Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Templar Legends in Poland, part 2

Today about Templars who are remembered as good or neutral, not as crusaders only.

One type of legend talks about a wounded Templar. As an example: the tale  about a Knight Templar who was wounded, and not able to take part in a crusade to the Holy Land. Hi restored his own health after some time, as he was very knowledgeable about medicinal herbs. He lived as a hermit on an island on the lake, with only a white raven and a white dove as his companions. He worked as a healer, helping greatly the local population, giving them potions and herbs. When he was walking in search of medicinal plants, the white raven and the withe dove where always with him. They even where his  helpers, did their part whispering into his ear to diagnosed illnesses. This legend fits very much the category of legends about hermit Christian healers, with some supernatural mixed in. Maybe there was really a Templar who was very skilled at healing living a secluded life, and the collective memory about this particular person got clustered with the Hermit-type of legend, or the Wounded-Healer- type of legend.

Chant of Templars Pacem Domine

Another story is about a Templar as a victim. After a battle a wounded Templar was lying on the battle field, suffering terribly, his death was approaching slowly. One man came,  looked at the suffering Templar, and didn't help him at all, as what he set his greedy eyes on Templar's armor. The man was just so tempted to get the armor that he was staying close, waiting for the Templar to die. After the knight died, and his body wasn't even cold, the man took the armor and tried it on. It fitted! He was so happy! His happiness was not of the long living kind, and he wasn't living long either. After a while, when Templar's corpse was still warm, the armor started to burn and squeeze his body, and he tried to take it off quickly but he couldn't. He died in the stolen armor. Often among the hills there appear the ghost of the Templar and the ghost of the man who stole the armor, and they fight.

This legend is a moral tale for the purpose of teaching about the social mores, about the virtue of being a good Samaritan. But mostly it served in the reinforcing the taboo against the desecration of dead bodies. All dead people were supposed to get a decent burial; it was expected from Christians to fulfill such last duty. Taking something from a dead person very personal belongings was part of desecrating the corpse. In folk mentality if someone trespassed taboo, this person died.

Another story about the Knights Templars is that a fleet of Templar's ships came from the Baltic Sea, at the times of the Templars' troubles in France. Those ships were entering the Vistula River and were going upward the stream, and lowered their anchors at a specific town. There is also French legend about the fleet of Templar ships, carrying the Templar treasure, leaving the port of Marseilles when the king who was heavily in debt with them started to persecute them. There are of course also Polish legends about the treasure. Some are also very detailed, mentioning names of people and places, starting with: "When the king of Franks, le Bel heard that Templars escaped with their treasure to the town such-and-such, he did send some of his spies and knights to get it.” And so on, and so on. Actually the name of Phillip IV, who persecuted Templars, was in French Phillip le Bel. Are the accurate historical names inserted it the legends the proof of the veracity of the legend itself? Not necessarily. The treasure's story next time.