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“The Knights Templar was a religious military order that arose during the first and second crusades and their secrets and wealth destroyed the organization” (Campbell 29-33). The Knights Templar started out as a small group of monks and eventually grew to become a powerful religious order. Members had duties and certain lifestyles as a Templar. The order rapidly spread across Europe after it began. The Templar would become one of the most innovative and influential groups during the Crusades period (“Templars”). The Knights Templar is shrouded in secrecy; this would be their downfall and their biggest calling card.
The original name or the full name for the Knights Templar can be quite a mouth full “[t]he Holy Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon is the full name of the Order”(Campbell 29-33). Most paraphernalia refer to them as the Knights Templar. Some call the members just Templar, or warrior monks. The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon is another name used (Campbell 29-33). People back in the time of the crusade would have called them heroes. After the first crusade, two new military orders came about in Jerusalem (Read 17-24). One, the Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of Saint John, whose task was to aid the wounded in Outremer, or the land across the sea (Read 17-24). The second military order to arise was the Knights Templar, whose duty was to defend the pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land (Campbell 29-33). In 1118, before the start of the Order, Hugues de Payan and eight fellow knights went to Jerusalem and offered their services to the king. The king offered housing to the knights at the former mosque al-Aqsa, which was located on the site of King Solomon’s great temple (Hughes 34). The Order was born here and received its name from the temple it was protecting. The Knights Templar took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The religious order was created at the Temple of Solomon and swore to protect the Holy Land (Campbell 29-33).
Hughes states in his book that “[t]he Templar fought bravely against the Saracens, not leaving battle unless outnumbered three to one” (34). The order received the blessing of the Pope in 1129, and the Templar soon got recognition as heroes. With the Pope’s blessing, the Templar could now recruit members and raise money through donations. Donations came to the Templar in large amounts. The warrior monks were given wealth, jewels, and property (Hughes 34). King Alfonso I of Argon gave the Templar one-third of his Spanish Empire on his deathbed (Read 17-24). They owned land in France, Spain, England, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, and other places. Men also went to the Templar to support their cause, and some in hopes of getting rich. The Knights Templar did have their critics though (Sterns 84-111).
The Templar owned houses all across the map, and they used that to their benefit. The Knights Templar became the first bankers in a way. Travelers would deposit money at one Templar building, and travel, with a statement of deposit, to another city (Knight, and Lomas 121). They would then cash in their statement and receive the same amount of money at another Templar structure at their final destination. This was a very safe method, because the traveler could not be robbed. The Templar began to escort travelers on their fleets of ships, charging a fee for both services. That allowed them to take in a large sum of money (Knight, and Lomas 121). The Order was so beloved by the Christian people that the Pope freed the Templar from loyalty to any ruler. From then on the order only answered to the Pope. The Templar later became involved with politics. They served on royal committees and councils. The duties of a Templar split among the regions (Hughes 17). In the east, they remained fierce warriors defending Christianity, and in the west, they became farmers and merchants. The order was rapidly gaining wealth and riches (Campbell 29-33).
During the second crusade, the Templar fought for the Christian effort. They were among some of the highest skilled fighters during this time. Indrikis Sterns quotes a 13th century author by saying”[t]hey are marked by their trademark white helmets and armor, which bears a red cross” (84-111). During the second crusade, the knights became very powerful and wealthy due to payments for their services from several empires. This excluded King Phillip IV of France. He was greatly in debt with the order, owing them large sums of land and money (Hughes 17). The King was worried about his debts to this powerful and influential order. Phillip IV called upon Pope Clement V to put all the members of the order on trial for heresy and other crimes committed. The Pope found no fault in the Order under the trials of heresy but did find fault in their initiation ceremonies. The Pope had them burned at the steak for unspeakable acts against the church (Sterns 84-111). The Knights Templar were said to spit upon a cross before battle and kiss their leaders to show complete obedience to them. The order was not destroyed, but badly crippled. The Knights Templar was hidden in darkness and secrecy, and they will always remain a mystery.
This is believed to have led to their downfall. The Knights Templar was said to possess a great secret (Hughes 17). This secret may have been practical knowledge, which if revealed could undermine Christianity or some people believe that the Templar had some great relic. “Possibly, a piece of the true cross or the crown of thorns worn by Jesus was in their possession” according to Campbell (29-33). The shroud which Jesus was wrapped in his tomb, a piece of wood from a bath used by Jesus, a bronze bowl used to wash the feet of the disciples at the last supper or the head of John the Baptist are all rumored (Hughes 34). The Holy Grail used in the last supper is the most famous of all the relics thought to be owned by the Templar (Knight, and Lomas 121). It is truly unknown whether the Templar had any of these artifacts. Maybe they had one, or two, possibly all, but nobody can be certain. With the amount of land and money that the Templar had, and the possible possessions of great relics, specifically the Holy Grail, people were bound to envy the order (Knight, and Lomas 121). Some people also say that the Knights Templar and their relics live on under the Freemasons. The Masons are said to use many of the same symbols and rituals of the Knights Templar. Things do not help the cause when the Freemasons are also just a shrouded into secrecy as the Knights Templar (Knight, and Lomas 121).
Whether the Order lives on or not is a question to be left answered by the opinions of us all. A person may believe all the tales or that the Freemasons, the makers of our country are members of the Order. One may also believe that the entire story of the Knights Templar and the later Freemasons is a complete hoax. However, what would history be without mystery and intrigue?
Campbell, G.A.Knights Templar: The Rise and Fall. San Francisco: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. 29-33. Print.
Hughes, Charles. “How The Vatican Destroyed the Knights Templar.”Independent26 October 2007: 34. Print.
Knight, Christopher, and Robert Lomas.The Hiram Key. Sacremento: Fair Winds Press, 2003. 121. Print.
Read, Pierce.The Templars. 1. New York: MacMillan, 1999. 17. Print.
Sterns, Indrikis.Crime and Punishment among the Teutonic Knights. 1. 57. New York: Medieval Academy of America, 1982. 84-111. Print.
“Templars.” Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Supplement. American Council of Learned Societies. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/History/
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