The natural strength of these orders was increased by immunities and privileges granted partly by the Latin kings of Jerusalem, but in greater part by the popes. The Hospitalers, as bestowing their goods to feed the poor and to entertain pilgrims, were freed from the obligation of paying tithe, or of giving heed to interdicts even if these were laid upon the whole country, while it was expressly asserted that no patriarch or prelate should dare to pass any sentence of excommunication against them. In other words, a society was called into existence directly antagonistic to the clergy, and an irreconcilable conflict of claims was the inevitable consequence. Nor can we be surprised to find the clergy complaining that the knights, not content with the immunities secured to themselves, gave shelter to persons who, not belonging to their order but lying under sentence of excommunication, sought to place themselves under their protection.
But if the Knights of the Hospital had thus their feuds with the clergy, they had feuds still more bitter with the rival order of the Templars. With different interests and different aims, the one sought to promote enterprises against which the other protested, or stickled about points of precedence when common decency called for harmonious action, or withheld its aid when that aid was indispensable for the very safety of the State. Thus we have the triple discord of the King and his barons struggling against the claims of the clergy, and the military orders in conflict with the barons and the clergy alike. Of a state so circumstanced the words are emphatically true that a house divided against itself shall not stand.
Although after the failure of the Second Crusade the interest felt by the western nations in the kingdom of Jerusalem, established by the first crusaders in 1099, had greatly diminished, still the news of the loss of the Holy City—which was taken by Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, in 1187—fell like a thunderbolt on men’s minds. Once more the flame which had kindled the mystic war of God blazed high. “What a disgrace, what an affliction,” cried Pope Urban III, “that the jewel which the second Urban won for Christendom should be lost by the third!” He vehemently exhorted the Church and all her faithful to join the war, worked day and night, prayed, sighed, and so wore himself out with grief and anger that he sickened and died in a few weeks. His successor, Gregory VIII, and afterward Pope Clement III, were inspired by the same feeling and exerted themselves for the great cause with untiring energy.
In 1185 a number of English barons had put on the cross on hearing of Saladin’s menacing progress; toward the end of 1187 the heir to the throne, Richard, followed their example;