Sunday, February 15, 2015

Templar Biography: Phillipe de Plessis

This article is the first in a series of articles on notable figures associated with the medieval Knights Templar. The first seven will be on certain Grand Masters of the order and notable events surrounding their government of the Templars.

Serving as head of the entire international Order the Grand Master exercised supreme authority and only answered to the Pope. The Grand Master was an elected position and the Knight elected would serve for life, although that was not always a long amount of time as many Grand Masters lost their lives in battle which shows that he oversaw military operations as well as the administrative operations. The Grand Master led the Templar Order into battle which, such as in this case, made this position very hazardous and sometimes a Grand Master's tenure was very short.

Phillipe de Plessis served as the 13th Grand Master of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon which occurred during the 4th Crusade. He is remembered for assisting in upholding the treaty between Sultan Saladin and King Richard I of England, and it was during this time the Templar order reached its height of power in Europe.

He was born of an old noble family in 1165 in the fortress of Plessis-MacĂ©, Anjou, France (8-miles NE of Angers). Being the younger son, at the age of 24, he left his family, sold his property, and took part in the 3rd Crusade, but didn't join the Order until he arrived in Palestine where he was impressed by the discipline and fortitude demonstrated by the knights in battle. 

The relationship between the Knights Hospitaller became tense and the Templars would have been expelled from Germany if it had not been for the intervention of the Pope, although this friendship of Pope Innocent III would be shaken. He acted more as a diplomat, than a military leader, not only between Saladin and Richard, but also worked with other chivalric orders in setting peace treaties with Muslim leaders. In 1208, Phillipe suggested that the Teutonic and Hospitallier knights make peace with the new Ayyubid Sultan, Malek-Adel. This suggestion was condemned by the Pope to the point he threatened to charge the Templars with apostasy. The tense relationship with the Hospitallers also caused Papal intervention, but often favor went to the Hospitallers which caused further animosity.

Due to little fighting being done during the 4th Crusade, the reign of Phillipe de Plessis is remembered for the Templar order reaching the climax of its reputation and power as recruits from all over were pouring in and many gifts such as tracts of land were given by the nobility of Europe.

According to surviving records, he is said to have died on November 12th, 1209, but there sources that list him as dying in 1208.


1. Cobbold, David. Philippe du Plessis. n.d. 

2. History of the Order. n.d. 

3. Phillipe de Plessis. n.d.

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