Robert de Craon, originated from the Vitré region. He was the third son of Renaud de Bourgoing (Lord of Craon) and Lady Enagen de Vitré. His birth status as the youngest child automatically dedicated him to the priesthood.
Companion of Hugues de Payns, he is one of the nine founding Knights of the Order.
In June 1136 de Craon succeeded Hugues de Payns at the head of the Order. Prior to this he was Seneschal from 1125.
During his reign as Grand Master, Pope Innocent III allowed Templars generous privileges. These were decreed in the Bull ‘Omne Datum Optimum’ in 1139. The privileges included: independence from all but the Pope’s ecclesiastical supervision; authorization to build chapels, oratories and cemeteries; authorization to have Templar chaplains; exemption on payment of taxes, tithes…
Pope Innocent III also established a method for the election of future Masters of the Order. In addition he encouraged Templars to fight the enemies of Christendom without flinching. As reward, the Order could keep all the booty taken from the Saracens without anybody else claiming a part of it.
Robert de Craon organized the detailed functioning and management systems of preceptories and provinces. With wisdom and rigour, he also administered the donations, seemingly flooding in from everywhere. In fact he even refused the kingdom of Aragon which King Alphonse wanted the Templars to inherit after his dead.
In the East, Robert de Craon took two years to destroy the plunderers and brigands lead by Assouard, Aleppo’s Emir. He also managed to contain several Muslim attacks in the regions of Beaufort and Banyas, despite the Templar’s military weakness.
In 1139, de Craon participated in the disastrous battle in Teqoa, where the Order sacrificed their middle troops in order to protect the retreat of the routed Frankish Army.
At the death of King Foulques, in 1142, de Craon tried to arbitrate between Queen Melissende and her son Baudouin III, but without much susccess. Melissende ruled for 5 years with the goal of simply keeping the Kingdom of Jerusalem safe, without concern for the other Latin states of Edesse or Antioch. Baudouin, as his father before him, was more of the soldier, wanting to protect all the Latin states. During the benign reign of Melissende the Muslim armies under Zengui seized Edesse and a young Nur Al Din rose to power.
It was not until he was 19 years old that Baudouin III ascended to the throne.
In 1144, the Turks took advantage of the continually growing discord amongst Christians. They seized the city of Edesse killing more than 30 000 Christians and transporting a further 15 000 as slaves.
In July 1148, de Craon participated in the Assises of Acre which diverted the Second Crusade to Damas.
Robert de Craon died in January 1149 after the failure of the second crusade, lead by Louis VII, King of France and Konrad III, the Germanic Emperor.
Back to Masters list(1) Some historians suggest that Robert de Craon died in 1147, before the Second Crusade.