The 20th Grand Master of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon was Thomas Bérard serving from 1256 AD to 1273 (during the 8th and 9th Crusades) and is noted for initiating cooperation between two other military orders: Knights Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights.
Little is known about his life prior to being Grand Master, but what is known is that after the end of the reign of Renaud de Vichiers, Thomas Bérard was elected. What is known is that when he took over the Templars, the Holy Land and the Templar order were in dire straits. Templar and Christian properties were reduced to a mere few cities and fortresses.
The War of St. Sabas was a conflict between the rival Italian maritime republics of Genoa and Venice over control of Acre. This was started at the beginning of Bérard's reign, and the Templars were not spared from this war as they sided with the Venetians and the Hospitallers had sided Genoese. This war would last until 1270 when the Peace of Cremona and hostilities were officially ended between the two sides.
While the Christian civil war was still going on, sometime around the end of 1263 or the beginning of 1264, cooperation was initiated by Bérard with Hugo de Revel, Grand Master of the Hospitallers, and Anno von Sangershausen, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. If dealing with this Christian in-fighting wasn't enough, the Mameluk Baïbars murdered the Sultan of Cairo in 1260 and consolidated his power. In 1263, he attempted to lay siege on Acre, but retreated after a few days of fighting.
In 1264, the Templars and Hospitallers captured Lizon, a stronghold between Caïffa and Jenin. They then destroyed a Mameluk unit composed of 300 men.
In the next year, Baïbars started a campaign of brutality that devastated the Christian kingdom. In March 1265, he utterly destroyed Caïffa and Cesarea. He attempted to seize control of Chateau-Pelerin, but the Templars were able to repel the Mameluks. Baïbars turned his attention on Arsûf, but the Hospitallers were able to resist. After a month, the city surrendered after Baïbars promised to let everyone go free. As soon as the gates were opened, the knights were imprisoned.
In 1266, Baîbars attacked the fortress of Safed that was held by the Templars. Baîbars suffered huge losses and executed several of his generals in response to their suggestion to abandon the siege. After a month of fighting, the Mameluks were able to capture the fortress. Baîbars, again, made a false promise of leniency to the knights, but this time, instead of imprisonment, the Templars were all beheaded. Next fell Beaufort and Antioch, a devastating blow to Christendom. Gaston then fell and word came of Mameluks heading to La Roche Guillaume. He attempted to send a message to surrender, but this had already occurred.
Both the Templar and Hospitaller Grand Masters pleaded to the Pope for more support. Another crusade was preached, but only the Kings of France and Aragon responded, but a large contingent of Christian host sank during a terrible storm.
In February 1271, the Templars surrendered Chastel Blanc and retreated to Tortosa. In June, Montfort, the last inland fortification in the Holy Land was lost. By the end of 1271, the castle of Krak des Chevaliers would fall to the Mameluks which would lead to a 10-year truce signed between the Christians and the Mameluks.
Thomas Beraud died on March 25, 1273, and was succeeded by Guillaume de Beaujeu.
1. Cobbold, D. (n.d.). Thomas Beraud. Retrieved from Project Beauceant: http://www.templiers.org/thomas-beraud-eng.php
2. Grand Masters. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem: https://www.theknightstemplar.org/1942-2/
3. Napier, G. (2014). Pocket A-Z of the Knights Templar: A Guide to Their History and Legacy. The History Press.
4. Thomas Bérard. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bérard