The Knights Templar was a big organization of devout Christians who carried out important missions like protecting European travelers that were visiting sites in the Holy Land while also carrying out other military operations. The Poor fellow soldiers of Christ otherwise known as The Knights Templar was founded in the year 1119, and was active until the year 1312. After Christian armies captured Jerusalem from Muslim control during the Crusades in 1099, groups of pilgrims from across Western Europe started visiting the Holy Land.
Many of them, ended up getting robbed and killed as they crossed through the Muslim-controlled territories during their journeys.
Following the success of the First Crusade, a number of Crusader states were established in the Holy Land, but these kingdoms also lacked the necessary military force to maintain more than a powerful hold over their territories. Most Crusaders returned to their homes after fulfilling their vows, and Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem suffered attacks from Muslim raiders. Needing to take actions against the pillaging of these Christians, eight or nine French knights led by Hugh de Payns vowed in late 1119 and or early 1120 to devote themselves to the pilgrims protection and to form a community based on that purpose.
Baldwin II, king of Jerusalem, gave them quarters in a wing of the royal palace in the area of the former Temple of Solomon, and from this they got their name.
Although the Templars were disliked by those who rejected the idea of a military order based of religion and later by those who disliked their wealth and influence over the lands, they were supported by many powerful and religious leaders.
Beginning in 1127, Hugh undertook a tour of Europe and was well made out by many nobles, who made substantial donations to the knights. The Templars received further sanction at the Council of Troyes in 1128, which may have requested that Bernard of Clairvaux make the new rule. Bernard also wrote In Praise of the New Knighthood, which defended the order against its critics and contributed to its substantial growth over the years. In 1139 Pope Innocent II issued a papa bull that granted the order privileges like for instance, the Knights were allowed to build their own oratories and weren’t required to pay the taxes, they were also exempt from jurisdiction, being subject to the pope alone.
The rule of the order was designed after the Benedictine Rule, especially as understood and implemented by the Cistercians. Every Knight swore an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience and renounced, they weren’t expected to perform devotional reading seeing as most of the Knights were uneducated and unable to read fluently in Latin. The knights primary duty was to fight in combat. The Templars substantially expanded their duties from protecting pilgrims to forming a better defense of the Crusader states in the Holy Land. They built castles, garrisoned important towns, and participated in battles across the land, even winning significant battles against the Muslim armies until the fall of Acre, the last of the Crusader strongholds in the Holy Land, in 1291. Their effectiveness in battle was witnessed by the sultan Saladin following the defeat of the Crusader forces at the Battle of Hattin, so he bought the Templars who were taken prisoner and later had each one of them executed.
By the mid 12th century the constitution and basic structure of the order were established. It was led by a grand master, who would be elected for life and would serve in Jerusalem. Templar lands were divided into provinces, which were controlled by provincial commanders, and every individual house, called a preceptory, was led by a preceptor. General meetings of the members of the order were held to address the important matters affecting the knights and to elect a new grand master when needed. Similar meetings were made at a lower level and on a weekly basis in each house.
The Knights were originally divided into two classes: knights and sergeants. The knights came from military aristocracy and were trained in the arts of war and hand to hand combat. They were given the opportunity to have elite leadership positions in the order and were able to serve at royal and papal courts. Only the knights wore the Templars distinctive memorabilia, a white coat marked with a red cross. The sergeants, or servant brothers, were usually from lower social classes, made up most of the members of the order, they dressed in black habits and served as both servants and warriors. The Templars later on added a third class, the chaplains, who were in charge of holding religious services, administering the offerings, and addressing the religious needs of other members. Even though women weren’t allowed to join the order, there is said to have been at least one Templar nun.
The Templars eventually received great wealth. The kings and nobles of Spain, France, and England gave lordships, castles, seignories, and estates to the order, so that by the mid of the 12th century the Templars owned properties throughout western Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Holy Land. The Templars powerful military allowed them to collect, store, and transport bullion to and from Europe and the Holy Land, and their network of treasure storehouses and their transport organization made them out as bankers to kings, nobles and to the pilgrims to the Holy Land.
The Templars also had powerful enemies, however. They had been in a bitter rivalry with the other great military order of Europe, the Hospitallers, and, by the late 13th century, offers were being made to that they could merge the two orders into one. The fall of Acre to the Muslims in 1291 removed much of the Templars reason for being an order, and their substantial wealth, extensive land in Europe, and power inspired people to resent them. Even though an ex Templar accused the order of blasphemy and immorality in 1304 though more likely 1305, it was only after Philip IV ordered the arrest on October 13, 1307, of all the Templars in France and got control of all the Templars property in the country that people across Europe became aware of the alleged crimes against the order.
Philip accused the Knights of heresy and immorality, specific charges against them included the worship of a bearded head that was said to have great powers, worship of a cat, homosexuality, and other errors of belief and practice. At the order’s secret initiation rite, it was claimed, that a member was told to deny Christ three times, spit on the cross, and was kissed on the bottom of their spine, on the belly button, and on the lips by the knight in control of the ceremony. The charges, which we now know to be false, were made to make the people fear them.
The charges were also the similar charges Philip had used against Pope Boniface VIII when he called out the king for wrongdoing. The reasons behind why king Philip sought to destroy the Knights Templar are still unclear, he may have feared their power and been motivated by his own pity to destroy a religious group, or he may have seen an opportunity to seize the groups immense wealth, being short of money himself. Anyways, Philip went after the order and had many of its members tortured to make false confessions.
Although Pope Clement V, a Frenchman himself, ordered the arrest of every Templar in France on November 1307, a religious council in 1311 voted massively against suppression, and Templars in countries other than France were found innocent of the charges made out up by Philip. Clement, however, under strong pressure from the king, made the order on March 22, 1312, and all the Templars property throughout Europe was transferred to the Hospitallers or confiscated by other rulers.
Knights who confessed to the charges and reconciled to the church were put into retirement in some of the order’s former houses and monasteries, but those who didn’t confess to the charges or who relapsed were put on trial. Amongst those who were unfairly judged guilty was the order’s last grand master, Jacques de Molay. Brought before a commission established by Pope Clement, de Molay and other leaders of the order were judged to be relapsed heretics and sentenced to life in prison. De Molay protested and retracted his confession, so Philip had him burned at the stake, the last victim of a highly unjust and unfair persecution.
At the time of its downfall, the order was a very important institution in both Europe and the Holy Land was already a subject of myth and legend. The Templars were associated with the Holy Grail legend and were identified to be the defenders of the Grail castle during the remainder of the Middle Ages. They were the Holiest Knights of the middle ages, before Jacques De Molay was being burned at the stake he asked for them to face him in the direction of the church and is also said to have cursed the pope and Philip while burning. They both ended up dying within a year of Molays death. That curse is also said to be the meaning behind Friday the 13th.