« PreviousContinue »
mies in the desert. The Szaffa has no springs, the only supply being rain-water collected in cisterns. There is but one entrance into this region, and that is through a narrow pass called Bab-el Szaffa-a cleft between high perpendicular rocks, not more than two yards wide-which none dare to enter as enemies. Many sanguinary encounters between pursued and pursuers have taken place at this pass, as is attested by numerous skeletons and human bones met with here.
THE KNIGHTS TEMPLARS.
Origin of the Order-The Battle-field of Hattin— Massacre of the Knights-Ancient Kerak, a Stronghold of the Knights.
AFTER the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, pilgrims and other travelers from all parts of Europe visited the Holy Land in great numbers; many of whom, when traveling from one place to another, especially when going from the coast to Jerusalem, were robbed, and subjected to various outrages and indignities by the Mohammedans, who regarded them as interlopers and Christian dogs, and treated them as such whenever an opportunity presented itself. From this state of things arose the necessity of an organization for the protection of pilgrims and others, while traveling in the Holy Land. Hence, in 1118, a society was formed, called
the "Poor Soldiers of Jesus," whose duty it was to act as escort and guard for the Christian travelers; especially those visiting Jerusalem. This humble society soon became so popular, that to belong to it was esteemed an honor; and its accessions in numbers and wealth were such as to eventually render it the most powerful and wealthy organization the world had ever seen.
THE buildings allotted to the "Poor Soldiers of Jesus" were in the Temple enclosure, and some of them on the site of Solomon's Temple, from which circumstance they received the name, Knights Templars. In time this order embraced in its ranks many of the best architects of the day; and the ruins of castles, fortresses, and fortified towns, built by them, are monuments of the skill and energy of this warlike and mechanical order.
CAUSES WHICH LED TO THEIR DESTRUCTION.
Ar this period, Palestine was covered with castles and fortified towns, which were occupied and commanded by petty barons, Knights of St. John, and Knights Templars; but all subject to the king at Jerusalem. Yet the commanders of these fortresses declared war and made peace at their own will and pleasure-not only against the common enemy but against one another; and what renders this state of anarchy more surprising is, that the Christian occupants of Palestine were nearly surrounded by