A look at Medieval Knight Orders of the past and present
Few subjects have created such a strong image in our culture and in our imagination as the knight. Knights have taken a lot of different forms over the centuries; some of them are very real and some of them are just fantastic creations. But no matter what the the type of knight or organization they almost all have a few things in common.
The Most famous knights of them all are the Knights of the Round Table. They are shown in the picture above. They were the knights of King Arthur and whether or not he and they really existed is something that is very hotly debated.
Knight Organizations that Still Exist Today
Knights Hospitaller - also known as Knights of Malta - An orgainzation that was founded as a religious and military order in 1099 and it still exists today. Their primary purpose was the care and defense of the Holy Land. One of the notable things about the Knights Hospitaller is their uniform composed of a black surcoat with a white cross. The order has endured many changes over the centuries and their headquarters has moved many times around Europe then to Malta and Russia. It now is in Rome.
The Knights of Columbus - A Catholic fraternal organizaiton that was founded in 1882 and named in honor of Christopher Columbus. They are dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. Their charitable contributions are significant and in 2007 they gave almost 145 million dollars to charity. Their total contributions over the past ten years exceeds 1 billion dollars.
Teutonic Knights - This is a German Roman Catholic religious order that was founded at the end of the 12th century. They were a crusading order and they wore a white surcoat with a black cross which is the opposite of the Knights Hospitaller. The order has undergone many changes over the centuries and today they are predominantly a charitable organization with an estimated 1,000 members.
The Order of the Garter - This is a very exclusive order of knighthood that was founded somewhere between 1344 and 1351. It is the highest of all the honour systems that exist in the United Kingdom. Its numbers are very severely limited to the sovereign, the Prince of Wales and 24 members. But there are a number of supernumerary knights and ladies. Prince William, the son of Diana and Charles, is the 1,000 knight inducted into the order.
The Order of the Golden Fleece - A fraternal organization founded in 1430 by Duke Philip III of Burgundy to celebrate his marriage to Princess Isable of Aviz. It has both a Spanish and an Austrian branch.
Knight Organizations of the Past
The Knights Templar - The most famous of all the knights organizations. They were a western christian organization and they existed for about two hundred years in the Middle Ages. They were founded after the first crusade and their purpose was the ensure the safety of Christians traveling on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They built many fortifications along the pilgrimage route and they instituted new and progressive methods of financing which are considered to be early forms of banking. This is partly the reason why there still remains a mystique about the Knights Templar Treasure.
Knights of Labor (also known as Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor) - This was an organization that was founded in 1869 and it lasted until about 1949. It the early twentieth century it strongly declined and was pretty much disbanded by about 1949. It was a labor organizations in America and it was an important organization that fought for equality and fairness for all in the realm of labor/employer relations. Over time it functioned more as a labor union rather than a fraternal order.
Knights of the Annunciation 1362-1788 (The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation) It was a religious order of chivalry that was instituted by Amadeus VI Count of Savoy in Italy. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Order of the Knights of the Holy Spirit (Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit ) A French order that had the King as GrandMaster, 8 ecclesiastic members, 4 officers and 100 Knights. The order was founded in 1578 and was abolished in 1830.
The Order of the Dragon - A European knight order that was sworn to defend the Cross and fight the enemies of Christianity. It was founded by the King of Hungary in 1408 and was found primarily in Germany and Italy. Its members were known as Draconists and the order is claimed to be an inspiration to Bram Stoker in his writing of Dracula.
In Search of History - The Knights Templar (History Channel) Their fanatical courage struck terror in their enemies. Their fabulous wealth made them the most powerful men in Europe. Their secret rites inspired rumors of heresy. In the Crusades, these ferocious sword-wielding monks were charged with protecting the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In defeat, they were burned at the stake. Journey from Middle Ages Jerusalem to modern day Europe to unravel the extraordinary story of the legendary Knights who some say survived their supposed execution at the end of the Crusades and have preserved their order to this day. Leading historians reveal their fantastic origins, and period accounts bring their legendary battles to life. Ancient documents and artifacts hint at the mysteries that surround them. Did they discover ancient secrets buried beneath Solomon's temple, and conspire to seize part of Europe for themselves? Explore the incredible history of the Crusade's mightiest and most puzzling warriors.
Decoding the Past: The Templar Code (History Channel) For nearly two centuries, the Knights Templar was the most powerful order in the medieval world. Today the group's legacy is played out in an array of Hollywood blockbusters and numerous works of popular literature.
I have lots of interesting articles about knights, their weapons and their organizations right here: Articles about Knights