The Rise and Fall of Knightly Orders: The Story of the Templars, Hospitallers, and Others

In the medieval period, knightly orders were established as a means of protecting the interests of the Christian church and the nobility.

These orders were typically composed of knights who took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and who were charged with defending Christian territories from external threats.

Order of the knights templar
Order of the knights templar

“The rise of the knightly orders in the Middle Ages was a response to the need for protection of pilgrims and travelers. The Templars and Hospitallers, in particular, played a critical role in defending Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land.”

Dr. Helen Nicholson, medieval historian and author of “The Knights Templar: A New History”

One of the most famous knightly orders was the Knights Templar, also known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. The Templars were founded in the 12th century and quickly gained prominence for their bravery in battle and their wealth, which was accumulated through donations from wealthy patrons and the spoils of war.

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The Templars’ power and influence eventually became a threat to the Catholic Church, and in the early 14th century, the order was accused of heresy, blasphemy, and other crimes.

Many of the order’s members were arrested, tortured, and executed, and the order was disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312.

Knights Hospitaller

“The success of the knightly orders was not only due to their military prowess, but also to their network of connections and the patronage of powerful monarchs and nobles. The Templars, for example, were able to amass a vast wealth and influence across Europe.”

Dr. Alan Forey, medieval historian and author of “The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors”

Another prominent knightly order was the Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Order of St. John. The Hospitallers were founded in the 11th century and were originally dedicated to providing care for sick and injured pilgrims in the Holy Land.


However, like the Templars, they also became a military order and played a significant role in defending Christian territories from Islamic invaders.

The Hospitallers eventually became one of the wealthiest and most powerful knightly orders in Europe, with vast holdings in Malta and other territories. However, their power and wealth also made them a target, and in the 16th century, they were expelled from Malta by the Ottoman Empire.

malta ge7b9464c7 640

Other notable knightly orders included the Teutonic Knights, who were founded in the 12th century to protect Christian territories in the Baltic region, and the Order of Santiago, which was established in the 12th century to defend Christian Spain against Muslim invaders.

Medieval Spain - Medieval Spanish Knights
Medieval Spain Medieval Spanish Knight Santiago

“The fall of the Templars was a result of various factors, including their perceived arrogance, financial mismanagement, and the political ambitions of King Philip IV of France. The charges of heresy and corruption that were leveled against them were largely fabricated.”

Dr. Malcolm Barber, medieval historian and author of “The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple”

Despite their noble intentions and the heroic deeds of many of their members, knightly orders were not immune to corruption, greed, and violence.

Many members of these orders engaged in immoral or criminal behavior, and some orders were eventually disbanded or reformed as a result.

Nevertheless, the legacy of knightly orders lives on, and their stories continue to captivate and inspire people around the world. The Templars, in particular, have become the subject of numerous books, movies, and television shows, and their history continues to fascinate historians and enthusiasts alike.

Medieval Cavalry Shields of the KnightsTemplars
Kite shields became popular among European cavalry units from 10th century onwards.

“The Teutonic Knights, although less well-known than the Templars and Hospitallers, were a significant force in the Baltic region and played a role in the Christianization of the pagan peoples there. However, their brutal tactics and clashes with neighboring powers ultimately led to their decline.”

Dr. William Urban, medieval historian and author of “The Teutonic Knights: A Military History”


The rise and fall of knightly orders is a fascinating and complex topic that highlights both the noble ideals and the darker realities of medieval society. From the Templars to the Hospitallers and beyond, these orders played a significant role in shaping the history of Europe and the world, and their stories continue to captivate and intrigue us to this day.

“The Hospitallers, unlike the Templars, were able to survive the upheavals of the Middle Ages and continue to exist to this day as the Order of Malta. They adapted to the changing times and shifted their focus from military defense to charitable works and humanitarian aid.”

Dr. Jonathan Riley-Smith, medieval historian and author of “The Knights Hospitaller in the Levant, c.1070-1309”