--The Right Hon. LORD BROUGHAM, F.R.S., Member of the
National Institute of France.

_Vice-Chairman._--JOHN WOOD, Esq.

_Treasurer._--WILLIAM TOOKE, Esq., M.P., F.R.S.

    W. Allen. Esq., F.R. and R.A.S.
    Capt. F. Beaufort, R.N., F.R. and R.A.S., Hydrographer to the
    G. Burrows, M.D.
    Peter Stafford Carey, Esq., A.M.
    William Coulson, Esq.
    R. D. Craig, Esq.
    J. Frederick Daniell, Esq., F.R.S.
    J. F. Davis, Esq., F.R.S.
    H. T. Delabeche, Esq., F.R.S.
    The Rt. Hon. Lord Denman.
    Samuel Duckworth, Esq.
    B. F. Dupfca, Esq.
    The Right Rev. the Bishop of Durham, D.D.
    The Rt. Hon. Visc. Ebrington, M.P.
    Sir Henry Ellis, F.R.S., Prin. Lib. Brit. Mus.
    T. F. Ellis, Esq., A.M., F.R.A.S.
    John Elliotson, M.D., F.R.S.
    Thomas Falconer, Esq.
    I. L. Goldsmid, Esq., F.R., and R.A.S.
    B. Gompertz, Esq., F.R., and R.A.S.
    G. B. Greenough, Esq., F.R., and L.S.
    M.D. Hill, Esq.
    Rowland Hill, Esq., F.R.A.S.
    The Rt. Hon. Sir J.C. Hobhouse, Bart., M.P.
    David Jardine, Esq., A.M.
    Henry B. Ker, Esq.
    Thos. Hewitt Key, Esq., A.M.
    J. T. Leader, Esq., M.P.
    George C. Lewis, Esq., A.M.
    Thomas Henry Lister, Esq.
    James Loch, Esq., M.P., F.G.S.
    George Long, Esq., A.M.
    J. W. Lubbock, Esq., A.M., F.R., R.A., and L.S.S.
    Sir Fred. Madden, K.C.H.
    H. Malden, Esq., A.M.
    A. T. Malkin, Esq., A.M.
    James Manning, Esq.
    J. Herman Merivale, Esq., A.M., F.A.S.
    Sir William Molesworth, Bart., M.P.
    The Right Hon. Lord Nugent.
    W. H. Ord, Esq., M.P.
    The Right Hon. Sir H. Parnell, Bt., M.P.
    Dr. Roget, Sec. R.S., F.R.A.S.
    Edw. Romilly, Esq., A.M.
    Right Hon. Lord J. Russell, M.P.
    Sir M. A. Shee, P.R.A., F.R.S.
    John Abel Smith, Esq., M.P.
    The Right Hon. Earl Spencer.
    John Taylor, Esq., F.R.S.
    Dr. A. T. Thompson, F.L.S.
    Thomas Vardon, Esq.
    H. Waymouth, Esq.
    J. Whishaw, Esq., A.M., F.R.S.
    John Wrottesley, Esq., A.M., F.R.A.S.
    Thomas Wyse, Esq., M.P.
    J. A. Yates, Esq.

THOMAS COATES, Esq., _Secretary_, No. 59, Lincoln's Inn Fields.


[Keightley (Thomas) handwritten]


                OF THE

              MIDDLE AGES.



    Printed by WILLIAM CLOWES and SONS,
    Stamford Street.



    Introduction                                                     1



    State of the World in the Seventh Century--Western
    Empire--Eastern Empire--Persia--Arabia--Mohammed--His
    probable Motives--Character of his Religion--The
    Koran                                                           13


    Origin of the Khalifat--The first Khalifs--Extent of the
    Arabian Empire--Schism among the Mohammedans--Soonees
    and Sheähs--Sects of the latter--The Keissanee--The
    Zeidites--The Ghoollat--The Imamee--Sects
    of the Imamee--Their political Character--The
    Carmathites--Origin of the Fatimite Khalifs--Secret
    Society at Cairo--Doctrines taught in it--Its Decline           24


    Ali of Rei--His son Hassan Sabah--Hassan sent to
    study at Nishaboor--Meets there Omar Khiam and
    Nizam-al-Moolk--Agreement made by them--Hassan
    introduced by Nizam to Sultan Malek Shah--Obliged
    to leave the Court--Anecdote of him--His own account
    of his Conversion--Goes to Egypt--Returns to
    Persia--Makes himself Master of Alamoot                         43


    Description of Alamoot--Fruitless attempts to recover
    it--Extension of the Ismaïlite Power--The Ismaïlites
    in Syria--Attempt on the Life of Aboo-Hard Issa--Treaty
    made with Sultan Sanjar--Death of Hassan--His
    Character                                                       56


    Organization of the Society--Names given to the
    Ismaïlites--Origin of the name Assassin--Marco Polo's
    description of the Paradise of the Old Man of the
    Mountain--Description of it given by Arabian
    writers--Instances of the obedience of the Fedavee              66


    Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid--Affairs of the Society in Persia--They
    acquire the Castle of Banias in Syria--Attempt
    to betray Damascus to the Crusaders--Murders committed
    during the reign of Keäh Buzoorg                                84


    Keäh Mohammed--Murder of the Khalif--Castles gained
    in Syria--Ismaïlite Confession of Faith--Mohammed's
    Son Hassan gives himself out for the promised Imam--His
    followers punished--Succession of Hassan--He
    abolishes the Law--Pretends to be descended from the
    Prophet--Is murdered                                            93


    Mohammed II.--Anecdote of the Imam
    of Egypt--Attempt on the Life of Saladin                       102


    Jellal-ed-deen--Restoration of Religion--His Harem
    makes the Pilgrimage to Mecca--Marries the Princess of
    Ghilan--Geography of the Country between Roodbar and
    the Caspian--Persian Romance--Zohak and
    Feridoon--Kei Kaoos and Roostem--Ferdoosee's Description
    of Mazanderan--History of the Shah Nameh--Proof of the
    Antiquity of the Tales contained in it.                        131


    Death of Jellal-ed-deen--Character of Ala-ed-deen,
    his successor--The Sheikh Jemal-ed-deen--The Astronomer
    Nasir-ed-deen--The Vizir Sheref-al-Moolk--Death of
    Ala-ed-deen--Succession of Rukn-ed-deen, the last
    Sheikh-al-Jebal                                                148


    The Mongols--Hoolagoo sent against the
    Ismaïlites--Rukn-ed-deen submits--Capture of
    Alamoot--Destruction of the Library--Fate of
    Rukn-ed-deen--Massacre of the Ismaïlites--St. Louis
    and the Assassins--Mission for the Conversion of the
    People of Kuhistan--Conclusion                                 156



    Introduction--The Crusades--Wrong Ideas respecting
    their Origin--True Causes of them--Pilgrimage--Pilgrimage
    of Frotmond--Of the Count of Anjou--Striking
    Difference between the Christianity of the
    East and that of the West--Causes of their different
    Characters--Feudalism--The Extent and Force of this
    Principle                                                      169


    First Hospital at Jerusalem--Church of Santa Maria de
    Latina--Hospital of St. John--The Hospitallers--Origin
    of the Templars--Their original Poverty--They
    acquire Consideration--St. Bernard--His Character
    of the Templars--The Order approved of and
    confirmed by the Council of Troyes--Proofs of the
    Esteem in which they were held                                 185


    Return of the Templars to the East--Exoneration and
    Refutation of the Charge of a Connection with the
    Ismaïlites--Actions of the Templars--Crusade of
    Louis VII.--Siege of Ascalon--Sale of
    Nassir-ed-deen--Corruption of the Hospitallers--The
    Bull, _Omne Datum Optimum_--Refusal of the Templars to
    march against Egypt--Murder of the Ismaïlite Envoy             199


    Heroism of the Templars and Hospitallers--Battle of
    Hittin--Crusade of Richard of England and Philip of
    France--Corruption of the Order--Pope Innocent III.
    writes a Letter of Censure--Frederic II.--Great
    Slaughter of the Templars--Henry III. of England
    and the Templars--Power of the Templars in
    Moravia--Slaughter of them by the Hospitallers--Fall
    of Acre                                                        210


    Classes of the Templars--The Knights--Their
    Qualifications--Mode of Reception--Dress and Arms of
    the Knight--Mode of Burial--The Chaplains--Mode of
    Reception--Dress--Duties and Privileges--The
    Serving-Brethren--Mode of Reception--Their Duties--The
    Affiliated--Causes and Advantages of Affiliation--The
    Donates and Oblates                                            221


    Provinces of the Order--Eastern Provinces--Jerusalem--Houses
    of this Province--Tripolis--Antioch--Cyprus--Western
    Provinces--Portugal--Castile and Leon--Aragon--France and
    and Central Italy--Apulia and Sicily                           242


    Officers of the Order--The Master--Mode of Election--His
    Rights and Privileges--Restraints on him--The
    Seneschal--The Marshal--The Treasurer--The Draper--The
    Marshal--Standard-bearer                                       253


    Chapters--Mode of holding them--Templars' Mode of
    Living--Amusements--Conduct in War                             266


    Molay elected Master--Last attempt of the Christians in
    Syria--Conduct of the Three Military Orders--Philip
    the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII.--Seizure of the
    Pope--Election of Clement V.--The Papal See removed
    to France--Causes of Philip's enmity to the Templars--Arrival
    of Molay in France--His interviews with the
    Pope--Charges made against the Templars--Seizure
    of the Knights--Proceedings in England--Nature of
    the Charges against the Order                                  276


    Examination of the captive Knights--Different kinds of
    Torture--Causes of Confession--What Confessions
    were made--Templars brought before the Pope--Their
    Declarations--Papal Commission--Molay brought before
    it--Ponsard de Gisi--Defenders of the Order--Act
    of Accusation--Heads of Defence--Witnesses
    against the Order--Fifty-four Templars committed to
    the Flames at Paris--Remarkable words of Aymeric
    de Villars-le-Duc--Templars burnt in other places--Further
    Examinations--The Head worshipped by the
    Templars--John de Pollincourt--Peter de la Palu                293


    Examinations in England--Germany--Spain--Italy--Naples
    and Provence--Sicily--Cyprus--Meeting of the
    Council of Vienne--Suppression of the Order--Fate
    of its Members--Death of Molay                                 317



    Introduction--The Original Westphalia--Conquest of
    the Saxons by Charlemagne--His Regulations--Dukes
    of Saxony--State of Germany--Henry the Lion--His
    Outlawry--Consequences of it--Origin of German
    Towns--Origin of the Fehm-gerichte, or Secret
    Tribunals--Theories of their Origin--Origin of their
    Name--Synonymous Terms                                         332


    The Tribunal-Lord--The Count--The Schöppen--The
    Messengers--The Public Court--The Secret Tribunal--Extent
    of its Jurisdiction--Places of holding the
    Courts--Time of holding them--Proceedings in them--Process
    where the Criminal was caught in the fact--Inquisitorial
    Process                                                        346


    Accusatorial Process--Persons liable to it--Mode of
    Citation--Mode of Procedure--Right of Appeal                   360


    The General Chapter--Rights of the Emperor--Of his
    Lieutenant--Of the Stuhlherrn, or Tribunal-Lords               372


    Fehm-courts at Celle--At Brunswick--Tribunal of the
    Knowing in the Tyrol--The Castle of Baden--African
    Purrahs                                                        377


    The Emperor Lewis the
    Bavarian--Charles IV.--Wenceslaus--Rupertian
    Reformation--Encroachments of
    the Fehm-courts--Case of Nickel Weller and the
    Town of Görlitz--Of the City of Dantzig--Of Hans
    David and the Teutonic Knights--Other instances of
    the presumption of the Free-counts--Citation of the
    Emperor Frederic III.--Case of the Count of Teckenburg         385


    Cause of the degeneracy of the Fehm-courts--Attempts
    at reformation--Causes of their high reputation--Case
    of the Duke of Würtemberg--Of Kerstian Kerkerink--Causes
    of the Decline of the Fehm-jurisdiction                        398





If we had the means of investigating historically the origin of Secret
Societies, we should probably find that they began to be formed almost
as soon as any knowledge had been accumulated by particular individuals
beyond what constituted the common stock. The same thing has happened to
knowledge that has happened to all other human possessions,--its actual
holders have striven to keep it to themselves. It is true that in this
case the possessor of the advantage does not seem to have the same
reason for being averse to share it with others which naturally operates
in regard to many good things of a different kind; he does not, by
imparting it to those around him, diminish his own store. This is true,
in so far as regards the possession of knowledge considered in its
character of a real good; the owner of the treasure does not impoverish
himself by giving it away, as he would by giving away his money, but
remains as rich as ever, even after he has made ever so many others as
rich as himself. But still there is one thing that he loses, and a thing
upon which the human mind is apt to set a very high value; he loses the
distinction which he derived from his knowledge. This distinction really
serves, in many respects, the same purpose that money itself does. Like
money, it brings observation and worship. Like money, it is the dearest
of all things, power. Knowledge, however held, is indeed essentially
power; to _ken_, that is, to know, is the same word and the same thing
with to _can_, that is, to be able. But there is an additional and a
different species of power conferred by knowledge when it exists as the
distinction of a few individuals in the midst of general ignorance. Here
it is power not only to do those things the methods of doing which it
teaches; it is, besides, the power of governing other men through your
comparative strength and their weakness.

So strong is the motive thus prompting the possessor of knowledge to the
exclusive retention of his acquisitions, that unless it had been met by
another motive appealing in like manner directly to our self-interest,
it appears probable that scarcely any general dissemination of knowledge
would ever have taken place. The powerful counteracting motive in
question is derived from the consideration that in most cases one of the
most effective ways which the possessor of knowledge can take of
exciting the admiration of others, is to communicate what he knows. The
light must give itself forth, and illuminate the world, even that it may
be itself seen and admired. In the very darkest times, the scholar or
philosopher may find his ambition sufficiently gratified by the mere
reputation of superior attainments, and the stupid wonder, or it may be
superstitious terror, of the uninquiring multitude. But as soon as any
thing like a spirit of intelligence or of curiosity has sprung up in the
general mind, all who aspire to fame or consideration from their
learning, their discoveries, or their intellectual powers, address
themselves to awaken the admiration of their fellow-men, not by
concealing, but by displaying their knowledge--not by sealing up the
precious fountain, but by allowing its waters to flow freely forth, that
all who choose may drink of them. From this time science ceases almost
to have any secrets; and, all the influences to which it is exposed
acting in the same direction, the tendency of knowledge becomes wholly

But in the preceding state of things the case was altogether the
reverse. Then there was little or no inducement to the communication of
knowledge, and every motive for those who were in possession of it to
keep it to themselves. There was not intelligence enough abroad to
appreciate, or even to understand, the truths of philosophy if they had
been announced in their simplicity, and explained according to their
principles; all that was cared for, all that was capable of arousing the
vulgar attention, was some display, made as surprising and mysterious as
possible, of their practical application. It would even have been
attended with danger in many cases to attempt to teach true philosophy
openly, or to make open profession of it; it was too much in opposition
to some of the strongest prejudices which everywhere held sway. It is
not, then, to be wondered at, that its cultivators should have sought to
guard and preserve it by means of secret associations, which, besides
excluding the multitude from a participation in the thing thus fenced
round and hidden, answered also divers other convenient purposes. They
afforded opportunities of free conference, which could not otherwise
have been obtained. There was much in the very forms of mystery and
concealment thus adopted calculated to impress the popular imagination,
and to excite its reverence and awe. Finally, the veil which they drew
around their proceedings enabled the members of these secret societies
to combine their efforts, and arrange their plans, in security and
without interruption, whenever they cherished any designs of political
innovation, or other projects, the open avowal and prosecution of which
the established authorities would not have tolerated.

The facilities afforded by the system of secret association, and it may
even be said the temptations which it presents, to the pursuit of
political objects forbidden by the laws, are so great as to justify all
governments in prohibiting it, under whatever pretence it may be
attempted to be introduced. It is nothing to the purpose to argue that
under bad governments valuable political reforms have sometimes been
effected by such secret associations which would not otherwise have been
attained. The same mode of proceeding, in the nature of the thing, is
equally efficacious for the overthrow of a good government. Bad men are
as likely to combine in the dark for their objects as good men are for
theirs. In any circumstances, a secret association is an _imperium in
imperio_, a power separate from, and independent of, that which is
recognized as the supreme power in the state, and therefore something
essentially disorganizing, and which it is contrary to the first
principles of all government for any state to tolerate. In the case of a
bad government, indeed, all means are fairly available for its overthrow
which are not morally objectionable, the simple rule for their
application being that it shall be directed by considerations of
prudence and discretion. In such a case a secret association of the
friends of reform may sometimes be found to supply the most effective
means for accomplishing the desired end; but that end, however desirable
it may be, is not one which the constitution of the state itself can
rationally contemplate. The constitution cannot be founded upon the
supposition that even necessary alterations of it are to be brought
about through agencies out of itself, and forming no part of its
regular mechanism. Whenever such agencies are successfully brought into
operation, there is a revolution, and the constitution is at an end.
Even the amendment of the constitution so effected is its destruction.

Yet most of the more remarkable secret associations which have existed
in different ages and countries have probably either been originally
formed to accomplish some political end, or have come to contemplate
such an object as their chief design. Even when nothing more than a
reformation of the national religion has been, as far as can be
discovered, the direct aim of the association, it may still be fairly
considered as of a political character, from the manner in which
religion has been mixed up in almost every country with the civil
institutions of the state. The effect which it was desired to produce
upon the government may in many cases have been very far from extending
to its complete abolition, and the substitution of another form of
polity; an alteration in some one particular may have been all that was
sought, or the object of the association may even have been to support
some original principle of the constitution against the influence of
circumstances which threatened its subversion or modification. Whether
directed to the alteration or to the maintenance of the existing order
of things, the irregular and dangerous action of secret combinations is,
as we have said, a species of force which no state can reasonably be
expected to recognize. But it may nevertheless have happened at
particular emergencies, and during times of very imperfect civilization,
that valuable service has been rendered by such combinations to some of
the most important interests of society, and that they have to a
considerable extent supplied the defects of the rude and imperfect
arrangements of the ordinary government.

The system of secret association is, indeed, the natural resource of the
friends of political reform, in times when the general mind is not
sufficiently enlightened to appreciate or to support their schemes for
the improvement of the existing institutions and order of things. To
proclaim their views openly in such circumstances would be of no more
use than haranguing to the desert. They might even expose themselves to
destruction by the attempt. But, united in a secret association, and
availing themselves of all the advantages at once of their superior
knowledge and intelligence, and of their opportunities of acting in
concert, a very few individuals may work with an effect altogether out
of proportion to their number. They may force in a wedge which in time
shall even split and shiver into fragments the strength of the existing
social system, no matter by how many ages of barbarism it may be
consolidated. Or, in the absence of a more regular law and police, they
may maintain the empire of justice by stretching forth the arm of their
own authority in substitution for that of the state, which lies
paralysed and powerless, and turning to account even the superstitions
and terrors of the popular imagination by making these, as excited by
their dark organization and mysterious forms of procedure, the chain
whereby to secure the popular obedience.

On the whole, the system of secret association for political objects,
even when there is no dispute about the desirableness of the ends sought
to be accomplished, may be pronounced to be a corrective of which good
men will avail themselves only in times of general ignorance, or under
governments that sin against the first principles of all good
government, by endeavouring to put a stop to the advancement of society
through the prohibition of the open expression of opinion; but, in
countries where the liberty of discussion exists, and where the public
mind is tolerably enlightened, as entirely unsuited to the circumstances
of the case as it is opposed to the rules and maxims on which every
government must take its stand that would provide for its own
preservation. In these happier circumstances the course for the friends
of social improvement to follow is to come forward into the full light
of day as the only place worthy of their mission, and to seek the
realization of their views by directly appealing to the understandings
of their fellow-citizens.

One evil to which secret societies are always exposed is the chance of
the objects and principles of their members being misrepresented by
those interested in resisting their power and influence. As the wakeful
eyes of the government, and of those concerned in the maintenance of the
actual system, will be ever upon them, they must strictly confine the
knowledge of their real views and proceedings to the initiated, and as
their meetings must for the same reason be held in retired places, and
frequently by night, an opportunity, which is rarely neglected, is
afforded to their enemies of spreading the most calumnious reports of
their secret practices, which, though conscious of innocence, they may
not venture openly to confute. By arts of this kind the suspicions and
aversion of the people are excited, and they are often thus made to
persecute their best friends, and still to bow beneath the yoke of their
real foes. The similarity of the accusations made against secret
associations in all parts of the world is a sufficient proof of their
falsehood, and we should always listen to them with the utmost
suspicion, recollecting the quarter from which they proceed. Of the
spotless purity of the Christian religion when first promulgated through
the Roman world no one can entertain a doubt; yet when persecution
obliged its professors to form as it were a secret society, the same
charges of Thyestian banquets, and of the promiscuous intercourse of the
sexes, were made against them, which they themselves afterwards brought,
and with probably as little truth, against the various sects of the
Gnostic heresy. Wherever there is secrecy there will be suspicion, and
charges of something unable to bear the light of day will be made.

The ancient world presents one secret society of a professedly political
character--that of the Pythagoreans. Of religious ones it might be
expected to yield a rich harvest to the inquirer, when we call to mind
all that has been written in ancient and modern times concerning the
celebrated mysteries. But the original Grecian mysteries, such as those
of Eleusis, appear to have been nothing more than public services of the
gods, with some peculiar ceremonies performed at the charge of the
state, and presided over by the magistrates, in which there were no
secrets communicated to the initiated, no revelation of knowledge beyond
that which was generally attainable. The _private_ mysteries, namely,
the Orphic, Isiac, and Mithraic, which were introduced from the East,
were merely modes employed by cunning and profligate impostors for
taking advantage of the weakness and credulity of the sinful and the
superstitious, by persuading them that by secret and peculiar rites, and
the invocation of strange deities, the apprehended punishment of sin
might be averted. The nocturnal assemblies for the celebration of these
mysteries were but too often scenes of vice and debauchery, and they
were discountenanced by all good governments. It is to these last, and
not to the Eleusinian mysteries, that the severe strictures of the
fathers of the church apply[1].

[Footnote 1: See Lobeck's excellent work "Aglaophamus."]

The history of Pythagoras and his doctrines is extremely obscure. The
accounts of this sage which have come down to us were not written till
many centuries after his death, and but little reliance is to be placed
on their details. Pythagoras was a Samian by birth; he flourished in the
sixth century before Christ, at the time when Egypt exercised so much
influence over Greece, and its sages sought the banks of the Nile in
search of wisdom. There is, therefore, no improbability in the tradition
of Pythagoras also having visited that land of mystery, and perhaps
other parts of the East, and marked the tranquil order of things where
those who were esteemed the wise ruled over the ignorant people. He may
therefore have conceived the idea of uniting this sacerdotal system with
the rigid morals and aristocratic constitution of the Dorian states of
Greece. His native isle, which was then under the tyranny of Polycrates,
not appearing to him suited for the introduction of his new system of
government, he turned his eyes to the towns of Magna Græcia, or Southern
Italy, which were at that time in a highly flourishing condition, whose
inhabitants were eager in the pursuit of knowledge, and some of which
already possessed written codes of law. He fixed his view on Croton, one
of the wealthiest and most distinguished of those towns.

Aristocracy was the soul of the Dorian political constitutions, and the
towns of Magna Græcia were all Dorian colonies; but in consequence of
their extensive commerce the tendency of the people was at that time
towards democracy. To preserve the aristocratic principle was the object
of Pythagoras; but he wished to make the aristocracy not merely one of
birth; he desired that, like the sacerdotal castes of the East, it
should also have the supremacy in knowledge. As his system was contrary
to the general feeling, Pythagoras saw that it was only by gaining the
veneration of the people that he could carry it into effect; and by his
personal advantages of beauty of form, skill in gymnastic exercises,
eloquence, and dignity, he drew to himself the popular favour by casting
the mantle of mystery over his doctrines. He thus at once inspired the
people with awe for them, and the nobles with zeal to become initiated
in his secrets.

The most perfect success, we are told, attended the project of the
philosopher. A total change of manners took place in Croton; the
constitution became nearly Spartan; a body of 300 nobles, rendered by
the lessons of the sage as superior to the people in knowledge of every
kind as they were in birth, ruled over it. The nobles of the other
states flocked to Croton to learn how to govern by wisdom; Pythagorean
missionaries went about everywhere preaching the new political creed;
they inculcated on the people religion, humility, and obedience; such of
the nobles as were deemed capable were initiated in the wisdom of the
order, and taught its maxims and principles; a golden age, in which
power was united with wisdom and virtue, seemed to have begun upon

But, like every thing which struggles against the spirit of the age,
such a political system was not fated to endure. While Croton was the
chief seat of Pythagoreanism, luxury had fixed her throne in the
neighbouring city of Sybaris. The towns were rivals: one or the other
must fall. It was little more than thirty years after the arrival of
Pythagoras in Croton that a furious war broke out between them. Led by
Milo and other Pythagoreans, who were as expert in military affairs as
skilled in philosophy, the Crotoniates utterly annihilated the power of
their rivals, and Sybaris sank to rise no more. But with her sank the
power of the Pythagoreans. They judged it inexpedient to give a large
share of the booty to the people; the popular discontent rose; Cylon, a
man who had been refused admittance into the order, took advantage of
it, and urged the people on; the Pythagoreans were all massacred, and a
democracy established. All the other towns took example by Croton, a
general persecution of the order commenced, and Pythagoras himself was
obliged to seek safety in flight, and died far away from the town which
once had received him as a prophet. The Pythagoreans never made any
further attempts at attaining political power, but became a mere sect of
mystic philosophers, distinguished by peculiarities of food and dress.

Ancient times present us with no other society of any importance to
which we can properly apply the term _secret_.

The different sects of the Gnostics, who are by the fathers of the
church styled heretics, were to a certain extent secret societies, as
they did not propound their doctrines openly and publicly; but their
history is so scanty, and so devoid of interest, that an examination of
it would offer little to detain ordinary readers.

The present volume is devoted to the history of three celebrated
societies which flourished during the middle ages, and of which, as far
as we know, no full and satisfactory account is to be found in English
literature. These are the Assassins, or Ismaïlites, of the East, whose
name has become in all the languages of Europe synonymous with murderer,
who _were_ a secret society, and of whom we have in general such vague
and indistinct conceptions; the military order of the Knights Templars,
who were most barbarously persecuted under the pretext of their holding
a secret doctrine, and against whom the charge has been renewed at the
present day; and, finally, the Secret Tribunals of Westphalia, in
Germany, concerning which all our information has hitherto been derived
from the incorrect statements of dramatists and romancers[2].

[Footnote 2: Since the present work was prepared, a translation of Von
Hammer's History of the Assassins has been published by Dr. Oswald
Charles Wood.]

It is the simplicity of truth, and not the excitement of romance, that
the reader is to expect to find in the following pages,--pictures of
manners and modes of thinking different from our own,--knowledge, not
_mere_ entertainment, yet as large an infusion of the latter as is
consistent with truth and instruction.


[Footnote 3: Hammer's _Geschichte der Assassinen_ (History of the
Assassins), and the same writer's _Fundgruben des Orients_ (Mines of the
East), M. Jourdain's _Extrait de l'Ouvrage de Mirkhond sur la Dynastie
des Ismaelites_, and Malcolm's History of Persia, are the principal
authorities for the following account of the Assassins.]


     State of the World in the 7th Century--Western Empire--Eastern
     Empire--Persia--Arabia--Mohammed--His probable Motives--Character
     of his Religion--The Koran.

At the commencement of the 7th century of the Christian era a new
character was about to be impressed on a large portion of the world.
During the two centuries which preceded, the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and
other martial tribes of the Germanic race, had succeeded in beating down
the barriers opposed to them, and in conquering and dismembering the
Western Empire. They brought with them and retained their love of
freedom and spirit of dauntless valour, but abandoned their ancient and
ferocious superstitions, and embraced the corrupt system which then
degraded the name of Christianity. This system, hardened, as it were, by
ideas retained and transferred from the original faith of its new
disciples, which ideas were fostered by those passages of the books of
the Hebrew Scriptures which accorded with their natural sentiments,
afterwards, when allied with feudalism, engendered the spirit which
poured the hosts of Western Europe over the mountains and plains of Asia
for the conquest of the Holy Land.

A different picture was at this time presented by the empire of the
East. It still retained the extent assigned to it by Theodosius; and all
the countries from the Danube, round the east and south coasts of the
Mediterranean, to the straits of Gades, yielded a more or less perfect
obedience to the successors of Constantine. But a despotism more
degrading, though less ferocious, than those of Asia paralyzed the
patriotism and the energy of their subjects; and the acuteness, the
contentiousness, and the imagination of the Greeks, combined with
mysticism and the wild fancy of the Asiatics to transform the simplicity
of the religion of Christ into a revolting system of intricate
metaphysics and gross idolatry, which aided the influence of their
political condition in chilling the martial ardour of the people. The
various provinces of the empire were held together by the loosest and
feeblest connexion, and it was apparent that a vigorous shock would
suffice to dissolve the union.

The mountains of Armenia and the course of the Euphrates separated the
Eastern Empire from that of Persia. This country had been under the
dominion of the people named Parthians at the time when the eagles of
the Roman republic first appeared on the Euphrates, and defeat had more
than once attended the Roman armies which attempted to enter their
confines. Like every dominion not founded on the freedom of the people,
that of the Arsacides (the Parthian royal line) grew feeble with time,
and after a continuance of nearly five centuries the sceptre of Arsaces
passed from the weak hand of the last monarch of his line to that of
Ardeshir Babegan (that is the son of Babec), a valiant officer of the
royal army, and a pretended descendant of the ancient monarchs of
Persia. Ardeshir, to accomplish this revolution, availed himself of the
religious prejudices of the Persian people. The Parthian monarchs had
inclined to the manners and the religion of the Greeks, and the
Light-religion--the original faith of Persia, and one of the purest and
most spiritual of those to which a divine origin may not be
assigned--had been held in slight estimation, and its priests unvisited
by royal favour. It was the pride and the policy of Ardeshir to restore
the ancient religion to the dignity which it had enjoyed under the
descendants of Cyrus, and Religion, in return, lent her powerful aid to
his plans of restoring the royal dignity to its pristine vigour, and of
infusing into the breast of the people the love of country and the
ardour for extending the Persian dominion to what it had been of old;
and for 400 years the Sassanides[4] were the most formidable enemies of
the Roman empire. But their dominion had, at the period of which we
write, nearly attained the greatest limit allotted to Oriental
dynasties; and though Noosheerwan the Just had attained great warlike
fame, and governed with a vigour and justice that have made his name
proverbial in the East, and Khoosroo Purveez displayed a magnificence
which is still the theme of Persian poetry and romance, and carried his
victorious arms over Syria and Egypt, and further along the African
coast than even those of Darius I. had been able to advance, yet defeat
from the gallant Emperor Heraclius clouded his latter days, and the
thirteenth year after his death, by showing the Persian armies in
flight, and the palladium of the empire, the jewel-set apron of the
blacksmith Kawah, in the hands of the rovers of the deserts, revealed
the secret that her strength was departed from Persia. The brilliancy
of the early part of the reign of Khoosroo Purveez had been but the
flash before death which at times is displayed in empires as in
individuals. The vigour was gone which was requisite to stem the torrent
of fanatic valour about to burst forth from the wilds of Arabia.

[Footnote 4: The name given to the dynasty founded by Ardeshir, from his
pretended ancestor Sassan, a grandson of Isfundear, a hero greatly
celebrated in the ancient history of Persia. Isfundear was the son of
Gushtasp, who is supposed to be the Darìus Hystaspes of the Greek
historians. Sir John Malcolm has endeavoured to identify Isfundear with
the Xerxes of the Greeks.]

It is the boast of Arabia that it has never been conquered. This
immunity from subjugation has, however, been only partial, and is owing
to the nature of the country; for although the barren sands of the Hejaz
and Nejed have always baffled the efforts of hostile armies, yet the
more inviting region of Yemen, the Happy Arabia of the ancients, has
more than once allured a conqueror, and submitted to his sway. The
inhabitants of this country have been the same in blood and in manners
from the dawn of history. Brave, but not sanguinary, robbers, but kind
and hospitable, of lively and acute intellect, we find the Arabs, from
the days of Abraham to the present times, leading the pastoral and
nomadic life in the desert, agriculturists in Yemen, traders on the
coasts and on the confines of Syria and Egypt. Their foreign military
operations had hitherto been confined to plundering expeditions into the
last-mentioned countries, unless they were the Hycsos, or Shepherd
Kings, who, according to tradition, once made the conquest of Egypt.
Arabia forming a kind of world in itself, its various tribes were in
ceaseless hostility with each other; but it was apparent that if its
brave and skilful horsemen could be united under one head, and animated
by motives which would inspire constancy and rouse valour, they might
present a force capable of giving a fatal shock to the empires of Persia
and of Rome.

It is impossible, on taking a survey of the history of the world, not to
recognize a great predisposing cause, which appoints the time and
circumstances of every event which is to produce any considerable change
in the state of human affairs. The agency of this overruling providence
is nowhere more perceptible than in the present instance. The time was
come for the Arabs to leave their deserts and march to the conquest of
the world, and the man was born who was to inspire them with the
necessary motives.

Mohammed (_Illustrious_[5]) was the son of Abd-Allah (_Servant of God_),
a noble Arab of the tribe of Koreish, which had the guardianship of the
Kaaba (_Square House of Mecca_), the _Black Stone_ contained in which
(probably an aerolite) had been for ages an object of religious
veneration to the tribes of Arabia. His mother was Amineh, the daughter
of a chief of princely rank. He was early left an orphan, with the
slender patrimony of five camels and a female Æthiopian slave. His
uncle, Aboo Talib, brought him up. At an early age the young Mohammed
accompanied his uncle to the fair of Bozra, on the verge of Syria, and
in his 18th year he signalized his valour in an engagement between the
Koreish and a hostile tribe. At the age of 25 he entered the service of
Khadijah, a wealthy widow, with whose merchandise he visited one of the
great fairs of Syria. Mohammed, though poor, was noble, handsome, acute,
and brave; Khadijah, who was fifteen years his senior, was inspired with
love; her passion was returned; and the gift of her hand and wealth
gave the nephew of Aboo Talib affluence and consideration.

[Footnote 5: The Oriental proper names being mostly all significant, we
shall translate them when we first employ them. As, however, it is not
always that it can be discovered what the original Arabic characters are
of an eastern word which we meet in Roman letters, we shall be sometimes
obliged to leave names unexplained, and at other times to hazard
conjectural explanations. In the last case, we shall affix a mark of

Mohammed's original turn of mind appears to have been serious, and it is
not unlikely that the great truth of the Unity of the Deity had been
early impressed on his mind by his mother or his Jewish kindred. The
Koreish and the rest of his countrymen were idolaters; Christianity was
now corrupted by the intermixture of many superstitions; the
fire-worship of the Persians was a worshipping of the Deity under a
material form; the Mosaic religion had been debased by the dreams and
absurd distinctions of the Rabbis. A simpler form than any of these
seemed wanted for man. God, moreover, was believed to have at sundry
times sent prophets into the world for its reformation, and might do so
again; the Jews still looked for their promised Messiah; many Christians
held that the Paraclete was yet to come. Who can take upon him to assert
that Mohammed may not have believed himself to be set apart to the
service of God, and appointed by the divine decree to be the preacher of
a purer faith than any which he then saw existing? Who will say that in
his annual seclusions of fifteen days in the cave of Hira he may not
have fallen into ecstatic visions, and that in one of these waking
dreams the angel Gabriel may not have appeared to his distempered fancy
to descend to nominate him to the office of a prophet of God, and
present to him, in a visible form, that portion of his future law which
had probably already passed through his mind[6]? A certain portion of
self-delusion is always mingled with successful imposture; the impostor,
as it were, makes his first experiment on himself. It is much more
reasonable to conclude that Mohammed had at first no other object than
the dissemination of truth by persuasion, and that he may have beguiled
himself into a belief of his being the instrument selected for that
purpose, than that the citizen of a town in the secluded region of
Arabia beheld in ambitious vision from his mountain-cave his victorious
banners waving on the banks of the Oxus and the Ebro, and his name
saluted as that of the Prophet of God by a fourth part of the human
race. Still we must not pass by another, and perhaps a truer
supposition, namely, that, in the mind of Mohammed, as in that of so
many others, the end justified the means, and that he deemed it lawful
to feign a vision and a commission from God in order to procure from men
a hearing for the truth.

[Footnote 6: The Kubla Khan of Coleridge (Poetical Works, vol. i. p.
266) is a fine instance of this power of the mind, withdrawn from the
contemplation of material objects. The reader will probably recollect
the sign given from heaven to Lord Herbert of Cherbury, on the occasion
of his work written against revealed religion. The writer has lately
heard an instance of a lady of fortune, to whom, as she reclined one day
on a sofa, a voice seemed to come from heaven, announcing to her that
she was selected as the instrument for accomplishing a great work in the
hands of God; and giving, as a sign, that, for a certain number of
months, she should be unable to leave the sofa on which she was lying.
Such is the power of imagination, that the supposed intimation in regard
to the sign actually took effect; she believed herself to have lost the
power of motion, and therefore did in reality lose it.]

Whatever the ideas and projects of Mohammed may originally have been, he
waited till he had attained his fortieth year (the age at which Moses
showed himself first to the Israelites), and then revealed his divine
commission to his wife Khadijah, his slave Zeid, his cousin Ali, the son
of Aboo Talib, and his friend, the virtuous and wealthy Aboo Bekr. It is
difficult to conceive any motive but conviction to have operated on the
minds of these different persons, who at once acknowledged his claim to
the prophetic office; and it speaks not a little for the purity of the
previous life of the new Prophet, that he could venture to claim the
faith of those who were most intimately acquainted with him. The voice
of wisdom has assured us that a prophet has no honour in his own country
and among his own kindred, and the example of Mohammed testified the
truth of the declaration. During thirteen years the new religion made
but slow and painful progress in the town of Mecca; but the people of
Yathreb, a town afterwards dignified with the appellation of the City of
the Prophet (_Medinat-en-Nabi_), were more susceptive of faith; and
when, on the death of Aboo Talib, who protected his nephew, though he
rejected his claims, his celebrated Flight (_Hejra_) brought him to
Yathreb, the people of that town took arms in his defence against the
Koreish. It was probably now that new views opened to the mind of the
Prophet. Prince of Yathreb, he might hope to extend his sway over the
ungrateful Mecca; and those who had scoffed at his arguments and
persuasions might be taught lessons of wisdom by the sword. These
anticipations were correct, and in less than ten years after the battle
of Bedr (the first he fought) he saw his temporal power and his
prophetic character acknowledged by the whole of the Arabian peninsula.

It commonly happens that, when a new form of religion is proposed for
the acceptance of mankind, it surpasses in purity that which it is
intended to supersede. The Arabs of the days of Mohammed were idolaters;
300 is said to have been the number of the images which claimed their
adoration in the Caaba. A gross licentiousness prevailed among them;
their polygamy had no limits assigned to it[7]. For this the Prophet
substituted the worship of One God, and placed a check on the sensual
propensities of his people. His religion contained descriptions of the
future state of rewards and punishments, by which he allured to
obedience and terrified from contumacy or opposition. The pains of hell
which he menaced were such as were most offensive to the body and its
organs; the joys of Paradise were verdant meads, shady trees, murmuring
brooks, gentle airs, precious wines in cups of gold and silver, stately
tents, and splendid sofas; the melody of the songs of angels was to
ravish the souls of the blessed; the black-eyed Hoories were to be the
ever-blooming brides of the faithful servants of God. Yet, though
sensual bliss was to be his ultimate reward, the votary was taught that
its attainment demanded self-denial on earth; and it has been justly
observed that "a devout Mussulman exhibits more of the Stoical than of
the Epicurean character[8]." As the Prophet had resolved that the sword
should be unsparingly employed for the diffusion of the truth, the
highest degree of the future bliss was pronounced to be the portion of
the martyrs, i. e., of those who fell in the holy wars waged for the
dissemination of the faith. "Paradise," says the Prophet, "is beneath
the shadow of swords." At the day of judgment the wounds of the fallen
warrior were to be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk;
and the wings of angels were to supply the loss of limbs. The religion
of Mohammed was entitled Islam (_resignation_), whence its votaries were
called by the Arabs Moslems, and in Persian Mussulmans. Its articles of
belief were five--belief in God, in his angels, in his Prophet, in the
last day, and in predestination. Its positive duties were also
five--purification, prayer, fasting, alms, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Various rites and observances which the Arabs had hitherto practised
were retained by the Prophet, either out of regard for the prejudices of
his followers, or because he did not, or could not, divest his own mind
of respect for usages in which he had been reared up from infancy.

[Footnote 7: See, in Sir J. Malcolm's History of Persia, the dialogue
between the Persian king Yezdijird and the Arab envoy. "Whatever," said
the latter, "thou hast said regarding the former condition of the Arabs
is true. Their food was green lizards; they buried their infant
daughters alive; nay, some of them feasted on dead carcasses and drank
blood, while others slew their relations, and thought themselves great
and valiant when, by such an act, they became possessed of more
property. They were clothed with hair garments, knew not good from evil,
and made no distinction between that which is lawful and that which is
unlawful. Such was our state. But God in his mercy has sent us by a holy
prophet a sacred volume, which teaches us the true faith," &c.]

[Footnote 8: Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. 165.]

Such is a slight sketch of the religion which Mohammed substituted for
the idolatry of Arabia. It contained little that was original; all its
details of the future state were borrowed from Judaism or from the
Magian system of Persia. The book which contains it, entitled the Koran
(_reading_), was composed in detached pieces, during a long series of
years, by the _illiterate_ Prophet, and taken down from his lips by his
scribes. His own account of its origin was that each Sura, or
revelation, was brought to him from heaven by the angel Gabriel. It is
regarded by the Mohammedan East, and by most European Orientalists, as
the masterpiece of Arabian literature; and when we make due allowance
for the difference of European and Arabian models and taste, and
consider that the rhyme[9] which in prose is insufferable to the former,
may to the latter sound grateful, we may allow that the praises lavished
on it are not unmerited. Though tedious and often childish legends, and
long and tiresome civil regulations, occupy the greater part of it, it
is pervaded by a fine strain of fervid piety and humble resignation to
the will of God, not unworthy of the inspired seers of Israel; and the
sublime doctrine of the Unity of God runs like a vein of pure gold
through each portion of the mass, giving lustre and dignity to all.
Might we not venture to say that Christianity itself has derived
advantage from the imposture of Mohammed, and that the clear and open
profession of the Divine Unity by their Mohammedan enemies kept the
Christians of the dark ages from smothering it beneath the mass of
superstition and fable by which they corrupted and deformed so much of
the majestic simplicity of the Gospel? No one, certainly, would dream of
comparing the son of Abd-Allah with the Son of God, of setting darkness
by the side of light; but still we may confess him to have been an agent
in the hands of the Almighty, and admit that his assumption of the
prophetic office was productive of good as well as of evil.

[Footnote 9: The Hebrews, as appears from the poetic parts of the
Scriptures, had the same delight in the clang of rhyme as the Arabs. See
particularly Isaiah in the original.]

The Mohammedan religion is so intimately connected with history, law,
manners, and opinions, in the part of the East of which we are about to
write, that this brief view of its origin and nature was indispensable.
We now proceed to our history.


     Origin of the Khalifat--The first Khalifs--Extent of the Arabian
     Empire--Schism among the Mohammedans--Soonees and Sheähs--Sects of
     the latter--The Keissanee--The Zeidites--The Ghoollat--The
     Imamee--Sects of the Imamee--Their political Character--The
     Carmathites--Origin of the Fatimite Khalifs--Secret Society at
     Cairo--Doctrines taught in it--Its Decline.

The civil and ecclesiastical dignities were united in the person of
Mohammed. As Emir (_prince_) he administered justice and led his
followers to battle; as Imam (_director_) he on every Friday (the
Mohammedan sabbath) taught the principles and duties of religion from
his pulpit. Though his wives were numerous, the Prophet had no male
issue surviving at the time when he felt the approaches of death; but
his daughter Fatima was married to his cousin Ali, his early and
faithful disciple, and it was naturally to be expected that the expiring
voice of the Prophet would nominate him as his Khalif (_successor_) over
the followers of his faith. But Ayesha, the daughter of Aboo Bekr,
Mohammed's youthful and best beloved wife, was vehemently hostile to the
son of Aboo Talib, and she may have exerted all the influence of a
revengeful woman over the mind of the dying Prophet. Or perhaps
Mohammed, like Alexander, perplexed with the extent of dominion to which
he had attained, and aware that only a vigour of character similar to
his own would avail to retain and enlarge it, and, it may be, thinking
himself answerable to God for the choice he should make, deemed it the
safest course to leave the matter to the free decision of his surviving
followers. His appointing Aboo Bekr, a few days before his death, to
officiate in his pulpit, might seem to indicate an intention of
conferring the khalifat on him; and he is said to have at one time
declared that the strength of character displayed by his distinguished
follower, Omar, evinced his possession of the virtues of a prophet and a
khalif. Tradition records no equally strong declaration respecting the
mild and virtuous Ali.

At all events the Prophet expired without having named a successor, and
the choice devolving on his companions dissension was ready to break
out, when Omar, abandoning his own claims, gave his voice for Aboo Bekr.
All opposition was thus silenced, and the father of Ayesha reigned for
two years over the faithful. Ali at first refused obedience, but he
finally acknowledged the successor of the Prophet. When dying, Aboo Bekr
bequeathed the sceptre to Omar, as the worthiest, and when, twelve years
afterwards, Omar perished by the dagger of an assassin, six electors
conferred the vacant dignity on Othman, who had been the secretary of
the Prophet. Age having enfeebled the powers of Othman, the reins of
authority were slackened, and a spirit of discord pervaded all Arabia,
illustrative of the Prophet's declaration of vigour being essential to a
khalif. A numerous body of rebels besieged the aged Othman in Medina,
and he was slain, holding the Koran in his lap, by a band of murderers,
headed by the brother of Ayesha, who, the firebrand of Islam, it is
probable had been secretly active in exciting the rebellion.

The popular choice now fell upon Ali, but the implacable Ayesha
stimulated to revolt against his authority two powerful Arab chiefs,
named Telha and Zobeir, who raised their standards in the province of
Arabian Irak. Ayesha, mounted on a camel, appeared in the thickest of
the battle, in which the rebel chiefs were defeated and slain. The
generous Ali sent her to dwell at the tomb of the Prophet, where she
passed in tranquillity the remainder of her days. The khalif himself was
less fortunate. Moawiya, the Governor of Syria, son of Aboo Sofian, the
most violent of the opponents of the Prophet, assumed the office of the
avenger of Othman, whose death he charged on Ali and his party, and,
declaring himself to be the rightful khalif, roused Syria to arms
against the Prophet's son-in-law. In the war success was on the side of
Ali, till the superstition of his troops obliged him to agree to a
treaty; and shortly afterwards he was murdered by a fanatic in the mosk
of Coofa. His son Hassan was induced by Moawiya to resign his claims and
retire to the city of Medina; but his more high-spirited brother,
Hussein, took arms against the khalif Yezid, the son of Moawiya; and the
narrative of his death is one of the most pathetic and best related
incidents of Oriental history[10]. The sisters and children of Hussein
were spared by the clemency of the victorious Yezid, and from them
descend a numerous race, glorying in the blood of Ali and the Prophet.

[Footnote 10: See Ockley's History of the Saracens.]

The Arabian empire was now of immense extent. Egypt, Syria, and Persia
had been conquered in the reign of Omar. Under the first khalifs of the
dynasty of the Ommiades (so called from Ommiyah, the great-grandfather
of Moawiya), the conquest of Africa and Spain was achieved, and the
later princes of this family ruled over the most extensive empire of the

The great schism of the Mohammedan church (we must be permitted to
employ this term, the only one our language affords) commences with the
accession of the house of Ommiyah. The Mohammedans have, as is generally
known, been from that time to the present day divided into two great
sects, the Soonees and the Sheähs, the orthodox and the dissenters, as
we might venture to call them, whose opposite doctrines, like those of
the Catholics and the Protestants of the Christian church, are each the
established faith of great and independent nations. The Ottoman and the
Usbeg Turks hold the Soonee faith; the Persians are violent Sheähs; and
national and religious animosity concur in making them the determined
and inveterate foes of each other.

The Soonees hold that the first four khalifs were all legitimate
successors of the Prophet; but as their order was determined by their
degree of sanctity, they assign the lowest rank to Ali. The Sheähs, on
the contrary, maintain that the dignity of the Prophet rightfully
descended to the son of his uncle and the husband of his daughter. They
therefore regard Aboo Bekr, Omar, and Othman, as usurpers, and curse and
revile their memory, more especially that of the rigid Omar, whose
murderer they venerate as a saint. It must be steadily kept in mind, in
every discussion respecting the Mohammedan religion, that Mohammed and
his successors succeeded in establishing what the lofty and capacious
mind of Gregory VII. attempted in vain--the union of the civil and
ecclesiastical powers in the same person. Unlike the schisms of the
eastern and western, of the Catholic and Protestant churches, which
originated in difference of opinion on points of discipline or matters
of doctrine, that of the Mohammedans arose solely from ambition and the
struggle for temporal power. The sceptre of the greatest empire of the
world was to be the reward of the party who could gain the greatest
number of believers in his right to grasp the staff and ascend the
pulpit of the Prophet of God. Afterwards, when the learning of the
Greeks and the Persians became familiar to the Arabs, theological and
metaphysical niceties and distinctions were introduced, and the two
great stems of religion threw out numerous sectarian branches. The
Soonees are divided into four main sects, all of which are, however,
regarded as orthodox, for they agree in the main points, though they
differ in subordinate ones. The division of the Sheähs is also into four
sects, the point of agreement being the assertion of the right of Ali
and his descendants to the imamat, or supreme ecclesiastical dignity;
the point of difference being the nature of the proof on which his
rights are founded, and the order of succession among his descendants.
These four sects and their opinions are as follows:--

I. The first and most innocuous of the sects which maintained the rights
of the family of Ali were the Keissanee, so named from Keissan, one of
his freed-men. These, who were subdivided into several branches, held
that Ali's rights descended, not to Hassan or Hussein, but to their
brother, Mohammed-ben-Hanfee. One of these branch-sects maintained that
the imamat _remained_[11] in the person of this Mohammed, who had never
died, but had since appeared, from time to time, on earth, under various
names. Another branch, named the Hashemites, held that the imamat
descended from Mohammed-ben-Hanfee to his son Aboo-Hashem, who
transmitted it to Mohammed, of the family of Abbas, from whom it
descended to Saffah, the founder of the Abbasside dynasty of
khalifs[12]. It is quite evident that the object of this sect was to
give a colour to the claims of the family of Abbas, who stigmatized the
family of Ommiyah as usurpers, and insisted that the khalifat belonged
of right to themselves. Aboo-Moslem, the great general who first gave
dominion to the family of Abbas, was a real or pretended maintainer of
the tenets of this sect, the only branch, by the way, of the Sheähs
which supported the house of Abbas.

[Footnote 11: Hence they were named the Standing (_Wakfiyah_).]

[Footnote 12: Abbas, the ancestor of this family, was one of the uncles
of the Prophet. They obtained possession of the khalifat A.D. 750, and
retained it through an hereditary succession of princes for 500 years.
Al-Mansoor, the second khalif of this dynasty, transferred the royal
residence from Damascus, where the Ommiades had dwelt, to Bagdad, which
he founded on the banks of the Tigris. This city, also named the City of
Peace, the Vale of Peace, the House of Peace, has acquired, beyond what
any other town can claim, a degree of romantic celebrity by means of the
inimitable Thousand and One Nights. Such is the ennobling power of

II. A second branch of the Sheähs was named Zeidites. These held that
the imamat descended through Hassan and Hussein to Zein-al-Abedeen, the
son of this last, and thence passed to Zeid (whence their name), the son
of Zein; whereas most other Sheähs regarded Mohammed Bakir, the brother
of Zeid, as the lawful imam. The Zeidites differed from the other Sheähs
in acknowledging the three first khalifs to have been legitimate
successors of the Prophet. Edris, who wrested a part of Africa from the
Abbasside khalifs, and founded the kingdom of Fez, was a real or
pretended descendant of Zeid.

III. The Ghoollat (_Ultras_), so named from the extravagance of their
doctrines, which, passing all bounds of common sense, were held in equal
abomination by the other Sheähs and by the Soonees. This sect is said to
have existed as early as the time of Ali himself, who is related to have
burnt some of them on account of their impious and extravagant
opinions. They held, as we are told, that there was but one imam, and
they ascribed the qualities of divinity to Ali. Some maintained that
there were two natures (the divine and the human) in him, others that
the last alone was his. Some again said that this perfect nature of Ali
passed by transmigration through his descendants, and would continue so
to do till the end of all things; others that the transmission stopped
with Mohammed Bakir, the son of Zein-al-Abedeen, who still abode on
earth, but unseen, like Khizer, the Guardian of the Well of Life,
according to the beautiful eastern legend[13]. Others, still more bold,
denied the transmission, and asserted that the divine Ali sat enthroned
in the clouds, where the thunder was the voice and the lightning the
scourge wherewith he terrified and chastised the wicked. This sect
presents the first (though a very early) instance of the introduction
into Islam of that mysticism which appears to have had its original
birth-place in the dreamy groves of India. As a political party the
Ghoollat never seem to have been formidable.

[Footnote 13: Khizer, by some supposed, but perhaps erroneously, to be
the prophet Elias, is regarded by the Mohammedans in the light of a
beneficent genius. He is the giver of youth to the animal and the
vegetable world. He is clad in garments of the most brilliant green, and
he stands as keeper of the Well of Life in the Land of Darkness.
According to the romances of the East, Iskander, that is, Alexander the
Great, resolved to march into the West, to the Land of Darkness, that he
might drink of the water of immortality. During seven entire days he and
his followers journeyed through dark and dismal deserts. At length they
faintly discerned in the distance the green light which shone from the
raiment of Khizer. As they advanced it became more and more resplendent,
like the brightest and purest emeralds. As the monarch approached,
Khizer dipped a cup in the verdant Water of Life, and reached it to him;
but the impatience of Iskander was so great that he spilt the contents
of the cup, and the law of fate did not permit the guardian of the fount
to fill it for him again. The moral of this tale is evident. Its
historic foundation is the journey of the Macedonian to the temple of

IV. Such, however, was not the case with the Imamee, the most dangerous
enemies of the house of Abbas. Agreeing with the Ghoollat in the
doctrine of an _invisible_ imam, they maintained that there had been a
series of _visible_ imams antecedent to him, who had vanished. One
branch of this sect (thence called the Seveners--_Sebiïn_) closed the
series with Ismaïl, the grandson of Mohammed Bakir, the _seventh_ imam,
reckoning Ali himself the first. These were also called Ismaïlites, from
Ismaïl. The other branch, called Imamites, continued the series from
Ismaïl, through his brother Moosa Casim, down to Askeree, the twelfth
imam. These were hence called the Twelvers (_Esnaashree_). They believed
that the imam Askeree had vanished in a cavern at Hilla, on the banks of
the Euphrates, where he would remain invisible till the end of the
world, when he would again appear under the name of the Guide (_Mehdee_)
to lead mankind into the truth. The Imamee, wherever they might stop in
the series of the visible imams, saw that, for their political purposes,
it was necessary to acknowledge a kind of _locum tenentes_ imams; but,
while the Zeidites, who agreed with them in this point, required in
these princes the royal virtues of valour, generosity, justice,
knowledge, the Imamee declared themselves satisfied if they possessed
the saintly ones of the practice of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.
Hence artful and ambitious men could set up any puppet who was said to
be descended from the last of the visible imams, and aspire to govern
the Mohammedan world in his name.

The Twelvers were very near obtaining possession of the khalifat in the
time of the first Abbassides; for the celebrated Haroon Er-Rasheed's
son, Al-Mamoon, the eighth khalif of that house, moved either by the
strength or preponderance which the Sheäh party had arrived at, or, as
the eastern historians tell us, yielding to the suggestions of his
vizir, who was devoted to that sect, named Ali Riza, the eighth imam, to
be his successor on the throne. He even laid aside the black habiliments
peculiar to his family, and wore green, the colour of Ali and the
Prophet. But the family of Abbas, which now numbered 30,000 persons,
refused their assent to this renunciation of the rights of their line.
They rose in arms, and proclaimed as khalif Al-Mamoon's uncle Ibrahim.
The obnoxious vizir perished, and the opportune death of Ali Riza (by
poison, as was said) relieved the son of Haroon Er-Rasheed from
embarrassment. Ali Riza was interred at Meshed, in the province of
Khorasan; and his tomb is, to the present day, a place of pilgrimage for
devout Persians[14].

[Footnote 14: See Frazer's Khorasan.]

The Ismaïlites were more successful in their attempts at obtaining
temporal power; and, as we shall presently see, a considerable portion
of their dominions was wrested from the house of Abbas.

Religion has, in all ages, and in all parts of the world, been made the
mask of ambition, for which its powerful influence over the minds of the
ignorant so well qualifies it. But the political influence of religion
among the calmer and more reasoning nations of Europe is slight compared
with its power over the more ardent and susceptible natives of Asia.
Owing to the effects of this principle the despotism of the East has
never been of that still, undisturbed nature which we might suppose to
be its character. To say nothing of the bloody wars and massacres which
have taken place under the pretext of religion in the countries from
Japan to the Indus, the Mohammedan portion of the East has been, almost
without ceasing, the theatre of sanguinary dramas, where ambition, under
the disguise of religion, sought for empire; and our own days have seen,
in the case of the Wahabees, a bold though unsuccessful attempt of
fanaticism to achieve a revolution in a part of the Ottoman empire. It
was this union of religion with policy which placed the Suffavee family
on the throne of Persia in the fifteenth century; and it was this also
which, at a much earlier period, established the dominion of the
Fatimite khalifs of Egypt. The progress of this last event is thus
traced by oriental historians[15]:--

[Footnote 15: Lari and Macrisi, quoted by Hammer.]

The encouragement given to literature and science by the enlightened
Al-Mamoon had diffused a degree of boldness of speculation and inquiry
hitherto unknown in the empire of the Arabs. The subtile philosophy of
the Greeks was now brought into contact with the sublime but corrupted
theology of the Persians, and the mysticism of India secretly mingled
itself with the mass of knowledge. We are not, perhaps, to give credit
to the assertion of the Arab historian that it was the secret and
settled plan of the Persians to undermine and corrupt the religion, and
thus sap the empire, of those who had overcome them in the field; but it
is not a little remarkable that, as the transformation of the Mosaic
religion into Judaism may be traced to Persia, and as the same country
sent forth the monstrous opinions which corrupted the simplicity of the
Gospel, so it is in Persia that we find the origin of most of the sects
which have sprung up in Islam. Without agreeing with those who would
derive all knowledge from India, it may be held not improbable that the
intricate metaphysics and mysticism of that country have been the source
of much of the corruption of the various religions which have prevailed
in Cis-Indian Asia. It is at least remarkable that the north-east of
Persia, the part nearest to India, has been the place where many of the
impostors who pretended to intercourse with the Deity made their
appearance. It was here that Mani (_Manes_), the head of the Manichæans,
displayed his arts, and it was in Khorasan (_Sun-land_) that Hakem, who
gave himself out for an incarnation of the Deity, raised the standard of
revolt against the house of Abbas. But, be this as it may, on surveying
the early centuries of Islam, we may observe that all the rebellions
which agitated the empire of the khalifs arose from a union of the
claims of the family of Ali with the philosophical doctrines current in

We are told that, in the ninth century of the Christian era, Abdallah, a
man of Persian lineage, residing at Ahwaz, in the south of Persia,
conceived the design of overturning the empire of the khalifs by
secretly introducing into Islam a system of atheism and impiety. Not to
shock deep-rooted prejudices in favour of the established religion and
government, he resolved to communicate his doctrines gradually, and he
fixed on the mystic number seven as that of the degrees through which
his disciples should pass to the grand revelation of the vanity of all
religions and the indifference of all actions. The political cloak of
his system was the assertion of the claims of the descendants of
Mohammed, the son of Ismaïl, to the imamat, and his missionaries
(_dais_) engaged with activity in the task of making proselytes
throughout the empire of the khalifs. Abdallah afterwards removed to
Syria, where he died. His son and grandsons followed up his plans, and
in their time a convert was made who speedily brought the system into
active operation[16].

[Footnote 16: Macrisi is Hammer's authority for the preceding account of
Abdallah. It is to be observed that this Abdallah is unnoticed by

The name of this person was Carmath, a native of the district of Koofa,
and from him the sect was called Carmathites. He made great alterations
in the original system of Abdallah; and as the sect was now grown
numerous and powerful, he resolved to venture on putting the claims of
the descendants of Ismaïl to the test of the sword. He maintained that
the indefeasible right to earthly dominion lay with what he styled the
imam Maässoom (_spotless_), a sort of ideal of a perfect prince, like
the wise man of the Stoics; consequently all the reigning princes were
usurpers, by reason of their vices and imperfections; and the warriors
of the perfect prince were to precipitate them all, without distinction,
from their thrones. Carmath also taught his disciples to understand the
precepts and observances of Islam in a figurative sense. Prayer
signified obedience to the imam Maässoom, alms-giving was paying the
tithe due to him (that is, augmenting the funds of the society), fasting
was keeping the political secrets relating to the imam and his service.
It was not the tenseel, or outward word of the Koran, which was to be
attended to; the taweel, or exposition, was alone worthy of note. Like
those of Mokanna, and other opponents of the house of Abbas, the
followers of Carmath distinguished themselves by wearing white raiment
to mark their hostility to the reigning khalifs, whose garments and
standards retained the black hue which they had displayed against the
white banners of the house of Ommiyah. A bloody war was renewed at
various periods during an entire century between the followers of
Carmath and the troops of the khalifs, with varying success. In the
course of this war the holy city of Mecca was taken by the sectaries (as
it has been of late years by the Wahabees), after the fall of 30,000
Moslems in its defence. The celebrated black stone was taken and
conveyed in triumph to Hajar, where it remained for two-and-twenty
years, till it was redeemed for 50,000 ducats by the emir of Irak, and
replaced in its original seat. Finally, like so many of their
predecessors, the Carmathites were vanquished by the yet vigorous power
of the empire, and their name, though not their principles, was

During this period of contest between the house of Abbas and the
Carmathites, a dai (_missionary_) of the latter, named Abdallah,
contrived to liberate from the prison into which he had been thrown by
the khalif Motadhad a real or pretended descendant of Fatima, named
Obeid-Allah[17], whom he conveyed to Africa, and, proclaiming him to be
the promised Mehdi (_guide_), succeeded in establishing for him a
dominion on the north coast of that country. The gratitude of
Obeid-Allah was shown by his putting to death him to whom he was
indebted for his power; but talent and valour can exist without the
presence of virtue, and Obeid-Allah and his two next descendants
extended their sway to the shores of the Atlantic. Moez-ladin-Allah, his
great-grandson, having achieved the conquest of Egypt and Syria, wisely
abandoned his former more distant dominions along the coast of the
Mediterranean, his eye being fixed on the more valuable Asiatic empire
of the Abbassides. This dynasty of Fatimite khalifs, as they were
called, reigned during two centuries at Cairo, on the Nile, the foes and
rivals of those who sat in Bagdad, on the banks of the Tigris. Like
every other eastern dynasty, they gradually sank into impotence and
imbecility, and their throne was finally occupied by the renowned Koord

[Footnote 17: The genuineness of the descent of Obeid-Allah has been a
great subject of dispute among the eastern historians and jurists. Those
in the interests of the house of Abbas strained every nerve to make him
out an impostor.]

Obeid-Allah derived his pedigree from Ismaïl, the seventh imam. His
house, therefore, looked to the support of the whole sect of the
Seveners, or Ismaïlites, in their projects for extending their sway over
the Mohammedan world; and it was evidently their interest to increase
the numbers and power of that sect as much as possible. We are
accordingly justified in giving credit to the assurances of the eastern
historians, that there was a secret institution at Cairo, at the head of
which was the Fatimite khalif, and of which the object was the
dissemination of the doctrines of the sect of the Ismaïlites, though we
may be allowed to hesitate as to the correctness of some of the details.

This society, we are told, comprised both men and women, who met in
separate assemblies, for the common supposition of the insignificance of
the latter sex in the east is erroneous. It was presided over by the
chief missionary (Dai-al-Doat[18]), who was always a person of
importance in the state, and not unfrequently supreme judge
(_Kadhi-al-kodhat_[19]). Their assemblies, called Societies of Wisdom
(_Mejalis-al-hicmet_), were held twice a-week, on Mondays and
Wednesdays. All the members appeared clad in white. The president,
having first waited on the khalif, and read to him the intended lecture,
or, if that could not be done, having gotten his signature on the back
of it, proceeded to the assembly and delivered a written discourse. At
the conclusion of it those present kissed his hand and reverently
touched with their forehead the hand-writing of the khalif. In this
state the society continued till the reign of that extraordinary madman
the khalif Hakem-bi-emr-illah (_Judge by the command of God_), who
determined to place it on a splendid footing. He erected for it a
stately edifice, styled the House of Wisdom (_Dar-al-hicmet_),
abundantly furnished with books and mathematical instruments. Its doors
were open to all, and paper, pens, and ink were profusely supplied for
the use of those who chose to frequent it. Professors of law,
mathematics, logic, and medicine were appointed to give instructions;
and at the learned disputations which were frequently held in presence
of the khalif, these professors appeared in their state caftans
(_Khalaä_), which, it is said, exactly resembled the robes worn at the
English universities. The income assigned to this establishment, by the
munificence of the khalif, was 257,000 ducats annually, arising from the
tenths paid to the crown.

[Footnote 18: That is, _Missionary of Missionaries_.]

[Footnote 19: _Cadhi of Cadhis._]

The course of instruction in this university proceeded, according to
Macrisi, by the following nine degrees:--1. The object of the first,
which was long and tedious, was to infuse doubts and difficulties into
the mind of the aspirant, and to lead him to repose a blind confidence
in the knowledge and wisdom of his teacher. To this end he was perplexed
with captious questions; the absurdities of the literal sense of the
Koran, and its repugnance to reason, were studiously pointed out, and
dark hints were given that beneath this shell lay a kernel sweet to the
taste and nutritive to the soul. But all further information was most
rigorously withheld till he had consented to bind himself by a most
solemn oath to absolute faith and blind obedience to his instructor. 2.
When he had taken the oath he was admitted to the second degree, which
inculcated the acknowledgment of the imams appointed by God as the
sources of all knowledge. 3. The third degree informed him what was the
number of these blessed and holy imams; and this was the mystic seven;
for, as God had made seven heavens, seven earths, seas, planets, metals,
tones, and colours, so seven was the number of these noblest of God's
creatures. 4. In the fourth degree the pupil learned that God had sent
_seven_ lawgivers into the world, each of whom was commissioned to alter
and improve the system of his predecessor; that each of these had
_seven_ helpers, who appeared in the interval between him and his
successor; these helpers, as they did not appear as public teachers,
were called the mute (_samit_), in contradistinction to the _speaking_
lawgivers. The seven lawgivers were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus,
Mohammed, and Ismaïl, the son of Jaaffer; the seven principal helpers,
called Seats (_soos_), were Seth, Shem, Ishmael (the son of Abraham),
Aaron, Simon, Ali, and Mohammed, the son of Ismaïl. It is justly
observed[20] that, as this last personage was not more than a century
dead, the teacher had it in his power to fix on whom he would as the
mute prophet of the present time, and inculcate the belief in, and
obedience to, him of all who had not got beyond this degree. 5. The
fifth degree taught that each of the seven mute prophets had twelve
apostles for the dissemination of his faith. The suitableness of this
number was also proved by analogy. There are twelve signs of the zodiac,
twelve months, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve joints in the four
fingers of each hand, and so forth. 6. The pupil being led thus far, and
having shown no symptoms of restiveness, the precepts of the Koran were
once more brought under consideration, and he was told that all the
positive portions of religion must be subordinate to philosophy. He was
consequently instructed in the systems of Plato and Aristotle during a
long space of time; and (7), when esteemed fully qualified, he was
admitted to the seventh degree, when instruction was communicated in
that mystic Pantheism which is held and taught by the sect of the
Soofees. 8. The positive precepts of religion were again considered, the
veil was torn from the eyes of the aspirant, all that had preceded was
now declared to have been merely scaffolding to raise the edifice of
knowledge, and was to be flung down. Prophets and teachers, heaven and
hell, all were nothing; future bliss and misery were idle dreams; all
actions were permitted. 9. The ninth degree had only to inculcate that
nought was to be believed, everything might be done[21].

[Footnote 20: Hammer, p. 54.]

[Footnote 21: Mr. De Sacy (_Journal des Savans_, an 1818) is of opinion
that the Arabic words _Taleel_ and _Ibahat_ will not bear the strong
sense which Hammer gives them. The former, he says, only signifies that
Deism which regards the Deity as merely a speculative being, and
annihilates the moral relations between him and the creature; the latter
only denotes emancipation from the positive precepts of laws, such as
fasting, prayer, &c., but not from moral obligations.]

In perusing the accounts of secret societies, their rules, regulations,
degrees, and the quantity or nature of the knowledge communicated in
them, a difficulty must always present itself. Secrecy being of the very
essence of everything connected with them, what means had writers, who
were generally hostile to them, of learning their internal constitution
and the exact nature of their maxims and tenets? In the present case our
authority for this account of a society which chiefly flourished in the
tenth and eleventh centuries is Macrisi, a writer of the fifteenth
century. His authorities were doubtless of more ancient date, but we
know not who they were or whence they derived their information. Perhaps
our safest course in this, as in similar cases, would be to admit the
general truth of the statement, but to suffer our minds to remain in a
certain degree of suspense as to the accuracy of the details. We can
thus at once assent to the fact of the existence of the college at
Cairo, and of the mystic tenets of Soofeeism being taught in it, as also
to that of the rights of the Fatimites to the khalifat being inculcated
on the minds of the pupils, and missionaries being thence sent over the
east, without yielding implicit credence to the tale of the nine degrees
through which the aspirant had to pass, or admitting that the course of
instruction terminated in a doctrine subversive of all religion and of
all morality.

As we have seen, the Dai-al-doat, or chief missionary, resided at Cairo,
to direct the operations of the society, while the subordinate dais
pervaded all parts of the dominions of the house of Abbas, making
converts to the claims of Ali. The dais were attended by companions
(_Refeek_), who were persons who had been instructed up to a certain
point in the secret doctrines, but who were neither to presume to teach
nor to seek to make converts, that honour being reserved to the dais. By
the activity of the dais the society spread so widely that in the year
1058 the emir Bessassiri, who belonged to it, made himself master of
Bagdad, and kept possession of it during an entire year, and had money
struck, and prayer made, in the name of the Egyptian khalif. The emir,
however, fell by the sword of Toghrul the Turk, whose aid the feeble
Abbasside implored, and these two distinguishing acts of Mohammedan
sovereignty were again performed by the house of Abbas. Soon afterwards
the society at Cairo seems to have declined along with the power of the
Fatimite khalifs. In 1123 the powerful vizir Afdhal, on occasion of some
disturbance caused by them, shut up the Dar-al-hicmet, or, as it would
appear, destroyed it. His successor Mamoon permitted the society to hold
their meetings in a building erected in another situation, and it
lingered on till the fall of the khalifat of Egypt. The policy of Afdhal
is perhaps best to be explained by a reference to the state of the East
at that time. The khalif of Bagdad was become a mere pageant devoid of
all real power; the former dominions of the house of Abbas were in the
hands of the Seljookian Turks; the Franks were masters of a great part
of Syria, and threatened Egypt, where the khalifs were also fallen into
incapacity, and the real power had passed to the vizir. As this last
could aspire to nothing beyond preserving Egypt, a society instituted
for the purpose of gaining partisans to the claims of the Fatimites must
have been rather an impediment to him than otherwise. He must therefore
have been inclined to suppress it, especially as the society of the
Assassins, a branch of it, had now been instituted, which, heedless of
the claims of the Fatimites, sought dominion for itself alone. To the
history of that remarkable association we now proceed.


     Ali of Rei--His son Hassan Sabah--Hassan sent to study at
     Nishaboor--Meets there Omar Khiam and Nizam-al-Moolk--Agreement
     made by them--Hassan introduced by Nizam to Sultan Malek
     Shah--Obliged to leave the Court--Anecdote of him--His own account
     of his Conversion--Goes to Egypt--Returns to Persia--Makes himself
     Master of Alamoot.

There was a man named Ali, who resided in the city of Rei, in Persia. He
was a strenuous Sheäh, and maintained that his family had originally
come from Koofa, in Arabia; but the people of Khorasan asserted that his
family had always dwelt in one of the villages near Toos, in that
province, and that consequently his pretensions to an Arabian extraction
were false. Ali, it would appear, was anxious to conceal his opinions,
and employed the strongest asseverations to convince the governor of the
province, a rigid Soonite, of his orthodoxy, and finally retired into a
monastery to pass the remainder of his days in meditation. As a further
means of clearing himself from the charge of heresy he sent his only son
Hassan Sabah[22] to Nishaboor to be instructed by the celebrated imam
Mowafek, who resided at that place. What lessons he may have given the
young Hassan previously to parting with him, and what communication he
may have afterwards kept up with him, are points on which history is

[Footnote 22: Or Hassan-ben-Sabah (_son of Sabah_), so named from Sabah
Homairi, one of his pretended Arabian ancestors.]

The fame of the imam Mowafek was great over all Persia, and it was
currently believed that those who had the good fortune to study the
Koran and the Soonna[23] under him were secure of their fortune in
after-life. His school was consequently thronged by youths ambitious of
knowledge and future distinction; and here Hassan met, and formed a
strict intimacy with, Omar Khiam, afterwards so distinguished as a poet
and an astronomer, and with Nizam-al-Moolk (_Regulation of the Realm_),
who became vizir to the monarchs of the house of Seljook. This last, in
a history which he wrote of himself and his times, relates the following
instance of the early development of the ambition of Hassan. As these
three, who were the most distinguished pupils of the imam, were one day
together, "It is the general opinion," said Hassan, "that the pupils of
the imam are certain of being fortunate. This opinion may be verified in
one of us. So come, let us pledge ourselves to one another that he who
shall be successful will make the other two sharers in his good
fortune." His two companions readily assented, and the promise was
mutually given and received.

[Footnote 23: The Soonna is the body of traditions, answering to the
Mishua of the Jews, held by the orthodox Mussulmans.]

Nizam-al-Moolk entered the path of politics, where his talents and his
noble qualities had free course, and he rose through the various
gradations of office, till at length he attained the highest post in the
realm, the viziriate, under Alp Arslan (_Strong Lion_), the second
monarch of the house of Seljook. When thus exalted he forgot not his
former friends; and calling to mind the promise which he had made, he
received with great kindness Omar Khiam, who waited on him to
congratulate him on his elevation; and he offered at once to employ all
his interest to procure him a post under the government. But Omar, who
was devoted to Epicurean indulgences, and averse from toil and care,
thanking his friend, declined his proffered services; and all that the
vizir could prevail on him to accept was an annual pension of 1,200
ducats on the revenues of Nishaboor, whither he retired to spend his
days in ease and tranquillity.

The case was different with Hassan. During the ten years' reign of Alp
Arslan he kept aloof from the vizir, living in obscurity, and probably
maturing his plans for the future. But when the young prince Malek Shah
(_King King_) mounted the throne he saw that his time was come. He
suddenly appeared at the court of the new monarch, and waited on the
powerful vizir. The story is thus told by the vizir himself in his work
entitled Wasaya (_Political Institutes_), whence it is given by

"He came to me at Nishaboor in the year that Malek Shah, having got rid
of Kaward, had quieted the troubles which his rebellion had caused. I
received him with the greatest honours, and performed, on my part, all
that could be expected from a man who is a faithful observer of his
oaths, and a slave to the engagements which he has contracted. Each day
I gave him a new proof of my friendship, and I endeavoured to satisfy
his desires. He said to me once, 'Khojah (_master_), you are of the
number of the learned and the virtuous; you know that the goods of this
world are but an enjoyment of little duration. Do you then think that
you will be permitted to fail in your engagements by letting yourself be
seduced by the attractions of greatness and the love of the world? and
will you be of the number of _those who violate the contract made with
God_?' 'Heaven keep me from it!' replied I. 'Though you heap honours
upon me,' continued he, 'and though you pour upon me benefits without
number, you cannot be ignorant that that is not the way to perform what
we once pledged ourselves to respecting each other.' 'You are right,'
said I; 'and I am ready to satisfy you in what I promised. All that I
possess of honour and power, received from my fathers or acquired by
myself, belongs to you in common with me.' I then introduced him into
the society of the sultan, I assigned him a rank and suitable titles,
and I related to the prince all that had formerly passed between him and
me. I spoke in terms of such praise of the extent of his knowledge, of
his excellent qualities, and his good morals, that he obtained the rank
of minister and of a confidential man. But he was, like his father, an
impostor, a hypocrite, one who knew how to impose, and a wretch. He so
well possessed the art of covering himself with an exterior of probity
and virtue that in a little time he completely gained the mind of the
sultan, and inspired him with such confidence that that prince blindly
followed his advice in most of those affairs of a greater and more
important nature which required good faith and sincerity, and he was
always decided by his opinion. I have said all this to let it be seen
that it was I who had raised him to this fortune, and yet, by an effect
of his bad character, there came quarrels between the sultan and me, the
unpleasant result of which had like to have been that the good
reputation and favour which I had enjoyed for so many years were near
going into dust and being annihilated; for at last his malignity broke
out on a sudden, and the effects of his jealousy showed themselves in
the most terrible manner in his actions and in his words."

In fact, Hassan played the part of a treacherous friend. Everything that
occurred in the divan was carefully reported to the sultan, and the
worst construction put upon it, and hints of the incapacity and
dishonesty of the vizir were thrown out on the fitting occasions. The
vizir himself has left us an account of what he considered the worst
trick which his old schoolfellow attempted to play him. The sultan, it
seems, wishing to see a clear and regular balance-sheet of the revenues
and expenditure of his empire, directed Nizam-al-Moolk to prepare it.
The vizir required a space of more than a year for the accomplishment of
the task. Hassan deemed this a good opportunity for distinguishing
himself, and boldly offered to do what the sultan demanded in forty
days, not more than one-tenth of the time required by the vizir. All the
clerks in the finance department were immediately placed at the disposal
of Hassan; and the vizir himself confesses that at the end of the forty
days the accounts were ready to be laid before the sultan. But, just
when we might expect to see Hassan in triumph, and enjoying the highest
favour of the monarch, we find him leaving the court in disgrace and
vowing revenge on the sultan and his minister. This circumstance is left
unexplained by the Ornament of the Realm, who however acknowledges, with
great _naïveté_, that, if Hassan had not been obliged to fly, he should
have left the court himself. But other historians inform us that the
vizir, apprehensive of the consequences, had recourse to art, and
contrived to have some of Hassan's papers stolen, so that, when the
latter presented himself before the sultan, full of hope and pride, and
commenced his statement, he found himself obliged to stop for want of
some of his most important documents. As he could not account for this
confusion, the sultan became enraged at the apparent attempt to deceive
him, and Hassan was forthwith obliged to retire from court with

Nizam-al-Moolk determined to keep no measures with a man who had thus
sought his ruin, and he resolved to destroy him. Hassan fled to Rei,
but, not thinking himself safe there, he went further south, and took
refuge with his friend the reis[24] Aboo-'l-Fazl (_Father of
Excellence_), at Isfahan. What his plans may have hitherto been is
uncertain; but now they seem to have assumed a definite form, and he
unceasingly meditated on the means of avenging himself on the sultan and
his minister. In consultation one day with Aboo-'l-Fazl, who appears to
have adopted his speculative tenets, after he had poured out his
complaints against the vizir and his master, he concluded by
passionately saying, "Oh that I had but two faithful friends at my
devotion! soon should I overthrow the Turk and the peasant," meaning the
sultan and the vizir. Aboo-'l-Fazl, who was one of the most clear-headed
men of his time, and who still did not comprehend the long-sighted views
of Hassan, began to fancy that disappointment had deranged the intellect
of his friend, and, believing that reasoning would in such a case be
useless, commenced giving him at his meals aromatic drinks and dishes
prepared with saffron, in order to relieve his brain. Hassan perceived
what his kind host was about, and resolved to leave him. Aboo-'l-Fazl in
vain employed all his eloquence to induce him to prolong his visit;
Hassan departed, and shortly afterwards set out for Egypt.

[Footnote 24: _Reis_, from the Arabic Râs (_the head_), answers in some
respects to _captain_, a word of similar origin. Thus the master of a
shin is called the Reis. Sir John Malcolm says, "it is equivalent to
_esquire_, as it was originally understood. It implies in Persia the
possession of landed estates and some magisterial power. The reis is in
general the hereditary head of a village."]

Twenty years afterwards, when Hassan had accomplished all he had
projected, when the sultan and the vizir were both dead, and the society
of the Assassins was fully organized, the reis Aboo-'l-Fazl, who was one
of his most zealous partisans, visited him at his hill-fort of Alamoot.
"Well, reis," said Hassan, "which of us was the madman? did you or I
stand most in need of the aromatic drinks and the dishes prepared with
saffron which you used to have served up at Isfahan? You see that I kept
my word as soon as I had found two trusty friends."

When Hassan left Isfahan, in the year 1078, the khalif Mostanser, a man
of some energy, occupied the throne of Egypt, and considerable exertions
were made by the missionaries of the society at Cairo to gain proselytes
throughout Asia. Among these proselytes was Hassan Sabah, and the
following account of his conversion, which has fortunately been
preserved in his own words, is interesting, as affording a proof that,
like Cromwell, and, as we have supposed, Mohammed, and all who have
attained to temporal power by means of religion, he commenced in
sincerity, and was deceived himself before he deceived others.

"From my childhood," says he, "even from the age of seven years, my sole
endeavour was to acquire knowledge and capacity. I had been reared up,
like my fathers, in the doctrine of the twelve imams, and I made
acquaintance with an Ismaïlite companion (_Refeek_), named Emir Dhareb,
with whom I knit fast the bonds of friendship. My opinion was that the
tenets of the Ismaïlites resembled those of the Philosophers, and that
the ruler of Egypt was a man who was initiated in them. As often,
therefore, as Emir said anything in favour of these doctrines I fell
into strife with him, and many controversies on points of faith ensued
between him and me. I gave not in to anything that Emir said in
disparagement of our sect, though it left a strong impression on my
mind. Meanwhile Emir parted from me, and I fell into a severe fit of
sickness, during which I reproached myself, saying, that the doctrine of
the Ismaïlites was assuredly the true one, and that yet out of obstinacy
I had not gone over to it, and that should death (which God avert!)
overtake me, I should die without having attained to the truth. At
length I recovered of that sickness, and I now met with another
Ismaïlite, named Aboo Nejm Zaraj, of whom I inquired touching the truth
of his doctrine. Aboo Nejm explained it to me in the fullest manner, so
that I saw quite through the depths of it. Finally I met a dai, named
Moomin, to whom the sheikh Abd-al-Melik (_Servant of the King_, i. e.
_of God_) Ben Attash, the director of the missions of Irak, had given
permission to exercise this office. I besought that he would accept my
homage (in the name of the Fatimite khalif), but this he at the first
refused to do, because I had been in higher dignities than he; but when
I pressed him thereto beyond all measure, he yielded his consent. When
now the sheikh Abd-al-Melik came to Rei, and through intercourse learned
to know me, my behaviour was pleasing unto him, and he bestowed on me
the office of a dai. He said unto me, 'Thou must go unto Egypt, to be a
sharer in the felicity of serving the imam Mostander.' When the sheikh
Abd-al-Melik went from Rei to Isfahan I set forth for Egypt[25]."

[Footnote 25: Mirkhond.]

There is something highly interesting in this account of his thoughts
and feelings given by Hassan Sabah, particularly when we recollect that
this was the man who afterwards organized the society of the Assassins,
so long the scourge of the East. We here find him, according to his own
statement, dreading the idea of dying without having openly made
profession of the truth, yet afterwards, if we are to credit the
Oriental historians, he inculcated the doctrine of the indifference of
all human actions. Unfortunately this declension from virtue to vice has
been too often exhibited to allow of our doubting that it may have
happened in the case of Hassan Sabah. A further reflection which
presents itself is this: Can anything be more absurd than those points
which have split the Moslems into sects? and yet how deeply has
conscience been engaged in them, and with what sincerity have they not
been embraced and maintained! Will not this apply in some measure to the
dissensions among Christians, who divide into parties, not for the
essential doctrines of their religion, but for some merely accessory

Hassan, on his arrival in Egypt, whither his fame had preceded him, was
received with every demonstration of respect. His known talents, and the
knowledge of the high favour and consideration which he had enjoyed at
the court of Malek Shah, made the khalif esteem him a most important
acquisition to the cause of the Ismaïlites, and no means were omitted to
soothe and flatter him. He was met on the frontiers by the Dai-al-Doat,
the sherif Taher Casvini, and several other persons of high
consideration; the great officers of state and court waited on him as
soon as he had entered Cairo, where the khalif assigned him a suitable
abode, and loaded him with honours and tokens of favour. But such was
the state of seclusion which the Fatimite khalifs had adopted, that
during the eighteen months which Hassan is said to have passed at Cairo
he never once beheld the face of Mostanser, though that monarch always
evinced the utmost solicitude about him, and never spoke of him but in
terms of the highest praise.

While Hassan abode in Egypt the question of the succession to the throne
(always a matter of dispute in Oriental monarchies) became a subject of
dissension and angry debate at court. The khalif had declared his eldest
son, Nesar, to be his legitimate successor; but Bedr-al-Jemali, the
Emir-al-Juyoosh, or commander-in-chief of the army, who enjoyed almost
unlimited power under the Fatimites, asserted the superior right of
Musteäli, the khalif's second son, which right his power afterwards made
good. Hassan Sabah, not very wisely, as it would seem, took the side of
Prince Nesar, and thereby drew on himself the hostility of
Bedr-al-Jemali, who resolved on his destruction. In vain the reluctant
khalif struggled against the might of the powerful Emir-al-Juyoosh; he
was obliged to surrender Hassan to his vengeance, and to issue an order
for committing him to close custody in the castle of Damietta.

While Hassan lay in confinement at Damietta one of the towers of that
city fell down without any apparent cause. This being looked upon in the
light of a miracle by the partisans of Hassan and the khalif, his
enemies, to prevent his deriving any advantage from it, hurried him on
board of a ship which was on the point of sailing for Africa. Scarcely
had the vessel put to sea when a violent tempest came on. The sea rolled
mountains high, the thunder roared, and the lightning flamed. Terror
laid hold on all who were aboard, save Hassan Sabah, who looked calm and
undisturbed on the commotion of the elements, while others gazed with
agony on the prospect of instant death. On being asked the cause of his
tranquillity he made answer, in imitation probably of St. Paul, "Our
Lord (_Seydna_) has promised me that no evil shall befall me." Shortly
afterwards the storm fell and the sea grew calm. The crew and passengers
now regarded him as a man under the especial favour of Heaven, and when
a strong west wind sprung up, and drove them to the coast of Syria, they
offered no opposition to his leaving the vessel and going on shore.

Hassan proceeded to Aleppo, where he staid some time, and thence
directed his course to Bagdad. Leaving that city he entered Persia,
traversed the province of Khuzistan, and, visiting the cities of
Isfahan and Yezd, went on to the eastern province of Kerman, everywhere
making proselytes to his opinions. He then returned to Isfahan, where he
made a stay of four months. He next spent three months in Khuzistan.
Having fixed his view on Damaghan and the surrounding country in Irak as
a district well calculated to be the seat of the power which he
meditated establishing, he devoted three entire years to the task of
gaining disciples among its inhabitants. For this purpose he employed
the most eloquent dais he could find, and directed them to win over by
all means the inhabitants of the numerous hill-forts which were in that
region. While his dais were thus engaged he himself traversed the more
northerly districts of Jorjan and Dilem, and when he deemed the time fit
returned to the province of Irak, where Hussein Kaïni, one of the most
zealous of his missionaries, had been long since engaged in persuading
the people of the strong hill-fort of Alamoot to swear obedience to the
khalif Mostanser. The arguments of the dai had proved convincing to the
great majority of the inhabitants, but the governor, Ali Mehdi, an
upright and worthy man, whose ancestors had built the fort, remained,
with a few others, faithful to his duty, and would acknowledge no
spiritual head but the Abbasside khalif of Bagdad; no temporal chief but
the Seljookian Malek Shah. Mehdi, when he first perceived the progress
of Ismaïlism among his people, expelled those who had embraced it, but
afterwards permitted them to return. Sure of the aid of a strong party
within the fort, Hassan is said to have employed against the governor
the same artifice by which Dido is related to have deceived the
Lybians[26]. He offered him 3,000 ducats for as much ground as he could
compass with an ox-hide. The guileless Mehdi consented, and Hassan
instantly cutting the hide into thongs surrounded with it the fortress
of Alamoot. Mehdi, seeing himself thus tricked, refused to stand to the
agreement. Hassan appealed to justice, and to the arms of his partisans
within the fortress, and by their aid compelled the governor to depart
from Alamoot. As Mehdi was setting out for Damaghan, whither he proposed
to retire, Hassan placed in his hand an order on the reis Mozaffer, the
governor of the castle of Kirdkoo, couched in these terms: "Let the reis
Mozaffer pay to Mehdi, the descendant of Ali, 3,000 ducats, as the price
of the fortress of Alamoot. Peace be upon the Prophet and his family!
God, the best of directors, sufficeth us." Mehdi could hardly believe
that a man of the consequence of the reis Mozaffer, who held an
important government under the Seljookian sultans, would pay the
slightest attention to the order of a mere adventurer like Hassan Sabah;
he, however, resolved, out of curiosity, or rather, as we are told,
pressed by his want of the money, to try how he would act. He
accordingly presented the order, and, to his infinite surprise, was
forthwith paid the 3,000 ducats. The reis had in fact been long in
secret one of the most zealous disciples of Hassan Sabah.

[Footnote 26: Sir J. Malcolm says that the person with whom he read this
portion of history in Persia observed to him that the English were well
acquainted with this stratagem, as it was by means of it that they got
Calcutta from the poor Emperor of Delhi.]

Historians are careful to inform us that it was on the night of
Wednesday, the sixth of the month Rejeb, in the 483d year of the Hejra,
that Hassan Sabah made himself master of Alamoot, which was to become
the chief seat of the power of the sect of the Ismaïlites. This year
answers to the year 1090 of the Christian era, and thus the dominion of
the Assassins was founded only nine years before the Christians of the
west established their empire in the Holy Land.

[Illustration: Hill Fort.]


     Description of Alamoot--Fruitless Attempts to recover it--Extension
     of the Ismaïlite Power--The Ismaïlites in Syria--Attempt on the
     Life of Aboo-Hard Issa--Treaty made with Sultan Sanjar--Death of
     Hassan--His Character.

Alamoot, a name so famous in the history of the East, signifies the
Vulture's Nest, an appellation derived from its lofty site. It was built
in the year 860, on the summit of a hill, which bears a fancied
resemblance to a lion couching with his nose to the ground, situated,
according to Hammer, in 50-1/2° E. long. and 36° N. lat. It was regarded
as the strongest of 50 fortresses of the same kind, which were scattered
over the district of Roodbar (_River-land_), the mountainous region
which forms the border between Persian Irak and the more northerly
provinces of Dilem and Taberistan, and is watered by the stream called
the King's River (_Shahrood_). As soon as Hassan saw himself master of
this important place he directed his thoughts to the means of increasing
its strength. He repaired the original walls, and added new ones; he
sunk wells, and dug a canal, which conveyed water from a considerable
distance to the foot of the fortress. As the possession of Alamoot made
him master of the surrounding country, he learned to regard the
inhabitants as his subjects, and he stimulated them to agriculture, and
made large plantations of fruit-trees around the eminence on which the
fortress stood.

But before Hassan had time to commence, much less complete these plans
of improvement, he saw himself in danger of losing all the fruits of
his toil. It was not to be expected that the emir, on whom the sultan
had bestowed the province of Roodbar, would calmly view its strongest
fort in the possession of the foe of the house of Seljook. Hassan,
therefore, had not had time to collect stores and provisions when he
found all access to the place cut off by the troops of the emir. The
inhabitants were about to quit Alamoot, but Hassan exerted the usual
influence of a commanding spirit over their minds, and confidently
assured them that that was the place in which fortune would favour them.
They yielded faith to his words and staid; and at length their
perseverance wore out the patience of the emir, and Alamoot thence
obtained the title of the Abode of Fortune. The sultan, who had at first
viewed the progress of his ex-minister with contempt, began soon to grow
apprehensive of his ultimate designs, and in 1092 he issued orders to
the emir Arslantash (_Lion-stone_) to destroy Hassan and his adherents.
Arslantash advanced against Alamoot. Hassan, though he had but 70 men
with him, and was scantily supplied with provisions, defended himself
courageously till Aboo Ali, the governor of Casveen, who was in secret
one of his dais, sent 300 men to his aid. These fell suddenly, during
the night, on the troops of the emir; the little garrison made at the
same time a sortie; the sultan's troops took to flight, and Alamoot
remained in the possession of the Ismaïlites. Much about the same time
Malek Shah sent troops against Hussein Kaini, who was actively engaged
in the cause of Hassan Sabah in Kuhistan. Hussein threw himself into
Moominabad, a fortress nearly as strong as that of Alamoot, and the
troops of the sultan assailed him in vain. It was now that Hassan began
to display the system which we shall presently unveil. The aged vizir,
the great and good Nizam-al-Moolk, perished by the daggers of his
emissaries, and the sultan himself speedily followed his minister to the
tomb, not without suspicion of poison.

Circumstances were now particularly favourable to the plans of Hassan
Sabah. On the death of sultan Malek Shah a civil war broke out among his
sons for the succession. All the military chiefs and persons of eminence
were engaged on one side or the other, and none had leisure or
inclination to attend to the progress of the Ismaïlites. These,
therefore, went on gradually extending their power, and fortress after
fortress fell into their hands. In the course of ten years they saw
themselves masters of the principal hill-forts of Persian Irak; they
held that of Shahdorr[27] (_King's pearl_), and two other fortresses,
close to Isfahan; that of Khalankhan, on the borders of Fars and
Kuhistan; Damaghan, Kirdkoo, and Firoozkoo, in the district of Komis;
and Lamseer and several others in Kuhistan. It was in vain that the most
distinguished imams and doctors of the law issued their _fetuas_ against
the sect of the Ismaïlites, and condemned them to future perdition; in
vain they called on the orthodox to employ the sword of justice in
freeing the earth from this godless and abominable race. The sect,
strong in its secret bond of unity and determination of purpose, went on
and prospered; the dagger avenged the fate of those who perished by the
sword, and, as the Orientalized European historian of the society
expresses it[28], "heads fell like an abundant harvest beneath the
twofold sickle of the sword of justice and the dagger of murder."

[Footnote 27: This castle was built by sultan Malek Shah. The following
was its origin:--As Malek Shah, who was a great lover of the chase, was
out one day a hunting, one of the hounds went astray on the nearly
inaccessible rock on which the castle was afterwards erected. The
ambassador of the Byzantine emperor, who was of the party, observed to
the sultan, that in his master's dominions so advantageous a situation
would not be left unoccupied, but would long since have been crowned
with a castle. The sultan followed the ambassador's advice, and erected
the castle of the King's Pearl on this lofty rock. When the castle fell
into the hands of the Ismaïlites, pious Moslems remarked that it could
not have better luck, since its site had been pointed out by a dog (an
unclean beast in their eyes), and its erection advised by an infidel.]

[Footnote 28: Hammer, 97.]

The appearance of the Ismaïlites, under their new form of organization,
in Syria, happened at the same time with that of the crusaders in the
Holy Land. The Siljookian Turks had made the conquest of that country,
and the different chiefs who ruled Damascus, Aleppo, and the other towns
and their districts, some of whom were of Turkish, others of Syrian
extraction, were in a constant state of enmity with each other. Such
powerful auxiliaries as the followers of Hassan Sabah were not to be
neglected; Risvan, Prince of Aleppo, so celebrated in the history of the
crusades, was their declared favourer and protector, and an Ismaïlite
agent always resided with him. The first who occupied this post was an
astrologer, and on his death the office fell to a Persian goldsmith,
named Aboo Taher Essaigh. The enemies of Risvan felt the effects of his
alliance with the Ismaïlites. The Prince of Emessa, for example, fell by
their daggers, as he was about to relieve the castle of the Koords, to
which Raymond, Count of Toulouse, had laid siege.

Risvan put the strong castle of Sarmin, which lay about a day's journey
south of Aleppo, into the hands of Aboo-'l-Fettah, the nephew of Hassan
Sabah, and his Dai-el-Kebir (_Great Missionary_) for the province of
Syria. The governor of this fortress was Aboo Taher Essaigh. A few years
afterwards (1107) the people of Apamea invoked the aid of Aboo Taher
against Khalaf, their Egyptian governor. Aboo Taher took possession of
the town in the name of Risvan, but Tancred, who was at war with that
prince, having come and attacked it, it was forced to surrender. Aboo
Taher stipulated for free egress for himself; but Tancred, in violation
of the treaty, brought him to Antioch, where he remained till his ransom
was paid. Aboo-'l-Fettah and the other Ismaïlites were given up to the
vengeance of the sons of Khalaf. Tancred took from them at the same time
another strong fortress, named Kefrlana. This is to be noted as the
first collision between the Crusaders and the Assassins, as we shall now
begin to call them. The origin of this name shall presently be

On the return of Aboo Taher to Aleppo a very remarkable attempt at
assassination took place. There was a wealthy merchant, named Aboo-Hard
Issa,[29] a sworn foe to the Ismaïlites, and who had spent large sums of
money in his efforts to injure them. He was now arrived from the borders
of Toorkistan with a richly laden caravan of 500 camels. An Ismaïlite,
named Ahmed, a native of Rei, had secretly accompanied him from the time
he left Khorasan, with the design of avenging the death of his father,
who had fallen under the blows of Aboo-Hard's people. The Ismaïlite, on
arriving at Aleppo, immediately communicated with Aboo Taher and Risvan.
Revenge, and the hope of gaining the wealth of the hostile merchant,
made them yield assent at once to the project of assassination. Aboo
Taher gave Ahmed a sufficient number of assistants; Risvan promised the
aid of his guards; and one day, as the merchant was in the midst of his
slaves, counting his camels, the murderers fell on him. But the faithful
slaves valiantly defended their master, and the Ismaïlites expiated
their guilt with their lives. The princes of Syria heaped reproaches on
Risvan for this scandalous violation of the rights of hospitality, and
he vainly endeavoured to justify himself by pretending ignorance of the
fact. Aboo Taher, as the increasing hatred of the people of Aleppo to
the sect made that town an unsafe abode, returned to Persia, his native
country, leaving his son, Aboo-'l-Fettah, to manage the affairs of the
society in his stead.

[Footnote 29: That is, Jesus. It may be here observed that the proper
names of the Old Testament are still used in the East. Ibrahim, Ismael,
Yahya, Joossuf, Moossa, Daood, Suleiman, Issa, are Abraham, Ishmael,
Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, and Joshua, or Jesus.]

The acquisition of castles and other places of strength was now the open
and avowed object of the society, whose aim was evidently at the empire
of Asia, and no mean was left unemployed for the effecting of this
design. In the year 1108 they made a bold attempt at making themselves
masters of the strong castle of Khizar, also in Syria, which belonged to
the family of Monkad. The festival of Easter being come, when the
Mussulman garrison was in the habit of going down into the town to
partake in the festivities of the Christians, during their absence the
Ismaïlites entered the castle, and barred the gates. When the garrison
returned towards night, they found themselves excluded; but the
Ismaïlites, in their reliance on the strength of the place, being
negligent, the women drew up their husbands by cords at the windows, and
the intruders were speedily expelled.

In the year 1113, as Mevdood, Prince of Mosul, was walking up and down,
on a festival day, in the mosk of Damascus, with the celebrated
Togteghin, he was fallen on and slain by an Ismaïlite. The murderer was
cut to pieces on the spot.

This year was, however, near proving fatal to the society in Syria.
Risvan, their great protector, died; and the eunuch Looloo, the guardian
of his young son, was their sworn enemy. An order for their
indiscriminate destruction was forthwith issued, and, in consequence,
more than 300 men, women, and children were massacred, while 200 more
were thrown into prison. Aboo-'l-Fettah was put to death with torture;
his body was cut to pieces and burnt at the gate looking towards Irak,
and his head sent through all Syria. They did not, however, fall totally
unavenged; the daggers of the society were directed against the
governors and men in power, many of whom became their victims. Thus, in
the year 1115, as the Attabeg Togteghin was receiving an audience at the
court of the khalif of Bagdad, the governor of Khorasan was fallen upon
by three Ismaïlites, who probably mistook him for the Attabeg, and he
and they perished. In 1119 as Bediï, the governor of Aleppo, was
journeying with his sons to the court of the emir Il-Ghazi, they were
fallen upon by two assassins; Bediï and one of his sons fell by their
blows; his other sons cut the murderers down; but a third then sprang
forth, and gave the finishing stroke to one of the young men, who was
already wounded. The murderer was taken, and brought before Togteghin
and Il-Ghazi, who only ordered him to be put in prison; but he drowned
himself to escape their vengeance, from which he had, perhaps, nothing
to apprehend.

In fact at this time the dread of the followers of Hassan Sabah had sunk
deep into the hearts of all the princes of the East, for there was no
security against their daggers. Accordingly, when the next year (1120)
Aboo Mohammed, the head of them at Aleppo, where they had re-established
themselves, sent to the powerful Il-Ghazi to demand of him possession
of the castle of Sherif, near that town, he feared to refuse; but the
people of Aleppo, at the persuasion of one of their fellow-citizens (who
speedily paid for his advice with his blood), rose _en masse_, levelled
the walls, filled up the ditches, and united the castle to the town.
Even the great Noor-ed-deen (_Lamp of Religion_) was some years
afterwards obliged to have recourse to the same artifice to save the
castle of Beitlaha from becoming one of their strong-holds.

The same system was pursued in Persia, where sultan Sanjar, the son of
Malek Shah, had united under his sceptre the greater part of the
dominions of his father and Fakhr-al-Moolk (_Fame of the Realm_). The
son and successor of Nizam-al-Moolk and Chakar Beg, the great uncle of
the sultan, perished by the daggers of the emissaries of Hassan Sabah.
Sultan Sanjar was himself on his march, intending to lay siege to
Alamoot, and the other strong-holds of the Ismaïlites, when one morning,
on awaking, he found a dagger struck in the ground close to his pillow.
The sultan was dismayed, but he concealed his terror, and a few days
afterwards there came a brief note from Alamoot, containing these words:
"Were we not well affected towards the sultan, the dagger had been
struck in his bosom, not in the ground." Sanjar recollected that his
brother Mohammed, who had laid siege to the castles of Lamseer and
Alamoot, had died suddenly just as they were on the point of
surrendering--an event so opportune for the society, that it was but
natural to ascribe it to their agency--and he deemed it the safest
course to proceed gently with such dangerous opponents. He accordingly
hearkened to proposals of peace, which was concluded on the following
conditions: 1. That the Ismaïlites should add no new works to their
castles; 2. That they should purchase no arms or military machines; 3.
That they should make no more proselytes. The sultan, on his part,
released the Ismaïlites from all tolls and taxes in the district of
Kirdkoh, and assigned them a part of the revenue of the territory of
Komis by way of annual pension. To apprehend clearly what the power of
the society was, we must recollect that sultan Sanjar was the most
powerful monarch of the East, that his mandate was obeyed from Cashgar
to Antioch, from the Caspian to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb.

Thirty-four years had now elapsed since the acquisition of Alamoot, and
the first establishment of the power of Hassan Sabah. In all that time
he had never been seen out of the castle of Alamoot, and had been even
known but twice to leave his chamber, and to make his appearance on the
terrace. In silence and in solitude he pondered the means of extending
the power of the society of which he was the head, and he drew up, with
his own hand, the rules and precepts which were to govern it. He had
outlived most of his old companions and early disciples, and he was now
childless, for he had put to death his two only sons, the elder for
having been concerned in the murder of his faithful adherent Hussein
Kaini; the younger for having violated the precept of the Koran against
drinking wine. Feeling the approaches of death, he summoned to Alamoot
Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid (_Keäh of Good Hope_), who was residing at Lamseer,
which he had conquered twenty years before, and Aboo Ali, of Casveen,
and committed the direction of the society to them, appointing the
former to be its proper spiritual head and director, and placing in the
hands of the latter the administration of the civil and external
affairs. He then calmly expired, apparently unconscious of or
indifferent to the fact of having, by the organization of his pernicious
society, rendered his name an object of execration, a by-word and a
proverb among the nations.

Dimly as we may discern the character of Hassan Sabah through the medium
of prejudice and hatred through which the scanty notices of it have
reached us, we cannot refuse him a place among the higher order of
minds. The founder of an empire or of a powerful society is almost
always a great man; but Hassan seems to have had this advantage over
Loyola and other founders of societies, that he saw clearly from the
commencement what might be done, and formed all his plans with a view to
one ultimate object. He surely had no ordinary mind who could ask but
two devoted adherents to shake the throne of the house of Seljook, then
at the acmé of its power.


     Organization of the Society--Names given to the Ismaïlites--Origin
     of the name Assassin--Marco Polo's description of the Paradise of
     the Old Man of the Mountain--Description of it given by Arabian
     writers--Instances of the obedience of the Fedavee.

Having traced thus far the history of this celebrated society, having
shown its origin, and how it grew out of the claims of the descendants
of Ali to the khalifat, mixed with the mystic tenets which seem to have
been ultimately derived from India, we proceed to describe its
organization, and its secret doctrines, as they are related by oriental

Hassan Sabah clearly perceived that the plan of the society at Cairo was
defective as a mean of acquiring temporal power. The Dais might exert
themselves, and proselytes might be gained; but till possession was
obtained of some strongholds, and a mode of striking terror into princes
devised, nothing effectual could be achieved. He first, therefore, as we
have seen, made himself master of Alamoot and the other strong places,
and then added to the Dais and the Refeek another class, named Fedavee
(_Devoted_), whose task it was to yield implicit obedience to the
mandate of their chief, and, without inquiry or hesitation, plunge their
daggers into the bosom of whatever victim was pointed out to them, even
though their own lives should be the immediate sacrifice. The ordinary
dress of the Fedavee was (like that of all the sects opposed to the
house of Abbas) white; their caps, girdles, or boots, were red. Hence
they were named the White (_Mubeiyazah_), and the Red (_Muhammeré_[30]);
but they could with ease assume any guise, even that of the Christian
monk, to accomplish their murderous designs.

[Footnote 30: Ahmar, fem. Hamra, is _red_ in Arabic; hence the
celebrated Moorish palace at Granada was called Alhambra (_Al-Hamra_),
_i. e._ the Red.]

The gradations in the society were these. At the head of it stood Hassan
himself and his successors, with the title of Seydna, or Sidna[31] (_Our
Lord_), and Sheikh-al-Jebal (_Mountain Chief_), a name derived from that
of the territory which was the chief seat of the power of the society.
This last, owing to the ambiguity of the word _sheikh_ (which, like
_seigneur_ and _signore_, signifies either an _elder_ or _chief_), has
been ridiculously translated by the early European historians _Old Man
of the Mountain_. Under him were the Dai-'l-Kebir (_Great
Missionaries_), of which there were three, for the three provinces of
Jebal, Kuhistan, and Syria[32]. Then came the Dais, next the Refeek,
then the Fedavee, and lastly the Lazik, or aspirants.

[Footnote 31: Hence the Spanish _Cid_.]

[Footnote 32: Hammer, book ii.]

Hassan was perfectly aware that without the compressing power of
positive religion no society can well be held together. Whatever,
therefore, his private opinions may have been, he resolved to impose on
the bulk of his followers the most rigid obedience to the positive
precepts of Islam, and, as we have seen, actually put his own son to
death for a breach of one of them.

Hassan is said to have rejected two of the degrees of the Ismaïlite
society at Cairo, and to have reduced them to seven, the original number
in the plan of Abdallah Maimoon, the first projector of this secret
society. Besides these seven degrees, through which the aspirants
gradually rose to knowledge, Hassan, in what Hammer terms the breviary
of the order, drew up seven regulations or rules for the conduct of the
teachers in his society. 1. The first of these, named Ashinai-Risk
(_Knowledge of duty_), inculcated the requisite knowledge of human
nature for selecting fit persons for admission. To this belonged the
proverbial expressions said to have been current among the Dais, similar
to those used by the ancient Pythagoreans, such as _Sow not on barren
ground_ (that is, Waste not your labour on incapable persons). _Speak
not in a house where there is a lamp_, (that is, Be silent in the
presence of a lawyer). 2. The second rule was called Teënis (_Gaining of
confidence_), and taught to win the candidates by flattering their
passions and inclinations. 3. The third, of which the name is not given,
taught to involve them in doubts and difficulties by pointing out the
absurdities of the Koran, and of positive religion. 4. When the aspirant
had gone thus far, the solemn oath of silence and obedience, and of
communicating his doubts to his teacher alone, was to be imposed on the
disciple; and then (5.) he was to be informed that the doctrines and
opinions of the society were those of the greatest men in church and
state. 6. The Tessees (_Confirmation_) directed to put the pupil again
through all he had learned, and to confirm him in it. And, (7.) finally,
the Teëvil (_Instruction in allegory_) gave the allegorical mode of
interpreting the Koran, and drawing whatever sense might suit their
purposes from its pages. Any one who had gone through this course of
instruction, and was thus become perfectly imbued with the spirit of the
society, was regarded as an accomplished Dai, and employed in the
important office of making proselytes and extending its influence.

We must again express our opinion that the minute accounts which are
given to us by some writers, respecting the rules and doctrines of
secret associations, should be received with a considerable degree of
hesitation, owing to the character and the means of information of those
from whom we receive them. In the present case our authority is a very
suspicious one. We are told that when Alamoot was taken by Hoolekoo
Khan, the Mongol prince, he gave his vizir, the learned Ata-Melek
(_King's father_) Jowani, permission to examine the library, and to
select such books as were worthy of being preserved. The vizir took out
the Korans and some other books of value in his eyes; the rest, among
which are said to have been the archives and the secret rules and
doctrines of the society, he committed, after looking cursorily through
them, to the flames. In an historical work of his own he gave the result
of his discoveries in those books, and he is the authority from which
Mirkhond and other writers have derived the accounts which they have
transmitted to us. It is quite clear, therefore, that the vizir of
Hoolakoo was at liberty to invent what atrocities he pleased of the sect
which was destroyed by his master, and that his testimony is
consequently to be received with suspicion. On the other hand it
receives some confirmation from its agreement with the account of the
society at Cairo given by Macrisi, and is not repugnant to the spirit of

This last doctrine, which is a kind of mystic Pantheism, viewing God in
all and all in God, may produce, like fatalism, piety or its opposite.
In the eyes of one who thus views God, all the distinctions between vice
and virtue become fleeting and uncertain, and crime may gradually lose
its atrocity, and be regarded as only a mean for the production of a
good end. That the Ismaïlite Fedavee murdered innocent persons without
compunction, when ordered so to do by his superiors, is an undoubted
fact, and there is no absurdity in supposing that he and they may have
thought that in so doing they were acting right, and promoting the cause
of truth. Such sanctifying of crime is not confined to the East; the
maxim that the end sanctions the means is of too convenient a nature not
to have prevailed in all parts of the world; and the assassins of Henry
III. and Henry IV. of France displayed all the sincerity and constancy
of the Ismaïlite Fedavees. Without, therefore, regarding the heads of
the Ismaïlites, with Hammer, mere ruthless and impious murderers, who
trampled under foot religion and morals with all their obligations, we
may assent to the opinion of their leading doctrine being Soofeïsm
carried to its worst consequences.

The followers of Hassan Sabah were called the Eastern Ismaïlites, to
distinguish them from those of Africa. They were also named the
Batiniyeh (_Internal or Secret_), from the secret meaning which they
drew from the text of the Koran, and Moolhad, or Moolahid (_Impious_) on
account of the imputed impiety of their doctrines,--names common to them
with most of the preceding sects. It is under this last appellation that
they were known to Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller. The name,
however, by which they are best known in Europe, and which we shall
henceforth chiefly employ, is that of Assassins. This name is very
generally derived from that of the founder of their society; but M. De
Sacy has made it probable that the oriental term Hashisheen, of which
the Crusaders made Assassins, comes from Hashish, a species of hemp,
from which intoxicating opiates were made, which the Fedavee were in the
habit of taking previously to engaging in their daring enterprises, or
employed as a medium of procuring delicious visions of the paradise
promised to them by the Sheikh-al-Jebal.

It is a curious question how Hassan Sabah contrived to infuse into the
Fedavee the recklessness of life, joined with the spirit of implicit
obedience to the commands of their superiors, which they so invariably
displayed. We are told[33] that the system adopted for this purpose was
to obtain, by purchase or otherwise, from their parents, stout and
healthy children. These were reared up in implicit obedience to the will
of the Sheikh, and, to fit them for their future office, carefully
instructed in various languages. The most agreeable spots were selected
for their abode, they were indulged in the gratification of their
senses, and, in the midst of their enjoyments, some persons were
directed to inflame their imaginations by glowing descriptions of the
far superior delights laid up in the celestial paradise for those who
should be admitted to repose in its bowers; a happiness only to be
attained by a glorious death met in obedience to the commands of the
Sheikh. When such ideas had been impressed on their minds, the glorious
visions ever floated before their eyes, the impression was kept up by
the use of the opiate above-mentioned, and the young enthusiast panted
for the hour when death, obtained in obeying the order of the Sheikh,
should open to him the gates of paradise to admit him to the enjoyment
of bliss never to end.

[Footnote 33: Wilken, Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, vol. ii.]

The celebrated Venetian, Marco Polo, who traversed the most remote parts
of the East in the 13th century, gave on his return to Europe an account
of the regions which he had visited, which filled the minds of men with
wonder and amazement. As is usual in such cases this was followed or
accompanied by unbelief, and it is only by the inquiries and discoveries
of modern travellers that the veracity of Marco Polo, like that of
Herodotus, has been established and placed beyond doubt.

Among other wonderful narratives which we meet in the travels of Marco
Polo is the account which he gives of the people whom he calls
Mulehetites (that is, Moolahid), and their prince the Old Man of the
Mountain. He describes correctly the nature of this society, and gives
the following romantic narrative of the mode employed by that prince to
infuse the principle of implicit obedience into the minds of his

[Footnote 34: Marsden's Translation.]

"In a beautiful valley," says he, "enclosed between two lofty mountains,
he had formed a luxurious garden, stored with every delicious fruit and
every fragrant shrub that could be procured. Palaces of various sizes
and forms were erected in different parts of the grounds, ornamented
with works of gold, with paintings, and with furniture of rich silks. By
means of small conduits contained in these buildings streams of wine,
milk, honey, and some of pure water, were seen to flow in every
direction. The inhabitants of these palaces were elegant and beautiful
damsels, accomplished in the arts of singing, playing upon all sorts of
musical instruments, dancing, and especially those of dalliance and
amorous allurement. Clothed in rich dresses, they were seen continually
sporting and amusing themselves in the garden and pavilions, their
female guardians being confined within doors, and never suffered to
appear. The object which the chief had in view in forming a garden of
this fascinating kind was this: that Mahomet having promised to those
who should obey his will the enjoyments of paradise, where every species
of sensual gratification should be found in the society of beautiful
nymphs, he was desirous of its being understood by his followers that he
also was a prophet, and a compeer of Mahomet, and had the power of
admitting to paradise such as he should choose to favour. In order that
none without his licence should find their way into this delicious
valley, he caused a strong and inexpugnable castle to be erected at the
opening of it, through which the entry was by a secret passage. At his
court, likewise, this chief entertained a number of youths, from the age
of twelve to twenty years, selected from the inhabitants of the
surrounding mountains, who showed a disposition for martial exercises,
and appeared to possess the quality of daring courage. To them he was in
the daily practice of discoursing on the subject of the paradise
announced by the Prophet and of his own, of granting admission, and at
certain times he caused draughts of a soporific nature to be
administered to ten or a dozen of the youths, and when half dead with
sleep he had them conveyed to the several apartments of the palaces in
the garden. Upon awakening from this state of lethargy their senses were
struck with all the delightful objects that have been described, and
each perceived himself surrounded by lovely damsels, singing, playing,
and attracting his regards by the most fascinating caresses, serving him
also with delicious viands and exquisite wines, until, intoxicated with
excess of enjoyment, amidst actual rivers of milk and wine, he believed
himself assuredly in paradise, and felt an unwillingness to relinquish
its delights. When four or five days had thus been passed, they were
thrown once more into a state of somnolency and carried out of the
garden. Upon their being introduced to his presence, and questioned by
him as to where they had been, their answer was, 'In paradise, through
the favour of your highness;' and then, before the whole court, who
listened to them with eager curiosity and astonishment, they gave a
circumstantial account of the scenes to which they had been witnesses.
The chief thereupon addressing them said, 'We have the assurance of our
Prophet that he who defends his lord shall inherit paradise, and if you
show yourselves devoted to the obedience of my orders, that happy lot
awaits you.' Animated to enthusiasm by words of this nature all deemed
themselves happy to receive the commands of their master, and were
forward to die in his service."

This romantic narrative, more suited to a place among the wonders of the
"Thousand and One Nights" than to admission into sober history, has been
very generally rejected by judicious inquirers such as De Sacy and
Wilkin, the able historians of the Crusades; but it has found credence
with Hammer, to whose work we are indebted for the far greater part of
the present details on the subject of the Assassins. This industrious
scholar has, as he thinks, found a proof of its truth in the
circumstance of similar narratives occurring in the works of some
Arabian writers which treat of the settlements of the society in Syria,
forgetting that a fabulous legend is often more widely diffused than
sober truth. All, therefore, that can be safely inferred from this
collection of authorities is that the same marvellous tale which the
Venetian traveller heard in the north of Persia was also current in
Syria and Egypt. Its truth must be established by a different species of

In the Siret-al-Hakem (_Memoirs of Hakem_), a species of Arabian
historic romance, the following account of the gardens at Massyat, the
chief seat of the Assassins in Syria, was discovered by Hammer[35]:--

[Footnote 35: Fundgruben des Orients, vol. iii.]

"Our narrative now returns to Ismaïl the chief of the Ismaïlites. He
took with him his people laden with gold, silver, pearls, and other
effects, taken away from the inhabitants of the coasts, and which he had
received in the island of Cyprus, and on the part of the king of Egypt,
Dhaher, the son of Hakem-biëmr-Illah. Having bidden farewell to the
sultan of Egypt at Tripolis, they proceeded to Massyat, when the
inhabitants of the castles and fortresses assembled to enjoy themselves,
along with the chief Ismail and his people. They put on the rich dresses
with which the sultan had supplied them, and adorned the castle of
Massyat with everything that was good and fine. Ismaïl made his entry
into Massyat with the Devoted (_Fedavee_), as no one has ever done at
Massyat before him or after him. He stopped there some time to take into
his service some more persons whom he might make Devoted both in heart
and body.

"With this view he had caused to be made a vast garden, into which he
had water conducted. In the middle of this garden he built a kiosk
raised to the height of four stories. On each of the four sides were
richly-ornamented windows joined by four arches, in which were painted
stars of gold and silver. He put into it roses, porcelain, glasses, and
drinking-vessels of gold and silver. He had with him Mamlooks (_i. e._
slaves), ten males and ten females, who were come with him from the
region of the Nile, and who had scarcely attained the age of puberty. He
clothed them in silks and in the finest stuffs, and he gave unto them
bracelets of gold and of silver. The columns were overlaid with musk and
with amber, and in the four arches of the windows he set four caskets,
in which was the purest musk. The columns were polished, and this place
was the retreat of the slaves. He divided the garden into four parts. In
the first of these were pear-trees, apple-trees, vines, cherries,
mulberries, plums, and other kinds of fruit-trees. In the second were
oranges, lemons, olives, pomegranates, and other fruits. In the third
were cucumbers, melons, leguminous plants, &c. In the fourth were roses,
jessamine, tamarinds, narcissi, violets, lilies, anemonies, &c. &c.

"The garden was divided by canals of water, and the kiosk was surrounded
with ponds and reservoirs. There were groves in which were seen
antelopes, ostriches, asses, and wild cows. Issuing from the ponds, one
met ducks, geese, partridges, quails, hares, foxes, and other animals.
Around the kiosk the chief Ismaïl planted walks of tall trees,
terminating in the different parts of the garden. He built there a great
house, divided into two apartments, the upper and the lower. From the
latter covered walks led out into the garden, which was all enclosed
with walls, so that no one could see into it, for these walks and
buildings were all void of inhabitants. He made a gallery of coolness,
which ran from this apartment to the cellar, which was behind. This
apartment served as a place of assembly for the men. Having placed
himself on a sofa there opposite the door, the chief made his men sit
down, and gave them to eat and to drink during the whole length of the
day until evening. At nightfall he looked around him, and, selecting
those whose firmness pleased him, said to them, 'Ho! such-a-one, come
and seat thyself near me.' It is thus that Ismaïl made those whom he had
chosen sit near him on the sofa and drink. He then spoke to them of the
great and excellent qualities of the imam Ali, of his bravery, his
nobleness, and his generosity, until they fell asleep, overcome by the
power of the _benjeh_[36] which he had given them, and which never
failed to produce its effects in less than a quarter of an hour, so that
they fell down as if they were inanimate. As soon as the man had fallen
the chief Ismaïl arose, and, taking him up, brought him into a
dormitory, and then, shutting the door, carried him on his shoulders
into the gallery of coolness, which was in the garden, and thence into
the kiosk, where he committed him to the care of the male and female
slaves, directing them to comply with all the desires of the candidate,
on whom they flung vinegar till he awoke. When he was come to himself
the youths and maidens said to him, 'We are only waiting for thy death,
for this place is destined for thee. This is one of the pavilions of
paradise, and we are the hoories and the children of paradise. If thou
wert dead thou wouldest be for ever with us, but thou art only dreaming,
and wilt soon awake.' Meanwhile the chief Ismaïl had returned to the
company as soon as he had witnessed the awakening of the candidate, who
now perceived nothing but youths and maidens of the greatest beauty, and
adorned in the most magnificent manner.

[Footnote 36: The Arabic name of the hyoscyamus, or henbane. Hammer
conjectures that the word _benge_, or, with the Coptic article
in the plural, _ni-benje_, is the same with the nepenthe of the
ancients.--Fundgruben des Orients, iii. 202.]

"He looked round the place, inhaled the fragrance of musk and
frankincense, and drew near to the garden, where he saw the beasts and
the birds, the running water, and the trees. He gazed on the beauty of
the kiosk, and the vases of gold and silver, while the youths and
maidens kept him in converse. In this way he remained confounded, not
knowing whether he was awake or only dreaming. When two hours of the
night had gone by, the chief Ismaïl returned to the dormitory, closed
the door, and thence proceeded to the garden, where his slaves came
around him and rose before him. When the candidate perceived him he said
unto him, 'O chief Ismaïl, do I dream, or am I awake?' The chief Ismaïl
then made answer to him, 'O such-a-one, beware of relating this vision
to any one who is a stranger to this place! Know that the Lord Ali has
shown thee the place which is destined for thee in paradise. Know that
at this moment the Lord Ali and I have been sitting together in the
regions of the empyrean. So do not hesitate a moment in the service of
the imam who has given thee to know his felicity.' Then the chief Ismaïl
ordered supper to be served. It was brought in vessels of gold and of
silver, and consisted of boiled meats and roast meats, with other
dishes. While the candidate ate he was sprinkled with rose-water; when
he called for drink there were brought to him vessels of gold and silver
filled with delicious liquors, in which also had been mingled some
_benjeh_. When he had fallen asleep, Ismaïl carried him through the
gallery back to the dormitory, and, leaving him there, returned to his
company. After a little time he went back, threw vinegar on his face,
and then, bringing him out, ordered one of the Mamlooks to shake him. On
awaking, and finding himself in the same place among the guests, he
said, 'There is no god but God, and Mohammed is the Prophet of God!' The
chief Ismaïl then drew near and caressed him, and he remained, as it
were, immersed in intoxication, wholly devoted to the service of the
chief, who then said unto him, 'O such-a-one, know that what thou hast
seen was not a dream, but one of the miracles of the imam Ali. Know that
he has written thy name among those of his friends. If thou keep the
secret thou art certain of thy felicity, but if thou speak of it thou
wilt incur the resentment of the imam. If thou die thou art a martyr;
but beware of relating this to any person whatever. Thou hast entered by
one of the gates to the friendship of the imam, and art become one of
his family; but if thou betray the secret, thou wilt become one of his
enemies, and be driven from his house.' Thus this man became one of the
servants of the chief Ismaïl, who in this manner surrounded himself with
trusty men, until his reputation was established. This is what is
related of the chief Ismaïl and his Devoted."

To these romantic tales of the paradise of the Old Man of the Mountain
we must add a third of a still more juggling character, furnished by the
learned and venerable Sheikh Abd-ur-Rahman (_Servant of the
Compassionate_, i. e., _of God_) Ben Ebubekr Al-Jeriri of Damascus, in
the twenty-fourth chapter of his work entitled "A Choice Book for
discovering the Secrets of the Art of Imposture[37]."

[Footnote 37: Fundgruben des Orients, vol. iv.]

After giving some account of Sinan, the chief of the Syrian Assassins,
whom we shall presently have occasion to mention, the sheikh proceeds to
narrate the artifice which he employed to deceive his followers:--

"There was near the sofa on which he sat a hole in the ground
sufficiently deep for a man to sit down in it. This he covered with a
thin piece of wood, leaving only so much of it open as would contain the
neck of a man. He placed on this cover of wood a disk of bronze with a
hole in the middle of it, and put in it two doors. Then taking one of
his disciples, to whom he had given a considerable sum of money to
obtain his consent, he placed the perforated disk round his neck, and
kept it down by weights, so that nothing appeared but the neck of the
man; and he put warm blood upon it, so that it looked as if he had just
cut off his head. He then called in his companions, and showed them the
plate, on which they beheld the head of their comrade. 'Tell thy
comrades,' said the master to the head, 'what thou hast seen, and what
has been said unto thee.' The man then answered as he had been
previously instructed. 'Which wouldest thou prefer,' said the master,
'to return to the world and thy friends, or to dwell in paradise?' 'What
need have I,' replied the head, 'to return to the world after having
seen my pavilion in paradise, and the hoories, and all that God has
prepared for me? Comrades, salute my family, and take care not to
disobey this prophet, who is the lord of the prophets in the state of
time, as God has said unto me. Farewell.' These words strengthened the
faith of the others; but when they were gone the master took the man up
out of the hole, and cut off his head in right earnest. It was by such
means as this that he made himself obeyed by his people."

The preceding accounts, whatever may be thought of their truth, serve to
testify a general belief throughout the East of some extraordinary means
being employed by the mountain chief to acquire the power which he was
known to possess over the minds of his Fedavee. And, in fact, there is
no great improbability in the supposition of some artifice of that
nature having been occasionally employed by him; for, when we recollect
that an Asiatic imagination is coarse, especially among the lower
orders, and that in the East men rarely see any females but those of
their own family, the chief might find no great difficulty in persuading
a youth, whom he had transported in a state of stupor into an apartment
filled with young girls, of his having been in the actual paradise
promised to the faithful.

But, laying aside supposition, we may observe that the very power over
the minds of their followers ascribed to Hassan Sabah and his successors
has been actually exercised in our own days by the chief of the
Wahabees. Sir John Malcolm[38] informs us, from a Persian manuscript,
that a few years ago one of that sect, who had stabbed an Arab chief
near Bussora, when taken, not only refused to do anything towards saving
his life, but, on the contrary, seemed anxiously to court death. He was
observed to grasp something firmly in his hand, which he appeared to
prize beyond life itself. On its being taken from him and examined, it
proved to be an order from the Wahabee chief for an emerald palace and a
number of beautiful female slaves in the blissful paradise of the
Prophet. This story, however, it must be confessed, appears to be little
consistent with the principles of the sect of the Wahabees, and we may
suspect that it has originated in some misapprehension.

[Footnote 38: History of Persia, vol. i.]

The following instance of the implicit obedience of the Fedavee to the
orders of Hassan Sabah is given by a respectable oriental historian[39].
An ambassador from the Sultan Malek Shah having come to Alamoot to
demand the submission and obedience of the sheikh, Hassan received him
in a hall in which he had assembled several of his followers. Making a
sign to one youth, he said, "Kill thyself!" Instantly the young man's
dagger was plunged into his own bosom, and he lay a corpse upon the
ground. To another he said, "Fling thyself down from the wall." In an
instant his shattered limbs were lying in the castle ditch. Then turning
to the terrified envoy, "I have seventy thousand followers who obey me
after this fashion. This be my answer to thy master."

[Footnote 39: Elmacin, Historia Saracenica, l. iii. p. 286.]

Very nearly the same tale is told of the Assassins of Syria by a western
writer[40]. As Henry Count of Champagne was journeying, in the year
1194, from Palestine to Armenia[41], his road lay through the confines
of the territory of the Ismaïlites. The chief sent some persons to
salute him, and to beg that, on his return, he would stop at, and
partake of the hospitality of his castle. The count accepted the
invitation. As he returned the Dai-al-Kebir advanced to meet him, showed
him every mark of honour, and led him to view his castles and
fortresses. Having passed through several, they came at length to one
the towers of which rose to an exceeding height. On each tower stood two
sentinels clad in white. "These," said the chief, pointing to them,
"obey me far better than the subjects of you Christians obey their
lords;" and at a given signal two of them flung themselves down, and
were dashed to pieces. "If you wish," said he to the astonished count,
"all my white ones shall do the same." The benevolent count shrank from
the proposal, and candidly avowed that no Christian prince could presume
to look for such obedience from his subjects. When he was departing,
with many valuable presents, the chief said to him significantly, "By
means of these trusty servants I get rid of the enemies of our society."

[Footnote 40: Marinus Sanutus, l. iii. p. x. c. 8.]

[Footnote 41: This was the Armenia in Cilicia.]

In oriental, and also in occidental history, the same anecdote is often
told of different persons, a circumstance which might induce us to doubt
of its truth altogether, or at least of its truth in any particular
case. The present anecdote, for instance, with a slight variation in the
details, is told of Aboo Taher, a celebrated leader of the Carmathites.
This chief, after his expedition to Mecca, in which he had slain 30,000
of the inhabitants, filled the hallowed well Zemzem with the bodies of
dead men, and carried off the sacred black stone in triumph, had the
hardihood to approach Bagdad, the residence of the khalif, with only 500
horsemen. The pontiff of Islam, enraged at the insult, ordered his
general Aboo Saj to take 30,000 men, and make him a prisoner. The
latter, having collected his forces, sent a man off to Aboo Taher to
tell him on his part that out of regard for him, who had been his old
friend, he advised him, as he had so few troops with him, either to
yield himself at once to the khalif or to see about making his escape.
Aboo Taher asked of the envoy how many men Aboo Saj had with him. The
envoy replied, "Thirty thousand." "He still wants three like mine," said
Aboo Taher; and calling to him three of his men, he ordered one of them
to stab himself, another to throw himself into the Tigris, a third to
fling himself down from a precipice. His commands were at once obeyed.
Then turning to the envoy, "He who has such troops fears not the number
of his enemies. I give thyself quarter; but know that I shall soon let
thee see thy general Aboo Saj chained among my dogs." In fact, that very
night he attacked and routed the troops of the khalif, and Aboo Saj,
happening to fall into his hands, soon appeared chained among the
mastiffs of the Carmathite chief[42].

[Footnote 42: D'Herbelot, _titre_ Carmath.]

The preceding details on the paradise of the Sheikh-al-Jebal, and his
power over the minds of his followers, will at least help to illustrate
the manners and modes of thinking of the orientals. We now resume the
thread of our narrative, and proceed to narrate the deeds of the
Assassins, as we shall henceforth designate them.


     Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid--Affairs of the Society in Persia--They acquire
     the Castle of Banias, in Syria--Attempt to betray Damascus to the
     Crusaders--Murders committed during the reign of Keäh Buzoorg.

Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid trod faithfully in the footprints of his
predecessor. He built the strong fortress of Maimoondees, and he made
the enemies of the society feel that it was still animated by the spirit
of Hassan Sabah. Sultan Sanjar, who, on account of the favourable terms
on which he had made peace with the Assassins, was regarded by the
rigidly orthodox as a secret follower of their doctrine, declared
himself once more their open enemy, and sent an army to ravage Kirdkoh.
These troops were defeated by those which Keäh sent against them; but
the following year Sanjar put to the sword a great number of the members
of the sect. The dagger, as usual, retaliated. Mahmood, the successor of
Sanjar, having first tried in vain the effect of arms, sent his grand
falconer Berenkesh to Alamoot, to desire that an envoy might be sent to
him to treat of peace. The Khojah (_Master_) Mohammed Nassihi
accompanied Berenkesh back to court, and kissed the hand of the sultan,
who spoke to him a few words about the peace; but as the Khojah was
going out of the palace, he and his followers were fallen upon and
massacred by the people.

When the sultan sent an ambassador to Alamoot to exculpate himself from
the guilt of participation in this violation of the laws of nations,
Keäh made answer, "Go back to the sultan, and tell him, in my name,
Mohammed Nassihi trusted to your perfidious assurances, and repaired to
your court; if you speak truly, deliver up the murderers to justice; if
not, expect my vengeance." On the refusal of the sultan to surrender the
murderers, a corps of Assassins appeared at the gates of Casveen, slew
400 men, and led away 3,000 sheep, 200 horses, and 200 oxen. Next year
the sultan took, and retained for a short time, the fortress of Alamoot;
but a body of 2,000 men which he sent against Lamseer fled, without
drawing a sword, when they heard that the Refeek (_Companions_) of the
society were marching against them. Shortly afterwards the sultan died,
and the Assassins made another incursion into the district of Casveen,
where they carried off booty and prisoners.

The mountain chief would tolerate no rival near his throne. Hearing that
one Aboo Hashem, a descendant of Ali, had arrogated to himself the
dignity of imam in the province of Ghilan, which lies north of Kuhistan,
and had issued letters calling on the people to acknowledge him, Keäh
wrote to him to desist from his pretensions. The self-appointed imam
only replied by reviling the odious tenets of the Ismaïlites. The sheikh
forthwith sent a body of his troops against him, took him prisoner, and,
after trying him by a court-martial, committed him to the flames.

Though, as we have seen, the settlements of the Assassins were in the
mountainous region of Irak, in the north-west of Persia, their power was
of such a nature that no distance was a security against it. A Fedavee
could speedily traverse the intervening regions to plant his dagger in
the bosom of any prince or minister who had incurred the vengeance of
the Sheikh-al-Jebal. Accordingly we find the shah (_King_) of Khaurism,
between which and Irak lies the extensive province of Khorasan, coming
to Sultan Massood, the successor of Mahmood, to concert with him a plan
for the destruction of these formidable foes to princes. The shah of
Khaurism had been formerly rather disposed to favour the Ismaïlites, but
his eyes were now opened, and he was become their most inveterate enemy.
Sultan Massood, we know not for what reason, bestowed on him the lands
which Berenkesh, the grand falconer, had held of the sultan. Berenkesh,
mortally offended at this unworthy treatment, retired, with his family,
to the territory of the Ismaïlites, and sought the protection of Keäh,
whose open enemy he had hitherto been. Policy, or a regard to good faith
and humanity, made the Assassin prince grant the protection which was
required; and when the shah of Khaurism wrote, reminding Keäh of his own
former friendship, and the bitter hostility of Berenkesh, and requesting
him, on that plea, to give up the fugitive, the sheikh replied, "The
shah of Khaurism speaks true, but we will never give up our suppliants."
Long and bloody enmity between the sheikh and the shah was the
consequence of this refusal to violate the rights of hospitality.

The Syrian branch of the society begins at this time to attract rather
more attention than that of Persia, chiefly on account of its connexion
with the Crusaders, who had succeeded in establishing an empire
extending from the frontiers of Egypt to those of Armenia. A Persian
Ismaïlite, named Behram of Astrabad, who is said to have commenced his
career by the murder of his own father, gained the confidence of the
vizir of the prince of Damascus, who gave him the castle of Banias, or
Panias (the ancient Balanea), for the use of the society. This place,
which became the nucleus of the power of the Assassins in Syria, lies in
a fertile, well-watered plain, about 4,000 paces from the sea. The
valley whence the numerous streams which fructify it issue is called the
Wadi-al-Jinn (_Valley of Demons_), "a place," observes Hammer, whom no
casual coincidence escapes, "from its very name worthy of becoming a
settlement of the Assassins." From Banias they extended their power over
the neighbouring castles and fortresses, until, twelve years afterwards,
the seat of dominion was transferred thence to Massyat.

Behram fell shortly afterwards in an engagement against the people of
the valley of Taïm, the brother of whose chief had perished by the
daggers of the Assassins. His successor was Ismaïl, a Persian, who
continued the bond of amity with the vizir of Damascus, whither he sent,
by way of resident, a man named, rather inappropriately as it would
appear, Aboo-'l-Wefa (_Father of Fidelity_). This man so won the favour
of the vizir and prince that he was appointed to the office of Hakem, or
supreme judge; and having thus acquired power and influence, he
immediately turned his thoughts to the best mode of employing them for
the advantage of the society, an object always near the heart of a true
Ismaïlite. A place of strength on the sea-coast would, he conceived, be
of the utmost importance to them; so he fixed his eyes upon Tyre, and
fell upon the following expedient to obtain possession of it.

The Franks had been now upwards of thirty years established in the East.
Their daring and enthusiastic valour was at once the dread and the
admiration of their Mussulman foes, and feats almost surpassing the
fables of the romances of chivalry had been performed by their gallant
warriors. These were the auxiliaries to whom Aboo-'l-Wefa directed his
attention; for we are to observe that as yet the fanatic spirit had not
united all the Moslems in enmity against the followers of the Cross,
and the princes of Aleppo, Damascus, and the other districts of Syria,
had been more than once in alliance with the Christian realms of
Jerusalem and Antioch. Aboo-'l-Wefa sent therefore and concluded a
secret treaty with Baldwin II., king of Jerusalem, in which he engaged,
if the Christian warriors would secretly march and appear before
Damascus on a Friday, when the emir and his officers would be at the
mosk, to give them possession of the gates of the town. The king was in
return to put Tyre into the hands of the Ismaïlites.

The Christian army was assembled; all the barons of the kingdom appeared
in arms; the king in person led the host; the newly-formed military
order of the Templars displayed for the first time in the field their
striped banner _Beauséant_, afterwards so well known in many a bloody
fray. Prince Bernard of Antioch, Count Pontius of Tripolis, the brave
Joscelin of Edessa, led their knights and footmen to share in the
capture of the wealthy city of Damascus. The mountains which environ
Lake Tiberias were left behind, and the host joyfully emerged into the
plain watered by the streams Abana and Pharpar. But here defeat awaited
them. Taj-al-Molook (_Diadem of Kings_) Boozi, the emir of Damascus, had
in time discovered the plot of his hakem. He had put him and the vizir
to death, and had ordered a general massacre of the Ismaïlites in the
city[43]. The Christian army was now at a place named Marj Safar, and
the footmen had begun to plunder the villages for food, when a small
body of gallant Damascene warriors rushed from the town and fell upon
them. The defenceless Christians sank beneath their blows, incapable of
resistance. The rest of the army advanced to aid or avenge their
brethren, when suddenly[44] the sky became overcast, thick darkness
enveloped all objects, the thunder roared, the lightning flashed, the
rain poured down in torrents, and, by a rapid transition, peculiar to
Eastern climates, the rain and waters turned into snow and ice, and
augmented the horrors of the day. The superstitious and
conscience-stricken Crusaders viewed in this awful phenomenon the
immediate agency of heaven, and deemed it to be sent as a punishment for
their sins; and, recollecting that on that very spot but four years
before King Baldwin had gained, with a handful of men, a victory over an
army of the Damascenes, they were plunged into grief and humiliation.
The only advantage which they derived from this expedition was the
acquisition of the castle of Banias, which the Ismaïlite governor put
into their hands, that under their protection he might escape the fate
of his brethren.

[Footnote 43: The number slain was 6,000.]

[Footnote 44: It was the month of December.]

Banias was given up to the Christians in the same year in which Alamoot
was taken by the Seljookian sultan, and thus the power of the Assassins
seemed to be almost gone. But it had in it a conservative principle,
and, hydra-like, it grew by its wounds. Alamoot was speedily recovered,
and three years afterwards Banias was once more the seat of a
Daï-al-Kebir. At the same time the dagger raged with unwonted fury
against all of whom the society stood in apprehension, and the annals of
the reign of Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid furnish a list of illustrious victims.

The first of these was the celebrated Aksunkur, Prince of Mossul, a
warrior equally dreaded by the Christians and by the Assassins. As this
prince, on his return from Maärra Mesrin, where the Moslem and Christian
hosts had parted without venturing to engage, entered the mosk at Mossul
to perform his devotions, he was attacked at the moment when he was
about to take his usual seat by eight assassins, disguised as dervishes.
Three of them fell beneath the blows of the valiant emir, but ere his
people could come to his aid he had received his death-wound and
expired. The remainder of the murderers became victims to the vengeance
of the people; one youth only escaped. The Arabian historian,
Kemal-ed-Deen, relates on this occasion a curious trait of the
fanaticism and Spartan spirit which animated the members of the sect of
the Ismaïlites. When the mother of the youth above-mentioned heard that
the formidable Aksunkur had been slain, she painted her face and put on
her gayest raiment and ornaments, rejoicing that her son had been found
worthy to die the glorious death of a martyr in the cause of the Imam.
But when she saw him return alive and unscathed, she cut off her hair
and blackened her countenance, and would not be comforted.

In the following year (1127) fell Moin-ed-deen, the vizir of Sultan
Sanjar. In this case the Assassin had engaged himself as a groom in the
service of the vizir. As Moin-ed-deen went one day into the stable to
look at his horses the Assassin appeared before him, stripped, and
holding one of the horses by the bridle. As the vizir, unsuspicious of
danger, came near where he was, the false groom made the horse rear,
and, under the pretence of soothing and pacifying the restive animal, he
took out a small dagger which he had concealed in the horse's mane, and
plunged it into the bosom of the vizir.

The slaughter of the Ismaïlites by the Prince of Damascus was not
forgotten, and two years afterwards he received two dagger wounds, one
of which proved mortal. Their vengeance was not appeased by his blood,
and his son and successor, Shems-al-Molook (_Sun of Kings_), perished by
a conspiracy with the guilt of which the Assassins were charged. In the
catalogue of the victims of this period appear also the names of the
Judges of the East and of the West, of the Mufti of Casveen, of the Reis
of Isfahan, and the Reis of Tebreez.

The East has been at all times prolific of crime; human life is not
there held to be of the value at which it is estimated in Europe; and
the dagger and poison are freely employed to remove objects of
apprehension, to put obstacles out of the way of ambition, or to satiate
the thirst of vengeance. We are not, therefore, lightly to give credit
to every charge made against the Assassins, and to believe them guilty
of murders from which they had no advantage to derive. Thus, when at
this time the Fatimite Khalif Amir bi-ahkami-llah (_Commander of the
observance of the laws of God_) fell by the hands of murderers, the
probability is that he was not a victim to the vengeance of the
Ismaïlite society, whom he had never injured, but rather to that of the
family of the powerful vizir Afdal, who had been assassinated some time
before by the khalif's order, as we have every reason to suppose.

With a greater show of reason may the murder of Mostarshed, the Khalif
of Bagdad, be imputed to the policy of the mountain chief. The
Seljookian princes, the predecessors of Massood, had been satisfied to
exercise all real power in the empire which had once obeyed the house of
Abbas, leaving to that feeble _Shadow of God upon Earth_ the
unsubstantial privilege of having the coin of the realm struck and
prayers offered on Friday in the mosk in his name. But Massood arrogated
even these rights to himself, and the helpless successor of the Prophet
was obliged to submit to the indignity which he could not prevent. At
length some discontented military chiefs passed with their troops over
to the khalif, and persuaded him that by one bold effort he might
overthrow the might of the Turkish sultan, and recover all his rights.
The khalif listened to their arguments, and, placing himself at the head
of an army, marched against Sultan Massood. But fortune proved adverse
to him. At the first shock the greater part of the troops of Bagdad
abandoned him, and he remained a captive in the hands of the sultan, who
brought him with him a prisoner to Maragha. Here a treaty was concluded
between them, and the khalif bound himself not to go any more outside of
the walls of Bagdad, and annually to pay a sum of money. This treaty
appears to have been displeasing to the Assassins; and, watching their
opportunity, when Massood was gone to meet the ambassadors of Sultan
Sanjar, a party of them fell upon and massacred the khalif and his
train. The lifeless body of the Commander of the Faithful was mangled by
them in the most scandalous manner.

After a blood-stained reign of fourteen years and three days Keäh
Buzoorg Oomeid died. Departing from the maxims of Hassan Sabah, who it
is probable wished to imitate the conduct of the Prophet, and leave the
supreme dignity elective, he appointed his own son, Keäh Mohammed, to be
his successor, induced either by paternal partiality, or believing him
to be the person best qualified for the office.


     Keäh Mohammed--Murder of the Khalif--Castles gained in
     Syria--Ismaïlite Confession of Faith--Mohammed's Son Hassan gives
     himself out for the promised Imam--His Followers
     punished--Succession of Hassan--He abolishes the Law--Pretends to
     be descended from the Prophet--Is murdered.

The policy of the society underwent no alteration on the accession of
Mohammed. The dagger still smote its enemies, and as each victim fell,
the people who maintained the rights of Ismaïl, and who were kept in
rigid obedience to the positive precepts of the Koran, beheld nothing
but the right hand of Heaven made bare for the punishment of crime and
usurpation. The new mountain prince had hardly taken the reins of
government into his hands when Rasheed, the successor of the late
khalif, eager to avenge the murder of his father, assembled an army and
marched against Alamoot. He had reached Isfahan, but there his march
terminated. Four Assassins, who had entered his service for the purpose,
fell upon him in his tent and stabbed him. When the news was conveyed to
Alamoot great rejoicings were made, and for seven days and seven nights
the trumpets and kettle-drums resounded from the towers of the fortress,
proclaiming the triumph of the dagger to the surrounding country.

The Syrian dominion of the Ismaïlites was at this time considerably
extended. They purchased from Ibn Amroo, their owner, the castles of
Cadmos and Kahaf, and took by force that of Massyat from the lords of
Sheiser. This castle, which was situated on the west side of Mount
Legam, opposite Antaradus, became henceforth the chief seat of Ismaïlite
power in Syria. The society had now a line of coast to the north of
Tripolis, and their possessions extended inland to the verge of the

The reign of Mohammed presents few events to illustrate the history of
the Assassins. It was probably in his time that the following confession
of the Ismaïlite faith was made to the persons whom Sultan Sanjar sent
to Alamoot to inquire into it[45]:

[Footnote 45: As Sanjar lived to a great age he was contemporary with
several of the Ismaïlite sheikhs.]

"This is our doctrine," said the heads of the society. "We believe in
the unity of God, and acknowledge as the true wisdom and right creed
only that which accords with the word of God and the commands of the
Prophet. We hold these as they are delivered in the holy writ, the
Koran, and believe in all that the Prophet has taught of the creation,
and the last things, of rewards and punishments, of the last judgment,
and the resurrection. To believe this is necessary, and no one is
authorized to judge of the commands of God for himself, or to alter a
single letter in them. These are the fundamental doctrines of our sect,
and if the sultan does not approve of them, let him send hither one of
his learned divines, that we may argue the matter with him."

To this creed no orthodox Mussulman could well make any objection. The
only question was, what was the Ismaïlite system of interpretation, and
what other doctrines did they deduce from the sacred text; and the
active employment of the dagger of the Fedavee suggested in tolerably
plain terms that there were others, and that something not very
compatible with the peace and order of society lay behind the veil.
Indeed the circumstance of the Ismaïlite chiefs professing themselves
to be only the ministers and representatives of the invisible imam was
in itself highly suspicious; for what was to prevent their enjoining any
atrocity which might be for their interest, in the name of their
viewless master? They are ignorant indeed of human nature who suppose
that a prompt obedience would not be yielded to all such commands by the
ignorant and bigoted members of the sect.

The ill leaven of the secret doctrine displayed itself before very long.
Keäh Mohammed, who appears to have been a weak, inefficient man, was
held in little esteem by his followers. They began to attach themselves
to his son Hassan, who had the reputation of being a man of prodigious
knowledge, learned in tradition and the text of the Koran, versed in
exposition, and well acquainted with the sciences. Hassan, either
through vanity or policy, began secretly to disseminate the notion of
his being himself the imam whose appearance had been promised by Hassan
Ben Sabah. Filled with this idea, the more instructed members of the
society vied with each other in eagerness to fulfil his commands, and
Keäh Mohammed, seeing his power gradually slipping from him, was at
length roused to energy. Assembling the people, he reprobated in strong
terms the prevailing heresy. "Hassan," said he, "is my son, and I am not
the imam, but only one of his missionaries. Whoever maintains the
contrary is an infidel." Then, in true Assassin fashion, he gave effect
to his words by executing 250 of his son's adherents, and banishing an
equal number from the fortress. Hassan himself, in order to save his
life, was obliged publicly to curse those who held the new opinions, and
to write dissertations condemning their tenets, and defending those of
his father. By these means he succeeded in removing suspicion from the
mind of the old chief; but, as he continued to drink wine in private,
and violated several of the other positive precepts of the law, his
adherents became only the more convinced of his being the imam, at whose
coming all the precepts of the law were to cease to be of any force.

Hassan was obliged to be cautious and conceal his opinions during the
lifetime of his father; for, whatever their opinion might be of the
capacity and intellectual power of the head of their sect, the Assassins
believed themselves to be bound to obey his orders, as proceeding from
the visible representative of the sacred invisible imam; and, high as
their veneration for Hassan was, his blood would have flowed on the
ground the instant an order to that effect had passed the lips of his
father. But no sooner was Keäh Mohammed dead, after a reign of
twenty-four years, and the supreme station was come to Hassan himself,
than he resolved to fling away the mask at once, and not only to trample
on the law himself, but to authorize and encourage all his people to do
the same.

Accordingly, when the month Ramazan (the Mohammedan Lent) of the 559th
year of the Hejra (A.D. 1163) was come, he ordered all the inhabitants
of Roodbar to assemble on the place of prayer (_Mosella_), or esplanade,
before the castle of Alamoot. Facing the direction of the Keblah[46] he
caused a pulpit to be erected, at whose four corners were displayed
banners of the different hues familiar to Islam, namely, a white, a red,
a yellow, a green, colours adverse to the black of the Abbassides.

[Footnote 46: That is, the point towards which they turn in prayer,
namely, Mecca.]

On the 17th day of the month the people, in obedience to his commands,
appeared in great numbers beneath the walls of the fortress. After a
little time Hassan came forth and ascended the pulpit. All voices were
hushed; expectation waited on the words of the Sheikh-al-Jebal. He
commenced his discourse by perplexing the minds of his auditors by
enigmatical and obscure sentences. When he had thus deluded them for
some time, he informed them that an envoy of the imam (that is, the
phantom of a khalif who was still sitting on the throne at Cairo) had
arrived, and had brought him a letter addressed to all Ismaïlites,
whereby the fundamental tenets of the sect were renewed and confirmed.
He proceeded to assure them that, by this letter, the gates of mercy and
compassion had been opened for all who would follow and obey him; that
they were the true elect; that they were freed from all obligations of
the law, and delivered from the burden of all commands and prohibitions;
that he had now conducted them to the day of the resurrection, that is,
of the revelation of the imam. He then commenced in Arabic the Khootbeh,
or public prayer, which he said he had received from the imam; and an
interpreter, who stood at the foot of the pulpit, translated it for them
to the following effect:--

"Hassan, the son of Mohammed, the son of Buzoorg Oomeid, is our khalif
(_successor_), dai, and hoojet (_proof_). All who follow our doctrine
must hearken to him in affairs of faith and of the world, and regard his
commands as imperative, his words as impressive. They must not
transgress his prohibitions, and they must regard his commands as ours.
They should know that our lord has had compassion upon them, and has
conducted them to the most high God."

When this proclamation was made known Hassan came down from the pulpit,
directed tables to be spread, and commanded the people to break the
fast, and to give themselves up, as on festival days, to all kinds of
enjoyment, with music, and various games and sports. "For this," cried
he, "this is the day of the resurrection;" that is, according to the
Ismaïlite mode of interpreting the Koran, the day of the manifestation
of the imam.

What the orthodox had before only suspected was now confirmed. It was
now manifest, beyond doubt, that the Ismaïlites were heretics who
trampled under foot all the most plain and positive precepts of Islam;
for, though they might pretend to justify their practice by their
allegorical system of interpretation, it was clearly repugnant to common
sense, and might be made the instrument of sanctioning, under the name
of religion, every species of enormity. From this time the term Moolahid
(_impious_) began to become the common and familiar appellation of the
Ismaïlites in the mouths of the orthodox Moslems. As to the Ismaïlites
themselves, they rejoiced in what they had done; they exalted like
emancipated bondsmen in the liberty which they had acquired; and they
even commenced a new era from the 17th (or, according to some
authorities, the 7th) Ramazan of the 559th year, namely, the day of the
manifestation of the imam. To the name of Hassan they henceforth affixed
the formula "_On his memory be peace_;" which formula, it would appear,
was employed by itself to designate him; for the historian Mirkhond
assures us that he had been informed by a credible person that over the
door of the library in Alamoot was the following inscription:--

    "With the aid of God, the bonds
    Of the law he took away,
    The commander of the world,
    Upon whose name be peace."

The madness of Hassan now attained its climax. He disdained to be
regarded, like his predecessors, as merely the representative of the
imam on earth, but asserted himself to be the true and real imam, who
was now at length made manifest to the world. He sent letters to all the
settlements of the society, requiring them to acknowledge him in his new
capacity. He was prudent enough, however, to show a regard for the
dignity and power of his different lieutenants in these letters, as
appears by the following specimen, being the letter which was sent to
Kuhistan, where the reis Mozaffar commanded:--

"I Hassan say unto you that I am the representative of God upon earth,
and mine in Kuhistan is the reis Mozaffar, whom the men of that country
are to obey, and to receive his word as mine."

The reis erected a pulpit in the castle of Moominabad, the place of his
residence, and read the letter aloud to the people, the greater part of
whom listened to its contents with joy. The tables were covered before
the pulpit, the wine was brought forth, the drums and kettle-drums
resounded, the notes of the pipe and flute inspired joy, and the day of
the abolition of the positive precepts of the law was devoted to mirth
and festivity. Some few, who were sincere and upright in their obedience
to Islam, quitted the region which they now regarded as the abode of
infidelity, and went in search of other abodes; others, of a less
decided character, remained, though shocked at what they were obliged
every day to behold. The obedience to the commands of the _soi-disant_
imam was, however, tolerably general, and, according to Hammer, who can
scarcely, however, be supposed to regard the system of Hassan as really
more licentious than he has elsewhere described that of Mahomet, "the
banner of the freest infidelity, and of the most shameless immorality,
now waved on all the castles of Roodbar and Kuhistan, as the standard of
the new illumination; and, instead of the name of the Egyptian khalif,
resounded from all the pulpits that of Hassan as the true successor of
the Prophet."

The latter point had presented some difficulty to Hassan; for, in order
to satisfy the people on that head, it was necessary to prove a descent
from the Prophet, and this was an honour to which it was well known the
family from which he was sprung had never laid claim. He might take upon
him to abolish the positive precepts of the law as he pleased, and the
people, whose inclinations were thereby gratified, would not perhaps
scan very narrowly the authority by which he acted; but the attempt to
deprive the Fatimite khalif of the honour which he had so long enjoyed,
and to assume the rank of God's viceregent on earth in his room, was
likely to give too great a shock to their prejudices, if not cautiously

It was necessary, therefore, that he should prove himself to be of the
blood of the Fatimites. He accordingly began to drop some dark hints
respecting the truth of the received opinion of his being the son of
Keäh Mohammed. Our readers will recollect that, when Hassan Sabah was in
Egypt, a dispute had taken place respecting the succession to the
throne, in which Hassan had nearly lost his life for opposing the
powerful commander-in-chief (_Emir-al-Jooyoosh_), and Nezar, the prince
for whom the khalif Mostanser had designed the succession, had been
deprived of his right by the influence of that officer. The confidents
of Hassan now began to give out that, in about a year after the death of
the khalif Mostanser, a certain person named Aboo-'l-Zeide, who had been
high in his confidence, had come to Alamoot, bearing with him a son of
Nezar, whom he committed to the care of Hassan Sabah, who, grateful to
the memory of the khalif and his son, had received the fugitive with
great honour, and assigned a village at the foot of Alamoot for the
residence of the young imam. When the youth was grown up he married and
had a son, whom he named _On his Memory be Peace_. Just at the time when
the imam's wife was confined in the village, the consort of Keäh
Mohammed lay in at the castle; and, in order that the descendant of
Fatima might come to the temporal power which was his right, a
confidential woman undertook and succeeded in the task of secretly
changing the children. Others went still further, and did not hesitate
to assert that the young imam had intrigued with the wife of Keäh
Mohammed, and that Hassan was the fruit of their adulterous intercourse.
Like a true pupil of ambition, Hassan was willing to defame the memory
of his mother, and acknowledge himself to be a bastard, provided he
could succeed in persuading the people to believe him a descendant of
the Prophet.

These pretensions of Hassan to a Fatimite pedigree gave rise to a
further increase of the endless sects into which the votaries of Islam
were divided. Those who acknowledged it got the name of Nezori, and by
them Hassan was called the Lord of the Resurrection (_Kaim-al-Kiamet_),
and they styled themselves the Sect of the Resurrection.

The reign of the vain, inconsiderate Hassan was but short. He had
governed the society only four years when he was assassinated by his
brother-in-law, Namver, a descendant, we are told, of the family of
Buyah, which had governed the khalifs and their dominions before the
power passed into the hands of the Turkish house of Seljook.


     Mohammed II.--Anecdote of the Imam
     Fakhr-ed-deen--Noor-ed-deen--Conquest of Egypt--Attempt on the Life
     of Saladin.

The death of Hassan was amply avenged by his son and successor, Mohammed
II. Not only was the murderer himself put to death; vengeance, in its
oriental form, extended itself to all his kindred of both sexes, and
men, women, and children bled beneath the sword of the executioner.
Mohammed, who had been carefully trained up in the study of philosophy
and literature, was, like his father, puffed up with vanity and
ambition, and, far from receding from any of his predecessor's
pretensions to the imamat, he carried them to even a still greater
length than he had done. At the same time he maintained a high character
for knowledge and talent among his literary contemporaries, who were
numerous, for his reign extended through a period of forty-six years,
and the modern Persian literature was now fast approaching its climax.
Not to mention other names, less familiar to our readers, we shall
remark, as a proof of what we have said, that this was the period in
which Nizamee of Ghenj sang in harmonious numbers the loves of Khosroo
and Shireen, and of Mujnoon and Leila (these last the Romeo and Juliet
of the east), the crown and flower of the romantic poetry of Persia.
Then too flourished the great panegyrist Enveree, and a crowd of
historians, jurists, and divines.

One of the most celebrated men of this time was the imam Fakhr-ed-deen
(_Glory of Religion_) Rasi, who gave public lectures on the law in his
native city of Rei. It being slanderously reported that he was devoted
in secret to the opinions of the Ismaïlites, and was even one of their
missionaries, he adopted the ordinary expedient of abusing and reviling
that sect, and each time he ascended the pulpit to preach he reprobated
and cursed the _Impious_ in no measured terms. Intelligence of what he
was about was not long in reaching the eyrie of the Sheikh-al-Jebal, and
a Fedavee received his instructions, and forthwith set out for Rei. He
here entered himself as a student of the law, and sedulously attended
the lectures of the learned imam. During seven months he watched in vain
for an opportunity of executing his commission. At length he discovered
one day that the attendants of the imam had left him to go to fetch him
some food, and that he was alone in his study. The Fedavee entered,
fastened the doors, seized the imam, cast him on the ground, and
directed his dagger at his bosom. "What is thy design?" said the
astonished imam. "To rip up thy belly and breast." "And wherefore?"
"Wherefore? Because thou hast spoken evil of the Ismaïlites in the
pulpit." The imam implored and entreated, vowing that, if his life was
spared, he would never more say aught to offend the sect of Ismaïl. "I
cannot trust thee," cried the Assassin; "for when I am gone thou wilt
return to thy old courses, and, by some ingenious shift or other,
contrive to free thyself from the obligation of thy oath." The imam
then, with a most solemn oath, abjured the idea of explaining away his
words, or seeking absolution for perjury. The Assassin got up from over
him, saying, "I had no order to slay thee, or I should have put thee to
death without fail. Mohammed, the son of Hassan, greets thee, and
invites thee to honour him by a visit at his castle. Thou shalt there
have unlimited power, and we will all obey thee like trusty servants. We
despise, so saith the sheikh, the discourses of the rabble, which
rebound from our ears like nuts from a ball; but _you_ should not revile
us, since your words impress themselves like the strokes of the graver
in the stone." The imam replied that it was totally out of his power to
go to Alamoot, but that in future he should be most careful never to
suffer a word to pass his lips to the discredit of the mountain prince.
Hereupon the Fedavee drew 300 pieces of gold from his girdle, and,
laying them down, said, "See! here is thy annual pension; and, by a
decree of the divan, thou shalt every year receive an equal sum through
the reis Mozaffer. I also leave thee, for thy attendants, two garments
from Yemen, which the Sheikh-al-Jebal has sent thee." So saying, the
Fedavee disappeared. The imam took the money and the clothes, and for
some years his pension was paid regularly. A change in his language now
became perceptible, for, whereas he was used before, when, on treating
of any controverted point, he had occasion to mention the Ismaïlites, to
express himself thus, "Whatever the Ismaïlites, whom God curse and
destroy! may say,"--now that he was pensioned he contented himself with
merely saying, "Notwithstanding what the Ismaïlites may say." When one
of his scholars asked him the cause of this change he made answer, "We
cannot curse the Ismaïlites, they employ such _sharp_ and _convincing_
arguments." This anecdote is related by several of the Persian
historians, and it serves to prove, like the case of sultan Sanjar,
related above, that the Ismaïlites were not so thoroughly ruthless and
bloodthirsty as not to prefer rendering an enemy innocuous by gentle
means to depriving him of life.

Historians record no other event connected with the eastern
establishment of the Ismaïlite society during the long-reign of Mohammed
II. We shall now, therefore, turn our view to the Syrian branch, which
attracts attention by the illustrious names which appear in oriental
history at that time, and with which the ruler of Massyat came into
hostile or friendly relations. The names of Noor-ed-deen (_Light of
Religion_), Salah-ed-deen (_Integrity of Religion_), the Noradin and
Saladin of western writers, and the Lion-hearted king of England, will
at once awake the attention of the reader.

The celebrated Emod-ed-deen (_Pillar of Religion_) Zengi, who gave the
Christian power in the east its first shock by the conquest of Edessa,
perished by the hand of a slave shortly after that achievement. His
power and the title Atabeg fell to his son Noor-ed-deen, who carried on
the war against the Christians with all the activity of his father, and
with more of the gentleness and courtesies which shed a lustre on zeal
and valour. Noor-ed-deen was one of the most accomplished characters
which the East has exhibited. He was generous and just, and strict in
the observance of all the duties of Islam. No pomp or magnificence
surrounded him. He wore neither silk nor gold. With the fifth part of
the booty, which was his share as prince, he provided for all his
expenses. A zealous Moslem, he was evermore engaged in the combats of
the Holy War,--either the _greater_, which was held to be fought against
the world and its temptations by fasting and prayer, by study, and the
daily practice of the virtues required of him who is placed in
authority,--or the _lesser_, which was fought with natural weapons
against the foes of Islam. From this union of piety and valour he
acquired the titles of Gasi (_Victor_) and Sheheed (_Martyr_); for,
though he did not fall in the defence of the faith, he was regarded as
being entitled to all the future rewards attendant on actual martyrdom.
Notwithstanding his being one of the most deadly foes that the
Christians ever encountered, their historians did justice to the
illustrious Noor-ed-deen, and the learned William, Archbishop of Tyre,
says of him, "He was a prudent, moderate man, who feared God according
to the faith of his people, fortunate, and an augmenter of his paternal

The possession of Mossul and Aleppo made Noor-ed-deen master of northern
Syria; the southern part of that country was under the Prince of
Damascus. Twice did the atabeg lay siege, without effect, to that city;
at length the inhabitants, fearing the Crusaders, invited him to take
possession of it, and the feeble prince was obliged to retire, accepting
Emessa in exchange for the "Queen of Syria." The power of Noor-ed-deen
now extended from the Euphrates to the Holy Land, and his thoughts were
directed towards his grand object of expelling the Franks from the East,
when an opportunity presented itself of bringing Egypt once more under
the spiritual dominion of the house of Abbas.

Degeneracy is the inevitable lot of unlimited power. The Fatimite
Commanders of the Faithful were now become mere puppets in the hands of
their ministers, and the post of vizir was now, as was so often the case
with the throne, contended for with arms. A civil war was at this time
raging in Egypt between Shaver and Dhargam, rival candidates for the
viziriate. The former came in person to Damascus, and offered the atabeg
Noor-ed-deen a third of the revenues of Egypt if he would aid him to
overcome his rival. Without hesitation Noor-ed-deen ordered Asad-ed-deen
(_Lion of Religion_) Sheerkoh (_Mountain Lion_)[47], a Koordish chief
who commanded for him at Emessa, to assemble an army and march for
Egypt. Sheerkoh obeyed, and sorely against his will, and only at the
urgent command of Noor-ed-deen, did his nephew, the then little known,
afterwards so justly famous, Saladin, quit the banquets and enjoyments
of Damascus, and the other towns of Syria, to accompany his uncle to the
toils and the perils of war. Dhargam was victorious in the first action,
but he being murdered shortly afterwards by one of his slaves, Shaver
obtained possession of the dignity which he sought. The new vizir then
tried to get rid of his allies, but such was not the intention of
Noor-ed-deen, and Sheerkoh took his post with his troops in the
north-eastern part of the kingdom, where he occupied the frontier town
of Belbeïs, on the most eastern branch of the Nile, under pretext of
receiving the third part of the revenue which had been promised to
Noor-ed-deen. Shaver, anxious to get rid of such dangerous guests,
formed a secret league with Amalric, King of Jerusalem, and engaged to
give him 60,000 ducats for his aid against them. Sheerkoh, who had been
reinforced, advanced into Upper Egypt, and Saladin took the command of
Alexandria, which he gallantly defended for three months against the
combined forces of the Christians and Egyptians, and, after some
fighting, peace was made on condition of Noor-ed-deen receiving 50,000
ducats, and double that sum being paid annually to the King of

[Footnote 47: The former of these names is Arabic, the latter Persian.]

Shortly afterwards an unprincipled attempt was made on Egypt by Amalric,
at the suggestion of the Master of the Hospitallers, and Shaver, in his
distress, had once more recourse to Noor-ed-deen. The phantom-khalif
joined in the supplication, and sent what is the greatest mark of need
in the east--locks of the hair of his women, which is as much as to say,
"Aid! aid! the foe is dragging the women forth by the hair." Belbeïs had
now been conquered, and Cairo was besieged by the Christians. Shaver
had burnt the old town, and defended himself and the khalif in the new
town, the proper Cairo. Sheerkoh appeared once more in Egypt with a
larger army than before[48], but, ere he reached the beleaguered town,
Shaver and Amalric had entered into a composition, and the former had
withdrawn on receiving a sum of 50,000 ducats. Sheerkoh however
advanced, and pitched his tents before the walls of Cairo. The khalif
Adhad and his principal nobles came forth to receive him, and that
unhappy prince made his complaints of the tyranny and selfishness of
Shaver, who had brought so much misery on him and his kingdom. He
concluded by requesting the head of his vizir at the hand of the general
of Noor-ed-deen. Shaver, aware of the danger which menaced him, invited
Sheerkoh, his nephew, and the other chiefs of the army, to a banquet,
with the intention of destroying them, but his plot was discovered, and
his head cast at the feet of the khalif. Sheerkoh was forthwith
appointed to the vacant dignity, with the honourable title of
Melik-el-Mansoor (Victorious King), but he enjoyed it only for a short
time, having been carried off by death in little more than two months
after his elevation. He was succeeded in his rank, and in the command
of the army, by his nephew Saladin, who now became in effect master of
Egypt. Noor-ed-deen, thinking the time was come for establishing the
spiritual sway of the house of Abbas, sent directions to Saladin to fill
all the offices which had been occupied by the Sheähs with the orthodox,
and hear prayer celebrated in the name of the Khalif of Bagdad; but this
prudent chief, who knew that the great majority of the people of Egypt
were firmly attached to the belief of the Fatimites being the rightful
successors of the Prophet, hesitated to comply. At length the death of
the Fatimite khalif occurred most opportunely to free him from
embarrassment. Adhad-ladin-Allah, the last of the descendants of
Moez-ladin-Allah, the founder of the dynasty, died suddenly--of disease,
according to the oriental historians,--by the hand of Saladin, according
to the rumour which went among the Christians[49]. All obstacles being
now removed, public prayer was celebrated in the mosks of Egypt in the
name of the Abbasside khalif, and the power of the western Ismaïlites,
after a continuance of 200 years, brought completely to an end.

[Footnote 48: He was accompanied by Saladin, who gives the following
account of his own repugnance to the expedition:--"When Noor-ed-deen
ordered me to go to Egypt with my uncle, after Sheerkoh had said to me
in his presence, 'Come Yoossuf, make ready for the journey!' I replied,
'By God, if thou wert to give me the kingdom of Egypt I would not go,
for I have endured in Alexandria what I shall not forget while I live.'
But Sheerkoh said to Noor-ed-deen, 'It cannot be but that he should
accompany me.' Whereupon Noor-ed-deen repeated his command, but I
persisted in my refusal. As Noor-ed-deen also adhered to his
determination, I excused myself by pleading the narrowness of my
circumstances. Noor-ed-deen then gave me all that was requisite for my
outfit, but I felt as if I was going to death."--_Abulfeda._]

[Footnote 49: William of Tyre xx. 12.]

Noor-ed-deen, who saw that the power of his lieutenant was now too great
to be controlled, adopted the prudent plan of soothing him by titles and
marks of confidence. The khalif of Bagdad sent him a dress of honour and
a letter of thanks for having reduced under his spiritual dominion a
province which had been so long rebellious against his house. But the
most important consequence of the timely death of the khalif to Saladin
was the acquisition of the accumulated treasures of the Fatimites, which
fell into his hands, and which he employed as the means of securing the
fidelity of his officers and soldiers. As a specimen of oriental
exaggeration, we shall give the list of these treasures as they are
enumerated by eastern writers. There were, we are assured, no less than
700 pearls, each of which was of a size that rendered it inestimable, an
emerald a span long, and as thick as the finger, a library consisting of
2,600,000 books, and gold, both coined and in the mass; aloes, amber,
and military arms and weapons past computation. A large portion of this
enormous treasure was distributed by Saladin among his soldiers; the
remainder was applied, during ten successive years, to defray the
expenses of his wars and buildings. As Saladin's name was Yoossuf
(_Joseph_), the same with that of the son of Jacob, the minister of king
Pharaoh, it is not an improbable supposition that, in Egyptian
tradition, the two Josephs have been confounded, and the works of the
latter been ascribed to the former; for it is the character of popular
tradition to leap over centuries, and even thousands of years, and to
form out of several heroes one who is made to perform the actions of
them all.

As long as Noor-ed-deen lived, Saladin continued to acknowledge his
superiority; and when, on his death, he left his dominions to his son
Malek-es-Saleh, the coins of Egypt bore the name of the young prince. As
Malek-es-Saleh was a minor, and entirely under the guidance of the
eunuch Kameshtegin, great discontent prevailed among the emirs; and
Seif-ed-deen (_Sword of Religion_), the cousin of the young prince, who
was at the head of an army in Mesopotamia, prepared to wrest the
dominion from the young Malek-es-Saleh. All eyes were turned to Saladin,
as the only person capable of preserving the country. He left Egypt with
only 700 horsemen. The governor and people of Damascus cheerfully opened
the gates to him. Hems and Hama followed the example of Damascus.
Saladin took the government under the modest title of lieutenant of the
young atabeg, whose rights he declared himself ready to maintain on all
occasions. He advanced to Aleppo, where Malek-es-Saleh was residing; but
the militia of that town, moved by the tears of the young prince, who
was probably influenced by the eunuch Kameshtegin, who feared to lose
his power, marched out and put to flight the small force with which
Saladin had approached the town. Having collected a larger army, Saladin
laid siege regularly to Aleppo, and Kameshtegin, despairing of force,
resolved to have recourse to treachery. He sent accordingly to Sinan,
the Sheikh of the Assassins, who resided at Massyat, representing to him
how dangerous a foe to the Ismaïlites was the valiant Koord, who was so
ardent in his zeal for the house of Abbas, and had put an end to the
dynasty of the Fatimites, who had so long given lustre to the
maintainers of the rights of Ismaïl by the possession of extensive
temporal power and dignity. He reminded him that, if Saladin succeeded
in his ambitious projects in Syria, he would, in all probability, turn
his might against the Assassins, and destroy their power in that
country. These arguments were enforced by gold, and the sheikh, readily
yielding to them, despatched without delay three Fedavees, who fell on
Saladin in the camp before Aleppo. The attempt, however, miscarried, and
the murderers were seized and put to death. Saladin, incensed at this
attempt on his life, and guessing well the quarter whence it came, now
pressed on the siege with greater vigour.

Finding the benefit which might be derived from the daggers of the
Fedavee, Kameshtegin resolved to employ them against his personal
enemies. The vizir of the young prince, and two of the principal emirs,
had laid a plot for his destruction. Coming to the knowledge of it, he
determined to be beforehand with them, and, watching the moment when
Malek-es-Saleh was about to mount his horse to go to the chase, he
approached him, requesting his signature to a blank paper, under
pretence of its being necessary for some affair of urgent importance.
The young prince signed his name without suspicion, and Kameshtegin
instantly wrote on the paper a letter to the Sheikh of the Assassins, in
which Malek-es-Saleh was made to request him to send men to put those
three emirs out of the way. The Ismaïlite chief readily complied with
the request, as he supposed it to be, of his young friend and neighbour,
and several Fedavees were despatched to execute his wishes. Two of these
fell on the vizir as he was going out of the eastern gate of a mosk near
his own house. They were cut to pieces on the spot. Soon after three
fell on the emir Mujaheed as he was on horseback. One of them caught
hold of the end of his cloak, in order to make more sure of him, but the
emir gave his horse the spurs, and broke away, leaving his cloak behind.
The people seized the Assassins, two of whom were recognized as being
acquaintances of the emir's head groom. One of them was crucified, and
along with him the groom as an accomplice: on the breast of the latter
was placed this inscription, "This is the reward of the concealer of the
Impious." The others were dragged to the castle, and beaten on the soles
of their feet to make them confess what had induced them to attempt the
commission of such a crime. In the midst of his tortures one of them
cried out, "Thou didst desire of our lord Sinan the murder of thy
slaves, and now thou dost punish us for performing thy wishes.". Full of
wrath Malek-es-Saleh wrote a letter to the sheikh Sinan filled with the
bitterest reproaches. The sheikh made no other reply than that of
sending him back the letter bearing his own subscription. Historians do
not tell us what the final result was; and it is also in a great
measure uncertain at what time this event occurred.

The Assassins did not give over their attempts upon Saladin, whose power
became more formidable to them after he had deprived the family of
Noor-ed-deen of their honours and dominions; and he was again attacked
by them in his camp before the fortress of Ezag. One of them assailed
him and wounded him in the head, but the sultan (he had now assumed that
title) caught him by the arm and struck him down. A second rushed on--he
was cut down by the guards; a third, a fourth, shared the same fate.
Terrified at their obstinate perseverance, the sultan shut himself up in
his tent during several days, and ordered all strangers and suspicious
persons to quit the camp.

Next year (1176) the sultan, being at peace with his other enemies,
resolved to take exemplary vengeance on those who had so unprovokedly
attempted his life. Assembling an army, he entered the mountains, wasted
with fire and sword the territory of the Ismaïlites, and came and laid
siege to Massyat. The power of the Syrian Ismaïlites would have been now
extinguished but for the intercession of the Prince of Hama, the
sultan's uncle, who, at the entreaty of Sinan, prevailed on his nephew
to grant a peace on condition of no attempt being made at any future
time on his life. Sinan gladly assented to these terms, and he
honourably kept his engagement, for the great Saladin reigned fifteen
years after this time, carried on continual wars, conquered Jerusalem
and the Holy Land, exposed himself to danger in the field and in the
camp, but no Assassin was ever again known to approach him with hostile


     Sinan the Dai-al-Kebir of Syria--Offers to become a Christian--His
     Ambassador murdered by the Templars--Cardinal de Vitry's Account of
     the Assassins--Murder of the Marquis of Montferrat--Defence of King

The person who had the chief direction of the affairs of the society in
Syria in the time of Saladin was one of the most remarkable characters
which appear in the history of the Assassins. His name was
Rasheed-ed-deen (_Orthodox in Religion_) Sinan, the son of Suleiman of
Basra. Like so many others of the impostors who have appeared from time
to time in the east, he had the audacity to give himself out for an
incarnation of the Divinity. No one ever saw him eat, drink, sleep, or
even spit. His clothing was of coarse hair-cloth. From the rising to the
setting of the sun he stood upon a lofty rock, preaching to the people,
who received his words as those of a superior being. Unfortunately for
his credit, his auditors at length discovered that he had a halt in his
gait, caused by a wound which he received from a stone in the great
earthquake of 1157. This did not accord with the popular idea of the
perfection which should belong to the corporeal vehicle of Divinity. The
credit of Sinan vanished at once, and those who had just been adoring
the god now threatened to take the life of the impostor. Sinan lost not
his self-possession; he calmly entreated them to be patient, descended
from his rock, caused food to be brought, invited them to eat, and by
the persuasive powers of his eloquence induced them to recognise him as
their sole chief, and all unanimously swore obedience and fidelity to

The neglect of chronology by the oriental historians, or their European
translators and followers, is frequently such that we are left in great
uncertainty as to the exact time of particular events, and are thus
unable to trace them to their real causes and occasions. The mention of
the earthquake of 1157 would however seem to make it probable that it
was about that time that Sinan put forward his claims to divinity; and
as, at that very period, Hassan, the son of Keäh Mohammed, was giving
himself out for the promised imam, we may suppose that it was his
example which stimulated Sinan to his bold attempt at obtaining
independent dominion over the Syrian branch of the Ismaïlites.

Sinan was, like Hassan, a man of considerable learning. His works are
held in high estimation by the remains of the sect of the Ismaïlites
still lingering among the mountains of Syria. These works, we are told,
consist of a chaotic mixture of mutilated passages of the Gospel and the
Koran, of contradictory articles of belief, of hymns, prayers, sermons,
and regulations, which are unintelligible even to those who receive and
venerate them.

The sacred books of the Christians formed, as we see, a part of the
studies of the Sheikh of Massyat, and, as it would appear, he thought he
might derive some advantage from his acquaintance with them. The
religio-military society of the Knights of the Temple, whose history we
shall soon have to record, had possessions in the neighbourhood of those
of the Assassins, and their superior power had enabled them, at what
time is uncertain, to render the latter tributary. The tribute was the
annual sum of 2,000 ducats, and Sinan, to whom probably all religions
were alike, and who had unbounded power over the minds of his people,
conceived the idea of releasing himself from it by professing the same
religion with his neighbours. He accordingly sent, in the year 1172, one
of his most prudent and eloquent ministers on a secret embassy to
Amalric King of Jerusalem, offering, in the name of himself and his
people, to embrace the Christian religion, and receive the rite of
baptism, provided the king would engage to make the Templars renounce
the tribute of 2,000 ducats, and agree to live with them henceforward as
good neighbours and friends and brethren. Overjoyed at the prospect of
making converts of such importance, the king readily assented to the
desires of the Ismaïlite chief, and he at the same time assured the
Templars that their house should not be a loser, as he would pay them
2,000 ducats annually out of his treasury. The brethren of the Temple
made no objection to the arrangement: and after the Ismaïlite ambassador
had been detained and treated honourably for some days by the king, he
set out on his return, accompanied by a guide and escort sent by the
king to conduct him as far as the borders of the Ismaïlite territory.
They passed in safety through the country of Tripolis, and were now in
the vicinity of the first castles of the Ismaïlites, when suddenly some
Templars rushed forth from an ambush, and murdered the ambassador. The
Templars were commanded by a knight named Walter du Mesnil, a one-eyed,
daring, wicked man, but who, on this occasion, it would appear, acted by
the orders of his superiors, who probably did not consider the royal
promise good security for the 2,000 ducats; for, when Amalric, filled
with indignation at the base and perfidious action, assembled his barons
at Sidon to deliberate on what should be done, and by their advice sent
two of their number to Ado de St. Amand, the Master of the Temple, to
demand satisfaction for the iniquitous deed, the master contented
himself by saying that he had imposed a penance on brother Du Mesnil,
and had moreover directed him to proceed to Rome without delay, to know
what farther the apostolic father would order him to do, and that, on
this account he must, in the name of the pope, prohibit any violence
against the aforesaid brother. The king, however, was not regardless of
justice and of his own dignity. Shortly afterwards, when the master and
several of the Templars were at Sidon, he assembled his council again,
and, with their consent, sent and dragged Du Mesnil from the house of
the Templars, and threw him into prison, where he would probably have
expiated his crime but for the speedy death of the king. All hopes of
the conversion of the Ismaïlites were now at an end.

It is on this occasion that the Archbishop of Tyre gives an account of
what he had been able to learn respecting the Assassins. As what we have
previously related of them has been exclusively drawn from eastern
sources, it will not be useless to insert in this place the accounts of
them given by the Cardinal de Vitry, who has followed and enlarged the
sketch of the archbishop[50].

[Footnote 50: Gesta Dei per Francos, vol. i. pp. 994, 1062.]

"In the province of Phoenicia, near the borders of the Antaradensian
town which is now called Tortosa, dwells a certain people, shut in on
all sides by rocks and mountains, who have ten castles, very strong and
impregnable, by reason of the narrow ways and inaccessible rocks, with
their suburbs and the valleys, which are most fruitful in all species of
fruits and corn, and most delightful for their amenity. The number of
these men, who are called Assassins, is said to exceed 40,000[51]. They
set a captain over themselves, not by hereditary succession, but by the
prerogative of merit, whom they call the Old Man (_Veterem seu Senem_),
not so much on account of his advanced age as for his pre-eminence in
prudence and dignity. The first and principal _abbot_ of this unhappy
_religion_ of theirs, and the place where they had their origin and
whence they came to Syria, is in the very remote parts of the east, near
the city of Bagdad and the parts of the province of Persia. These
people, who do not divide the hoof, nor make a difference between what
is sacred and what is profane, believe that all obedience indifferently
shown by them towards their superior is meritorious for eternal life.
Hence they are bound to their master, whom they call the Old Man, with
such a bond of subjection and obedience that there is nothing so
difficult or so dangerous that they would fear to undertake, or which
they would not perform with a cheerful mind and ardent will, at the
command of their lord. The Old Man, their lord, causes boys of this
people to be brought up in secret and delightful places, and having had
them diligently trained and instructed in the different kinds of
languages, sends them to various provinces with daggers, and orders them
to slay the great men of the Christians, as well as of the Saracens,
either because he is at enmity with them for some cause or other, or at
the request of his friends, or even for the lucre of a large sum of
money which has been given him, promising them, for the execution of
this command, that they shall have far greater delights, and without
end, in paradise, after death, than even those amidst which they had
been reared. If they chance to die in this act of obedience they are
regarded as martyrs by their companions, and being placed by that people
among their saints, are held in the greatest reverence. Their parents
are enriched with many gifts by the master, who is called the Old Man,
and if they were slaves they are let go free ever after. Whence these
wretched and misguided youths, who are sent from the convent
(_conventu_) of the aforesaid brethren to different parts of the world,
undertake their deadly legation with such joy and delight, and perform
it with such diligence and solicitude, transforming themselves in
various ways, and assuming the manners and dress of other nations,
sometimes concealing themselves under the appearance of merchants, at
other times under that of priests and monks, and in an infinity of other
modes, that there is hardly any person in the whole world so cautious as
to be able to guard against their machinations. They disdain to plot
against an inferior person. The great men to whom they are hostile
either redeem themselves by a large sum of money, or, going armed and
attended by a body of guards, pass their life in suspicion and in dread
of death. They kept the law of Mahomet and his institutions diligently
and straitly beyond all other Saracens till the times of a certain
master of theirs, who, being endowed with natural genius, and exercised
in the study of different writings, began with all diligence to read and
examine the law of the Christians and the Gospels of Christ, admiring
the virtue of the miracles, and the sanctity of the doctrine. From a
comparison with these he began to abominate the frivolous and irrational
doctrine of Mahomet, and at length, when he knew the truth, he studied
to recall his subjects by degrees from the rites of the cursed law.
Wherefore he exhorted and commanded them that they should drink wine in
moderation and eat the flesh of swine. At length, after many discourses
and serious admonitions of their teacher, they all with one consent
agreed to renounce the perfidy of Mahomet, and, by receiving the grace
of baptism, to become Christians."

[Footnote 51: William of Tyre makes their number 60,000. He declares his
inability to give the origin of the name Assassins.]

We may, from this account, perceive that the Crusaders had a tolerably
clear idea of the nature and constitution of the society of the
Assassins. The Cardinal de Vitry plainly describes them as forming a
_religion_, that is, an order under an abbot; and perhaps the
resemblance which Hammer traces between them and the Templars, which we
shall notice when we come to speak of this last society, is not quite so
fanciful as it might at first sight appear. It is curious, too, to
observe that the Christians also believed that the Sheikh-al-Jebal had
some mode of inspiring the Fedavee with a contempt of life and an
aspiration after the joys of paradise.

The dagger had not been unsheathed against the Christian princes since,
forty-two years before (1149), Raymond, the young Count of Tripolis, was
murdered as he knelt at his devotions, and the altar was sprinkled with
his blood. A more illustrious victim was now to bleed; and, as the
question of who was the real author of his death forms a curious
historical problem, we shall here discuss it at some length.

Conrad Marquis of Montferrat, a name celebrated in the history of the
third crusade, had just been named King of Jerusalem by Richard
Lion-heart King of England. In the latter end of the month of April 1192
the marquis, being at Tyre, went to dine with the Bishop of Beauvais.
One writer says that, the marchioness having stayed too long in the
bath, and the marquis being averse to dining alone, he mounted his horse
and rode to dine with the Bishop; but, finding that that prelate had
already finished his meal, he was returning home to his palace. As he
passed through a narrow street, and was come near the toll-house, two
Assassins, having watched their opportunity, approached him. The one
presented a petition, and, while he was engaged reading it, both struck
him with their daggers, crying, "Thou shalt be neither marquis nor
king." One of them was cut down instantly, the other sought refuge in a
neighbouring church, and, according to an Arabian historian, when the
wounded marquis was brought into the same church, he rushed on him anew,
and completed his crime. Others relate that the marquis was carried home
to his palace, where he lived long enough to receive the holy sacrament
and to give his last instructions to his wife. The two accounts, we may
perceive, are by no means repugnant.

These Assassins, who were both youths, had been for some time--six
months it is said--in Tyre, watching for an opportunity to perform the
commission which had been given them. They had feigned a conversion from
Islam, or, as some say, had assumed the habit of monks, in order to win
the confidence of the marquis, and thus procure more ready access to
him. One of them, we are told, had even entered his service, and the
other that of Balian of Ibelin.

The question now comes, at whose instigation was the murder committed?
Here we find several both oriental and occidental witnesses disposed to
lay the guilt on Richard, King of England, those writers who were his
own subjects indignantly repelling the accusation, and some indifferent
witnesses testifying in his favour. Previous to examining these
witnesses we must state that king Richard was at enmity with Philip
Augustus, King of France; that though he had given the crown of
Jerusalem to the Marquis of Montferrat, there was little kind feeling
between them, and they had been enemies; and, finally, that the history
of the English monarch exhibits no traits of such a generous chivalrous
disposition as should put him beyond suspicion of being concerned in an

Of the writers who charge king Richard with the murder it is to be
observed that the only ones that are contemporary are the Arabian
historians. The following passage is quoted from the History of
Jerusalem and Hebron, by Hammer, who regards it as quite decisive of the
guilt of the English king:--"The marquis went, on the 13th of the month
Rebi-al-Ewal, to visit the Bishop of Tyre. As he was going out he was
attacked by two Assassins, who slew him with their daggers. When taken
and stretched on the rack, they confessed that they had been employed by
the King of England. They died under the torture." Boha-ed-deen, the
friend and biographer of Saladin, writes to the same effect. It is
therefore evident that, at the time, it was reported that the marquis
had been murdered by persons employed by the King of England; and
Vinisauf and the other English writers assure us that the French party
and the friends of the murdered marquis endeavoured to throw the odium
of the deed on king Richard. As that mode of getting rid of an enemy was
far too familiar in the east, it was natural enough that the Arabian
writers should adopt the report without much inquiry. This consideration
alone ought very much to invalidate their testimony. Some German
chroniclers also, following the reports which were industriously spread
to the disadvantage of the English king at the time he was a prisoner in
Austria, did not hesitate to accuse him of the murder of the marquis;
but, as has been justly observed, these, as well as the preceding, were
either partial or at a distance[52].

[Footnote 52: Raumer, Geschichte der Hohenstauffen, ii., p. 490. Wilken,
Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, iv., 489.]

In opposition to these assertions, we have the unanimous testimony of
all the English writers, such as Vinisauf (the companion and historian
of king Richard's crusade), Hoveden, Brompton, William of Newbridge.
The Syrian bishop, Aboo-'l-Faraj, mentions the report of the Assassin
who was put to the rack having laid the guilt on king Richard, but adds
that the truth came afterwards to light. Hugo Plagon, a judicious and
impartial writer, so far from imputing the death of the marquis to king
Richard, assigns the cause which moved the Assassin prince to order the
death of the marquis, namely, the same which we shall presently see
stated in the letter ascribed to the Old Man of the Mountain. Rigord,
who wrote the history of Philip Augustus, does not by any means impute
the murder of the marquis to king Richard, though he says that while
Philip was at Pontoise letters were brought to him from beyond sea,
warning him to be on his guard, as Assassins (_Arsacidæ_) had been sent,
at the suggestion and command of the King of England, to kill him, "for
at that time they had slain the king's kinsman, the marquis." Philip, in
real, but more probably feigned alarm, immediately surrounded his person
with a guard of serjeants-at-mace. The Arabic historian, Ebn-el-Athir,
the friend of Saladin, says that the sultan had agreed with the Old Man
of the Mountain, for a sum of 10,000 pieces of gold, to deliver him of
both king Richard and the marquis, but that Sinan, not thinking it to be
for his interest to relieve the sultan of the English king, had taken
the money and only put the marquis out of the way. This narrative is
wholly improbable, for treachery was surely no part of the character of
Saladin; but it serves to prove the impartiality which is so justly
ascribed to the Arabic writers in general. The testimony of Abulfeda is
as follows: "And in it (the year of the Hejra 588, or A.D. 1192,) was
slain the Marquis, Lord of Soor (or Tyre); may God, whose name be
exalted, curse him! A Batinee, or Assassin (in one copy Batinees), who
had entered Soor in the disguise of a monk, slew him[53]."

[Footnote 53: Annales Muslemici, tom. iv., pp. 122, 123. Hafniae, 1792.]

We thus see that the evidence in favour of the King of England greatly
preponderates, not a single writer who was on the spot laying the murder
to his charge; on the contrary, those who had the best means of being
informed treated the imputation with contempt, as a base calumny devised
by the French party. But there is a still more illustrious witness in
his behalf, if the testimony ascribed to him be genuine--the Old Man of
the Mountain himself. Brompton gives two letters purporting to have been
written by this personage, the one to the Duke of Austria, the other to
the princes and people of Europe in general. The latter is also given by
William of Newbridge, with some variation. Both have been admitted by
Rymer into his Foedera. Gibbon, who seems to have known only the last,
pronounces it to be an "absurd and palpable forgery." Hammer, whose
arguments we shall presently consider, undertakes to demonstrate that
these epistles are forgeries. Raumer, more prudently, only says that
this last is not genuine in its present form.

The following are translations of these documents:--

"The Old Man of the Mountain to Limpold, Duke of Austria, greeting.
Since several kings and princes beyond sea accuse Richard, King of
England, and lord, of the death of the marquis, I swear by the God who
reigneth for ever, and by the law which we hold, that he had no guilt in
his death; for the cause of the death of the marquis was as follows.

"One of our brethren was coming in a ship from Satelia (_Salteleya_) to
our parts, and a tempest chancing to drive him to Tyre the marquis had
him taken and slain, and seized a large sum of money which he had with
him. But we sent our messengers to the marquis, requiring him to restore
to us the money of our brother, and to satisfy us respecting the death
of our brother, which he laid upon Reginald, the Lord of Sidon, and we
exerted ourselves through our friends till we knew of a truth that it
was he himself who had had him put to death, and had seized his money.

"And again we sent to him another of our messengers, named Eurisus, whom
he was minded to fling into the sea; but our friends made him depart
with speed out of Tyre, and he came to us quickly and told us these
things. From that very hour we were desirous to slay the marquis; then
also we sent two brethren to Tyre, who slew him openly, and as it were
before all the people of Tyre.

"This, then, was the cause of the death of the marquis; and we say to
you in truth that the lord Richard, King of England, had no guilt in
this death of the marquis, and these who on account of this have done
evil to the lord King of England have done it unjustly and without

"Know for certain that we kill no man in this world for any hire or
money, unless he has first done us evil.

"And know that we have executed these letters in our house at our castle
of Messiat, in the middle of September. In the year from Alexander M. D.
& V."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Old Man of the Mountain to the princes of Europe and all the
Christian people, greeting.

"We would not that the innocence of any one should suffer by reason of
what we have done, since we never do evil to any innocent and guiltless
person; but those who have transgressed against us we do not, with God
to aid, long suffer to rejoice in the injuries done to our simplicity.

"We therefore signify to the whole of you, testifying by him through
whom we hope to be saved, that that Marquis of Montferrat was slain by
no machination of the King of England, but he justly perished, by our
will and command, by our satellites, for that act in which he
transgressed against us, and which, when admonished, he had neglected to
amend. For it is our custom first to admonish those who have acted
injuriously in anything to us or our friends to give us satisfaction,
which if they despise, we take care to take vengeance with severity by
our ministers, who obey us with such devotion that they do not doubt but
that they shall be gloriously rewarded by God if they die in executing
our command.

"We have also heard that it is bruited about of that king that he has
induced us, as being less upright and consistent (_minus integros et
constantes_), to send some of our people to plot against the King of
France, which, beyond doubt, is a false fiction, and of the vainest
suspicion, when neither he, God is witness, has hitherto attempted
anything against us, nor would we, in respect to our honour, permit any
undeserved evil to be planned against any man. Farewell."

       *       *       *       *       *

We will not undertake to maintain the genuineness of these two epistles,
but we may be permitted to point out the futility of some of the
objections made to them. Hammer pronounces the first of them to be an
undoubted forgery because it commences with swearing by the law, and
ends by being dated from the era of the Seleucides. Both, he says, were
equally strange to the Ismaïlites, who precisely at this time had begun
to trample the law under foot, and had abandoned the Hejra, the only era
known in Mohammedan countries, for a new one commencing with the reign
of Hassan II. He further sees, in the circumstance of a letter from the
Old Man of the Mountain (_Sheikh-al-Jebal_) being dated from Massyat, a
proof of the ignorance of the Crusaders respecting the true head and
seat of the Ismaïlite power. These objections are regarded by Wilken as
conclusive. They will, however, lose much of their force if we bear in
mind that the letters are manifestly translations, and that the chief of
Massyat at that time was Sinan, who some years before had offered to
become a Christian, and who does not seem at all to have adopted the
innovations of Hassan the Illuminator. Sinan might easily have been
induced by the friends of the King of England, one of the most steady of
whom was Henry of Champagne[54], who succeeded Conrad of Montferrat in
the kingdom, to write those letters in his justification, and it is very
probable that the translations were made in Syria, where the Arabic
language was of course better understood than in Europe, and sent either
alone or with the originals. The translator might have rendered the
title which Sinan gave himself by _Senex de Monte_, which would be
better understood in the west, and he may also have given the
corresponding year of the era of the Seleucides (the one in use among
the Syrian Christians) for the year of the Hejra used by the Ismaïlite
chief, or indeed Sinan may have employed that era himself. In this case
there would remain little to object to the genuineness of the letter to
the Duke of Austria. Hammer regards the expression _our simplicity_
(_simplicitas nostra_) as being conclusive against the genuineness of
the second letter. We must confess that we can see no force in the
objection. Sinan might wish to represent himself as a very plain,
simple, innocent sort of person. It might further be doubted if a
European forger would venture to represent the prince of the
Assassins--the formidable Old Man of the Mountain--in such a respectable
light as he appears in these two epistles[55].

[Footnote 54: An instance of Henry's intimacy with the Assassins has
been given in p. 81.]

[Footnote 55: Sir J. Mackintosh (History of England, i. 187) seems to
regard the letters as genuine.]

But there is another account of the death of the Marquis of Montferrat,
which is probably much better known to the generality of readers than
any of the preceding ones. The far-famed author of "Waverley" has, in
his romantic tale of the "Talisman," made Conrad to be wounded and
vanquished in the lists by the son of the King of Scotland, the champion
of king Richard, and afterwards slain by the dagger, not of the
Assassins, but of his confederate in villany the Master of the Temple,
to prevent his making confession of their common guilt!

Yielding to none in rational admiration of the genius of Sir W. Scott,
we cannot avoid expressing a wish that he had ceased to write when he
had exhausted that rich field of national feelings and manners with
which he was alone familiar, and from which he drew the exquisite
delineations of "Waverley" and its Scottish brethren. All his later
works, no doubt, exhibit occasional scenes far beyond the power of any
of his imitators; but when his muse quits her native soil, she takes
leave of nature, truth, and simplicity. Even the genius of a Scott is
inadequate to painting manners he never witnessed, scenery he never

The tale of the "Talisman" is a flagrant instance. Topography,
chronology, historic truth, oriental manners, and individual character,
are all treated with a most magnanimous neglect, indeed, even, we might
say, with contempt; for, careless, from "security to please," as the
author is known to have been, his vagaries must sometimes have proceeded
from mere wilfulness and caprice. It would, we apprehend, perplex our
oriental travellers and geographers to point out the site of the
fountain named the Diamond of the Desert, not far from the Dead Sea, and
yet lying half-way between the camp of the Saracens and that of the
Crusaders, which last, we are told, lay between Acre and Ascalon, that
is, on the sea-coast, or to show the interminable sandy desert which
stretches between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. As to historic
truth, we may boldly say that there is hardly a single circumstance of
the romance in strict accordance with history; and as to the truth of
individual character, what are we to say to the grave, serious,
religious Saladin, but the very year before his death, being in the
flower of his age, rambling alone through the desert, like an errant
knight, singing hymns to the Devil, and coming disguised as a physician
to the Christian camp, to cure the malady of the English monarch, whom
he never, in reality, did or would see[56]? We might enumerate many
additional instances of the violation of every kind of unity and
propriety in this single tale[57].

[Footnote 56: May it not be said that real historic characters should
not be misrepresented? Sir W. Scott was at full liberty to make his
Varneys and his Bois Gilberts as accomplished villains as he pleased; he
might do as he pleased with his own; but what warrant had he from
history for painting Conrad of Montferrat and the then Master of the
Templars under such odious colours as he does?]

[Footnote 57: The author invariably writes _Montserrat_ for
_Montferrat_. The former is in Spain, and never was a marquisate. As it
were to show that it was no error of the press, it is said, "The shield
of the marquis bore, in reference to his title, a serrated and rocky
mountain." We also find _naphtha_ and _bitumen_ confounded, the former
being described as the solid, the latter as the liquid substance.]

Let not any deem it superfluous thus to point out the errors of an
illustrious writer. The impressions made by his splendid pages on the
youthful mind are permanent and ineffaceable, and, if not corrected,
may lead to errors of a graver kind. The "Talisman" moreover affects a
delusive show of truth and accuracy; for, in a note in one part of it,
the author (ironically, no doubt) affects to correct the historians on a
point of history. The natural inference, then, is that he has himself
made profound researches, and adhered to truth; and we accordingly find
another novelist, in what he terms a history of chivalry, declaring the
"Talisman" to be a faithful picture of the manners of the age. Sir W.
Scott, however, has himself informed us, in the preface to "Ivanhoe," of
his secret for describing the manners of the times of Richard Coeur de
Lion. With the chronicles of the time he joined that of Froissart, so
rich in splendid pictures of chivalric life. Few readers of these
romances perhaps are aware that this was the same in kind, though not in
degree, as if, in his tales of the days of Elizabeth and James I., he
had had recourse to the manner-painting pages of Henry Fielding; for the
distance in point of time between the reign of Richard I. and that of
Richard II., in which last Froissart wrote, is as great as that between
the reigns of Elizabeth and George II.; and, in both, manners underwent
a proportional change. But we are in the habit of regarding the middle
ages as one single period of unvarying manners and institutions, and we
are too apt to fancy that the descriptions of Froissart and his
successors are equally applicable to all parts of it.


     Jellal-ed-deen--Restoration of Religion--His Harem makes the
     Pilgrimage to Mecca--Marries the Princess of Ghilan--Geography of
     the Country between Roodbar and the Caspian--Persian Romance--Zohak
     and Feridoon--Kei Kaoos and Roostem--Ferdoosee's Description of
     Mazanderan--History of the Shah Nameh--Proof of the Antiquity of
     the Tales contained in it.

The unhallowed rule of Mohammed II. lasted for the long space of
thirty-five years, during which time all the practices of Islam were
neglected by the Ismaïlites. The mosks were closed, the fast of Ramazan
neglected, the solemn seasons of prayer despised. But such a state can
never last; man must have religion; it is as essential to him as his
food; and those pseudo-philosophers who have endeavoured to deprive him
of it have only displayed in the attempt their ignorance and folly. The
purification of the popular faith is the appropriate task of the true

We may often observe the son to exhibit a character the diametrically
opposite of that of his father, either led by nature or struck by the
ill effects of his father's conduct. This common appearance was now
exhibited among the Assassins. Mohammed disregarded all the observances
of the ceremonial law; his son and successor, Jellal-ed-deen (_Glory of
Religion_) Hassan, distinguished himself, from his early years, by a
zeal for the ordinances of Islam. The avowal of his sentiments caused
considerable enmity and suspicion between him and Mohammed; the father
feared the son, and the son the father. On the days of public audience,
at which Jellal-ed-deen was expected to appear, the old sheikh used the
precaution of wearing a shirt of mail under his clothes, and of
increasing the number of his guards. His death, which occurred when his
son had attained his twenty-fifth year, is ascribed by several
historians, though apparently without any sufficient reason, to poison
administered to him by his successor.

The succession of Jellal-ed-deen was uncontested. He immediately set
about placing all things on the footing which they had been on previous
to the time of _On his Memory be Peace_. The mosks were repaired and
reopened; the call to prayer sounded as heretofore from the minarets;
and the solemn assemblies for worship and instruction were held once
more on every Friday. Imams, Koran-readers, preachers, and teachers of
all kinds, were invited to Alamoot, where they were honourably
entertained and richly rewarded. Jellal-ed-deen wrote to his lieutenants
in Kusistan and Syria, informing them of what he had done, and inviting
them to follow his example. He also wrote to the khalif, to the powerful
Shah of Khaurism, and to all the princes of Persia, to assure them of
the purity of his faith. His ambassadors were everywhere received with
honour, and the khalif and all the princes gave to Jellal-ed-deen, in
the letters which they wrote in reply, the title of prince, which had
never been conceded to any of his predecessors. The imams, and the men
learned in the law, loudly upheld the orthodoxy of the faith of the
mountain-chief, on whom they bestowed the name of Nev (_New_) Musulman.
When the people of Casveen, who had always been at enmity with the
Ismaïlites, doubted of his orthodoxy, Jellal-ed-deen condescended to ask
of them to send some persons of respectability to Alamoot, that he might
have an opportunity of convincing them. They came, and in their
presence he committed to the flames a pile of books which he said were
the writings of Hassan Sabah, and contained the secret rules and
ordinances of the society. He cursed the memory of Hassan and his
successors, and the envoys returned to Casveen, fully convinced of his

In the second year of his reign Jellal-ed-deen gave a further proof of
the purity of his religious faith by permitting, or, perhaps, directing,
his harem, that is, his mother, his wife, and a long train of their
female attendants, to undertake the pilgrimage to the holy city of
Mecca, to worship at the tomb of the Prophet. The sacred banner was,
according to custom, borne before the caravan of the pilgrims from
Alamoot, and the Tesbeel, or distribution of water to the pilgrims,
usual on such occasions[58], was performed by the harem of the
mountain-prince on such a scale of magnificence and liberality as far
eclipsed that of the great Shah of Khaurism, whose caravan reached
Bagdad at the same time on its way to Mecca. The khalif
Nassir-ladin-Illah even gave precedence to the banner of the pilgrims
from Alamoot, and this mark of partiality drew on him the wrath of the
potent prince of Khaurism. Twice did the latter afterwards collect an
army to make war on the successor of the Prophet. With the first,
consisting of nearly 300,000 men, he marched against Bagdad, and had
reached Hamadan and Holuan, when a violent snow-storm obliged him to
retire. He had collected his forces a second time, when the hordes of
Chinghis Khan burst into his dominions. His son and successor resumed
his plans, and reached Hamadan, when again a snow-storm came to avert
destruction from the City of Peace. As the power of the Mongol conqueror
was now great and formidable, the prudent prince of Alamoot sent in
secret ambassadors to assure him of his submission, and to tender his

[Footnote 58: "Sebil, in Arabic 'the way,' means generally the road, and
the traveller is hence called _Ibn-es-sebil_, the son of the road; but
it more particularly signifies the way of piety and good works, which
leads to Paradise. Whatever meritorious work the Moslem undertakes, he
does _Fi sebil Allah_, on the way of God, or for the love of God; and
the most meritorious which he can undertake is the holy war, or the
fight for his faith and his country, _on God's way_. But since pious
women can have no immediate share in the contest, every thing which they
can contribute to the nursing of the wounded, and the refreshment of the
exhausted, is imputed to them as equally meritorious as if they had
fought themselves. The distribution of water to the exhausted and
wounded warriors is the highest female merit in the holy war on God's
way."--_Hammer's History of the Assassins_, Wood's translation, p. 144.]

Jellal-ed-deen took a more active part in the politics of his neighbours
than his predecessors had done. He formed an alliance with the Atabeg
Mozaffer-ed-deen (_Causing the Religion to be victorious_), the governor
of Azerbeijan, against the governor of Irak, who was their common enemy.
He even visited the Atabeg at his residence, where he was received with
the utmost magnificence, and each day the Atabeg sent 1,000 dinars for
the expenses of his table. The two princes sent to the khalif for aid;
their request was granted; and they marched against, defeated, and slew
the governor of Irak, and appointed another in his place. After an
absence of eighteen months Jellal-ed-deen returned to Alamoot, having in
the mean time, by his prudent conduct, greatly augmented the fame of his
orthodoxy. He now ventured to aspire to a connexion with one of the
ancient princely houses of the country, and asked in marriage the
daughter of Ky Kaoos, the prince of Ghilan. The latter having expressed
his readiness to give his consent, provided that of the khalif could be
obtained, envoys were despatched to Bagdad, who speedily returned with
the approbation of Nassir-ladin-Illah, and the princess of Ghilan was
sent to Alamoot.

The mention of Ghilan and of Ky Kaoos presents an opportunity, which we
are not willing to let pass, of diversifying our narrative by an
excursion into the regions of Persian geography and romance, which may
cast a gleam of the sunshine of poetry over the concluding portion of
our history of the dark and secret deeds of the Ismaïlites.

The mountain range named Demavend, on the south side of which Roodbar,
the territory of the Ismaïlites, lies, is the northern termination of
the province of Irak Ajemee, or Persian Irak. Beyond it stretches to the
Caspian Sea a fertile region, partly hilly, partly plain[59]. This
country is divided into five districts, which were in those times
distinct from and independent of each other. At the foot of the
mountains lay Taberistan and Dilem, the former to the east, the latter
to the west. Dilem is celebrated as having been the native country of
the family of Buyah, which, rising from the humblest station, exercised
under the khalifs, and with the title of Ameer-al-Omra (_Prince of the
Princes_), a power nearly regal over Persia during a century and a
half[60]. North of Dilem lay Ghilan, and north of Taberistan Mazenderan,
the ancient Hyrcania. In the midst of these four provinces lay Ruyan
and Rostemdar, remarkable for having been governed for a space of 800
years by one family of princes, while dynasty after dynasty rose and
fell in the neighbouring states. In these provinces the names of the
royal lines recall to our mind the ancient history, both true and
fabulous, of Irân (Persia), as we find it in the poem of Ferdoosee, the
Homer of that country. The family of Kawpara, which governed Ruyan and
Rostemdar, affected to derive their lineage from the celebrated
blacksmith Gavah, who raised his apron as the standard of revolt against
the Assyrian tyrant Zohak; and the family of Bavend, which ruled for
nearly seven centuries, with but two interruptions, over Mazenderan and
Taberistan, were descended from the elder brother of Noosheerwan the
Just, the most celebrated monarch of the house of Sassan.

[Footnote 59: This part of Persia also acquires interest from the
circumstance of Russia being believed to be looking forward to obtaining
it, one day or other, by conquest or cession.]

[Footnote 60: Azed-ud-dowlah, one of the most celebrated of these
princes, had a dyke constructed across the river Kur, in the plain of
Murdasht, near the ruins of Persepolis, to confine the water, and permit
of its being distributed over the country. It was called the Bund-Ameer
(_Prince's Dyke_), and travellers ignorant of the Persian language have
given this name to the river itself. We must not, therefore, be
surprised to find in "Lalla Rookh" a lady singing,

    "There's a bower of roses by Bendameer's _stream_;"

and asking,

    "Do the roses still bloom by the _calm_ Bendameer?"

Calm and still, beyond doubt, is the Bendameer. ]

This region is the classic land of Persia. When, as their romantic
history relates, Jemsheed, the third monarch of Iran after Cayamars, the
first who ruled over men, had long reigned in happiness and prosperity,
his head was lifted up with pride, and God withdrew from him his favour.
His dominions were invaded by Zohak, the prince of the Tauzees
(Assyrians or Arabs); his subjects fell away from him, and, after
lurking for a hundred years in secret places, he fell into the hands of
the victor, who cut him asunder with a saw. A child was born of the race
of Jemsheed, named Feridoon, whom, as soon as he came to the light (in
the village of Wereghi, in Taberistan), his mother Faranuk gave to a
herdsman to rear, and his nourishment was the milk of a female buffalo,
whose name was Poormayeh. Zohak meantime had a dream, in which he beheld
two warriors, who led up to him a third, armed with a club which
terminated in the head of a cow. The warrior struck him on the head with
his club, and took him and chained him in the cavern of a mountain. He
awoke with a loud cry, and called all the priests, and astrologers, and
wise men, to interpret his dream. They feared to speak. At last they
told him of the birth and nurture of Feridoon, who was destined to
overcome him. Zohak fell speechless from his throne at the intelligence.
On recovering, he sent persons in all directions to search for and put
to death the fatal child; but the maternal anxiety of Faranuk was on the
watch, and she removed the young Feridoon to the celebrated mountain
Elburz, where she committed him to the care of a pious anchorite. Zohak,
after a long search, discovered the place where Feridoon had been first
placed by his mother, and in his rage he killed the beautiful and
innocent cow Poormayeh.

Zohak is represented as a most execrable tyrant. Acting under the
counsel of the Devil, he had murdered his own father to get his throne.
His infernal adviser afterwards assumed the form of a young man, and
became his cook. He prepared for him all manner of curious and
high-seasoned dishes; for hitherto the food of mankind had been rude and
plain. As a reward, he only asked permission to kiss the shoulders of
the king. Zohak readily granted this apparently moderate request; but
from the spots where the Devil impressed his lips grew forth two black
snakes. In vain every art was employed to remove them, in vain they were
cut away, they grew again like plants. The physicians were in
perplexity. At length the Devil himself came in the shape of a
physician, and said that the only mode of keeping them quiet was to feed
them with human brains. His object, we are told, was gradually in this
way to destroy the whole race of man.

The design of the Devil seemed likely to be accomplished. Each day two
human beings were slain, and the serpents fed with their brains. At
length two of the tyrant's cooks discovered that the brain of a man
mixed with that of a ram satisfied the monsters, and, of the two men who
were given to be killed each day, they always secretly let go one, and
those who were thus delivered became the progenitors of the Koords who
dwell in the mountains west of Persia. Among those unfortunate persons
who were condemned to be food for the serpents was the son of a
blacksmith named Gavah. The afflicted father went boldly before the
tyrant, and remonstrated with him on the injustice of his conduct. Zohak
heard him with patience and released his son. He also made him bearer of
a letter addressed to all the provinces of the empire, vaunting his
goodness, and calling on all to support him against the youthful
pretender to his throne. But Gavah, instead of executing the mandate,
tore the tyrant's letter, and, raising his leathern apron on a lance by
way of standard, called on all the inhabitants of Irân to arise and take
arms in support of Feridoon, the rightful heir to the throne of

[Illustration: From the Shah Nameh, illuminated Persian MS.]

Meantime Feridoon, who had attained the age of twice eight years, came
down from Elburz, and, going to his mother, besought her to tell him
from whom he derived his birth. Faranuk related to him his whole
history, when the young hero, in great emotion, vowed to attack the
tyrant, and avenge on him the death of his father; but his mother
sought, by representing the great power of Zohak, to divert him from his
purpose, and exhorted him to abandon all such thoughts, and to enjoy in
quiet the good things of this life. But a numerous army, led by Gavah in
search of the true heir to the throne, now came in sight. Feridoon,
joyfully advancing to meet them, adorned with gold and precious stones
the leathern banner, placed upon it the orb of the moon, and, naming it
Direfsh-e-Gavanee (_Gavah's Apron_), selected it for the banner of the
empire of Irân. Each succeeding prince, we are told, at his accession,
added jewels to it, and Direfsh-e-Gavanee blazed in the front of battle
like a sun. Feridoon, then calling for smiths, drew for them in the sand
the form of a club, with a cow's head at the end of it, and when they
had made it he named it Gawpeigor (_Cow-face_), in honour of his nurse.
Taking leave of his mother, he marches against the tyrant; an angel
comes from heaven to aid the rightful cause; Zohak is deserted by his
troops; he falls into the hands of Feridoon, who, by the direction of
the angel, imprisons him in a cavern of the mountain Demavend. Feridoon,
on ascending the throne of his forefathers, governed with such mildness,
firmness, and justice, that his name is to the present day in Persia
significative of the ideal of a perfect monarch[61].

[Footnote 61: Four lines, quoted by Sir J. Malcolm from the Gulistan of
Saadi, may be thus _literally_ rendered in the measure of the

    The blest Feridoon an angel was not;
    Of musk or of amber he formed was not;
    By justice and mercy good ends gained he;
    Be just and merciful, thou'lt a Feridoon be.]

Mazenderan is not less celebrated in Persian romance than the region at
the foot of Demavend. It was the scene of the dangers of the
light-minded Kej Kaoos (supposed to be the Cyaxares of the Greeks), and
of the marvellous adventures called the Seven Fables or Stages of the
Hero Roostem, the Hercules of Persia, who came to his aid. When Kej
Kaoos mounted the throne of Irân, he exulted in his wealth and in his
power. A deev (_Demon_), desirous of luring him to his destruction,
assumed the guise of a wandering minstrel, and, coming to his court,
sought to be permitted to sing before the padisha (_Emperor_). His
request was acceded to,--his theme was the praises of Mazenderan, and he
sang to this effect:--

"Mazenderan deserves that the shah should think on it; the rose blooms
evermore in its gardens, its hills are arrayed with tulips and
jessamines, mild is the air, the earth is bright of hue, neither cold
nor heat oppresses the lovely land, spring abides there evermore, the
nightingale sings without ceasing in the gardens, and the deer bound
joyously through the woods. The earth is never weary of pouring forth
fruits, the air is evermore filled with fragrance, like unto rose-water
are the streams, the tulip glows unceasingly on the meads, pure are the
rivers, and their banks are smiling: ever mayest thou behold the falcon
at the chase. All its districts are adorned with abundance of food,
beyond measure are the treasures which are there piled up, the flowers
bend in worship before the throne, and around it stand the men of renown
richly girded with gold. Who dwelleth not there knoweth no pleasure, as
joy and luxuriant pastime are to him unknown."

Kej Kaoos was beguiled by the tempter, and, eager to get possession of
so rich a land, he led a large army into it. The Shah of Mazenderan was
aided by a potent demon or enchanter named the Deev Seffeed (_White
Deev_), who, by his magic arts, cast a profound darkness over the
Irânian monarch and his host, in which they would have all been
destroyed but for the timely arrival of Roostem, who, after surmounting
all the impediments that magic could throw in his way, slew the Deev
Seffeed, and delivered his sovereign.

Kej Kaoos, we are afterwards told by the poet, formed the insane project
of ascending to heaven, which he attempted in the following manner. A
stage was constructed on which a throne was set for the monarch; four
javelins were placed at the corners, with pieces of goat's flesh on
them, and four hungry eagles were tied at the bottom, who, by their
efforts to reach the meat, raised the stage aloft into the air; but when
the strength of the birds was exhausted the whole fell with the royal
aëronaut in the desert, where he was found by Roostem and the other

[Illustration: From the Same.]

The history of the Shah-nameh (_King-book_), in which these legends are
contained, is one of the most curious in literature. The fanaticism of
the Arabs, who conquered Persia, raged with indiscriminate fury against
the literature, as well as the religion, of that country; and when, in
the time of Al-Mansoor and his successors Haroon-er-Rasheed and
Al-Mamoon, the Arabs themselves began to devote their attention to
literature and science, it was the science of Greece and the poetry of
their native language that they cultivated. The Persian literature
meantime languished in obscurity, and the traditional, heroic, and
legendary tales of the nation were fading fast from memory, when a
governor of a province, zealous, as it would appear, for the honour of
the Persian nation, made a collection of them, and formed from them a
continuous narrative in prose. The book thus formed was called the
Bostan-nameh (_Garden-book_). It was in great repute in the northern
part of Persia, where, at a distance from the court of the khalifs, the
Persian manners, language, and nationality were better preserved; and
when the Turkish family of the Samenee founded an empire in that part of
Persia, sultan Mansoor I., of that race, gave orders to a poet named
Dakeekee to turn the Bastan-nameh into Persian verse. The poet undertook
the task, but he had not made more than a thousand verses when he
perished by assassination. There being no one supposed capable of
continuing his work, it was suspended till twenty years afterwards, when
the celebrated Mahmood of Ghizni, the conqueror of India, meeting with
the Bastan-nameh, gave portions of it to three of the most renowned
poets of the time to versify. The palm of excellence was adjudged to
Anseri, who versified the tale of Sohrab slain by his own father
Roostem, one of the most pathetic and affecting narratives in any
language. The sultan made him Prince of the Poets, and directed him to
versify the entire work; but, diffident of his powers, Anseri shrank
from the task, and having some time afterwards met a poet of Toos in
Khorasan, named Isaac, the son of Sheriff-Shah, surnamed Ferdoosee
(_Paradisal_[62]), either from his father's employment as a gardener, or
from the beauty of his verses, he introduced him to the sultan, who
gladly committed the task to him. Ferdoosee laboured with enthusiasm in
the celebration of the ancient glories of his country; and in the space
of thirty or, as some assert, of only eight years, he brought the poem
to within two thousand lines of its termination, which lines were added
by another poet after his death.

[Footnote 62: Paradise, we are to recollect, is a word of Persian
origin, adopted by the Greeks, from whom we have received it. A Paradise
was a place planted with trees, a park, garden, or pleasure-ground, as
we may term it.]

The Shah-nameh is, beyond comparison, the finest poem of the Mohammedan
east. It consists of 60,000 rhymed couplets, and embraces the history of
Persia, from the beginning of the world to the period of its conquest by
the Arabs. The verses move on with spirit and rapidity, resembling more
the flow of our lyrical, than that of our common heroic, lines[63].

[Footnote 63: Hammer has, in his "Belles Lettres of Persia" (_Schöne
Redekunst Persians_), and in the "Mines de l'Orient," translated a
considerable portion of the Shah-nameh in the measure of the original.
MM. Campion and Atkinson have rendered a part of it into English heroic
verse. Görres has epitomised it, as far as to the death of Roostem, in
German prose, under the title of "Das Heldenbuch von Iran." An epitome
of the poem in English prose, by Mr. Atkinson, has also lately

Ferdoosee wrote his poem in the early part of the eleventh century from
a book which had been in existence a long time before, for he always
calls it an _old book_. No proof therefore is needed that he did not
invent the tales which compose the Shah-nameh, and they have every
appearance of having been the ancient traditionary legends of the
Persian nation. But we are able to show that these legends were popular
in Persia nearly six centuries before his time; and it was chiefly with
a view to establishing this curious point that we related the tale of
Zohak and Feridoon.

Moses of Choren, the Armenian historian, who wrote about the year 440,
thus addresses the person to whom his work is dedicated. "How should the
vain and empty fables about Byrasp Astyages gain any portion of thy
favour, or why shouldest thou impose on us the fatigue of elucidating
the absurd, tasteless, senseless legends of the Persians about him? to
wit, of his first injurious benefit of the demoniac powers which were
subject to him, and how he could not deceive him who was deception and
falsehood itself. Then, of the kiss on the shoulders, whence the dragons
came, and how thenceforward the growth of vice destroyed mankind by the
pampering of the belly, until at last a certain Rhodones bound him with
chains of brass, and brought him to the mountain which is called
Demavend; how Byraspes then dragged to a hill Rhodones, when he fell
asleep on the way, but this last, awaking out of his sleep, brought him
to a cavern of the mountain, where he chained him fast, and set an image
opposite to him, so that, terrified by it, and held by the chains, he
might never more escape to destroy the world."

Here we have evidently the whole story of Zohak and Feridoon current in
Persia in the fifth century; and any one who has reflected on the nature
of tradition must be well aware that it must have existed there for
centuries before. The very names are nearly the same. Taking the first
syllable from Feridoon, it becomes nearly Rodon, and Biyraspi Aidahaki
(the words of the Armenian text) signify the dragon Byrasp: Zohak is
evidently nearly the same with the last word. This fable could hardly
have been invented in the time of the Sassanian dynasty, who had not
then been more than two centuries on the throne, much less during the
period of the dominion of the Parthian Arsacides, who were adverse to
everything Persian. We are therefore carried back to the times of the
Kejanians, the Achæmenides of the Greeks; and it is by no means
impossible that the tale of Zohak and Feridoon was known even to the
host which Xerxes led to the subjugation of Greece.

It is well known to those versed in oriental history that, when the
founder of the house of Sassan mounted the throne of Persia in the year
226, he determined to bring back everything, as far as was possible, to
its state in the time of the Kejanians, from whom he affected to be
descended, and that his successors trod in his footsteps. But, as Persia
had been for five centuries and a half under the dominion of the Greeks
and Parthians, there was probably no authentic record of the ancient
state of things remaining. Recourse was therefore had to the traditional
tales of the country; and, as the legend of Zohak and Feridoon was, as
we have seen, one of the most remarkable of these tales, it was at once
adopted as a genuine portion of the national history, and a banner
formed to represent the Apron of Gavah, which was, as the poet describes
it, adorned with additional jewels by each monarch of the house of
Sassan at his accession. This hypothesis will very simply explain the
circumstance of this banner being unnoticed by the Greek writers, while
it is an undoubted fact that it was captured by the Arabs at the battle
of Kadiseäh, which broke the power of Persia,--a circumstance which has
perplexed Sir John Malcolm.

We will finally observe that the historian just alluded to, as well as
some others, thinks that the darkness cast by the magic art of the White
Deev over Ky Kaoos and his army in Mazanderan coincides with the eclipse
of the sun predicted by Thales, and which, according to Herodotus,
parted the armies of the Medians and the Lydians when engaged in
conflict. Little stress is however, we apprehend, to be laid on such
coincidences. Tradition does not usually retain the memory of facts of
this nature, though fiction is apt enough to invent them. The only
circumstances which we have observed in the early part of the Shah-nameh
agreeing with Grecian history, are some relating to the youthful days of
Kei Khoosroo, which are very like what Herodotus relates of Cyrus.

We now return to the history of the Assassins.


     Death of Jellal-ed-deen--Character of Ala-ed-deen, his
     successor--The Sheikh Jemal-ed-deen--The Astronomer
     Nasir-ed-deen--The Vizir Sheref-al-Moolk--Death of
     Ala-ed-deen--Succession of Rukn-ed-deen, the last Sheikh-al-Jebal.

The reign of Jellal-ed-deen, which, unfortunately for the society,
lasted but twelve years, was unstained by blood; and we see no reason to
doubt the judgment of the oriental historians, who consider his faith in
Islam as being sincere and pure. It was probably his virtue that caused
his death, for his life, it was suspected, was terminated by poison
administered by his own kindred. His son Ala-ed-deen[64] (_Eminence of
Religion_), who succeeded him, was but nine years old; but as, according
to the maxims of the Ismaïlites, the visible representative of the imam
was, to a certain extent, exempted from the ordinary imperfections of
humanity, and his commands were to be regarded as those of him whose
authority he bore, the young Ala-ed-deen was obeyed as implicitly as any
of his predecessors. At his mandate the blood was shed of all among his
relatives who were suspected of having participated in the murder of his

[Footnote 64: This is the name which, in the form of Aladdin, is so
familiar to us from the story of the Wonderful Lamp.]

Ala-ed-deen proved to be a weak, inefficient ruler. His delight was in
the breeding and tending of sheep, and he spent his days in the cotes
among the herdsmen, while the affairs of the society were allowed to run
into disorder. All the restraints imposed by his father were removed,
and every one was left to do what was right in his own eyes. The
weakness of this prince's intellect is ascribed to his having, in the
fifth year of his reign, had himself most copiously bled without the
knowledge of his physician, the consequence of which was an extreme
degree of debility and a deep melancholy, which never afterwards left
him. From that time no one could venture to offer him advice respecting
either his health or the state of the affairs of the society, without
being rewarded for it by the rack or by instant death. Everything was
therefore kept concealed from him, and he had neither friend nor

Yet Ala-ed-deen was not without some estimable qualities. He had a
respect and esteem for learning and learned men. For the sheikh
Jemal-ed-deen Ghili, who dwelt at Casveen, he testified on all occasions
the utmost reverence, and sent him annually 500 dinars to defray the
expenses of his household. When the people of Casveen reproached the
learned sheikh with living on the bounty of the Impious, he made answer,
"The imams pronounce it lawful to execute the Ismaïlites, and to
confiscate their goods; how much more lawful is it for a man to make use
of their property and their money when they give them voluntarily!"
Ala-ed-deen, who probably heard of the reproaches directed against his
friend, sent to assure the people of Casveen that it was solely on
account of the sheikh that he spared them, or else he would put the
earth of Casveen into bags, hang the bags about the necks of the
inhabitants, and bring them to Alamoot. The following instance of his
respect for the sheikh is also related. A messenger coming with a letter
to him from the sheikh was so imprudent as to deliver it to him when he
was drunk. Ala-ed-deen ordered him to have a hundred blows of the
bastinade, at the same time crying out to him, "O foolish and
thoughtless man, to give me a letter from the sheikh at the time when I
was drunk! Thou shouldest have waited till I was come out of the bath,
and was come to my senses."

The celebrated astronomer Nasir-ed-deen (_Victory of Religion_) had also
gained the consideration of Ala-ed-deen, who was anxious to enjoy the
pleasure of his society. But the philosopher, who resided at Bokhara,
testified little inclination to accept of the favour intended him.
Ala-ed-deen therefore sent orders to the Dai-al-Kebir of Kuhistan to
convey the uncourteous sage to Alamoot. As Nasir-ed-deen was one day
recreating himself in the gardens about Bokhara, he found himself
suddenly surrounded by some men, who, showing him a horse, directed him
to mount, telling him he had nothing to fear if he conducted himself
quietly. It was in vain that he argued and remonstrated; he was far on
the road to Kuhistan, which was 600 miles distant, before his friends
knew he was gone. The governor made every apology for what he had been
obliged to do. The philosopher was sent on to Alamoot to be the
companion of Ala-ed-deen, and it was while he was there that he wrote
his great work called the Morals of Nasir (_Akhlaak-Nasiree_).[65]

[Footnote 65: Malcolm's History of Persia, vol. i. In the clever work
called "Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry," which is the best
picture ever given of the language, manners, and modes of thinking of
that class, there is an amusing account (and an undoubtedly true one) of
the "Abduction of Mat Kavanagh," one of that curious order of men called
in that country hedge-schoolmasters, which, as indicative of a passion
for knowledge, may be placed in comparison with this anecdote of

It was during the administration of Ala-ed-deen that the following
event, so strongly illustrative of the modes of procedure of the
Assassins, took place. The sultan Jellal-ed-deen, the last ruler of
Khaurism, so well known for his heroic resistance to Chingis Khan, had
appointed the emir Arkhan governor of Nishaboor, which bordered closely
on the Ismaïlite territory of Kuhistan. Arkhan being obliged to attend
the sultan, the deputy whom he left in his stead made several
destructive incursions into Kuhistan, and laid waste the Ismaïlite
districts of Teem and Kaïn. The Ismaïlites sent to demand satisfaction,
but the only reply made to their complaints and menaces by the
deputy-governor was one of those symbolical proceedings so common in the
east. He came to receive the Ismaïlite envoy with his girdle stuck full
of daggers, which he flung on the ground before him, to signify either
his disregard for the daggers of the society, or to intimate that he
could play at that game as well as they. The Ismaïlites were not,
however, persons to be provoked with impunity, and shortly afterwards
three Fedavees were despatched to Kunja, where Arkhan was residing at
the court of the sultan. They watched till the emir came without the
walls of the town, and then fell upon and murdered him. They then
hastened to the house of Sheref-al-Moolk (_Nobleness of the Realm_), the
vizir, and penetrated into his divan. Fortunately he was at that time
engaged with the sultan, and they missed him; but they wounded severely
one of his servants, and then, sallying forth, paraded the streets,
proclaiming aloud that they were Assassins. They did not however escape
the penalty of their temerity, for the people assembled and stoned them
to death.

An envoy of the Ismaïlites, named Bedr-ed-deen (_Full Moon of Religion_)
Ahmed, was meantime on his way to the court of the sultan. He stopped
short on hearing what had occurred, and sent to the vizir to know
whether he should go on or return. Sheref-al-Moolk, who feared to
irritate the Assassins, directed him to continue his journey, and, when
he was arrived, showed him every mark of honour. The object of
Bedr-ed-deen's mission was to obtain satisfaction for the ravages
committed on the Ismaïlite territory and the cession of the fortress of
Damaghan. The vizir promised the former demand without a moment's
hesitation, and he made as little difficulty with regard to the second.
An instrument was drawn out assigning to the Ismaïlites the fortress
which they craved, on condition of their remitting annually to the royal
treasury the sum of 30,000 pieces of gold.

When this affair was arranged the sultan set out for Azerbeijan, and the
Ismaïlite ambassador remained the guest of the vizir. One day, after a
splendid banquet, when the wine, which they had been drinking in
violation of the law, had mounted into their heads, the ambassador told
the vizir, by way of confidence, that there were several Ismaïlites
among the pages, grooms, guards, and other persons who were immediately
about the sultan. The vizir, dismayed, and at the same time curious to
know who these dangerous attendants were, besought the ambassador to
point them out to him, giving him his napkin as a pledge that nothing
evil should happen to them. Instantly, at a sign from the envoy, five of
the persons who were attendants of the chamber stepped forth, avowing
themselves to be concealed Assassins. "On such a day, and at such an
hour," said one of them, an Indian, to the vizir, "I might have slain
thee without being seen or punished; and, if I did not do so, it was
only because I had no orders from my superiors." The vizir, timid by
nature, and rendered still more so by the effects of the wine, stripped
himself to his shirt, and, sitting down before the five Assassins,
conjured them by their lives to spare him, protesting that he was as
devotedly the slave of the sheikh Ala-ed-deen as of the sultan

As soon as the sultan heard of the meanness and cowardice of his vizir,
he sent a messenger to him with the keenest reproaches, and an order to
burn alive the five Ismaïlites without an instant's delay. The vizir,
though loth, was obliged to comply, and, in violation of his promise,
the five chamberlains were cast on the flaming pyre, where they died
exulting at being found worthy to suffer in the service of the great
Sheikh-al-Jebal. The master of the pages was also put to death for
having admitted Ismaïlites among them. The sultan then set out for Irak,
leaving the vizir in Azerbeijan. While he was there an envoy arrived
from Alamoot, who, on being admitted to an audience, thus spake, "Thou
hast given five Ismaïlites to the flames; to redeem thy head, pay 10,000
pieces of gold for each of these unfortunate men." The vizir heaped
honours on the envoy, and directed his secretary to draw out a deed in
the usual forms, by which he bound himself to pay the Ismaïlites the
annual sum of 10,000 pieces of gold, besides paying for them the 30,000
which went to the treasury of the sultan. Sheref-al-Moolk was then
assured that he had nothing to apprehend.

The preceding very characteristic anecdote rests on good authority, for
it is related by Aboo-'l-Fetah Nissavee, the vizir's secretary, in his
life of sultan Jellal-ed-deen.

The astronomer Nasir-ed-deen was not the only involuntary captive of
Alamoot. Ala-ed-deen sent once to Farsistan to the atabeg
Mozaffer-ed-deen, to request that he would send him an able physician.
Requests from Alamoot were not lightly to be disregarded, and the atabeg
despatched the imam Beha-ed-deen, one of the most renowned physicians of
the time, to the mountains of Jebal. The skill of the imam proved of
great benefit to the prince, but when the physician applied for leave to
return to his family he found that he was destined to pass the
remainder of his days in Alamoot, unless he should outlive his patient.

The imam's release, however, was more speedy than he expected.
Ala-ed-deen, who had several children, had nominated the eldest of them,
Rukn-ed-deen (_Support of Religion_), while he was yet a child, to be
his successor. As Rukn-ed-deen grew up the people began to hold him in
equal respect with his father, and to consider his commands as equally
binding on them. Ala-ed-deen took offence, and declared that he would
give the succession to another of his children; but, as this directly
contravened one of the Ismaïlite maxims, namely, that the first
nomination was always the true one, it was little heeded. Rukn-ed-deen,
in apprehension for his life, which his father threatened, retired to a
strong castle to wait there the time when he should be called to the
succession. Meantime the tyranny and caprice of Ala-ed-deen had given
many of the principal persons about him cause to be apprehensive for
their lives, and they resolved to anticipate him. There was a man at
Alamoot named Hassan, a native of Mazenderan, who, though no Ismaïlite,
was of a vile and profligate character. He was the object of the doating
attachment of Ala-ed-deen, and consequently had free and constant access
to him. Him they fixed upon as their agent, and they found no difficulty
in gaining him. Ala-ed-deen, whose fondness for breeding and tending
sheep had never diminished, had built for himself a wooden house close
by his sheep-cotes, whither he was wont to retire, and where he indulged
himself in all the excesses in which he delighted. Hassan of Mazenderan
seized the moment when Ala-ed-deen was lying drunk in this house, and
shot him through the neck with an arrow. Rukn-ed-deen, who is said to
have been engaged in the conspiracy, assuming the part of the avenger
of blood, the murderer and all his family were put to death, and their
bodies committed to the flames; but this act of seeming justice did not
free Rukn-ed-deen from suspicion, and the bitter reproaches of his
mother were poured forth on him as a parricide.

The termination of the power of the Ismaïlites was now at hand.
Rukn-ed-deen had hardly ascended the throne of his murdered father when
he learned that an enemy was approaching against whom all attempts at
resistance would be vain.

Chapter XI.

The Mongols--Hoolagoo sent against the Ismaïlites--Rukn-ed-deen
submits--Capture of Alamoot--Destruction of the Library--Fate
of Rukn-ed-deen--Massacre of the Ismaïlites--St. Louis and
the Assassins--Mission for the Conversion of the People of

Half a century had now elapsed since the voice of the Mongol seer on the
banks of the Sélinga had announced to the tribes of that race that he
had seen in a vision the Great God sitting on his throne and giving
sentence that Temujeen, one of their chiefs, should be Chingis Khan
(_Great Khan_), and the obedient tribes had, under the leading of
Temujeen, commenced that career of conquest which extended from the
eastern extremity of Asia to the confines of Egypt and of Germany. At
this time the chief power over the Mongols was in the hands of Mangoo,
the grandson of Chingis, a prince advantageously made known to Europe by
the long abode of the celebrated Venetian Marco Polo at his court. The
Mongols had not yet invaded Persia, though they had, under Chingis
himself, overthrown and stripped of his dominions the powerful sultan of
Khaurism. It was however evident that that country could not long escape
the fate of so many extensive and powerful states, and that a pretext
would soon be found for pouring over it the hordes of the Mongols.

We are told, though it seems scarcely credible, that ambassadors came
from the Khalif of Bagdad to Nevian, the Mongol general who commanded on
the northern frontier of Persia, requiring safe conduct to the court of
Mangoo. The object of their mission was to implore the great khan to
send his invincible troops to destroy those pests of society the bands
of the Ismaïlites. The prayer of the envoys of the successor of the
Prophet was supported by the Judge of Casveen, who happened to be at
that time at the court of Mangoo, where he appeared in a coat of mail,
to secure himself, as he professed, from the daggers of the Assassins.
The khan gave orders to assemble an army; his brother Hoolagoo was
appointed to command it, and, as he was setting forth, Mangoo thus
addressed him:--

"With heavy cavalry and a mighty host I send thee from Tooran to Iran,
the land of mighty princes. It behoves thee now strictly to observe,
both in great and in small things, the laws and regulations of Chinghis
Khan, and to take possession of the countries from the Oxus to the Nile.
Draw closer unto thee by favour and rewards the obedient and the
submissive; tread the refractory and the rebellious, with their wives
and children, into the dust of contempt and misery. When thou hast done
with the Assassins begin the conquest of Irak. If the Khalif of Bagdad
comes forward ready to serve thee, thou shalt do him no injury; if he
refuses, let him share the fate of the rest."

The army of Hoolagoo was reinforced by a thousand families of Chinese
firemen to manage the battering machines and fling the flaming naphtha,
known in Europe under the name of Greek fire. He set forward in the
month Ramazan of the 651st year of the Hejra (A.D. 1253). His march was
so slow that he did not cross the Oxus till two years afterwards. On the
farther bank of this river he took the diversion of lion-hunting, but
the cold came on so intense that the greater part of his horses
perished, and he was obliged to wait for the ensuing spring before he
could advance. All the princes of the menaced countries sent embassies
to the Mongol camp announcing their submission and obedience. The
head-quarters of Hoolagoo were now in Khorassan, whence he sent envoys
to Rukn-ed-deen, the Ismaïlite chief, requiring his submission. By the
advice of the astronomer Nasir-ed-deen, who was his counsellor and
minister, Rukn-ed-deen sent to Baissoor Noobeen, one of Hoolagoo's
generals, who had advanced to Hamadan, declaring his obedience and his
wish to live in peace with every one. The Mongol general recommended
that, as Hoolagoo himself was approaching, Rukn-ed-deen should wait on
him in person. After some delay, the latter agreed to send his brother
Shahinshah, who accompanied the son of Baissoor to the quarters of the
Mongol prince. Meantime Baissoor, by the orders of Hoolagoo, entered the
Ismaïlite territory and drew near to Alamoot. The troops of the
Assassins occupied a steep hill near that place. The Mongols attacked
them, but were repelled each time they attempted the ascent. Being
forced to give over the attack, they contented themselves with burning
the houses and ravaging the country round.

When Shahinshah reached the camp of Hoolagoo and notified the submission
of his brother, orders to the following effect were transmitted to the
mountain-chief:--"Since Rukn-ed-deen has sent his brother unto us, we
forgive him the offences of his father and his followers. He shall
himself, as, during his short reign, he has been guilty of no crime,
demolish his castles and come to us." Orders were sent at the same time
to Baissoor to give over ravaging the district of Roodbar. Rukn-ed-deen
began casting down some of the battlements of Alamoot, and at the same
time sent to beg the delay of a year before appearing in the presence of
Hoolagoo. But the orders of the Mongol were imperative; he was required
to appear at once, and to commit the defence of his territory to the
Mongol officer who was the bearer of Hoolagoo's commands. Rukn-ed-deen
hesitated. He sent again to make excuses and ask more time; and, as a
proof of his obedience, he directed the governors of Kuhistan and
Kirdkoh to repair to the Mongol camp. The banners of Hoolagoo were now
floating at the foot of Demavend, close to the Ismaïlite territory, and
once more orders came to Maimoondees, where Rukn-ed-deen and his family
had taken refuge:--"The Ruler of the World is now arrived at Demavend,
and it is no longer time to delay. If Rukn-ed-deen wishes to wait a few
days he may in the mean time send his son." The affrighted chief
declared his readiness to send his son, but, at the persuasion of his
women and advisers, instead of his own, he sent the son of a slave, who
was of the same age, requesting that his brother might be restored to
him. Hoolagoo was soon informed of the imposition, but disdained to
notice it otherwise than by sending back the child, saying he was too
young, and requiring that his elder brother, if he had one, should be
sent in place of Shahinshah. He at the same time dismissed Shahinshah
with these words:--"Tell thy brother to demolish Maimoondees and come to
me; if he does not come, the eternal God knows the consequences."

The Mongol troops now covered all the hills and valleys, and Hoolagoo in
person appeared before Maimoondees. The Assassins fought bravely, but
Rukn-ed-deen had not spirit to hold out. He sent his other brother, his
son, his vizir Nasir-ed-deen, and the principal persons of the society,
bearing rich presents to the Mongol prince. Nasir-ed-deen was directed
to magnify the strength of the Ismaïlite fortresses in order to gain
good terms for his master; but, instead of so doing, he told Hoolagoo
not to regard them, assuring him that the conjunction of the stars
announced the downfall of the Ismaïlites, and that the sun of their
power was hastening to its setting. It was agreed that the castle should
be surrendered on condition of free egress. Rukn-ed-deen, his ministers,
and his friends, entered the Mongol camp on the first day of the month
Zoo-l-Kaadeh. His wealth was divided among the Mongol troops. Hoolagoo
took compassion on himself, and spoke kindly to him, and treated him as
his guest. Nasir-ed-deen became the vizir of the conqueror, who
afterwards built for him the observatory of Meragha.

Mongol officers were now dispatched to all the castles of the Ismaïlites
in Kuhistan, Roodbar, and even in Syria, with orders from Rukn-ed-deen
to the governors to surrender or demolish them. The number of these
strong castles was upwards of one hundred, of which there were forty
demolished in Roodbar alone. Three of the strongest castles in this
province, namely, Alamoot, Lamseer, and Kirdkoh, hesitated to submit,
their governors replying to the summons that they would wait till
Hoolagoo should appear in person before them. In a few days the Mongol
prince and his captive were at the foot of Alamoot. Rukn-ed-deen was led
under the walls, and he ordered the governor to surrender. His command
was disregarded, and Hoolagoo, not to waste time, removed his camp to
Lamseer, leaving a corps to blockade Alamoot. The people of Lamseer came
forth immediately with their homage, and a few days afterwards envoys
arrived from Alamoot entreating Rukn-ed-deen to intercede for the
inhabitants with the brother of Mangoo. The conqueror was moderate; he
allowed them free egress, and gave them three days to collect and remove
their families and property. On the third day the Mongol troops
received permission to enter and plunder the fortress. They rushed,
eager for prey, into the hitherto invincible, now deserted, Vulture's
Nest, and rifled it of all that remained in it. As they hurried through
its subterrane recesses in search of treasure they frequently, to their
amazement, found themselves immersed in honey, or swimming in wine; for
there were large receptacles of wine, honey, and corn, hewn into the
solid rock, the nature of which was such that, though, as we are told,
they had been filled in the time of Hassan Sabah, the corn was perfectly
sound, and the wine had not soured. This extraordinary circumstance was
regarded by the Ismaïlites as a miracle wrought by that founder of their

When Alamoot fell into the hands of the Mongols Ata-Melek
(_King's-father_) Jowainee, a celebrated vizir and historian, craved
permission of Hoolagoo to inspect the celebrated library of that place,
which had been founded by Hassan Sabah and increased by his successors,
and to select from it such works as might be worthy of a place in that
of the khan. The permission was readily granted, and he commenced his
survey of the books. But Ata-Melek was too orthodox a Mussulman, or too
lazy an examiner, to make the best use of his opportunity; for all he
did was to take the short method of selecting the Koran and a few other
books which he deemed of value out of the collection, and to commit the
remainder, with all the philosophical instruments, to the flames, as
being impious and heretical. All the archives of the society were thus
destroyed, and our only source of information respecting its doctrines,
regulations, and history, is derived from what Ata-Melek has related in
his own history as the result of his search among the archives and books
of the library of Alamoot, previous to his making an _auto da fé_ of

The fate of the last of a dynasty, however worthless and insignificant
his character may be, is always interesting from the circumstance alone
of his being the last, and thus, as it were, embodying in himself the
history of his predecessors. We shall therefore pause to relate the
remainder of the story of the feeble Rukn-ed-deen.

When Hoolagoo, after the conclusion of his campaign against Roodbar,
retired to Hamadan, where he had left his children, he took with him
Rukn-ed-deen, whom he continued to treat with kindness. Here the
Assassin prince became enamoured of a Mongol maiden of the very lowest
class. He asked permission of Hoolagoo to espouse her, and, by the
directions of that prince, the wedding was celebrated with great
solemnity. He next craved to be sent to the court of Mangoo Khan.
Hoolagoo, though surprised at this request, acceded to it also, and gave
him a corps of Mongols as an escort. He at the same time directed him to
order on his way the garrison of Kirdkoh, who still held out, to
surrender, and demolish the fortress. Rukn-ed-deen, as he passed by
Kirdkoh, did as directed, but sent at the same time a private message to
the governor to hold out as long as possible. Arrived at Kara-Kooroom,
the residence of the khan, he was not admitted to an audience, but the
following message was delivered to him:--"Thus saith Mangoo: Since thou
affectest to be obedient to us, wherefore has not the castle of Kirdkoh
been delivered up? Go back, and demolish all the castles which remain;
then mayest thou be partaker of the honour of viewing our imperial
countenance." Rukn-ed-deen was obliged to return, and, soon after he had
crossed the Oxus, his escort, making him dismount under pretext of an
entertainment, ran him through with their swords.

Mangoo Khan was determined to exterminate the whole race of the
Ismaïlites, and orders to that effect had already reached Hoolagoo, who
was only waiting to execute them till Kirdkoh should have surrendered.
As the garrison of that place continued obstinate, he no longer ventured
to delay. Orders for indiscriminate massacre were issued, and 12,000
Ismaïlites soon fell as victims. The process was short; wherever a
member of the society was met he was, without any trial, ordered to
kneel down, and his head instantly rolled on the ground. Hoolagoo sent
one of his vizirs to Casveen, where the family of Rukn-ed-deen were
residing, and the whole of them were put to death, except two (females
it is said), who were reserved to glut the vengeance of the princess
Boolghan Khaloon, whose father Jagatai had perished by the daggers of
the Assassins.

The siege of Kirdkoh was committed by Hoolagoo (who was now on his march
to Bagdad to put an end to the empire of the khalifs) to the princes of
Mazenderân and Ruyan. The castle held out for three years, and the siege
was rendered remarkable by the following curious occurrence:--It was in
the beginning of the spring when a poet named Koorbee of Ruyan came to
the camp. He began to sing, in the dialect of Taberistan, a celebrated
popular song of the spring, beginning with these lines:--

    When the sun from the fish to the ram doth return,
    Spring's banner waves high on the breeze of the morn.[66]

[Footnote 66:

    "And Day, with his _banner_ of radiance _unfurled_,
      Shines in through the mountainous portal that opes
    Sublime from that valley of bliss to the world,"

says Mr. Moore in his "Lalla Rookh," undoubtedly without any knowledge
of the eastern song. His original was perhaps Campbell's

                  "Andes, giant of the western star,
    His meteor _standard_ to the winds _unfurled_,
    Looks from his throne of clouds o'er half the _world_;"

which was again, in all probability, suggested, like Gray's

    "Loose his beard, and hoary hair
    Stream'd like a _meteor_ to the troubled air,"

by Milton's

    "Imperial _ensign_, which, full high advanced,
    Shone like a _meteor_ streaming to the wind."

It is thus that the particles of poetry, like those of matter, are in
eternal circulation, and forming new combinations.]

The song awoke in the minds of princes and soldiers the recollection of
the vernal delights they had left behind them; an invincible longing
after them seized the whole army; and, without reflecting on the
consequences, they broke up the siege, and set forth to enjoy the season
of flowers in the fragrant gardens of Mazenderân. Hoolagoo was greatly
incensed when he heard of their conduct, and sent a body of troops
against them, but forgave them on their making due apologies and

The Ismaïlite power in Persia was now completely at an end; the
khalifat, whose destruction had been its great object, was also involved
in its ruin, and the power of the Mongols established over the whole of
Irân. The Mongol troops failed in their attempts on the Ismaïlite
castles in Syria; but, at the end of fourteen years, what they could not
effect was achieved by the great Beibars, the Circassian Mamlook sultan
of Egypt, who reduced all the strongholds of the Assassins in the Syrian
mountains, and extinguished their power in that region.

The last intercourse of the Assassins with the western Christians which
we read of was that with St. Louis. William of Nangis relates--but the
tale is evidently apocryphal--that in the year 1250 two of the
_Arsacidæ_ were sent to France to murder that prince, who was then only
twenty-two years of age. The _Senex de Monte_ however repented, and sent
others to warn the French monarch. These arriving in time, the former
were discovered, on which the king loaded them all with presents, and
dismissed them with rich gifts for their master.

Rejecting this idle legend, we may safely credit the account of
Joinville, that in 1250, when St. Louis was residing at Acre, after his
captivity in Egypt, he was waited on by an embassy from the Old Man of
the Mountain, the object of which was to procure, through his means, a
remission of the tribute which he paid to the Templars and the
Hospitallers. As if to obviate the answer which might naturally be made,
the ambassador said that his master considered that it would be quite
useless to sacrifice the lives of his people by murdering the masters of
these orders, as men as good as they would be immediately appointed to
succeed them. It being then morning, the king desired them to return in
the evening. When they appeared again, he had with him the masters of
the Temple and the Hospital, who, on the propositions being repeated,
declared them to be most extravagant, and assured the ambassadors that,
were it not for the sacredness of their character, and their regard for
the word of the king, they would fling them into the sea. They were
directed to go back, and to bring within fifteen days a satisfactory
letter to the king. They departed, and, returning at the appointed time,
said to the king that their chief, as the highest mark of friendship,
had sent him his own shirt and his gold ring. They also brought him
draught and chess-boards, adorned with amber, an elephant and a giraffe
(_orafle_) of crystal. The king, not to be outdone in generosity, sent
an embassy to Massyat with presents of scarlet robes, gold cups, and
silver vases, for the Ismaïlite chief.

Speculative tenets will continue and be propagated long after the sect
or society which holds them may have lost all temporal influence and
consideration. Accordingly, seventy years after the destruction of
Alamoot, in the reign of Aboo-Zeid, the eighth successor of Hoolagoo, it
was found that nearly all the people of Kuhistan were devoted to the
Ismaïlite opinions. The monarch, who was an orthodox Soonnee, advised
with the governor of the province, and it was resolved to send a
mission, composed of learned and zealous divines, for the conversion of
the heretics. At the head of the mission was placed the pious and
orthodox sheikh Emad-ed-deen of Bokhara; the other members of it were
the sheikh's two sons and four other learned ulemas (_Doctors of law_),
in all seven persons. Full of enthusiasm and zeal for the good cause
which they had in hand, the missionaries set forth. They arrived at
Kaïn, the chief place of the province, and found with grief and
indignation none of the ordinary testimonies of Moslem devotion. The
mosks were in ruins, no morning or evening call to prayer was to be
heard, no school or hospital was to be seen. Emad-ed-deen resolved to
commence his mission by the solemn call to prayer. Adopting the
precaution of arraying themselves in armour, he and his companions
ascended the terrace of the castle, and all at once from its different
sides shouted forth, "Say God is great! There is no god but God, and
Mohammed is his prophet. Up to prayer; to good works!" The inhabitants,
to whom these sounds were unusual and offensive, ran together,
determined to bestow the crown of martyrdom on the missionaries; but
these good men, whose zeal was of a prudent complexion, did not, though
armed, abide the encounter. They took refuge in an aqueduct, where they
concealed themselves till the people had dispersed, when they came forth
once more, ascended the terrace, and gave the call to prayer. The people
collected again, and again the missionaries sought their retreat. By
perseverance, however, and the powerful support of the governor of the
province, they gradually accustomed the ears of the people to the forms
of orthodoxy. Many years afterwards sultan Shahrokh, the son of Timoor,
resolved to send a commission to ascertain the state of religion in
Kohistan. At the head of it he placed Jelalee of Kaïn, the grandson of
Emad-ed-deen, a man of learning and talent and a distinguished writer.
Jelalee deemed himself especially selected by heaven for this purpose,
as his grandsire had headed the former mission, and the Prophet had
appeared to himself in a dream, and given to him a broom to sweep the
land, which he interpreted to be a commission to sweep away the impurity
of infidelity out of the country. He therefore entered on his office
with joy, and, after a peregrination of eleven months, reported
favourably of the faith of the people of Kohistan, with the exception of
some dervishes and others, who were addicted to _Soofeeism_.

At the present day, nearly six centuries after the destruction of the
Ismaïlite power, the sect is still in existence both in Persia and in
Syria. But, like that of the Anabaptists, it has lost its terrors, and
the Ismaïlite doctrine is now merely one of the speculative heresies of
Islam. The Syrian Ismaïlites dwell in eighteen villages around Massyat,
and pay an annual sum of 16,500 piastres to the governor of Hama, who
nominates their sheikh or emir. They are divided into two sects or
parties, the Sooweidanee, so named from one of their former sheikhs, and
the Khisrewee, so called on account of their great reverence for Khiser,
the guardian of the Well of Life. They are all externally rigid
observers of the precepts of Islam, but they are said to believe in the
divinity of Ali, in the uncreated light as the origin of all things, and
in the sheikh Rasheed-eddeen Sinan as the last representative of God
upon earth.

The Persian Ismaïlites dwell chiefly in Roodbar, but they are to be met
all over the east, and even appear as traders on the banks of the
Ganges. Their imam, whose pedigree they trace up to Ismaïl, the son of
Jaaffer-es-Sadik, resides, under the protection of the Shah of Persia,
at the village of Khekh, in the district of Koom. As, according to their
doctrine, he is an incarnate ray of the Divinity, they hold him in the
utmost veneration, and make pilgrimages from the most distant places to
obtain his blessing.

We have thus traced the origin, the growth, and the decline of this
formidable society, only to be paralleled by that of the Jesuits in
extent of power and unity of plan and purpose. Unlike this last,
however, its object was purely evil, and its career was one of blood: it
has therefore left no deeds to which its apologists might appeal in its
defence. Its history, notwithstanding, will always form a curious and
instructive chapter in that of the human race.



     Introduction--The Crusades--Wrong Ideas respecting their
     Origin--True Causes of them--Pilgrimage--Pilgrimage of Frotmond--Of
     the Count of Anjou--Striking Difference between the Christianity of
     the East and that of the West--Causes of their different
     Characters--Feudalism--The Extent and Force of this Principle.

Among the many extraordinary phenomena which the middle ages present,
none is more deserving of attention, or more characteristic of the times
and the state of society and opinion, than the institution of the
religio-military orders of the Hospitallers, the Templars, and the
Teutonic Knights. Of these orders, all of which owed their origin to the
Crusades, and commenced in the 12th century, the last, after the final
loss of the Holy Land, transferring the scene of their activity to the
north of Germany, and directing their arms against the heathens who
still occupied the south coast of the Baltic, became the founders, in a
great measure, of the Prussian power; while the first, planting their
standard on the Isle of Rhodes, long gallantly withstood the forces of
the Ottoman Turks, and, when at length obliged to resign that island,
took their station on the rock of Malta, where they bravely repelled the
troops of the greatest of the Ottoman sultans, and maintained at least a
nominal independence till the close of the 18th century. A less
glorious fate attended the Knights of the Temple. They became the
victims of the unprincipled rapacity of a merciless prince; their
property was seized and confiscated; their noblest members perished in
the flames; their memory was traduced and maligned; the foulest crimes
were laid to their charge; and a secret doctrine, subversive of social
tranquillity and national independence, was asserted to have animated
their councils. Though many able defenders of these injured knights have
arisen, the charges against them have been reiterated even in the
present day; and a distinguished Orientalist (Von Hammer) has recently
even attempted to bring forward additional and novel proofs of their
secret guilt.[67] To add one more to the number of their defenders, to
trace the origin, develope the internal constitution of their society,
narrate their actions, examine the history of their condemnation and
suppression, and show how absurd and frivolous were the charges against
them, are the objects of the present writer, who, though he is
persuaded, and hopes to prove, that they held no secret doctrine, yet
places them among the secret societies of the middle ages, because it is
by many confidently maintained that they were such.

[Footnote 67: The principal works on the subject of the Templars are
Raynouard Monumens historiques relatifs à la Condamnation des Templiers;
Dupuy Histoire de la Condamnation des Templiers; Münter Statutenbuch des
Ordens der Tempelherren; and Wilike Geschichte des Tempelherrenordens.
There is scarcely anything on the subject in English.]

As the society of the Templars was indebted for its origin to the
Crusades, we will, before entering on our narrative, endeavour to
correct some erroneous notions respecting the causes and nature of these
celebrated expeditions.

The opinion of the Crusades having been an emanation of the spirit of
chivalry is one of the most erroneous that can be conceived, yet it is
one most widely spread. Romancers, and those who write history as if it
were romance, exert all their power to keep up the illusion, and the
very sound of the word Crusade conjures up in most minds the ideas of
waving plumes, gaudy surcoats, emblazoned shields, with lady's love,
knightly honour, and courteous feats of arms. A vast deal of this
perversion of truth is no doubt to be ascribed to the illustrious writer
of the splendid epic whose subject is the first Crusade. Tasso, who,
living at the time when the last faint gleam of expiring chivalry was
fitfully glowing through the moral and political gloom which was
overspreading the former abodes of freedom and industry in Italy, may be
excused if, young and unversed in the philosophy of history, he mistook
the character of European society six centuries before his time, or
deemed himself at liberty to minister to the taste of a court which
loved the fancied image of former times, and stimulate it to a generous
emulation by representing the heroes of the first Crusade as animated
with the spirit and the virtues of the ideal chivalry. But the same
excuse is not to be made for those who, writing at the present day,
confound chivalry and the Crusades, give an epitome of the history of
the latter under the title of that of the former, and venture to assert
that the valiant Tancred was the _beau ideal_ of chivalry, and that the
"Talisman" contains a faithful picture of the spirit and character of
the Crusades.[68]

[Footnote 68: On the subject of chivalry see Ste. Palaye Mémoires sur la
Chevalerie, Sir W. Scott's Essay on the same subject, and Mills's and
James's histories of chivalry. We do not recollect that any of these
writers has fairly proved that the chivalry which they describe ever
existed as an institution, and we must demur to the principle which they
all assume of romances like Perceforest being good authority for the
manners of the age in which they were composed.]

We venture to assert that the Crusades did _not_ originate in chivalry,
and that the first Crusade, the most important of them, and that which
gave the tone and character to all the succeeding ones, does not present
a single vestige of what is usually understood by the term chivalry, not
a trace of what the imagination rather than the knowledge of Burke
described as embodying "the generous loyalty to rank and sex, the proud
submission, the dignified obedience, and that subordination of the heart
which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted
freedom--that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which
felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated
ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice
itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness." Little surely
does he know of the 11th century and its spirit who can suppose any part
of the foregoing description to apply to those who marched in arms to
Asia to free the sepulchre of Christ; slightly must he have perused the
_Gesta Tancredi_ of Radulphus Cadomens, who can conceive that gallant
warrior, as he undoubtedly was, to have been the mirror of chivalry.

Chivalry and the Crusades commenced in the same century, and drew their
origin from the same source. One was not the cause of the other, but
both were effects of the same cause, and that cause was _feudalism_.
This inculcated "the proud submission, the dignified obedience," &c.,
&c., which were gradually idealised into chivalry; it impressed on the
mind of the vassal those principles of regard to the rights and property
of his lord which seemed to justify and sanction the Holy War.
Previously, however, to explaining the manner in which this motive
acted, we must stop to notice another concurring cause of the Crusades,
without which it would perhaps never have begun to operate.

Man has at all periods been led by a strong impulse of his nature to
visit those spots which have been distinguished as the scenes of great
and celebrated actions, or the abode of distinguished personages. The
operation of this natural feeling is still stronger when it is combined
with religion, and there arises a conviction that the object of his
worship is gratified by this act of attention, and his favour thereby
secured to the votary. Hence we find _pilgrimage_, or the practice of
taking distant journeys to celebrated temples, and other places of
devotion, to have prevailed in all ages of the world. In the most remote
periods of the mythic history of Greece, where historic truth is not to
be sought, and only manners and modes of thinking are to be discerned,
we constantly meet the _theoria_, or pilgrimage to Delphi, mentioned in
the history of the heroes, whence we may with certainty collect that it
formed at all times a portion of the manners of the Greeks. India, at
the present day, witnesses annually the pilgrimage of myriads to the
temple of Juggernaut, and Jerusalem has been for thousands of years the
resort of pious Israelites.

The country which had witnessed the life and death of their Lord
naturally acquired importance in the eyes of the early Christians, many
of whom, moreover, were Jews by birth, and had always viewed Jerusalem
with feelings of veneration. All, too, confounded--as has unfortunately
been too much the case in later times--the old and the new law, and saw
not that the former was but "beggarly elements" in comparison with the
latter, and deemed that the political and economical precepts designed
for a single nation, inhabiting one small region, were obligatory on the
church of Christ, which was intended to comprise the whole human race.
Many of the practices of Judaism were therefore observed by the
Christians, and to this principle we are perhaps in a great measure to
ascribe the rapid progress of the practice, and the belief in the
efficacy, of pilgrimage to the Holy City.

The abuses of pilgrimage were early discerned, and some of the more
pious Fathers of the Church preached and wrote against the practice. But
piety and eloquence were vain, and could little avail to stem the
torrent when men believed that the waters of Jordan had efficacy to wash
every sin, though unattended by sincere repentance. The Church, as she
advanced in corruption, improved in worldly wisdom, and, taking
pilgrimage under her protection, made it a part of her penal discipline.
The sinner was now ordered a journey to the Holy Land as a means of
freeing his soul from the guilt of his perhaps manifold enormities. Each
year saw the number of the pilgrims augment, while the growing
veneration for relics, of which those which came from the Holy Land were
esteemed the most efficacious, stimulated pilgrimage by adding the
incentive of profit, as a small stock of money laid out in the purchase
of the generally counterfeit relics always on sale at Jerusalem would
produce perhaps a thousand per cent. on the return of the pilgrim to his
native country. A pilgrim was also held in respect and veneration
wherever he came, as an especial favourite of the Divinity, having been
admitted by him to the high privilege of visiting the sacred places, a
portion of whose sanctity it would be supposed might still adhere to

The 11th century was the great season of pilgrimage. A strange
misconception of the meaning of a portion of Scripture had led men to
fancy that the year 1000 was to be that of the advent of Christ, to
judge the world. As the valley of Jehoshaphat was believed to be the
spot on which this awful event would take place, the same feeling which
leads people at the present day to lay a flattering unction to their
souls by supposing that death-bed repentance will prove equivalent in
the sight of God to a life passed in obedience to his will and in the
exercise of virtue, impelled numbers to journey to the Holy Land, in the
belief that this officiousness, as it were, of hitherto negligent
servants would be well taken by their Lord, and procure them an
indulgent hearing before his judgment-seat. Pilgrimage, therefore,
increased greatly; the failure of their expectations, the appointed time
having passed away without the Son of Man coming in the clouds of
Heaven, gave it no check, but, on the contrary, rather an additional
impulse; and during this century the caravans of pilgrims attained to
such magnitude and strength as to be deserving of the appellation of
_The armies of the Lord_--precursive of the first and greatest Crusade.

In truth the belief in the merit and even the obligation of a
pilgrimage, to Jerusalem, in the sight of God, was now as firmly
impressed on the mind of every Christian, be his rank what it might, as
that of the necessity and advantage of one to the Kaaba of Mecca is in
the apprehension of the followers of Mohammed; and in the degraded state
of the human intellect at that period a pilgrimage was deemed adequate
to the removal of all sin. As a proof of this we shall narrate the
pilgrimages of two distinguished personages of those times. The first
occurred in the 9th, the second in the 11th century.

In the reign of Lothaire, son of Louis the Debonnaire, a nobleman of
Brittany, named Frotmond, who had murdered his uncle and his youngest
brother, began to feel remorse for his crimes. Arrayed in the habit of a
penitent, he presented himself before the monarch and an assembly of his
prelates, and made confession of his guilty deeds. The king and bishops
had him straitly bound in chains of iron, and then commanded him, in
expiation of his guilt, to set forth for the East, and visit all the
holy places, clad in hair-cloth, and his forehead marked with ashes.
Accompanied by his servants and the partners of his crime, the Breton
lord directed his course to Palestine, which he reached in safety.
Having, in obedience to the mandates of his sovereign and of the church,
visited all the holy places, he crossed the Arabian desert, which had
been the scene of the wanderings of Israel, and entered Egypt. He thence
traversed a part of Africa, and went as far as Carthage, whence he
sailed for Rome. Here the Pope, on being consulted, advised him to make
a second pilgrimage, in order to complete his penance, and obtain the
perfect remission of his sins. Frotmond accordingly set forth once more,
and having performed the requisite duties at the Holy City, proceeded to
the shore of the Red Sea, and there took up his abode for three years on
Mount Sinai, after which time he made a journey to Armenia, and visited
the mountain on which the ark of Noah had rested. His crimes being now,
according to the ideas of those times, expiated, he returned to his
native country, where he was received as a saint, and taking up his
abode in the convent of Redon, passed there the remainder of his days,
and died deeply regretted by his brethren.[69]

[Footnote 69: Michaud, Histoire des Croisades, I., p. 59.]

Fulk de Nerra, Count of Anjou, had spilt much innocent blood; he had had
his first wife burnt alive, and forced his second wife to seek refuge
from his barbarity in the Holy Land. The public odium pursued him, and
conscience asserting her rights presented to his disturbed imagination
the forms of those who had perished by him issuing from their tombs, and
reproaching him with his crimes. Anxious to escape from his invisible
tormentors, the count put on him the habit of a pilgrim, and set forth
for Palestine. The tempests which he encountered in the Syrian seas
seemed to his guilty soul the instruments of divine vengeance, and
augmented the fervour of his repentance. Having reached Jerusalem in
safety, he set heartily about the work of penance. He traversed the
streets of the Holy City with a cord about his neck, and beaten with
rods by his servants, while he repeated these words, _Lord, have mercy
on a faithless and perjured Christian, on a sinner wandering far from
his home_. During his abode in Jerusalem he gave abundant alms,
relieving the wants of the pilgrims, and leaving numerous monuments of
his piety and munificence.

Deep as was the penitence of the Count of Anjou, it did not stand in the
way of the exercise of a little pious fraud. By an ingenious device he
deceived the impious malignity of the profane Saracens, who would have
made him defile the holy sepulchre; and the chroniclers tell us that as
he lay prostrate before the sacred tomb he contrived to detach from it a
precious stone, which he carried back with him to the West. On his
return to his duchy he built, at the castle of Loches, a church after
the model of that of the Resurrection at Jerusalem, and here he every
day implored with tears the divine forgiveness. His mind, however, could
not yet rest; he was still haunted by the same horrid images; and he
once more visited the Holy Land, and edified the faithful by the
austerity of his penance. Returning home by the way of Italy, he
delivered the supreme pontiff from a formidable enemy who was ravaging
his territory, and the grateful pope conferred on him in return the full
absolution of all his sins. Fulk brought with him to Anjou a great
quantity of relics, with which he adorned the churches of Loches and
Angers; and his chief occupation thenceforward was the building of
towns and monasteries, whence he acquired the name of _The Great
Builder_. His people, who blessed heaven for his conversion, honoured
and loved him; the guilt of his sins had been removed by the means which
were then deemed of sovereign efficacy; yet still the monitor placed by
God in the human breast, and which in a noble mind no power can reduce
to perfect silence, did not rest; and the Holy Land beheld, for the
third time, the Count of Anjou watering the sepulchre of Christ with his
tears, and groaning afresh over his transgressions. He quitted Jerusalem
for the last time, recommending his soul to the prayers of the pious
brethren whose office it was to receive the pilgrims, and turned his
face homewards. But Anjou he was never more to behold; death surprised
him at Metz. His body was transferred to Loches, and buried in his
church of the Holy Sepulchre.

These instances may suffice to show what the opinion of the efficacy and
merit of pilgrimage to the Holy Land was at the time of which we write.
We here find convincing proof that in the minds of princes and prelates,
the highest and most enlightened order of society, it was confidently
believed to avail to remove the guilt of crimes of the deepest die. And
let not any one say that the clergy took advantage of the ignorance of
the people, and made it the instrument of extending their own power and
influence; for such an assertion would evince ignorance both of human
nature in general and of the temper and conduct of the Romish hierarchy
at that, and we might almost say at all periods of its existence.
However profligate the lives of many of the clergy may have been, they
never called in question the truth of the dogmas of their religion. Even
the great and daring Gregory VII., in the midst of what appear to us his
arrogant and almost impious assumptions, never for a moment doubted of
the course which he was pursuing being the right one, and agreeable to
heaven. The clergy, as well as the laity, were firmly persuaded of the
efficacy of pilgrimage, and in both the persuasion was naturally
stronger in proportion to the ignorance of the believer. We accordingly
find that vast numbers of all ranks, and both sexes, clergy as well as
laity, annually repaired to the tomb of Christ.

It remains to be explained what the principle was which gave origin to
the idea of the right and justice of recovering the Holy Land, which was
now in the hands of the fanatic Turks, instead of those of the tolerant
Saracens. This cause was, as we have above asserted, the feudal spirit,
that is, the spirit of the age, and not that emanation of it termed

Religion, whatever its original nature and character, will always take a
tinge from the manners and temper of those who adopt it. Nothing can be
more illustrative of the truth of this observation than the history of
the Christian religion. Any one who opens the Gospel, and reads it
without preconception or prejudice, cannot fail at once to recognise the
rational and fervent piety, the active benevolence, the pure morality,
the noble freedom from the trammels of the world, joined with the
zealous discharge of all the social duties, which every page of it
inculcates. Yet we find this religion in the East degenerating into
abject grovelling superstition and metaphysical quibbling, pursued with
all the rancour of the _odium theologicum_, while in the West it assumed
a fiery fanatic character, and deemed the sword an instrument of
conversion superior to reason and argument. This difference, apparently
so strange, arose from the difference of the social state and political
institutions of the people of the East and of the West at the time when
they embraced Christianity.

The free spirit had long since fled from Greece when the first
Christian missionaries preached the faith among its people. But the
temper of the Greek was still lively, and his reasoning powers acute.
Moreover, he had still the same leaning towards a sensible and material
religion which has at all times distinguished him, and the increasing
despotism of the empire depressed and enfeebled more and more every day
the martial spirit which he had displayed in the days of his freedom. No
field remained for his mental activity but that of philosophy and
religion. The former, which had long been his delight, he had contrived
to subtilize into an almost unintelligible mysticism; and in this form
it speedily spread its infection through his new faith, which was
besides further metamorphosed and changed in character by an infusion
from the dualistic system of Persia. Meantime the ascetic spirit which
had come from the East joined with the timidity engendered by the
pressure of despotism to make him mistake the spirit of the Gospel, and
convert Christianity into a crouching cowardly superstition. When the
emperor Nicephorus Phocas sought to infuse a martial and fanatic spirit
into his subjects, and to rouse them to vigorous exertion against the
Saracens, his bishops replied to his exhortations by citing a canon of
St. Basil, which directed that he who had slain an enemy in battle
should abstain during three years from participation in the holy
sacraments. The priest of a little town in Cilicia was engaged one day
in saying mass when a band of Saracens burst in, and began to plunder
the town. Without waiting to take off his sacerdotal vestments, he
seized the hammer, which in the churches of the East frequently serves
the purpose of a bell, and, flying among the infidels, plied his weapon
to such effect that he forced them to a precipitate flight, and saved
the town. What was the reward of the gallant priest? He was censured by
his diocesan, interdicted the exercise of his ghostly functions, and so
ill-treated in other respects, that he flung off his robes and joined
the Saracens, whose more martial and energetic creed accorded better
with his manly sentiments. When the pilgrims of the first Crusade began
to arrive in such terrific numbers at Constantinople, the Greek emperor
and his subjects could hardly persuade themselves of the possibility of
religion being the actuating cause of such a portentous movement--so
little did religion and deeds of arms accord in their minds!

But with the nations of the West the case was different. In these the
ruling portion, that which gave tone to the whole, were of the Gothic
and Germanic races, whose hardy bands had dashed to pieces the worn-out
fabric of the Western empire. Worshippers in their native forests of
Thor and Odin, and the other deities of Valhalla, who admitted none but
the valiant dead to share in the celestial pork and mead which each day
crowned the board in their lucid abode, their manners, their sentiments,
their whole being was martial, and they infused this spirit into the
religion which they adopted from their Roman subjects. In making this
change in its tone they derived aid from the Jewish portion of the
sacred volume, which has been in all ages abused, by men ignorant of its
character and original use, to purposes of fanaticism and persecution;
and the religion of Christian Europe, from the fifth century downwards,
became of a martial and conquering character. By the sword Charlemagne
converted the pagan Saxons; his successors employed the sword against
the heathen Vends; and by fire and sword Olof Triggva-son spread
Christianity throughout the North. In former times this mode of
conversion had been in a great degree foreign to the Western church; and
persuasion had been chiefly employed in the dissemination of the faith
among the heathen nations.

The religion of the West we thus see was martial; but this spirit alone
would not have sufficed to produce the Crusade which was to interest and
appear as a duty to all orders of men. Here the feudal principle came
into operation, and gave the requisite impulse.

In the 11th century the feudal system was completely developed in France
and Germany, and the modes of thinking, speaking, and acting derived
from it pervaded all the relations of life. From the top to the bottom
of society the mutual obligations of lords and vassals were recognised
and acted upon, and each vassal deemed it a most sacred duty to defend
by arms the honour and property of his superior lord. There was also a
kind of supreme temporal chief of the Christian world acknowledged in
the person of the Emperor of Germany, who was viewed as the successor of
Charlemagne, and the representative of the Roman emperors. The feudal
ideas extended even to the hierarchy, which now put forth such
exorbitant claims to supremacy over the temporal power. The head of the
church was an acknowledged vicegerent of Him who was styled in scripture
Lord of all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus Christ was, therefore, the
apex of the pyramid of feudal society; he was the great suzerain and
lord paramount of all princes and peoples, and all were equally under
obligation to defend his rights and honour. Such were evidently the
sentiments of the age.

It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that the religion of the
period which we treat of was of a gross and material character, and that
the passions and infirmities of human nature were freely bestowed on the
glorified Son of God. He was deemed to take a peculiar interest in the
spot of land where he had sojourned when on earth, and more especially
in the tomb in which his body had been deposited, and with grief and
indignation to see them in the hands of those who contemptuously derided
his divinity, and treated with insult and cruelty those of his faithful
vassals who underwent the toils and dangers of a distant journey to
offer their homage at his tomb. Nothing could, therefore, be more
grateful to his feelings than to behold the sacred soil of Palestine
free from heathen pollution, and occupied and defended by his faithful
vassals, and no true son of the church could hesitate a moment to
believe that it was his bounden duty to arm himself in the cause of his
lord, and help to reinstate him in his heritage. Here, then, without
having recourse to the romantic principle of chivalry, we have an
adequate solution of the phenomenon of the first Crusade. Here we have a
motive calculated to operate on the minds of all orders, equally
effectual with men of piety, virtue, and wealth, like Godfrey of
Bouillon and Stephen of Chartres, who looked for no temporal advantages,
as with the meanest and most superstitious of the vassals and serfs who
might be supposed to have only sought a refuge from misery and
oppression by assuming the cross. We would not by any means be supposed
to deny that many other causes and motives were in operation at the same
time; but this we deem the grand one. This was the motive which gave
dignity to and hallowed all others, and which affected the mind of every
Crusader, be his rank or station in society what it might.

Pilgrimage then was esteemed a duty, and a powerful mean of removing
guilt and appeasing the wrath of the Almighty; the spirit of the age was
martial, and its religion, tinged by the ancient system of the North of
Europe, was of the same character; the feudal principle was in its
vigour, and extended even to the relations of man with the deity; the
rude and barbarous Turks had usurped the heritage, the very crown-lands,
as we may say, of Jesus Christ, and insulted his servants, whose duty it
plainly was to punish them, and free the tomb of their lord;--the
natural result of such a state of circumstances and opinion was the
first Crusade.


     First Hospital at Jerusalem--Church of Santa Maria de
     Latina--Hospital of St. John--The Hospitallers--Origin of the
     Templars--Their original Poverty--They acquire Consideration--St.
     Bernard--His Character of the Templars--The Order approved of and
     confirmed by the Council of Troyes--Proofs of the Esteem in which
     they were held.

In consequence of the resort of pilgrims and traders from the West to
Jerusalem it had been found necessary to build there, with the consent
of the Saracens, _hospitia_, or places of entertainment for them during
their abode in the holy city. For they could not, consistently with the
religious animosity which prevailed between them and the Moslems, seek
the hospitality of these last, and the Christians of the Greek church
who dwelt in the Holy City, besides that they had no very friendly
feeling towards their Catholic brethren, were loth to admit them into
their houses, on account of the imprudent language and indecorous acts
in which they were too frequently in the habit of indulging, and which
were so likely to compromise their hosts with their Saracen lords.
Accordingly the monk Bernard, who visited Jerusalem in the year 870,
found there, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, near the church of the Holy
Virgin, a hospital consisting of twelve mansions, for western pilgrims,
which was in the possession of some gardens, vineyards, and corn-fields.
It had also a good collection of books, the gift of Charlemagne. There
was a market held in front of it, which was much resorted to, and every
dealer paid two pieces of gold to the overseer for permission to have a
stand there.

In the 11th century, when the ardour of pilgrimage was inflamed anew,
there was a hospital within the walls of Jerusalem for the use of the
Latin pilgrims, which had been erected by Italian traders, chiefly of
Amalfi. Near this hospital, and within a stone's cast of the church of
the Holy Sepulchre, they erected, with the permission of the Egyptian
khalif, a church dedicated to the Holy Virgin, which was usually called
Sta. Maria de Latina. In this hospital abode an abbot and a good number
of monks, who were of the Latin church, and followed the rule of St.
Benedict. They devoted themselves to the reception and entertainment of
pilgrims, and gave alms to those who were poor, or had been rifled by
robbers, to enable them to pay the tax required by the Moslems for
permission to visit the holy places. When the number of the pilgrims
became so great that the hospital was incapable of receiving them all,
the monks raised another _hospitium_ close by their church, with a
chapel dedicated to a canonized patriarch of Alexandria, named St. John
Eleëmon, or the Compassionate. This new hospital had no income of its
own; the monks and the pilgrims whom they received derived their support
from the bounty of the abbot of the convent of the Holy Virgin, or from
the alms of pious Christians.

At the time when the army of the crusaders appeared before the walls of
Jerusalem the Hospital of St. John was presided over by Gerard, a native
of Provence, a man of great uprightness and of exemplary piety. His
benevolence was of a truly Christian character, and far transcended that
of his age in general; for during the period of the siege he relieved
all who applied to him for succour, and not merely did the schismatic
Greek share his bounty, even the unbelieving Moslem was not repelled
when he implored his aid. When the city was taken, numbers of the
wounded pilgrims were received, and their wounds tended in the hospital
of St. John, and the pious Duke Godfrey, on visiting them some days
afterwards, heard nothing but the praises of the good Gerard and his

Emboldened by the universal favour which they enjoyed, Gerard and his
companions expressed their wish to separate themselves from the
monastery of Sta. Maria de Latina, and pursue their works of charity
alone and independently. Their desire met no opposition: they drew up a
rule for themselves, to which they made a vow of obedience in presence
of the patriarch, and assumed as their dress a black mantle with a white
cross on the breast. The humility of these Hospitallers was extreme.
They styled the poor and the sick their lords and themselves their
servants; to them they were liberal and compassionate, to themselves
rigid and austere. The finest flour went to compose the food which they
gave to the sick and poor; what remained after they were satisfied,
mingled with clay, was the repast of the monks.

As long as the brotherhood were poor they continued in obedience to the
abbot of Sta. Maria de Latina, and also paid tithes to the patriarch.
But a tide of wealth soon began to flow in upon them. Duke Godfrey,
enamoured of their virtue, bestowed on them his lordship of Montboire,
in Brabant, with all its appurtenances; and his brother and successor,
Baldwin, gave them a share of all the booty taken from the infidels.
These examples were followed by other Christian princes; so that within
the space of a very few years the Hospital of St. John was in possession
of numerous manors both in the East and in Europe, which were placed
under the management of members of their society. The Hospitallers now
coveted a total remission of all the burdens to which they were subject,
and they found no difficulty in obtaining all that they desired. Pope
Paschal II., in the year 1113, confirmed their rule, gave them
permission, on the death of Gerard, to elect their own head, without the
interference of any temporal or spiritual power whatever, freed them
from the obligation of paying tithes to the patriarch, and confirmed all
the donations made or to be made to them. The brotherhood of the
Hospital was now greatly advanced in consideration, and reckoned among
its members many gallant knights, who laid aside their arms, and devoted
themselves to the humble office of ministering to the sick and needy.

The worthy Gerard died in the same year with King Baldwin I. (1118), and
Raymond Dupuy, a knight of Dauphiné, who had become a brother of the
order, was unanimously elected to succeed him in his office. Raymond,
who was a man of great vigour and capacity, drew up a series of rules
for the direction of the society, adapted to its present state of
consequence and extent. From these rules it appears that the order of
St. John admitted both the clergy and the laity among its members, and
that both were alike bound to yield the most implicit obedience to the
commands of their superior. Whether Raymond had any ulterior views is
uncertain, but in the regulations which he made we cannot discern any
traces of the spirit which afterwards animated the order of St. John.

Just, however, as Raymond had completed his regulations there sprang up
a new society, with different maxims, whose example that of St. John
found itself afterwards obliged to adopt and follow. The Holy Land was
at that time in a very disturbed and unquiet state; the Egyptian power
pressed it on the south, the Turkish on the north and east; the Arab
tribes indulged in their usual predatory habits, and infested it with
hostile incursions; the Mussulman inhabitants were still numerous; the
Syrian Christians were ill affected towards the Latins, from whom they
frequently experienced the grossest ill-treatment; the Latins were few
and scattered. Hence the pilgrim was exposed to numerous dangers; peril
beset him on his way from the port at which he landed to the Holy City,
and new perils awaited him when he visited the banks of the Jordan, or
went to pluck his branch of consecrated palm in the gardens of Jericho.
Many a pilgrim had lost his life on these occasions.

Viewing these evils, nine valiant and pious knights resolved to form
themselves into an association which should unite the characters of the
monk and the knight, by devoting themselves to a life of chastity and
piety at the tomb of the Saviour, and by employing their swords in the
protection of the pilgrims on their visits to the holy places. They
selected as their patroness the sweet Mother of God (_La doce Mère de
Dieu_), and their resolution, according so perfectly with the spirit of
the Crusades, which combined piety and valour, gained at once the warm
approbation of the king and the patriarch. In the presence of the latter
they took the three ordinary vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience,
and a fourth of fighting incessantly in the cause of pilgrims and the
Holy Land against the heathen. They bound themselves to live according
to the rule of the canons of St. Augustine, and elected as their first
master Hugh de Payens. The king, Baldwin II., assigned them a portion of
his palace for their abode, and he and his barons contributed to their
support. As the palace stood close by the church and convent of the
Temple, the abbot and canons gave them a street leading from it to the
palace, for keeping their magazines and equipments in, and hence they
styled themselves the Soldiery of the Temple (_Militia Templi_), and
Templars. They attracted such immediate consideration, owing in great
part, no doubt, to the novelty of their plan, that the very year after
their establishment (1120), Fulk, Count of Anjou, who was come on
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, joined their society as a married brother, and
on his return home annually remitted them thirty pounds of silver in
furtherance of their pious objects, and the example of the Count of
Anjou was followed by several other princes and nobles of the West.

The English historian, Brompton, who wrote in the 12th century, asserts
that the founders of the order of the Temple had originally been members
of that of St. John. We know not what degree of credit this may be
entitled to[70], but it is certain that there had been as yet nothing of
a military character in this last, and that its assumption of such a
character was an imitation of the society of the Temple; for, urged by
the praise which they saw lavished on the Templars for their meritorious
conduct, the Hospitallers resolved to add the task of protecting to that
of tending and relieving pilgrims, and such of their members as were
knights resumed their arms, joyful to employ them once more in the cause
of God. The amplitude of their revenues enabled them to take a number of
knights and footmen into their pay--a practice in which they had
probably been preceded by the Templars, who thus employed the money
which was remitted to them from Europe. But during the lifetime of
Raymond Dupuy the order of the Hospital did not become completely a
military one; he always bore the simple title of director
(_procurator_) of the Hospital, and it was not till some time afterwards
that the head of the society was, like that of the Templars, styled
master, and led its troops to battle. At all times the tendence of the
poor and the sick formed a part of the duties of the brethren of the
Hospital, and this was always a marked distinction between them and the
rival order of the Temple, whose only task was that of fighting against
the infidels.

[Footnote 70: The other writers of that century agree in the account
given above. Brompton's authority has been preferred by some modern
writers, who probably wished to pay their court to the order of Malta.]


During the first nine years which elapsed after the institution of their
order the knights of the Temple lived in poverty, religiously devoting
all the money which was sent to them from Europe to the advantage of the
Holy Land, and the service of pilgrims. They had no peculiar habit,
their raiment was such as the charity of the faithful bestowed upon
them; and though knights, and engaged in constant warfare against the
infidels, their poverty and moderation were such that Hugh des Payens
and his companion, Godfrey, of St. Omer, had but one war-horse between
them--a circumstance which they afterwards, in their brilliant period,
commemorated by their seal, which represented two knights mounted on the
one horse, a device chosen with a view to inculcating humility on the
brethren, now beginning to wax haughty and insolent.

A chief cause of the extraordinary success of the first Crusaders had
been the want of union among their enemies. The Saracens and Turks
mutually hated each other, and would not combine for a common object,
and the Turks were, moreover, at enmity among themselves, and one prince
frequently allied himself with the Christians against another. But they
were now beginning to perceive the necessity of union, and were becoming
every day more formidable to their Christian neighbours. King Baldwin
II., who had been a prisoner in their hands, made every effort when he
had obtained his freedom to strengthen his kingdom, and, among other
means for this purpose, he resolved to gain for the Templars, whose
valour, humility, and single-mindedness were the theme of general
applause, additional consideration, by obtaining from the Holy Father
the confirmation of their order. With this view he despatched, in the
year 1127, two of their members, named Andreas and Gundemar, to Rome,
with this request to the Pope, to whom they were also to make a strong
representation of the perilous state of the Holy Land. The king,
moreover, furnished them with a letter of recommendation to St. Bernard,
Abbot of Clairvaux, whose influence was then all-powerful in the
Christian world, and who was nephew of the envoy Andreas. Shortly
afterwards Hugh de Payens himself arrived in Europe with five others of
the brethren.

Nothing could be more advantageous to the new order than the favour and
countenance of the illustrious Abbot of Clairvaux, who had been for some
time past an admirer of its objects and deeds. Three years before this
time he had written a letter to the Count of Champagne, who had entered
the order of the Templars, praising the act as one of eminent merit in
the sight of God. He now, on occasion of the visit of the Master[71],
wrote, at his request, an eloquent work, exhorting the brethren of the
new order to persevere in their toilsome but highly laudable task of
fighting against the tyranny of the heathens, and commending their piety
to the attention of all the faithful, setting in strong opposition to
the luxury of the knights of his time the modesty and simplicity of
these holy warriors. He extolled the unlimited obedience of the Templars
to their Master, both at home and in the field. "They go and come," says
he, "at a sign from their Master; they wear the clothing which he gives
them, and ask neither food nor clothing from any one else; they live
cheerfully and temperately together, without wives and children, and,
that nothing may be wanting for evangelical perfection, without
property, in one house, endeavouring to preserve the unity of the spirit
in the bond of peace, so that one heart and one soul would appear to
dwell in them all. They never sit idle, or go about gaping alter news.
When they are resting from warfare against the infidels, a thing which
rarely occurs, not to eat the bread of idleness, they employ themselves
in repairing their clothes and arms, or do something which the command
of the Master or the common need enjoins. There is with them no respect
of persons; the best, not the noblest, are the most highly regarded;
they endeavour to anticipate one another in respect and to lighten each
other's burdens. No unseemly word or light mocking, no murmur or
immoderate laughter, is let to pass unreproved, if any one should allow
himself to indulge in such. They avoid games of chess and tables; they
are adverse to the chase, and equally so to hawking, in which others so
much delight. They hate all jugglers and mountebanks, all wanton songs
and plays, as vanities and follies of this world. They cut their hair in
obedience to these words of the apostle, 'it is not seemly in a man to
have long hair;' no one ever sees them dressed out; they are seldom ever
washed; they are mostly to be seen with disordered hair, and covered
with dust, brown from their corslets and the heat of the sun. When they
go forth to war they arm themselves within with faith, without with
iron, but never adorn themselves with gold, wishing to excite fear in
the enemy, and not the desire of booty. They delight in horses which are
strong and swift, not in such as are handsomely marked and richly
caparisoned, wishing to inspire terror rather than admiration. They go
not impetuously and headlong into battle, but with care and foresight,
peacefully, as the true children of Israel. But as soon as the fight has
begun, then they rush without delay on the foes, esteeming them but as
sheep; and know no fear, even though they should be few, relying on the
aid of the Lord of Sabaoth. Hence one of them has often put a thousand,
and two of them ten thousand, to flight. Thus they are, in union
strange, at the same time gentler than lambs and grimmer than lions, so
that one may doubt whether to call them monks or knights. But both names
suit them, for theirs is the mildness of the monk and the valour of the
knight. What remains to be said but that this is the Lord's doing, and
it is wonderful in our eyes? Such are they whom God has chosen out of
the bravest in Israel, that, watchful and true, they may guard the holy
sepulchre, armed with swords, and well skilled in war."

[Footnote 71: Wilken I. 28, gives 1135 as the year in which this piece
was written.]

Though in these expressions of St. Bernard there may be perceived some
marks of rhetorical exaggeration, they prove incontestibly the high
character and sincere virtue of the founders of the society of the
Templars, and that it was organized and regulated with none but worthy
objects in view. They also offer, if such were required, an additional
proof that the crusade was no emanation of chivalry; for those to whom
St. Bernard throughout sets the Templars in opposition were the chivalry
of the age.

This epistle of the Abbot of Clairvaux had been circulated, and every
other just and honest mean employed to conciliate the public favour for
the Templars, when, on the 31st January, 1128, the Master, Hugh de
Payens, appeared before the council of Troyes, consisting of the
Archbishops of Rheims and Sens, ten bishops, and a number of abbots,
among whom was St. Bernard himself, and presided over by the Cardinal of
Albano, the papal legate. The Master having given an account of the
principles and exploits of the Templars, the assembled fathers approved
of the new order, and gave them a new rule, containing their own
previous regulations, with several additions drawn from that of the
Benedictines, and chiefly relating to spiritual matters. The validity of
this rule was made to depend on the approbation of it by the Holy Father
and by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, neither of whom hesitated to confirm
it. By the direction of the Pope Honorius, the synod appointed a white
mantle to be the distinguishing dress of the brethren of the Temple,
that of those of the Hospital being black. This mantle was plain,
without any cross, and such it remained till the pontificate of Pope
Eugenius III., who, in 1146, appointed the Templars to wear a _red_
cross on the breast, as a symbol of the martyrdom to which they stood
constantly exposed: the cross worn on their black mantles, by the
knights of St. John, was, as we have seen[72], _white_. The order now
assumed, or were assigned, a peculiar banner, formed of cloth, striped
black and white, called in old French, _Bauseant_[73], which word became
the battle-cry of the knights of the Temple, and often struck terror
into the hearts of the infidels. It bore on it the ruddy cross of the
order, and the pious and humble inscription, _Non nobis, Domine, non
nobis, sed nomini tuo, da gloriam_, (Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but
to thy name give the glory!)

[Footnote 72: _See_ p. 187. Sir W. Scott describes his Templar in
Ivanhoe, as wearing a white mantle with a _black_ cross of eight points.
The original cross of the Hospitallers, we may observe, had not eight
points. That of the order of Malta was of this form.]

[Footnote 73: _Bauseant_, or _Bausant_, was, in old French, a piebald
horse, or a horse marked white and black. Ducange, Roquefort. The word
is still preserved with its original meaning in the Scotch dialect, in
the form _Bawsent_:

    "His honest, sonsie, baws'nt face
      Aye gat him friends in ilka place,"

says Burns, describing the "ploughman's collie," in his tale of the "Twa
Dogs;" and in the Glossary, Dr. Currie explains _Baws'nt_ as meaning
"having a white stripe down the face." As, however, some notion of
handsomeness or attractiveness of appearance seems to be involved in the
epithet, _Bauseant_, or _Beauséant_, may possibly be merely an older
form of the present French word, _Bienséant_.]

Several knights now assumed the habit of the order, and in a progress
which Hugh de Payens, accompanied by some of the brethren, made through
France and England, he acquired for it universal favour. He did not
neglect the charge, committed to him by the king of Jerusalem, of
invoking aid for the Holy Land, now so hard bested, and his exhortations
were not without effect. Fulk, Count of Anjou, now rejoined his Master
and brethren; but as he had gotten an invitation to repair to Jerusalem,
and espouse the only daughter of the King, he set out before them to the

Hugh de Payens would admit no knight into the order who did not
terminate all his feuds and enmities, and amend his life. Thus, when a
knight, named Hugh d'Amboise, who had oppressed the people of
Marmoutier, and had refused obedience to the judicial sentence of the
Count of Anjou, was desirous to enter the order, he refused to admit him
to take the vows till he had given perfect satisfaction to those whom he
had injured.

Honour and respect awaited the Templars wherever they appeared, and
persons of all ranks were eager to do what might be grateful to them.
When the Templar who came with the seal of Godfrey of St. Omer, as his
credential to the governor of that place, to demand his goods which
Godfrey had given the order, he met with a most favourable reception,
not only from the governor, but from the bishop; and on their applying,
as was necessary in this case, to the Count of Flanders and Alsatia,
that prince was so far from throwing any impediments in the way, that,
in a very short space of time, the buildings which had belonged to
Godfrey were converted into a church and a temple-house. Many Flemish
gentlemen followed the example of Godfrey, and bestowed a part of their
property on the Templars. King Henry I. of England, who met and
conversed with Hugh de Payens in Normandy, was so pleased with his
account of the new order, that he presented him with many rich gifts,
and gave him strong recommendations to the principal of the English
barons. The Emperor Lothaire bestowed in 1130 on the order a large part
of his patrimony of Supplinburg. The old Count Raymond Berenger, of
Barcelona and Provence, weary of the world and of the toils of
government, became a Templar, and took up his abode in the temple-house
at Barcelona; and, as he could not go personally to combat the infidels
in the Holy Land, he continually sent rich gifts to the brethren at
Jerusalem, and he complied rigorously with all the other duties of the
order. In 1133 Alfonso, king of Arragon and Navarre, a valiant and
warlike monarch, who had been victor in nine and twenty battles against
the Moors, finding himself old and without children, made a will, by
which he appointed the knights of the Temple and of the Hospital,
together with the canons of the Holy Sepulchre, to be his joint-heirs,
deeming, perhaps, that the most gallant defenders of the Holy Land would
best prosecute his favourite object of breaking the power of the
infidels. The aged monarch fell the following year in the battle of
Fraga, against the Moors; and, negligent of his disposition of the
realm, the nobles of Arragon and Navarre met and chose sovereigns out of
his family. The orders were not strong enough to assert their rights;
and this instance, therefore, only serves to show the high degree of
consideration to which they had so early attained.

[Illustration: Seal of the Templars.]


     Return of the Templars to the East--Exoneration and Refutation of
     the Charge of a Connection with the Ismaïlites--Actions of the
     Templars--Crusade of Louis VII.--Siege of Ascalon--Sale of
     Nassir-ed-deen--Corruption of the Hospitallers--The bull, _Omne
     Datum Optimum_--Refusal of the Templars to march against
     Egypt--Murder of the Ismaïlite Envoy.

In the year 1129 Hugh de Payens, accompanied by 300 knights of the
noblest families in Europe, who had become members of the order, and
followed by a large train of pilgrims, returned to the Holy Land.
Shortly after his arrival, the unlucky expedition to Damascus above
narrated[74], was undertaken, and the Templars formed a portion of the
troops which marched, as they fancied, to take possession of that city.
As has been observed, this is the first occasion on which we find the
Christians in alliance and connection with the Ismaïlites; and as
Hammer, the historian of the last, makes the grave charge against Hugh
de Payens, of having modelled his new society on the plan of that deadly
association, and of having been the chief planner and instigator of the
treacherous attempt on Damascus, we will suspend the course of our
narration, to discuss the probability of that opinion, though in so
doing we must anticipate a little respecting the organisation of the
Order of the Temple.

[Footnote 74: _See_ p. 88.]

Hammer argues an identity between the two orders, as he styles them, of
the Ismaïlites and the Templars, from the similarity of their dress,
their internal organisation, and their secret doctrine; and as the two
societies existed in the same country, and that of the Ismaïlites was
first instituted, he infers that this was the original, and that of the
Templars the copy.

First, with respect to the outward habiliment, the dress of the order.
Nothing, as appears to us, can be weaker than to lay any stress on so
casual a circumstance as similarity of forms or colours, more especially
when a true and distinct cause for the assumption of them on either side
can be assigned. The colour of the khalifs of the house of Ommiyah was
_white_; hence the house of Abbas, in their contest with them, adopted
_black_, as their distinguishing hue; and hence, when the Abbassides
were in possession of the supreme power, all those who, under pretence
of supporting the rights of the family of Ali, or on any other pretext,
raised the standard of revolt against them, naturally selected _white_,
as the sign of their opposition. Hassan Sabah, therefore, only retained
the use of the colour which he found already established. When he formed
the institution of the Fedavee, or the _Devoted to Death_, what more
suitable mark of distinction could he assign them than a _red_ girdle or
cap, which indicated their readiness to spill their own blood or that of
others? With respect to the Templars, the society of the Hospitallers
was already existing when Hugh de Payens and his companions resolved to
form themselves into a new association. The mantle worn by the members
of the Hospital was _black_: what colour then was so natural for them to
adopt as its opposite, _white_? and when, nearly thirty years after
their institution, the pope appointed them or gave them permission to
wear a cross on their mantle, like the rival order, no colour could
present itself so well suited to those who daily and hourly exposed
themselves to martyrdom, as that of blood, in which there was so much of
what was symbolical.

With respect to internal organisation, it will, we apprehend, be always
found that this is, for the most part, the growth of time and the
product of circumstances, and is always nearly the same where these last
are similar. The dominion of the Assassins extended over large tracks of
country; hence arose the necessity of appointing lieutenants. In like
manner, when the Templars got large possessions in the West and the
East, they could not avoid, after the example of the Hospitallers,
appointing persons to manage the affairs of the society in different
countries. Hence, then, as the Ismaïlites had their Sheikh-al-Jebal,
with his Dais-al-Kebir of Kuhistan and Syria, so the Templars had their
Master and their Priors of different provinces. The resemblance is so
far exact, but, as we see, easily accounted for. That which Hammer goes
on to draw between the component parts of each society is altogether
fanciful. To the Refeek, Fedavee and Lazik of the Ismaïlites, he sets as
counterparts the knights, esquires, and serving-brethren of the
Templars. It is needless to point out the arbitrariness of this
comparison. The chaplains of the Templars, we may see, are omitted, and
it was, perhaps, they who bore the greatest resemblance to the Refeeks,
while neither knights nor esquires had the smallest similarity to the

As to a secret doctrine, we shall hereafter discuss the question whether
the Templars had one or not. Here we shall only observe, that the proof
of it, and of the ultimate object of the Templars being the same with
that of the Ismaïlites, namely, the acquisition of independent power,
adduced by Hammer, is by no means satisfactory. He says that it was the
object of both societies to make themselves masters of the surrounding
country, by the possession of fortresses and castles, and thus become
formidable rivals to princes; and he sees, in the preceptories or houses
of the Templars, the copies of the hill-forts of the Ismaïlites. That
such was the design of this last society is quite apparent from the
preceding part of our work; but what resemblance is there between such
formidable places of defence as Alamoot and Lamseer, and the simple
structures in which a few knights and their attendants dwelt in the
different parts of Europe, and which were hardly, if at all, stronger
than the ordinary baronial residences? and what resistance could the
Temple of London or that of Paris offer to the royal strength, if put
forth? Hammer has here again fallen into his usual error of arguing too
hastily from accidental resemblances. The preceptories of the Templars
were, as we shall show, the necessary consequence of the acquisition of
property by the order, and had nothing hostile to society in their

When we reflect on the character of the first crusaders, and
particularly on that of the first Templars, and call to mind their
piety, ignorance, and simplicity, nothing can appear more absurd than to
ascribe to them secret philosophical doctrines of impiety, imbibed from
those whose language they did not even understand, and whose religion
and manners they held in abhorrence, and to suppose that the first poor
knights of the Temple could have had visions of the future power of
their order, and have looked forward to its dominion over the Christian
world. "But this is a common mistake with ingenious men, who are for
ever ascribing to the founders of empires, religions, and societies,
that attribute of divinity which sees from the beginning the ultimate
end, and forms all its plans and projects with a view to it. It is thus
that some would fain persuade us that Mahommed, in his solitary cave at
Mecca, saw clearly and distinctly the future triumphs of Islam, and its
banners floating at the Pyrenees and the Oxus; that Cromwell, when an
obscure individual, already in fancy grasped the sceptre of England; and
that Loyola beheld the members of his order governing the consciences of
kings, and ruling an empire in Paraguay. All such results are in fact
the slow and gradual growth of time; one step leads to another, till the
individual or the society looks back with amazement to the feeble

The Templars and the Ismaïlites are mentioned together by history in
only one more relation, that is, on occasion of the tribute paid to the
former by the Syrian branch of the latter, and the murder of the
Ismaïlite ambassador above related[75]. As this act was very probably
committed by order of the Master of the Temple, who, it might be,
doubted the ability or the future inclination of the king to pay the
3000 byzants a year, it testifies but little for any very friendly
feeling between the Templars and the Ismaïlites. Yet Hammer opines that
the 3000 byzants were paid, not as the tribute of the weaker to the
stronger, but by way of pension for the secret services which the
Templars were in the habit of rendering their cause; such, for example,
as refusing on one occasion to join in the expedition against the khalif
of Egypt, the great head of the society of the Assassins.

[Footnote 75: Page 116.]

To narrate the various exploits of the knights of the Temple, would be
to write the history of the Crusades; for, from the time that the order
acquired strength and consistency, no action with the Infidels ever was
fought in which the chivalry of the Temple did not bear a distinguished
part. Their war-cry was ever heard in the thickest of the fray, and
rarely was _Bauseant_ seen to waver or give back in the conflict. The
knights of St. John fought with emulative valour; the example of the
rival orders stimulated all parts of the Christian army; and to this
influence may be, in great measure, ascribed many of the most wonderful
triumphs of the Cross during the twelfth century.

In the year 1147, when Pope Eugenius III. came to Paris to arrange the
proposed crusade with Louis VII., both the pope and the king honoured
with their presence a general chapter of the order of the Temple, which
was holden at that place. It was probably on this occasion that the
supreme pontiff conferred on the order the important privilege of having
mass said once a year in places lying under interdict. The newly-elected
Master of the Temple, Eberhard de Bar, and 130 knights, accompanied the
king on his march for the Holy Land; and their valour and their skill
greatly contributed towards the preservation of the crusading army in
their unfortunate march through Lesser Asia. The siege of Damascus,
which was undertaken after the arrival of the French and German kings in
the Holy Land, miscarried, as is well known, through treachery. The
traitors were doubtless the _Pullani_, as the Latins of Syria were
called, who were at this time capable of every thing that is bad. Some
writers most unjustly charge the Templars with this guilt; but those who
are the best informed on the subject make no accusation against them.
The charge, however, while it shows the power and consideration of the
Templars at that time, may be considered to prove also that they had
degenerated somewhat from their original virtue; for otherwise it could
never have been made.

The Christian army laid siege in 1153 to the town of Ascalon, which the
Saracens still held, and would have taken it, but for the cupidity of
the Templars. A large heap of wood had been piled by the besiegers
against a part of the wall, and set fire to. The wind blew strong
towards the town during an entire night, carrying the smoke and heat
into the town, so that the garrison was forced to retire from that
quarter. The Christians fed the flames with pitch, oil, and other
inflammable substances, and the wall next the pile, cracked by the heat,
fell down, leaving a considerable breach. The army was preparing to
enter at this opening when Bernard de Tremelai, the Master of the
Temple, taking his station at it with his knights, refused all ingress.
It was the law of war in those days, among the crusaders, that whatever
house or spoil any one took when a town was stormed, became his
property. The Templars, therefore, were eager to have the first choice;
and having kept off all others, Tremelai, with forty of his knights,
boldly entered a strongly-garrisoned town. But they paid the penalty of
their rashness and cupidity; for the garrison surrounded and slew them
all, and then closed up the breach.

One of the most disgraceful acts which stain the annals of the Templars
occurred in the year 1155, when Bertrand de Blancford, whom William of
Tyre calls a "pious and God-fearing man," was Master of the order. In a
contest for the supreme power in Egypt, which the viziers, bearing the
proud title of _Sultan_, exercised under the phantom-khalifs, Sultan
Abbas, who had put to death the khalif his master, found himself obliged
to fly from before the vengeance of the incensed people. With his harem,
and his own and a great part of the royal treasures, he took his way
through the Desert. A body of Christians, chiefly Templars, lay in wait
for the fugitives near Ascalon; the resistance offered by the Moslems
was slight and ineffectual; Abbas himself was either slain or fled, and
his son Nassir-ed-deen and the treasures became the prize of the
victors. The far larger part of the booty of course fell to the
Templars; but this did not satisfy their avarice; and though
Nassir-ed-deen had professed his desire to become a Christian, and had
begun, by way of preparation for that change, to learn the Latin
language, they sold him to his father's enemies for 60,000 pieces of
gold, and stood by to see him bound hand and foot, and placed in a sort
of cage or iron-latticed sedan, on a camel, to be conducted to Egypt,
where a death by protracted torture awaited him.

The Hospitallers were at this time become as corrupt as the Templars;
and in this same year, when the patriarch demanded from them the tithes
which they were bound to pay him, they treated the demand with scorn;
raised, to show their superior wealth, stately and lofty buildings,
before the humble church of the Holy Sepulchre; and whenever the
patriarch entered it to exhort the people, or pronounce the absolution
of sins, they rang, by order of their Master, the bells of the Hospital
so loud, that, with the utmost efforts, he could not succeed in making
himself heard. One day, when the congregation was assembled in the
church, the Hospitallers rushed into it in arms, and shot arrows among
them as if they were robbers or infidels. These arrows were collected
and hung up on Mount Calvary, where Christ had been crucified, to the
scandal of these recreant knights. On applying to the Pope Adrian IV.
for redress, the Syrian clergy found him and his cardinals so
prepossessed in favour of their enemies,--bribed by them, as was
said,--that they had no chance of relief. The insolence of the
Hospitallers became in consequence greater than ever.

In fact, as an extremely judicious writer[76] observes, valiantly as the
knights of the spiritual orders fought against the heathens, and great
as was their undoubted merit in the defence of the helpless pilgrims, it
cannot be denied that these knights were, if not the original promoters,
at least active participators in all the mischiefs which prevailed in
the Holy Land, and that they were often led to a shameful dereliction of
their duties, by avarice and thirst after booty.

[Footnote 76: Wilken Geschichte der Kreuzzüge, Vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 39.]

The year 1162 is conspicuous in the annals of the Templars, as the date
of the bull _Omne Datum Optimum_, the Magna Charta of the order, and the
great key-stone of their power. On the death of Adrian IV. two rival
popes were elected,--Alexander III. by the Sicilian,--Victor III. by the
Imperial party. The Templars at first acknowledged the latter; but at a
synod, held at Nazareth, in 1161, they took the side of his rival.
Alexander, who came off victor, was not ungrateful; and on the 7th
January, of the following year, the aforesaid bull was issued. By this
document, which would almost appear to be the dictation of the order,
the Templars were released from all spiritual obedience except to the
Holy See; they were allowed to have peculiar burial-grounds at their
houses, and to have chaplains of their own; they were freed from the
obligation to pay tithes, and could, with the consent of the bishop,
receive them. It was also prohibited to any one who had once entered the
order, to leave it, unless it were to enter into a stricter one. These
great privileges necessarily awakened the envy and enmity of the clergy
against the Templars and the Hospitallers, which last were equally
favoured by the pontiffs; but these artful prelates, who were now aiming
at universal power, knew well the advantage which they might derive from
attaching firmly to them these associations, which united the valour of
the knight to the obedience of the monk, whose members were of the
noblest families in Europe, and whose possessions were extensive and
spread over all parts of the Christian world.

In 1167 occurred one of the few instances of cowardice, or rather, we
might say, treachery, which the annals of the Templars present. Almeric,
king of Jerusalem, had committed to the Templars the charge of guarding
one of those strong fortified caverns which were on the other side of
the Jordan. Here they were besieged by the Turks, and, though the king
was hastening to their relief, they capitulated. Almeric, incensed at
their conduct, though he was a great friend of the order, and
particularly of the Master, Philip of Naploos, instantly had twelve of
the cowardly or treacherous knights hanged, and he experienced no
opposition whatever on the part of the order. Philip, we may observe,
was the first Master of the Temple who was a born Syrian; but he appears
to have been a man of fair and honourable character. He was lord of the
fortresses of Krak and Montreal in the Stony Arabia, which he had
obtained with his wife. It was not till after her death that he became a
Templar. Alter holding the dignity of Master for three years he resigned
it. The cause of his resignation is unknown; but he was highly honoured
and respected during the remainder of his life, and was employed on
various important occasions.

It was during the mastership of Philip of Naploos, that King Almeric, at
the instigation of the Master of the Hospital, and in violation of a
solemn treaty, undertook an unprosperous expedition into Egypt. The
Templars loudly protested against this act of perfidy, and refused to
take any share in the war, either, as William, the honest Archbishop of
Tyre, observes, "because it was against their conscience, or because
the Master of the rival order was the author and projector of it." The
prelate seems to regard the more honourable as the true cause. Perhaps
we should express ourselves correctly if we said that in this, as in
many other cases, duty and prejudice happily combined, and the path
which was the most agreeable was also the most honourable.

In the mastership of Ado of St. Amando, the successor of Philip of
Naploos, occurred the treacherous murder of the Ismaïlite envoy above
narrated[77]--an act which brought the Templars into great disrepute
with pious Christians, as it was quite manifest that they preferred
money to winning souls to Christ.

[Footnote 77: Page 116.]


     Heroism of the Templars and Hospitallers--Battle of Hittin--Crusade
     of Richard of England and Philip of France--Corruption of the
     Order--Pope Innocent III. writes a Letter of Censure--Frederic
     II.--Great Slaughter of the Templars--Henry III. of England and the
     Templars--Power of the Templars in Moravia--Slaughter of them by
     the Hospitallers--Fall of Acre.

The fall of the Christian power in the East was now fast approaching,
and it was not a little hastened by the enmity of the rival orders. The
truth of the old sentence, that the Deity deprives of sense those whom
he will destroy, was manifested on this as on so many other similar
occasions; and while the great and able Saladin was consolidating his
power and preparing for the accomplishment of the object which, as a
true Moslem, lay nearest his heart, the recovery of the Holy City,
discord, enmity, and animosity, prevailed among those who should have
been actuated by one soul and by one spirit.

Yet the two orders of religious chivalry had not derogated from their
original valour, and the last days of Jerusalem were illumined by some
noble feats of prowess. On the 1st of May, 1187, when Malek-el-Afdal,
the son of Saladin, was returning from an expedition into the Holy Land,
which he had undertaken with the consent of the Count of Tripolis,
regent of the kingdom, the Masters of the Temple and of the Hospital,
having collected about 140 knights and 500 footmen, met the Moslems, who
were 7,000 in number, at the celebrated brook Kishon. They immediately
charged them with the utmost impetuosity; the Turks, according to
custom, turned and fled; the Christian knights pursued, leaving their
infantry unprotected. Suddenly a large body of the Turks emerged from a
valley, and fell on and slaughtered the footmen. Their cries brought
back the knights to their aid, but, impeded by the narrowness of the
ground, they could neither lay their lances in rest nor run their horses
against the enemy, and all fell beneath the weapons of the Turks, with
the exception of the Master of the Temple and three of his knights, who
were saved by the fleetness of their horses. The Master of the Hospital
was among the slain. In this unfortunate fight, James De Mailly, the
marshal of the Templars, and a Hospitaller, named Henry, especially
distinguished themselves. After all their brave companions had been
slain around them, they still maintained the conflict; the Turks, filled
with admiration of their valour, repeatedly offered them quarter, but in
vain; and they fell at last, overwhelmed with darts flung from a
distance, no one venturing to approach them. The historian, Vinisauf,
tells us that De Mailly was mounted on a white horse, which, joined with
his relucent arms and white mantle, made him appear to the infidels to
be St. George, and they exulted greatly in having slain the tutelar
saint of the Christians. He adds, what is not an unlikely circumstance,
that the Turks covered his body with dust, which they afterwards
powdered on their heads, thinking thereby to acquire some portion of his

At the fatal battle of Hittin, where 30,000 Christians lost their lives,
where the king and all his princes became captives, and where the Latin
power in the East was broken for ever, the Master of the Temple, Gerard
of Ridefort, and several of his knights and those of the Hospital, were
among the captives. Saladin, who bore a particular hatred to the
spiritual knights, would spare them on no condition but that of their
renouncing their faith. To a man they gallantly refused; and, with the
exception of the Master, the heads of all were struck off. Many who
belonged not to the orders, smit with desire for the glory of martyrdom,
cast the mantles of Templars around them, and went cheerfully to death
as such. One Templar, named Nicolaus, evinced such joy and impatience
for this glorious fate, that, according to the ideas of those times,
heaven was believed to testify its approbation by a visible sign, and
during three nights a celestial light illumined the unburied corpse of
the Christian martyr.

It was indeed rare for a Templar to renounce his faith: prejudice, or
honour, we may style it, or a better principle, always kept him steady
in it, whatever the irregularities of his life might be. We recollect
but one instance of a brother of the Temple abjuring his faith, and he
was unhappily an English knight, named Robert of St. Albans. From some
unassigned cause, he flung away the dress of his order, broke his vows,
went over to Saladin, and became a Musselman. The sultan gave him one of
his female relatives in marriage, and the recreant knight appeared
before Jerusalem at the head of an army of the infidels. He had promised
to Saladin to reduce the Holy City; but her hour was not yet come; and
after wasting all the country from Mont-royal to Jericho with fire and
sword, he was forced to retreat before the chivalry of Jerusalem, who
came forth with the holy cross, and gave him a signal defeat. This event
occurred in the year 1184; and the apostacy of this Templar caused
extreme dismay among the Christians, and excited great ill-will against
the order in general.

It had hitherto been the maxim of the order, not to redeem any of their
members out of captivity with any higher ransom than a girdle, or a
knife, or some other insignificant matter, acting in this on the same
principle with the old Romans, who never redeemed prisoners. The Master,
Ado de St. Amando, had died in captivity; but to redeem Gerard de
Ridefort, no less a ransom was given than the city of Ascalon.--Gerard
died of a wound received in battle the following year.

During the memorable crusade of Philip of France and Richard of England
to the Holy Land, which their rivalry and animosity rendered utterly
ineffectual, we find the Hospitallers on the side of the king of
England, and of course the Templars the warm partizans of the king of
France. Yet, when Richard was on his return to Europe, he sent for the
Master of the Temple, and said to him, that he knew by many he was not
loved, and that he ran great risk of his life on his way to his kingdom;
he therefore besought him that he would permit him to assume the dress
of the order, and send two of the brethren with him. The Master readily
granted the request of so potent a monarch, and the king went on board
in the habit of a Templar. It was probably on account of the known
enmity of the order to him, that King Richard adopted this expedient,
thinking that no one would ever suspect him of being with the Templars.
His brother John, we may here observe, was, on the contrary, a great
favourer of the order, to whom he gave Lundy Island, at the mouth of the
Bristol Channel. Throughout his reign, this odious prince attached
himself to the Templars as the faithful servants of his lord the pope,
reckoning on their aid against his gallant barons, who would not leave
the liberties of the nation at the feet of a faithless tyrant. It was
now very much the custom for monarchs to deposit their treasures in the
Temple houses; and in the year 1213 we find King John demanding 20,000
marks which he had committed to the Templars to keep. We meet with no
instance of breach of trust on the part of the knights.

The Templars shared in the common dishonesty of the church with respect
to false miracles, and they felt no scruple at augmenting their wealth
by deceptions calculated to impose on the ignorance and zeal of the
laity. In the year 1204 it was given out that an image of the Virgin, in
a convent not far from Damascus, had become clothed with flesh, and that
there issued from its breasts a kind of juice or liquor of wondrous
efficacy in removing the sins of pious pilgrims. As the place was
distant, and the road beset with danger, the knights of the Temple took
upon themselves the task of fetching the mirific fluid to the part of
the coast still held by the Latins, and accommodating pilgrims with it,
and the coffers of the order were largely replenished by this pious

Though, like all other proprietors in the Holy Land, the order of the
Temple had been losers in consequence of the conquest of it by Saladin,
their possessions in the West were so extensive that they hardly felt
the loss. At this very time we find the number of their possessions of
various kinds in Europe, stated at 7050, principally situated in France
and in England. Their arrogance and luxury naturally kept pace with
their wealth; and, though writers of the twelfth century, and even the
Troubadours--the satirists of the age--always speak of the knights of
the Temple with honour, there was a secret dislike of them gaining
ground, especially with the clergy, in consequence of the great
privileges granted to them by the bull _Omne Datum Optimum_, and the
insolent manner in which these privileges were exercised.

Accordingly we find, in the year 1208, the great Innocent III. the most
ambitious of popes, and one who was a steady friend to the order, under
the necessity of passing the first public censure of them, and
endeavouring to set, by authority, a limit to their excesses. In his
epistle to the Master on this occasion, the holy father says that they
abused the privilege of having mass celebrated in places which were
under interdict, by causing their churches to be thrown open, and mass
to be said every day, with loud ringing of bells, bearing the cross of
Christ on their breast, but not caring to follow his doctrines, who
forbids to give offence to any of the little ones who believe on him. He
goes on to state that, following the doctrines of demons, they affixed
the cross of their order on the breast of (i.e. _affiliated_) every kind
of scoundrel, asserting that whoever, by paying two or three pence a
year, became one of their fraternity, could not, even though
interdicted, be deprived of Christian burial; and that hence, known
adulterers, usurers, and others who were lying under sentence of
interdict, were honourably interred in their cemeteries; "and thus they
themselves, being captive to the devil, cease not to make captive the
souls of the faithful, seeking to make alive those whom they know to be
dead." The pontiff laments, that instead of, like religious men, using
the world for the sake of God, they employed their religious character
as a means of indulging in the pleasures of the world. Though, on
account of these and such abuses, they deserved to be deprived of the
privileges which had been conferred on them, the holy father will not
proceed to extremity, relying on the exertions of the Master to effect a

In this epistle we have all the charges, which, as will hereafter
appear, could be at any time brought with justice against the order,
whose corruption proceeded in the ordinary course of human nature, and
no otherwise,--privileges and exemptions producing insolence and
assumption, and wealth generating luxury and relaxation of morals. It
was the lavish generosity of popes, princes, and nobles, that caused the
ruin of the Templars.

The Templars bore a distinguished part in the expedition to Egypt and
siege of Damietta, in 1219, as the chief commander on that occasion was
the papal legate, whose conduct, under show of obedience, they chiefly
directed. But when, in 1228, the Emperor Frederic II., then under the
sentence of the church, undertook the crusade which he had vowed, he
found nothing but opposition and treachery from these staunch adherents
of the pope. Considering the spirit of the age, their opposition is,
perhaps, not so much to be blamed; but no principle will excuse the act
of their writing to inform the Egyptian sultan of the plans of the
emperor. The generous Moslem, instead of taking advantage of this
treachery, sent the letter to Frederic, to the confusion of its authors.
Frederic checked his indignation at the time, but on his return to
Europe he took his satisfaction on those who were most guilty, and he
seized the property of the order in Sicily and his Italian dominions.
Though he was excommunicated again for so doing, Frederic persisted in
his enmity both to them and the Hospitallers; and though, perhaps, the
least given to superstition and illiberality of any man of his age, he
did not disdain to make friendly intercourse with the Moslems a serious
charge against them. "The haughty religion of the Templars," writes he,
"reared on the pleasures of the native barons of the land, waxes
wanton.... We know, on good authority, that sultans and their trains are
received with pompous alacrity within the gates of the Temple, and that
the Templars suffer them to celebrate secular plays, and to perform
their superstitious rites with invocation of Mahommet."

The hostility between the Templars and the Hospitallers still continued,
though the Christian power was now nearly restricted to the walls of
Acre. The Templars were in alliance with the prince of Damascus: the
Hospitallers were the friends of the sultan of Egypt. The Templars
extended their enmity against the emperor to the Teutonic knights, whom
they deprived of their possessions in Syria. The appearance of a new
enemy, however, brought concord for a time among them. The Turks of
Khaurizm, on the east of the Caspian, were now in flight before the
hordes of the Mongols, and 20,000 of their horsemen burst into the Holy
Land. They took and plundered Jerusalem, which was unfortified and open,
and then united themselves with the troops of Egypt. The Christians
applied to the prince of Damascus for aid, who forthwith sent the
required troops, and their combined forces went in quest of the foes. In
the battle the Templars and the militia occupied the centre; the
Hospitallers were posted on the left wing, the light horse on the right.
The battle lasted two days, and ended in the total defeat of the
Christians, a result which is ascribed, though probably with injustice,
to the treachery of the Damascenes. The Master of the Temple and the
whole chapter, with the knights, in all 300, were slain; only four
knights and fourteen esquires escaped.

The improvident and needy Henry III. of England, in general such a
dutiful son of the holy father, who, for a share of the spoil, usually
aided him in the pious work of robbing his subjects, summoned courage in
1252 to speak of seizing some of the property of the church and the
military orders. "You prelates and religious," said he, "especially you
Templars and Hospitallers, have so many liberties and charters, that
your enormous possessions make you rave with pride and haughtiness. What
was imprudently given, must be therefore prudently revoked; and what was
inconsiderately bestowed must be considerately recalled.... I will break
this and other charters which my predecessors and myself have rashly
granted." But the prior of the Templars immediately replied, "What
sayest thou, O king? Far be it that thy mouth should utter so
disagreeable and silly a word. So long as thou dost exercise justice
thou wilt reign; but if thou infringe it, thou wilt cease to be a king!"
These bold words appear to have checked the feeble king, who next year
besought the two orders to become his security for a large sum of money
which he owed. They refused his request, and Henry thenceforth did them
all the injury in his power.

There occurred an event in Moravia in 1252, which may serve to show the
power of the order in Europe. A nobleman, named Vratislaf, who had been
obliged to fly from that country, became a Templar in France. He made
over all his property, among which was the castle of Eichhorn in
Moravia, to the order. But his elder brother, Burian, took possession of
his property, as having fallen to himself as head of the family. King
Winzel, on being applied to, decided in favour of the order. Burian,
however, still kept possession. The next year the Templars collected
some thousands of men, and marched, under the command of their Great
Prior, to take the castle. Burian, assembling 6000 men, 900 of whom he
placed in the castle, advanced to give them battle. The engagement was
bloody; 1700 men, among them the Great Prior of the Templars, lay slain,
when night terminated the conflict. A truce was made for three days, at
the end of which Burian and his men were driven into the castle, which
they defended bravely, till king Attocar sent to threaten them with his
wrath if they did not give it up. Burian surrendered it, and Vratislaf,
returning to Moravia, became Prior of Eichhorn, in which thirty Templars
took up their abode.

Though the Templars were so extremely numerous in Europe, they were
little disposed to go out to the East to encounter toil and danger, in
the performance of their duties. They preferred living in ease and
luxury on their rich possessions in the West; and the members of the
chapter alone, with a few knights, and other persons attached to the
order, abode in Syria. It would even seem that the heads of the society
were meditating a final retreat from the East, where they probably saw
that nothing of permanent advantage was to be achieved. The
Hospitallers, on the other hand, whatever may have been the cause,
appear to have been more zealous in their calling, and to have had a
greater number of their members in Syria; and it is, probably, to this
cause, that we are to assign the total defeat which they were enabled to
give their rivals in 1259: for the animosity between the orders had come
to such a height, that, in this year, they came to open war. A bloody
battle was fought, in which the Templars were defeated, when, such was
the bitterness of their enmity, that the victors made no prisoners, but
cut to pieces every Templar who fell into their hands, and scarce a
Templar remained to carry the intelligence to Europe.

From this period till the capture of Acre and final destruction of the
Latin power in the East in 1291, after a continuance of nearly two
centuries, the annals of the Templars are bare of events. The rivalry
between them and the other orders still continued; and in the opinion of
some historians, it was their jealousy that hastened the fall of that
last remnant of the Christian dominion in the East. Not more than ten
knights of the Temple escaped in the storm of the town, and these, with
the remnants of the other orders, and the garrison, sought a retreat in

We have now traced the history of the order from its institution to
within a few years of the period of its suppression. Of this most
important event we shall delay the consideration for some time, and
shall occupy the intervening space with an account of the internal
organisation of the society, its officers, its wealth, and various
possessions. This will, we trust, prove no slight contribution to our
knowledge of one of the most curious portions of the history of the
world--that of the middle ages--and gratify the reader by the display of
manners and institutions which have long since passed away[78].

[Footnote 78: The organisation and the rules of the Hospitallers were
similar to those of the Templars; but as that order existed down to
modern times, the rules, &c., given by Vertot, contain a great number of
modern additions.]


     Classes of the Templars--The Knights--Their Qualifications--Mode of
     Reception--Dress and Arms of the Knight--Mode of Burial--The
     Chaplains--Mode of Reception--Dress--Duties and Privileges--The
     Serving-Brethren--Mode of Reception--Their Duties--The
     Affiliated--Causes and Advantages of Affiliation--The Donates and

The founders of the order of the Templars were, as we have seen,
knights; and they were the first who conceived the novel idea, and happy
one, as we may call it in accordance with the sentiments of those times,
of uniting in the same person the two characters held in highest
estimation--the knight and the monk. The latter added sanctity to the
former, the former gave dignity and consideration to the latter, in the
eyes of a martial generation. Hence, the Templar naturally regarded
himself as the first of men; and the proudest nobles of the Christian
world esteemed it an honour to belong to the order. The knights were,
therefore, the strength, the flower, the ornament of the society.

The order of the Templars, when it was fully developed, consisted not of
_degrees_, but of distinct and separate _classes_. These were the
knights, the chaplains, and the serving-brethren; to which may be added
the affiliated, the donates, and the oblates, or persons attached to the
order without taking the vows.

I. The Knights.--Whoever presented himself to be received as a knight of
the order must solemnly aver that he was sprung from a knightly family,
and that his father was or might have been a knight. He was further to
prove, that he was born in lawful wedlock, for, like the church in
general, the Templars excluded bastards from their society. In this rule
there was prudence, though, possibly, it was merely established in
accordance with the ideas of the time; for, had a king of France or an
emperor of Germany been able to get his natural child into the order,
and should he then have been chosen Master of it, as he probably would,
it might have lost its independence, and become the mere tool of the
monarch. The candidate was, moreover, to declare that he was free from
all previous obligations; that he was neither married nor betrothed; had
not made any vows, or received any consecration in another order; and
that he was not involved in debt. He had finally to declare himself to
be of a sound and healthy constitution, and free from disease. When the
order was grown great and powerful, and candidates for admission were
numerous and of the highest families, it became the custom to require
the payment of a large fee on admission.

It was necessary that the candidate for admission among the knights of
the Temple should already be a knight; for as knighthood was a secular
honour, the order would have regarded it as derogating from its dignity
if any of its members were to receive it. The Hospitallers and Teutonic
knights thought differently, and with them the aspirant was knighted on
his admission. If the candidate Templar, therefore, had not been
knighted, he was obliged to receive knighthood, in the usual manner,
from a secular knight, or a bishop, previous to taking his vows.

A noviciate forms an essential and reasonable part of the course of
admission into the spiritual orders in general; for it is but right that
a person should become, in some measure, acquainted with the rules and
duties of a society before he enters it. But, though the original rule
of the Templars enjoined a noviciate, it was totally neglected in
practice; a matter which was afterwards made one of the charges against
the order. Perhaps there was in their case little necessity for this
preparatory process; the Templars were so much in the world, and those
who joined them had been in general so frequently among them, and were
consequently so well acquainted with their mode of life, that they
hardly required any such preliminary discipline to familiarize them with
their duties. The neglect of the practice at the same time gave the
Templars an advantage over the rival orders who enjoined it; for a young
nobleman would, in all likelihood, feel most disposed to join the
society into which he could be admitted at once; and perhaps no small
part of the corruption of the Templars, in which they undoubtedly
surpassed their rivals, may be ascribed to the facility which was thus
afforded to unworthy persons entering among them.

With respect to the age at which persons were admitted, it is plain,
from the previously required reception of knighthood, that it must have
been that of adolescence or manhood. All that is said by the statutes
is, that no child could be received; and that the parents or relatives
of a child destined to be a member of the order, should keep and breed
him till _he could manfully and with armed hand extirpate the enemies of
Christ out of the land_. This formed a marked distinction between the
Templars and the mere religious orders, who, even at the present day, we
believe, admit children, taking the charge of their rearing and
education; whereas, children could only be destined to the order of the
Temple, and could not be presented for admission, till able to bear
arms, that is, usually in the twenty-first year of their age.

The reception of a knight took place in one of the chapels of the order,
in presence of the assembled chapter. It was secret, not even the
relatives of the candidate being allowed to be present. The ceremony
commenced by the Master[79] or prior, who presided, saying, "Beloved
brethren, ye see that the majority are agreed to receive this man as a
brother. If there be any among you who knows any thing of him, on
account of which he cannot lawfully become a brother, let him say it;
for it is better that this should be signified beforehand than after he
is brought before us."

[Footnote 79: When we use the word "Master," we would always be
understood to mean the Master or his representative.]

The aspirant, if no objection was made, was then led into a chamber near
the chapter-room; and two or three reputable knights of the oldest in
the house were sent to lay before him what it was needful for him to
know. They commenced by saying, "Brother, are you desirous of being
associated to the order?" If he replied in the affirmative, they stated
to him the whole rigour of the order. Should he reply that he was
willing to endure everything for God's sake, and to be all his life long
the servant and slave of the order, they asked him if he had a wife or
was betrothed? if he had made profession or vows in any other order? if
he owed to any man in the world more than he could pay? if he was of
sound body, and had no secret infirmity, and if he was the servant of
any one? Should his answers be in the negative, the brethren went back
to the chapter and informed the Master or his representative of the
result of the examination. The latter then asked once more, if any one
knew any thing to the contrary. If all were silent, he said "Are you
willing that he should be brought in in God's name?" The knights then
said, "Let him be brought in in God's name." Those who had been already
with him then went out again, and asked him if he persisted in his
resolution. If he said that he did, they instructed him in what he was
to do when suing for admission. They then led him back to the chapter,
where, casting himself on his knees, with folded hands, before the
receptor, he said, "Sir, I am come, before God, and before you and the
brethren, and pray and beseech you, for the sake of God and our dear
Lady, to admit me into your society, and the good deeds of the order, as
one who will be, all his life long, the servant and slave of the order."
The receptor then replied, "Beloved brother, you are desirous of a great
matter, for you see nothing but the outward shell of our order. It is
only the outward shell when you see that we have fine horses and rich
caparisons, that we eat and drink well, and are splendidly clothed. From
this you conclude that you will be well off with us. But you know not
the rigorous maxims which are in our interior. For it is a hard matter
for you, who are your own master, to become the servant of another. You
will hardly be able to perform, in future, what you wish yourself. For
when you may wish to be on this side of the sea, you will be sent to the
other side; when you will wish to be in Acre, you will be sent to the
district of Antioch, to Tripolis, or to Armenia; or you will be sent to
Apulia, to Sicily, or to Lombardy, or to Burgundy, France, England, or
any other country where we have houses and possessions. When you will
wish to sleep you will be ordered to watch; when you will wish to watch,
then you will be ordered to go to bed; when you will wish to eat, then
you will be ordered to do something else. And as both we and you might
suffer great inconvenience from what you have, mayhap, concealed from
us, look here on the holy Evangelists and the word of God, and answer
the truth to the questions which we shall put to you; for if you lie you
will be perjured, and may be expelled the order, from which God keep

He was now asked over again, by the receptor, the same questions as
before; and, moreover, if he had made any simoniacal contract with a
Templar or any other for admission. If his answers proved satisfactory,
the receptor proceeded, "Beloved brother, take good care that you have
spoken the truth to us; for should you have spoken false in any one
point, you might be put out of the order, from which God keep you! Now,
beloved brother, attend strictly to what we shall say unto you. Do you
promise to God, and our dear Lady Mary, to be, all your life long,
obedient to the Master of the Temple, and to the prior who shall be set
over you?"

"Yea, Sir, with the help of God!"

"Do you promise to God, and our dear Lady Mary, to live chaste of your
body all your life long?"

"Yea, Sir, with the help of God!"

"Do you promise to God, and our dear Lady Mary, to observe, all your
life long, the laudable manners and customs of our order, both those
which are already in use, and those which the Master and knights may

"Yea, Sir, with the help of God!"

"Do you promise to God, and our dear Lady Mary, that you will, with the
strength and powers which God has bestowed on you, help, as long as you
live, to conquer the Holy Land of Jerusalem; and that you will, with all
your strength, aid to keep and guard that which the Christians possess?"

"Yea, Sir, with the help of God!"

"Do you promise to God, and our dear Lady Mary, never to hold this order
for stronger or weaker, for better or worse, than with permission of
the Master, or of the chapter which has the authority[80]?"

[Footnote 80: That is, never to quit the order.]

"Yea, Sir, with the help of God!"

"Do you finally promise to God, and our dear Lady Mary, never to be
present when a Christian is unjustly and unlawfully despoiled of his
heritage, and that you will never, by counsel or by act, take part

"Yea, Sir, with the help of God!"

"In the name, then, of God, and our dear Lady Mary, and in the name of
St. Peter of Rome, and of our father the pope, and in the name of all
the brethren of the Temple, we receive to all the good works of the
order which have been performed from the beginning, and shall be
performed to the end, you, your father, your mother, and all of your
family whom you will let have share therein. In like manner do you
receive us to all the good works which you have performed and shall
perform. We assure you of bread and water, and the poor clothing of the
order, and labour and toil enow."

The Master then took the distinguishing habit of the order, namely, the
white mantle with the red cross, and putting it about the neck of the
candidate, clasped it firmly. The chaplain then repeated the 132d psalm,
_Ecce quam bonum_, and the prayer of the Holy Ghost, _Deus qui corda
fidelium_, and each brother repeated a _Pater noster_. The Master and
the chaplain then kissed him on the mouth; and he sat down before the
Master, who delivered to him a discourse, of which the following is the

He was not to strike or wound any Christian; not to swear; not to
receive any service or attendance from a woman without the permission of
his superiors; not on any account to kiss a woman, even if she was his
mother or his sister; to hold no child at the baptismal font, or be a
god-father; to abuse no man or call him foul names; but to be always
courteous and polite. He was to sleep in a linen shirt, drawers, and
hose, and girded with a small girdle. He was to attend divine service
punctually, and at table he was to commence and conclude with prayer;
during the meal he was to preserve silence. When the Master died, he
was, be he where he might, to repeat 200 _Pater nosters_ for the repose
of his soul.

Each knight was supplied with clothes, arms, and equipments, out of the
funds of the order. His dress was a long white tunic, nearly resembling
that of priests in shape, with a red cross on the back and front of it;
his girdle was under this, over his linen shirt. Over all he wore his
white mantle with its red cross of four arms (the under one being the
longest, so that it resembled that on which the Saviour suffered) on the
left breast. His head was covered by a cap or a hood attached to his
mantle. His arms were shield, sword, lance, and mace; and, owing to the
heat of the East, and the necessity of activity in combats with the
Turks and Saracens, his arms and equipments in general were lighter than
those used by the secular knights. He was allowed three horses and an
esquire, who was either a serving-brother of the order or some layman
who was hired for the purpose. At times this office was performed by
youths of noble birth, whom their parents and relatives gladly placed in
the service of distinguished knights of the Temple, that they might have
an opportunity of acquiring the knightly virtues; and these often became
afterwards members of the order.

[Illustration: Costume of Knight Templar.]

When a knight had become, from age or wounds, incapable of service, he
took up his abode in one of the temple-houses, where he lived in ease,
and was treated with the utmost respect and consideration. These
emeriti knights are frequently mentioned under the name of _Prodomes_
(_Good men_); they were present at all deliberations of importance; and
their experience and knowledge of the rules of the order were highly
prized and attended to.

When the Templar died, he was placed in a coffin in his habit, and with
his legs crossed, and thus buried. Masses were said for his soul; his
arms and clothes were partly given back to the marshal or draper of the
order--partly distributed among the poor.

II. The Chaplains.--The order of the Templars, being purely military in
its commencement, consisted then solely of laymen. That of the Hospital,
on the contrary, on account of its office of attending the sick, had,
necessarily, priests in it from its origin. This advantage of the latter
society excited the jealousy of the Templars, and they were urgent with
the popes to be allowed a similar privilege. But the pontiffs were loth
to give offence to the oriental prelates, already displeased at the
exemption from their control granted in this case to the Hospitallers;
and it was not till the year 1162, that is, four years after the
founding of the order, when their great favourer, Alexander III.,
occupied the papal throne, that the Templars attained their object.

[Illustration: Knights in Temple Church, London.]

The bull, _Omne Datum Optimum_, issued on this occasion, gave permission
to the Templars to receive into their houses spiritual persons, in all
countries, who were not bound by previous vows. If they were clergy of
the vicinity, they were to ask them of the bishop; and if he refused his
consent, they were empowered, by the bull, to receive them without it.
The clergy of the Temple were to perform a noviciate of a year--a
practice which, as in the case of the knights, was dispensed with in the
days of the power and corruption of the order. The reception of the
clergy was the same as that of the knights, with the omission of such
questions as did not apply to them. They were only required to take the
three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The ritual of their
reception was in Latin, and was almost precisely the same with that of
the Benedictines. Like that of the knights, their reception was secret.
When the psalms had been sung the Master put on the recipient the dress
of the order and the girdle, and, if he was a priest, the cap called

[Illustration: Effigies of Knights in Temple Church.]

The habit of the chaplains of the order was a white close-fitting tunic,
with a red cross on the left breast. Though, according to the statutes,
they were to have the best clothes in the order, they were not permitted
to assume the white mantle as long as they were mere priests. But should
one of them, as was not unfrequently the case, arrive at the episcopal
dignity, he was, if desirous of it, cheerfully granted that privilege.
It was a further distinction between the knights and the chaplains, that
the former wore their beards, while the latter were close-shaven. The
chaplains were also to wear gloves, _out of respect to the body of the

All who had received the _first tonsure_ were eligible to the office of
chaplain to the order. When those who were only sub-deacons and deacons
were to be raised to the rank of priests, the Master or his deputy sent
them with letters dimissory to a bishop of the vicinity, who was bound
to confer the required order.

The clergy were, like all other members of the order, bound to obey the
Master and the chapter. The Master and the chief officers of the order
had always chaplains in their train to celebrate mass and other
religious offices, as also to act as secretaries, the knights being in
general as illiterate as their secular brethren. It was by this last
office that the chaplains acquired their chief influence in the society;
mind and superior knowledge vindicating, as they always do, their
natural rights. For though it was specially provided that the clergy
should take no share in the government of the society without being
invited thereto by their superiors, the opinion of the secretary was
naturally taken in general, and if he was a man of sense and talent, it
was most commonly followed[81].

[Footnote 81: This influence of the clergy excited the spleen of the
knights. Gerard de Caux, in his examination hereafter to be noticed,
said, "The aged men of the order were unanimous in maintaining that the
order had gained nothing in _internal goodness_ by the admission of
learned members."]

The duties of the clergy of the order were nearly the same as those of
monks in general. They performed all religious offices, and officiated
at all the ceremonies of the order, such as the admission of members,
the installation of a Master, &c. Their privileges were very
unimportant; they had merely the best clothes, sat next the Master in
the chapter and in the refectory, and were first served at table; when
they committed any offence, they were also more lightly punished than
others. They could, however, if it so pleased the heads of the order,
arrive at high rank in it; and we find that they were not unfrequently
among the preceptors. The attorney-general of the order at Rome, who was
always a person of considerable importance, was most probably a priest
of the order; at least we know that Peter de Bononia, the last of them,
was such.

It is worthy of notice, that even in the most flourishing period of the
order it never had a sufficient number of chaplains, and was always
obliged to have recourse to the ministry of secular priests. The causes
of this were probably the circumstance of the order having attained its
full form and consistency long before the clergy formed a part of it,
and they consequently had not an opportunity of arranging it so as to
give themselves their due share of power and importance. It must have
been galling to the pride of those who were used to rule, obeying only
their spiritual superiors, to find themselves subject to the command of
mere laymen, as they esteemed the knights of the order. Further, though
they shared in the good things of the order and enjoyed the advantage of
the consideration in which it stood, yet they had no dignities to look
forward to; whereas an entrance into a Benedictine order held out to the
ambitious a prospect of rich priories, abbacies, and bishoprics, and, at
the least, a voice in the chapter. It may well be supposed that the
pride of the knights of the Temple refused to admit into their society
such persons as those who afterwards joined the mendicant
orders--peasants and others who preferred a life of ease and idleness to
the labours of the plough and the workshop. The number consequently of
those who presented themselves for admission was small. But the knights
felt no disadvantage thereby; enow of secular priests were to be had,
who were willing to have the master of the Temple as their ordinary, and
to share in the good things of the order, and as neither party was bound
to the other, they could easily part if they disagreed.

III. The Serving-brethren. The order, consisting at first of only
knights and men of noble birth, had no serving-brethren in it. The
knights probably found esquires for a limited time among those who
fought under their banner and received their pay. The Hospitallers seem
to have set the example of introducing into the order the class of
serving-brethren, which is not to be found with the Templars till some
time after the council of Troyes. The advantage of this alteration was
very apparent. Hitherto only knights and nobles were interested in the
fate of the society to which their relatives belonged; the regards of
burghers and traders would now be obtained by the formation of this
class, to admission into which their sons and brothers were eligible.
They felt themselves honoured by their relatives coming into contact
with knights, and were therefore liberal in the admission-fee and in
other contributions to the _quêtes_ of the order.

We should be wrong in supposing the serving-brethren to have been all
persons of mean birth. The high consideration in which the order stood
induced many men of wealth, talent, and valour, but who were not of
noble birth, to join it. We thus find among the serving-brethren William
of Arteblay, almoner to the king of France; Radulf de Gisi, collector of
the taxes in Champagne; John de Folkay, an eminent lawyer. Bartholomew
Bartholet gave property to the amount of 1,000 _livres Tournois_ to be
admitted; William of Liege gave 200 _livres Tournois_ a year. The
serving-brother, indeed, could never arrive at the dignity of knight
(for which he was disqualified by birth), and consequently never
exercise any of the higher offices of the order, but in other respects
he enjoyed the same advantages and privileges as the knights and

The reception of the serving-brethren was the same as that of the two
higher classes, the necessary difference being made in the questions
which were asked. As the order would receive no slave into their body,
the candidate was required to aver that he was a free-born man: he was
moreover obliged to declare that he was not a knight. This last
condition may cause surprise, but it was probably justified by
experience, as it is not unlikely that evil may have been felt or
apprehended from men of noble birth, out of humility, or by way of
atoning for the sins of their youth, or from some other of the causes
which might operate on the minds of superstitious men, or even from
poverty, if, as is likely, the admission-fee was lower for a
serving-brother than for a knight, concealing their birth, and entering
the order as serving-brethren. As the more disagreeable duties of the
order probably fell to their share, the general duties and obligations
were laid before them in stronger and more explicit terms than were
thought necessary in the case of knights and priests.

In the times of the poverty of the order, the clothing of the
serving-brethren was the cast-off garments of the knights. But this
custom did not long continue, and as some abuses arose from all the
members of the order being clad in white, the serving-brethren were
appointed to wear black or brown kirtles, with the red cross upon them,
to indicate that they belonged to the order. In battle, their arms were
nearly the same as those of the knights, but of a lighter kind, as they
had frequently to jump down from their horses, and fight on foot. A
serving-brother was allowed but one horse by the order, but the Master
was empowered to lend him another if he thought it expedient, which
horse was to be afterwards returned.

The serving-brethren were originally all of one kind; they fought
in the field; they performed the menial offices in the houses of
the order; but, in after-times, we find them divided into two
classes--the brethren-in-arms (_Frères servons des armes_), and the
handicraft-brethren (_Frères servons des mestiers_). These last, who
were the least esteemed of the two, dwelt in the houses and on the lands
of the order, exercising their various trades, or looking after the
property of the society. We read in the statutes of the smiths and
bakers of the order, and we hear of _preceptors_ (as was the phrase) of
the mares, cows, swine, &c. of the order. These handicraft-brethren
practised the usual religious duties of the order, and were even allowed
to be present at chapters. The farrier, who was also armourer,
enjoyed a much higher degree of consideration than the other
handicraft-brethren, for this profession was highly prized by the
martial generation of the middle ages[82].

[Footnote 82: Sir W. Scott is perfectly correct in making the smith so
important a character in his St. Valentine's Eve.]

The other class were more highly regarded. The knights associated with
them on a footing of equality. They ate in the same refectory with the
knights and priests, although at separate tables, and with always one
dish less than the higher classes. They were, however, strictly
subordinate to the knights; the master and all the great officers of the
order had each several serving-brethren to attend him, and each knight
had some of the serving-brethren among his esquires. The statutes
provided carefully against their being tyrannized over or otherwise
ill-treated by the knights.

The statutes make a distinction between the serving-brethren who were
armed with iron and those who were not. The former were the proper
light-horse of the order; they were chiefly intended to support the
knights in the action, and were usually placed in the second rank. The
place of the unarmed was with the baggage; and as they were exposed to
little danger, they wore only linen corslets. The others were enjoined
to fight, without flinching, as long as a Christian banner flew on the
field: it was matter of praise to these last if they managed to come
safe out of the fight. When the troops of the Temple were on their
march, the esquires rode before the knights with their baggage. When the
knights were going to action, one esquire rode before each with his
lance, another behind with his war-horse.

There were various offices in the society, hereafter to be noticed,
which were appropriated to the serving-brethren, or to which they were

The knights, the chaplains, and the serving-brethren, were the proper
members of the order, and it is to them alone that the name Templars
applies. But both the Templars and the Hospitallers devised a mode of
attaching secular persons to their interest, and of deriving advantages
from their connexion with them, in which they were afterwards imitated
by the mendicant orders of the Franciscans and Dominicans; the Jesuits
also, who were always so keen at discerning what might be for the
advantage of their society, adopted it; and it is, we believe, still
practised in Catholic countries. This system is styled _affiliation_.

The affiliated were persons of various ranks in society, and of both
sexes, who, without giving up their secular mode of life, or wearing any
peculiar habit, joined the order, with a view to the advantages, both
spiritual and temporal, which they expected to derive from it. These
advantages will appear to have been very considerable when we recollect
that all who joined the order were admitted to a share in the merits of
its good works, which were what those times esteemed of the highest
order. Nothing could have more contributed to the extent of affiliation
than the exemption which the Templars enjoyed from the effects of
interdict. At a time when it was in the power of every bishop to lay
entire towns under this formidable sentence it must have been highly
consolatory to pious or superstitious minds to belong to a society who
disregarded this spiritual thunder, and who could afford them an
opportunity of at least occasionally hearing mass and receiving the
sacraments, and secured them, if they should die while the interdict
continued, the advantage of Christian burial. In those days also, when
club-law prevailed so universally, and a man's safety depended not so
much on his innocence or the justice of his cause as on the strength of
his party, it was a matter of no small consequence to belong to so
powerful a body as the Templars, and it must have been highly gratifying
to both the secular and spiritual pride of a lawyer or a burgher to be a
member of the same body with the high-born soldier-monks of the Temple.

These important advantages were not conceded by the Templars without
equivalent considerations. This ambitious and covetous order required
that he who sought the honor of affiliation with them should, besides
taking the three vows, pledge himself to lead a reputable life, to
further the interests of the order to the best of his power, and leave
it the entire of his property at his death. If he was married, and died
before his wife, he might leave her a competent provision for life; but
from the day of his admission into the order he was to abstain from her
bed, though he might continue to reside in the same house with her; for
were he to have children, he might provide for them to the disadvantage
of the order, or on his death they might give trouble to it by claiming
his property. For a similar reason the affiliated were forbidden to be
sponsors, lest they might covertly or openly give some of their property
to their godchildren. They were not even permitted to give offerings to
the clergy. If they dared to violate these injunctions, a severe
punishment--in general, confinement for life--awaited them.

All orders of men were ambitious of a union with this honourable and
powerful society. We find among the affiliated both sovereign princes
and dignified prelates: even the great Pope Innocent III., in one of his
bulls, declares himself to stand in this relation to the order. Many of
the knights who dwelt with the Templars, and fought under their banner,
were also affiliated, and the history of the order more than once makes
mention of the _sisters_--that is, women who were affiliated to it, for
there were no nuns of the Temple similar to those of the order of Malta
in later times.

In less intimate connexion with the order than the affiliated stood
those who were styled _Donates_ and _Oblates_. These were persons who,
as their titles denote, were given or presented to the order. They were
either children whom their parents or relations destined to the service
of the order when they should have attained a sufficient age, or they
were full-grown persons who pledged themselves to serve the order as
long as they lived without reward, purely out of reverence to it, and
with a view to enjoying its protection, and sharing in its good works.
Persons of all ranks, princes and priests, as well as others, were to be
found among the oblates of the Temple.


     Provinces of the Order--Eastern Provinces--Jerusalem--Houses of
     this Province--Tripolis--Antioch--Cyprus--Western
     Provinces--Portugal--Castile and Leon--Aragon--France and
     and Central Italy--Apulia and Sicily.

We have thus seen what a number of persons of all ranks were more or
less intimately connected with the order of the Temple, and how powerful
its influence must have been throughout the Christian world. To enable
the reader to form some conception of its wealth and power, we shall,
previous to explaining its system of internal regulation, give a view of
its possessions in various countries.

The extensive possessions of the order of the Temple, in Asia and in
Europe, were divided into provinces, each containing numerous
preceptories or temple-houses, and each under its appointed governor.
These provinces may be classified under the heads of Eastern and

The eastern provinces of the order were,--

I. Jerusalem.--This province was always regarded as the ruling one; the
chief seat and capital of the order. The Master and chapter resided here
as long as the Holy City was in the hands of the Christians. This being
the province which was first established, its regulations and
organization served as a model for all others. Its provincial Master,
or, as he was styled, the Preceptor of the Land and Kingdom of
Jerusalem, took precedence of all others of the same rank.

The bailiwicks, or commanderies, in this province, were,--

1. The Temple of Jerusalem, the cradle of the order, and the original
residence of the Master and the chapter.

2. Chateau Pélerin, or the Pilgrim's Castle, renowned in the history of
the crusades. This castle was built by the Templars in 1217, in order
that it might be their chief seat after the loss of Jerusalem. It was
situated on the east side of Mount Carmel, which runs out into the sea
between Caipha and Cæsarea. The Templars had long had a tower at a pass
of this mountain, called _Destruction_, or the Tower of the Pass, for
the defence of pilgrims against the robbers who lurked in the gorges of
the mountains. They were aided in building the castle, which was also
designed to be a defence to Acre, by Walter D'Avesnes and by the German
knights and pilgrims who were at that time in the Holy Land, and hence,
perhaps, they called it Chateau Pélerin. The Cardinal de Vitry, who was
at that time bishop of Acre, thus describes it. It was built on the
promontory, three sides of which were washed by the sea. As they were
sinking the foundation, they came to two walls of ancient masonry, and
to some springs of remarkably pure water; they also found a quantity of
ancient coins with unknown inscriptions, given, as the bishop piously
deems, by God to his beloved sons and warriors, to alleviate the toil
and expense which they were at. The place had probably been fortified in
former times by the Jews or the Romans. The builders raised two huge
towers of large masses of rock on the landward side, each 100 feet high,
and 74 broad; these were united by a lofty wall, broad enough at its
summit for an armed knight to stand at his ease upon it. It had a
parapet and battlements, with steps leading up to them. In the space
within this wall were a chapel, a palace, and several houses, with
fish-ponds, salt-works, woods, meads, gardens, and vineyards. Lying at a
distance of six miles from Mount Tabor, it commanded the interjacent
plain and the sea-coast to Acre. There the Master and the chapter took
up their final abode, after having dwelt from 1118 to 1187 at Jerusalem,
from 1187 to 1191 at Antioch, and from this last year till 1217 at Acre.
"The chief use," says D'Vitry, "of this edifice is, that the whole
chapter of the Templars, withdrawn from the sinful city of Acre, which
is full of all impurity, will reside under the protection of this castle
till the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt." A prophecy never to be
fulfilled! On the fall of Acre, in 1291, Chateau Pélerin was abandoned
by the knights, and its walls were levelled by the infidels.

3. The castle of Safat, at the foot of Mount Tabor. This strong castle
was taken by Saladin. It was demolished in 1220, by Coradin, but
afterwards rebuilt by the Templars, who then held it till 1266, when
they lost it finally.

4. The temple at Acre, a remarkably strong building, the last place
taken in the capture of that town.

5. The hill-fort, Dok, between Bethel and Jericho.

6. Faba, the ancient Aphek, not far from Tyre, in the territory of the
ancient tribe of Ashur.

7. Some small castles near Acre, mentioned in the history
of the war with Saladin, such as _La Cave_, _Marle_, _Citerne-rouge_,
_Castel-blanc_, _La Sommellerie du Temple_.

8. The house at Gaza.

9. The castle of Jacob's-ford, at the Jordan, built in 1178 by King
Baldwin IV., to check the incursions of the roving Arabs. When Saladin
took this castle, he treated the Templars whom he found in it with great

10. The house at Jaffa.

11. The castle of Assur, near this town.

12. _Gerinum parvum._

13. The castle of Beaufort, near Sidon, purchased by the order, in 1260,
from Julian, the lord of that town.

We may observe that most of these abodes of the Templars were strong
castles and fortresses. It was only by means of such that possession
could be retained of a country like Palestine, subject to the constant
inroads of the Turks and Saracens. The Templars possessed, besides these
strongholds, large farms and tracts of land, of which, though their
names are unknown, frequent mention is made in the history of the order.

II. Tripolis.--The principal houses of the order in this province were
at Tripolis itself; Tortosa, the ancient Antaradus; Castel-blanc, in the
same neighbourhood; Laodicea, Tyre, Sidon, and Berytus.

III. Antioch.--Of this province but little is known. There was a house
at Aleppo; and the jurisdiction of the prior probably extended into
Armenia[83], where the order had estates to the value of 20,000 byzants.

[Footnote 83: The Armenia of the crusades was a part of Cilicia.]

IV. Cyprus.--As long as the Templars maintained their footing on the
continent, Cyprus, it would appear, formed no distinct province, but
belonged either to that of Tripolis or of Antioch. At the time when
Richard, King of England, made the conquest of this island, he sold the
sovereignty of it for 25,000 marks of silver to the Templars, who had
already extensive possessions in it. The following year, with the
consent of the order, who were, of course, reimbursed, he transferred
the dominion to Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem. On the capture of
Acre the chief seat of the order was fixed at Limesal, also called
Limissa and Nemosia, in this island, which town, having an excellent
harbour, they strongly fortified. They had also a house at Nicosia, and
one at the ancient Paphos, named Gastira, and, at the same place, the
impregnable castle of Colossa.

Some idea of the value of the possessions of the Templars in Cyprus may
be formed from the circumstance, that when, in 1316, after the
suppression of the order, the Pope directed the Bishop of Limissa to
transfer their property there to the Hospitallers, there were found, in
the house in that town, 26,000 byzants of coined money, and silver plate
to the value of 1,500 marks. As the last Master, when setting out for
France ten years before, had carried with him the treasure of the order,
this property must have been accumulated during that time out of the
surplus revenue of the possessions of the order in the island.

The Western provinces of the order were--

I. Portugal.--So early as the year 1130 (a strong proof of the rapid
increase of the order) Galdin Paez, the first provincial master of the
Temple in Portugal, built the castles of Tomar, Monsento, and Idanna.
The Templars had also settlements at Castromarin, Almural, and
Langrovia. Tomar was the residence of the great-prior.

II. Castile and Leon.--In this province the possessions of the order
were so extensive as to form twenty-four bailiwicks in Castile alone. It
is needless to enumerate their names[84].

[Footnote 84: They will be found in Campomanes, p. 80, and Münter, p.

III. Aragon.--In this province, which abounded in castles, several
belonged to the Templars; and the bailiwick of Majorca, where they were
also settled, was under the jurisdiction of the great-prior of Aragon.

It is to be observed that most of the castles possessed by the order in
Spain and Portugal were on the borders of the Moorish territory. Some of
these had been given to the Templars as the inveterate foes of the
infidels; others had been conquered by them from the Moors.

France, where the possessions of the order were so considerable, was
divided into four provinces, namely--

IV. France and Auvergne, including Flanders and the Netherlands.

V. Normandy.

VI. Aquitaine, or Poitou.

VII. Provence.

The residences of the great-priors of these four provinces were, for
France, the capacious and stately Temple at Paris, which was, as we are
informed by Matthew Paris, large and roomy enough to contain an army;
for Normandy, as is supposed, _La ville Dieu en la Montagne_; for
Poitou, the Temple at Poitiers; for Provence, that at Montpellier.

VIII. England.--The province of England included Scotland and Ireland.
Though each of these two last kingdoms had its own great-prior, they
were subordinate to the great-prior of England, who resided at the
Temple of London.

The principal bailiwicks of England were--1. London; 2. Kent; 3.
Warwick; 4. Waesdone; 5. Lincoln; 6. Lindsey; 7. Bolingbroke; 8. Widine;
9. Agerstone; 10. York. In these were seventeen preceptories; and the
number of churches, houses, farms, mills, &c., possessed by the order
was very considerable[85].

[Footnote 85: The possessions of the Templars in England will be found
in the works of Dugdale and Tanner.]

[Illustration: Interior of Round Tower, in Temple Church, London.]

[Illustration: Saxon Doorway, Temple Church, London.]

[Illustration: Details of Saxon Capitals.]

[Illustration: Round Temple Church, Cambridge.]

The chief seat of the order in Scotland appears to have been Blancradox.
Its possessions were not extensive in that poor and turbulent country;
and in Ireland the Templars seem to have been few, and confined to the
Pale. We hear of but three of their houses in that country--namely,
Glaukhorp, in the diocese of Dublin; Wilbride, in that of Ferns; and
Siewerk, in that of Kildare.

IX. Germany.--It is difficult to ascertain how the order was regulated
in Germany, where its possessions were very extensive. We hear of three
great-priors: those of Upper Germany, of Brandenburg, and of Bohemia and
Moravia; one of whom, but it cannot be determined which, had probably
authority over the others. Though the Templars got lands in Germany as
early as the year 1130, their acquisitions were not large in that
country till the thirteenth century. Poland was included in the province
of Germany. Great-prior in Alemania and Slavia was a usual title of the
great-prior of Germany. Though the possessions of the Templars in
Hungary were very considerable, there are no grounds for supposing that
it formed a separate province: it was probably subject to the
great-prior of Germany.

X. Upper and Central Italy.--There was no town of any importance in this
part of the Italian peninsula in which the Templars had not a house. The
principal was that on the Aventine Hill at Rome, in which the
great-prior resided. Its church still remains, and is called _Il
Priorato_, or the Priory.

XI. Apulia and Sicily.--The possessions of the Templars in Sicily were
very considerable. They had houses and lands at Syracuse, Palermo,
Trapani, Butera, Lentini, &c.; all of which were dependent on the
principal house, which was in Messina. The great-prior resided either at
Messina or at Benevento in Apulia. Possibly the seat was removed to this
last place, after the Emperor Frederic II. had seized so much of the
property of the order in Sicily.

In Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, the order had no possessions whatever.
Though the people of these countries took some share in the crusades,
and were, therefore, not deficient in religious zeal, their poor and
little-known lands offered no strong inducements to the avarice or
ambition of the knights of the Temple, and they never sought a
settlement in them.

We thus see that, with the exception of the northern kingdoms, there was
no part of Europe in which the order of the Temple was not established.
Everywhere they had churches, chapels, tithes, farms, villages, mills,
rights of pasturage, of fishing, of venery, and of wood. They had also,
in many places, the right of holding annual fairs, which were managed,
and the tolls received, either by some of the brethren of the nearest
houses or by their _donates_ and servants. The number of their
preceptories is, by the most moderate computation, rated at 9,000; and
the annual income of the order at about six millions sterling--an
enormous sum for those times! Masters of such a revenue, descended from
the noblest houses of Christendom, uniting in their persons the most
esteemed secular and religious characters, regarded as the chosen
champions of Christ, and the flower of Christian knights, it was not
possible for the Templars, in such lax times as the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, to escape falling into the vices of extravagant
luxury and overweening pride. Nor are we to wonder at their becoming
objects of jealousy and aversion to both the clergy and the laity, and
exciting the fears and the cupidity of an avaricious and faithless


     Officers of the Order--The Master--Mode of Election--His
     Rights and Privileges--Restraints on him--The Seneschal--The
     Marshal--The Treasurer--The Draper--The Turcopilar--Great-

An order consisting of so many members, and whose wealth and possessions
were of such extent, must necessarily have had numerous officers and
various ranks and dignities. The elucidation of this branch of their
constitution is now to engage our attention.

At the head of the order stood the Master, or, as he was sometimes
called, the Great-Master[86] of the Temple. This personage was always a
knight, and had generally held one of the higher dignities of the order.
Though, like the Doge of Venice, his power was greatly controlled by the
chapter, he enjoyed very great consideration, and was always regarded as
the representative of the order. In the councils, the Masters of the
Temple and the Hospital took precedence of all ambassadors, and sat next
the prelates. All monarchs conceded princely rank and place to the
Master of the Temple.

[Footnote 86: _Magister_, _Maistre_, is the almost invariable expression
in the historians, the statutes of the order, and most documents.
_Magnus Magister_ was, however, early employed. Terricus, the Master of
the order, thus styles himself when writing to Henry II. of England. The
term Grand-Master is apt to convey erroneous ideas of pomp and
magnificence to the minds of many readers.]

A situation which offered so much state and consideration must, of
necessity, have been an object of ambition; but the scanty records
remaining of the society do not enable us to point out any specific
cases of intrigue employed for the attainment of it. That of the last
Master, hereafter to be mentioned, is somewhat problematic.

The election of a Master of the Temple was as follows:--

When the Master was dead, an event which always occurred in the East, as
he was bound to reside there, if it took place in the kingdom of
Jerusalem, and the marshal of the order was on the spot, he took upon
him the exercise of the vacant dignity till, with the aid of the chapter
and of all the bailiffs on this side of the sea (_i. e._ in the East), he
had appointed a great-prior to represent the Master. But this election
did not take place till after the funeral. Should the death of the
Master have occurred in the province of Tripolis, or that of Antioch,
the prior of the province took the direction of the order till the
great-prior was appointed.

Owing to the constant state of war which prevailed in the East, and to
other causes, a considerable space of time occasionally intervened
between the death of one Master and the appointment of his successor.
During the _interregnum_ the society was directed by the great-prior who
bore the seal of the Master.

When the day appointed for the election was arrived, the great officers
of the order and all the bailiffs who were invited to be present
assembled in the place selected for holding the election--generally the
chapel of the order. The great-prior, taking several of the knights
aside, consulted with them; and they then made two or three or more of
the knights who were most highly-esteemed retire. The great-prior took
the voices of those present on the merits of the absent knights; and he
who had most in his favour was declared the electing-prior. The knights
were then called in, and the choice of the assembly notified to them. A
knight, possessing the same virtues of piety, love of peace, and
impartiality with himself, was then assigned for an assistant to the
electing-prior: and the whole assemblage withdrew, leaving the two alone
in the chapel, where they passed the entire night in prayer.

Early next morning, after performing their usual devotions and hearing
the mass of the Holy Ghost, the chapter re-assembled. The great-prior
then exhorted the two electing brethren to perform their duty truly and
honestly. These, then retiring, chose two other brethren; these four
chose two more, and so on, till the number amounted to twelve, in honour
of the apostles. The twelve then chose a brother-chaplain to represent
the person of Jesus Christ, and maintain peace and concord. It was
necessary that these thirteen should be of different provinces--eight of
them knights, four serving-brethren, and one priest. The thirteen
electors then returned to the chapter, and the electing-prior besought
all present to pray for them, as a great task had been laid on them. All
then fell on their knees and prayed; and the great-prior solemnly
reminded the electors of their duty, and conjured them to perform it
truly and uprightly. Having again implored the prayers of the assembly,
the electing-prior and his companions retired to the place appointed for
their deliberations. If the electors, or the majority of them, declared
for any knight on this or the other side of the sea, he was appointed;
if they were divided into parties, the electing-prior came with one of
the knights, and, informing the assembly of the circumstance, asked
their prayers. All fell on their knees, and the two electors returned
to their companions; if they now agreed, the person whom they chose was
declared Master.

Should the object of their choice be, as was not unfrequently the case,
actually present in the chapter, the thirteen came in; and the
electing-prior speaking in their name, said, "Beloved sirs, give praise
and thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to our dear Lady, and to all
the saints, that we are agreed, and have, according to your command,
chosen, in the name of God, a Master of the Temple. Are ye content with
what we have done?" All then replied, "In the name of God!" "Do ye
promise to yield him obedience as long as he lives?" "Yea, with the help
of God!" The electing-prior then turned to the great-prior, and said,
"Prior, if God and we have chosen thee for the Master, wilt thou promise
to obey the chapter as long as thou live, and to maintain the good
morals and good usages of the order?" and he answered, "Yea, with the
aid of God!" The same question was then put to some of the most
distinguished knights; and if the person elected was present, the
electing-prior went up to him, and said, "In the name of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost, we have chosen you brother, N. N., for Master,
and do choose you!" He then said, "Beloved sirs and brethren, give
thanks unto God: behold our Master." The chaplains then chanted aloud
the _Te Deum laudamus_, the brethren arose, and, with the utmost
reverence and joy, taking the new Master in their arms, carried him into
the chapel, and placed him before the altar, where he continued kneeling
while the brethren prayed, the chaplains repeating _Kyrie Eleïson_,
_Pater noster_, and other devotional forms.

The election of the Master of the Temple required no papal
confirmation: the choice of the chapter was conclusive. Two knights were
assigned to him as his companions.

The allowances and train of the Master were suitable to the rank which
he was to support in the world, and to the dignity of the order which he
represented. He was allowed four horses, and an esquire of noble birth.
He had a chaplain and two secretaries; one for managing his Latin
correspondence, whom he might, after a time, admit to become a knight of
the order; the other, who was called his Saracenic secretary, and who
was probably an eastern Christian, for carrying on his Arabic
correspondence with the Infidels. He had, moreover, a farrier, a cook,
and a Turcopole[87], two footmen, and a Turcoman[88], to serve as guide.
On a march, the Turcoman rode on a horse behind an esquire: during the
time of war he was led by a cord, to prevent his escape. On any ordinary
journey, the Master might take two beasts of burden with him; but in
war-time, or in case of his going beyond the Jordan, or the Dog's
Pass[89], he might extend the number to four, which the statutes
thriftily direct to be put into the stable when he arrives at the house
where he is going to stop, and to be employed in the service of the
house. The Master was finally commander-in-chief of the order in the
field; and then, like the Spartan kings, he could act in some degree
unfettered by the chapter. When he died, he was buried with great
solemnity and pomp, by the light of torches and wax tapers--an honour
bestowed by the order on no other of its members. All the knights were
required to attend the funeral; and the prelates were invited to give
their presence at it. Each brother who was present was to repeat 200
_Pater nosters_ within seven days, for the repose of the soul of the
deceased; and 100 poor persons were fed at home in the evening, with the
same design.

[Footnote 87: The Turcopoles were the offspring of a Turkish father, by
a Christian mother; or also those who had been reared among the Turks,
and had learned their mode of fighting. The Christians employed them as
light cavalry; and the Templars had always a number of them in their

[Footnote 88: The Turcomans were, as their name denotes, born Turks. The
Christians used them as guides on their expeditions.]

[Footnote 89: _Le pas de chien._ Münter (p. 66) declares his ignorance
of where it lay. It was evidently the dangerous pass at the
Nahr-el-Kelb, (_Dog's River_), near the sea, on the way to Antioch.]

On the other hand, the Master was bound to obey the chapter; and he
could do nothing without consulting some of the brethren. He could not
nominate to any of the higher dignities of the order; but he might, with
the advice and consent of some of the most reputable knights, appoint to
the inferior priories and preceptories. He could not sell, or in any
other way dispose of, any of the lands of the order, without the consent
of the chapter; neither could he make peace or truce without their
approbation. Their consent was also required to enable him to make any
alteration in the laws of the society, to receive any person into it, or
to send a brother beyond sea. He could take no money out of the treasury
without the consent of the prior of Jerusalem, who was the treasurer of
the society. In fact, the Master of the Temple was so curbed and
restrained in every way, and his office made so much an honorary one,
that his dignity may best be compared with that of a Spartan king or a
Venetian doge. It is rather curious that the Master of the Temple should
be thus limited in authority, when the abbot of the Benedictines, whose
rules the Templars in a great measure adopted, enjoyed monarchical

Next in rank to the Master stood the seneschal, who, as his name
denotes[90], was the Master's representative and lieutenant. He had a
right to be present at all chapters of the order; and to be acquainted
with all transactions of consequence. He was allowed the same number of
horses as the Master; but, instead of a mule, he was to have a palfrey:
he had two esquires, and was assigned a knight as his companion; a
deacon acted as his chaplain and Latin secretary; he had also a
Saracenic secretary and a Turcopole, with two footmen. Like the Master,
he bore the seal of the order.

[Footnote 90: Seneschal is one _qui alterius vicem gerit_. Charpentier
Supplem. ad Dufresne Gloss. iii. p. 759.]

The marshal was the general of the order; he had charge of the banner,
and led the brethren to battle. All the arms, equipments, and stables of
the order were under his superintendence. It was he who nominated the
sub-marshal and the standard-bearer. Like all the other great officers,
he was appointed by the Master and the chapter. As we have seen, when
the Master died in the kingdom of Jerusalem, the marshal occupied his
place till a great-prior was chosen. The marshal was allowed four
horses, two esquires, a serving-brother, and a Turcopole.

The office of treasurer of the order was always united with the dignity
of preceptor of the kingdom of Jerusalem. This officer had the charge of
all the receipts and expenditure of the order, of which he was bound to
give an account, when required, to the Master and the chapter. The
wardrobe of the order was also under him; and the draper was assigned as
his companion, without whose knowledge he could not dispose of any of
the clothes. As the ships, though few in number, which the Templars
possessed, were under him, he may be regarded as, also, in some sort,
the admiral of the order; and on this account the preceptor of Acre was
subordinate to him. The treasurer had the same allowance of horses, &c.
as the seneschal.

The draper had charge of the clothing of the order: he was to see that
each brother was decently and properly dressed. His allowance was four
horses, two esquires, and a pack-servant.

The Turcopilar was the commander of the light horse. All the armed
serving-brethren and the Turcopoles were under his command. He was
himself subordinate to the marshal. When he was going into action, some
of the knights were sent with him. These were under his orders; but if
their number amounted to ten, and they had with them a banner and a
knight-preceptor, the Turcopilar became subordinate to this officer;
which proves that the office of Turcopilar was not one of the higher
dignitaries of the order. The Turcopilar was allowed four horses.

Besides these offices of the order in the East, there were the
great-priors, great-preceptors, or provincial-masters (for the terms are
synonymous) of the three provinces of Jerusalem, Tripolis, and Antioch;
and the preceptors, who were subordinate to them.

The great-prior of the kingdom of Jerusalem was also treasurer. His
office has been already noticed. The great-priors of Tripolis and
Antioch had the superintendence over the brethren and the possessions of
the order in these provinces. They had the same allowances of attendants
and horses as the seneschal. The prior of Antioch, when on a journey to
Armenia, which bordered on his province, and in which the order had
possessions, was allowed to take with him a chaplain and a portable
chapel, as the Armenians were monophysite heretics, with whom the
orthodox brethren of the Temple could not join in worship.

The prior of the town of Jerusalem had peculiar duties to perform. It
was his office, with ten knights who stood under his command, to escort
the pilgrims on their way to and from the Jordan--one of the principal
objects of the institution of the order. On this occasion he had with
him the banner of the order and a round tent, into which he might take
any persons whom he should find sick when he encamped: he was also to
take with him provisions, and beasts of burden on which to place such of
the pilgrims as might be fatigued on the return.

When the true cross was brought forth on any expedition, it was the duty
of the prior of Jerusalem to keep by it, with his ten knights, night and
day, and to guard it; he was to encamp close to it; and two brethren
were to watch it every night.

All the secular knights who associated themselves to the order in
Jerusalem were under his orders, and fought beneath his banner. All the
brethren of the order who were in Jerusalem were, in the absence of the
marshal, under his command. One half of the booty captured beyond the
Jordan fell to him, the other half to the prior of the kingdom.

As we have seen above, the West was, like the East, divided into
provinces of the order. Each of these provinces was presided over by a
lieutenant of the master, named the provincial-master, great-prior, or
great-preceptor, with his chapter and officers corresponding to those of
the kingdom of Jerusalem. He was appointed, as it would appear, by the
Master and chapter; and when entering on his office, he bound himself by
oath to defend the Catholic religion, not only with his lips, but with
arms and all his strength; to follow the rules drawn up by St. Bernard;
to obey the Master; to come over the sea to his aid whenever it was
necessary; to defend him against all unbelieving kings and princes; not
to fly before these unbelieving foes; not to alienate the goods of the
order; to be loyal to the prince of the country; to be chaste; and to
aid all spiritual persons, especially the Cistercians, by words and by

Under the provincial-masters stood the priors, bailiffs, or masters, who
governed large districts of the provinces, and had under their
inspection several of the houses of the order and their preceptors. They
dwelt in large temple-houses, with a good number of knights; they had
the power of holding chapters, and of receiving members into the order.

The preceptors were subordinate to the priors; they presided over one or
more houses. They were generally knights, but they were sometimes
priests. They were of two kinds--house-preceptors and knight-preceptors;
the former, as their name denotes, merely presided over the houses, and
might be priests or serving-brethren; the latter, who were probably only
to be found in the East or in Spain, led each ten knights in the battle.

Another office to be found among the Templars was that of visitors.
These were knights, who, as the representatives of the Master, visited
the different provinces of the order, especially in the West, to reform
abuses, make new regulations, and terminate such disputes and law-suits
as were usually reserved for the decision of the Master and the chapter.
All the provincial officers, even the great-priors, were subject to the
visitors, as the representatives of the Master. The powers of the
visitors ceased as soon as the business ended for which they were sent,
or when they were recalled.

[Illustration: Preceptory, Swingfield, Dover]

Besides the foregoing offices, which were almost exclusively confined to
the knights, there were some inferior ones appropriated to the
serving-brethren. These offices were five in number--namely, those of
sub-marshal, standard-bearer, farrier, cook, and preceptor of the coast
of Acre. Each of these was allowed two horses.

The sub-marshal had the charge of all the inferior sort of accoutrements
(_le petit harnois_) of the order, in which the horse-furniture seems to
have been included. All the handicraftsmen of the order were under him,
and were obliged to account to him for their work. He supplied them with
the needful tools and materials; could send them where he pleased on the
service of the house; and on holidays give them permission to go from
one house to another to amuse themselves. The sub-marshal and the
standard-bearer were each the representative of the other in his

The standard-bearer had the command over all the esquires of the house;
that is, those who were engaged for a limited time in the service of the
order, whom he was bound to make acquainted with the rules to which they
were subject, and the punishments to which they were liable in case of
disobedience; he was also to pay them their wages. Whenever the esquires
took the horses out to graze, he was bound to precede them with a
standard of the order. He always presided at the table of the
serving-brethren and esquires. When the order was marching to battle, it
was his task to ride before the standard, which was borne after him by
an esquire, or carried on a wain[91]; he was to lead whithersoever the
marshal directed him. When the battle commenced, those esquires who led
the horses of the knights were to combat behind their masters; the
others were to take the mules on which their masters rode, and remain
with the standard-bearer, who was to have a banner rolled about his
lance, which, when he saw the marshal engaged in action, he was to
unfurl, and draw up the esquires in as handsome order as possible behind
the combatants, in order to support them.

[Footnote 91: The _Carroccio_ of the Italian republics.]

The serving-brethren were eligible to the office of house-preceptor; but
there was this distinction made between them and knights who held that
office, that, the serving-brethren being allowed but one horse, their
esquire was a serving-brother. As Acre was the sea-port at which all the
shipments of the order to and from Europe took place, the preceptory
there was necessarily an office which entailed a good deal of toil and
business on the person who held that situation, and required a knowledge
of commerce and of the affairs of the world. It was therefore not
considered suitable to a knight, and was always given to a
serving-brother. The serving-brethren were also set over the
various farms and estates of the order. These were named the
brother-stewards,--in Latin, _grangiarii_ and _preceptores
grangiarum_,--and were probably selected from the craftsmen of the
order. They were allowed two horses and an esquire.


     Chapters--Mode of holding them--Templars' Mode of
     Living--Amusements--Conduct in War.

Such as we have described them were the members, the possessions, and
the various offices of the powerful society of the Temple. In order to
complete our view, it only remains to trace its internal government and
most important regulations. We shall therefore commence with an account
of the chapters, from which all the acts and rules of the society

It is frequently declared in the statutes, that the Master was in the
place of God; and that all his commands were to be obeyed as those of
God. But these expressions, which were borrowed from the rule of the
Benedictines, are, as we have already seen, not to be understood too
literally; for the constitution of the order of the Templars was
aristocratic, and not monarchic; and the Master was anything but
absolute. In every matter he was to be guided by the opinion of the
majority of the chapter.

The general chapter, or high legislative assembly of the order,
consisted of all the great officers, of the great-priors of the
provinces, and the most distinguished of the knights who could attend.
Every brother, even the lowest of the serving-brethren, was at liberty
to be present as a spectator; but only the proper members of the chapter
had the privilege of speaking. The place of holding the chapter was
undetermined, and was left to the choice of the Master. All laws and
regulations were made or confirmed in the general chapter: there
brethren were received--the great officers appointed--visitors chosen to
be sent to the different provinces. It is remarkable, that a papal
legate never seems to have been present at a chapter of the Templars;
though the legates frequently assisted at those of the other orders.
This is, most probably, to be ascribed to the secrecy in which the
Templars were pleased to envelope their councils and proceedings; and as
they rarely held general chapters, a suitable pretext could not well be
wanting for freeing themselves from the presence of the legate when they
desired it. Those who impute to the Templars the holding of a secret
doctrine naturally regard this as the cause of their not admitting to
their chapters those who were not initiated in it.

A general chapter was not often assembled--a circumstance easily to be
accounted for. Though the order was wealthy, it might not be well able
to bear, without inconvenience, the expense of deputies from all the
provinces journeying to the kingdom of Jerusalem, where the chapters
were in general held; and further, it was obviously the interest of the
Master and the great officers to avoid assembling a body which would at
once assume the powers which they were in the habit of exercising.

In the intervals between the meetings of general chapters, the powers of
the order were exercised by the chapter of the Temple at Jerusalem. This
was composed of the Master, the dignitaries of the order, such of the
provincial masters as happened to be present, the two assistants of the
Master, and such knights as he chose to invite to it. This last
provision was the great source of the Master's power; and, when he was a
man of talent and address, he could, by managing to get his friends and
those whom he could depend on into the different offices, and by
summoning to the chapter such knights as were attached or looked up to
him, contrive to carry any matters that he desired. The laws, however,
by way of check upon him, made it imperative that the high officers of
the order should have seats in the chapter; and as these were not
appointed by the Master, and were independent of him, it was supposed
that they would not be his creatures. This chapter could decide on all
matters relating to the order, some important affairs, such as war and
peace, excepted; make laws and regulations, which were binding on the
whole society; and send visitors to the different provinces. All public
documents, such as papal bulls, were addressed to it and the Master; all
decisions in matters of importance came from it; and all the brethren
who were received in the West were sent to it to be distributed where
they might be wanting. The declaration made by a French knight on his
examination, that the receptions in the chapter of Jerusalem were rare,
as the members could be seldom brought to agree respecting a candidate,
gives a hint that it was not in general a scene of the greatest harmony
and unity. It is, indeed, but natural to suppose, that, as it was the
chief seat of the power of the order, it was also the great theatre of
intrigue and cabal.

Each province of the order had its general chapter, and also a smaller
one, presided over by the great-prior, and composed of the principal
officers and such knights of character and estimation as the prior chose
to call to it. In like manner every preceptory and every large house of
the order had its chapter, at which all the brethren were required to
attend. The commander was president, and each question was decided by
the majority of voices. The chief transactions in it consisted in the
reception of new brethren, and the making up of quarrels and disputes,
which must have frequently fallen out among men like the Templars, who
were almost all soldiers. It was holden early on a Sunday morning; and
the strictest secrecy, as to what took place, was enjoined on all
present, for _secrecy was the soul of the order_.

The ordinary chapters were held in the following manner. Each brother,
as he entered, made the sign of the cross, and, unless he was bald, took
off his cap. The president then rose and said, "Stand up, beloved
brethren, and pray to God to send his holy grace among us to-day." Each
member repeated a _pater noster_, and, if there was a chaplain present,
he said a prayer. Search was then made to see that there was no one
present but those who belonged to the order. The president then
delivered a discourse, exhorting the brethren to amendment of life.
During this discourse no one was on any account to leave the room. When
it was ended, any one who had transgressions to acknowledge went up to
the president and made confession. He then retired out of sight and
hearing, and the sentiments of the assembly were taken, which were
afterwards signified to him. The brethren were also to remind each other
of their transgressions, and exhort to confession and penitence. If any
one accused a brother falsely, he was severely punished for it: while
the inquiry was going on the accused was obliged to retire from the
chapter. The discipline was usually administered in presence of the
assembled chapter, with a scourge, or with a girdle. Those who were sick
were not punished till they were recovered.

When these matters were over, the president explained a portion of the
statutes, and exhorted all present to live suitably thereto. He then
said, "Beloved brethren, we may now close our chapter, for, praise be to
God, all is well; and may God and our dear Lady grant that it may so
continue, and goodness be every day increased. Beloved brethren, ye must
know how it is with pardon in our chapter, and who has not part therein;
know, then, that those have no part either in the pardon of our chapter,
or in the other good works of the chapter; who live as they should not;
who depart from the righteousness of the order; who do not acknowledge
their offences and do penance in the mode prescribed by the order; who
treat the alms of the order as their own property, or in any other way
contrary to law, and squander them in an unrighteous, scandalous, and
foolish manner. But those who honestly acknowledge their faults, and
conceal nothing out of shame or fear of the punishment of the order, and
are right sorry for their transgressions, have a large share in the
forgiveness of our chapter, and in the good works which take place in
our order. And to such, in virtue of my authority, I dispense
forgiveness in the name of God and of our dear Lady, in the names of the
apostles Peter and Paul, of our father the pope, and of you all who have
given me authority; and pray to God that, according to his mercy, he
will, for the merits of his mother, and of himself, and all the saints,
forgive you your sins, as he forgave the famous Mary Magdalene." He then
implored the forgiveness of those to whom he might have given any
offence or done any injury; and prayed for peace, for the church, for
the holy kingdom of Jerusalem, for the order and all its houses and
people, for the brethren and sisters of the order, and for its living
and dead benefactors; finally, for all the dead who waited for the mercy
of God, especially those who lay buried in the Temple burial-grounds,
and for the souls of the fathers and mothers of the Templars. The
chaplain, if present, repeated a confession of sin, in which all
followed him, and then pronounced an absolution. If there was no
chaplain present, each brother repeated a _pater_ and an _ave_, and so
the chapter ended.

The statutes of the order are full of the most minute directions
respecting the equipment, clothing, and mode of living of the various
members of the order. They were obliged to attend divine service
punctually each day at all the different hours at which it was
celebrated, and regularly to observe all the fasts of the church; they
were also to have at their houses both public and private devotions.
Their meals were also strictly regulated. They assembled by sound of
bell: if there was a priest in the house he said grace for them, if not,
each brother repeated a _pater_ before he began to eat. During the meal
a clergyman read out something edifying for them, and when it was over
no one was to speak till grace was said. There was no difference made in
the quality of the food; all, both high and low, fared alike, and they
ate two off one plate. They had flesh-meat but three times a week,
unless when festival days occurred. On days when they had no flesh-meat
they had but two dishes. When the order were in the field a server
regulated the supply and distribution of provisions. Before giving out
the provisions he was to direct the serving-brethren to notify it to the
superiors of the order, that they might come and select the best for
themselves; he distributed the remainder without any other distinction
than that of giving the best to the sick. The plate given to every two
of the brethren was so large that what remained when they were done was
sufficient to satisfy two of the poor. Two brethren were allowed as much
food as three Turcopoles, and two of these as much as three of the
servants. The brethren were not allowed to seek for any food elsewhere
than from the server, vegetables, game, and venison excepted. But as by
the rules of the order the chase was prohibited to them, they could not
procure these themselves.

Amusements could not be rigorously prohibited to men who were
semi-secular, and had to mingle so much in the world as the Templars.
They were therefore allowed to tilt, but only with headless lances;
whether only among themselves, or also at public tournaments, is
uncertain[92]. They were permitted to run races with their horses, but
for no higher wager than a headless cross-bow bolt, or some other
trifle. Chess and draughts were prohibited games; nor were they allowed
to play at any other game whatever for a stake. Hawking was absolutely
forbidden to the Templar, probably on account of the high price of
hawks, and of this being the favourite amusement of the secular knights.
The reason assigned by the statutes is:--"Because it is not seemly in
the members of an order to play sinfully, but willingly to hearken to
the commands of God, to pray often, and daily in their prayers before
God to bewail their sins with weeping and tears." A Templar might not
even accompany one who was going out a-hawking. Moreover, as shouting
and bawling were unseemly in a member of an order, he might not go
a-hunting in a wood with bow and crossbow, nor accompany any one thus
engaged, except to protect him against the heathen. In fine, every
species of chase was forbidden to the Templar, except that of the lion
'who goes about seeking whom he may devour, whose hand is against every
one, and every one's hand against him'[93].

[Footnote 92: Sir W. Scott would probably find some difficulty in
justifyin his making his Templar accept the combat _à outrance_ at the
"gentle and free passage of Ashby de la Zouche."]

[Footnote 93: It is not clear whether this is to be understood literally
or metaphorically.]

The battle was the Templar's scene of glory, and consequently every
thing relating to the conduct of the order in war was strictly
regulated. On the march the Templars, as the guardians of the holy
cross, formed the vanguard of the Christian army; in the array they were
in the right wing. The Hospitallers usually formed the rear-guard, and
in the field were posted on the left. The Templars mounted and set
forward at the voice of their marshal, the standard-bearer preceding
them with the standard of the order. They moved in a walk or a small
trot. The march usually took place by night, on account of the heat of
eastern climes, and every precaution was adopted to prevent confusion or
inconvenience. When the standard halted for encampment, the marshal
selected a place for his own tent and the chapel, which was to contain
the true cross; the tents of the server, and of the great-prior of the
province, had also their places marked out. It was then cried out,
"Brethren, pitch your tents in the name of God!" on which each Templar
forthwith raised his tent in his rank. All the tents were around the
chapel, outside of its cords. The herald pitched by the standard. No
brother was allowed, on any account, to go out of hearing of the
war-cry, or to visit the quarters of any others than the Hospitallers,
in case these last should be encamped beside them. The place for
encamping was selected by the prior of the province in which the war
was, who was therefore in some sort quartermaster-general; the marshal
assigned the different quarters, and over each he set a knight-preceptor
to govern and regulate it.

When the battle commenced, the marshal usually took the standard out of
the hands of the sub-marshal and unfurled it in the name of God. He then
nominated from five to ten of the brethren to surround and guard it;
one of these he made a knight-preceptor, who was to keep close by him
with a banner furled on a spear, that, in case of that which the marshal
carried being torn, or having fallen, or met with any other mishap, he
might display it. If the marshal was wounded or surrounded, this knight
was to raise the banner in his stead. No one was to lower a banner, or
thrust with it, on any account, for fear of causing confusion. The
brethren were to fight on all sides, and in every way in which they
could annoy the foe, but still to keep near enough to be able to defend
the banner of the order, if needful. But if a Templar saw a Christian in
imminent danger, he was at liberty to follow the dictates of his
conscience, and hasten to his relief. He was to return to his place as
speedily as possible; but if the Turks had gotten between him and the
banner, he was to join the nearest Christian squadron, giving the
preference to the Hospitallers, if they were at hand. Should the
Christians meet with defeat, the Templar, under penalty of expulsion
from the order, was not to quit the field so long as the banner of the
order flew; and, should there be no red-cross flag to be seen, he was to
join that of the Hospitallers, or any other. Should every Christian
banner have disappeared, he was to retreat as well as he could.

Such were the military principles of the order of the Temple--principles

                          instead of rage,
    Deliberate valour breathed, firm and unmoved
    With dread of death to flight or foul retreat;

and never, unquestionably, was more unflinching valour displayed than by
the Templars. Where all were brave and daring as the fabled heroes of
romance, the Templar was still regarded as prominent, and the Cardinal
of Vitry could thus speak of them in the early part of the thirteenth
century, when they may be regarded as somewhat declined from their
original elevation:--

"They seek to expel the enemies of the cross of Christ from the lands of
the Christians, by fighting manfully, and by moving to battle at the
signal and command of him who is at the head of their forces, _not
impetuously or disorderly, but prudently and with all caution_--the
first in advance, the last in retreat; nor is it permitted to them to
turn their backs in flight, or to retreat without orders. They are
become so formidable to the adversaries of the faith of Christ, that one
chases a thousand, and two ten thousand; not asking, when there is a
call to arms, how many they are, but where they are: lions in war,
gentle lambs at home; rugged warriors on an expedition, like monks and
eremites in the church." The language of the worthy cardinal is no doubt
declamatory and rhetorical, and some deduction must consequently be made
from it; but still enough will remain to prove that the chivalry of the
Temple must still have retained no small portion of the virtues for
which they had been originally renowned.


     Molay elected Master--Last attempt of the Christians in
     Syria--Conduct of the Three Military Orders--Philip the Fair and
     Pope Boniface VIII.--Seizure of the Pope--Election of Clement
     V.--The Papal See removed to France--Causes of Philip's enmity to
     the Templars--Arrival of Molay in France--His interviews with the
     Pope--Charges made against the Templars--Seizure of the
     Knights--Proceedings in England--Nature of the Charges against the

We have, in what precedes, traced the order of the Templars from its
institution to the period when the Latin dominion was overthrown for
ever on the coast of Syria, and have described, at some length, its
internal organisation, and exhibited its power and extent of
possessions. It remains for us to tell how this mighty order was
suddenly annihilated, to examine the charges made against it[94], and,
as we have promised, to establish the falsehood and futility of them--a
task far from ungrateful, though not unattended with pain; for it is of
advantage to strengthen our love of justice and hatred of tyranny and
oppression, by vindicating the memory even of those who perished their
victims centuries agone. It is also of use to furnish one instance more
to the world of the operation of the principle which will be found so
generally to prevail, that, let falsehood and sophistry exert their
utmost to conceal the truth, means will always remain of refuting them,
and of displaying vice, however high seated, in its true colours.

[Footnote 94: The proceedings against the Templars have been published
from the original documents by Mowdenhaler, in Germany; but the work has
been bought up by the freemasons, who fancy themselves descended from
the Templars, so that we have been unable to procure a copy of it.
Wilike has, however, extracted largely from it.]

In the year 1297, when the order had established its head-quarters in
the isle of Cyprus, James de Molay, a native of Besançon, in the Franche
Comté, was elected Master. The character of Molay appears to have been
at all times noble and estimable; but if we are to credit the statement
of a knight named Hugh de Travaux, he attained his dignity by an
artifice not unlike that said to have been employed by Sixtus V. for
arriving at the papacy. The chapter, according to De Travaux, could not
agree, one part being for Molay, the other, and the stronger, for Hugh
de Peyraud. Molay, seeing that he had little chance of success, assured
some of the principal knights that he did not covet the office, and
would himself vote for his competitor. Believing him, they joyfully made
him great-prior. His tone now altered. "The mantle is done, now put the
hood on it. You have made me great-prior, and whether you will or not I
will be great-master also." The astounded knights instantly chose him.

If this account be true, the mode of election at this time must have
differed very considerably from that which we have described above out
of the statutes of the order. This election, moreover, took place in
France, where, in 1297, Molay, we are told, held the fourth son of the
king at the baptismal font.

One feeble attempt, the last military exploit of the Templars, was made
by the Christians to acquire once more a footing on the continent of
Asia during the mastership of Molay. In 1300, the Mongol chief Gazan
came to the aid of the king of Armenia, against the Turks. As it was the
policy of the Tartars, who had not as yet embraced Islam, to stir up
enemies to the Mohammedans, Gazan, after over-running the country as
far as Damascus, sent an embassy to the Pope, Boniface VIII., inviting
the Christians, particularly the three military orders, to come and take
possession of the Holy Land. The Templars, Hospitallers, and Henry, king
of Cyprus, forthwith manned seven galleys and five smaller vessels.
Almeric de Lusignan, Lord of Tyre, and the Masters of the two orders,
landed at Tortosa, and endeavoured to maintain that islet against the
Egyptian sultan, but were forced to yield to numbers. The Templars
fought gallantly to no purpose, and a few of them, who defended a tower
into which they had thrown themselves, surrendered, and were carried
prisoners to Egypt.

The Hospitallers, in the year 1306, renewed their attacks on the isle of
Rhodes, where they finally succeeded in expelling the Turks, and
planting the standard of their order. The Teutonic knights transferred
the sphere of their warfare to Russia, and the adjacent country, whose
inhabitants were still heathens. The Templars meantime remained inactive
in Cyprus, and seem even to have been meditating a retreat to Europe.

France was at this time governed by Philip the Fair, son of St. Louis.
Philip, who had come to the throne at the early age of seventeen years,
had been educated by Giles de Colonna, afterwards archbishop of Bourges,
a man distinguished for his learning and for the boldness of his
opinions. One of his favourite maxims was, "that Jesus Christ had not
given any temporal dominion to his church, and that the king of France
has his authority from God alone." Such principles having been early
instilled into his mind, the young monarch was not likely to be a very
dutiful son of the Church, and the character of Boniface VIII., who,
without possessing the talents or the virtues of a Gregory or an
Innocent, attempted to stretch the papal pretensions to their greatest
extent, soon roused him to resistance. In the plenitude of his fancied
authority, the pope issued a bull, forbidding the clergy to give any
subsidies to lay-powers without permission from Rome. Philip, in return,
issued an order prohibiting the exportation of gold, silver, or
merchandize from France, thereby cutting off a great source of papal
revenue. In the course of the dispute, Boniface maintained that princes
were subject to him in temporals also. Philip's reply was,--"Philip, by
the grace of God, king of the French, to Boniface, acting as supreme
pontiff, little or no health. Let your extreme folly know, that in
temporals we are not subject to any one." Shortly afterwards he publicly
burned a bull of the pope, and proclaimed the deed by sound of trumpet
in Paris. Boniface, raving with indignation, summoned the French clergy
to Rome, to deliberate on the means of preserving the liberties of the
Church. Philip convoked a national assembly to Paris, in which, for the
first time, there appeared deputies of the third estate, who readily
expressed their resolution to stand by their monarch in defence of his
rights, and the clergy willingly denied the temporal jurisdiction of the
pontiff. Several prelates and abbots having obeyed the summons of the
pope, the king seized on their temporalities. The pope menaced with
deprivation all those who had not attended, and, in his famous bull of
_Unam sanctam_, asserted that every human being was subject to the Roman
pontiff. Another bull declared that every person, be his rank what it
might, was bound to appear personally when summoned to Rome. Philip
forbade the publication of these bulls; and the states general being
again convoked appealed to a council against the pope. Commissaries were
sent through France to procure the adhesion of the clergy to this act,
which was given in some cases voluntarily, in others obtained by means
of a little wholesome rigour. The king, his wife, and his son, pledged
themselves to stand by those who adhered to the resistance made by
France to papal usurpation. Boniface next excommunicated the king, who
intercepted the bull, and prevented its publication. The pope finally
offered the crown of France to the emperor Albert of Austria. Matters
were now come to an extremity, and Philip ventured on one of the boldest
acts that have ever been attempted in the Christian world.

Philip had afforded an asylum at his court to some members of the
Colonna family, the personal enemies of the pope. His chancellor and
fast adherent was William de Nogaret, who had been his agent in the
affair of appealing to a general council, by presenting to the states
general a charge of simony, magic, and the usual real or imaginary
crimes of the day against the pontiff. This man, and some of the Italian
exiles, attended by a body of 300 horse, set out for Italy, and took up
his abode at a castle between Florence and Sienna, under pretext of its
being a convenient situation for carrying on negociations with Rome. The
pope was meantime residing at Anagni, his native town. Nogaret having,
by a liberal distribution of money, acquired a sufficient number of
partisans, appeared before the gate of Anagni early on the morning of
the 7th September, 1303. The gate was opened by a traitor, and the
French and their partisans ran through the streets, crying _Live the
king of France, die Boniface_. They entered the palace without
opposition; the French ran here and there in search of plunder, and
Sciarra Colonna and his Italians alone came in presence of the pope.
Boniface, who was now eighty-six years of age, was clad in his
pontifical vestments, and on his knees before the altar, in expectation
of death. At the sight of him the conspirators, whose intention had been
to slay him, stopped short, filled with involuntary awe, and did not
dare to lay a hand upon him. During three days they kept him a
prisoner; on the fourth the people of the town rose and expelled them,
and released the pontiff. Boniface returned to Rome; but rage at the
humiliation which he had undergone deranged his intellect, and in one of
his paroxysms he dashed his head against the wall of his chamber, and
died in consequence of the injury which he received[95].

[Footnote 95: Sismondi Républiques Italiennes, iv. p. 143.]

Benedict XI., the successor of Boniface, absolved Philip, and his
ministers and subjects, from the sentence of excommunication. As he felt
his power, he was proceeding to more vigorous measures to avenge the
insulted dignity of the holy see, when he died of poison, administered,
as a contemporary historian asserts, by the agents of Philip. During ten
months the conclave were unable to agree on his successor among the
Italian cardinals. It was then proposed by the partisans of the king of
France, that one party in the conclave should name three ultramontane
prelates, from among whom the other party should select one. The choice
fell on Bertrand de Gotte, archbishop of Bordeaux, who had many serious
causes of enmity to Philip and his brother Charles of Valois. Philip's
friend, the cardinal of Prato, instantly sent off a courier with the
news, advising the king to acquiesce in the election as soon as he had
secured him to his interest. Philip set out for Gascony, and had a
private interview with the pontiff elect, in an abbey in the midst of a
forest near St. Jean d'Angély. Having sworn mutual secresy, the king
told the prelate that it was in his power to make him pope on condition
of his granting him six favours. He showed him his proofs, and the
ambitious Gascon, falling at his feet, promised everything. The six
favours demanded by Philip were a perfect reconciliation with the
Church; admission to the communion for himself and friends; the tithes
of the clergy of France for five years, to defray the expenses of his
war in Flanders; the persecution and destruction of the memory of Pope
Boniface; the conferring the dignity of cardinal on James and Peter
Colonna. "The sixth favour," said he, "is great and secret, and I
reserve the asking of it for a suitable time and place." The prelate
swore on the host, and gave his brother and two of his nephews as
hostages. The king then sent orders to the cardinal of Prato, to elect
the archbishop of Bordeaux, who took the name of Clement V.

Whether urged by the vanity of shining in the eyes of his countrymen, or
by dread of the tyranny exercised by the cardinals over his
predecessors, or, what seems more probable, in compliance with the
wishes of Philip, or in consequence of impediments thrown by that
monarch in the way of his departure, Clement, to the dismay of all
Christendom, instead of repairing to Rome, summoned the cardinals to
Lyons for his coronation. They reluctantly obeyed, and he was crowned in
that city on the 17th December, 1305, the king, his brother, and his
principal nobles, assisting at the ceremony. Clement forthwith created
twelve new cardinals, all creatures of Philip, whose most devoted slave
the pope showed himself to be on all occasions. His promises to him were
most punctually fulfilled, with the exception of that respecting the
memory of Boniface, which the cardinal of Prato proved to Philip it
would be highly impolitic and dangerous to perform; but Clement
cheerfully authorised him to seize, on the festival of St. Madelaine,
all the Jews in his kingdom, to banish them, and confiscate their
property in the name of religion.

What the sixth and secret grace which Philip required was is unknown.
Many conjectures have been made to little purpose. It is not at all
improbable that the king had at the time no definite object in view,
and that, like the fabled grant of Neptune to Theseus, it was to be
claimed whenever an occasion of sufficient importance should present

Such as we have described them were Philip and the sovereign pontiff;
the one able, daring, rapacious, ambitious, and unprincipled; the other
mean, submissive, and little scrupulous. As it was the object of Philip
to depress the papal power, and make it subservient to his ambition, he
must naturally have desired to deprive it of support. The Templars,
therefore, who had been on all occasions the staunch partizans of the
papacy, must on this account alone have been objects of his aversion;
they had, moreover, loudly exclaimed against his repeated adulteration
of the coin, by which they sustained so much injury; and they were very
urgent in their demands for repayment of the money which they had lent
him on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Isabella with the
son of the king of England. Their wealth was great; their possessions in
France were most extensive; they were connected with the noblest
families in the realm; they were consequently, now that they seemed to
have given up all idea of making any farther efforts in the East, likely
to prove a serious obstacle in the way of the establishment of the
absolute power of the crown. They were finally very generally disliked
on account of their excessive pride and arrogance, and it was to be
expected that in an attack on their power and privileges the popular
favour would be with the king. These motives will, we apprehend,
sufficiently account for Philip's anxiety to give a check to the order,
beyond which, as it would appear, his plans did not at first extend. We
cannot venture to say when this project first entered the mind of king
Philip; whether he had the Hospitallers also in view, and whether he
impelled the pope to invite the Masters of the two orders to France.

As the rivalry and ill-feeling between the two orders had long been
regarded as one of the principal causes of the little success of the
Christians in the East, the idea of uniting them had been conceived, and
Gregory X. and St. Louis had striven, but in vain, at the council at
Lyons, to effect it. Pope Boniface VIII. had also been anxious to bring
this project to bear, and Clement now resolved to attempt it. On the 6th
June, 1306, only six months after his coronation, he wrote to the
Masters of the two orders to the following effect;--The kings of Armenia
and Cyprus were calling on him for aid; he therefore wished to confer
with them, who knew the country well, and were so much interested in it,
as to what were best to be done, and desired that they would come to him
as secretly as possible, and with a very small train, as they would find
plenty of their knights on this side of the sea; he directed them to
provide for the defence of Limisso during their absence.

The Master of the Hospital, William de Villaret, was, when the letter
arrived, engaged in the attack on Rhodes, and, therefore, could not obey
the summons. But De Molay, the Master of the Temple, having confided
Limisso and the direction of the order to the marshal, embarked with
sixty of his most distinguished knights, taking with him the treasure of
the order, consisting of 150,000 florins of gold, and so much silver,
that the whole formed the lading of twelve horses. When they arrived in
France, he proceeded to Paris, where the king received him with the
greatest marks of favour and distinction, and he deposited the treasure
in the Temple of that city. Shortly afterwards he set out for Poitiers,
where he had an interview with Clement, who consulted him on the affairs
of the East. On the subject of a new crusade, Molay gave it as his
opinion that nothing but a simultaneous effort of all the Christian
powers would be of any avail. He objected to the union of the orders on
the following grounds, which were, on the whole, sufficiently frivolous.
He said, 1st. That what is new is not always the best; that the orders,
as they were, had done good service in Palestine, and, in short, used
the good old argument of anti-reformists, _It works well_. 2dly. That as
the orders were spiritual as well as temporal, and many a one had
entered them for the weal of his soul, it might not be a matter of
indifference to such to leave the one which he had selected and enter
another. 3dly. There might be discord, as each order would want its own
wealth and influence, and seek to gain the mastery for its own rules and
discipline. 4thly. The Templars were generous of their goods, while the
Hospitallers were only anxious to accumulate--a difference which might
produce dissension. 5thly. As the Templars received more gifts and
support from the laity than the Hospitallers, they would be the losers,
or at least be envied by their associates. 6thly. There would probably
be some disputing between the superiors about the appointment to the
dignities in the new order. He however candidly acknowledged, that the
new order would be stronger than the old one, and so more zealous to
combat the infidels, and that many commanderies might be suppressed, and
some saving effected thereby. Having thus delivered his sentiments,
Molay took leave of the pope, and returned to Paris. Vague rumours of
serious charges made, or to be made, against the order now beginning to
prevail, Molay, accompanied by Rimbaud de Caron, preceptor of Outre-mer,
Jeffrey de Goneville, preceptor of Aquitaine, and Hugh de Perando,
preceptor of France, repaired once more to Poitiers, about April, 1307,
to justify himself and the order in the eyes of the pope. Clement, we
are told, informed them of the serious charges of the commission of
various crimes which had been made against them; but they gave him such
explanations as appeared to content him, and returned to Paris,
satisfied that they had removed all doubts from his mind.

The following was the way in which the charges were made against the

There was lying in prison, at Paris or Toulouse, for some crime, a man
named Squin de Flexian, a native of Beziers, who had been formerly a
Templar, and prior of Mantfaucon, but had been put out of the order for
heresy and other offences. His companion in captivity was a Florentine,
named Noffo Dei--"a man (says Villani) full of all iniquity." These two
began to plan how they might best extricate themselves from their
present hopeless state; and, as it would appear, aware of the king's
dislike to the Templars, and hating them for having punished him for his
crimes, Squin de Flexian resolved to accuse them of the most monstrous
offences, and thus obtain his liberation. Accordingly, calling for the
governor of the prison, he told him that he had a discovery to make to
the king, which would be more for his advantage than the acquisition of
a new kingdom, but that he would only reveal it to the king in person.
Squin was immediately conveyed to Paris, and brought before the king, to
whom he declared the crimes of the order; and some of the Templars were
seized and examined by order of Philip.

Another account says that Squin Flexian and Noffo Dei, who were both
degraded Templars, had been actively engaged in an insurrection of the
people some time before, from which the king was obliged to take shelter
in the Temple. They had been taken, and were lying in prison without any
hope of their lives, when they hit on the plan of accusing their former
associates. They were both set at liberty; but Squin was afterwards
hanged, and Noffo Dei beheaded, as was said with little probability, by
the Templars.

It is also said, that, about the same time, Cardinal Cantilupo, the
pope's chamberlain, who had been in connexion with the Templars from his
eleventh year, made some discoveries respecting it to his master.

The charges made by Squin Flexian against the order were as follows:--

1. Each Templar, on his admission, was sworn never to quit the order;
and to further its interests, by right or by wrong.

2. The heads of the order are in secret alliance with the Saracens; and
have more Mahommedan infidelity than Christian faith; in proof of which,
they make every novice spit and trample on the cross of Christ, and
blaspheme his faith in various ways.

3. The heads of the order are heretical, cruel, and sacrilegious men.
Whenever any novice, on discovering the iniquity of the order, attempts
to quit it, they put him to death, and bury him privately by night. They
teach the women who are pregnant by them how to procure abortion, and
secretly murder the new-born babes.

4. The Templars are infected with all the errors of the Fraticelli; they
despise the pope and the authority of the Church; they contemn the
sacraments, especially those of penance and confession. They feign
compliance with the rites of the Church merely to escape detection.

5. The superiors are addicted to the most infamous excesses of
debauchery; to which, if any one expresses his repugnance, he is
punished by perpetual captivity.

6. The temple-houses are the receptacles of every crime and abomination
that can be committed.

7. The order labours to put the Holy Land into the hands of the
Saracens; and favours them more than the Christians.

8. The installation of the Master takes place in secret, and few of the
younger brethren are present at it; whence there is a strong suspicion
that he denies the Christian faith or promises, or does something
contrary to right.

9. Many statutes of the order are unlawful, profane, and contrary to the
Christian religion; the members are, therefore, forbidden, under pain of
perpetual confinement, to reveal them to any one.

10. No vice or crime committed for the honour or benefit of the order is
held to be a sin.

Such were the charges brought against the order by the degraded prior of
Montfaucon--charges in general absurd, or founded on gross exaggeration
of some of the rules of the society. Others, still more incredible, were
subsequently brought forward in the course of the examinations of

Philip and his ministers, having now what they regarded as a plausible
case against the Templars, prepared their measures in secret; and on the
12th September, 1307, sealed letters were sent to all the governors and
royal officers throughout France, with orders to arm themselves on the
12th of the following month; and in the night to open the letters and
act according to the instructions contained therein. The appointed day
arrived; and, on the morning of Friday, the 13th October, nearly all the
Templars throughout France saw themselves captives in the hands of their
enemies. So well had Philip taken his measures, that his meditated
victims were without suspicion; and, on the very eve of his arrest,
Molay was chosen by the treacherous monarch to be one of the four
pall-bearers at the funeral of the Princess Catherine, wife of the Count
of Valois.

The directions sent by the king to his officers had been to seize the
persons and the goods of the Templars; to interrogate, torture, and
obtain confessions from them; to promise pardon to those who confessed;
and to menace those who denied.

On the day of the arrest of the Master and his knights, the king took
possession of the Temple at Paris; and the Master and the preceptors of
Aquitaine, France, and beyond sea, were sent prisoners to Corbeil. The
following day the doctors of the University of Paris and several canons
assembled with the royal ministers in the church of Notre Dame, and
William de Nogaret, the chancellor, stated to them that the knights had
been proceeded against on account of their heresies. On the 15th the
University met in the Temple; and some of the heads of the order,
particularly the Master, were examined, and are said to have made some
confessions of the guilt of the order for the last forty years.

The king now published an act of accusation, conceived in no moderate or
gentle terms. He calls the accused in it devouring wolves, a perfidious
and idolatrous society, whose deeds, whose very words alone, are enough
to pollute the earth and infect the air, &c., &c. The inhabitants of
Paris were then assembled in the royal gardens; and the king's agents
spoke, and some monks preached to them against the accused.

Philip, in his hostility to the order, would be content with nothing
short of its utter ruin. Almost immediately after his _coup d'etat_ of
the 13th October, he despatched a priest, named Bernard Peletus, to his
son-in-law, Edward II., king of England, inviting him to follow his
example. Edward wrote, on the 30th of the same month, to say that the
charges made against the Templars by Philip and his agent appeared to
him, his barons, and his prelates, to be incredible; and that he would,
therefore, summon the senechal of Agen, whence this rumour had
proceeded, to inform him thereupon, before proceeding any farther.

Clement had been at first offended at the hasty and arbitrary
proceedings of the king of France against the Templars; but Philip
easily managed to appease him; and on the 22d November the pope wrote to
the king of England, assuring him that the Master of the Temple, had
spontaneously confessed that the brethren, on their admission, denied
Christ; and that several of the brethren in different parts of France
had acknowledged the idolatry and other crimes laid to the charge of the
order; and that a knight of the highest and most honourable character,
whom he had himself examined, had confessed the denial of Jesus Christ
to be a part of the ceremony of admission. He therefore calls on the
king to arrest all the Templars within his realms, and to place their
lands and goods in safe custody, till their guilt or innocence should be

Edward, in a letter, dated November 26, inquired particularly of the
senechal of Agen, in Guienne, respecting the charges against the
Templars. On the 4th December he wrote to the kings of Portugal,
Castile, Aragon, and Sicily, telling them of what he had heard, and
adding that he had given no credit to it; and begging of them not to
hearken to these rumours. On the 10th, evidently before he had received
the bull, he wrote to the pope, stating his disbelief of what he had
heard, and praying of his holiness to institute an inquiry. But when the
papal bull, so strongly asserting the guilt of the order, arrived, the
good-hearted king did not venture to refuse compliance with it; and he
issued a writ on the 15th December, appointing the morn of Wednesday
after Epiphany, in the following month, for seizing the Templars and
their property, but directing them to be treated with all gentleness.
Similar orders were forwarded to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, on the
20th; and on the 26th he wrote to assure the pope that his mandates
would be speedily obeyed. The arrests took place accordingly; and the
Templars and their property were thus seized in the two countries in
which they were most powerful[96].

[Footnote 96: The arrests were made in England in the same secret and
sudden manner as in France. Rymer iii. 34, 43.]

The reluctance of the king of England and his parliament to proceed to
any harsh measures against the Templars affords some presumption in
their favour, and would incline us to believe that, had Philip been
actuated by a similar love of justice, the order would not have been so
cruelly treated in France. But Philip had resolved on the destruction of
the society, and his privy councillors and favourites were not men who
would seek to check him in his career of blood and spoliation. These men
were William Imbert, his confessor, a Dominican monk, one of an order
inured in Languedoc to blood, and deeply versed in all inquisitorial
arts and practices; William Nogaret, his chancellor, the violator of the
sanctity of the head of the church; William Plasian, who had shared in
that daring deed, and afterwards sworn, in an assembly of the peers and
prelates of France, that Boniface was an atheist and a sorcerer, and had
a familiar demon. The whole order of the Dominicans also went heart and
hand in the pious work of detecting and punishing the heretics. We must
constantly bear in mind that the charges made against the Templars, if
they may not all be classed under the term heresy, were all such as the
Church was in the habit of making against those whom she persecuted as
public heretics. And in this, Philip and his advisers acted wisely in
their generation; for treason, or any other political charge, would have
sounded dull and inefficient in the ears of the people, in comparison
with the formidable word _heresy_.

[Illustration: Philip le Bel.]


     Examination of the captive Knights--Different kinds of
     Torture--Causes of Confession--What Confessions were made--Templars
     brought before the Pope--Their Declarations--Papal
     Commission--Molay brought before it--Ponsard de Gisi--Defenders of
     the Order--Act of Accusation--Heads of Defence--Witnesses against
     the Order--Fifty-four Templars committed to the flames at
     Paris--Remarkable words of Aymeric de Villars-le-Duc--Templars
     burnt in other Places--Further Examinations--The Head worshipped by
     the Templars--John de Pollincourt--Peter de la Palu.

The charge of conducting the inquiry against the society was committed
by Philip, without asking or waiting for the Pope's approbation, to
Imbert, who lost no time in proceeding to action. He wrote to all the
inquisitors of his order, directing them to proceed against the
Templars, as he had already done himself; and, in case of ascertaining
the truth of the charges, to communicate it to the Minorite Friars, or
some other order, that the people might take no offence at the
procedure; and to send the declarations as soon as possible to the king
and himself. They were to use no cruelty towards the prisoners; but, if
necessary, they might employ the torture. On the 19th October, six days
after their seizure, Imbert commenced his examinations at the Temple of
Paris. One hundred and forty prisoners were examined; when, by promises
and by the aid of the torture, confessions in abundance were procured.
Thirty-six of the knights expired under the gentle method employed to
extract the truth from them. The zealous Imbert then proceeded to
Bayeux, Metz, Toul, and Verdun; in all which places examinations were
held and confessions extorted in the same way. It was, however,
carefully stated in each deposition, that the witness had spoken without
any constraint.

As our readers fortunately cannot be supposed familiarly acquainted with
the mild and gentle modes employed by the brethren of St. Dominic, for
eliciting the truth, we will present a slight sketch of some of them,
that they may be able to form some idea of the value of rack-extorted

Sometimes the patient was stripped naked, his hands were tied behind his
back, heavy weights were fastened to his feet, and the cord which
confined his hands passed over a pulley. At a given signal he was
hoisted into the air, where he hung suspended by his arms, which were
thus drawn out of their natural position: then suddenly the cord would
be let run, but checked before the patient reached the ground, and thus
a tremendous shock given to his frame. Another mode of torture was to
fasten the feet of the patient on an instrument, which prevented his
drawing them back; they were then rubbed with some unctious substance,
and set before a flaming fire; a board was occasionally placed between
his feet and the fire, and withdrawn again, in order to increase his
pain by intervals of cessation. The heel of the patient was at times
enclosed in an iron heel, which could be tightened at pleasure, and thus
caused excruciating pain. What was regarded as a very gentle mode, and
only indulged to those who had not strength to undergo the preceding
tortures, was to place round sticks between their fingers, and compress
them till the bones of the fingers were cracked. The teeth of the
Templars were occasionally drawn, their feet roasted, weights suspended
from all parts of their bodies; and thus they gave their testimony
without constraint!

What is understood as testimony or confession, by inquisitors, is an
affirmative answer to such questions as they ask. They usually assume
the guilt of the accused; and no witnesses for the defence are heard. It
is useless to prove the absurdity and unreasonableness of the charges;
for that would be impugning the sense and judgment of those who gave ear
to them; and promises are always held out that, if full and free
confession is made, the criminal will be gently dealt with. The accused
is, moreover, always confined in a solitary cell; he has none to console
and cheer him; he feels abandoned by the whole world; conscious
innocence is of no avail; his only hope is in the mercy of his judge.
The Templars, we must recollect, were seized towards the commencement of
winter; and at that season a dungeon of the middle ages must have been
cheerless beyond description. They were barely allowed the necessaries
of life; they were stripped of the habit of the order, and denied the
consolations of religion, for they were treated as heretics; and they
were shown a real or pretended letter of their Master, in which he
confessed the crimes of the order, and exhorted them to do the same.
Enthusiasts in religion or politics are supported by the consciousness
of rectitude, and bear up against privations or torture in firm reliance
on the favour of the Divinity, or the praise and esteem of a grateful
and admiring posterity. But the great majority of the Templars were far
from being such characters; they were illiterate knights, who had long
lived in luxury and indulged in arrogance; they knew themselves to be
objects of dislike to many, and felt that their power was gone. Need we
then be surprised that, beguiled by the hopes held out, numbers of them
readily acknowledged all the charges made against their order? and must
we not so much the more admire the constancy of those who, unseduced by
flattering hopes, and undismayed by menaces and torture, yielded up
their breath rather than confess a falsehood?

At Paris the knights who confessed acknowledged the denial of Christ
(this was the point which the inquisitors were most anxious to
establish), but in an uncertain, contradictory manner, as what was said
on one examination was retracted on another, or was enlarged or
diminished. It was also confessed that an idol was adored in their
chapters. At Nîmes, in November, 1307, forty-five knights confessed the
guilt of the order. They afterwards retracted; but in 1311 the torture
made them revert to their original declaration. At Troyes two knights
confessed everything that was required of them. At Pont de l'Arche seven
confessed. These and six others were again examined at Caen; they
terminated their declarations by imploring the mercy of the Church, and
entreating with tears to be spared the torture. Those examined at
Carcassonne all deposed to the worship of the image; but some of them
afterwards retracted that admission, and died maintaining the innocence
of the order. Six Templars at Bigorre[97] and seven at Cahors confessed;
but several of them afterwards retracted.

[Footnote 97: In the church of the romantic hamlet of Gavarnic, a few
leagues from Barèges, on the road to Spain, in the heart of the Hautes
Pyrénées, are shown twelve skulls, which are said to have been those of
Templars who were beheaded in that place. The tradition is, in all
probability, incorrect; but the Templars had possessions in Bigorre.]

Philip and his creatures were at this stage of their career, when the
pope began to testify some little dissatisfaction at the irregularity of
the proceedings. The king instantly wrote to upbraid him with his
lukewarmness in the cause of religion. He stated that the bishops, who
were his (the king's) helpers in the government of the Church, were the
fittest persons to carry on the business, on account of their local
knowledge; and added that neither he nor they could comply with the
desires of the pope: "he acted," he said, "as the servant of God, and
must render to God his account." Clement could not venture to impede the
pious labours of such a zealous servant of the Lord; he cancelled the
bull which he had prepared on the subject, only requiring that each
bishop's inquisitors should be confirmed by a provincial council, and
that the examination of the heads of the order should be reserved for
himself. Philip then condescended to offer to put the captives into the
hands of the papal judges, and to devote the goods of the order to the
profit of the Holy Land. The clergy declined taking charge of the
knights, and the king and pope managed the property of the order in

In the beginning of the year 1308, we are told[98], the Master of the
Templars, the preceptor of Cyprus, the visiter of France, and the
great-priors of Aquitaine and Normandy, were brought before the pope at
Chinon, where they voluntarily, and without the application of any
torture, confessed the truth of the enormities laid to the charge of the
order. They abjured their errors, and the cardinals implored the king in
their favour.

[Footnote 98: This is mentioned in a private letter from Clement to
Philip, of the 30th December, 1308.]

M. Raynouard[99], we know not on what authority, positively denies that
the Master and his companions were ever brought before the pope. He says
that, in the month of August following, they were on their way to
Poitiers, in order to be examined by the pontiff in person; but that,
under pretext of some of them being sick, they were detained at Chinon,
instead of being brought on to Poitiers, where the pope remained, and
were finally conducted back to Paris without having seen him. He does
not give the date of this occurrence, but it would seem to have been in
the following autumn.

[Footnote 99: Monumens Historiques, &c. p. 46.]

The proceedings against the Templars were so manifestly contrary to the
interest of the pope, that Philip deemed it necessary to keep a strict
eye over him. Having, in May, 1308, convoked an assembly of the states
at Tours, and obtained from them a declaration of his right to punish
notorious heretics without asking the consent of the pope, and in which
he was called upon to act with rigour against the Templars, he proceeded
with it himself to Poitiers, and presented it to Clement. During the
negociations which took place at that time, the pope attempted to make
his escape to Bordeaux, but his baggage and his treasures were stopped
by the king's orders at the gate of the town, and Clement remained in
effect a prisoner.

While the supreme pontiff was thus in his power, Philip, who still
remained at Poitiers, by way of removing all his scruples, had, on the
29th and 30th June, and 1st July, seventy-two of the Templars, who had
confessed, brought before Clement and examined. As was to be expected,
the greater part repeated their former declarations of the impiety,
idolatry, and licentiousness of the order. From these depositions it
appears clearly that the torture had been employed to extract the former

Pierre de Broel said that he had been stripped and put to the torture,
but that he had said neither more nor less on that account. He added
that those who tortured him were all drunk.

Guillaume de Haymes had not been tortured, but he had been kept a month
in solitary confinement on bread and water before he made any

Gerard de St. Martial, who confessed to having denied Christ, and
spitten _beside_ the cross, said that he had been cruelly tortured,
being at first ashamed to acknowledge these facts, although they were

Deodat Jafet had been tortured, but it was the inspiration of God and
the blessed Virgin Mary, and not the rack, which had made him confess.
He acknowledged every crime imputed to the order. Speaking of the idol,
he said, "I was alone in a chamber with the person who received me: he
drew out of a box a head, or idol, which appeared to me to have three
faces, and said, _Thou shouldst adore it as thy Saviour and that of the
order of the Temple_. We then bent our two knees, and I cried, _Blessed
be he who will save my soul_, and I worshipped it." Yet Jafet afterwards
retracted this deposition, and stood forth as one of the defenders of
the order.

Iter de Rochefort, though he said he had confessed, had been tortured
repeatedly, with a view to extracting more from him. He declared that,
having been received in the unlawful way, he had confessed himself to
the patriarch of Jerusalem, who had wept bitterly at hearing of such
wickedness. As Raynouard very justly observes, the patriarch, who could
hardly be a friend to the Templars, was not very likely to content
himself with shedding a few useless tears had the knowledge of such a
heresy come to his ears.

Pierre de Conders had confessed at the sight of the rack.

Raymond de Stéphani had been severely tortured at Carcassonne. Being
asked why he did not then tell the truth, he replied, "Because I did not
recollect it; but I prayed the senechal to allow me to confer with my
companions, and when I had deliberated with them I recollected."

Who can give credit to depositions like these, most of which were
subsequently revoked? Yet it was by these that the pope declared himself
to be perfectly satisfied of the guilt of the order, and justified the
rigorous measures which he authorized against it. Philip, we are to
observe, was all this time at Poitiers: the prisoners were examined
before the cardinals, and only those who had not retracted their former
rack-extorted confessions were produced in the large concourse of
nobles, clergy, and people assembled on this occasion[100].

[Footnote 100: Raynouard, p. 253.]

Clement and Philip now arranged the convocation of an oecumenic
council at Vienne, to pronounce the abolition of the order. The pope
also appointed a commission to take at Paris a juridical information
against it; and, on the 1st August, he authorised the bishops and his
delegates to proceed in their inquiries. On the 12th August by the bull
_Faciens misericordiam_, after asserting the guilt of the order, he
called upon all princes and prelates throughout the Christian world to
assist him in making inquiry into this affair.

The commission appointed by the pope was composed of the archbishop of
Narbonne, the bishops of Bayeux, Mende, and Limoges; Matthew of Naples,
archdeacon of Rouen, notary of the Holy See; John of Mantua, archdeacon
of Trent; John of Montlaur, archdeacon of Maguelone; and William Agelin,
provost of Aix, which last was prevented by business from giving
attendance. They entered on their functions on the 7th August, 1309, and
ordered that the brethren of the Temple should be cited before them on
the first day of business after the festival of St. Martin, in
November. The citations were to be published in presence of the people
and clergy in the cathedrals, churches, and schools, in the principal
houses of the order, and in the prisons in which the knights were
confined. No one appearing, new citations were issued; and at length the
Bishop of Paris was called on by the commission to go himself to the
prison where the Master and the heads of the order were confined, and
notify it to them. Having done so, he caused the same notification to be
made throughout his diocese. The following circumstance, which occurred
at this time, would seem to indicate that impediments were thrown in the
way of those who were disposed to defend the order by the royal
ministers. The commissioners were informed that the governor of the
Chatelet had arrested and imprisoned some persons who were presumed to
have come to defend the order. The governor being summoned before them,
declared that, by order of the ministers, he had arrested seven persons
who were denounced as being Templars in a lay habit, who had come to
Paris with money in order to procure advocates and defenders for the
accused. He acknowledged that he had put them to the torture, but said
that he did not believe them to be Templars.

On Wednesday, Nov. 26, the commission sat, and Molay, the Master of the
Temple, was brought before it. He was asked if he would defend the
order, or speak for himself. He replied by expressing his surprise that
the Church should proceed with such precipitation in this case, when the
sentence relative to the Emperor Frederic had been suspended for
thirty-two years. Though he had neither knowledge nor talent sufficient
to defend the order, he should consider himself vile in his own eyes,
and in those of others, if he hesitated to do so; but being the
prisoner of the king and the pope, and without money, he asked for aid
and counsel.

The commissioners desired him to reflect on his offer, and to consider
the confessions respecting himself and the order which he had made. They
agreed, however, to give him time; and, that he might not be ignorant of
what was alleged against him, had the documents containing their powers
read to him in the vulgar language.

During the reading of the letters which recited his confession made to
the cardinals at Chinon, he crossed himself repeatedly, and gave other
signs of indignation and surprise, and said, that, were it not for the
respect due to the envoys of the pope, he should express himself
differently. They said they were not come there to receive challenges.
He replied that he spoke not of cartels, he only wished they acted in
this case as the Saracens and Tartars did, who cut off the head and cut
the body in two of those who were found to be guilty.

Two circumstances are worthy of note in this examination; one, that
William Plasian was present at it, and, as the commissioners expressly
declared, without being invited by them; the other, that the
confessions, which were imputed to Molay, and which he evidently
intimated to be false, were inserted in the bull _Faciens
misericordiam_, which bears the date of the 12th August, although the
festival of the Assumption, that is the 16th of August, is given as the
day on which they were made[101]. It was there declared that the heads
of the order had confessed and been absolved; yet here we find the
Master treated as a heretic who was still unreconciled.

[Footnote 101: Raynouard, 61. This circumstance was first remarked by
Fleury, _Hist. Eccles._, lib. xci. Yet it seems hardly credible that the
pope and his secretaries could have made so gross a mistake.]

The following day (Nov. 27), Ponsard de Gisi, prior of Payens, appeared
before the commission. On being asked if he would defend the order, he
replied, "Yes; the imputations cast on us of denying Christ, of spitting
on the cross, of authorising infamous crimes, and all such accusations,
are false. If I, myself, or other knights, have made confessions before
the bishop of Paris, or elsewhere, we have betrayed the truth--we have
yielded to fear, to danger, to violence. We were tortured by Flexien de
Beziers, prior of Montfaucon, and the monk William Robert, our enemies.
Several of the prisoners had agreed among themselves to make these
confessions, in order to escape death, and because thirty-six knights
had died at Paris, and a great number in other places, under the
torture. As for me, I am ready to defend the order in my own name, and
in the names of those who will make common cause with me, if I am
assigned out of the goods of the order as much as will defray the
needful expense. I require to be granted the counsel of Raynaud of
Orleans and of Peter of Bologna, priests of the order." He was asked if
he had been tortured. He replied that he had, three months before he
made his confession.

Next day the Master was brought up again. He demanded to be brought
before the pope, appealed to the valour and charity of the Templars, and
their zeal in adorning churches, in proof of their piety, and made an
orthodox confession of his own faith. Nogaret, who was present, then
observed, that it was related in the chronicles of St. Denis that the
Master of the order had done homage to Saladin; and that the sultan had
ascribed their ill fortune to their secret vices and impiety. Molay
declared that he had never heard of such calumnies; and gave an
instance of the prudence and good faith of a former Master, when himself
and some other young men wanted him to break a truce. Molay concluded by
praying the chancellor and the commissioners to procure him the favour
of hearing mass, and being attended by his chaplains.

Orders having been given that all the Templars who were desirous to
undertake the defence of the order should be conveyed to Paris, they
were brought thither strongly guarded. The commission then renewed its
sittings. As the prisoners were successively brought before it, they,
with few exceptions, declared their readiness to defend their
order--_till death_, cried some; _till the end_, cried others; _because
I wish to save my soul_, added one. Bertrand de St. Paul declared that
he never did, and never would, confess the guilt of the order, because
it was not true; and that he believed that God would work a miracle if
the body of Christ was administered to those who confessed and those who
denied. Seven of those who had been examined before the pope, and had
confessed, now declared that they had lied, and revoked what they then
said. John de Valgellé maintained that he had made no confession on that
occasion. "I was tortured so much, and held so long before a burning
fire," said Bernard de Vado, "that the flesh of my heels was burnt, and
these two bones (which he showed) came off."

In the course of these examinations, a Templar, named Laurent de Beaune,
showed a letter with the seals of Philip de Voet and John Jainville, the
persons set by the pope and king over the prisoners, addressed to the
Templars confined at Sens, inviting them to confess what was required,
and declaring that the pope had given orders that those who did not
persevere in their confessions should be committed to the flames.
Philip de Voet, on being interrogated, said that he did not believe that
he had sent that letter; his seal had often lain in the hands of his
secretary; he had always advised the prisoners to speak the truth.
Jainville was not examined, neither was John Carpini, the bearer of the
letter. De Beaune was one of the first afterwards committed to the
flames; the supposition is natural, that the letter was a stratagem of
the king and his ministers.

The Master having been again brought before the commissioners, and
having renewed his demand of being sent to the pope, they promised to
write to the pope on the subject, but there is no proof of their having
done so.

On the 28th March all the Templars who had expressed their willingness
to defend the order were assembled in the garden of the bishop's palace.
Their number was 546. The Master was not among them. The articles of
accusation were then read over to them in Latin; the commissioners
ordered that they should be read again to them in the vulgar tongue, but
the knights all cried out that it was enough, they did not desire that
such abominations, which were false and not to be named, should be
repeated in the vulgar language. Again, they complained of the
deprivation of their religious habits and the sacraments of the church,
and desired that the Master and the heads of the order should be called
thither also. But this reasonable request was not complied with. In vain
the Master demanded to be brought before the pope; in vain the knights
required to be permitted to enjoy the presence of their chief. Neither
the one nor the other suited the interest or the designs of the king.

The number of the Templars in Paris soon amounted to near 900. The
commissioners were desirous that they should appoint agents to manage
their defence; but this they declined to do, some alleging that they
could not do so without the consent of their chief, others insisting on
defending the order in person. At length, after a great deal of argument
and deliberation, seventy-five Templars were chosen to draw up the
defence of the order; and the priests of the order, Raynaud de Pruino
and Peter of Bologna, and the knights, William de Chambonnet and
Bertrand de Sartiges, were appointed to be present at the deposition of
the witnesses.

The act of accusation against the Templars, drawn up in the name of the
pope, ran thus. At the time of their reception they were made to deny
God, Christ, the Virgin, &c.; in particular to declare that Christ was
not the true God, but a false prophet, who had been crucified for his
own crimes, and not for the redemption of the world. They spat and
trampled on the cross, especially on Good Friday. They worshipped a cat
which sometimes appeared in their chapters. Their priests, when
celebrating mass, did not pronounce the words of consecration. They
believed that their Master could absolve them from their sins. They were
told at their reception that they might abandon themselves to all kinds
of licentiousness. They had idols in all their provinces, some with
three faces, some with one. They worshipped these idols in their
chapters, believed that they could save them, regarded them as the
givers of wealth to the order, and of fertility to the earth; they
touched them with cords which they afterwards tied round their own
bodies. Those who at the time of their reception would not comply with
these practices were put to death or imprisoned. All this, it was
stated, took place _according to the statutes of the order_; it was a
general and ancient custom, and there was no other mode of reception.
The act of accusation stated farther that the Templars stopped at no
means of enriching the order[102].

[Footnote 102: All these crimes had been acknowledged by various members
of the order. Yet what can be more improbable than the worship of the
cat for instance? This charge, by the way, had already been made against
the sect of the Cathari, who were said to have derived their name _a
catta:_--rather their name gave origin to the invention.]

The Templars, in their reply, asserted that all these imputations were
false, and that if any of them had confessed them, they had done so
under terror and violence, thirty-six having expired by torture at Paris
and several others elsewhere. The forms of law had been violated with
respect to them; to obtain from them false depositions letters of the
king had been shown them declaring that the order had been condemned
irrevocably, and offering life, liberty, and pensions, to those who
would depose falsely. "All these facts, said they, are so public and so
notorious that there are no means or pretexts for disavowing them." The
heads of accusation were nothing but falsehoods and absurdities, and the
bull contained nothing but horrible, detestable, and iniquitous
falsehoods. Their order was pure, and if their statutes were consulted
they would be found to be the same for all Templars and for all
countries. Their belief was that of the Church; parents brought their
children, brothers each other, uncles their nephews, into the order,
because it was pure and holy. When in captivity to the infidels, the
Templars died sooner than renounce their religion. They declared their
readiness to defend their innocence in every way, and against every
person except the pope and the king, demanded to be brought personally
before the general council, required that those who had quitted the
order and deposed against it should be kept in close custody till their
truth or falsehood should be ascertained, and that no layman should be
present to intimidate the accused when under examination. The knights,
they maintained, had been struck with such terror, that the false
confessions made by some were less matter of surprise than the courage
of those who maintained the truth was of admiration. Inquire, said they,
of those who were present at the last moments of the knights who died in
prison; let their confessions be revealed, and it will be seen if the
accusations are true. Is it not strange, asked they in conclusion, that
more credit should be given to the lies of those who yielded to tortures
or to promises than to the asseverations of those who, in defence of the
truth, have died with the palm of martyrdom--of the sound majority of
those knights who have suffered and still suffer so much for conscience'

On the 11th April, 1310, the hearing of the witnesses against the order
commenced. Only twenty-one were produced, two of whom did not belong to
the order, the others being principally those who had persisted in their
declarations before the pope. As might be expected, all the crimes laid
to the charge of the order in the papal bull were again deposed to by
these men; but the commission had only got as far as the examination of
the thirteenth witness when the impatience of the king manifested itself
in a barbarous and illegal act, which had apparently long been

The Archbishop of Sens, whose suffragan the Bishop of Paris was, had
died about Easter, 1309, and the pope had reserved the nomination to
himself. Philip wrote to him requiring of him to nominate Philip de
Marigny, Bishop of Cambray, brother to Enquerrand, his prime minister,
alleging that his youth was no just impediment, and that his acts would
prove how much he was beyond his age. The pope, though very reluctant,
was obliged to consent, and in April, 1310, Marigny was installed. No
time was now lost in proceeding to operation. On Sunday, May 10, the
four defenders of the order learned that the provincial council of Sens
was convoked at Paris in order to proceed against the knights
individually. They took alarm, and applied to the commission, which,
though it did not sit on Sundays, assembled, and Peter of Bologna
informed them of what he had heard. He begged that they would suffer him
to read an appeal which he had drawn up. This they declined doing, but
said that, if he had any defence of the order to give in, they would
receive it. He forthwith laid down a written paper, stating the danger
which the prisoners were in dread of, appealing to the holy see, and
entreating the commission to stop the proceedings of the archbishop and
his suffragans. The defenders of the order then retired, and the further
consideration of the affair was put off till after vespers, when they
re-appeared and gave in an address to the Archbishop of Sens, containing
an appeal to the pope. The commissioners, however, declined interfering
for the present.

It is to be noticed that the defenders of the order prayed on this
occasion of the commission to nominate one or more of its notaries to
draw up their act of defence, because they could find no notary who
would act for them, owing probably to fear of the royal displeasure, or
to the want of funds by the accused.

On Monday and Tuesday two more of the witnesses were heard. One of them
named Humbert de Puy declared that, having refused to acknowledge the
crimes laid to the charge of the order, he had been tortured three times
and kept for thirty-six weeks on bread and water in the bottom of an
infected tower, by order of John de Jainville.

While thus engaged, the commissioners learned to their dismay that the
council was about to commit to the flames fifty-four of the knights who
had stepped forth as the defenders of the order. They instantly sent one
of their notaries and one of the keepers of the prison of the Templars
to entreat the archbishop to act with caution, as there were strong
reasons for doubting the truth of the charges; and representing that the
witnesses were so terrified at what they had heard of the intentions of
the council, that they were incapable of giving their evidence; that
moreover the Templars had delivered in an appeal to the pope.

The archbishop, who was paying the price of his elevation to a hard
creditor, was not to be stopped by these considerations. He was making
short work of the business. On the Monday he had a number of those who
had undertaken the defence of the order brought before the council, and
he interrogated them once more himself. Those of them who, having
confessed, had afterwards retracted, and now persisted in their
retractation, were declared to be _relapsed heretics_, and were
delivered over to the secular arm and condemned to the flames; those
who, had not confessed, and would not, were sentenced to imprisonment as
_unreconciled_ Templars; those who persisted in their confession of the
enormities laid to the charge of the order were set at liberty, and
called _reconciled_ Templars.

The next morning the fifty-four Templars who had been declared relapsed
were taken from their prison, placed in carts, and conducted to the
place of execution, where they beheld the piles prepared, and the
executioners standing with flaming torches in their hands. An envoy from
the court was present, who proclaimed liberty and the royal favour for
those who would even then retract their declarations and confess the
guilt of the order. The friends and relatives of the unhappy victims
crowded round them, with tears and prayers, imploring of them to make
the required acknowledgment and save their lives. In vain. These gallant
knights, who, yielding to the anguish of torture, and worn down by
solitude and privations, had confessed to the truth of the most absurd
charges, now that they beheld the certain limit of their sufferings,
disdained to purchase by falsehood a prolongation of life to be spent in
infamy and contempt. With one voice they re-asserted their own innocence
and that of their order. They called on God, the Virgin, and all the
saints to aid and support them, raised the hymn of death, and expired
amidst the tears and commiseration of the by-standers.

Felons convicted on the clearest evidence will, as is well known, die
asserting their innocence; but this is when they have no hope of escape
remaining. Here life and liberty were offered, and the victims were
implored by those whom they most loved to accept of them. May we not
then assert that the men who resisted all solicitations were sincere and
spoke the truth, and were supported by their confidence of being
received as martyrs by that God whom they devoutly adored according to
the doctrines of their church?

On Wednesday, Aymeric de Villars-le-Duc, aged about fifty years, was
brought before the commissioners. He was quite pallid, and seemed
terrified beyond measure. On the articles to which he was to depose
being explained to him, he asseverated in the strongest manner his
resolution to speak the truth; then striking his breast with his
clenched hands, he bent his knees, and stretching his hands towards the
altar, spake these memorable words:--

"I persist in maintaining that the errors imputed to the Templars are
absolutely false, though I have confessed some of them myself, overcome
by the tortures which G. de Marcillac and Hugh de Celle, the king's
knights, ordered to be inflicted on me. I have seen the fifty-four
knights led in carts to be committed to the flames because they would
not make the confessions which were required of them. I have heard that
they were burnt; and I doubt if I could, like them, have had the noble
constancy to brave the terrors of the pile. I believe that, if I were
threatened with it, I should depose on oath before the commission, and
before any other persons who should interrogate me, that these same
errors imputed to the order are true. _I would kill God himself if it
was required of me._"

He then earnestly implored the commissioners and the notaries who were
present not to reveal to the king's officers, and to the keepers of the
Templars, the words which had escaped him, lest they should deliver him
also to the flames.

Ought not these simple honest words, the very accents of truth, to
prevail with us against all the confessions procured by torture, or by
promises or threats, and satisfy us as to their value?

The commissioners, whose conduct throughout the whole affair was
regulated by humanity and justice, declared that the evening before one
of the witnesses had come to them and implored of them to keep his
deposition secret, on account of the danger which he ran if it should be
known; and, judging that in their present state of terror it would not
be just to hear the witnesses, they deliberated on proroguing their
session to a future period.

We thus see that even the papal commission could not protect against the
king such of the witnesses as were honest and bold enough to maintain
the innocence of the order. Strict justice was therefore out of the
question, Philip _would_ have the order guilty of the most incredible
crimes, and death awaited the witness who did not depose as he wished.
Meantime his agents were busily engaged in tampering with the prisoners;
and by threats and promises they prevailed on forty-four of them to give
up their design of defending the order.

On the 21st May the commissioners met, in the absence of the Archbishop
of Narbonne and the Archdeacon of Trent, and, declaring their labours
suspended for the present, adjourned to the 3d November.

In the interval the conduct of the council of Sens had been imitated in
other provinces. The Archbishop of Rheims held a council at Senlis, by
whose sentence nine Templars were committed to the flames. Another
council was held at Pont-de-l'Arche by the Archbishop of Rouen, and
several knights were burnt. The Bishop of Carcassonne presided at a
council which delivered many victims to the secular arm. On the 18th
August the Archbishop of Sens held a second council, and burned four
knights. Thibault, Duke of Lorraine, the close friend of King Philip,
put many Templars to death, and seized the property of the order.

On the 3d November three of the papal commissioners met at Paris: they
asked if any one wished to defend the order of the Templars. No one
appearing they adjourned to the 27th December. On resuming their
sittings they called on William de Chambonnet and Bertrand de Sartiges
to give their presence at the hearing of the witnesses. These knights
required the presence of Raynaud de Pruino and Peter of Bologna, but
were informed that these priests had solemnly and voluntarily renounced
the defence of the order, and revoked their retractations; that the
latter had escaped from his prison and fled, and that the former could
not be admitted to defend the order, as he had been degraded at the
council of Sens. The knights reiterated their refusal and retired. The
commissioners then proceeded in their labours without them, and
continued the examination of witnesses till the 26th May, 1311.

The whole number of persons examined before the commission amounted to
231, for the far greater part serving-brethren. Of these about
two-thirds acknowledged the truth of the principal charges against the
order. The denial of Christ and spitting on the cross were very
generally confessed, but many said they had spitten _beside_ it, not
_on_ it, and also that they had denied God with their lips, not with
their hearts.

With respect to the head which the Templars were said to worship, as it
was of some importance to prove this offence, in order to make out the
charge of heresy, it was testified to by a few. Some said it was like
that of a man with a long white beard, others that it was like that of a
woman, and that it was said to be the head of one of the 11,000 virgins.
One witness gave the following account of it, which he said he had had
from a secular knight at Limisso, in Cyprus.

A certain nobleman was passionately in love with a maiden. Being unable,
however, to overcome her repugnance to him, he took her body, when she
was dead, out of her grave, and cut off her head, and while thus engaged
he heard a voice crying--_Keep it safe, whatever looks on it will be
destroyed_. He did as desired, and made the first trial of it on the
Grissons, an Arab tribe, which dwelt in Cyprus and the neighbouring
country, and whenever he uncovered the head and turned it towards any of
their towns, its walls instantly fell down. He next embarked with the
head for Constantinople, being resolved to destroy that city also. On
the way his nurse, out of curiosity, opened the box which contained the
head. Instantly there came on a terrific storm, the ship went to pieces,
and nearly all who were on board perished. The very fish vanished from
that part of the sea.

Another of the witnesses had heard the same story. The common tradition
of the East, he said, was, that in old times, before the two spiritual
orders of knighthood were founded, a head used to rise in a certain
whirlpool named Setalia, the appearance of which was very dangerous for
the ships which happened to be near it. We are to suppose, though it
does not appear that the witnesses said so, that the Templars had
contrived to get possession of this formidable head.

We are to observe that the witnesses who thus deposed had been picked
and culled in all parts of France, by the king's officers, out of those
who had confessed before the different prelates and provincial councils,
and who were, by threats and promises, engaged to persist in what they
had said. The terror they were under was visible in their countenances,
their words, and their actions. Many of them began by saying that they
would not vary from what they had deposed before such a bishop or such a
council; yet even among these some were bold enough to revoke their
confessions, declaring that they had been drawn from them by torture,
and asserted the innocence of the order. Others retracted their
confessions when brought before the commissioners, but shortly
afterwards, having probably in the interval been well menaced or
tortured by the king's officers, returned and retracted their

The case of John de Pollencourt, the thirty-seventh witness, is a
remarkable instance. He began in the usual way, by declaring that he
would persist in his confession made before the Bishop of Amiens,
touching the denial of Christ, &c. The commissioners, observing his
paleness and agitation, told him to tell the truth and save his soul,
and not to persist in his confession if it had not been sincere,
assuring him that neither they nor their notaries would reveal any thing
that he said. After a pause he replied:--

"I declare then, on peril of my soul, and on the oath which I have
taken, that, at the time of my reception, I neither denied God nor spat
upon the cross, nor committed any of the indecencies of which we are
accused, and was not required so to do. It is true that I have made
confessions before the inquisitors; but it was through the fear of
death, and because Giles de Rotangi had, with tears, said to me, and
many others who were with me in prison at Montreuil, that we should pay
for it with our lives, if we did not assist by our confessions to
destroy the order. I yielded, and afterwards I wished to confess myself
to the Bishop of Amiens; he referred me to a Minorite friar; I accused
myself of this falsehood, and obtained absolution, on condition that I
would make no more false depositions in this affair. I tell you the
truth; I persist in attesting it before you; come what may of it, I
prefer my soul to my body."

Nothing can bear more plainly the character of truth than this
declaration; yet three days afterwards the witness came back, revoked it
all, spoke of the cat which used to appear in the chapters, and said
that, if the order had not been abolished, he would have quitted it. Had
he not been well menaced and tortured in the _interim_?

The examination of Peter de la Palu, a bachelor in theology of the order
of the preachers, the 201st witness, brought from him these remarkable
words: "I have been present at the examination of several Templars, some
of whom confessed many of the things contained in the said articles, and
some others totally denied them; and for many reasons it appeared to me
that greater credit was to be given to those who denied than to those
who confessed."


     Examinations in England--Germany--Spain--Italy--Naples and
     Provence--Sicily--Cyprus--Meeting of the Council of
     Vienne--Suppression of the order--Fate of its Members--Death of

The time fixed for the meeting of the council at Vienne was now at hand,
in which the fate of the order was to be decided. Before we proceed to
narrate its acts we will briefly state the result of the examinations of
the Templars in other countries.

The pope sent, as his judges, to England, Dieu-donné, abbot of Lagny,
and Sicard de Vaux, canon of Narbonne; and the examinations commenced at
York, London, Lincoln, and other places, on the 25th November, 1309. The
inquiry continued till the council held in London in 1311; the number of
Templars examined was two hundred and twenty-eight; that of the
witnesses against the order was seventy-two, almost all Carmelites,
Minorites, Dominicans, and Augustinians, the natural foes of the order.
The Templars were treated with great mildness; and in England, Ireland,
and Scotland, they were unanimous and constant in their assertion of the
innocence of the order. The evidence against the order was almost all
hearsay: its nature will be shown by the following specimens.

John de Goderal, a Minorite, had _heard_ that Robert de Raxat, a
Templar, had once gone about a meadow crying "Wo, wo is me! that ever I
was born. I have been forced to deny God, and give myself up to the

A Templar had said to William de Berney, in the presence of several
respectable people, at the funeral of the parish-priest of Duxworth,
near Cambridge, that a man has no more a soul, after death, than a dog.

John De Eure, a secular knight, said that he once invited the prior
William de Fenne to dine with him. After dinner the prior took from his
bosom a book, and gave it to the knight's lady to read. She found on a
paper which was fastened into the book the following words, "Christ was
not the Son of God, nor born of a virgin, but conceived by Mary, the
wife of Joseph, in the same way as all other men. Christ was not a true
but a false prophet, and was crucified for his own crimes and not for
the redemption of mankind, &c." The lady showed this paper to her
husband, who spoke to the prior, who only laughed at it; but, being
brought before a court of justice, he confessed the truth, excusing
himself on the grounds of his being illiterate and ignorant of what the
book contained.

Robert of Oteringham, a Minorite, said, "One evening my prior did not
appear at table, as relics were come from Palestine which he wished to
show the brethren. About midnight I heard a confused noise in the
chapel; I got up, and, looking through the keyhole, saw that it was
lighted. In the morning I asked a brother who was the saint in whose
honour they had celebrated the festival during the night? He turned pale
with terror, thinking I had seen something, and said 'Ask me not; and if
you value your life say nothing of it before the superiors.'"

Another witness said that the son of a Templar had peeped through the
slits of the door into the chapter-room, and seen a new member put to
death for hesitating to deny Christ. Long afterwards, being asked by
his father to become a Templar, he refused, telling what he had seen:
his father instantly slew him.

John of Gertia, a Minorite, was told by a woman named Agnes Lovecote,
who said she had it from Exvalethus, prior in London, that when in one
of the chapters a brother had refused to spit on the cross, they
suspended him in a well and covered it up. This witness also deposed to
some other enormities which he said he had heard of from the same woman,
herself speaking from hearsay.

In June, 1310, the pope wrote to King Edward, blaming his lenity and
calling on him to employ the torture in order to elicit the truth. The
council of London, after a long discussion, ordered it to be employed,
but so as not to mutilate the limbs or cause an incurable wound or
violent effusion of blood. The knights persisted in asserting their

In Germany the different prelates examined the Templars in their
respective dioceses. Nothing was elicited. At Mentz the order was
pronounced innocent. The Wildgraf Frederic, preceptor on the Rhine,
offered to undergo the ordeal of glowing iron. He had known the Master
intimately in the East, and believed him to be as good a Christian as
any man.

The Templars in the Spanish peninsula were examined, and witnesses heard
for and against them in Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Portugal, and nothing
was proved against them. The council of Tarragona in Aragon, after
applying the torture, pronounced the order free from the stain of
heresy. At the council of Medina del Campo in Leon, one witness said
that he had heard that, when some Minorites visited the preceptor at
Villalpando, they found him reading a little book, which he instantly
locked up in three boxes, saying, "This book might fall into hands
where it may be very dangerous to the order."

The influence of the pope may be supposed to have been stronger in Italy
than in the countries above mentioned, and accordingly we find that
declarations similar to those made in France were given there. Yet it
was at Florence that the adoration of the idols, the cat, &c., was most
fully acknowledged. In the patrimony of St. Peter some confessions to
the same effect were made; but at Bologna, Cesena, and Ancona, nothing
transpired. Nine Templars maintained the innocence of the order before
the council of Ravenna. It was debated whether the torture should be
employed. Two Dominican inquisitors were for it, the remainder of the
council declared against it. It was decreed that the innocent should be
absolved, the guilty punished according to law. _Those who had revoked
the confessions made under torture, or through fear of it, were to be
regarded as innocent_--a very different rule from that acted on by King

Charles II. of Anjou, the relation of King Philip, and the enemy of the
Templars, who were on the side of Frederick, king of Sicily, had the
Templars seized and examined in Provence and Naples. Those examined in
Provence were all serving-brethren, and some of them testified to the
impiety and idolatry of the order. Two Templars were examined at
Brindisi, in the kingdom of Naples, in June, 1310; one had denied the
cross in Cyprus, he said, six years after he had entered the order; the
other had trampled on the cross at the time of his reception. He, as
well as others, had bowed down and worshipped a grey cat in the

In Sicily six Templars, the only ones who were arrested, deposed against
the order. One of them said he had been received in the unlawful way in
Catalonia, where, as we have just seen, the innocence of the order was
fully recognized. His evidence was full of absurdity. He said the cat
had not appeared for a long time in the chapters but that the ancient
statutes of Damietta said that it used to appear and be worshipped.

In Cyprus 110 witnesses were examined; 75 belonged to the order and
maintained its innocence; the testimony of the remainder was also in
favour of it.

We thus find that, in every place beyond the sphere of the influence of
the king of France and his creature the pope, the innocence of the order
was maintained and acknowledged; and undoubtedly the same would have
been the case in France if the proceedings against it had been regulated
by justice and the love of truth.

The time appointed for the meeting of the general council was now
arrived. On the 1st October, 1311, the pope came to Vienne, which is a
short distance from the city of Lyons, and found there 114 bishops,
besides several other prelates, already assembled. On the 13th, the
anniversary of the arrest of the Templars four years before, the council
commenced its sittings in the cathedral. The pope, in his opening
speech, stated the grounds of its having been convoked, namely, the
process against the Templars, the support of the Holy Land, the
reformation of the Church. The bishops of Soissons, Mende, Leon, and
Aquila, who had been appointed to draw up a report of the result of the
different examinations respecting the order, read it before the
assembled fathers, who then once more invited any Templars who wished to
defend the order to appear.

Though the order was now broken up and persecuted, and numbers of its
ablest members dead or languishing in dungeons with their superiors,
yet nine knights had the courage to come forward in defence of their
order, and present themselves before the council as the representatives
of from 1500 to 2000 Templars, who were still dwelling or rather lurking
in Lyons and its vicinity. The pope was not present when they appeared,
but his letter of the 11th November shows how he acted when he heard
that defenders of the order had presented themselves. Clement had these
brave knights arrested and thrown into prison, and, in real or affected
terror at the number of Templars at large, he took additional
precautions for the security of his person, and counselled the king to
do the same.

To the honour of the assembled fathers, they refused to sanction this
flagrant act of injustice. The prelates of Spain, Germany, Denmark,
England, Ireland, and Scotland, without exception; the Italians, all but
one; the French, with the exception of the archbishops of Rheims, Sens,
and Rouen, declared, but in vain, for admitting the Templars and hearing
their defence. Instead of complying with this demand of justice and
humanity, Clement suddenly put an end to the session. The winter passed
away in arguments and negociations.

Philip, whose practice it was always to look after his affairs himself,
deeming his presence necessary at Vienne, set out for that place, where
he arrived early in February, accompanied by his three sons, his
brother, and several nobles and men-at-arms. The effect of his presence
was soon perceptible; the pope assembled the cardinals and several other
prelates in a secret consistory, and abolished the order, by his sole
authority, on the 22d March, 1313.

The second session of the council was opened on the 3d April, with great
solemnity; the king of France, his sons, and his brother, gave their
presence at it, and the royal guards appeared for honour, for
protection, or for intimidation. The pope read his bull of abolition.
All present listened in silence. No one ventured to raise his voice in
the cause of justice. The wealthy and powerful order of the knights of
the Temple was suppressed. On the 2d May the bull was published, and the
order as such ceased to exist.

The order being suppressed, persecution became needless, and it
consequently ceased in a great measure. The king and the pope converted
to their own use the moveable property of the order in France. Its other
possessions were, sorely against the will of the king, assigned to the
order of the Hospitallers, who were, however, obliged to pay such large
fines to the king and pope as completely impoverished them. This
extended to all countries, except the Spanish peninsula and Majorca. The
property of the Templars in Aragon was given to the order of Our Lady of
Montesa, which was founded in 1317. Its destination was to combat the
Moors; its habit was similar to that of the Templars; and it might,
therefore, be almost called the same order. Diniz, the able and
enlightened king of Portugal, did not suppress the order, whose
innocence his prelates had recognised. To yield a show of obedience to
the papal will, he made it change its name, and the great-prior of the
Templars in Portugal became the master of the Order of Christ, which has
continued to the present times.

With respect to the remaining Templars, who were in prison, it was
ordered in council that those who should be found guiltless should be
set at liberty, and maintained out of the property of the order; that
the guilty, if they confessed and lamented their offences, should be
treated with mildness; if they did not, dealt with according to the
ecclesiastical law, and kept in custody in the former temple-houses and
in the convents. Those who had escaped were, if they did not appear
within a year before the council or their diocesan, to be

Most of the knights were immediately set at liberty; but the property of
the order was all gone, and no means of support remained for them: they
were, therefore, reduced to the greatest distress, and many of them
obliged to submit to the most menial employment in order to gain a
livelihood. A great number were received into the order of St. John, on
the same footing as they had stood on in their own order--a strong proof
that the guilt of the order of the Templars was not, by any means,
regarded as proved. Gradually, as the members died off, or merged into
other orders, the name of the Templars fell into oblivion, or was only
recollected with pity for their unmerited fate.

While the noble order over which he had presided was thus suppressed,
its members scattered, its property bestowed on others, the Master,
James de Molay, with his three companions, the great-prior of Normandy,
Hugh de Peyraud, visiter of France, and Guy, brother to the Dauphin of
Auvergne, still languished in prison. Molay had there but one attendant,
his cook; the allowance made to him was barely sufficient to procure him
common necessaries, and life had now lost all its value in his eyes. The
pope at length determined to inform the captives of the fate destined
for them.

A papal commission, composed of the bishop of Alba and two other
cardinals, proceeded to Paris, not to hear the prisoners, but, taking
their guilt for proved, to pronounce their sentence. To give all
publicity to this act, probably in accordance with the desire of the
king, a stage was erected in front of the church of Notre Dame, on which
the three commissioners, with the archbishop of Sens and several other
prelates, took their places, on the 18th March, 1314. An immense
concourse of people stood around. The four noble prisoners were
conducted from their dungeons, and led up on the stage. The cardinal of
Alba read out their former confessions, and pronounced the sentence of
perpetual imprisonment. He was then proceeding to expose the guilt of
the order, when the Master interrupted him, and thus spoke, taking all
the spectators to witness:--

"It is just that, in so terrible a day, and in the last moments of my
life, I should discover all the iniquity of falsehood, and make the
truth to triumph. I declare, then, in the face of heaven and earth, and
acknowledge, though to my eternal shame, that I have committed the
greatest of crimes; but it has been the acknowledging of those which
have been so foully charged on the order. I attest, and truth obliges me
to attest, that it is innocent. I made the contrary declaration only to
suspend the excessive pains of torture, and to mollify those who made me
endure them. I know the punishments which have been inflicted on all the
knights who had the courage to revoke a similar confession; but the
dreadful spectacle which is presented to me is not able to make me
confirm one lie by another. The life offered me on such infamous terms I
abandon without regret."

Molay was followed by Guy in his assertion of the innocence of the
order; the other two remained silent. The commissioners were confounded,
and stopped. The intelligence was conveyed to the king, who, instantly
calling his council together, without any spiritual person being
present, condemned the two knights to the flames.

A pile was erected on that point of the islet in the Seine where
afterwards was erected the statue of Henry IV., and the following day
Molay and his companion were brought forth and placed upon it. They
still persisted in their assertion of the innocence of the order. The
flames were first applied to their feet, then to their more vital parts.
The fetid smell of their burning flesh infected the surrounding air, and
added to their torments; yet still they persevered in their
declarations. At length death terminated their misery. The spectators
shed tears at the view of their constancy, and during the night their
ashes were gathered up to be preserved as relics.

[Illustration: Portrait of last Grand Master.]

It is mentioned as a tradition, by some historians, that Molay, ere he
expired, summoned Clement to appear within forty days before the Supreme
Judge, and Philip to the same tribunal within the space of a year. The
pontiff actually _did_ die of a cholic on the night of the 19th of the
following month, and, the church in which his body was laid taking fire,
the corpse was half consumed. The king, before the year had elapsed,
died of a fall from his horse. Most probably it was these events which
gave rise to the tradition, which testifies the general belief of the
innocence of the Templars. It was also remarked that all the active
persecutors of the order perished by premature or violent deaths.

It remains to discuss the two following points:--Did the
religio-military order of the Knights Templars hold a secret doctrine
subversive of religion and morality? Has the order been continued down
to our own days?

We have seen what the evidence against the Templars was, and it is very
plain that such evidence would not be admitted in any modern court of
justice. It was either hearsay, or given by persons utterly unworthy of
credit, or wrung from the accused by agony and torture. The articles
themselves are absurd and contradictory. Are we to believe that the same
men had adopted the pure deism of the Mahommedans, and were guilty of a
species of idolatry[103] almost too gross for the lowest superstition?
But when did this corruption commence among the Templars? Were those
whom St. Bernard praised as models of Christian zeal and piety, and whom
the whole Christian world admired and revered, engaged in a secret
conspiracy against religion and government? Yes, boldly replies Hammer,
the two humble and pious knights who founded the order were the pupils
and secret allies of the Mahommedan Ismaelites. This was going too far
for Wilike, and he thinks that the guilt of introducing the secret
doctrine lies on the chaplains; for he could discern that the doctrines
of gnosticism, which the Templars are supposed to have held, were beyond
the comprehension of illiterate knights, who, though they could fight
and pray, were but ill qualified to enter into the mazes of mystic
metaphysics. According, therefore, to one party, the whole order was
corrupt from top to bottom; according to another, the secrets were
confined to a few, and, contrary to all analogy, the heads of the order
were frequently in ignorance of them. Neither offer any thing like
evidence in support of their assumption.

[Footnote 103: Almost every charge brought against the Templars had been
previously made against the Albigenses, with how much truth every one is

The real guilt of the Templars was their wealth and their pride[104]:
the last alienated the people from them, the former excited the cupidity
of the king of France. Far be it from us to maintain that the morals of
the Templars were purer than those of the other religious orders. With
such ample means as they possessed of indulging all their appetites and
passions, it would be contrary to all experience to suppose that they
always restrained them, and we will even concede that some of their
members were obnoxious to charges of deism, impiety, breaches of their
religious vows, and gross licentiousness. We only deny that such were
the rules of the order. Had they not been so devoted as they were to the
Holy See they would perhaps have come down to us as unsullied as the
knights of St. John[105]; but they sided with Pope Boniface against
Philip the Fair, and a subservient pontiff sacrificed to his own avarice
and personal ambition the most devoted adherents of the court of

[Footnote 104: Our readers will call to mind the well-known anecdote of
King Richard I. When admonished by the zealous Fulk, of Neuilly, to get
rid of his three favourite daughters, pride, avarice, and
voluptuousness,--"You counsel well," said the king, "and I hereby
dispose of the first to the Templars, of the second to the Benedictines,
and of the third to my prelates."]

[Footnote 105: Similar charges are said to have been brought against the
Hospitallers in the year 1238, but without effect. There was no Philip
the Fair at that time in France.]

[Footnote 106: Clement, in a bull dated but four days after that of the
suppression, acknowledged that the whole of the evidence against the
order amounted only to suspicion!]

We make little doubt that any one who coolly and candidly considers the
preceding account of the manner in which the order was suppressed will
readily concede that the guilt of its members was anything but proved.
It behoves their modern impugners to furnish some stronger proofs than
any they have as yet brought forward. The chief adversary of the
Templars at the present day is a writer whose veracity and love of
justice are beyond suspicion, and who has earned for himself enduring
fame by his labours in the field of oriental literature, but in whose
mind, as his most partial friends must allow, learning and imagination
are apt to overbalance judgment and philosophy[107]. He has been replied
to by Raynouard, Münter, and other able advocates of the knights.

[Footnote 107: We mean the illustrious Jos. von Hammer, whose essay on
the subject is to be found in the sixth volume of the Mines de l'Orient,
where it will be seen that he regards Sir W. Scott, in his Ivanhoe, as a
competent witness against the Templars, on account of his _correct and
faithful_ pictures of the manners and opinions of the middle ages. We
apprehend that people are beginning now to entertain somewhat different
ideas on the subject of our great romancer's fidelity, of which the
present pages present some instances.]

We now come to the question of the continuance of the order to the
present day. That it has in some sort been transmitted to our times is a
matter of no doubt; for, as we have just seen, the king of Portugal
formed the Order of Christ out of the Templars in his dominions. But our
readers are no doubt aware that the freemasons assert a connexion with
the Templars, and that there is a society calling themselves Templars,
whose chief seat is at Paris, and whose branches extend into England and
other countries. The account which they give of themselves is as

James de Molay, in the year 1314, in anticipation of his speedy
martyrdom, appointed Johannes Marcus Lormenius to be his successor in
his dignity. This appointment was made by a regular well-authenticated
charter, bearing the signatures of the various chiefs of the order, and
it is still preserved at Paris, together with the statutes, archives,
banners, &c., of the soldiery of the Temple. There has been an unbroken
succession of grand-masters down to the present times, among whom are to
be found some of the most illustrious names in France. Bertrand du
Guesclin was grand-master for a number of years; the dignity was
sustained by several of the Montmorencies; and during the last century
the heads of the society were princes of the different branches of the
house of Bourbon. Bernard Raymond Fabré Palaprat is its head at present,
at least was so a few years ago[108].

[Footnote 108: See Manuel des Templiers. As this book is only sold to
members of the society, we have been unable to obtain a copy of it. Our
account has been derived from Mills's History of Chivalry. That this
writer should have believed it implicitly is, we apprehend, no proof of
its truth.]

This is no doubt a very plausible circumstantial account; but, on
applying the Ithuriel spear of criticism to it, various ugly shapes
resembling falsehood start up. Thus Molay, we are told, appointed his
successor in 1314. He was put to death on the 18th March of that year,
and the order had been abolished nearly a year before. Why then did he
delay so long, and why was he become so apprehensive of martyrdom at
that time, especially when, as is well known, there was then no
intention of putting him to death? Again, where were the chiefs of the
society at that time? How many of them were living? and how could they
manage to assemble in the dungeon of Molay and execute a formal
instrument! Moreover, was it not repugnant to the rules and customs of
the Templars for a Master to appoint his successor? These are a few of
the objections which we think may be justly made; and, on the whole, we
feel strongly disposed to reject the whole story.

As to the freemasons, we incline to think that it was the accidental
circumstance of the name of the Templars which has led them to claim a
descent from that order; and it is possible that, if the same fate had
fallen on the knights of St. John, the claim had never been set up. We
are very far from denying that at the time of the suppression of the
order of the Temple there was a secret doctrine in existence, and that
the overthrow of the papal power, with its idolatry, superstition, and
impiety, was the object aimed at by those who held it, and that
freemasonry may possibly be that doctrine under another name[109]. But
we are perfectly convinced that no proof of any weight has been given of
the Templars' participation in that doctrine, and that all probability
is on the other side. We regard them, in fine, whatever their sins may
have been, as martyrs--martyrs to the cupidity, blood-thirstiness, and
ambition of the king of France.

[Footnote 109: This has, we think, been fully proved by Sr. Rossetti. It
must not be concealed that this writer strongly asserts that the
Templars were a branch of this society.]



[Footnote 110: Dr. Berck has, in his elaborate work on this subject
(_Geschichte der Westphälischen Femgerichte_, Bremen, 1815), collected,
we believe, nearly all the information that is now attainable. This work
has been our principal guide; for, though we have read some others, we
cannot say that we have derived any important information from them. As
the subject is in its historical form entirely new in English
literature, we have, at the hazard of appearing occasionally dry, traced
with some minuteness the construction and mode of procedure of these
celebrated courts.]


     Introduction--The Original Westphalia--Conquest of the Saxons by
     Charlemagne--His Regulations--Dukes of Saxony--State of
     Germany--Henry the Lion--His Outlawry--Consequences of it--Origin
     of German Towns--Origin of the Fehm-gerichte, or Secret
     Tribunals--Theories of their Origin--Origin of their
     Name--Synonymous Terms.

We are now arrived at an association remarkable in itself, but which has
been, by the magic arts of romancers, especially of the great archimage
of the north, enveloped in darkness, mystery, and awe, far beyond the
degree in which such a poetical investiture can be bestowed upon it by
the calm inquirer after truth. The gloom of midnight will rise to the
mind of many a reader at the name of the Secret Tribunals of
Westphalia: a dimly lighted cavern beneath the walls of some castle, or
peradventure Swiss _hostelrie_, wherein sit black-robed judges in solemn
silence, will be present to his imagination, and he is prepared with
breathless anxiety to peruse the details of deeds without a name[111].

[Footnote 111: The romantic accounts of the Secret Tribunals will be
found in Sir W. Scott's translation of Goëthe's Götz von Berlichingen,
and in his House of Aspen and Anne of Geierstein. From various passages
in Sir W. Scott's biographical and other essays, it is plain that he
believed such to be the true character of the Secret Tribunals.]

We fear that we cannot promise the full gratification of these
high-wrought expectations. Extraordinary as the Secret Tribunals really
were, we can only view them as an instance of that compensating
principle which may be discerned in the moral as well as in the natural
empire of the Deity; for, during the most turbulent and lawless period
of the history of Germany, almost the sole check on crime, in a large
portion of that country, was the salutary terror of these Fehm-Gerichte,
or Secret Tribunals. And those readers who have taken their notions of
them only from works of fiction will learn with surprise that no courts
of justice at the time exceeded, or perhaps we might say equalled, them
in the equity of their proceedings.

Unfortunately their history is involved in much obscurity, and we
cannot, as in the case of the two preceding societies, clearly trace
this association from its first formation to the time when it became
evanescent and faded from the view. While it flourished, the dread and
the fear of it weighed too heavily on the minds of men to allow them to
venture to pry into its mysteries. Certain and instantaneous death was
the portion of the stranger who was seen at any place where a tribunal
was sitting, or who dared so much as to look into the books which
contained the laws and ordinances of the society. Death was also the
portion of any member of the society who revealed its secrets; and so
strongly did this terror, or a principle of honour, operate, that, as
Æneas Sylvius (afterwards Pope Pius II.), the secretary of the Emperor
Frederick III., assures us, though the number of the members usually
exceeded 100,000, no motive had ever induced a single one to be
faithless to his trust. Still, however, sufficient materials are to be
found for satisfying all reasonable curiosity on the subject.

To ascertain the exact and legal sphere of the operation of this
formidable jurisdiction, and to point out its most probable origin, are
necessary preliminaries to an account of its constitution and its
proceedings. We shall therefore commence with the consideration of these

Westphalia, then, was the birth-place of this institution, and over
Westphalia alone did it exercise authority. But the Westphalia of the
middle ages did not exactly correspond with that of the later times. In
a general sense it comprehended the country between the Rhine and the
Weser; its southern boundary was the mountains of Hesse; its northern,
the district of Friesland, which at that time extended from Holland to
Sleswig. In the records and law-books of the middle ages, this land
bears the mystic appellation of the _red earth_, a name derived, as one
writer thinks, from the _gules_, or red, which was the colour of the
field in the ducal shield of Saxony; another regards it as synonymous
with the _bloody earth_; and a third hints that it may owe its origin to
the _red_ colour of the soil in some districts of Westphalia.

This land formed a large portion of the country of the Saxons, who,
after a gallant resistance of thirty years, were forced to submit to
the sway of Charlemagne, and to embrace the religion of their conqueror.
The Saxons had hitherto lived in a state of rude independence, and their
dukes and princes possessed little or no civil power, being merely the
presidents in their assemblies and their leaders in war. Charlemagne
thought it advisable to abolish this dignity altogether, and he extended
to the country of the Saxons the French system of counts and counties.
Each count was merely a royal officer who exercised in the district over
which he was placed the civil and military authority. The _missi
dominici_ or _regii_ were despatched from the court to hold their
visitations in Saxony, as well as in the other dominions of Charles, and
at these persons of all classes might appear and prefer their complaints
to the representative of the king, if they thought themselves aggrieved
by the count or any of the inferior officers.

In the reign of Louis the German, the excellent institutions of
Charlemagne had begun to fall into desuetude; anarchy and violence had
greatly increased. The incursions of the Northmen had become most
formidable, and the Vends[112] also gave great disturbance to Germany.
The Saxon land being the part most immediately exposed to invasion, the
emperor resolved to revive the ancient dignity of dukes, and to place
the district under one head, who might direct the energies of the whole
people against the invaders. The duke was a royal lieutenant, like the
counts, only differing from them in the extent of the district over
which he exercised authority. The first duke of Saxony was Count Ludolf,
the founder of Gandersheim; on his death the dignity was conferred on
his son Bruno, who, being slain in the bloody battle of Ebsdorf fought
against the Northmen, was succeeded by his younger brother Otto, the
father of Henry the Fowler.

[Footnote 112: The Vends (_Wenden_) were a portion of the Slavonian race
who dwelt along the south coast of the Baltic.]

On the failure of the German branch of the Carlovingians, the different
nations which composed the Germanic body appointed Conrad the Franconian
to be their supreme head; for a new enemy, the Magyars, or Hungarians,
now harassed the empire, and energy was demanded from its chief. Of this
Conrad himself was so convinced, that, when dying, after a short reign,
he recommended to the choice of the electors, not his own brother, but
Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, who had, in his conflicts with the
Vends and the Northmen, given the strongest proofs of his talents and
valour. Henry was chosen, and the measures adopted by him during his
reign, and the defeat of the Hungarians, justified the act of his

On the death of Henry, his son Otto, afterwards justly styled the Great,
was unanimously chosen to succeed him in the imperial dignity. Otto
conferred the Duchy of Saxony on Herman Billung. From their constant
warfare with the Vends and the Northmen, the Saxons were now esteemed
the most valiant nation in Germany, and they were naturally the most
favoured by the emperors of the house of Saxony. This line ending with
Henry II. in 1024, the sceptre passed to that of Franconia, under which
and the succeeding line of Suabia, owing to the contests with the popes
about investitures and to various other causes, the imperial power
greatly declined in Germany; anarchy and feuds prevailed to an alarming
extent; the castles of the nobles became dens of robbers; and law and
justice were nowhere to be found.

The most remarkable event of this disastrous period, and one closely
connected with our subject, is the outlawry of Henry the Lion, Duke of
Saxony and Bavaria. Magnus, the last of the Billungs of Saxony, died,
leaving only two daughters, of whom the eldest was married to Henry the
Black, Duke of Bavaria, who consequently had, according to the maxims of
that age, a right to the Duchy of Saxony; but the Emperor Henry V.
refused to admit his claim, and conferred it on Lothaire of Supplinburg.
As, however, Henry the Black's son, Henry the Proud, was married to the
only daughter of Lothaire, and this prince succeeded Henry V. in the
empire, Henry found no difficulty in obtaining the Duchy of Saxony from
his father-in-law, who also endeavoured to have him chosen his successor
in the imperial dignity. But the other princes were jealous of him, and
on the death of Lothaire they hastily elected Conrad of Suabia, who,
under the pretext that no duke should possess two duchies, called on
Henry to resign either Saxony or Bavaria. On his refusal, Conrad, in
conjunction with the princes of the empire, pronounced them both
forfeited, and conferred Bavaria on the Margraf of Austria, and Saxony
on Albert the Bear, the son of the second daughter of Duke Magnus of

Saxony was, however, afterwards restored by Conrad to Henry the Lion,
son of Henry the Proud, and Conrad's successor, Frederick Barbarossa,
gave him again Bavaria. Henry had himself carried his arms from the Elbe
to the Baltic, and conquered a considerable territory from the Vends,
which he regarded as his own peculiar principality. He was now master of
the greater part of Germany, and it was quite evident that he must
either obtain the imperial dignity or fall. His pride and his severity
made him many enemies; but as he had no child but a daughter, who was
married to a cousin of the emperor, his power was regarded without much
apprehension. It was, however, the ambition of Henry to be the father of
a race of heroes, and, after the fashion of those times, he divorced his
wife and espoused Matilda, daughter of Henry II. of England, by whom he
had four sons. Owing to this and other circumstances all friendly
feeling ceased between Henry and the emperor, whom, however, he
accompanied on the expedition to Italy, which terminated in the battle
of Legnano. But he suddenly drew off his forces and quitted the imperial
army on the way, and Frederick, imputing the ill success which he met
with in a great measure to the conduct of the Duke of Saxony, was, on
his return to Germany, in a mood to lend a ready ear to any charges
against him. These did not fail soon to pour in: the Saxon clergy, over
whom he had arrogated a right of investiture, appeared as his principal
accusers. Their charges, which were partly true, partly false, were
listened to by Frederick and the princes of the empire, and the downfall
of Henry was resolved upon. He was thrice summoned, but in vain, to
appear and answer the charges made against him. He was summoned a fourth
time, but to as little purpose; the sentence of outlawry was then
formally pronounced at Würtzburg. He denied the legality of the
sentence, and attempted to oppose its execution; several counts stood by
him in his resistance; but he was forced to submit and sue for grace at
Erfurt. The emperor pardoned him and permitted him to retain his
allodial property on condition of his leaving Germany for three years.
He was deprived of all his imperial fiefs, which were immediately
bestowed upon others.

In the division of the spoil of Henry the Lion Saxony was cut up into
pieces; a large portion of it went to the Archbishop of Cologne; and
Bernhard of Anhalt, son of Albert the Bear, obtained a considerable
part of the remainder; the supremacy over Holstein, Mecklenburg, and
Pomerania, ceased; and Lübeck became a free imperial city. All the
archbishops, bishops, counts, and barons, seized as much as they could,
and became immediate vassals of the empire. Neither Bernhard nor the
Archbishop of Cologne was able completely to establish his power over
the portion assigned him, and lawless violence everywhere prevailed.
"There was no king in Israel, and every one did that which was right in
his own eyes," is the language of the Chronicler[113].

[Footnote 113: Arnold of Lübeck, Chronica Slavorum, l. iii. c. 1., apud
Leibnitz Scriptores Rerum Brunsvicarum, t. ii. p. 653.]

We here again meet an instance of the compensatory principle which
prevails in the arrangements of Providence. It was the period of
turbulence and anarchy succeeding the outlawry of Henry the Lion which
gave an impulse to the building or enlarging of towns in the north of
Germany. The free Germans, as described by Tacitus, scorned to be pent
up within walls and ditches; and their descendants in Saxony would seem
to have inherited their sentiments, for there were no towns in that
country till the time of Henry the Fowler. As a security against the
Northmen, the Slavs, and the Magyars, this monarch caused pieces of land
to be enclosed by earthen walls and ditches, within which was collected
a third part of the produce of the surrounding country, and in which he
made every ninth man of the population fix his residence. The courts of
justice were held in these places to give them consequence; and, their
strength augmenting with their population, they became towns capable of
resisting the attacks of the enemy, and of giving shelter and defence to
the people of the open country. Other towns, such as Münster, Osnabrück
(_Osnaburgh_), Paderborn, and Minden, grew up gradually, from the desire
of the people to dwell close to abbeys, churches, and episcopal
residences, whence they might obtain succour in time of temporal or
spiritual need, and derive protection from the reverence shown to the
church. A third class of towns owed their origin to the stormy period of
which we now write; for the people of the open country, the victims of
oppression and tyranny, fled to where they might, in return for their
obedience, meet with some degree of protection, and erected their houses
at the foot of the castle of some powerful nobleman. These towns
gradually increased in power, with the favour of the emperors, who, like
other monarchs, viewing in them allies against the excessive power of
the church and the nobility, gladly bestowed on them extensive
privileges; and from these originated the celebrated Hanseatic League,
to which almost every town of any importance in Westphalia belonged,
either mediately or immediately.

But the growth of cities, and the prosperity and the better system of
social regulation which they presented, were not the only beneficial
effects which resulted from the overthrow of the power of Henry the
Lion. There is every reason to conclude that it was at this period that
the Fehm-gerichte, or Secret Tribunals, were instituted in Westphalia;
at least, the earliest document in which there is any clear and express
mention of them is dated in the year 1267. This is an instrument by
which Engelbert, Count of the Mark, frees one Gervin of Kinkenrode from
the feudal obligations for his inheritance of Broke, which was in the
county of Mark; and it is declared to have been executed at a place
named Berle, the court being presided over by Bernhard of Henedorp, and
the _Fehmenotes_ being present. By the Fehmenotes were at all times
understood the initiated in the secrets of the Westphalian tribunals; so
that we have here a clear and decisive proof of the existence of these
tribunals at that time. In another document, dated 1280, the Fehmenotes
again appear as witnesses, and after this time the mention of them
becomes frequent.

We thus find that, in little more than half a century after the outlawry
of Henry the Lion, the Fehm-gerichte were in operation in Westphalia;
and there is not the slightest allusion to them before that date, or any
proof, at all convincing, to be produced in favour of their having been
an earlier institution. Are we not, therefore, justified in adopting the
opinion of those who place their origin in the first half of the
thirteenth century, and ascribe it to the anarchy and confusion
consequent on the removal of the power which had hitherto kept within
bounds the excesses of the nobles and the people? And is it a conjecture
altogether devoid of probability that some courageous and upright men
may have formed a secret determination to apply a violent remedy to the
intolerable evils which afflicted the country, and to have adopted those
expedients for preserving the public peace, out of which gradually grew
the Secret Tribunals? or that some powerful prince of the country,
acting from purely selfish motives, devised the plan of the society, and
appointed his judges to make the first essay of it[114]?

[Footnote 114: Berck, pp. 259, 260.]

Still it must be confessed that the origin of the Fehm-gerichte is
involved in the same degree of obscurity which hangs over that of the
Hanseatic league and so many other institutions of the middle ages; and
little hopes can be entertained of this obscurity ever being totally
dispelled. Conjecture will, therefore, ever have free scope of the
subject; and the opinion which we have just expressed ourselves as
inclined to adopt is only one of nine which have been already advanced
on it. Four of these carry back the origin of the Fehm-gerichte to the
time of Charlemagne, making them to have been either directly instituted
by that great prince, or to have gradually grown out of some of his
other institutions for the better governing of his states. A fifth
places their origin in the latter half of the eleventh century, and
regards them as an invention of the Westphalian clergy for forwarding
the views of the popes in their attempt to arrive at dominion over all
temporal princes. A sixth ascribes the institution to St. Engelbert,
Archbishop of Cologne, to whom the Emperor Frederic II. committed the
administration of affairs in Germany during his own absence in Sicily,
and who was distinguished for his zeal in the persecution of heretics.
He modelled it, the advocates of this opinion say, on that of the
Inquisition, which had lately been established. The seventh and eighth
theories are undeserving of notice. On the others we shall make a few

The first writers who mention the Fehm-gerichte are Henry of Hervorden,
a Dominican, who wrote against them in the reign of the Emperor Charles
IV., about the middle of the fourteenth century; and Æneas Sylvius, the
secretary of Frederic III., a century later. These writers are among
those who refer the origin of the Fehm-gerichte to Charlemagne, and such
was evidently the current opinion of the time--an opinion studiously
disseminated by the members of the society, who sought to give it
consequence in the eyes of the emperor and people, by associating it
with the memory of the illustrious monarch of the West. There is,
however, neither external testimony nor internal probability to support
that opinion. Eginhart, the secretary and biographer of Charlemagne, and
all the other contemporary writers, are silent on the subject; the
valuable fragments of the ancient Saxon laws collected in the twelfth
century make not the slightest allusion to these courts; and, in fine,
their spirit and mode of procedure are utterly at variance with the
Carlovingian institutions. As to the hypothesis which makes Archbishop
Engelbert the author of the Fehm-gerichte, it is entirely unsupported by
external evidence, and has nothing in its favour but the coincidence, in
point of time, of Engelbert's administration with the first account
which we have of this jurisdiction, and the similarity which it bore in
the secrecy of its proceedings to that of the Holy Inquisition--a
resemblance easy to be accounted for, without any necessity for having
recourse to the supposition of the one being borrowed from the other.

We can therefore only say with certainty that, in the middle of the
thirteenth century, the Fehm-gerichte were existing and in operation in
the country which we have described as the Westphalia of the middle
ages. To this we may add that this jurisdiction extended over the whole
of that country, and was originally confined to it, all the courts in
other parts of Germany, which bore a resemblance to the Westphalian
Fehm-gerichte, being of a different character and nature[115].

[Footnote 115: See Berck, l. i. c. 5, 6, 7.]

It remains, before proceeding to a description of these tribunals, to
give some account of the origin of their name. And here again we find
ourselves involved in as much difficulty and uncertainty as when
inquiring into the origin of the society itself.

Almost every word in the German and cognate languages, which bears the
slightest resemblance to the word _Fehm_[116], has been given by some
writer or other as its true etymon. It is unnecessary, in the present
sketch of the history of the Fehm-gerichte, to discuss the merits of
each of the claimants: we shall content ourselves with remarking that,
among those which appear to have most probability in their favour, is
the Latin _Fama_, which was first proposed by Leibnitz. At the time when
we have most reason for supposing these tribunals to have been
instituted the Germans were familiar with the language of the civil and
canonical laws; the Fehm-gerichte departed from the original maxim of
German law, which was--_no accuser, no judge_, and, in imitation of
those foreign laws[117], proceeded on _common fame_, and without any
formal accusation against persons suspected of crime or of evil courses.
Moreover, various tribunals, not in Westphalia, which proceeded in the
same manner, on common report, were also called Fehm-gerichte, which may
therefore be interpreted Fame-tribunals, or such as did not, according
to the old German rule, require a formal accusation, but proceeded to
the investigation of the truth of any charge which common fame or
general report made against any person--a dangerous mode of proceeding,
no doubt, and one liable to the greatest abuse, but which the lawless
state of Germany at that period, and the consequent impunity which great
criminals would else have enjoyed, from the fear of them, which would
have kept back accusers and witnesses, perhaps abundantly justified. It
is proper to observe, however, that _fem_ appears to be an old German
word, signifying condemnation; and it is far from being unlikely, after
all, that the Fehm-gerichte may mean merely the tribunals of
condemnation--in other words, courts for the punishment of crime, or
what we should call criminal courts.

[Footnote 116: Spelt also _Fem_, _Fäm_, _Vem_, _Vehm_. In German _f_ and
_v_ are pronounced alike, as also are _ä_ and _e_. The words from which
_Fahm_ has been derived are _Fahne_, a standard; _Femen_, to skin;
_Fehde_, feud; _Vemi_ (i. e. væ mihi), wo is me; _Ve_ or _Vaem_, which
Dreyer says signifies, in the northern languages, _holy_; _Vitte_ (old
German), prudence; _Vette_, punishment; the _Fimmiha_ of the Salic law;
Swedish _Fem_, Islandic _Fimm_, five, such being erroneously supposed to
be the number of judges in a Fehm, or court. Finally, Mözer deduces it
from _Fahm_, which he says is employed in Austria and some other
countries for _Rahm_, cream.]

[Footnote 117: Common fame was a sufficient ground of arraignment in
England, also, in the Anglo-Saxon period.]

The Fehm-gerichte was not the only name which these tribunals bore; they
were also called _Fehm-ding_, the word _ding_[118] being, in the middle
ages, equivalent to _gericht_, or tribunal. They were also called the
Westphalian tribunals, as they could only be holden in the _Red Land_,
or Westphalia, and only Westphalians were amenable to their
jurisdiction. They were further styled free-seats (_Frei-stühle_,
_stühl_ also being the same as _gericht_), free-tribunals, &c., as only
freemen were subject to them. A Frei-gericht, however, was not a
convertible term with a Westphalian Fehm-gericht; the former was the
genus, the latter the species. They are in the records also named
Secret Tribunals, (_Heimliche Gerichte_), and Silent Tribunals
(_Stillgerichte_), from the secrecy of their proceedings; Forbidden
Tribunals (_Verbotene Gerichte_), the reason of which name is not very
clear; Carolinian Tribunals, as having been, as was believed, instituted
by Charles the Great; also the Free Bann, which last word was equivalent
to _jurisdiction_. A Fehm-gericht was also termed a _Heimliche Acht_,
and a _Heimliche beschlossene Acht_ (secret and secret-closed tribunal);
_acht_ also being the same as _gericht_, or tribunal.

[Footnote 118: In the northern languages, _Ting_; hence the _Store Ting_
(in our journals usually written _Storthing_), i. e. _Great Ting_, or
Parliament of Norway.]


     The Tribunal-Lord--The Count--The Schöppen--The Messengers--The
     Public Court--The Secret Tribunal--Extent of its
     Jurisdiction--Places of holding the Courts--Time of holding
     them--Proceedings in them--Process where the criminal was caught in
     the fact--Inquisitorial Process.

Having traced the origin of the Fehm-gerichte and their various
appellations, as far as the existing documents and other evidences
admit, we are now to describe the constitution and procedure of these
celebrated tribunals, and to ascertain who were the persons that
composed them; whence their authority was derived; and over what classes
of persons their jurisdiction extended.

Even in the periods of greatest anarchy in Germany, the emperor was
regarded as the fountain of all judicial power and authority, more
particularly where it extended to the right of inflicting capital
punishment. The Fehm-gerichte, therefore, regarded the emperor as their
head, from whom they derived all the power which they possessed, and
acknowledged his right to control and modify their constitution and
decisions. These rights of the emperors we shall, in the sequel,
describe at length.

Between the emperor and the Westphalian tribunal-lords (_Stuhlherren_),
as they were styled, that is, lay and ecclesiastical territorial lords,
there was no intermediate authority until the fourteenth century, when
the Archbishop of Cologne was made the imperial lieutenant in
Westphalia. Each tribunal-lord had his peculiar district, within which
he had the power of erecting-tribunals, and beyond which his authority
did not extend. He either presided in person in his court, or he
appointed a count (_Freigraf_) to supply his place. The rights of a
stuhlherr[119] had some resemblance to those of the owner of an advowson
in this country. He had merely the power of nominating either himself or
another person as count; the right to inflict capital punishment was to
be conferred by the emperor or his deputy. To this end, when a
tribunal-lord presented a count for investiture, he was obliged to
certify on oath that the person so presented was truly and honestly,
both by father and mother, born on Westphalian soil; that he stood in no
ill repute; that he knew of no open crime he had committed; and that he
believed him to be perfectly well qualified to preside over the county.

[Footnote 119: _Stuhlherr_ is _tribunal-lord_, or, literally, _lord of
the seat_ (of judgment); _stuhl_ (_Anglice_, stool) being a seat, or

The count, on being appointed, was to swear that he would judge truly
and justly, according to the law and the regulations of the emperor
Charles and the _closed tribunal_; that he would be obedient to the
emperor or king, and his lieutenant; and that he would repair, at least
once in each year, to the general chapter which was to be held on the
Westphalian land, and give an account of his conduct, &c.

The income of the free-count arose from fees and a share in fines; he
had also a fixed allowance in money or in kind from the stuhlherr. Each
free-schöppe who was admitted made him a present, _to repair_, as the
laws express it, _his countly hat_. If the person admitted was a knight,
this fee was a mark of gold; if not, a mark of silver. Every one of the
initiated who cleared himself by oath from any charge paid the count a
cross-penny. He had a share of all the fines imposed in his court, and a
fee on citations, &c.

There was in general but one count to each tribunal; but instances occur
of there being as many as seven or eight. The count presided in the
court, and the citations of the accused proceeded from him.

Next to the count were the assessors or (_Schöppen_)[120]. These formed
the main body and strength of the society. They were nominated by the
count with the approbation of the tribunal-lord. Two persons, who were
already in the society, were obliged to vouch on oath for the fitness of
the candidate to be admitted. It was necessary that he should be a
German by birth; born in wedlock of free parents; of the Christian
religion; neither ex-communicate nor outlawed; not involved in any
Fehm-gericht process; a member of no spiritual order, &c.

[Footnote 120: This word, which cannot be adequately translated, is the
low-Latin _Scabini_, the French _Echevins_. We shall take the liberty of
using it throughout. The schöppen were called frei-(_free_) schöppen, as
the count was called _frei-graf_, the court _frei-stuhl_, on account of
the jurisdiction of the tribunals being confined to freemen.]

These schöppen were divided into two classes, the knightly, and the
simple, respectable assessors; for, as the maxim that every man should
be judged by his peers prevailed universally during the middle ages, it
was necessary to conform to it also in the Fehm-tribunals.

Previous to their admission to a knowledge of the secrets of the
society, the schöppen were named Ignorant; when they had been initiated
they were called Knowing (_Wissende_) or Fehmenotes. It was only these
last who were admitted to the secret-tribunal. The initiation of a
schöppe was attended with a good deal of ceremony. He appeared
bare-headed before the assembled tribunal, and was there questioned
respecting his qualifications. Then, kneeling down, with the thumb and
forefinger of his right hand on a naked sword and a halter, he
pronounced the following oath after the count:--

"I promise, on the holy marriage, that I will, from henceforth, aid,
keep, and conceal the holy Fehms, from wife and child, from father and
mother, from sister and brother, from fire and wind, from all that the
sun shines on and the rain covers, from all that is between sky and
ground, especially from the man who knows the law, and will bring before
this free tribunal, under which I sit, all that belongs to the secret
jurisdiction of the emperor, whether I know it to be true myself, or
have heard it from trustworthy people, whatever requires correction or
punishment, whatever is Fehm-free (_i. e._ a crime committed in the
county), that it may be judged, or, with the consent of the accuser, be
put off in grace; and will not cease so to do, for love or for fear, for
gold or for silver, or for precious stones; and will strengthen this
tribunal and jurisdiction with all my five senses and power; and that I
do not take on me this office for any other cause than for the sake of
right and justice; moreover, that I will ever further and honour this
free tribunal more than any other free tribunals; and what I thus
promise will I stedfastly and firmly keep, so help me God and his Holy

He was further obliged to swear that he would ever, to the best of his
ability, enlarge the holy empire; and that he would undertake nothing
with unrighteous hand against the land and people of the stuhlherr.

The count then inquired of the officers of the court (the _Frohnboten_)
if the candidate had gone through all the formalities requisite to
reception, and when that officer had answered in the affirmative, the
count revealed to the aspirant the secrets of the tribunal, and
communicated to him the secret sign by which the initiated knew one
another. What this sign was is utterly unknown: some say that when they
met at table they used to turn the point of their knife to themselves,
and the haft away from them. Others take the letters S S G G, which were
found in an old MS. at Herford, to have been the sign, and interpret
them _Stock Stein, Gras Grein_. These are, however, the most arbitrary
conjectures, without a shadow of proof. The count then was bound to
enter the name of the new member in his register, and henceforth he was
one of the powerful body of the initiated.

Princes and nobles were anxious to have their chancellors and ministers,
corporate towns to have their magistrates, among the initiated. Many
princes sought to be themselves members of this formidable association,
and we are assured that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (which
are the only ones of which we have any particular accounts) the number
of the initiated exceeded 100,000.

The duty of the initiated was to go through the country to serve
citations and to trace out and denounce evil-doers; or, if they caught
them in the fact, to execute instant justice upon them. They were also
the count's assessors when the tribunal sat. For that purpose seven at
least were required to be present, all belonging to the county in which
the court was held; those belonging to other counties might attend, but
they could not act as assessors; they only formed a part of the
by-standers of the court. Of these there were frequently some hundreds

All the initiated of every degree might go on foot and on horseback
through the country, for daring was the man who would presume to injure
them, as certain death was his inevitable lot. A dreadful punishment
also awaited any one of them who should forget his vow and reveal the
secrets of the society; he was to be seized, a cloth bound over his
eyes, his hands tied behind his back, a halter put about his neck; he
was to be thrown upon his belly, his tongue pulled out behind by the
nape of his neck, and he was then to be hung seven feet higher than any
other felon. It is doubtful, however, if there ever was a necessity for
inflicting this punishment, for Æneas Sylvius, who wrote at the time
when the society had degenerated, assures us that no member had ever
been induced, by any motives whatever, to betray its secrets; and he
describes the initiated as grave men and lovers of right and justice.
Similar language is employed concerning them by other writers of the

Besides the count and the assessors, there were required, for the due
holding a Fehm-court, the officers named _Frohnboten_[121], or
serjeants, or messengers, and a clerk to enter the decisions in what was
called the blood-book (_Liber sanguinis_). These were, of course,
initiated, or they could not be present. It was required that the
messengers should be freemen belonging to the county, and have all the
qualifications of the simple schöppen. Their duty was to attend on the
court when sitting, and to take care that the ignorant, against whom
there was any charge, were duly cited[122].

[Footnote 121: _Frohnbote_ is interpreted a _Holy Messenger_, or a
_Servant of God_.]

[Footnote 122: When a person was admitted into the society he paid,
besides the fee to the count already mentioned, to each schöppe who was
assisting there, and to each frohnbote, four livres Tournois.]

The count was to hold two kinds of courts, the one public, named the
Open or Public Court (_Offenbare Ding_), to which every freeman had
access; the other private, called the Secret Tribunal (_Heimliche
Acht_), at which no one who was not initiated could venture to appear.

The former court was held at stated periods, and at least three times in
each year. It was announced fourteen days previously by the messengers
(_Frohnboten_), and every householder in the county, whether initiated
or not, free or servile, was bound under a penalty of four heavy
shillings, to appear at it and declare on oath what crimes he knew to
have been committed in the county.

When the count held the Secret Court, the clergy, who had received the
tonsure and ordination, women and children, Jews and Heathens[123], and,
as it would appear, the higher nobility, were exempted from its
jurisdiction. The clergy were exempted, probably, from prudential
motives, as it was not deemed safe to irritate the members of so
powerful a body, by encroaching on their privileges; they might,
however, voluntarily subject themselves to the Fehm-gerichte if they
were desirous of partaking of the advantages of initiation. Women and
children were exempt on account of their sex and age, and the period of
infancy was extended, in the citations, to fourteen, eighteen, and
sometimes twenty years of age. Jews, Heathens, and such like, were
exempted on account of their unworthiness. The higher nobility were
exempted (if such was really the case) in compliance with the maxim of
German law that each person should be judged by his peers, as it was
scarcely possible that in any county there could be found a count and
seven assessors of equal rank with accused persons of that class.

[Footnote 123: The natives of Prussia were still heathens at that time.]

In their original constitution the Fehm-gerichte, agreeably to the
derivation of the name from _Fem_, condemnation, were purely criminal
courts, and had no jurisdiction in civil matters. They took cognizance
of all offences against the Christian faith, the holy gospel, the holy
ten commandments, the public peace, and private honour--a category,
however, which might easily be made to include almost every
transgression and crime that could be committed. We accordingly find in
the laws of the Fehm-gerichte, sacrilege, robbery, rape, murder,
apostacy, treason, perjury, coining, &c., &c., enumerated; and the
courts, by an astute interpretation of the law, eventually managed to
make matters which had not even the most remote appearance of
criminality _Fehmbar_, or within their jurisdiction.

But all exceptions were disregarded in cases of contumacy, or of a
person being taken in the actual commission of an offence. When a
person, after being duly cited, even in a civil case, did not appear to
answer the charge against him, he was outlawed, and his offence became
_fehmbar_; every judge was then authorized to seize the accused, whether
he belonged to his county or not; the whole force of the initiated was
now directed against him, and escape was hardly possible. Here it was
that the superior power of the Fehm-gerichte exhibited itself. Other
courts could outlaw as well as they, but no other had the same means of
putting its sentences into execution. The only remedy which remained for
the accused was to offer to appear and defend his cause, or to sue to
the emperor for protection. In cases where a person was caught
_flagranti delicto_, the Westphalian tribunals were competent to
proceed to instant punishment.

Those who derive their knowledge of the Fehm-gerichte from plays and
romances are apt to imagine that they were always held in subterranean
chambers, or in the deepest recesses of impenetrable forests, while
night, by pouring her deepest gloom over them, added to their awfulness
and solemnity. Here, as elsewhere, we must, however reluctantly, lend
our aid to dispel the illusions of fiction. They were _not_ held either
in woods or in vaults, and rarely even under a roof. There is only _one_
recorded instance of a Fehm-gericht being held under ground, viz., at
Heinberg, under the house of John Menkin. At Paderborn indeed it was
held in the town-house; there was also one held in the castle of
Wulften. But the situation most frequently selected for holding a court
was some place under the blue canopy of heaven, for the free German
still retained the predilection of his ancestors for open space and
expansion. Thus at Nordkirchen and Südkirchen (_north and south church_)
the court was held in the churchyard; at Dortmund, in the market-place
close by the town-house. But the favourite place for holding these
courts was the neighbourhood of trees, as in the olden time: and we read
of the tribunal at Arensberg in the orchard; of another under the
hawthorn; of a third under the pear-tree; of a fourth under the linden,
and so on. We also find the courts denominated simply from the trees by
which they were held, such as the tribunal at the elder, that at the
broad oak, &c.

The idea of their being held at night is also utterly devoid of proof,
no mention of any such practice being found in any of the remaining
documents. It is much more analogous to Germanic usage to infer that, as
the Public Court, and the German courts in general, were held in the
morning, soon after the break of day, such was also the rule with the
Secret Court.

When an affair was brought before a Fehm-court, the first point to be
determined was whether it was a matter of Fehm-jurisdiction. Should such
prove to be the case, the accused was summoned to appear and answer the
charge before the Public Court. All sorts of persons, Jews and Heathens
included, might be summoned before this court, at which the uninitiated
schöppen also gave attendance, and which was as public as any court in
Germany. If the accused did not appear, or appeared and could not clear
himself, the affair was transferred to the Secret Court. Civil matters
also, which on account of a denial of satisfaction were brought before
the Fehm-court, were, in like manner, in cases of extreme contumacy,
transferred thither.

The Fehm-tribunals had three different modes of procedure, namely, that
in case of the criminal being taken in the fact, the inquisitorial, and
the purely accusatorial.

Two things were requisite in the first case; the criminal must be taken
in the fact, and there must be three schöppen, at least, present to
punish him. With respect to the first particular, the legal language of
Saxony gave great extent to the term _taken in the fact_. It applied not
merely to him who was seized in the instant of his committing the crime,
but to him who was caught as he was running away. In cases of murder,
those who were found with weapons in their hands were considered as
taken in the fact; as also, in case of theft, was a person who had the
key of any place in which stolen articles were found, unless he could
prove that they came there without his consent or knowledge. The
Fehm-law enumerated three tokens or proofs of guilt in these cases; the
Habende Hand (_Having Hand_), or having the proof in his hand; the
Blickende Schein (_looking appearance_), such as the wound in the body
of one who was slain; and the Gichtige Mund (_faltering mouth_), or
confession of the criminal. Still, under all these circumstances, it was
necessary that he should be taken immediately; for if he succeeded in
making his escape, and was caught again, as he was not this time taken
in the fact, he must be proceeded against before the tribunal with all
the requisite formalities.

The second condition was, that there should be at least three initiated
persons together, to entitle them to seize, try, and execute a person
taken in the fact. These then were at the same time judges, accusers,
witnesses, and executioners. We shall in the sequel describe their mode
of procedure. It is a matter of uncertainty whether the rule of trial by
peers was observed on these occasions: what is called the Arensberg
Reformation of the Fehm-law positively asserts, that, in case of a
person being taken _flagranti delicto_, birth formed no exemption, and
the noble was to be tried like the commoner. The cases, however, in
which three of the initiated happened to come on a criminal in the
commission of the fact must have been of extremely rare occurrence.

When a crime had been committed, and the criminal had not been taken in
the fact, there remained two ways of proceeding against him, namely, the
_inquisitorial_ and the _accusatorial_ processes. It depended on
circumstances which of these should be adopted. In the case, however, of
his being initiated, it was imperative that he should be proceeded
against accusatorially.

Supposing the former course to have been chosen,--which was usually done
when the criminal had been taken in the fact, but had contrived to
escape, or when he was a man whom common fame charged openly and
distinctly with a crime,--he was not cited to appear before the court
or vouchsafed a hearing. He was usually denounced by one of the
initiated; the court then examined into the evidence of his guilt, and
if it was found sufficient he was outlawed, or, as it was called,
_forfehmed_[124], and his name was inscribed in the blood-book. A
sentence was immediately drawn out, in which all princes, lords, nobles,
towns, every person, in short, especially the initiated, were called
upon to lend their aid to justice. This sentence, of course, could
originally have extended only to Westphalia; but the Fehm-courts
gradually enlarged their claims; their pretensions were favoured by the
emperors, who regarded them as a support to their authority; and it was
soon required that their sentence should be obeyed all over the empire,
as emanating from the imperial power.

[Footnote 124: In German _Verfehmt_. We have ventured to coin the word
in the text. The English for answers to the German _ver_; _vergessen_ is
_forget_; _verloren_ is _forlorn_.]

Unhappy now was he who was _forfehmed_; the whole body of the initiated,
that is 100,000 persons, were in pursuit of him. If those who met him
were sufficient in number, they seized him at once; if they felt
themselves too weak, they called on their brethren to aid, and every one
of the society was bound, when thus called on by three or four of the
initiated, who averred to him on oath that the man was _forfehmed_, to
help to take him. As soon as they had seized the criminal they proceeded
without a moment's delay to execution; they hung him on a tree by the
road-side and not on a gallows, intimating thereby that they were
entitled to exercise their office in the king's name anywhere they
pleased, and without any regard to territorial jurisdiction. The halter
which they employed was, agreeably to the usage of the middle ages, a
_withy_; and they are said to have had so much practice, and to have
arrived at such expertness in this business, that the word _Fehmen_ at
last began to signify simply _to hang_, as _execution_ has come to do in
English. It is more probable, however, that this, or something very near
it, was the original signification of the word from which the tribunals
took their name. Should the malefactor resist, his captors were
authorised to knock him down and kill him. In this case they bound the
dead body to a tree, and stuck their knives beside it, to intimate that
he had not been slain by robbers, but had been executed in the name of
the emperor.

Were the person who was _forfehmed_ uninitiated, he had no means
whatever of knowing his danger till the halter was actually about his
neck; for the severe penalty which awaited any one who divulged the
secrets of the Fehm-courts was such as utterly to preclude the chance of
a friendly hint or warning to be on his guard. Should he, however, by
any casualty, such, for instance, as making his escape from those who
attempted to seize him, become aware of how he stood, he might, if he
thought he could clear himself, seek the protection and aid of the
Stuhlherr, or of the emperor.

If any one knowingly associated with or entertained a person who was
_forfehmed_, he became involved in his danger. It was necessary,
however, to prove that he had done so knowingly--a point which was to be
determined by the emperor, or by the judge of the district in which the
accused resided. This rule originally had extended only to Westphalia,
but the Fehm-judges afterwards assumed a right of punishing in any part
of the empire the person who entertained one who was _forfehmed_.

Nothing can appear more harsh and unjust than this mode of procedure to
those who would apply the ideas and maxims of the present to former
times. But violent evils require violent remedies; and the disorganized
state of Europe in general, and of Germany in particular, during the
middle ages, was such as almost to exceed our conception. Might it not
then be argued that we ought to regard as a benefit, rather than as an
evil, any institution which set some bounds to injustice and violence,
by infusing into the bosom of the evil-doer a salutary fear of the
consequences? When a man committed a crime he knew that there was a
tribunal to judge it from which his power, however great it might be,
would not avail to protect him; he knew not who were the initiated, or
at what moment he might fall into their hands; his very brother might be
the person who had denounced him; his intimate associates might be those
who would seize and execute him. So strongly was the necessity of such a
power felt in general, that several cities, such as Nuremberg, Cologne,
Strasburg, and others, applied for and obtained permission from the
emperors, to proceed to pass sentence of death on evil-doers even
unheard, when the evidence of common fame against them was satisfactory
to the majority of the town-council. Several counts also obtained
similar privileges, so that there were, as we may see, Fehm-courts in
other places besides Westphalia, but they were far inferior to those in
power, not having a numerous body of schöppen at their devotion.

It is finally to be observed that it was only when the crimes were of
great magnitude, and the voice of fame loud and constant, that the
inquisitorial process could be properly adopted. In cases of a minor
nature the accused had a right to be heard in his own behalf. Here then
the inquisitorial process had its limit: if report was not sufficiently
strong and overpowering, and the matter was still dubious, the offender
was to be proceeded against accusatorially. If he was one of the
initiated, such was his undoubted right and privilege in all cases.


     Accusatorial process--Persons liable to it--Mode of citation--Mode
     of procedure--Right of appeal.

As we have stated above, the first inquiry when a matter was brought
before a Fehm-court was, did it come within its jurisdiction, and, on
its being found to do so, the accused was summoned before the Public
Court, and when he did not appear, or could not clear himself, the cause
was transferred to the Secret Court. We shall now consider the whole
procedure specially.

The summons was at the expense of the accuser; it was to be written on
good new parchment, without any erasures, and sealed with at least seven
seals, to wit, those of the count and of six assessors. The seals of the
different courts were different. The summonses varied according to
whether the accused was a free-count, a free-schöppe, or one of the
ignorant and uninitiated, a community, a noth-schöppe, or a mere
vagabond. In all cases they were to be served by schöppen. They were to
have on them the name of the count, of the accuser, and of the accused,
the charge, and the place where the court was to be holden. The
stuhlherr was also to be previously informed of it.

For a good and legal service it was requisite that two schöppen should
either serve the accused personally or leave the summons openly or
clandestinely at his residence, or at the place where he had taken
refuge. If he did not appear to answer the charge within six weeks and
three days, he was again summoned by four persons. Six weeks was the
least term set for appearing to this summons, and it was requisite that
a piece of imperial coin should be given with it. Should he still
neglect appearing, he was summoned for the third and last time by six
schöppen and a count, and the term set was six weeks and three days as

If the accused was not merely initiated but also a count, he was treated
with corresponding respect. The first summons was served by seven
schöppen, the second by fourteen and four counts, and the third by
twenty-one and six counts.

The uninitiated, whether bond or free, did not share in the preceding
advantages. The summons was served on themselves, or at their residence,
by a messenger, and only once. There is some doubt as to the period set
for their appearance, but it seems to have been in general the ordinary
one of six weeks and three days.

The summons of a town or community was usually addressed to all the male
inhabitants. In general some of them were specially named in it; the
Arensberg Reformation directed that the names of at least thirty persons
should be inserted. The term was six weeks and three days, and those who
served the summons were required to be _true and upright_ schöppen.

The noth-schöppe, that is, the person who had surreptitiously become
possessed of the secrets of the society, was summoned but once. The
usual time was allowed him for appearing to the charge.

Should the accused be a mere vagabond, one who had no fixed residence,
the course adopted was to send, six weeks and three days before the day
the court was to sit, and post up four summonses at a cross-road which
faced the four cardinal points, placing a piece of imperial money with
each. This was esteemed good and valid service, and if the accused did
not appear the court proceeded to act upon it.

Notwithstanding the privileges which the members of the society enjoyed,
and the precautions which were employed to ensure their safety, and
moreover the deadly vengeance likely to be taken on any one who should
aggrieve them, we are not to suppose the service of a summons to appear
before a Fehm-court to have been absolutely free from danger. The
tyrannic and self-willed noble, when in his own strong castle, and
surrounded by his dependents, might not scruple to inflict summary
chastisement on the audacious men who presumed to summon him to answer
for his crimes before a tribunal; the magistrates of a town also might
indignantly spurn at the citation to appear before a Fehm-court, and
treat its messengers as offenders. To provide against these cases it was
determined that it should be considered good service when the summons
was affixed by night to the gate of a town or castle, to the door of the
house of the accused, or to the nearest alms-house. The schöppen
employed were then to desire the watchman, or some person who was going
by, to inform the accused of the summons being there, and they were to
take away with them a chip cut from the gate or door, as a proof of the
service for the court.

If the accused was resolved to obey the summons, he had only to repair
on the appointed day to the place where the court was to be held, the
summons being his protection. Those who would persuade us that the
Fehm-courts were held by night in secret places say that the mode
appointed for the accused to meet the court was for him to repair
three-quarters of an hour before midnight to the next cross-roads, where
a schöppe was always waiting for him, who bound his eyes and led him to
where the court was sitting. This, however, is all mere fiction; for
the place where the court was to be held was expressly mentioned in
every summons.

The Fehm-courts (like the German courts in general) were holden on a
Tuesday[125]. If on this day the accused, or his attorney, appeared at
the appointed place, and no court was holden, the summons abated or lost
its force; the same was the case when admission was refused to him and
his suite, a circumstance which sometimes occurred. But should he not
appear to the first summons, he was fined the first time thirty
shillings, the second time sixty, the third time he was _forfehmed_. The
court had however the power of granting a further respite of six weeks
and three days previous to passing this last severe sentence. This term
of grace was called the King's Dag, or the Emperor Charles's Day of

[Footnote 125: In German, _Dienstag_, probably _Dinstag_, i.e.

The plea of necessary and unavoidable absence was, however, admitted in
all cases, and the Fehm-law distinctly recognised four legal impediments
to appearance, namely, imprisonment, sickness, the service of God (that
is, pilgrimage), and the public service. The law also justly added the
following cases:--inability to cross a river for want of a bridge or a
boat, or on account of a storm; the loss of his horse when the accused
was riding to the court, so that he could not arrive in time; absence
from the country on knightly, mercantile, or other honest occasions; and
lastly, the service of his lord or master. In short, any just excuse was
admitted. As long as the impediment continued in operation all
proceedings against the accused were void. If the impediment arose from
his being in prison, or in the public service, or that of his master, he
was to notify the same by letter sealed with his seal, or else by his
own oath and those of two or three other persons. The other impediments
above enumerated were to be sworn to by himself alone.

If the accused neglected answering the two first summonses, but appeared
to the third, he was required to pay the two fines for non-appearance;
but if he declared himself too poor to pay them, he was obliged to place
his two fore-fingers on the naked sword which lay before the court, and
swear, _by the death which God endured on the cross_, that such was the
case. It was then remitted to him, and the court proceeded to his trial.

When a Fehm-court sat the count presided; before him lay on the table a
naked sword and a withy-halter; the former, says the law, signifying the
cross on which Christ suffered and the rigour of the court, the latter
denoting the punishment of evil-doers, whereby the wrath of God is
appeased. On his right and left stood the clerks of the court, the
assessors, and the audience. All were bare-headed, to signify, says the
law, that they would proceed openly and fairly, punish men only for the
crimes which they had committed, and _cover no right with unright_. They
were also to have their hands uncovered to signify that they would do
nothing covertly and underhand. They were to have short cloaks on their
shoulders, significatory of the warm love which they should have for
justice; _for as the cloak covers all the other clothes and the body, so
should their love cover justice_. They were to wear neither weapons nor
harness, that no one might feel any fear of them, and to indicate that
they were under the peace of the emperor, king, or empire. Finally, they
were to be free from wrath and sober, that drunkenness might not lead
them to pass unrighteous judgment, _for drunkenness causes much

If one who was not initiated was detected in the assembly, his process
was a brief one. He was seized without any ceremony, his hands and feet
were tied together, and he was hung on the next tree. Should a
noth-schöppe be caught in the assembly, a halter of oaken twigs was put
about his neck, and he was thrown for nine days into a dark dungeon, at
the end of which time he was brought to trial, and, if he failed in
clearing himself, he was proceeded with according to law, that is, was

The business of the day commenced, as in German courts in general, by
the count asking of the messengers if it was the day and time for
holding a court under the royal authority. An affirmative answer being
given, the count then asked how many assessors should there be on the
tribunal, and how the seat should be filled. When these questions were
answered, he proclaimed the holding of the court.

Each party was permitted to bring with him as many as thirty friends to
act as witnesses and compurgators. Lest, however, they might attempt to
impede the course of justice, they were required to appear unarmed. Each
party had, moreover, the right of being represented by his attorney. The
person so employed must be initiated; he must also be the peer of the
party, and if he had been engaged on either side he could not, during
any stage of the action, be employed on the other, even with the
permission of the party which had just engaged him. When he presented
himself before the court, his credentials were carefully examined, and
if found strictly conformable to what the law had enjoined, they were
declared valid. It was necessary that they should have been written on
good, new, and sound parchment, without blot or erasure, and be sealed
by the seals of at least two frei-schöppen.

The attorney of a prince of the empire appeared with a green cross in
his right hand, and a golden penny of the empire in his left. He was
also to have a glove on his right hand. If there were two attorneys,
they were both to bear crosses and pence. The attorney of a simple
prince bore a silver penny. The old law, which loves to give a reason
for every thing, says, "By the cross they intimate that the prince whom
they represent will, in case he should be found guilty, amend his
conduct according to the direction of the faith which Jesus Christ
preached, and be constant and true to the holy Christian faith, and
obedient to the holy empire and justice."

All the preliminaries being arranged, the trial commenced by the charge
against him being made known to the accused, who was called upon for his
defence. If he did not wish to defend himself in person, he was
permitted to employ an advocate whom he might have brought with him. If
it was a civil suit, he might, however, stay the proceedings at once by
giving good security for his satisfying the claims of the plaintiff, in
which case he was allowed the usual grace of six weeks and three days.
He might also except to the competence of the court, or to the legality
of the summons, or to anything else which would, if defective, annul the

If the accused did not appear, the regular course was for the prosecutor
to _overswear_ him; that is, himself to swear by the saints to the truth
of what he had stated, and six true and genuine frei-schöppen to swear
that they believed him to have spoken the truth.

The older Fehm-law made a great distinction between the initiated and
the ignorant, and one very much to the advantage of the former. The
accused, if initiated, was allowed to clear himself from the charge by
laying his two fore-fingers on the naked sword, and swearing by the
saints "that he was innocent of the things and the deed which the court
had mentioned to him, and which the accuser charged him with, so help
him God and all the saints." He then threw a cross-penny (Kreutzer?) to
the court and went his way, no one being permitted to let or hinder him.
But if he was one of the uninitiated, he was not permitted to clear
himself in this manner, and the truth of the fact was determined by the
evidence given.

It is plain, however, that such a regulation as this could properly only
belong to the time when none but persons of irreproachable character
were initiated. As the institution degenerated, this distinction was
gradually lost sight of, and facts were determined by evidence without
any regard to the rank of the accused.

The accuser could prevent the accused from clearing himself thus easily,
by offering himself and six compurgators to swear to the truth of his
charge. If the accused wanted to outweigh this evidence, he was obliged
to come forward with thirteen or twenty compurgators and swear to his
innocence. If he could bring the last number he was acquitted, for the
law did not allow it to be exceeded; but if he had but thirteen, the
accuser might then overpower him by bringing forward twenty to vouch for
his veracity.

If the accuser had convicted the accused, he forthwith prayed the count
to grant him a just sentence. The count never took on himself the office
of finding the verdict; he always directed one of the assessors to
perform it. If the assessor thought the matter too difficult for his
judgment, he averred on oath that such was the case, and the court then
gave the duty to another, who might free himself from the responsibility
in the same manner. Should none of the assessors be able to come to a
decision, the matter was put off till the next court-day.

But if the assessor undertook the finding of the verdict, it lay with
himself whether he should do so alone, or retire to take the opinion of
the other assessors and the by-standers. To give the verdict due force
it must be found sitting, otherwise it might be objected to. Whether or
not the assessor was bound to decide according to the majority of voices
is uncertain. When the verdict had been found the assessor appeared with
his colleagues before the tribunal, and delivered it to the count, who
then passed sentence. What, the penalties were for different offences
was a secret known only to the initiated; but, if they were of a capital
nature, the halter, as was intimated by the one which lay before the
count, was the instrument of punishment.

Should the accused not have appeared, and been in consequence outlawed,
he was _forfehmed_ by the following awful curse: it was declared that
"he should be excluded from the public peace, from all liberties and
rights, and the highest _un-peace_, _un-grace_, and halter be appointed
for him; that he should be cut off from all communication with any
Christian people, and be cursed so that he might wither in his body, and
neither become any more verdant, nor increase in any manner; that his
wife should be held to be a widow, and his children orphans; that he
should be without honour and without right, and given up to any one;
that his neck should be left to the ravens, his body to all beasts, to
the birds of the air and the fishes in the water; but his soul should be
commended to God," &c., &c.

If he continued a year and a day under the sentence of outlawry, all his
goods then fell to the emperor or king. A prince, town, or community,
that incurred the sentence of outlawry, lost thereby at once all
liberties, privileges, and graces.

Should the sentence passed be a capital one, the count flung the halter
over his head out of the inclosure of the tribunal, the schöppen spat on
it, and the name of the condemned was entered in the blood-book. If the
criminal was present he was instantly seized, and, according to the
custom of the middle ages, when, as in the East, no disgrace was
attached to the office of executioner, the task of executing him was
committed to the youngest schöppe present, who forthwith hung him from
the nearest tree. The quality of the criminal was duly attended to; for
if he was initiated he was hung seven feet higher than any other, as
being esteemed a greater criminal. If the accused was not present, all
the schöppen were, as we have already described, set in pursuit of him,
and wherever they caught him they hanged him without any further

The sentence was kept a profound secret from the uninitiated. A copy of
it, drawn up in the usual form, and sealed with seven seals, was given
to the accuser.

We thus see that the proceedings in the Fehm-courts were strictly
consonant to justice, and even leaned to the side of mercy. But this was
not all: the right of appeal was also secured to the accused in case the
schöppen who consulted about the verdict did not agree, or that the
witnesses did not correspond in their evidence; or, finally, if the
verdict found was considered unjust or unsuitable; which last case
afforded a most ample field of appeal, for it must have been very rarely
that a sentence did not appear unjust or over-severe to the party who
was condemned. It was, however, necessary that the appeal should be made
on publication of the sentence, or at least before the court broke up.
The parties were allowed to retire for a few minutes, to consult with
their friends who had accompanied them. If they did not then say that
they would appeal, the sentence was declared absolute, and they were
forbidden, under heavy penalties, to oppose it in any other court. If
they did resolve to appeal, both parties were obliged to give security
_de lite prosequenda_. Should either party, being poor or a stranger, be
unable to give security, his oath was held to be sufficient, that, as
the law humanely and justly expresses it, "the stranger or the poor man
may be able to seek his right in the Holy Roman Empire as well as the
native or the rich man."

The appeal lay to the general chapter of the _Secret closed Tribunal of
the Imperial Chamber_, which usually, if not constantly, sat at
Dortmund; or it lay to the emperor, or king, as the supreme head of
these tribunals. In case of the monarch being initiated, he could
examine into the cause himself; otherwise he was obliged to commit the
inquiry to such of his councillors as were initiated, or to initiated
commissioners, and that only on Westphalian soil. Of this species of
appeal there are numerous instances. Finally, the appeal might be made
to the imperial lieutenant, who then inquired into the matter himself,
with the aid of some initiated schöppen, or brought it before the
general chapter of which he was president. There was no appeal to the
emperor from his sentence, or from that of the chapter.

There were, besides the right of appeal, other means of averting the
execution of the sentence of a Fehm-court. Such was what was called
_replacing in the former state_, of which, however, it was only the
initiated who could avail himself. Sentence having been passed on a
person who had not appeared, he might voluntarily and personally repair
to where the secret tribunal was sitting, and sue for this favour. He
was to appear before the court which had passed the sentence,
accompanied by two frei-schöppen, with a halter about his neck, with
white gloves on him, and his hands folded, with an imperial coin and a
green cross in them. He and his companions were then to fall down on
their knees, and pray for him to be placed in the condition which he was
in before the proceedings commenced against him. There was also what was
called the complaint of nullity, in case the prescribed form of the
proceedings had been violated. Some other means shall presently be


     The General Chapter--Rights of the Emperor--Of his Lieutenant--Of
     the Stuhlherrn, or Tribunal-Lords.

To complete the sketch of the Fehm-tribunals and their proceedings, we
must state the rights and powers of the general chapter and of the
emperor, his lieutenant, and the tribunal-lords.

The general chapter was a general assembly of the Westphalian
tribunal-lords, counts, and schöppen, summoned once a-year by the
emperor or his lieutenant. Every count was bound by oath to appear at
it. It could only be holden in Westphalia, and almost exclusively at
Dortmund or Arensberg. No one could appear at it who was not initiated,
not even the emperor himself. The president was the emperor, if present
and initiated, otherwise the lieutenant or his substitute.

The business of the general chapter was to inquire into the conduct and
proceedings of the different Fehm-courts. The counts were therefore to
give an account of all their proceedings during the past year; to
furnish a list of the names of the schöppen who had been admitted, as
well as of the suits which had been commenced, with the names of the
accusers, the accused, the _forfehmed_, &c. Such counts as had neglected
their duty were deposed by the general chapter.

The general chapter was, as we have above observed, a court of appeal
from all the Fehm-tribunals. In matters of great importance the decrees
of the lower courts were, to give them greater weight, confirmed by the
general chapter. It was finally at the general chapter that all
regulations, laws, and reformations, concerning the Fehm-law and courts,
were made.

The emperor, even when the imperial authority was at the lowest, was
regarded in Germany as the fountain of judicial authority. The right of
passing capital sentence in particular was considered to emanate either
mediately or immediately from him. The Fehm-courts were conspicuous for
their readiness to acknowledge him as the source of their authority, and
all their decrees were pronounced in his name.

As superior lord and judge of all the counts and tribunals, the emperor
had a right of inspection and reformation over them. He could summon and
preside in a general chapter; he might enter any court; and the
presiding count was obliged to give way and allow him to preside in his
stead. He had the power to make new schöppen, provided he did so on
Westphalian soil. Every schöppe was moreover bound to give a true answer
to the emperor when he asked whether such a one was _forfehmed_ or not,
and in what court. He could also depose disobedient counts, but only in

The emperor could even withdraw a cause out of the hands of the
tribunals. The right of appeal to him has been already noticed; but,
besides this, he had a power of forbidding the count to proceed in the
cause when the accused offered himself to him _for honour and right_;
and it was at his own risk then that the count proceeded any further in
the business. The emperor could also grant a safe-conduct to any person
who might apply for it under apprehension of having been _forfehmed_,
which safe-conduct the schöppen dared not violate. Even when a person
had been _forfehmed_, the emperor could save him by issuing his command
to stay execution of the sentence for a hundred years, six weeks, and a

It is plain, that, to be able to exercise these rights, the emperor must
be himself _initiated_, for otherwise he could not, for instance, appear
where a court was sitting, make alterations in laws with which, if
_ignorant_, he must necessarily be unacquainted, or extend mercy when he
could not know who was _forfehmed_ or not. In the laws establishing the
rights of the emperor it was therefore always inserted, _provided he be
initiated_, and the acts of uninitiated emperors were by the Fehm-courts
frequently declared invalid. The emperor had, therefore, his choice of
setting a substitute over the Fehm-courts, or of being himself
initiated. The latter course was naturally preferred, and each emperor,
at his coronation at Aix-la-Chapelle, was initiated by the hereditary
Count of Dortmund. Though Aix-la-Chapelle was not in Westphalia, the law
sanctioned this departure from the general rule that frei-schöppen
should only be made in that country.

The emperor's lieutenant, who was almost always the Archbishop of
Cologne, had the right of confirming such counts as were presented to
him by the Tribunal-lords, and of investing them with the powers of life
and death. He could also summon general chapters, and preside and
exercise the other imperial rights in them. He might decide, with the
aid of some schöppen, in cases of appeal to him, without bringing the
affair before the general chapter; and he had the power of making
schöppen at any tribunal in Westphalia, which proves that, like the
emperor, he had free access to them all. Hence it is clear that he also
must have been initiated.

The dignity and pre-eminence of the Archbishop of Cologne, when this
office had been conferred on him, caused a good deal of envy and
jealousy among the lords of Westphalia, who had been hitherto his
equals, and who considered themselves equally entitled to it with him.
They never let slip an occasion of showing their feelings, and they
always had their counts invested by the emperor, and not by the
archbishop; nay, there are not wanting instances of their having such
counts as he had invested confirmed and re-invested by the emperor.

There now remain only the Tribunal-Lords (_Stuhl-herrn_) to be

The Tribunal-lord was the lord of the district in which there was a
Fehm-tribunal. He might himself, if initiated, become the count of it,
having previously obtained the power of life and death from the emperor,
or his lieutenant; or, if he did not choose to do so, he might, as we
have already seen, present a count to be invested, for whose conduct he
was held responsible; and, if the count appointed by him misconducted
himself, the Stuhl-herr was liable to a forfeiture of his rights. He
was, in consequence, permitted to exercise a right of inspection over
the Fehm-courts in his territory; no schöppe could be made, no cause
brought into the court, not even a summons issued, without his
approbation. There even lay a kind of appeal to him from the sentence of
the count; and he could also, like the emperor, withdraw certain persons
and causes from his jurisdiction. But as his power did not extend beyond
his own territory, the count might refer those causes in which he
wished, but was prohibited, to proceed, to the courts in other
territories; he might also, if he apprehended opposition from the
Tribunal-lord, require him (if initiated) to be present at the

The Tribunal-lord, if uninitiated, could, like the emperor in the same
case, exercise these powers only by initiated deputies.

The great advantage which resulted from the right of having
Fehm-tribunals induced the high lords, both spiritual and temporal, to
be very anxious to become possessed of this species of territorial
property, and in consequence nearly all the lords in Westphalia had
Fehm-tribunals. Even towns, such as Dortmund, Soëst, Münster, and
Osnabrück, had these tribunals, either within their walls, or in their
districts, or their neighbourhood, for it would not have been good
policy in them to suffer this sort of _Status in Statu_, to be
independent of their authority.


     Fehm-courts at Celle--At Brunswick--Tribunal of the Knowing in the
     Tyrol--The Castle of Baden--African Purrahs.

We have now gone through the constitution and modes of procedure of the
Fehm-tribunals of Westphalia, as far as the imperfect notices of them
which have reached the present age permit. It remains to trace their
history down to the last vestiges of them which appear. A matter of some
curiosity should, however, be previously touched on, namely, how far
they were peculiar to Westphalia, and what institutions resembling them
may be elsewhere found.

Fehm-tribunals were, in fact, as we have already observed, not peculiar
to Westphalia. In a MS. life of Duke Julius of Celle, by Francis
Algermann[126], of the year 1608, we read the following description of a
Fehm-court, which the author remembered to have seen holden at Celle in
his youth:--

[Footnote 126: Berck, p. 231, from Spittler's History of Hanover.]

"When the Fehm-law[127] was to be put in operation, all the inhabitants
of the district who were above twelve years of age were obliged to
appear, without fail, on a heath or some large open place, and sit down
on the ground. Some tables were then set in the middle of the assembly,
at which the prince, his councillors, and bailiffs, took their seats.
The Secret Judges then reported the delinquents and the offences; and
they went round with a white wand and smote the offenders on the legs.
Whoever then had a bad conscience, and knew himself to be guilty of a
capital offence, was permitted to stand up and to quit the country
within a day and a night. He might even wait till he got the second
blow. But if he was struck the third time, the executioner was at hand,
a pastor gave him the sacrament, and away with him to the nearest tree.

[Footnote 127: _Vimricht_, i.e. _Fehm-law_, the German word, of which
the author presently gives a childish etymology.]

"But if a person was struck but once or twice, that was a paternal
warning to him to amend his life thenceforward. Hence it was called _Jus
Veniæ_, because there was grace in it, which has been corrupted and made

There were similar courts, we are told, at places named Wölpe and
Rotenwald. Here the custom was for the Secret Judges, when they knew of
any one having committed an offence which fell within the
Fehm-jurisdiction, to give him a private friendly warning. To this end
they set, during the night, a mark on his door, and at drinking-parties
they managed to have the can sent past him. If these warnings took no
effect the court was held.

According to an ancient law-book, the Fehm-court at Brunswick was thus
regulated and holden. Certain of the most prudent and respectable
citizens, named _Fehmenotes_, had the secret duty of watching the
conduct of their fellow-citizens and giving information of it to the
council. Had so many offences been committed that it seemed time to hold
a Fehm-court, a day was appointed for that purpose. Some members of the
council from the different districts of the town met at midnight in St.
Martin's churchyard, and then called all the council together. All the
gates and entrances of the town were closed; all corners and bridges,
and the boats both above and below the town, were guarded. The
Fehm-clerk was then directed to begin his office, and the Fehmenotes
were desired to give their informations to him to be put into legal form
if the time should prove sufficient.

At daybreak it was notified to the citizens that the council had
resolved that the Fehm-court should be holden on this day, and they were
directed to repair to the market-place as soon as the tocsin sounded.

When the bell had tolled three times all who had assembled accompanied
the council, through the gate of St. Peter, out of the town to what was
called the Fehm-ditch. Here they separated; the council took their
station on the space between the ditch and the town-gate, the citizens
stood at the other side of the ditch. The Fehmenotes now mingled
themselves among the townsmen, inquired after such offences as were not
yet come to their knowledge, and communicated whatever information they
obtained, and also their former discoveries (if they had not had time to
do so in the night) to the clerk, to be put by him into proper form and
laid before the council.

The clerk having delivered his protocol to the council, they examined it
and ascertained which of the offences contained in it were to be brought
before a Fehm-court, and which not; for matters under the value of four
shillings did not belong to it. The council then handed the protocol
back to the clerk, who went with it to the Fehm-court, which now took
its seat in presence of a deputation of the council.

Those on whom theft had been committed were first brought forward and
asked if they knew the thief. If they replied in the negative, they were
obliged to swear by the saints to the truth of their answer; if they
named an individual, and that it was the first charge against him, he
was permitted to clear himself by oath; but if there was a second charge
against him, his own oath was not sufficient, and he was obliged to
bring six compurgators to swear along with him. Should there be a third
charge, his only course was to clear himself by the ordeal. He was
forthwith to wash his hand in water, and to take in it a piece of
glowing-hot iron, which the beadles and executioners had always in
readiness on the left of the tribunal, and to carry it a distance of
nine feet. The Fehm-count, according to ancient custom, chose whom he
would to find the verdict. The council could dissolve the court whenever
they pleased. Such causes as had not come on, or were put off on account
of sickness, or any other just impediment, were, on such occasions,
noted and reserved for another session.

It is evident, however, that this municipal court, of which the chief
object was the punishment of theft, the grand offence of the middle
ages, though called a Fehm-court, was widely different from those of the
same name in Westphalia.

The Tribunal of the Knowing (_Gericht der Wissenden_), in Tyrol, has
also been erroneously supposed to be the same with the Westphalian
courts. The mode of procedure in this was for the accuser to lay his
finger on the head of the accused, and swear that he knew him to be an
infamous person, while six reputable people, laying their fingers on the
arm of the accuser, swore that they knew him to have sworn truly and
honestly. This was considered sufficient evidence against any person,
and the court proceeded to judgment on it.

The ideal Fehm-court beneath the castle of Baden must not be passed over
without notice, as it seems to be the model after which our popular
novelist described his Fehm-tribunal in Switzerland! A female writer in
Germany[128] informs us that beneath the castle of Baden the vaults
extend to a considerable distance in labyrinthine windings, and were in
former times appropriated to the secret mysteries of a Fehm-tribunal.
Those who were brought before this awful tribunal were not conducted
into the castle-vaults in the usual way; they were, lowered into the
gloomy abyss by a cord in a basket, and restored to the light, if so
fortunate as to be acquitted, in the same manner; so that they never
could, however inclined, discover where they had been. The ordinary
entrance led through a long dark passage, which was closed by a door of
a single stone as large as a tombstone. This door revolved on invisible
hinges, and fitted so exactly, that when it was shut the person who was
inside could not distinguish it from the adjoining stones, or tell where
it was that he had entered. It could only be opened on the outside by a
secret spring. Proceeding along this passage you reached the
torture-room, where you saw hooks in the wall, thumb-screws, and every
species of instruments of torture. A door on the left opened into a
recess, the place of the _Maiden's Kiss_. When any person who had been
condemned was led hither, a stone gave way under his feet, and he fell
into the arms of the Maiden, who, like the wife of Nabis, crushed him to
death in her arms, which were thick set with spikes. Proceeding on
farther, after passing through several doors, you came to the vault of
the Tribunal. This was a long spacious quadrangle hung round with black.
At the upper end was a niche in which were an altar and crucifix. In
this place the chief judge sat; his assessors had their seats on wooden
benches along the walls.

[Footnote 128: Friederika Brun. Episoden aus Reisen durch das Südliche
Deutschland, &c.]

We need not to observe how totally different from the proceedings of a
genuine Fehm-tribunal is all this. That there are vaults under the
castle of Baden is certain, and the description above given is possibly
correct. But the Fehm-court which was held in them is the mere coinage
of the lady's brain, and utterly unlike any thing real, unless it be the
Holy Office, whose secret proceedings never could vie in justice or
humanity with those of the Westphalian Fehm-courts. It is, moreover, not
confirmed by any document, or even by the tradition of the place, and
would be undeserving of notice were it not for the reason assigned

The similarity between the Fehm-courts and the Inquisition has been
often observed. In the secrecy of their proceedings, and the great
number of agents which they had at their devotion, they resemble each
other; but the Holy Office had nothing to correspond to the public and
repeated citations of the Fehm-courts, the fair trial given to the
accused, the leaning towards mercy of the judges, and the right of
appeal which was secured.

The most remarkable resemblance to the Fehm-tribunals is (or was) to be
found among the negroes on the west coast of Africa, as they are
described by a French traveller[129]. These are the Purrahs of the
Foollahs, who dwell between Sierra Leone river and Cape Monte.

[Footnote 129: Golberry, Voyage en Afrique, t. i. p. 114, and seq.]

There are five tribes of this people, who form a confederation, at the
head of which is a union of warriors, which is called a Purrah. Each
tribe has its own separate Purrah, and each Purrah has its chiefs and
its tribunal, which is, in a more restricted sense, also called a
Purrah. The general Purrah of the confederation is formed from the
Purrahs of the five tribes.

To be a member of the inferior Purrahs, a man must be thirty years of
age; no one under fifty can have a seat in the general Purrah. The
candidate for admission into an inferior Purrah has to undergo a most
severe course of probation, in which all the elements are employed to
try him. Before he is permitted to enter on this course, such of his
relatives as are already members are obliged to pledge themselves for
his fitness, and to swear to take his life if ever he should betray the
secrets of the society. Having passed through the ordeal, he is admitted
into the society and sworn to secrecy and obedience. If he is unmindful
of his oath, he becomes the child of death. When he least expects it a
warrior in disguise makes his appearance and says, "The great Purrah
sends thee death." Every one present departs; no one ventures to make
any opposition, and the victim falls.

The subordinate Purrahs punish all crimes committed within their
district, and take care that their sentences are duly executed. They
also settle disputes and quarrels between the leading families.

It is only on extraordinary occasions that the great Purrah meets. It
then decides on the punishment of traitors and those who had resisted
its decrees. Frequently too it has to interfere to put an end to wars
between the tribes. When it has met on this account it gives information
to the belligerents, directing them to abstain from hostilities, and
menacing death if a drop more of blood should be spilt. It then inquires
into the causes of the war, and condemns the tribe which is found to
have been the aggressor to a four days' plundering. The warriors to whom
the execution of this sentence is committed must, however, be selected
from a neutral district. They arm and disguise themselves, put
horrible-looking vizards on their faces, and with pitch-torches in their
hands set out by night from the place of assembly. Making no delay, they
reach the devoted district before the break of day, and in parties of
from forty to sixty men, they fall unexpectedly on the devoted tribe,
and, with fearful cries, making known the sentence of the great Purrah,
proceed to put it into execution. The booty is then divided: one half is
given to the injured tribe, the other falls to the great Purrah, who
bestow one half of their share on the warriors who executed their

Even a single family, if its power should appear to be increasing so
fast as to put the society in fear for its independence, is condemned to
a plundering by the Purrah. It was thus, though under more specious
pretexts, that the Athenian democracy sought to reduce the power of
their great citizens by condemning them to build ships, give theatrical
exhibitions, and otherwise spend their fortunes.

Nothing can exceed the dread which the Purrah inspires. The people speak
of it with terror and awe, and look upon the members of it as enchanters
who are in compact with the devil. The Purrah itself is solicitous to
diffuse this notion as much as possible, esteeming it a good mean for
increasing its power and influence. The number of its members is
estimated at upwards of 6000, who recognise each other by certain words
and signs. Its laws and secrets are, notwithstanding the great number of
the members, most religiously concealed from the knowledge of the


     The Emperor Lewis the Bavarian--Charles IV.--Wenceslaus--Rupertian
     Reformation--Encroachments of the Fehm-courts--Case of Nickel
     Weller and the town of Görlitz--Of the City of Dantzig--Of Hans
     David and the Teutonic Knights--Other instances of the presumption
     of the Free-counts--Citation of the Emperor Frederic III.--Case of
     the Count of Teckenburg.

The history of the Fehm-gerichte, previous to the fifteenth century,
offers but few events to detain attention. The Emperor Lewis the
Bavarian appears to have exerted his authority on several occasions in
granting privileges in Westphalia according, as it is expressly stated,
to the Fehm-law. His successor, the luxurious Charles IV., acted with
the same caprice respecting the Fehm-tribunals as he did in every thing
else, granting privileges and revoking them just as it seemed to accord
with his interest at the moment. This monarch attempted also to extend
the Fehm-system beyond Westphalia, deeming it perhaps a good mean for
bringing all Germany under the authority of his patrimonial kingdom of
Bohemia. He therefore gave permission to the Bishop of Hildesheim to
erect two Free-tribunals out of Westphalia. On the representations of
the Archbishop of Cologne and the lords of Westphalia, however, he
afterwards abolished them.

Wenceslaus, the son of Charles, acted with his usual folly in the case
of the Fehm-tribunals; he is said, as he could keep nothing secret, to
have blabbed their private sign, and he took on him to make
frei-schöppen, contrary to the law, out of Westphalia. These schöppen of
the emperor's making did not, however, meet with much respect from the
genuine ones, as the answer given to the Emperor Rupert by the
Westphalian tribunals evinces. On his asking how they acted with regard
to such schöppen, their reply was, "We ask them at what court they were
made schöppen. Should it appear that they were made schöppen at courts
which had no right so to do, we hang them, in case of their being met in
Westphalia, on the instant, without any mercy." Wenceslaus, little as he
cared about Germany in general, occasionally employed the Fehm-courts
for the furtherance of his plans, and, in the year 1389, he had Count
Henry of Wernengerode tried and hanged for treason by Westphalian
schöppen. The reign of Wenceslaus is particularly distinguished by its
being the period in which the Archbishop of Cologne arrived at the
important office of lieutenant of the emperor over all the Westphalian

The reign of Rupert was, with respect to the Westphalian Fehm-courts,
chiefly remarkable by the reformation of them named from him. This
reformation, which is the earliest publicly-accredited source from which
a knowledge of the Fehm-law can be derived, was made in the year 1404.
It is a collection of decisions by which the rights and privileges of a
king of the Romans are ascertained with respect to these tribunals.

The Rupertian reformation, and the establishment of the office of
lieutenant in the person of the Archbishop of Cologne, which was
completed by either Rupert or his successor Sigismund, form together an
epoch in the history of the Fehm-gerichte. Hitherto Westphalia alone was
the scene of their operations, and their authority was of evident
advantage to the empire. Their power had now attained its zenith;
confidence in their strength led them to abuse it; and, during the
century which elapsed between the Rupertian reformation and the
establishment of the Perpetual Public Peace and the Imperial Chamber by
the Emperor Maximilian, we shall have to contemplate chiefly their
abuses and assumptions.

The right of citation was what was chiefly abused by the Free-courts.
Now that they were so formally acknowledged to act under the imperial
authority, they began to regard Westphalia as too narrow a theatre for
the display of their activity and their power. As imperial
commissioners, they maintained that their jurisdiction extended to every
place which acknowledged that of the emperor's, and there was hardly a
corner of Germany free from the visits of their messengers; nay, even
beyond the limits of the empire men trembled at their citations.

It was chiefly the towns which were harassed by these citations, which
were frequently issued at the instance of persons whom they had punished
or expelled for their misdeeds. Their power and consequence did not
protect even the greatest: we find, during the fifteenth century, some
of the principal cities of the empire summoned before the tribunals of
Westphalian counts. Thus in the records of those times we read of
citations served on Bremen, Lübeck, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Erfurt,
Görlitz, and Dantzig. Even Prussia and Livonia, then belonging to the
order of the Teutonic knights, were annoyed by their interference.

One of the most remarkable cases which this period presents is that of
the uneasiness caused to the town of Görlitz by means of one of its
inhabitants named Nickel Weller. This man, who was a Westphalian
schöppe, was accused of having disinterred an unchristened child, and of
having made a candle of the bone of its arm, which he had filled with
the wax of an Easter-taper and with incense, and of having employed it
in a barn in presence of his mother, his wife, and an old peasant, for
magical purposes. As he could not deny the fact, he was, according to
the law of those times, liable to be hanged; but the high-bailiff of
Stein, and some other persons of consequence, interfering in his favour,
the magistrates contented themselves with expelling him from the town
and confiscating his goods. As it afterwards proved, they would have
acted more wisely had they condemned him to perpetual imprisonment.

Weller immediately repaired to Bresslau, and besought the council, the
Bishop of Waradein, and the imperial chancellor, to advocate his cause.
They acceded to his desire; but the magistrates of Görlitz perfectly
justified their conduct. Weller, still indisposed to rest, applied to
the pope, Innocent VIII., asserting that he could not to any purpose
bring an accusation against the council of Görlitz within the town of
the diocese of Meissen, and that he had no chance of justice there. The
pope forthwith named John de' Medici and Dr. Nicholas Tauchen of
Bresslau spiritual commissioners in this affair, and these desired the
high-bailiff of Stein to do his best that Weller should recover his
rights within the space of a month, on his taking his oath to the truth
of his statements, otherwise they should be obliged themselves to take
measures for that purpose.

From some unassigned cause, however, nothing came of this, and Weller
once more addressed himself to the pope, with whom the Bishop of Ostia
became his advocate. He was re-admitted into the bosom of the Church;
but the decree of the magistracy of Görlitz still remained in force, and
the new commissioners appointed by the pope even confirmed it.

Finding that he had nothing to expect from papal interference, Weller
had at last recourse to the Fehm-tribunals, and on the 3d May, 1490,
John of Hulschede, count of the tribunal at Brackel, cited the
burgomasters, council, and all the lay inhabitants of Görlitz above the
age of eighteen years, before his tribunal. This summons was served in
rather a remarkable manner, for it was found fastened to a twig on a
hedge, on a farm belonging to a man named Wenzel Emmerich, a little
distance from the town.

As by the Golden Bull of the Emperor Charles IV., and moreover by a
special privilege granted by Sigismund, Görlitz was exempted from all
foreign jurisdiction, the magistracy informed Vladislaus, King of
Bohemia, of this citation, and implored his mediation. The Bohemian
monarch accordingly addressed himself to the tribunal at Brackel, but
George Hackenberg, who was at that time the free-count of that court,
Hulschede being dead, did not even deign to give him an answer.

Meanwhile the appointed period had elapsed without the people of Görlitz
having appeared to the summons, and Weller, charging them with
disobedience and contempt of court, prayed that they might be condemned
in all the costs and penalties thereby incurred, and that he might be
himself permitted to proceed with his complaint. To this end he
estimated the losses and injuries which he had sustained at 500 Rhenish
florins, and made a declaration to that effect on oath, with two
joint-swearers. He was accordingly authorised by the court to indemnify
himself in any manner he could at the expense of the people of Görlitz.
It was farther added that, if any one should impede Weller in the
prosecution of his rights, that person should _ipso facto_ fall under
the heavy displeasure of the empire and the pains and penalties of the
tribunal at Brackel, and be moreover obliged to pay all the costs of the

On the 16th August of the same year, the count set a new peremptory term
for the people of Görlitz, assuring them that, in case of disobedience,
"he should be obliged, though greatly against his inclination, to pass
the heaviest and most rigorous sentence on their persons, their lives,
and their honour." The citation was this time found on the floor of the
convent church. The council in consternation applied to the Archbishop
of Cologne and to the free-count himself, to be relieved from this
condition, but in vain; the count did not condescend to take any notice
of their application, and when they did not appear at the set time,
declared the town of Görlitz outlawed for contumacy.

It appears that Weller had, for some cause or other, brought an
accusation against the city of Bresslau also; for in the published
decree of outlawry against Görlitz it was included. By this act it was
prohibited to every person, under penalty of similar outlawry, to
harbour any inhabitant of either of these towns; to eat or drink, or
hold any intercourse with them, till they had reconciled themselves to
the Fehm-tribunals, and given satisfaction to the complainant. Weller
himself stuck up a copy of this decree on a market-day at Leipzig; but
it was instantly torn down by some of the people of Görlitz who happened
to be there.

The two towns of Görlitz and Bresslau held a consultation at Liegnitz,
to devise what measures it were best to adopt in order to relieve
themselves from this system of persecution. They resolved that they
would jointly and separately defend themselves and their proceedings by
a public declaration, which should be posted up in Görlitz, Bresslau,
Leipzig, and other places. They also resolved to lay their griefs before
the Diet at Prague, and pray for its intercession with the Archbishop of
Cologne and the Landgraf of Hessen. They accordingly did so, and the
Diet assented to their desire; but their good offices were of no avail,
and the answer of the landgraf clearly showed, either that he had no
authority over his count, or that he was secretly pleased with what he
had done.

The indefatigable Weller now endeavoured to seize some of the people of
Bresslau and Görlitz, in Hein and other places in Meissen. But they
frustrated his plans by obtaining a promise of protection and
safe-conduct from the Duke George. Weller, however, did not desist, and
when Duke Albert came from the Netherlands to Meissen, he sought and
obtained his protection. But here again he was foiled; for, when the
high-bailiff and council of Görlitz had informed that prince of the real
state of the case, he withdrew his countenance from him. Wearied out by
this ceaseless teasing, the towns applied, through the king of Bohemia,
to the Emperor Frederic III. for a mandate to all the subjects of the
empire, and an inhibition to the tribunal at Brackel and all the
free-counts and schöppen. These, when obtained, they took care to have
secretly served on the council of Dortmund and the free-count of
Brackel. By these means they appear to have put an end to their
annoyances for the remainder of Weller's life. But, in the year 1502,
his son and his son-in-law revived his claims on Görlitz. Count Ernest
of Hohenstein interceded for them; but the council adhered firmly to
their previous resolution, and declared that it was only to their own or
to higher tribunals that they must look for relief. The matter then lay
over for ten years, when it was again stirred by one Guy of Taubenheim,
and was eventually settled by an amicable arrangement.

As we have said, the Fehm-tribunals extended their claims of
jurisdiction even to the Baltic. We find that a citizen of the town of
Dantzig, named Hans Holloger, who was a free schöppe, was cited to
appear before the tribunal of Elleringhausen, under the hawthorn,
"because he had spoken what he ought not to have spoken about the Secret
Tribunal." This might seem just enough, as he belonged to the society;
but the town-council were commanded, under a penalty of fifty pounds of
fine gold, to cast the accused into prison till he had given security
for standing his trial.

Even the powerful order of the Teutonic Knights, who were the masters of
Prussia and Livonia, did not escape being annoyed by the Fehm-tribunals.
How little their power availed against that formidable jurisdiction is
evinced by the answer made by the Grand Master to the towns which sued
to him for protection. "Beloved liegemen! you have besought us to
protect you therefrom; we would cheerfully do it knew we but ways and
means thereto." And when he wrote to Mangolt, the count of the tribunal
at Freyenhagen, warning him against summoning before him the subjects of
the order, the latter haughtily replied, "You have your rights from the
empire, and I have power to judge over all who hold of the empire."

The following very curious case occurred in the first half of the
fifteenth century:--

A shopkeeper at Liebstadt died very much indebted to the two officers of
the Teutonic order, whose business it was to keep the small towns in
Prussia supplied with mercantile goods, and they accordingly seized on
the effects which he had left behind him. These, however, were not
sufficient to satisfy even the demands of one of them, much less of
both, and they had made up their minds to rest content with the loss,
when, to their surprise, Hans David, the son of the deceased, came
forward with an account against the order of such amount, that, as it
was observed, if all the houses in the town were sold, and all the
townsmen taxed to the utmost, the produce would not discharge the
one-half of it. He however produced a document purporting to be a bond
of the order. This instrument bore all the marks of falsification; it
was full of erasures and insertions; among the witnesses to it, some
were set down as priors who were only simple brethren of the order;
there were the names of others who had never seen it; it was asserted to
have been attested and verified by the tribunal at Passnar, but in the
records of that court there were not the slightest traces of it; the
seal of the Grand Master, which was appended to every document of any
importance, was wanting. Of course payment was resisted, but Hans David
was told to pursue his claim, if he pleased, before the emperor and the
pope, whom the order recognised as their superiors.

As Hans David was under the protection of the king of Poland, he had
recourse to that prince; but he declined interfering any farther than to
apply for a safe-conduct for him that he might apply for a new inquiry.
The Grand Master, on application being made to him, swore on his honour
that he owed to the complainant nothing, and that the bond was a
forgery; he moreover promised to answer the charge in any fit place that
the complainant might select; nay, even in Prussia, and he granted him a
safe-conduct as before.

It is not known what course Hans David now adopted; but nine years
afterwards (1441) we find him addressing himself to the Free-tribunal at
Freyenhagen, whose count, the notorious Mangolt, forthwith issued his
citations, "because, as he expressed himself, the order judges with the
sword and gentle murder and burning." The Grand Master, indignant at
this piece of arrogance, immediately brought the matter before the
assembly of the free-counts at Coblentz, who declared the proceedings
null, and Mangolt liable to punishment, as the knights were spiritual
persons. He moreover applied to the emperor, who, to gratify him, issued
a mandate, addressed to all princes of the empire, declaring the act of
Mangolt to be a piece of iniquity, and null and void.

Hans David was now cast into prison at Cologne, and, notwithstanding a
prohibition of the Free-tribunal, was detained there for two years.
Existing documents attest (though the fact is inexplicable) that the
emperor directed the Archbishop of Cologne and the Margraf of Baden to
examine anew into the affair, and to send the acts into the imperial
chancery, and, finally, to set the complainant free on his oath, or on
his giving bail to appear at Nuremberg. As this proceeding can only be
ascribed to the influence of the Secret Tribunals, bent on annoying the
order, it serves to show what their power and consequence must have been
at that time.

Two years afterwards it was clearly proved at Vienna that the bond had
been forged, at the desire of Hans David, by a scholar of Elbingen,
named Rothofé. As the case against the former was now so plain, it might
be supposed that he would be punished at once. Instead of that, the
emperor referred the parties to the pope, as Hans David had struck a
prior of the order, and this last was not content with the satisfaction
accorded by the emperor.

The cause of the order was triumphant in Rome also, yet still Hans David
found means to keep off the execution of the sentence already passed on
him at Vienna. It was not till after the death of the then Grand Master
that final judgment was formally delivered by Cardinal Jossi, and Hans
David, his comrade Paul Frankleuen, and the Count Mangolt, were
condemned to perpetual silence, and to payment of the sum of 6,000
Rhenish florins to the order, and, in case of disobedience, they were
declared to be outlawed. All this, however, did not yet avail, and two
years afterwards Jossi was obliged to apply to the emperor for the aid
of the temporal arm for the execution of the sentence. The chaplain of
the order at Vienna also found that Hans David had still the art to
deceive many and gain them over to his cause, and he accordingly took
care to have the whole account of his conduct posted up on the

Still the unwearied Hans David did not rest. He now went to the
Free-tribunal at Waldeck, and had the art to deceive the count by his
false representations. He assured him that the order had offered him no
less than 15,000 florins and an annuity, if he would let his action
drop; that they would have been extremely well content if he had escaped
out of prison at Cologne, but that he preferred justice and truth to
liberty. The order however succeeded here again in detecting and
exposing his arts, and the count honestly confessed that he had been
deceived by him. He cast him off forthwith, and Hans David, ceasing to
annoy the order, devoted himself to astrology and conjuring for the rest
of his days[130].

[Footnote 130: The following is one of his predictions, delivered by
him, under the name of Master Von Dolete, in the year 1457: "In the
ensuing month, September, the sun will appear like a black dragon; cruel
winds will blow, the sea will roar, and men will be knocked to pieces by
the wind. The sun will then be turned to blood; that betokeneth war in
the East and West. A mighty emperor will die; the earth will quake, and
few men will remain alive. Wherefore secure your houses and chambers;
lay up provisions for thirty days in caverns," &c., &c. The arts of
knaves and the language of impostors are the same in all ages and

He had, however, caused the order abundance of uneasiness and expense.
Existing documents prove that this affair cost them no less than upwards
of 1580 ducats, and 7000 florins, which must be in a great measure
ascribed to the secret machinations of the Free-tribunals, anxious to
depress the Teutonic Knights, who stood in their way.

In 1410 the Wild and Rhein Graf was summoned before the tribunal at
Nordernau, and, in 1454, the Duke of Saxony before that at Limburg. The
Elector-Palatine found it difficult, in 1448, to defend himself against
a sentence passed on him by one of the Fehm-courts. Duke Henry of
Bavaria found it necessary, on the following occasion, actually to
become a frei-schöppe in order to save himself. One Gaspar, of
Torringen, had accused him before the tribunal of Waldeck of "having
taken from him his hereditary office of Chief Huntsman; of having seized
and beaten his huntsmen and servants, taken his hounds, battered down
his castle of Torringen, and taken from his wife her property and
jewels, in despite of God, honour, and ancient right." The free-count
forthwith cited the duke, who applied to the emperor Sigismund, and
procured an inhibition to the count. The duke found it necessary,
notwithstanding, to appear before the court; but he adopted the
expedient of getting himself made a frei-schöppe, and then, probably in
consequence of his rank and influence, procured a sentence to be passed
in accordance with his wishes. Gaspar, who was probably an injured man,
appealed to the emperor, who referred the matter to the Archbishop of
Cologne, and we are not informed how it ended.

But the audacity of the free-counts went so far as even to cite the head
of the empire himself before their tribunals. The imperial chancery
having, for just and good cause, declared several free-counts and their
Tribunal-lord, Walrabe of Waldeck, to be outlawed, three free-counts
had the hardihood, in 1470, to cite the emperor Frederic III., with his
chancellor, the Bishop of Passau, and the assessors of the
chancery-court, to appear before the free-tribunal between the gates of
Wünnenberg in the diocese of Paderborn, "there to defend his person and
highest honour under penalty of being held to be a disobedient emperor;"
and on his not appearing, they had the impudence to cite him again,
declaring that, if he did not appear, justice should take its course.
Feeble, however, as was the character of the emperor, he did not give
way to such assumptions.

Even robbery and spoliation could find a defence with the Fehm-courts.
Towards the end of the thirteenth century a count of Teckenburg
plundered and ravaged the diocese of Münster. The bishop assembled his
own people and called on his allies to aid him, and they took two
castles belonging to the count and pushed him to extremity. To extricate
himself he accused the bishop, and all those who were with him, before
his Fehm-court, and though there were among them the Bishop of
Paderborn, three counts, and several knights, the free-count had the
boldness to cite them all to appear and defend their honour. The affair
was eventually amicably arranged and the citation recalled.

These instances may suffice to show how far the Fehm-tribunals had
departed from the original object of their institution, and how corrupt
and iniquitous they were become.


     Cause of the degeneracy of the Fehm-courts--Attempts at
     reformation--Causes of their high reputation--Case of the Duke of
     Würtemberg--Of Kerstian Kerkerink--Causes of the decline of the

The chief cause of the degeneracy of the Fehm-courts was the admission
of improper persons into the society. Originally, as we have seen, no
man was admitted to become a schöppe without producing satisfactory
evidence as to the correctness of his character; but now, in the case of
either count or schöppe, a sufficient sum of money availed to supersede
inquiry, and the consequence was that men of the most disgraceful
characters frequently presided at the tribunals and wielded the
formidable powers of the society. A writer in the reign of Sigismund
says, "that those who had gotten authority to hang men were hardly
deserving enough to keep pigs; that they were themselves well worthy of
the gallows if one cast a glance over their course of life; that they
left not unobserved the mote in their brother's eye, but overlooked the
beam in their own, &c." And it required no small courage in the writer
thus to express himself; for, according to his own testimony, people
then hardly ventured even to speak of the Secret Tribunals, so great was
the awe in which they were held.

The consequence was that justice was not to be had at any tribunal which
was presided over by corrupt judges, as they selected assessors, and
even by-standers, of the same character with themselves, and whatever
verdict they pleased was found. The tribunal-lord generally winked at
their proceedings, while the right of appeal to the emperor was treated
with little respect; for these monarchs had generally affairs of more
immediate importance to themselves to occupy their attention. The right
of exemption was also trampled on; sovereign princes were, as we have
seen, cited before the tribunals; so also were the Jews. Purely civil
matters were now maintained to belong to the Fehm-jurisdiction, and
parties in such cases were cited before the tribunals, and _forfehmed_
in case of disobedience. In short, the Fehm-jurisdiction was now become
a positive evil instead of being, as heretofore, a benefit to the

Various attempts were doubtless made to reform the Fehm-law and
tribunals, such as the Arensberg reformation, the Osnaburgh regulation,
and others, but to little purpose. The system, in fact, was at variance
with the spirit which was now beginning to prevail, and could not be
brought to accord with it.

Before we proceed to the decline of the society, we will pause a moment
to consider the causes of the great reputation and influence which it
obtained and exercised during the period in which it flourished.

The first and chief cause was the advantage which it was found to be of
for the maintenance of social order and tranquillity. In the very worst
and most turbulent times a portion of mankind will always be found
desirous of peace and justice, even independently of any private
interest; another portion, feeling themselves the victims of oppression,
will gladly catch at any hope of protection; even the mighty and the
oppressive themselves will at times view with satisfaction any
institution which may avail to shield them against power superior to
their own, or which they conceive may be made the instrument of
extending and strengthening their consequence. The Fehm-jurisdiction
was calculated to suit all these orders of persons. The fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries were the most anarchic periods of Germany; the
imperial power was feeble to control; and the characters of most of the
emperors were such as to render still more unavailing the little
authority which, as heads of the empire, they possessed. Sensible of
their weakness, these monarchs generally favoured the Fehm-tribunals,
which so freely, and even ostentatiously, recognised the imperial
superiority, as long as it did not seek to control them or impede them
in their proceedings. The knowledge which, if initiated, they could
derive of the crimes and misdemeanors committed in the empire, and the
power of directing the arms of the society against evil-doers, were also
of no small importance, and they gradually became of opinion that their
own existence was involved in that of the Fehm-courts. The nobles of
Westphalia, in like manner, found their advantage in belonging to the
society, and the office of tribunal-lord was, as we have seen, one of
influence and emolument.

But it was the more helpless and oppressed classes of society, more
especially the unhappy serfs, that most rejoiced in the existence of the
Fehm-tribunals; for there only could they hope to meet with sure redress
when aggrieved, and frequently was a cause, when other courts had been
appealed to in vain, brought before the Secret Tribunal, which judged
without respect of persons. The accuser had farther not to fear the
vengeance of the evil-doer, or his friends and dependents; for his name
was kept a profound secret if the proofs which he could furnish were
sufficient to justify the inquisitorial process already described, and
thus the robber-noble, or the feudal tyrant, often met his merited
punishment at a time when he perhaps least dreaded it, and when he held
his victim, whose cries to justice had brought it on him, in the
greatest contempt; for, like the Nemesis, or the "gloom-roaming" Erinnys
of antiquity, the retributive justice of the Fehm-tribunals moved to
vengeance with stealthy pace, and caught its victim in the midst of his

A second cause was the opinion of these courts having been instituted by
Charles the Great, a monarch whose memory was held in such high
estimation and such just veneration during the middle ages. Emperors
thought themselves bound to treat with respect the institution of him
from whom they derived their authority; and the clergy themselves,
exempt from its jurisdiction, were disposed to view with favour an
institution established by the monarch to whom the Church was so deeply
indebted, and of whose objects the punishment of heretics was one of the
most prominent.

A third, and not the least important cause, was the excellent
organization of the society, which enabled it to give such effect to its
decrees, and to which nothing in those times presented any parallel. The
veil of secrecy which enveloped all its proceedings, and the number of
agents ready to execute its mandates, inspired awe; the strict inquiry
which was known to be made into the character of a man before he was
admitted into it gained it respect. Its sentences were, though the
proofs were unknown, believed to have emanated from justice; and bad men
trembled, and good men rejoiced, as they beheld the body of a criminal
suspended from a tree, and the schöppe's knife stuck beside it to
intimate by whom he had been judged and condemned.

The reign of the Emperor Maximilian was a period of great reform in
Germany, and his establishment of the Perpetual Public Peace, and of
the Imperial Chamber, joined with other measures, tended considerably to
alter and improve the condition of the empire. The Fehm-tribunals
should, as a matter of prudence, have endeavoured to accommodate
themselves to the new order of things; but this is a part of wisdom of
which societies and corporate bodies are rarely found capable; and,
instead of relaxing in their pretensions, they even sought to extend
them farther than before. Under their usual pretext--the denial of
justice--they extended their citations to persons and places over which
they had no jurisdiction, and thereby provoked the enmity and excited
the active hostility of cities and powerful territorial lords.

The most remarkable cases which this period presents of the perversion
of the rights and powers of the Fehm-tribunals are the two following:--

Duke Ulrich of Würtemberg lived unhappily with his duchess Sabina. There
was at his court a young nobleman named Hans Hutten, a member of an
honourable and powerful family, to whose wife the duke was more
particular in his attentions than could be agreeable to a husband. The
duchess, on her side, testified a particular esteem for Hans Hutten, and
the intimacy between them was such as the duke could not forgive. Hutten
was either so vain or so inconsiderate as to wear publicly on his finger
a valuable ring which had been given to him by the duchess. This filled
up the measure of the jealousy and rage of the duke, and one day, at a
hunting-party in the wood of Bebling, he contrived to draw Hutten away
from the rest of the train, and, taking him at unawares, ran him through
with his sword; he then took off his girdle, and with it suspended him
from one of the oak-trees in the wood. When the murder was discovered he
did not deny it, but asserted that he was a free schöppe, and had
performed the deed in obedience to a mandate of the Secret Tribunal, to
which he was bound to yield obedience. This tale, however, did not
satisfy the family of Hutten, and they were as little content with the
proposal made by the murderer of giving them satisfaction before a
Westphalian tribunal. They loudly appealed to the emperor for justice,
and the masculine eloquence of Ulrich von Hutten interested the public
so strongly in their favour, that the emperor found himself obliged to
issue a sentence of outlawry against the Duke of Würtemberg. At length,
through the mediation of Cardinal Lang, an accommodation both with the
Hutten family and the duchess was effected; but the enmity of the former
was not appeased, and they some time afterwards lent their aid to effect
the deposition of the duke and the confiscation of his property.

It would seem that the Fehm-tribunals would have justified the
assassination committed by the duke, at least that all confidence in
their justice was now gone; and, at this period, even those writers who
are most lavish in their praises of the schöppen of the olden time can
find no language sufficiently strong to describe the iniquity of those
of their own days. It was now become a common saying that the course of
a Fehm-court was first to hang the accused and then to examine into the
charges against him. By a solemn recess of the Diet at Triers, in 1512,
it was declared "that by the Westphalian tribunals many an honest man
had lost his honour, body, life, and property;" and the Archbishop of
Cologne, who must have known them well, shortly afterwards asserted,
among other charges, in a capitulation which he issued, that "by very
many they were shunned and regarded as seminaries of villains."

The second case to which we alluded affords a still stronger proof of
their degeneracy.

A man named Kerstian Kerkerink, who lived near the town of Münster, was
accused, and probably with truth, of having committed repeated acts of
adultery. The Free-tribunal of Münster determined to take cognizance of
the affair, and they sent and had him taken out of his bed in the dead
of the night. In order to prevent his making any noise and resistance,
the persons who were employed assured him that he was to be brought
before the tribunal of a respectable councillor of the city of Münster,
and prevailed on him to put on his best clothes. They took him to a
place named Beckman's-bush, where they kept him concealed while one of
them conveyed intelligence of their success to the town-council.

At break of day the tribunal-lords, free-count, and schöppen, taking
with them a monk and a common hangman, proceeded to Beckman's-bush, and
had the prisoner summoned before them. When he appeared he prayed to be
allowed to have an advocate; but this request was refused, and the court
proceeded forthwith to pass sentence of death. The unfortunate man now
implored for the delay of but one single day to settle his affairs and
make his peace with God; but this request also was strongly refused, and
it was signified to him that he must die forthwith, and that if he
wished he might make his confession, to which end a confessor had been
brought to the place. When the unhappy wretch sued once more for favour,
it was replied to him that he should find favour and be beheaded, not
hung. The monk was then called forward, to hear his confession; when
that was over the executioner (who had previously been sworn never to
reveal what he saw) advanced and struck off the head of the delinquent.

Meantime, information of what was going on had reached the town, and old
and young came forth to witness the last act of the tragedy, or perhaps
to interfere in favour of Kerkerink. But this had been foreseen and
provided against; officers were set to watch all the approaches from the
town till all was over, and when the people arrived they found nothing
but the lifeless body of Kerkerink, which was placed in a coffin and
buried in a neighbouring churchyard.

The bishop and chapter of Münster expressed great indignation at this
irregular proceeding and encroachment on their rights, and it served to
augment the general aversion to the Fehm-courts.

Our readers will at once perceive how much the proceedings in this case,
which occurred in the year 1580, differed from those of former times.
Then the accused was formally summoned, and he was allowed to have an
advocate; here he was seized without knowing for what, and was hardly
granted even the formality of a trial. Then the people who came, even
accidentally, into the vicinity of a Fehm-court, would cross themselves
and hasten away from the place, happy to escape with their lives: now
they rush without apprehension to the spot where it was sitting, and the
members of it fly at their approach. Finally, in severity as well as
justice, the advantage was on the side of the old courts. The criminal
suffered by the halter; we hear of no father confessor being present to
console his last moments, and his body, instead of being deposited in
consecrated earth, was left to be torn by the wild beasts and ravenous
birds. The times were evidently altered!

[Illustration: Seal of the Secret Tribunals.]

The Fehm-tribunals were never formally abolished; but the excellent
civil institutions of the Emperors Maximilian and Charles V., the
consequent decrease of the turbulent and anarchic spirit, the
introduction of the Roman law, the spread of the Protestant religion,
and many other events of those times, conspired to give men an aversion
for what now appeared to be a barbarous jurisdiction and only suited to
such times as it was hoped and believed never could return. Some of the
courts were abolished; exemptions and privileges against them were
multiplied; they were prohibited all summary proceedings; their power
gradually sank into insignificance; and, though up to the present
century a shadow of them remained in some parts of Westphalia, they have
long been only a subject of antiquarian curiosity as one of the most
striking phenomena of the middle ages. They were only suited to a
particular state of society: while that existed they were a benefit to
the world; when it was gone they remained at variance with the state
which succeeded, became pernicious, were hated and despised, lost all
their influence and reputation, shared the fate of every thing human,
whose character is instability and decay, and have left only their
memorial behind them.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is an important advance in civilization, and a great social gain, to
have got rid, for all public purposes, of Secret Societies--both of
their existence and of their use; for, that, like most of the other
obsolete forms into which the arrangements of society have at one time
or other resolved themselves, some of these mysterious and exclusive
institutions, whether for preserving knowledge or dispensing justice,
served, each in its day, purposes of the highest utility, which
apparently could not have been accomplished by any other existing or
available contrivance, has been sufficiently shown by the expositions
that have been given, in the preceding pages, of the mechanism and
working of certain of the most remarkable of their number. But it has
been made at least equally evident that the evils attendant upon their
operation, and inherent in their nature, were also very great, and that,
considered even as the suitable remedies for a most disordered condition
of human affairs, they were at best only not quite so bad as the
disease. They were institutions for preserving knowledge, not by
promoting, but by preventing that diffusion of it which, after all, both
gives to it its chief value, and, in a natural state of things, most
effectually ensures its purification, as well as its increase; and for
executing justice, by trampling under foot the rights alike of the
wrong-doer and of his victim. Mankind may be said to have stepped out of
night into day, in having thrown off the burden and bondage of this form
of the social system, and having attained to the power of pursuing
knowledge in the spirit of knowledge, and justice in the spirit of
justice. We have now escaped from that state of confusion and conflict
in which one man's gain was necessarily another man's loss, and are
fairly on our way towards that opposite state in which, in everything,
as far as the constitution of this world will permit, the gain of one
shall be the gain of all. This latter, to whatever degree it may be
actually attainable, is the proper hope and goal of all human


London: Printed by W. CLOWKS and SONS, Stamford Street.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note: Variations in spelling, hyphens, and accents left as

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