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14 min
Knights Templar
1119 - 1312

Knights Templar

Words: nono umasy


The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar, or simply the Templars, was a Catholic military order, one of the most wealthy and popular of the Western Christian military orders. They were founded in 1119, headquartered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages.


Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church by such decrees as the papal bull Omne datum optimum of Pope Innocent II, the Templars became a favored charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were amongst the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades. They were prominent in Christian finance; non-combatant members of the order, who made up as much as 90% of their members, managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom. They developed innovative financial techniques that were an early form of banking, building a network of nearly 1,000 commanderies and fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land, and arguably forming the world's first multinational corporation.


The Templars were closely tied to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the order faded. Rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created distrust, and King Philip IV of France, while being deeply in debt to the order, used this distrust to take advantage of the situation. In 1307, he pressured Pope Clement to have many of the order's members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. Under further pressure, Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312. The abrupt disappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the "Templar" name alive into the present day.



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1096 Aug 15

Prologue

Jerusalem, Israel


Prologue


While Jerusalem had been under Muslim rule for hundreds of years, by the 11th century the Seljuk takeover of the region threatened local Christian populations, pilgrimages from the West, and the Byzantine Empire itself. The earliest initiative for the First Crusade began in 1095 when Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested military support from the Council of Piacenza in the empire's conflict with the Seljuk-led Turks. This was followed later in the year by the Council of Clermont, during which Pope Urban II supported the Byzantine request for military assistance and also urged faithful Christians to undertake an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem.


Jerusalem was reached in June 1099 and the Siege of Jerusalem resulted in the city being taken by assault from 7 June to 15 July 1099, during which its defenders were ruthlessly massacred. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was established as a secular state under the rule of Godfrey of Bouillon, who shunned the title of 'king'. A Fatimid counterattack was repulsed later that year at the Battle of Ascalon, ending the First Crusade. Afterwards the majority of the crusaders returned home.


1119 Jan 1

Foundation

Jerusalem, Israel


Foundation


In 1119, the French knight Hugues de Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and proposed creating a monastic order for the protection of pilgrims.


1120 Jan 1

Knights find a home

Temple Mount, Jerusalem


Knights find a home


King Baldwin and Patriarch Warmund agreed to the request, probably at the Council of Nablus in January 1120, and the king granted the Templars a headquarters in a wing of the royal palace on the Temple Mount in the captured Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Temple Mount had a mystique because it was above what was believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. The Crusaders therefore referred to the Al-Aqsa Mosque as Solomon's Temple, and from this location the new order took the name of Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or "Templar" knights. The order, with about nine knights including Godfrey de Saint-Omer and André de Montbard, had few financial resources and relied on donations to survive. Their emblem was of two knights riding on a single horse, emphasizing the order's poverty.


1129 Jan 1

Recognition of the Templar Order

Troyes, France


Recognition of the Templar Order
Templars protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land | ©Angus McBride


The impoverished status of the Templars did not last long. They had a powerful advocate in Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading Church figure, the French abbot primarily responsible for the founding of the Cistercian Order of monks and a nephew of André de Montbard, one of the founding knights. Bernard put his weight behind them and wrote persuasively on their behalf in the letter 'In Praise of the New Knighthood', and in 1129, at the Council of Troyes, he led a group of leading churchmen to officially approve and endorse the order on behalf of the church. With this formal blessing, the Templars became a favoured charity throughout Christendom, receiving money, land, businesses, and noble-born sons from families who were eager to help with the fight in the Holy Land.


The Templars were organized as a monastic order similar to Bernard's Cistercian Order, which was considered the first effective international organization in Europe. The organizational structure had a strong chain of authority. Each country with a major Templar presence (France, Poitou, Anjou, Jerusalem, England, (Spain), Portugal, Italy, Tripoli, Antioch, Hungary, and Croatia) had a Master of the Order for the Templars in that region.


There was a threefold division of the ranks of the Templars: the noble knights, the non-noble sergeants, and the chaplains. The Templars did not perform knighting ceremonies, so any knight wishing to become a Knight Templar had to be a knight already. They were the most visible branch of the order, and wore the famous white mantles to symbolize their purity and chastity. They were equipped as heavy cavalry, with three or four horses and one or two squires. Squires were generally not members of the order but were instead outsiders who were hired for a set period of time. Beneath the knights in the order and drawn from non-noble families were the sergeants. They brought vital skills and trades from blacksmiths and builders, including administration of many of the order's European properties. In the Crusader States, they fought alongside the knights as light cavalry with a single horse. Several of the order's most senior positions were reserved for sergeants, including the post of Commander of the Vault of Acre, who was the de facto Admiral of the Templar fleet. The sergeants wore black or brown. From 1139, chaplains constituted a third Templar class. They were ordained priests who cared for the Templars' spiritual needs. All three classes of brother wore the order's red cross.


1139 Jan 1

Papal Bull

Pisa, Province of Pisa, Italy


Papal Bull


At the Council of Pisa in 1135, Pope Innocent II initiated the first papal monetary donation to the Order. Another major benefit came in 1139, when Innocent II's papal bull Omne Datum Optimum exempted the order from obedience to local laws. This ruling meant that the Templars could pass freely through all borders, were not required to pay any taxes, and were exempt from all authority except that of the pope.


1150 Jan 1

Banking system of the Templars

Jerusalem, Israel


Banking system of the Templars
Knights Templar Banks


Though initially an Order of poor monks, the official papal sanction made the Knights Templar a charity across Europe. Further resources came in when members joined the Order, as they had to take oaths of poverty, and therefore often donated large amounts of their original cash or property to the Order. Additional revenue came from business dealings. Since the monks themselves were sworn to poverty, but had the strength of a large and trusted international infrastructure behind them, nobles would occasionally use them as a kind of bank or power of attorney. If a noble wished to join the Crusades, this might entail an absence of years from their home. So some nobles would place all of their wealth and businesses under the control of Templars, to safeguard it for them until their return. The Order's financial power became substantial, and the majority of the Order's infrastructure was devoted not to combat, but to economic pursuits.


By 1150, the Order's original mission of guarding pilgrims had changed into a mission of guarding their valuables through an innovative way of issuing letters of credit, an early precursor of modern banking. Pilgrims would visit a Templar house in their home country, depositing their deeds and valuables. The Templars would then give them a letter which would describe their holdings. Modern scholars have stated that the letters were encrypted with a cipher alphabet based on a Maltese Cross; however there is some disagreement on this, and it is possible that the code system was introduced later, and not something used by the medieval Templars themselves. While traveling, the pilgrims could present the letter to other Templars along the way, to "withdraw" funds from their accounts. This kept the pilgrims safe since they were not carrying valuables, and further increased the power of the Templars.


The Knights' involvement in banking grew over time into a new basis for money, as Templars became increasingly involved in banking activities. One indication of their powerful political connections is that the Templars' involvement in usury did not lead to more controversy within the Order and the church at large. Officially the idea of lending money in return for interest was forbidden by the church, but the Order sidestepped this with clever loopholes, such as a stipulation that the Templars retained the rights to the production of mortgaged property. Or as one Templar researcher put it, "Since they weren't allowed to charge interest, they charged rent instead."


Based on this mix of donations and business dealing, the Templars established financial networks across the whole of Christendom. They acquired large tracts of land, both in Europe and the Middle East; they bought and managed farms and vineyards; they built massive stone cathedrals and castles; they were involved in manufacturing, import and export; they had their own fleet of ships; and at one point they even owned the entire island of Cyprus.


1152 Jan 1

Tortosa handed to the Templars

Tartus‎, Syria


Tortosa handed to the Templars


In 1152, Tortosa was handed to the Knights Templar, who used it as a military headquarters. They engaged in some major building projects, constructing a castle around 1165 with a large chapel and an elaborate keep, surrounded by thick double concentric walls. The Templars' mission was to protect the city and surrounding lands, some of which had been occupied by Christian settlers, from Muslim attack. Nur ad-Din Zangi captured Tartus from the Crusaders for a brief time before he lost it again.


1177 Nov 25

Battle of Montgisard

Gezer, Israel


Battle of Montgisard
Battle between Baldwin IV and Saladin's Egyptians, November 18, 1177. | ©Charles-Philippe Larivière


The Battle of Montgisard was fought between the Kingdom of Jerusalem (aided by some 80 Knights Templars) and the Ayyubids on 25 November 1177 at Montgisard, in the Levant between Ramla and Yibna. The 16-year-old Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, seriously afflicted by leprosy, led an outnumbered Christian force against Saladin's troops in what became one of the most notable engagements of the Crusades. The Muslim army was quickly routed and pursued for twelve miles. Saladin fled back to Cairo, reaching the city on 8 December, with only a tenth of his army.


1188 Jan 1

Tortosa captured by Saladin

Tartus‎, Syria


Tortosa captured by Saladin
Saladin during a siege | ©Angus McBride


The city of Tortosa was recaptured by Saladin in 1188, and the main Templar headquarters relocated to Cyprus. However, in Tortosa, some Templars were able to retreat into the keep, which they continued to use as a base for the next 100 years. They steadily added to its fortifications until it also fell, in 1291. Tortosa was the last outpost of the Templars on the Syrian mainland, after which they retreated to a garrison on the nearby island of Arwad, which they held for another decade.


1191 Jan 1

Templars move headquarters to Acre

Acre, Israel


Templars move headquarters to Acre
King Richard at the Siege of Acre | ©Michael Perry


The siege of Acre was the first significant counterattack by Guy of Jerusalem against Saladin, leader of the Muslims in Syria and Egypt. This pivotal siege formed part of what later became known as the Third Crusade. The Templars move their headquarters to Acre after the Latin Crusaders successful siege of the city.


1291 Apr 4 - 1291 May 18

Fall of Acre

Acre, Israel


Fall of Acre
Matthieu de Clermont défend Ptolémaïs en 1291, by Dominique Papety (1815–49) at Versailles


The Fall of Acre took place in 1291 and resulted in the Crusaders losing control of Acre to the Mamluks. It is considered one of the most important battles of the period. Although the crusading movement continued for several more centuries, the capture of the city marked the end of further crusades to the Levant. When Acre fell, the Crusaders lost their last major stronghold of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.


The Templar headquarters moved to Limassol on the island of Cyprus when their last mainland strongholds, Tortosa (Tartus in Syria) and Atlit (in present-day Israel) also fell.


1302 Jan 1

Fall of Ruad

Ruad, Syria


Fall of Ruad
Mamluk warriors


The Knights Templar set up a permanent garrison on the island of Ruad in 1300, but the Mamluks besieged and captured Ruad in 1302. With the loss of the island, the Crusaders lost their last foothold in the Holy Land.


1305 Jan 1

Pope Clement V messages the Templar and Hospitallers

Avignon, France


Pope Clement V messages the Templar and Hospitallers


In 1305, the new Pope Clement V, based in Avignon, France, sent letters to both the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the Hospitaller Grand Master Fulk de Villaret to discuss the possibility of merging the two orders. Neither was amenable to the idea, but Pope Clement persisted, and in 1306 he invited both Grand Masters to France to discuss the matter.


1307 Jan 1

Templars arrested

Avignon, France


Templars arrested
Jacques de Molay, grand maître des Templiers | ©Fleury François Richard


De Molay arrived first in early 1307, but de Villaret was delayed for several months. While waiting, De Molay and Clement discussed criminal charges that had been made two years earlier by an ousted Templar and were being discussed by King Philip IV of France and his ministers. It was generally agreed that the charges were false, but Clement sent the king a written request for assistance in the investigation. According to some historians, King Philip, who was already deeply in debt to the Templars from his war against England, decided to seize upon the rumours for his own purposes. He began pressuring the church to take action against the order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts.


At dawn on Friday, 13 October 1307—a date sometimes incorrectly cited as the origin of the popular stories about Friday the 13th — King Philip IV ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. The arrest warrant started with the words: Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume" ("God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"). Claims were made that during Templar admissions ceremonies, recruits were forced to spit on the Cross, deny Christ, and engage in indecent kissing; brethren were also accused of worshipping idols, and the order was said to have encouraged homosexual practices. Many of these allegations contain tropes that bear similarities to accusations made against other persecuted groups such as Jews, heretics, and accused witches. These allegations, though, were highly politicised without any real evidence. Still, the Templars were charged with numerous other offences such as financial corruption, fraud, and secrecy. Many of the accused confessed to these charges under torture (even though the Templars denied being tortured in their written confessions), and their confessions, even though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris. The prisoners were coerced to confess that they had spat on the Cross. One said: "Moi, Raymond de La Fère, 21 ans, reconnais que j'ai craché trois fois sur la Croix, mais de bouche et pas de cœur" ("I, Raymond de La Fère, 21 years old, admit that I have spat three times on the Cross, but only from my mouth and not from my heart"). The Templars were accused of idolatry and were suspected of worshiping either a figure known as Baphomet or a mummified severed head they recovered, amongst other artifacts, at their original headquarters on the Temple Mount that many scholars theorize might have been that of John the Baptist, among other things.


1312 Jan 1

Pope Clement V abolishes the Order

Vienne, France


Pope Clement V abolishes the Order
Pope Clement V


In 1312, after the Council of Vienne, and under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, Pope Clement V issued an edict officially dissolving the Order. Many kings and nobles who had been supporting the Knights up until that time, finally acquiesced and dissolved the orders in their fiefs in accordance with the Papal command. Most were not so brutal as the French. In England, many Knights were arrested and tried, but not found guilty.


1314 Mar 18

Grand Master de Molay burned at the stake

Paris, France


Grand Master de Molay burned at the stake


The elderly Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who had confessed under torture, retracted his confession. Geoffroi de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, also retracted his confession and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to burn alive at the stake in Paris on 18 March 1314. De Molay reportedly remained defiant to the end, asking to be tied in such a way that he could face the Notre Dame Cathedral and hold his hands together in prayer. According to legend, he called out from the flames that both Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God. His actual words were recorded on the parchment as follows: "Dieu sait qui a tort et a péché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort" ("God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death"). Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died while hunting before the end of the year.


1315 Jan 1

Epilogue

Portugal


Epilogue


The remaining Templars around Europe were either arrested and tried under the Papal investigation (with virtually none convicted), absorbed into other Catholic military orders, or pensioned off and allowed to live out their days peacefully.

By papal decree, the property of the Templars outside France was transferred to the Knights Hospitaller, except in the Kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, and Portugal. The order continued to exist in Portugal, the first country in Europe where they had settled, occurring only two or three years after the order's foundation in Jerusalem and even having presence during Portugal's conception.


The Portuguese king, Denis I, refused to pursue and persecute the former knights, as had occurred in all other sovereign states under the influence of the Catholic Church. Under his protection, Templar organizations simply changed their name, from "Knights Templar" to the reconstituted Order of Christ and also a parallel Supreme Order of Christ of the Holy See; both are considered successors to the Knights Templar. Many surviving Templars were accepted into the Hospitallers.





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References



  • Isle of Avalon, Lundy. "The Rule of the Knights Templar A Powerful Champion" The Knights Templar. Mystic Realms, 2010. Web
  • Barber, Malcolm (1994). The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-42041-9.
  • Barber, Malcolm (1993). The Trial of the Templars (1st ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-45727-9.
  • Barber, Malcolm (2006). The Trial of the Templars (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-67236-8.
  • Barber, Malcolm (1992). "Supplying the Crusader States: The Role of the Templars". In Benjamin Z. Kedar (ed.). The Horns of Hattin. Jerusalem and London. pp. 314–26.
  • Barrett, Jim (1996). "Science and the Shroud: Microbiology meets archaeology in a renewed quest for answers". The Mission (Spring). Retrieved 25 December 2008.
  • Burman, Edward (1990). The Templars: Knights of God. Rochester: Destiny Books. ISBN 978-0-89281-221-9.
  • Mario Dal Bello (2013). Gli Ultimi Giorni dei Templari, Città Nuova, ISBN 978-88-311-6451-1
  • Frale, Barbara (2004). "The Chinon chart – Papal absolution to the last Templar, Master Jacques de Molay". Journal of Medieval History. 30 (2): 109. doi:10.1016/j.jmedhist.2004.03.004. S2CID 153985534.
  • Hietala, Heikki (1996). "The Knights Templar: Serving God with the Sword". Renaissance Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
  • Marcy Marzuni (2005). Decoding the Past: The Templar Code (Video documentary). The History Channel.
  • Stuart Elliott (2006). Lost Worlds: Knights Templar (Video documentary). The History Channel.
  • Martin, Sean (2005). The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 978-1-56025-645-8.
  • Moeller, Charles (1912). "Knights Templars" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Newman, Sharan (2007). The Real History behind the Templars. New York: Berkley Trade. ISBN 978-0-425-21533-3.
  • Nicholson, Helen (2001). The Knights Templar: A New History. Stroud: Sutton. ISBN 978-0-7509-2517-4.
  • Read, Piers (2001). The Templars. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81071-8 – via archive.org.
  • Selwood, Dominic (2002). Knights of the Cloister. Templars and Hospitallers in Central-Southern Occitania 1100–1300. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-828-0.
  • Selwood, Dominic (1996). "'Quidam autem dubitaverunt: the Saint, the Sinner. and a Possible Chronology'". Autour de la Première Croisade. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne. ISBN 978-2-85944-308-5.
  • Selwood, Dominic (2013). ” The Knights Templar 1: The Knights”
  • Selwood, Dominic (2013). ”The Knights Templar 2: Sergeants, Women, Chaplains, Affiliates”
  • Selwood, Dominic (2013). ”The Knights Templar 3: Birth of the Order”
  • Selwood, Dominic (2013). ”The Knights Templar 4: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux”
  • Stevenson, W. B. (1907). The Crusaders in the East: a brief history of the wars of Islam with the Latins in Syria during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Cambridge University Press. The Latin estimates of Saladin's army are no doubt greatly exaggerated (26,000 in Tyre xxi. 23, 12,000 Turks and 9,000 Arabs in Anon.Rhen. v. 517
  • Sobecki, Sebastian (2006). "Marigny, Philippe de". Biographisch-bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (26th ed.). Bautz: Nordhausen. pp. 963–64.
  • Théry, Julien (2013), ""Philip the Fair, the Trial of the 'Perfidious Templars' and the Pontificalization of the French Monarchy"", Journal of Medieval Religious Culture, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 117–48


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