Philippe du Plessis (1165??-1209)

Translation : David COBBOLD

Master of the Order from 1201 to 1209.

Born around 1165 in the castle of Plessis-Macé near Angers, Philippe du Plessis was borne from an old Angevin family. In 1189, he participated in the Third Crusade as a secular knight.

Arriving in the Holy Land, he discovered the Order of the Temple. He was impressed by the discipline and the bravery the Order showed in the battles so he decided to take on their white mantle.
He was elected Master of the Order in the spring of 1201, some months after the death of Gilbert Horal.

Upon election du Plessis adopted the same guiding principles of his predecessor, in that he upheld the truce between Saladin and Richard Lion Heart. What is more, at the end of this treaty in 1208, du Plessis proposed to the Masters of the Hospitalers and Teutonics that they make a new peace treaty with Malek-Adel, the new Muslim leader.
Pontifical legates harshly criticised this new accord and a political crisis ensued between the Templars and Pope Innocent III. The Pope went so far as to threaten the Templars with apostasy if they refused to obey the legates.

During the term of du Plessis as Master, the Templars rarely participated in military actions. The Fourth Crusade was taken out of his control as was the finish of the siege of Constantinople. This may well have suited du Plessis as he generally tried to keep a good and peaceful relationship with the Muslims.
Despite his best efforts, a serious crisis nevertheless broke out between the Order of the Temple and the King of Armenia regarding the fortress of Gastein.
The King of Armenia took advantage of the conflict to evict the Templars from his kingdom and to seize their properties. The Pope had to intervene and pass judgement in favour of the Templars. The Order was therefore regained their unduly seized domains.
The relationship between the Templars and the Hospitalers was still less than amicable. Their relationship was another dispute in which the Pope had to constantly intervene in order to settle problems.
In these inter-Order conflicts, the Pope passed judgement in favour of the Hospitalers. This led the Templars into an association of increasing distrust with the Papacy as the Templar interests seemed dismissed too easily.

To the credit of du Plessis, during his term as Master, the Order reached the pinnacle of its development in Europe. Gifts and recruits poured in from each and every Templar province.
The name of du Plessis appeared for the last time in an act signed in 1209. Reims obituary mentions his death on November 12th 1209.

Previous Master : Gilbert Horal - Next Master : Guillaume de Chartres

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More references... Bibliography
  1. "Armorial des Maîtres de l'Ordre du Temple"
    Bernard Marillier; Editions Pardès 2000
  2. "Histoire des Templiers"
    J.-J.-E. Roy ; Editions Pardes 1999
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Translation : Andrew Zolnai
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