Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon
Founder: Hugh de Payens
1128: Formal Rule Granted
October 13, 1307: Hundreds of Templars arrested and tortured in France
1312: Officially Suppressed
1314: Last Templars executed in France
Who Were the Knights Templar?:
Founded in 1118 by Hugh de Payens in order to help protect pilgrims to the Holy Land and they were originally housed close to the site where Solomon's Temple once stood. The rules of their order, formally granted in 1128, were created by St. Bernard of Clairveaux and officially given to them at the Council of Troyes, France. The Knights Templar became one of the most famous and powerful of all the monastic military orders during the Crusading era.
Secrets of the Knights Templar:
As with most religious orders, there were special requirements before joining as well as an initiation ceremony; little is known about the various internal ceremonies of order, which has given rise to all sorts of fantastic theories. Prospective members all had to be of noble birth, legitimate sons, and willing to take the Templar vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and piety. Fighting knights vowed to never surrender; death on the battlefield ensured immediate entry to heaven.
Templar Power and Finances:
The wealth of the Templar Knights grew dramatically because rather than despite their vows of poverty and chastity: everyone who joined donated all their lands and goods to the order. This, combined with large papal donations, ensured the Templars' financial stability. Few Templars fought on the battlefield; most were involved running the financial organization necessary to fund their military efforts. The Templars created an early form of banking and checking.
Jealously of the Knights Templar:
The Templars' banking wealth and power contributed to their downfall once the Muslims regained control of Jerusalem
and the Holy Land. Jealousy inspired the King of France to attack them; he was supported by Pope Clement V, who just happened to be a childhood friend of Philip's. This attack which resulted in the disbandment of the Templars and the death of most of the members. Other military orders, like the Hospitallers, quickly gave up their banking interests lest the same happen to them.
Destruction of the Knights Templar:
King Philip the "Fair" of France and Pope Clement V accused the Templars of atheism, sodomy, blasphemy
, and worse. Templars were tortured into forced confessions before being executed in large numbers. Scholars have debated whether any charges were true, but it is believed that they were innocent of the accusations and the process against them was solely for gaining access to their wealth and to ensure they could not become a political threat. Even the Catholic Church has apologized.
Jacques de Molay: the Last Templar Knight?:
The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar was Jacques de Molay, a Frankish noble who had promised to reform the order when he was elected on April 20, 1292. He proved unable to counter the attacks made against the order because of their financial power. He confessed to all manner of crimes while under torture, but he later recanted which infuriated King Philip the Fair who had him burned at the stake with two other Templar leaders on an island in the river Seine in Paris on March 18, 1314.
What Happened to the Templars?:
Many Templars in France were killed under the authority of King Philip. Other monarchs in Europe followed suit - even if they weren't jealous of Templar power, the opportunity to acquire their lands was too good to pass up. Some Templars were taken in by other monastic military orders, like the Hospitallers. A few escaped to areas outside papal control, like Scotland which was at the time under excommunication
. Most simply disappeared; their large fleet also vanished without a trace.
Legends about the Knights Templar:
According to legend, the move against the Templars was on a Friday 13th, thus leading to the superstition that this day is unlucky. More popular legends involve the activities of the Templars in the Holy Land, for example the claim that while occupying the Temple Mount they discovered the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant and brought it back to Europe to hide for themselves. The Templar's records were evidently never recovered, thus leading to wild speculations about what they really owned.