1. The Knights Templar
Warrior monks pledged to protect the lives of the pilgrim traveling to the holy places. There were only nine Templars, from its creation. Started by Hugh de Payens and Geoffrey of St Omer. Norman fighting men that participated in the first crusade and accompanied the victorious army to Jerusalem. They differed from other religious orders in that they were specifically military in character. Fighting men dedicated to the defense of the Christian faith. They also differed from the military organization in their poverty and humility, always wearing shabby clothes instead of traditional finery expected of warrior knights. Their accommodation was built on the site of the temple of Solomon where the Knights Templar got their name.
2. The Hospitallers of St John
The Order of the Knights of Saint John, also known as Order of Saint John, Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, and the Hospitallers, were among the most famous of the Roman Catholic military orders during the Middle Ages. The Hospitallers arose as a group of individuals associated with an Amalfitan hospital in the Muristan district of Jerusalem, dedicated to John the Baptist and founded around 1023 by Gerard Thom to provide care for sick, poor or injured pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. Some scholars, however, consider that the Amalfitan order and hospital were different from Gerard Thom’s order and its hospital. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the organization became a religious and military order under its own Papal charter, charged with the care and defense of the Holy Land. Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the knights operated from Rhodes, over which they were sovereign, and later from Malta, where they administered a vassal state under the Spanish viceroy of Sicily. The Hospitallers were the smallest group ever to colonize parts of the Americas; at one point in the mid-17th century, they acquired four Caribbean islands, which they turned over to the French and Dutch in the 1660s.
3. The Knights of St Lazarus
The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was a Roman Catholic military order founded by crusaders around 1119 at a leper hospital in Jerusalem, Kingdom of Jerusalem, whose care became its original purpose, named after patron saint Lazarus. It was recognized by King Fulk of Jerusalem in 1142 and canonically recognized as hospitaller and military order of chivalry under the rule of Saint Augustine in the Papal bull Cum a Nobis Petitur of Pope Alexander IV in 1255. The titular seat was successively situated at Jerusalem, Saint-Jean-d’Acre and – after the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem – the Château Royal de Boigny-sur-Bionne in France. After several centuries, the order went into decline and ceased to perform its original functions after the French Revolution.
4. The Hospitallers of St Thomas of Canterbury
It was established in 1191, at Acre, after the capture of that city by Richard I of England and Philip II of France. After the capture of the city, William, Chaplain to the Dean of St. Pauls Cathedral in London, formed a small religious order, its members taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The purpose of the Order was tending to the sick and wounded, and burying the Christian knights who fell in battle in the Holy Land. To that, William, as Prior of the Order, added the purpose of raising funds to ransom captives from the Muslim armies of Saladin. The success of the Order enabled it to establish a church and hospital which was dedicated to St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket was martyred in 1170 and canonized in 1173.
5. The Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem.
Official Names: Latin: Ordo Domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum, German: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem.
The Teutonic Order is known as ‘The German Order’ today and ‘Deutscher Orden’ in German is a Catholic religious order originally founded as a military order in the 12th century in Acre. Purely religious since 1929, it still confers limited honorary knighthoods.
The order was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, having a small voluntary and mercenary military membership, serving as a crusading military order for the protection of Christians in the Holy Land and the Baltics during the Middle Ages.
6. The Sword Brethren
Albert, Bishop of Riga (or Prince-Bishop of Livonia), founded the Brotherhood in 1202 to aid the Bishopric of Livonia in the conversion of the pagan Livonians, Latgalians, and Selonians living across the ancient trade routes from the Gulf of Riga eastwards. From its foundation, the undisciplined Order tended to ignore its supposed vassalage to the bishops. In 1218, Albert asked King Valdemar II of Denmark for assistance, but Valdemar instead arranged a deal with the Brotherhood and conquered northern Estonia (now known as Danish Estonia) for Denmark.
The Brotherhood had its headquarters at Fellin (Viljandi) in present-day Estonia, where the walls of the Master’s castle still stand. Other strongholds included Wenden (Cēsis), Segewold (Sigulda) and Ascheraden (Aizkraukle). The commanders of Fellin, Goldingen (Kuldīga), Marienburg (Alūksne), Reval (Tallinn), and the bailiff of Weißenstein (Paide) belonged to the five-member entourage of the Order’s Master.
Pope Gregory IX asked the Brothers to defend Finland from the Novgorodian attacks in his letter of November 24, 1232. However, no known information regarding the knights’ possible activities in Finland has survived. Sweden eventually conquered Finland following the Second Swedish Crusade in 1249.
The Order was decimated in the Battle of Schaulen (Saule) in 1236 against Lithuanians and Semigallians. This disaster led the surviving Brothers to become incorporated into the Order of Teutonic Knights in the following year, and from that point on they became known as the Livonian Order. They continued, however, to function in all respects (rule, clothing and policy) as an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Order, headed by their own Master (himself de jure subject to the Teutonic Order’s Grand Master).
7. The Knights of Calatrava
The Order of Calatrava (Spanish: Orden de Calatrava Portuguese: Ordem de Calatrava) was the first military order founded in Castile, but the second to receive papal approval. The papal bull confirming the Order of Calatrava as a Militia was given by Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164. Most of the political and military power of the order dissipated by the end of the 15th century, but the last dissolution of the order’s property did not occur until 1838.
It was founded at Calatrava la Vieja in Castile, in the twelfth century by St. Raymond of Fitero, as a military branch of the Cistercian family. The etymology of the name of this military order, Calatrava, conveys the meaning: “fortress of Rabah”.
In the Cistercian Order, then only recently formed (1098), there had been a large number of knights or sons of knights. In Calatrava, on the contrary, those who had been monks became knights. Monastic life has been called “a warfare”, and it would be a mistake to suppose those rough medieval warriors sought in the cloister only a comfortable asylum after a troubled career. In both lives, there was a heroic struggle to sustain, whether against one’s passions or against the Muslims, and the austerities of an ascetic life could not have been more dreadful to them than the privations of camp life and the wounds of battle. These impetuous natures, who did nothing by halves, were eager to take Heaven, as they took earthly strongholds, by storm. However, the Order of Calatrava owes its origin not to any deliberately prepared plan, but to fortuitous circumstances.
8. The Knights of Santiago
The Order of Santiago (Galician: Orde de Santiago, Spanish: Orden de Santiago), also known as “The Order of St. James of the Sword,” was founded in the 12th century, and owes its name to the national patron of Galicia and Spain, Santiago (St. James the Greater). Its initial objective was to protect the pilgrim of St. James’ Way and to defend Christendom.
After the death of the Grand Master Alfonso de Cárdenas in 1493, the Catholic Monarchs incorporated the Order into the Spanish Crown and the pope Adrian VI forever united the office of the grandmaster of Santiago to the crown in 1523.
The first Republic suppressed the Order in 1873 and, although the Restoration was re-established, it was reduced to a nobiliary institute of honorable character. It was ruled by a Superior Council dependent on the Ministry of War, which was also extinguished after the proclamation of the second Republic in 1931.
The Order of Santiago, together with the Calatrava, Alcántara, and Montesa, was restored as a civil association with the kingship of Juan Carlos I with the character of a nobiliary, honorable, and religious organization that remains as such.
9. The Order of St James of Altopascio
The Order of Saint James of Altopascio (Italian: Ordine di San Giacomo d’Altopascio or Ordine dei Frati Ospitalieri di San Jacopo), also called the Knights of the Tau (Cavalieri del Tau) or Hospitallers of Saint James, was a military order, perhaps the earliest Christian institution to combine the protection and assistance of pilgrims, the staffing of hospitals, and a military wing. According to American historian Ephraim Emerton, who produced the first systematic study of the Order, “the fame of the house drew visitors, both well and sick, including women in childbirth and infants” from around Italy.
The Order was founded by Matilda of Canossa between 1070 and 1080 at Altopascio, a town on the Via Francigena in what is now Tuscany. The earliest datable reference to a hospital edificatus in locus et finibus ubi dicitur Teupascio (“built in the place called Teupascio”) is from 1084. Ludovico Muratori thought Teupascio to be an eighth-century corruption of the Latin Altopassus. The variants Taupascio and Topascio have led some to suppose a relationship between the (alternative) name of the town and the Order sometimes known as “of the Tau”, after their symbol, which would once have been a common sight in the town. This derivation is highly unlikely, however, and the name appears to be Germanic in origin.
10. The Knights of San Stefano of Tuscany
The Order of Saint Stephen (Official: Sacro Militare Ordine di Santo Stefano Papa e Martire, “Holy Military Order of St. Stephen Pope and Martyr”) is a Roman Catholic Tuscan dynastic military order founded in 1561. The order was created by Cosimo I de’ Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany. The last member of the Medici dynasty to be a leader of the order was Gian Gastone de Medici in 1737. The order was permanently abolished in 1859 by the annexation of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Sardinia. The former Kingdom of Italy and the current Italian Republic also did not recognize the order as a legal entity but tolerates it as a private body.