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The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were a very interesting bunch, originally established as a fighting order of monks to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land.
They built a number of castles in Palestine and were well established in Jerusalem.
Their power and wealth increased rapidly in Europe where they built a number of churches, etc, during the twelfth century.
They eventually became too powerful and were accused of heresy and destroyed by the Church in the fourteenth century. It has been suggested by history that they indulged in the Occult, or at least in strangely unorthodox ceremonies. (the Freemasons of the seventeenth century supposedly subsequently based much of their secret ceremonies on old Templar rites).
And of course, as we all know, it has also been suggested that they are the protectors of the Holy Grail (the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper, said to lead to eternal life), because of the long occupation by the order of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.


The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), popularly known as the Knights Templar, was one of the most famous of the Christian military orders. It existed for about two centuries in the Middle Ages, created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed towards Jerusalem after its conquest.

The Templars were an unusual order in that they were both monks and soldiers, making them in effect some of the earliest "warrior monks" in the Western world. Members of the Order played a key part in many battles of the Crusades, and the Order's infrastructure innovated many financial techniques that could be considered the foundation of modern banking. The Order grew in membership and power throughout Europe, until it was charged with heresy and other crimes by the French Inquisition under the influence of the French King Philip IV (Philip the Fair) and was forcibly disbanded in the early 1300s.


The Seal of the Knights — the two riders have been interpreted as a sign of poverty or the duality of monk/soldier.

The Seal of the Knights — the two riders have been interpreted as a sign of poverty or the duality of monk/soldier.
The Templars were organized as a monastic order, following a rule created for them by their patron, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a member of the Cistercian Order. Each country had a Master of the Order for the Templars in that region, and all of them were subject to the Grand Master, appointed for life, who oversaw both the Order's military efforts in the East, and their financial holdings in the West.

There were four divisions of brothers in the Templars:

the knights, equipped as heavy cavalry (wore a white habit with red cross); 
the sergeants (serjens), equipped as light cavalry and drawn from a lower social class than the knights (wore a brown mantle); 
the serving brothers - the rural brothers (frères casaliers), who administered the property of the Order, and the frères de métiers, who performed menial tasks and trades; 
the chaplains, who were ordained priests and saw to the spiritual needs of the Order. 
With the high demand for knights, there were also knights who signed up to the Order for a set period of time before returning to secular life, as well as the Fratres conjugati, who were married brothers. Both of these wore a black or brown mantle with a red cross to delineate them from the celibate lifetime members, and were not considered to be of the same status as the celibate brothers. It also appears that the serving brothers (frères casaliers and frères de métiers) were not separate from the sergeants, but rather that a sergeant who was a skilled tradesman or was unable to fight due to age or infirmity would perform these other functions. The majority of the Templars, including the knights and the Grand Masters, were both uneducated and illiterate (as were most knights of the day), having come not from the upper nobility but from more obscure families.

At any time, each knight had some ten people in support positions. Some brothers were devoted solely to banking (typically those with an education), as the Order was often trusted with the safekeeping of precious goods by participants in the Crusades; but the primary mission of the Knights Templar was warfare.

The Templars used their wealth to construct numerous fortifications throughout the Holy Land and were probably the best trained and disciplined fighting units of their day. They were also famous and easily recognized, with a white surcoat with distinct red cross emblazoned above the heart or on the chest, as seen in many portrayals of crusading knights.

Initiation into the Order was a profound commitment, and involved a secret ceremony. Few details of the rituals were known at the time, fueling the suspicions of medieval inquisitors, but initiates, at least in the early days of the Order, had to be of noble birth, of legitimate heritage, and had to be willing to sign over all of their wealth and goods to the Order. Further, joining the Order required vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience. For the warriors of the Order, there was a cardinal rule of never surrendering. This fearless uncompromising nature of the Templars, along with excellent training and heavy armament, made them a feared and elite fighting force in medieval times.


The order was founded around 1119 by French nobleman Hughes de Payens, a veteran of the First Crusade. He gathered eight other knights; their stated mission was to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem gave them a headquarters on the Temple Mount, above what was believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. It was from this location that the Order took its name of Templar.

The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount

The Order grew rapidly because of support from key church leaders such as Bernard de Clairvaux, and was exempt from all authority except that of the Pope. Because of this official sanction, the order received massive donations of money, land, and noble-born sons from families across Europe, who were encouraged to donate support as their way of assisting with the fight in the Holy Land. Templar Knights also fought alongside King Louis VII of France, King Richard I of England, and in battles in Spain and Portugal.

Though the primary mission of the Order was a military one, only a small percentage of its members were actually at the front lines, while many others were involved in developing a financial infrastructure to support the warrior branch. The Order also innovated ways of generating letters of credit for pilgrims who were journeying to the Holy Land, which involved pilgrims depositing their valuables with the Order before setting off on the journey. This may have been the first form of checking put into use. From this mixture of donations and shrewd business dealing, during the 12th and 13th centuries the Order acquired large tracts of land both in Europe and the Middle East, built churches and castles, bought farms and vineyards, was involved in manufacturing and import/export, had its own fleet of ships, and for a time even owned the entire island of Cyprus.

Templars being burned at the stake
Templars being burned at the stake

After Jerusalem was lost to Saladin in the late 1100s, the Crusades gradually wound down, and European support for the Order began to falter. In the early 1300s, a financial dispute with King Philip IV of France (also known as "Philip the Fair") contributed to the official disbandment of the Order. On Friday, October 13, 1307 (a date possibly linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th legend), Philip had hundreds of French Templars simultaneously arrested, charged with over 100 crimes, and tortured by Inquisitors until they "confessed". In 1312, under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V officially disbanded the Order at the Council of Vienne, and in March of 1314 Grand Master Jacques de Molay and his subordinate, the Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffrey de Charney were burned at the stake by French officials as relapsed heretics after proclaiming their innocence and that of their Order.

Remaining Templars around Europe were either arrested and tried, absorbed into other organizations such as the Order of Christ and Knights Hospitaller, or fled to other territories outside of Papal control such as excommunicated Scotland. But questions still remain as to what happened to the thousands of Templars across Europe, or to the entire fleet of Templar ships which vanished from La Rochelle on October 13, 1307. Also, the extensive archive of the Templars, with detailed records of all of their business holdings and financial transactions, was never found, though it is unknown whether it was destroyed, or moved to another location.

In modern times, it is the Roman Catholic Church's position that the persecution was unjust; that there was nothing inherently wrong with the Order or its Rule; and that the Pope at the time was severely pressured into suppressing them by the magnitude of the public scandal and the dominating influence of King Philip IV. As proof, historians point to the fact that Pope Clement V's Apostolic Constitution "Vox in Excelso" of 22 March 1312 dissolving the order explicitly states that dissolution is enacted, "with a sad heart, not by definitive sentence, but by apostolic provision." This is important because had the allegations of heresy, blasphemy and the vice against nature on the part of the Order been known to be true, the Pope never would have dared qualify his decision in such a manner, account taken of the gravity of those crimes. Finally, in no other dominion of Europe were such accusations found: only in France under Philip IV, coincidentally in terrible financial debt to the Templars. So widely was the injustice of Philip's rage against the Templars perceived that the "Curse of the Templars" became legend: Reputedly uttered by the Grand Master Jacques de Molay upon the stake whence he burned, he adjured: "Within one year, God will summon both Clement and Philip to His Judgment for these actions." The fact that both rulers died within a year, as predicted, only hightened the scandal surrounding the suppression of the Order.

On April 20, 2006, ABC's Good Morning America ran a profile on the Knights Templar as part a series on secret societies. Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple Church in London - a noteworthy Knights Templar historian - criticized the Knights' portrayal in films such as Kingdom of Heaven as being bloodthirsty, pointing out that though they were warriors, they primarily wanted to keep peace and that they respected Muslims, even to the point of having warm, friendly relationships with them in some cases.

In fact the Knights Templar often petitioned for peace with the Muslims, unfortunately this led to them being accused of cowardice and such, leading the Knights to have to convince their detractors otherwise with new acts of bravery in battle.

Grand Masters

Starting with founder Hughes de Payens in 1118, the Order's highest office was that of Grand Master, a position which was held for life, though considering the warrior nature of the Order, this could be a very short period of time. The Grand Master oversaw all of the operations of the Order, including both the military operations in the Holy Land and eastern Europe, and the financial and business dealings in the Order's infrastructure of western Europe. Grand Masters could also be active military commanders, though this was not always a wise choice, as seen by the fate of the defeated Grand Master Gérard de Ridefort, who ended up beheaded by Saladin in 1189 at the Siege of Acre.

Places associated with the Knights Templar

Tomar Church, Portugal

Tomar Church, Portugal

Middle East 
Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem 
Akko (City of Acre) - contains a tunnel leading to a 13th century Templar stronghold 
Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland 
Temple Church, Middle Temple and Inner Temple, London, England 
Temple Dinsley, Hertfordshire, England 
Hertford, Hertfordshire, England [1] 
Royston Cave, Royston, Hertfordshire, England 
Cressing Temple, Essex, England [2] 
Templecombe, Somerset, England [3] 
Temple Balsall, Warwickshire 
Lundy Island, Devon, England 
Westerdale, North Yorkshire, England 
Great Wilbraham Preceptory, Cambridgeshire 
Bisham Abbey, Berkshire 
St. Mary's, Sompting, West Sussex, England [4] 
Spain and Portugal 
Convento de Cristo, Castle of Tomar and Church of Santa Maria do Olival in Tomar, Portugal [5] 
Castle of Almourol, Idanha, Monsanto, Pombal and Zêzere in Portugal 
Castle of Soure, Coimbra, Portugal [6] 
Irrigation system in Aragon, Spain [7] 
Iglesia Veracruz in Segovia, Spain [8]] 
Kolossi Castle in Cyprus 
Tempelhof in Berlin, Germany 
Chastel Blanc, Syria 
For a list of some of the places that have been associated with the Knights Templar, either in fiction or legend, but which have not yet been proven to have a factual association, see Rumored locations.


The Knights Templar have become surrounded by legends concerning secrets and mysteries handed down to the select from ancient times. Most of these legends are connected with the long occupation by the order of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and speculation about what relics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, or fragments of the True Cross from the Crucifixion.

Other legends have grown around the suspected associations of the Templars. Many organizations claim traditions from the original Order especially in relation to anonymous charity and good deeds. Some of these organizations which might be associated with the Templars, are still active within communities across the globe supporting humanistic causes such as hospitals and medical treatment centers for the less fortunate. The works deeds and actions of a "Silent Knight" are typical for Templar behavior from historical tenents. For example, the Freemasons began incorporating Templar symbols and rituals in the 1700s. And still more stories were started by fictional embellishments upon the Templar history, such as by Hollywood movies or bestselling novels such as The Da Vinci Code.

For more information, see Knights Templar legends and Knights Templar and popular culture.

Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0521420415 
Peter Partner, The Knights Templar and their Myth. Destiny Books; Reissue edition (1990). ISBN 0892812737 
^ Frale, Barbara (2004). "The Chinon chart - Papal absolution to the last Templar, Master Jacques de Molay". Journal of Medieval History 30 (2): 109–134. DOI:10.1016/j.jmedhist.2004.03.004. 
The History Channel, Decoding the Past: The Templar Code documentary, 2005 
George Smart, The Knights Templar: Chronology, Authorhouse, 2005. ISBN 1418498890 
Sean Martin, The Knights Templar: History & Myths, 2005. ISBN 1560256451 
Dr. Karen Ralls, The Templars and the Grail, Quest Books, 2003. ISBN 0835608077 
Alan Butler, Stephen Dafoe, The Warriors and the Bankers: A History of the Knights Templar from 1307 to the present, Templar Books, 1998. ISBN 0968356729 
Malcolm Barber, "Who Were the Knights Templar?". Slate Magazine, 20 April 2006. 

The Knights Templar

The Templar Knights or 'Poor Knights of Christ' were a monastic order of knights founded in 1112 A.D. to protect the pilgrims along the path from Europe to the Holy Lands (Jerusalem). They took a vow of poverty which was rare for knights, and had to supply themselves with a horse, armor and weapons.

The Templars were organized as a monastic order, following a rule created for them by Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of the Cistercian Order. The Templars were well connected and quickly became prime movers in the international politics of the Crusades period. In time, they were endowed with several extraordinary Papal bulls that permitted them, among other things, to levy taxes and accept tithing in the areas under their direct control, facilitating their quick rise to institutional power.

At any time, each knight had some ten people in support positions. Some brothers were devoted solely to banking, as the Order was often trusted with precious goods by participants in the Crusades. But the majority of the Knights Templar were dedicated to warfare. It was primarily a military order directly responsible only to the Pope. Some consider the Knights Templar to be the forerunner of the modern professional army and elite special forces units. The Templars used their wealth to construct numerous fortifications throughout the Holy Land and were probably the best trained and disciplined fighting units of their day.

Seal of the Knights Templar

Their seal became two knights on one horse to show how poor they were. There were also other various interpretations of the seal. They became very powerful and influencial in European political circles since Pope Innocent II exempted the Templars from all authority except the Pope.

Banking System

The Templars got into banking almost by accident. Because they regularly transmitted money and supplies from Europe to Palestine, they gradually developed an efficient banking system unlike any the world had seen before. Their military might and financial acumen caused them to become both feared and trusted. Because of their unselfish defense of the Holy Lands and their monastic vows, they amassed great wealth through gifts from their grateful benefactors. They soon had an army and a fleet as well as surplus money. Since the Knights had taken a vow of poverty they re-invested the money and lent.

When members joined the order, they often donated large amounts of cash or property to the order since all had to take oaths of poverty. Combined with massive grants from the Pope, their financial power was assured from the beginning.

Since the Templars kept cash in all their chapter houses and temples, it was natural that in 1135 the Order started lending money to Spanish pilgrims who wanted to travel to the Holy Land.

The Knights' involvement in banking grew over time into a new basis for money, as Templars became increasingly involved in banking activities.

One indication of their powerful political connections is that the Templars' involvement in usury did not lead to more controversy within the Order and the church at large.

The charge was typically sidestepped, by a stipulation that the Templars retained the rights to the production of mortgaged property.

The Templars' political connections and awareness of the essentially urban and commercial nature of the Outremer communities naturally led the Order to a position of significant power, both in Europe and the Holy Land.

Their success attracted the concern of many other orders and eventually that of the nobility and monarchs of Europe as well, who were at this time seeking to monopolize control of money and banking after a long chaotic period in which civil society, especially the Church and its lay orders, had dominated financial activities. The Templars' holdings were extensive both in Europe and the Middle East, including for a time the entire island of Cyprus.

Their Humble Beginnings

Immediately after the deliverance of Jerusalem, the Crusaders, considering their vow fulfilled, returned in a body to their homes. The defense of this precarious conquest, surrounded as it was by Mohammedan neighbours, remained.

In 1118, during the reign of Baldwin II, Hugues de Payens, a knight of Champagne, and eight companions bound themselves by a perpetual vow, taken in the presence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to defend the Christian kingdom. Baldwin accepted their services and assigned them a portion of his palace, adjoining the temple of the city; hence the title "pauvres chevaliers du temple" (Poor Knights of the Temple).

Poor indeed they were, being reduced to living on alms, and, so long as they were only nine, they were hardly prepared to render important services, unless it were as escorts to the pilgrims on their way from Jerusalem to the banks of the Jordan, then frequented as a place of devotion.

The Templars had as yet neither distinctive habit nor rule. Hugues dePayens journeyed to the West to seek the approbation of the Church and to obtain recruits. At the Council of Troyes (1128), at which he assisted and at which St. Bernard was the leading spirit, the Knights Templars adopted the Rule of St. Benedict, as recently reformed by the Cistercians. They accepted not only the three perpetual vows, besides the crusader's vow, but also the austere rules concerning the chapel, the refectory, and the dormitory.

They also adopted the white habit of the Cistercians, adding to it a red cross. Notwithstanding the austerity of the monastic rule, recruits flocked to the new order, which thenceforth comprised four ranks of brethren:


  • the knights, equipped as heavy cavalry


  • the sergeants, equipped as light cavalry and drawn from a lower social class than the knights


  • farmers, who administered the property of the Order


  • the chaplains, who were ordained priests and saw to the spiritual needs of the Order.

Their Marvelous Growth

The order owed its rapid growth in popularity to the fact that it combined the two great passions of the Middle Ages, religious fervour and martial prowess. Even before the Templars had proved their worth, the ecclesiastical and lay authorities heaped on them favours of every kind, spiritual and temporal. The popes took them under their immediate protection, exempting them from all other jurisdiction, episcopal or secular. Their property was assimilated to the church estates and exempted from all taxation, even from the ecclesiastical tithes, while their churches and cemeteries could not be placed under interdict.

This soon brought about conflict with the clergy of the Holy Land, inasmuch as the increase of the landed property of the order led, owing to its exemption from tithes, to the diminution of the revenue of the churches, and the interdicts, at that time used and abused by the episcopate, became to a certain extent inoperative wherever the order had churches and chapels in which Divine worship was regularly held. As early as 1156 the clergy of the Holy Land tried to restrain the exorbitant privileges of the military orders, but in Rome every objection was set aside, the result being a growing antipathy on the part of the secular clergy against these orders. The temporal benefits which the order received from all the sovereigns of Europe were no less important.

The Templars had commanderies in every state. In France they formed no less than eleven bailiwicks, subdivided into more than forty-two commanderies; in Palestine it was for the most part with sword in hand that the Templars extended their possessions at the expense of the Mohammedans. Their castles are still famous owing to the remarkable ruins which remain: Safed, built in 1140; Karak of the desert (1143); and, most importantly of all, Castle Pilgrim, built in 1217 to command a strategic defile on the sea-coast.



In these castles, which were both monasteries and cavalry- barracks, the life of the Templars was full of contrasts. A contemporary describes the Templars as "in turn lions of war and lambs at the hearth; rough knights on the battlefield, pious monks in the chapel; formidable to the enemies of Christ, gentleness itself towards His friends." (Jacques de Vitry). Having renounced all the pleasures of life, they faced death with a proud indifference; they were the first to attack, the last to retreat, always docile to the voice of their leader, the discipline of the monk being added to the discipline of the soldier. As an army they were never very numerous.

A contemporary tells us that there were 400 knights in Jerusalem at the zenith of their prosperity; he does not give the number of sergeants, who were more numerous. But it was a picked body of men who, by their noble example, inspirited the remainder of the Christian forces. They were thus the terror of the Mohammedans. Were they defeated, it was upon them that the victor vented his fury, the more so as they were forbidden to offer a ransom. When taken prisoners, they scornfully refused the freedom offered them on condition of apostasy. At the siege of Safed (1264), at which ninety Templars met death, eighty others were taken prisoners, and, refusing to Deny Christ, died martyrs to the Faith. This fidelity cost them dear. It has been computed that in less than twocenturies almost 20,000 Templars, knights and serjeants, perished in war.

These frequent hecatombs rendered it difficult for the order to increase in numbers and also brought about a decadence of the true crusading spirit. As the order was compelled to make immediate use of the recruits, the article of the original rule in Latin which required a probationary period fell into desuetude. Even excommunicated men, who, as was the case with many crusaders, wished to expiate their sins, were admitted.

All that was required of a new member was a blind obedience, as imperative in the soldier as in the monk. He had to declare himself forever "serf et esclave de la maison" (French text of the rule). To prove his sincerity, he was subjected to a secret test concerning the nature of which nothing has ever been discovered, although it gave rise to the most extraordinary accusations. The great wealth of the order may also have contributed to a certain laxity in morals, but the most serious charge against it was its insupportable pride and love of power.

At the apogee of its prosperity, it was said to possess 9000 estates. With its accumulated revenues it had amassed great wealth, which was deposited in its temples at Paris and London. Numerous princes and private individuals had banked there their personal property, because of the uprightness and solid credit of such bankers. In Paris the royal treasure was kept in the Temple. Quite independent, except from the distant authority of the pope, and possessing power equal to that of the leading temporal sovereigns, the order soon assumed the right to direct the weak and irresolute government of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, a feudal kingdom transmissible through women and exposed to all the disadvantages of minorities, regencies, and domestic discord.

However, the Templars were soon opposed by the Order of Hospitallers, which had in its turn become military, and was at first the imitator and later the rival of the Templars. This ill-timed interference of the orders in the government of Jerusalem only multiplied the intestine dessentions, and this at a time when the formidable power of Saladin threatened the very existence of the Latin Kingdom. While the Templars sacrificed themselves with their customary bravery in this final struggle, they were, nevertheless, partly responsible for the downfall of Jerusalem.

To put an end to this baneful rivalry between the military orders, there was a very simple remedy at hand, namely their amalgamation. This was officially proposed by St. Louis at the Council of Lyons (1274). It was proposed anew in 1293 by Pope Nicholas IV, who called a general consultation on this point of the Christian states.

This idea is canvassed by all the publicists of that time, who demand either a fusion of the existing orders or the creation of a third order to supplant them. Neven in fact had the question of the crusaders been more eagerly taken up than after their failure. As the grandson of St. Louis, Philip the Fair could not remain indifferent to these proposals for a crusade. As the most powerful prince of his time, the direction of the movement belonged to him. To assume this direction, all he demanded was the necesary supplies of men and especially of money. Such is the genesis of his campaign for the suppression of the Templars.

It has been attributed wholly to his well-known cupidity. Even on this supposition he needed a pretext, for he could not, without sacrilege, lay hands on possessions that formed part of the ecclesiastical domain. To justify such a course the sanction of the Church was necessary, and this the king could obtain only by maintaining the sacred purpose for which the possessions were destined.

Admitting that he was sufficiently powerful to encroach upon the property of the Templars in France, he still needed the concurrence of the Church to secure control of their possessions in the other countries of Christendom. Such was the purpose of the wily negotiations of this self-willed and cunning sovereign, and of his still more treacherous counsellors, with Clement V, a French pope of weak character and easily deceived. The rumour that there had been a prearrangement between the king and the pope has been finally disposed of. A doubtful revelation, which allowed Philip to make the prosecution of the Templars as heretics a question of orthodoxy, afforded him the opportunity which he desired to invoke the action of the Holy See.

Their Tragic End

Two Templars burned at the stake, from a French 15th century manuscript

The fall of the Templars may have started over the matter of a loan. Philip IV, King of France needed cash for his wars and asked the Templars for money, who refused. The King tried to get the Pope to excommunicate the Templars for this but Pope Boniface VIII refused. Philip sent his right-hand man, Guillaume de Nogaret, to "persuade" the Pope, who later died from the wounds inflicted by de Nogaret. The next Pope, Benedict XI, lifted the excommunication of Philip IV but refused to absolve de Nogaret. (Rumor has it that the Pope died of poison soon after.) The next Pope, Clement V, agreed to Philip IV's demands about the Templars, lifted the excommunications, and later moved the papacy to Avignon.

On October 13 (the unlucky Friday the 13th), 1307, what may have been all the Knights Templar in France were simultaneously arrested by agents of Philip the Fair, to later be tortured into admitting heresy in the Order. The dominant view is that Philip, who seized the treasury and broke up the monastic banking system, was jealous of the Templars' wealth and power, and sought to control it for himself.

These events, and the Templars' original banking of assets for suddenly mobile depositors, were two of many shifts towards a system of military fiat to back European money, removing this power from Church orders. Seeing the fate of the Templars, the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem and of Rhodes and of Malta were also convinced to give up banking at this time. Much of the Templar property outside of France was transferred by the Pope to the Knights Hospitaller, and many surviving Templars were also accepted into the Hospitallers.

Many kings and nobles supported the Knights at that time, and only dissolved the order in their fiefs when so commanded by Pope Clement V. Robert the Bruce, the King of Scots, had already been excommunicated for other reasons, and was therefore not disposed to pay heed to Papal commands. In Portugal the order's name was changed to the Order of Christ, and was believed to have contributed to the first naval discoveries of the Portuguese. Prince Henry the Navigator led the Portuguese order for 20 years until the time of his death. In Spain, where the king of Aragon was also against giving the heritage of the Templars to Hospitallers (as commanded by Clement V), the Order of Montesa took Templar assets.

In the trial of the Templars two phases must be distinguished - the royal commission and the papal commission. Philip the Fair made a preliminary inquiry, and, on the strength of so-called revelations of a few unworthy and degraded members, secret orders were sent throughout France to arrest all the Templars on the same day (13 October, 1307), and to submit them to a most rigorous examination. The king did this, it was made to appear, at the request of the ecclesiastical inquisitors, but in reality without their co-operation. In this inquiry torture, the use of which was authorized by the cruel procedure of the age in the case of crimes committed without witnesses,was pitilessly employed. Owing to the lack of evidence, the accused could be convicted only through their own confession and, to extort this confession, the use of torture was considered necessary and legitimate.

There was one feature in the organization of the order which gave rise to suspicion, namely the secrecy with which the rites of initiation were conducted. The secrecy is explained by the fact that the receptions always took place in a chapter, and the chapters, owing to the delicate and grave questions discussed, were, and necessarily had to be, held in secret. An indiscretion in the matter of secrecy entailed exclusion from the order. The secrecy of these initiations, however, had two grave disadvantages. As these receptions could take place wherever there was a commandery, they were carried on without publicity and were free from all surveillance or control from the higher authorities, the tests being entrusted to the discretion of subalterns who were often rough and uncultivated. Under such conditions, it is not to be wondered at that abuses crept in.

One need only recall what took place almost daily at the time in the brotherhoods of artisans, the initiation of a new member being too often made the occasion for a parody more or less sacrilegious of baptism or of the Mass. The second disadvantage of this secrecy was, that it gave an opportunity to the enemies of the Templars, and they were numerous, to infer from this mystery every conceivable malicious supposition and base on it the monstrous imputations. The Templars were accused of spitting upon the Cross, of denying Christ, of permitting sodomy, of worshipping an idol, all in the most impenetrable secrecy. Such were the Middle Ages, when prejudice was so vehement that, to destroy an adversary, men did not recoil from inventing the most criminal charges.

It will suffice to recall the similar, but even more ridiculous than ignominious accusations brought against Pope Boniface VIII by the same Philip the Fair. Most of the accused declared themselves guilty of these secret crimes after being subjected to such ferocious torture that many of them succumbed. Some made similar confessions without the use of torture, it is true, but through fear of it; the threat had been sufficient. Such was the case with the grand master himself, Jacques de Molay, who acknowledged later that he had lied to save his life. Carried on without the authorization of the pope, who had the military orders under his immediate jurisdiction, this investigation was radically corrupt both as to its intent and as to its procedure.

Not only did Clement V enter an energetic protest, but he annulled the entire trial and suspended the powers of the bishops and their inquisitors. However, the offense had been admitted and remained the irrevocable basis of the entire subsequent proceedings. Philip the Fair took advantage of the discovery to have bestowed upon himself by the University of Paris the title of Champion and Defender of the Faith, and also to stir up public opinion at the States General of Tours against the heinous crimes of the Templars.

Moreover, he succeeded in having the confessions of the accused confirmed in presence of the pope by seventy-two Templars, who had been specially chosen and coached beforehand. In view of this investigation at Poitiers (June, 1308), the pope, until thensceptical, at last became concerned and opened a new commission, the procedure of which he himself directed. He reserved the cause of the order to the papal commission, leaving individuals to be tried by the diocesan commissions to whom herestored their powers.

The second phase of the process was the papal inquiry, which was not restricted to France, but extended to all the Christian countries Europe, and even to the Orient. In most of the other countries -- Portugal, Spain, Germany, Cyprus -- the Templars were found innocent; in Italy, except for a few districts, the decision was the same. But in France the episcopal inquisitions, resuming their activities, took the facts as established at the trial, and confined themselves to reconciling the repentant guilty members, imposing various canonical penances extending even to perpetual imprisonment. Only those who persisted in heresy were to be turned over to the secular arm, but, by a rigid interpretation of this provision, those who had withdrawn their former confessions were considered relapsed heretics; thus fifty-four Templars who had recanted after having confessed were condemned as relapsed and publicly burned on 12 May, 1310.

Subsequently all the other Templars, who had been examined at the trial, with very few exceptions declared themselves guilty. At the same time the papal commission, appointed to examine the cause of the order, had entered upon its duties and gathered together the documents which were to be submitted to the pope, and to the general council called to decide as to the final fate of the order. The culpability of single persons, which was looked upon as established, did not involve the guilt of the order. Although the defense of the order was poorly conducted, it could not be proved that the order as a body professed any heretical doctrine, or that a secret rule, distinct from the official rule, was practised.

Consequently, at the General Council of Vienne in Dauphiné on 16 October, 1311, the majority were favourable to the maintenance of the order. The pope, irresolute and harrassed, finally adopted a middle course: he decreed the dissolution, not the condemnation of the order, and not by penal sentence, but by an Apostolic Decree (Bull of 22 March, 1312). The order having been suppressed, the pope himself was to decide as to the fate of its members and the disposal of its possessions. As to the property, it was turned over to the rival Order of Hospitallers to be applied to its original use, namely the defence of the Holy Places. In Portugal, however, and in Aragon the possessions were vested in two new orders, the Order of Christ in Portugal and the Order of Montesa in Aragon.

As to the members, the Templars recognized guiltless were allowed either to join another military order or to return to the secular state. In the latter case, a pension for life, charged to the possessions of the order, was granted them. On the other hand, the Templars who had pleaded guilty before their bishops were to be treated "according to the rigours of justice, tempered by a generous mercy".

The pope reserved to his own jugment the cause of the grand master and his three first dignitaries. They had confessed their guilt; it remained to reconcile them with the Church, after they had testified to their repentance with the customary solemnity. To give this solemnity more publicity, a platform was erected in front of the Notre-Dame for the reading of the sentence.

But at the supreme moment the grand master recovered his courage and proclaimed the innocence of the Templars and the falsityof his own alleged confessions. To atone for this deplorable moment of weakness, he declared himself ready to sacrifice his life. He knew the fate that awaited him.

Immediately after this unexpected coup-de-theatre he was arrested as a relapsed heretic with another dignitary who chose to share his fate, and by order of Philip they were burned at the stake before the gates of the palace. This brave death deeply impressed the people, and, as it happened that the pope and the king died shortly afterwards, the legend spread that the grand master in the midst of the flames had summoned them both to appear in the course of the year before the tribunal of God.

Such was the tragic end of the Templars. If we consider that the Order of Hospitallers finally inherited, although not without difficulties, the property of the Templars and received many of its members, we may say that the result of the trial was practically equivalent to the long-proposed amalgamation of the two rival orders. For the Knights (first of Rhodes, afterwards of Malta) took up and carried on elsewhere the work of the Knights of the Temple.

This formidable trial, the greatest ever brought to light whether we consider the large number of accused, the difficulty of discovering the truth from a mass of suspicious and contradictory evidence, or the many jurisdictions in activity simultaneously in all parts of Christendom from Great Britain to Cyprus, is not yet ended. It is still passionately discussed by historians who have divided into two camps, for and against the order.

To mention only the principal ones, the following find the order guilty:

Dupuy (1654), Hammer (1820), Wilcke (1826), Michelet (1841), Loiseleur (1872), Prutz (1888), and Rastoul (1905); the following find it innocent: Father Lejeune (1789), Raynouard (1813), (1846), Ladvocat (1880), Schottmuller (1887), Gmelin (1893), Lea (1888), Fincke (1908). Without taking any side in this discussion, which is not yet exhausted, we may observe that the latest documents brought to light, particularly those which Fincke has recently extracted from the archives of the Kingdom of Aragon, tell more and more strongly in favour of the order.

In June of 1311, the English Inquisition came across some very interesting information from a Templar by the name of Stephen de Strapelbrugge, who admitted that he was told in his initiation that Jesus was a man and not a god. Another Templar by the name of John de Stoke stated that Jacques de Molay had instructed that he should know that Jesus was but a man, and that he should believe in 'the great omnipotent God, who was the architect of heaven and Earth, and not the crucifixion'.

These are the articles on which inquiry should be made against the Order of the Knighthood of the Temple.

Firstly that, although they declared that the Order had been solemnly established and approved by the Apostolic See, nevertheless in the reception of the brothers of the said Order, and at some time after, there were preserved and performed by the brothers those things which follow:

Namely that each in his reception, or at some time after, or as soon as a fit occasion could be found for the reception, denied Christ, sometimes Christ crucified, sometimes Jesus, and sometimes God, and sometimes the Holy Virgin, and sometimes all the saints of God, led and advised by those who received him. -

Item, that they told those whom they received that he was a false prophet.

Item, that he had not suffered nor was he crucified for the redemption of the human race, but on account of his sins.

Item, that neither the receptors nor those being received had a hope of achieving salvation through Jesus, and they said this, or the equivalent or similar, to those whom they received.

Item, that they made those whom they received spit on a cross, or on a representation or sculpture of the cross and an image of Christ, although sometimes those who were being received spat next [to it]. Item, that they sometimes ordered that this cross be trampled underfoot.

Item, that brothers who had been received sometimes trampled on the cross.

Item, that sometimes they urinated and trampled, and caused others to urinate, on this cross, and several times they did this on Good Friday.

Item, that some of them, on that same day or another of Holy Week, were accustomed to assemble for the aforesaid trampling and urination.

Of 138 Templars questioned in Paris during October and November, 105 admitted that they had denied Christ during their secret reception into the order, 123 that they had spat at, on, or near some form of the crucifix, 103 that they had indecently kissed, usually on the base of the spine or the navel, and 102 implied that homosexuality among the brothers was encouraged (although only 3 admitted directly engaging in homosexual relations).

This immediate and virtually unanimous confession of guilt on the part of the Templars, including the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and the Visitor, Hughes de Pairaud, cast a pall over the order from which it never recovered. Although the confessions were extracted by torture and later denied before papal inquisitors, the Templars had sentenced themselves out of their own mouths.

With special thanks to