In the Abbey church at Fontevivo outside Parma, Italy, a magnificent porphyry tombstone reveals the outlines of a Knight Templar. The knight in question is Guido Pallavicino, marchese of Pellegrino, and benefactor to the Abbey. He is also the uncle in the 19th generation of the current chairman of the Family Association, Lars Liljenstolpe.
Guido was the son of Guglielmo, marchese of Pellegrino, and Solestella. His uncle was also called Guido, and had been the first margrave of Bodonitsa in Frankish Greece from 1204 to his death in 1237.
By the time Guido joined the Templars, the order of ”The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon” (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici) was already in decline.
The order had been founded in 1119 by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem on initiative of the French knight Hugues de Payens for the protection of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre. The king granted the Templars a headquarters in a wing of the royal palace on the Temple Mount – hence the name.
In the mid-12th century, the Crusades started to go bad for the Christians. After the capture of Jerusalem by Muslim forces under Saladin in 1187, the Templars were forced to relocate their headquarters to other cities in the Holy Land, such as the seaport of Acre, which they held for the next century. They then moved their headquarters to Cyprus. In 1302 or 1303, however, the Templars lost the island to the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate. With the island gone, the Crusaders lost their last foothold in the Holy Land.
With the order’s military mission gone, support for the Templar’s began to dwindle, although, since during the two hundred years of their existence, the Templars had become a part of daily life throughout the Christian world by managing large farms or vineyards, or using the order as a bank in which to store personal valuables. The great power of the Templars also lead to their downfall.
Criminal charges were brought against the Templars by the French king Philip IV and his ministers. Argueably, Philip, who was deeply in debt to the Templars from his war efforts, decided to act for his own purposes. He began pressuring the church to take action against the order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts. King Philip convinced the Pope to have the order dissolved and had the grand master trialled and burnt at the stake on the charge of sorcery.
On the magnificent stone slab, now set into the church wall, Guido is featured dressed for battle, with his coat of mail and his sword. Along the sides of the tombstone an inscription reads:
MARCHIO SEPULTUS MERITIS EST MARMORE SCULPTUS DET DATOR IPSE BONI REQUIEM PACEMQUE GUIDONI PELLAVICINO PRAENOMINE DE PEREGRINO MCCCI QUI DEDIT ABBATI PARTEM DE CURTE REDALTI.
…and in English: ”The marquee buried here, depicted in marble due to his merits: Giver of all good things, give peace and rest to Guido Pallavicino of the Pellegrino family, deceased 1301, who donated the Redalto estate to the abbey”