The surrender of Gaston Castle (1268), according The Catalan Rule of the Templars

The Rule of the Templars is the monastic code adopted by the order of the Knights Templar. A Catalan translation of this rule exists, which is incomplete but contains clauses not found in the original French manuscripts. These include additional regulations and examples of pennances, many of which concern events in the Crusader States or in Spain. The following is clause 180 of this text, which describes the surrender of a Templar castle after the fall of Antioch in 1268. It was against the Order’s rule for members to abandon their castles without permission, with a punishment of expulsion from the Templars to those who transgressed.

It happened that Brother Gueraut de Suacet was commander of the Land of Antioch. The sultan [Baibars] left Egypt with all his forces and came to Antioch [in 1268]. And before he reached Antioch, the Commander sent a message to the Master [Thomas Bérard] that he had heard that the sultan had left Egypt, and that it was said that he would come to Antioch, and for the love of God he send him men and other things which were needed there and for the garrison of the castle, because everything was lacking at Gaston [a Templar castle also known as Baghras]. And the Master sent a message to him saying that if the sultan moved towards Antioch he would send him men and whatever was needed there, but that he knew that the sultan had sent [men] towards Antioch and he would not attack it. Upon this, the sultan arrived in front of Antioch and took it within two days of his arrival.

And when the sultan had taken Antioch the brothers who were at Gaston were very dismayed, and did not know what they should do, for they had no equipment or other counsel which was needed for the garrison of the castle. One brother there, who was named Gins de Belin, mounted his horse while the brothers were eating, and took the keys of the castle, and gave them to the sultan. And he told him that the castle of Gaston was his, for the brothers inside wished to abandon it. And so he went there, and said, `See the keys of the castle that I have brought you.’ And when the sultan saw this, he sent a great many men. The brothers and sergeants who were there asked the Commander which decision they should make, for they saw well that they could not defend themselves. The Commander said that he would defend himself for as long as he could; and that it would be up to the will of God. The brothers said that they would do what he wished and commanded, and the sergeants said that they would leave, that since they saw that they could not defend themselves, they did not wish to die there and wanted to leave. Upon this, the Commander and the brothers agreed that since the town of Antioch had been taken quickly and they had no equipment with which to defend themselves, and the Master was unable to give them assistance, and the sultan knew how things stood with them, that it was better to escape and destroy what was in the castle which they could not do if the castle itself were lost. And they agreed that they would go to La Roche Guillaume, which they would restore, for La Roche Guillaume was in poor repair; and this was their decision. And when they saw the sultan’s men they abandoned the castle, and took what they could, and destroyed what they could of the remainder, but not all, and thus it was abandoned and destroyed. And when the Master and the brothers knew that Antioch was taken, the brothers were very sorrowful, and they made a decision on the matter of Gaston. And the decision was that they saw well that Gaston could not be held, not could they send help, and it was their decision to quickly send a brother who should carry a banner. And when he reached the sultan who was approaching the land, if God had given so much grace to the Commander and the brothers that they had abandoned the castle and gone into the mountains that they could see, if any came to him he should gather them together. And if they had not abandoned the castle he should enter it if he could, or send a message there and say on behalf of the Master and the convent that they should abandon the castle of Gaston and abandoned the castle of Gaston without permission, just as is said above. The Master asked about it, and one group of brothers said that they should be expelled from the house because it is said in our house that whoever abandons a march castle without the permission of the Master and the convent cannot remain in the house. And the other group said that they should not be expelled from the house because they had done what the convent had decided, and although they had not received the message which the Master had sent, nevertheless they had done what he and the convent had agreed upon. And before the brother who went had left them, the Master and all the brothers prayed in the same chapter that God would give the Commander and the brothers the good sense to abandon the castle. And they had ordered the brother who went there that if he found any of them he was to collect them together. Then if the brothers and the Commander had done what the Master and the convent decided, how could they, with a clear conscience, be judged to have committed such a fault? Furthermore, apart from that, they were very few men, and those few sergeants whom they had wanted to leave, and one brother had gone to the sultan and had taken the keys of the castle to him, which he had stolen; and furthermore they had nothing they needed to garrison the castle. And because of these above-mentioned things it was not their opinion that they should be judged to have committed a fault even though it is said in our house that whoever abandons a march castle without permission should be expelled from the house. This was not the case, for it was not equipped with the men or other things that they needed, and . . ., sent to the Master, and he … And furthermore, the Master and the convent … sent a message saying that they should abandon it, and they prayed to God that they had already done so, and for these reasons given above … all the matter written just as is said above. And their decision was that, according to the establishments of the Temple, the Commander and all the brothers who agreed to abandon the castle of Gaston without permission and without the castle being besieged or attacked, or not knowing if it would be … abandoned it, would have been expelled from the house if the Master and the convent had not decided to send a message to the Commander and the brothers of the land of Antioch that, since the town was taken, they should abandon Gaston. And furthermore, all prayed to God to give them so much understanding that they had already abandoned it. ‘And then since they did what you wished to be done, it does not seem good to us that they should be expelled from the house, even though it could be done by law. But for love of God and pity, and because it is a new thing, and because the Master and the convent wanted it to be abandoned, we agree that they should not be expelled from the house. But because they did not destroy everything that was in the castle, we agree that they should be on two days. That is our advice, but your understanding is so great that we do not set aside your advice; but what we have told you seems fitting to us, but act like gentlemen.’ And when the Master had their reply he informed the convent of it, and together all the convent held with what they had declared; thus was the fault of Gaston judged.

This translation is from The Catalan Rule of the Templars: A Critical Edition and English Translation from Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Cartas Reales, MS 3344, translated by Judi Upton-Ward (Boydell, 2003)

This entry was posted in Primary Sources and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.