One of the peculiarities of the Templar Order, a religious experience already innovative in combining monastic profession and military vocation, is represented by the simultaneous presence on both sides of the Mediterranean with different and complementary purposes. In fact, if the part of the Order most active in theaters of war focuses first on the Middle East and then extends its action to other war scenarios, the western settlements have the main task of supporting the Templar military campaigns in terms of funding and recruitment.
This function is evident when we consider the presence of the Order in the Italian peninsula and its islands, a strategic Mediterranean crossroads between South and North and East and West. It is not accidental, therefore, that the first and most flourishing houses of the Temple in Italy were located in places that already boasted a long tradition of commercial and religious relations with the Near East and in ports constantly visited by pilgrims and crusaders (for example, Genoa, Milan, Piacenza, Messina, Barletta, etc.). To emphasize is also the fact that the entire peninsula was crossed by paths leading to the East, practiced since antiquity and still have their best known example in the Via Francigena. The houses of the Temple, for which an effective connection with the East was vital, are often located along these routes (sometimes near river crossings as in Testona-Moncalieri or in Modena) and in some cases the Order practiced a hospitable activity that went beyond its original vocation. Alongside this settlement pattern, the Templar network also included some urban domus and rural houses, often located in areas under development.
The recruitment of the Order was increasingly successful, including both members of lineages of ancient nobility, which in some cases saw in the accession to this institution a possibility of reaction to the overwhelming competition of other political subjects, both members of the new city elites, as well as a good number of sharp laymen, whose caliber is often difficult to determine.
The relationships with the political subjects of the territory alternate, as is natural, moments of collaboration with conflicts that concern disputes of various kinds, from cura animarum to testamentary legacies, from jurisdictional problems to controversies of a purely economic nature. It is important to note that the lack of development of the Temple in Liguria is due to the anti-Genovese positions taken by the Temple in the Holy Land, as well as the opposition between Frederick II of Swabia and the Order, which included several of his relatives. Finally, of fundamental importance is the collaboration with the Pontifical See, which saw several Templars play the role of papal cubicles and represent the pontiff effectively in diplomatic missions and administrative tasks.
Italy also preserves important testimonies of architecture and art connected to the Temple, in particular in the houses of San Bevignate in Perugia and in Santa Maria all’Aventino in Rome.
Also in this area the process put an end to the presence of the Order with the passage of its members to other religious realities and the transfer of its goods in great part, but not in totality, to the Hospital. It should be noted that in northern Italy the archbishop of Ravenna, Rinaldo da Concorezzo, played a leading role in these events. Under his guidance, not only was the innocence of the members of the Order subjected to his judgment ascertained, but the nullity of confessions obtained for fear of torture or through torture was proclaimed.
Finally, it is necessary to specify that the research on the Temple, the census and the verification of the location of its houses in Italy suffer both from a delay of the historiographical research in some areas, and from the dispersion of the Order’s documentation after 1312, and therefore this theme still constitutes a compelling historiographical challenge.
The circuit “Gli ordini di Terra Santa” – The Orders of the Holy Land, developed by the City, the University of Perugia and the Italian Scientific Committee, proposes a selection of the most important and best preserved monuments in architectural and artistic terms that belonged to the Order of the Temple, the Hospitallers (later Knights of the Order of Rhodes and Malta) and the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre in Umbria and Lazio.
Find the tour and all the information about the monuments on www.ordiniditerrasanta.it.
This project is a continuation of the international scientific symposium “Gli ordini di Terrasanta” organised in Perugia in 2019 by the City of Perugia, the University of Perugia and the Italian Scientific Committee of the Route of the Templars.