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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

VIII: The Hospitallers at Rhodes, 1306-1421,   pp. 278-313 PDF (14.1 MB)

Page 280

train new brethren. Representatives from the priories attended chap ters-general
at the Convent to discuss policy and amend the statutes. There was a certain
distinction between Levantine and European Hospitallers, but it was seldom
clear-cut, and while some resided mainly or entirely in Europe and others
passed most of their careers in Syria, many served partly in the Levant and
partly in the priories. 
 While the Hospital's influence grew in Europe, the Latins' holdings in Syria
dwindled. After the loss of Jerusalem in 1187 the Convent and hospital were
transferred to Acre. As the Latins were pushed back toward the coast the
Hospitallers, short of manpower, im mured themselves in powerful defensive
positions in huge stone castles such as those at Krak des Chevaliers and
Margat, which were vital to the defense of the Latin kingdom. Like the Templars,
the Hospitallers provided a standing force always ready for war. Men of military
prowess, disciplined and resolute, they became increasingly influential in
Levantine affairs. To their lands in the principality of Antioch the Hospitallers
added possessions in Cyprus and Cilician Armenia. Conducting subtle, independent,
and often aggressive poi icies, they indulged in private wars, quarreled
with the Templars, and played a prominent part in almost every crusading
campaign during the decades of defeat and retreat which closed with the loss
of Acre and the expulsion of the Latins from Syria in 1291. 
 The Hospitallers fought heroically in the defense of Acre, and only a few,
including the seriously wounded master John of Villiers, escaped to Cyprus.
They lost many of their best men and the last of their Syrian possessions.
Abandoning neither their hospitable duties nor their ideal of recovering
Jerusalem, where they had first per formed them, the brethren now established
their Convent and hospi tal at Limassol. Their future seemed uncertain and
they could do little to show that they retained any useful function, but
they set about the reconstruction of their strength. John of Villiers held
chapters-general in 1292 and 1293, and his successor Odo de Pins another
in 1294. The latter's ineffectiveness led to a plea from the Convent to the
pope that a council of seven be invested with control of the Hospital, but
Odo died in 1296 before he could respond to a summons from the pope, who
had denounced him for his errors. William of Villaret, elected master while
in France, stayed there until the Convent forced him to go to Cyprus in 1300.
In that year, after delays and disagreements over plans, the Hospitallers
and Templars collaborated with king Henry II of Cyprus in ineffectual raids
on the Egyptian and Syrian coasts. William himself went to Ruad, an island

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