The origins of the enigmatic Order of the Knights Templar are shrouded in mystery. Following the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, Europeans started to flock to the Holy Land in droves. They were often ambushed by bandits and crusader knights along the route. To safeguard the pilgrims, a small number of combatants created the Order of the Poor Knights of King Solomon’s Temple, popularly known as the Knights Templar. The Order grew into a major political and economic force across Europe during the following two centuries, literally changing history. The Templars’ sad conclusion is well known, but why are they regarded as the cruelest soldiers, and why are people striving to replicate them today?
In 1118, some French knights took a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and a commitment to guard pilgrims and highways in Palestine from thieves. Hugues de Payens, a knight, was in charge of the Order. The newly created community’s beliefs merged monastic life with public service and strict military discipline. Because the Order’s goals in the Middle East matched with those of France, the Templars enjoyed strong official backing.
Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, gave the Templars a portion of his palace near King Solomon’s temple. “The humble warriors of Christ, the protectors of the Jerusalem temple,” or “templars,” became the name for the knights. “Templars” is derived from the French word, meaning “temple.” Hugues de Payens was promoted to Grand Master.
The Order’s charter was founded on St. Augustine’s teachings, as well as the charters of the Cistercians and the ancient canons of the Holy Sepulcher. A white linen cloak with an eight-pointed scarlet cross on the left shoulder (symbolizing martyrdom) and a white linen belt – a symbol of emotional purity – was the Knights Templar’s form. There were no decorations permitted on clothes or weapons.
It’s easy to imagine that the knights of this Order, with their pure minds and souls, willing to die for the glory of God at any time, drew a lot of support from ordinary citizens. The Grand Master, who was chosen, was in charge of the organization. Chaplains and clerics made up the Order’s clergy. The Pope had exclusive authority over the confessors.
However, as you are aware, a person is capable of sabotaging even the most fantastic endeavor. The Templars quickly lost their reputation as “poor warriors of Christ.” The secular authorities showered them with favors, and the Order received astronomically large gifts from all around the world. Aristocratic families entrusted them with their whole estates and fortunes. The Templars had several advantages. The Pope himself was a sponsor of the Order, and it evolved into his personal army over time. The following are some fascinating facts regarding these “holy” knights:
They presented the world with a brand-new version of the holy warrior
All have heard of King Arthur’s knights who devoted their lives to finding the Holy Grail and setting an example of Christian virtues? The most ideal holy knight, Sir Galahad, wore a white shield with a crimson cross, which was the Templars’ insignia, in the legends of the Knights of the Round Table, written in the thirteenth century. Indeed, in the early Middle Ages, knights were seen to be ordinary warriors—cutthroats who lacked any noble qualities. For their personal gain, they pillaged the nearby communities. All of this occurred before the arrival of the Templars.
These knights established a totally new paradigm, in which Order members were monks who made an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience and were dedicated to the struggle against “infidels” in the Holy Land. They were recognized by the Pope at the Council of Troyes in Champagne in 1129 after promising to assist the Christian cause.
The Order’s discipline was ruthless
The Rite of the Templars, a precise rule of everyday behavior, requires knights to live a disciplined, modest existence. They were only allowed to consume meat three times a week, save on rare occasions since it was thought that consuming meat would cause the corpse to decay. Fashionable clothes and furs were absolutely forbidden. The same could be said of pointed shoes and shoelaces during the time, since “these unpleasant things belong to the pagans.” The practice of chastity was, of course, required. It was illegal for the Templars to kiss any woman, even their own mother. The consequences of breaking the rules were severe: beatings, expulsion from the fraternity, or humiliation by eating meals off the floor.
The Templars never gave up
During the Crusades, all Christian armies were fundamentally ragtag and poorly trained. The Templars, however, are not among them. They were well-trained warriors with a reputation for being fearsome combatants. During the Crusades, they served as the primary offensive force in a number of conflicts, notably the Battle of Montgisard, when they assisted in the defeat of a considerably outmanned army headed by the famous Muslim leader Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub).
Some of their violence was most likely motivated by their religious zeal, which permitted them to see violating their vows as a destiny worse than death. Templar laws forbade them from retreating, surrendering, or attacking without instructions, which is an important quality for any force that needs to maintain strict discipline at all times.
The Templars were brilliant strategists and ruthless warriors
Templar Knights were famed for their dedication and readiness to battle for the spread of Christianity, although they sometimes encouraged their fellow crusaders to avoid hasty decisions. When European Christians first arrived in Jerusalem, they typically intended to battle the Muslims right away. The Templars, who had lived there for many years and had excellent connections with the local Arabs, occasionally discouraged the zealots from fighting, demonstrating that it was not a good idea. “It is possible that the Templars at times seemed unbearably all-knowing to those who had just arrived from the West,” says Anne Gilmore-Bryson, a historian at the University of Melbourne. Of course, the Knights Templar were not pacifists as a result of this. They just want bigger and more powerful armies to smash Muslim troops successfully.
The knights, far from being penniless, were opulently wealthy
Despite the fact that they all claimed to be destitute, the Order as a whole has grown very affluent throughout time. It happened that Pope Innocent II issued a papal bull exempting them from paying taxes. The Templars gathered funds from around Europe. Kings and queens bestowed vast lands upon them; Alfonso I of Aragon freely granted them a third of his realm. Ordinary individuals also contributed, donating property and money to the Order in their wills. The knights eventually came to acquire castles, farmland, a whole fleet of ships, and the entire island of Cyprus. They didn’t just keep the property. They took advantage of it to grow their fortune. They leased their property and traded food, wool, and wine across Europe.
Knights Templar evolved into a financial organization
Because the Templars’ initial mission was to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, they devised a complex financial system. Travelers could deposit monies at London’s Temple Church and acquire a letter of credit that they could use in Jerusalem. They also offered kings and aristocrats a variety of financial services. The Templars were able to enter banking because of their enormous fortune. The Order loaned money to all royal courts, not only in Europe but also throughout the Muslim world, at interest.
The knights established a complicated system of financial records administration over time and put bank checks into circulation, which are still in use across the globe. They were given the English Crown Jewels as security for a debt in the early 13th century. When Monarch Henry III intended to purchase the island of Oleron, the Order not only functioned as a middleman but also collected money from the king in installments. For many of their responsibilities, the French Treasury utilized the Templars as a type of subcontractor.
The Templars heavily influenced the concepts of Islamic legal systems
Some researchers claim the Templars were instrumental in bringing “Muslim” concepts into Western legal and educational institutions. The court hotels in London, for example, are strikingly similar to madrassas established around mosques where Sunni experts studied the law throughout the medieval era and linked with the Knights Templar. This link might explain why English common law varies so much from Roman law. The Templars may have studied Muslim habits that inspired the perpetual contribution method of college upkeep. In the medieval Middle East, the Waqf, an Islamic legal instrument, also aided intellectuals in maintaining their independence. Merton College was created by Walter de Merton, a merchant linked with the Order.
French king determined to eliminate them
The Order had effectively turned into a state inside a state. They had their own army, the justice system, the police force, and the financial system. Over time, this could not but inspire jealousy, animosity, and mistrust among rulers.
After all, the Order’s policies started to contradict its objectives. The thirst for power and fortune started to erode the knightly Order’s previously sound Christian values from within. The Templars were expelled from Palestine in the 12th century. Their abode was on the island of Cyprus for a period before being transported to France.
The Templar Knights’ independence was intolerable to Philip the Fair. He was meant to be the only one with power, and he owed the Order a sizable sum. The king was unable to pay. Few people are aware that King Philip IV approached the Grand Master of the Order, pleading with him to admit him join the Knights Templar. When Grand Master Jacques de Molay saw what was going on, he rebuffed the crafty king. Then, via the Pope, Philip attempted to bring the Knights Templar and their primary opponents, the Order of John, together. The king erupted in uncontrollable wrath after receiving yet another denial.
Philip made the decision to be filthy and disgusting. He invented a slew of slanderous charges against the Templars, including idolatry, blasphemy, and even Christ denial. The Pope called Jacques de Molay in the spring from Cyprus, where he was preparing to march to Syria. In France, the Grand Master and the Order’s Knights arrived. Meanwhile, it was agreed that they should all be arrested and brought before the Inquisition for trial.
The Templars’ demise was as spectacular as their whole history
All members of the Order were captured in the early hours of October 13, 1307, and their property was taken. The authorities attempted to discredit the Templars as much as possible in the eyes of the awestruck crowd. After all, they had to excuse their irrational and criminal behavior. They were all furious, but they remained mute out of dread of suffering the same fate.
The monarch, on the other hand, wasted no time. The Inquisitional Court was established right away. The knights were cruelly tortured in order to get confessions in the most heinous acts. A large number of knights were executed without a trial. The papal committee paused before passing judgment on the Order’s leaders. The procedure took a long time. The sentence of life imprisonment was not revealed until March 1314. Jacques de Molay was furious, and he openly stated that neither he nor his knights were to blame. Because he was terrified that his defamation would be revealed, King Philip planned to execute the Order’s leading leaders. The sentence was executed the next day. The Templars were set ablaze with a little fire.
It was written that they prayed throughout the execution, and as the fire almost consumed them, Grand Master Jacques de Molay exclaimed, “Pope Clement and King Philip, in less than a year, I will summon you before the judgment of God!” Because the Pope died two weeks later and Philip IV the Handsome went after him six months later, this may fairly be dubbed the Templars’ curse or revenge.
Even after their demise, the Templars remained a powerful organization
Various aristocratic groups, such as the Freemasons, acquired the Templars’ views and values in the 18th century. There is a fraternal organization known as the Templars unofficially. They say that defending the Christian religion is their holy responsibility.
The Knights Templar’s imagery may also be seen in many aspects of current society. In pop culture, for example. Dan Brown’s bestselling book The Da Vinci Code, video games, and movies: The Templars’ history was so influential that a Mexican criminal organization was named after them. The gang released a set of rules depicting crosses and knights on horseback, indicating that members must follow a code of ethics that includes aiding the needy, respecting women and children, and not murdering for profit.
Many people are drawn to the mystery of this politically and economically strong organization with rigorous ethical rules based on religious devotion. Even more than 700 years after the original knights of the Order died, the Templars’ spirit lives on.