The Decree of Pope Lucius III Proclaiming the Sacred Duty of the Knights of the Holy Crusades

In the present document Pope Lucius III gives his instructions to the Knights who will take part in the Crusade. He also specifies the privileges that he is conferring upon them as well as prohibitions that they must obey.

The document opens with congratulations to the brothers for leaving behind the secular pomp and worldly possessions which lead to death. The brothers, who have chosen the way to life by having...

put upon their chests the sign of the living cross

are following the words of the Apostle who stated;

greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend.

In this case, the brothers lay down their lives for other Christians and defend them from the incursions of the pagans. This sort of zeal and devotion is to be pursued with your whole heart and mind under the leadership of the Holy See and the blessed Peter, and on behalf of the entire church.

The document then reviews the conditions and rules which the Knights were to observe...

forsaking all secular possessions.

The Knights of the Holy Crusades were restricted from usurping the rights of any other religious order, for the brothers under military girdle and tunic were conceived to have their hands consecrated against the blood of those unfaithful to the Lord. By vocation, they are both soldiers and servants. Finally, brothers once devoted and received into the holy order, with profession having been made and religious habit assumed, may by no means return to secular life.

The Templars are then granted exemption from paying tithes and are confirmed in the apostolic powers granted to bishops.

The Pope grants to the Knights the right to build churches and cemeteries. This was an important privilege restricted to the military orders.

The text concludes with an extension of papal protection towards all the Knights, instructions to celebrate divine offices, permission to administer sacraments and finally a general prohibition from...

mixing with the society of women.

The final lines of the document contain the apostolic benediction.

Shortly after this decree was written, the Knights found themselves in mortal battle in Palestine, as the Saracens, led by the great Muslim leader Saladin, fought for and won many of the Christian fortresses.

Europe, in desperation, sent a great counter-offensive army, The Holy Crusade, led by Richard the Lion Hearted of England. The subsequent battle was considered as a great victory for Richard and indeed, the coastal areas were regained. However, the terms of the armistice between Richard and Saladin left Jerusalem in Muslim hands.