Visitor General of the OSMTHU to cease functions

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Starting January 1st, 2016, Fr+ Roman Vertovec is ceasing functions as the Visitor General of the OSMTHU. It’s with a great sense of pride that the Magisterial Council acknowledges the high quality of its members, frequently chosen to lead Templar initiatives and groups elsewhere in the neo-Templar world. The Magisterial Council was informed that Fr+ Roman will lead a new group composed of the Priory of Italy (Napolitan branch), the Priory of Croatia and the Priory of Bulgaria, having already been installed as the group’s leader in Zagreb.

The OSMTHU and the Magisterial Council wishes Fr+ Roman Vertovec the best in this new courageous task. God, undoubtably, will bless all those who act with a pure heart.

Luis de Matos
Chancellor and Interim Master
OSMTHU

 

For more information on the OSMTHU, please visit the official site at: templarsosmthu.wordpress.com

Why the 25th December?

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Most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th December. In the modern western world the date has taken on a significance far beyond its Christian origins. It is celebrated by people outside the religion as much as Christians themselves, and, depending on one’s outlook, is a time of year associated with the giving of gifts, spending time with loved ones, charity, goodwill, or rampant consumerism. But why is it celebrated on the 25th December, when the date of Jesus’ birthday is never mentioned in the Bible?

A combination of historical research and study of the Bible has led many historians and theologians to suggest that Jesus was probably born in either the Spring or Autumn. In the nativity story, Mary and Joseph are traveling to Bethlehem for a Roman census. The Jewish festival of Passover takes place in Spring, sometime around March or April. The festival celebrates Moses leading the Jews from Slavery in Egypt. Two millennia ago, thousands of Jews would descend on Jerusalem each year to celebrate the festival. It would have been an ideal time for the Romans to perform a census of the population, and could explain Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem (a short distance from Jerusalem).

In the autumn, around September or October, is the Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is a time when Jewish people remember their dependence on God during the forty years in the desert and coincides with the end of the harvest season. Again, the festival involved the Jewish population descending on Jerusalem, making it an ideal time for a Roman census, and explaining there being “no room at the inn” in the nativity story.

How the holiday came to be celebrated on the 25th December remains shrouded in mystery. The first two centuries of Christianity made no reference to when Christ was born, or a winter Christian holiday. Most researchers believe that the 25th December was chosen because it was around the time of a host of pagan festivals associated with the Winter Solstice.

The Romans paid tribute to the pagan God Saturn (the god of agriculture, among other things) each winter with a festival that started on December 17th and ended around the 25th. It included a celebration of the Solstice, as well as partying and the exchange of gifts among friends and family. Worship of the ancient Persian God of Light (Mithraism) was also popular at this time, especially among Roman soldiers. Like the worship of Saturn, the cult of Mithraism included a host of festivities in late December, around the Winter Solstice.

Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in 312 CE and the official sanctioning of the religion signaled the formation of many of the traditions it still holds to this day. One possible explanation for the decision to hold Christmas festivities on the 25th December is that the date was already celebrated by pagans. Selecting this date would have eased the transition from the pagan traditions and calendar to the Christian. There was also some logic for this decision in scripture. Early Christian tradition stated that the Annunciation (when Mary was told she would have a special child) happened on the 25th March. The 25th December is thus nine months after the Annunciation.

Christmas was first recorded as being celebrated on the 25th December in 336 CE, and a few years later Pope Julius I declared the date to be the official celebration of Jesus’ birth. After its adoption by Roman culture, the celebration of Christmas quickly spread east and west, and started to be observed by other Christian denominations.

Over the centuries other traditions have been added – the lighting of the Yule Log comes from pagan Scandinavia, while the story of ‘Santa Claus’ comes from the popular medieval feast of St. Nicholas Myra, a saint who visited children and left them presents just before Christmas. Christmas, as we celebrate it today, is a mixture of different cultures. For Christians it is the day put aside to acknowledge Christ’s birthday, however, it is also a continuation of long held traditions from history, intended to provide light in the darkest part of the year through the exchange of presents and good will.

By: Daryl Worthington in newhistorian.com

The Visit

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The morning sun was shining as bright as if it was Spring. But it wasn’t. Very, very close to the last days of Fall, we could see how the Tagus river carried the brownish fallen remains of dead leafs,  broken ashen tree twigs and orange tanned grass leftovers tried by a few days of hard rain and sweeping winds. Winter was coming, the air was cold. But the sun was having none of it! And in that fine lit morning, towering above the river waters in an impossible island, the invincible walls of the 850 year old Templar Castle of Almourol stood up, proud and mysterious.

We had the good fortune to have been found by the boat owner, who, after having spotted us looking at the towers with a smile on our eyes, asked from a distance “Do you want me to take you to the island?”

Sure!

HE Fr+ Bryant Jones, Grand Prior of the Grand Priory of the United States (OSMTJ – Lamirand/Haimovici branch), whom I had never met before, was visiting the Templar region of Tomar, in Portugal, and asked me if I would show him around. I was pleased to be his guide. Often some of our brethren, when they have a stopover in Lisbon in their travels, like to meet with me for a chat, a couple of beers or dinner. Sometimes they have time to go to Tomar. Sometimes they accept my invitation to visit Sintra. Many times, however, they are only educated tourists. They love to tour the places they have come to admire on the internet or their printed tour guides. But the real deal moves them no more than a 360º degree iPhone App with HD photos. They would hit the “Like” button, sure. But Fr+ Jones was hitting the “Love It!!!!” button for two straight days! His passion and knowledge for everything related to the Templar Order and its history was amazing. And uncommon. A real revelation. How I wish all High Officers of the Order in its several branches would show such knowledge and appreciation for Templar history, values and life lessons as Prior Jones does! The amount of problem that would be solved… And the drama that would not unfold…

Yes, we visited every corner of the Templar Castle and Convent of Christ that can be visited and spoke hours on end about every little subject that came to mind. Over the two days it took to visit Tomar and Sintra, I almost lost my voice, so much so that I was forced to cancel a class I was teaching that night. We belong to different branches in the Order and we have – and will keep – our commitments to our own branches. However, we struck a real friendship, firmly based on shared values and passions, shared objectives and visions for the future. So, don’t be surprised if ever see us crossing the gates of Jerusalem wearing the same white mantle!

Luis de Matos

Early Medieval States’ Origins: An Overview

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The fall of the Roman Empire is often seen as one of the major turning points in world history. An organised, well-administered empire collapsing to be replaced by smaller states.

In studying this period of history, there has been a large amount of heated debate. A new study by Paul Fouracre, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Manchester, has sought to expand on this historical quandary.

“What historians had traditionally disagreed about was whether these changes were for the better or for the worse”, Fouracre stated, in an article published in the most recent edition of History Today. “Had Roman rule been so oppressive that its end was a ‘good thing’? Were the barbarians thus liberators or were they oppressors who destroyed the protection of Roman law and made themselves into a privileged elite?”

This topic has always been discussed in relatively simplistic terms, Fouracre notes. Rome fell, barbarian groups rose to prominence, and new states formed in the wake of the Roman Empire. These new political entities took their name from the conquering peoples, England from the Angles, France from the Franks, and Lombardy from the Lombards.

Fouracre explains that the historical reality was much more complicated. Principally, he argues that barbarian groups were not the reason for the collapse of Roman administration. Many of the sources which we rely on for our understanding of this period are rooted in nationalistic movements.

Bede’s history of the English, for example, went to great pains to establish the progress of the British people. They were transformed from heathen savagery to good, peaceful Christians; as such, it served Bede’s purpose to portray post-Roman Britain as dominated by brutal barbarians.

“Quite simply, [Bede and other writers] were not reliable witnesses when it came to post-Roman states based on barbarian groups, for each historian had his own agenda in writing and each actually knew very little about the peoples they were supposedly championing,” Fouracre wrote.

Further, it has been questioned whether early medieval people were capable of forming cohesive, independent states. Particularly in Germany, never part of the Roman Empire, no single barbarian group ever formed a state.

Fouracre does not propose any answers to these important historical debates. Importantly, however, he does summarise the scholarship very effectively. He frames the debate in an accessible manner, meaning that the period is opened up to those with little previous knowledge.

By exploring the early medieval period, we can learn a huge amount about our present. “Most West Europeans do live in states that had their origins in what grew out of the Roman Empire and do want to know how this came about,” Fouracre concludes. “The task [for historians] is to write about this in a clear and accessible way that comprehends the complications and avoids the crusty value judgements of old.”

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: File Upload Bot (Eloquence)

By: Adam Steedman Thake in newhistorian.com

Medieval European Perceptions of Islam

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In 1087, a joint Pisan and Genoese force attacked the North African town of Mahdia, located in modern-day Tunisia. Christian forces returned to Italy triumphantly and used their spoils of war to construct commemorative churches.

A number of Arabic and Latin sources from the time testify to the events surrounding the raid of Mahdia.

One of the most important Latin sources is the poem Carmen in Victoriam Pisanorum, ‘Song for the Triumph of the Pisans’. The Carmen, written by a Pisan cleric only months after the raid, commemorates the expedition.

It has often been argued that the raid on Mahdia – conducted under the banner of St. Peter against a Muslim ruler – was a direct precursor to the First Crusade which followed eight years later. The Carmen is often viewed as providing context for the development of a crusading ideology in the eleventh century.

A pioneering new study has taken a fresh look at the Carmen. Matt King, a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota, has been studying the Carmen as a means of understanding Christian perceptions of Islam.

“An examination of this text will allow historians to consider Latin Christian perspectives on Islam and its adherents during the period immediately preceding the First Crusade,” King writes in his article, published in Hortulus, a graduate journal on medieval studies.

It is usually suggested that Pisan interests in North Africa were primarily commercial, with military activities receiving less attention. King argues that there was a certain level of coexistence and cooperation between Pisa and Islamic states, while the Carmen reveals a different side of the story where religiously-charged rhetoric could be applied to justify violent ends.

The Mahdia raid can be located in a wider context of Pisan military activities in North Africa. Pisa had been involved in military actions against Muslims throughout the eleventh century; briefly seizing the city of Bone in 1034 and helping the Norman Robert Guiscard in his conquest of Sicily in 1063.

“The author of the Carmen was thus writing in the midst of conflicts between burgeoning Italian commercial powers and Muslim states in the Mediterranean,” King notes.

Importantly, the Carmen makes frequent Old Testament references in an effort to locate Pisan activity in a Biblical tradition. Within this framework, the inhabitants of Mahdia take the form of Old Testament villains who feel the wrath of God. In contrast, King argues, the Pisans are a Gideon/David/Moses combination who, through the favour of God, are able to defeat their adversary.

“Such a description makes clear the deep religious roots that run throughout this story,” King notes. “In this narrative, it is impossible to separate the sacking of Mahdia or the author’s perception of Islam from this ancient narrative.”

The portrayal of Islam in the Carmen is a multi-faceted one. Pisan attacks are understood as an epic confrontation, similar to the Old Testament and classical tales. Further, the doctrine of the Muslim inhabitants of Mahdia is portrayed as a form of heretical Christianity. Taken together, these depictions of Muslim Africa reveal a medieval Latin understanding of the area as a place and people of the utmost evil.

King notes that the Carmen is, however, a triumphant poem. The author is consciously contextualising the Pisan-Genoese raid in a tradition of God-willed triumph. Simply taking the Carmen’s portrayal of Islam at face value, therefore, may misrepresent the Latin understanding of Islam.

“If we cautiously take the Carmen as indicative of general trends in Pisan perceptions of Islam and Africa,” King concludes, “we thus can see an image of Pisa as a city with some knowledge of medieval Ifriqiya and as one that used this knowledge to nurture some image of righteous war against Muslims.”

For more information: www.hortulus-journal.com

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: DrFO.Jr.Tn

By: Adam Steedman Thake in newhistorian.com

Novos Escudeiros no Priorado Ibérico

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Os tempos do rápido consumo das coisas mundanas levou ao rápido consumo das coisas que valem mais que o mundo. Num ápice, passamos por elas sem as experimentar verdadeiramente e sem nos determos o tempo suficiente para nos deixar seduzir nem pelo seu encanto, nem pela voz que evidenciam e não ouvimos. A vontade de ter e de chegar cobre e oculta os aromas suaves que só se experimentam no passar largo.

Muitos ramos das Ordens que derivam do reavivar dos valores Templários nos séculos XVIII e XIX desconhecem os graus de Noviço e Escudeiro. Entra-se na Ordem por cima. Da rua a Cavaleiro em poucos minutos. Passe de ilusionismo, capa na mão. Flup! Já está! Muitas vezes até ouvimos “Sr. Fulano é uma pessoa extraordinária e já era Templário ante de o ser”. Mas como é que se pode ser antes de ser? Estaremos a cumprir o nosso desígnio ao passar a Cavalaria com a facilidade de quem passa uma constipação?  É que muitas vezes a vontade de “ser Templário” assemelha-se a uma febre  rápida, mas passageira, que se apanha com os amigos. Um espirro aqui e ali: “Sim, juro! Sim, prometo!”, mas depois de passar só ficam para trás os lenços de assoar. Entrou e saiu com a velocidade de um tiro. Ala que se faz tarde. Templários quê? Já tenho… Já sou! Já fui…

Por isso, é de destacar a tenacidade daqueles que procuraram com igual curiosidade e desejo, mas em vez de se deixarem seduzir pela Via Rápida, se mantiveram atentos à Via Dolorosa, mais lenta mas, por ventura, mais segura. Hoje, pedir a alguém uma cifra elevada em Euros para o fazer rapidamente “templário” é mais fácil do que pedir a alguém mais de um ano de estudo e formação para (talvez…) chegar a ser Cavaleiro. Ninguém quer esperar meses para eventualmente ter o que, tudo indica, ser a mesma coisa, mas muito mais depressa. Ninguém quer perder tempo a estudar o que já leu nos livros que tem sobre a Ordem. A Via Rápida é ampla e sem obstáculos, com arrojados viadutos sobre o vale (nem é preciso lá descer), três faixas de rodagem e Via Verde. Já a Via Dolorosa, é longa e não se sabe mais nada. Só se sabe que demora muito tempo. Poucos vêem a necessidade de começar como Noviço. “Noviço, eu? Já ando a estudar isto há tanto tempo! Então agora é que vou ser Noviço?”. Poucos vêem no Escudeiro uma progressão. A poucos interessa a Via Dolorosa porque o que procuram não é ser, mas parecer (assumir a similitude, esperando que assim se dê a ilusão, literalmente que “o hábito faça o monge”). O que é instantâneo na Via Rápida é incerto e longínquo na Via Dolorosa. Ou, sendo porventura caridoso, tudo é longínquo e incerto na Via Delarosa ou Via De la Rosa.

A Ordem dá por isso os parabéns aos novos Escudeiros e Escudeiras, reconhecendo neles e nelas a dedicação e o desejo de progredir um pouco mais no seu trabalho de instrução e despertar espiritual. Não será demais dizê-lo: pelo serviço, a recompensa é certa.

Luis de Matos

Prior Geral

Chanceler Internacional

OSMTHU

 

Renovation Works Reveal Medieval Hospital Remains in York

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Renovations at the York Theatre Royal have brought to life remains from what is considered to have been the largest hospital in northern England in the Middle Ages. Researchers from the York Archaeology Trust were surprised by the well preserved state of the remains, as it was believed that whatever remained from St Leonard’s Hospital had been crushed beneath the floor of the theatre, which underwent a replacement at the beginning of the twentieth century, soon after the discovery of several column plinths and the foundations for the rib-vaulted ground floor of a building.

The discovery of the plinths and foundations was made by George Benson, a historian and archaeologist, Culture 24 details, but were believed to have been destroyed, until in 1989 a research team unearthed two bays of a rib-vaulted roof at the site. However, it remained uncertain whether anything else had survived over the centuries, especially since the erection of the York Theatre Royal in 1744.

The latest remains found in what are called occupation deposits beneath the building consist of six column plinths and the base of the northern wall of a building right beneath the theatre’s stalls. There is a lot of documentary evidence about St. Leonard’s Hospital, and the researchers are hopeful that they will be able to uncover more parts of one of the busiest hospitals in Medieval England and identify what they were used for. Parts of the hospital’s undercroft remain above the surface and can be visited from the Museum Gardens.

St. Leonard’s Hospital was built over the remains of another hospital, St Peter’s, in 1137, after the initial building suffered a fire. It went on to become a completely self-sufficient (and profitable) complex for more than four centuries. Ben Reeves, from the York Archaeology Trust, told Culture 24 that documents from the time describe the hospital as a complex of separate buildings, including a leper house, an infirmary, a chapel, and a children’s ward, as well as a residential area for the monks and nuns who ran the hospital. The complex must have also included other structures such as kitchens and outbuildings. Examination of the occupation deposits in which this latest discovery was made could reveal which of the buildings used to be on the site of the York Theatre Royal. Reeves cautioned that such an examination would have to be combined with a dose of luck but added that having samples to examine at all was in itself valuable.

Reeves went on to say that what makes the discovery extraordinary is the very fact of the remains’ survival. Occupation deposits are as a rule very fragile and seldom “survive modern groundworks,” he explained. St Leonard’s Hospital was almost entirely destroyed in 1539, during the Reformation, and the city of York had no hospital until 1740, according to the “History of York” website. Excavation works will now continue at the site of the York Theatre Royal with the researchers hoping to uncover more parts of the building that could provide some insight as to its function.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: W. Monkhouse/ Wellcome Trust

By: Irina Slav in newhistorian.com