As we saw before, the Knights Templar were a Norman enterprise, first and foremost. The more you read about the Normans the more obvious this becomes. The Normans themselves are almost as mysterious as the Templars, and as such have fed into conspiracy theories and alternative histories, particularly in the elaborate exegesis of the Lyndon LaRouche organization. How deep the connections go is a question we'll try to answer here.
The Norman Conquest of England remains a singular achievement, in that the Anglo-Saxons were renowned for their fierceness in battle (so much so that they became wandering mercenaries following the loss to the Normans). One of the Normans' great advantages was their cavalry, armored knights on horseback.
Horses had not been used in war by the Anglo-Saxons. And the English had been battered fighting off a Norwegian invasion earlier in the year. But the Normans came into England with one of the most formidable invasion forces of its time. From the Wiki:
The army of Duke William of Normandy...had a strength of 8,400 soldiers consisting of 2,200 cavalry, 1,700 archers and 4,500 infantry (men-at-arms).The Normans also needed a large naval fleet to move their forces across the Channel. And all of those men needed to be clothed and fed and armed. Each knight also needed to feed and house his horses and his entourage, including pages, squires, and servants. This was an incredibly expensive operation. And the invasion of England followed hot on the heels of the Norman campaign in distant Sicily:
After two probing incursions the conquest of Sicily was undertaken in 1061. This operation would take thirty years to complete and was possible due to the divisions present between the Moslem factions inhabiting the island. The Normans continued to face problems within the already conquered areas of Italy, as well as a chronic shortage of manpower ...The Normans were tall and strong and noted for their unusual intelligence and cunning, but there seems to be something else at work here. We know that William the Conqueror had been partially financed by Sephardic Jews who had fled Spain and been offered sanctuary in Normandy, but that doesn't account for the strange wanderings of both the Normans and the Templars in the years to come.
Out of necessity the invasion of Sicily was an amphibious operation with men and horses traveling by ship to an area south of Messina...A few years later a similar, though much larger, operation would be undertaken by Duke William of Normandy during the invasion of England. -- "The Normans: Their history, arms and tactics" by Patrick Kelly
There was a quest here, a search for something lost to History.
As we'll see, the Normans/Templars were the original Indiana Joneses of history, and their travels reveal a much deeper and stranger purpose than even the Baigents and Leighs would assign to them.
WE ALREADY HAVE GODS, THANK YOU
First, let me go back to a point I brought up earlier in the series as to the ethnic composition of the Norman Nation:
Given that the Frankish nation gave us two crucial dynasties in the rise of Christendom, how do we account for the presence of Franks in an upstart nation such as the Normans? The epicenter of Frankish power was middle Europe, a long way away from the rainy coasts of Normandy.
The question becomes, what might caused their disaffection with their kinsmen?It turns out that I was wrong- pagan beliefs were hardly underground in Normandy- they were on the warpath. From The Catholic Encyclopedia:
As we saw, Charlemagne declared war on the indigenous beliefs of northern Europe, slaughtering tens of thousands of "pagans" to establish his Holy Roman Empire. The Normans converted in the 10th Century- remarkably late for such an ambitious people. The old beliefs went "underground," as opposed to dying out.
As Duke of Normandy Rollo remained faithful to the Carlovingian dynasty in its struggles with the ancestors of the future Capetians. These cordial relations between the ducal family of Normandy and French royalty provoked under Rollo's successor William Long-sword (931-42) a revolt of the pagan Northmen settled in Cotentin and Bessin. One of their lords (jarls), Riulf by name was the leader of the movement. The rebels reproached the duke with being no longer a true Scandinavian and "treating the French as his kinsmen".This revolt was not a one-off. The Christianization of Normandy seems to be a political expediency that went no deeper than the aristocracy:
Another attempt at a revival of paganism was made under Richard I Sans Peur (the Fearless, 942-96). He was only two years old at his father's death. A year later (943) the Scandinavian Setric, landing in Normandy with a band of pirates, induced a number of Christian Northmen to apostatize; among them, one Turmod who sought to make a pagan of the young duke.Bear in mind this entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia was written in 1911, long before Vatican II and at a time when the Church was very much in militant/triumphalist mode. Admitting failure in the face of Norse paganism was not on the Vatican's agenda. But it gets worse:
So attached were these Scandinavians to paganism that their leader Olaf, having been baptized by the Archbishop of Rouen, was slain by them. Although they had become Christian, all traces of Scandinavian paganism did not disappear under the first dukes of Normandy. Rollo walked barefoot before the reliquary of St. Oueu, but he caused many relies to be sold in England, and on his death-bed, according to Adhémar de Chabannes, simultaneously caused prisoners to be sacrificed to the Scandinavian gods and gave much gold to the churches.A few years before the Norman Conquest of England, Henry I of England reported to Pope Callistus II that Normandy wasn't anything close to a Christian land:
"The duchy", said he, "was the prey of brigands. Priests and other servants of God were no longer honoured, and paganism had almost been restored, in Normandy. The monasteries which our ancestors had founded for the repose of their souls were destroyed, and the religious obliged to disperse, being unable to sustain themselves.Given that the Normans were giving the Church hell, they most certainly caught the eye of other dissidents chafing under Rome's yoke. And here's where the story of the Knights Templar really begins....
The churches were given up to pillage, most of them reduced to ashes, while the priests were in hiding. Their parishioners were slaying one another."
THE MASKS OF HISTORY
Now, Lyndon LaRouche isn't high on my personal list of reliable sources. But he has a theory on the stunning rise of the Normans, albeit one I've not been able to confirm. But when you're dealing with historical mysteries you're often forced to take whatever you can get. And it seems the old crank thinks there's something to the "fugitive pagan" component of the Norman people:
"Now, the power of Venice was located largely in its alliance with a formation of a bunch of gangsters, called the Normans. Now these were the heathen, who were chased out of Saxony, by Charlemagne, and they went north into Jutland, and similar parts of that part of the world. And they became known as the Normans. They were used as pirates and slaughterers, gangsters, organized crime. And they were used...to take over Normandy... And this destroyed the France of Charlemagne.Bear in mind now that the Venetians and the Normans fought against each other, mainly over the Norman campaign against the Byzantines. But as we'll see the Normans' interest there also ties into their hidden agenda. And as soon as the Normans took over, Venice ramped up its business in England, using Southampton as its port of call. As we've seen more recently, war is often used to open up new markets for export:
"So the Normans then, as Normans, or as called Plantagenets, or called Anjou, were the major force allied with Venice, as a military force, which, among other things, conducted the crusades.
The First Crusade, actually, was the Norman Conquest of England; that was the first crusade. Then you had others which were called crusades. All these were conducted by the Normans, as a fighting force. All were directed by Venice."
For a long time the while the navy of England was in a very infantine condition the English were supplied by the Venetians with articles of foreign produce. Soon after the Norman conquest the Venetian vessels arrived regularly at Southampton, bringing Indian goods. -- The Saturday Magazine, Volumes 12-13
The Middle Ages saw the rise of the city-state of Venice as a major world power and center of all kinds of intrigues and heresies. Because it was a hub for naval traffic, the plague years would be especially tough on the Venetians. And the city would later become identified with conspiracy and debauchery, particularly in pop culture. But for many years it dominated commerce and shipping in the Mediterranean.
For Venetians during the Middle Ages the sea was life. The prosperity, the very existence, of the Republic depended upon seaborne commerce. That commerce was inherently peaceful and prospered best in times of peace and stability.Of course, this doesn't just describe the Venetians. It describes another ancient maritime power and describes it to an absolute T....
It was also competitive and aroused passions of jealousy and greed. Venetian commerce needed to be protected from predators, and Venetians, too, were often willing to use force to extend the scope of, and gain advantage for, their trade. War and trade were very often closely interlinked activities.Since maritime trade was the life's blood of the Venetian Republic, the naval policy of the state was aimed at defending or maximizing that trade.
Egypt was the second-oldest area of Venetian involvement, and a highly profitable one. -- "Foundations of Venetian Naval Strategy from Pietro II Orseolo to the Battle of Zonchio 1000 - 1500" by John E. Dotson
...it describes the Phoenicians. And theories that Venice was nothing more than the old Phoenician empire reborn in the heart of Italy itself probably wouldn't be debunked by this old news story:
A Neglected Civilization Gets Its Due in Venice
The Palazzo Grassi museum has opened what it calls the largest exhibition ever dedicated to the Phoenicians, presenting these ancient people as a remarkable civilization that embraced the Mediterranean's varied cultural currents.Oh, do they ever. And then some.
The show's organizers say this startling first impression announces the exhibition's inspiration in recent archeological discoveries. It also announces an intent to raise from the dead a people that lived a millennium from the days of the Old Testament's Canaan to the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage.
''They were a major civilization that produced an original synthesis, bringing many Oriental elements into the Mediterranean,'' Dr. Moscati said in an interview. ''Even though they ended as the vanquished, not the victors, they exercised an influence we still feel today.''
TO BE CONTINUED