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Knights Templar in Wallachia under Basarab

Posted by on Sunday, July 8th, 2018 in East European History, Medieval History, Romanian History

The Demise of the Knights Templar

Grand Master of the Knights TemplarContrary to popular belief, the Knights Templar did not suddenly disappear from history when French King Philip IV ordered the arrest of Templars throughout France on Friday, October 13, 1307. While many attribute the superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th to have their origins in this tumultuous event, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the official name of the Order, did not simply vanish. The French Pope Clement V, under pressure from the French king, issued a papal bull on November 22, 1307, ordering Christian monarchs throughout Europe to arrest Templars and to seize their assets. Still, the Pope did not officially dissolve the Order until 1312, and only then with resistance from the Council of Vienna. The subsequent inquisition and trials led to the execution of numerous Templars, culminating in the burning of Grand Master Jacques de Molay at the stake in the front of the cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris on March 18, 1314. The intense persecution of the Order in the West led many of the surviving Knights Templar, especially those from Germany and Poland, to flee to safer lands.

Wallachia as a Place of Refuge

Basarab I

Basarab I, prince of Wallachia (c. 1310-1352)

One popular destination for displaced Knights Templar was the recently founded principality of Wallachia where Prince Basarab I (1310-1352) accorded them safe harbor. The kingdom of Hungary, then ruled by Charles Robert of Anjou (1295-1342), had continuously tried to exert its influence south of the Carpathians. This led to a tense state of affairs between Hungary and Wallachia. In a written statement, dated June 18, 1325, the secretary of the Hungarian royal chancellery, Ladislas, a man “learned in medicine and science,” declared that one Paulo, son of Iwanko of Ugol, came before him to testify that Stephen, a son of the Cuman Count Parabuh, had slandered Charles Robert and praised the Wallachian ruler, “disloyal to the holy Crown,… saying that the power of our lord, the king, could in no way stand against or compare with the power of Basarab.”

As he worked to strengthen his principality and maintain its independence, Basarab certainly welcomed the military talents of the Knights Templar. They shared a common aim in their opposition to Hungary with its close ties to France and the Papacy. The situation between Wallachia and Hungary seems to have improved somewhat by 1327 when Pope John XXII wrote to Basarab from Avignon praising his loyal service to the Catholic Church and asking him to receive Dominican inquisitors into the lands under his rule, “located in the kingdom of Hungary.” The letter implies that Basarab harbored enemies of Hungary and the Church, especially Templar Knights from Germany and Poland.

Tensions Grow between Wallachia and Hungary

Charles Robert of Anjou

Charles Robert of Anjou, king of Hungary

Templars took refuge in significant numbers in Wallachia and Bulgaria during this period. At a time when the independence of Wallachia was defined in terms its relationship to Hungary, the principal Catholic power in the region, Basarab forged ties with the Templars and other “heretical” sects, as well as with the Orthodox Church, to counter the influence of Hungary. The Papacy considered the Knights Templar as the most dangerous heretical group in Europe at the time.

This undoubtedly increased tensions between Wallachia and Hungary. By 1329, relations between the two neighbors again took a turn for the worse; Basarab gave shelter to the sons of Ladislas Apor, the Hungarian nobleman who had opposed Charles Robert’s authority in Transylvania. The imminent threat of an armed conflict between Hungary and Wallachia now loomed on the horizon.

 

 

The Battle of Posada

Battle of Posada 1330

Battle of Posada 1330 from the Chronicon Pictum

The Wallachian prince continued to defy Hungarian domination. When the royal army led by King Carol Robert invaded his principality and entered a narrow pass, probably in the vicinity of the fortress of Poenari, the Wallachians, supported by Tatar troops and Knights Templar, sprang a carefully-prepared ambush on the king’s army on November 9, 1330. The battle of Posada lasted for three days.

The attack came to be known as the battle of Posada, a term used to refer to a fortified passage or crossing and not the name of a locality. The Chronicon pictum Vindobonense describes the ensuing battle: “The innumerable masses of Wallachians, from high upon the cliffs, running from every part, showered down arrows upon the Hungarian army in the valley below, along a road that should not even be called a road, but more properly a narrow path, where, unable to maneuver, the best horses and soldiers fell in battle because, as a result of the steep cliffs… they could not attack the Wallachians on either side of the road, nor could they advance, nor did they have where to run, being trapped there; the king’s soldiers were caught like fish out of water.”

Nineteenth century painting by József Molnár depicting Charles Robert fleeing the battle of Posada

Charles Robert himself narrowly escaped death, having changed clothes with Desiderius, the son of Count Dionysius, who was subsequently killed in the fighting. The battle began on Friday, November 9, and lasted until Monday, November 12. The king later described it as a “hostile attack launched with brutality in some narrow and heavily forested places, surrounded by powerful fortifications.” The Hungarians suffered heavy losses; the dead included royal vice-chancellor Andrew Albensis. In addition to those killed, the Wallachians and their Tatar allies took many prisoners, horses, and large quantities of plunder. The king’s royal seal also disappeared amidst the chaos.

 

 

Knights Templar Help Basarab
Consolidate an Independent Principality

Knights Templar

Knights Templar

Because of his deviation from the Catholic Church, including his support of the Knights Templar who took refuge in Wallachia, Charles Robert referred to Basarab in 1332 as a “schismatic,” a term applied to those of the Greek rite or other Christian sects split off from the Church of Rome. This only five years after the Pope himself had called Basarab “a devout Catholic prince.” Of course, the Knights Templar as a formal organization had been decimated, but those who took refuge in Wallachia certainly contributed their individual talents and skills to help build the principality from both a military and administrative perspective. In so doing, Knights Templar helped Basarab consolidate the independence of Wallachia from the kingdom of Hungary.

 

For more on the early history of Wallachia, see Mircea the Old: Father of Wallachia, Grandfather of Dracula by Dr. A.K. Brackob available on Amazon and at HistriaBooks.com.

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