A Summary of the Templar Knights
For 200 years, blood was spilled for the name of god. Lines were drawn, alliances were formed and enemies made. Out of the bloodshed came legends of heroes, martyr, and secret religious relics like the Crown of Thorns or Holy Grail. It is during the crusades that the story of the knights Templars begins. Pilgrims were often robbed and killed as they traveled through Muslim controlled areas during their journey to holy land. A French knight by the name of Hugues de Payens took it upon himself to create a small military order along with eight other men. Their duties were to protect pilgrims from dangers during their travels and eventually the small band grew to become one of the most powerful and wealthy organizations in Europe.
The Knights Templar’s lived according to strict rules; members swore an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They weren’t allowed to drink, gamble or curse, prayer was vital to their daily life, and they expressed particular admiration for the Virgin Mary. The Templars developed a reputation as incredible fighters during the Crusades, motivated by religious devotion and not allowed to retreat unless outnumbered.
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In 1120 the king of the Kingdom of Jerusalem gave the knights a palace, the former Mosque on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, for use as their headquarters. The building was referred to as “The Temple of Solomon” and so the group quickly became known as “the Order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon”. At first the Knights faced criticism from some religious leaders. But in 1129, the Templars received the full support of the Catholic Church and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder and abbot of the abbey of Clairvaux and one of the most significant churchmen of his time. Ten years later in 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a Papal Bull, which granted the Templars special rights.
These rights exempt the Templar’s from paying taxes; they were given permission to build their own private oratories, and had no one to answer to, except the Pope’s. The Templars could now recruit members and raise donations, donations which came to the Templars in large quantities. The Templars were given wealth, jewels, and property. They owned land in France, Spain, England, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, and Hungary. They invested their money, buying revenue producing properties so that the order came to own farms, vineyards, mills, churches, townships or anything else they thought a good investment which also led to the creation of a banking system.
The Templar banking system was impressive for its time and it began around 1150, with the use of encrypted letters that were used as credit. Travelers would deposit their money at one Templar building; a Letter of Credit will be given and the traveler would continue on his way to the holy land. They would then cash in their letter of credit and receive the same amount of money at another Templar structure in the holy land.
The Letter of Credit was an encrypted written in a cipher, this kept travelers safer since they weren’t carrying anything of value and the letter would be useless to anyone without the cipher. As the Templar grew in size and rank, they established new areas throughout Western Europe. At the height of their influence, the Templars boasted a sizable fleet of ships, owned the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and served as a primary bank and lending institution to European monarchs and nobles.
During the second crusade, the Templars grew in power and wealth due to payments for their services from several empires; this excluded King Phillip IV of France. King Phillip owed the order money, land and might have been concerned about his debts to this powerful and influential order. Phillip IV called upon Pope Clement V and falsely placed all the members of the order on trial for heresy and crimes committed. Philip harshly pursued the order and had many of its members tortured so he can acquire false confessions which included heresy, financial corruption, homosexuality and sentencing them to death.
“On October 13, 1307, all the Templars in France, including Molay, were arrested and interrogated by command of Philip IV, who was intent on crushing the order and seizing its wealth. On October 24, 1307, Molay, probably under torture, confessed that some of the charges brought against the order were true, but he rejected a charge of sodomy.” (Britannica) This was a huge blow to the order, luckily not all were caught, and many managed to escape. Many of the Templars went underground…