The ruins of the Franciscan Monastery on Kloster Strasse, not far from Alexanderplatz is one of the oldest monuments in Berlin. It was built on land donated by the brothers, Otto IV and Albrecht III, Markgrafs of Brandenburg, in 1271. (Markgrafs were military rulers of various districts of the Holy Roman Empire, charged with protecting the populace and maintaining order.) The land was donated for the purpose of building a Monastery. There is a strong possibility that an earlier church was built there and that the stone wall incorporated into one of the walls was part of it.
The Franciscians were founded by St Francis of Assisi in 1208. The order was based on the members living a life of extreme poverty and spending their days preaching and begging for food. St Francis felt this was the way Christ lived so his followers should too. This rule was relaxed in 1228 because so few Monks could actually sustain themselves through begging. They were then allowed to do manual labor, but still could not own anything individually, only collectively. They were called the Grey Friars because of the simple rough grey robes they wore.
They started building, but the project got a mighty boost in 1290 due to The Knight Jacob von Nebele. Jacob was a Templar. They were easily identified by the white Mantel with the Red Cross they wore over their Armor. He gave the Brickworks in Templehof to the Monks. This helped them in several ways. They could make the bricks to build the Monastery and they could sell them to get the income to live so they could spend more time in their preaching and study. They started making the specially molded bricks that became the hallmark of the Brick Gothic style. But how could Jakob donate the Brickyard since Templars, like the Monks, had to take a vow of poverty and divest themselves of their worldly goods before they could join? Since history has failed us I will tell you about the Jakob of my imagination, but first a few word about the Templars.
The Templars began in 1119 when they were allowed to set up headquarters on the recaptured Al-Aqusa Mosque on the Temple Mount. This is how they got the name “Templars“. Jerusalem had been recaptured in the first Crusade in 1099 and the Pope encouraged those who could to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. People sold everything and carried their money with them to pay for their travels. Unfortunately they were “easy prey“ for Bandits and many were killed for their possessions. The Templars made it their mission to protect these Pilgrims and Pope Innocent in 1139 not only gave his blessing but made them exempt from all local laws and taxes and answerable only to the Pope. This allowed them to set up stations all over Europe whereby people could exchange their assets, even leave control of their businesses and real estate in exchange for certificates they could cash in for equal value when they arrived tn the Holy Land or get back when they returned. Eventually nearly 1000 stations were set up in Europe and the Holy Land and 80% of the organization were not Knights but Clerks and Managers. They would manage these properties until the Pilgrims returned, but of course, many did not return. This soon gave the Templars great financial resources, they were collectively rich but individually poor. Soon they loaned great sums to the rich and powerful which eventually led to their down fall.
knights Templar escorting Pilgrims to Jeruslem