In the mid-12th century, the tide began to turn in the Crusades. The Muslim world had become more united under effective leaders such as Saladin, and dissension arose amongst Christian factions in, and concerning, the Holy Land. The Knights Templar were occasionally at odds with the two other Christian military orders, the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights, and decades of internecine feuds weakened Christian positions, both politically and militarily. After the Templars were involved in several unsuccessful campaigns, including the pivotal Battle of the Horns of Hattin, Jerusalem was recaptured by Muslim forces under Saladin in 1187. The Crusaders regained the city in 1229, without Templar aid, but held it only briefly. In 1244, the Khwarezmi Turks recaptured Jerusalem, and the city did not return to Western control until 1917 when the British captured it from the Ottoman Turks in World War I.[22]

The Templars were forced to relocate their headquarters to other cities in the north, such as the seaport of Acre, which they held for the next century. It was lost in 1291, followed by their last mainland strongholds, Tortosa (Tartus in what is now Syria) and Atlit in present-dayIsrael. Their headquarters then moved to Limassol on the island of Cyprus,[23] and they also attempted to maintain a garrison on tinyArwad Island, just off the coast from Tortosa. In 1300, there was some attempt to engage in coordinated military efforts with the Mongols[24] via a new invasion force at Arwad. In 1302 or 1303, however, the Templars lost the island to the Egyptian Mamluks in theSiege of Arwad. With the island gone, the Crusaders lost their last foothold in the Holy Land.[17][25]

With the order's military mission now less important, support for the organization began to dwindle. The situation was complex, however, since during the two hundred years of their existence, the Templars had become a part of daily life throughout Christendom.[26] The organization's Templar Houses, hundreds of which were dotted throughout Europe and the Near East, gave them a widespread presence at the local level.[3] The Templars still managed many businesses, and many Europeans had daily contact with the Templar network, such as by working at a Templar farm or vineyard, or using the order as a bank in which to store personal valuables. The order was still not subject to local government, making it everywhere a "state within a state"—itsstanding army, though it no longer had a well-defined mission, could pass freely through all borders. This situation heightened tensions with some European nobility, especially as the Templars were indicating an interest in founding their own monastic state, just as the Teutonic Knights had done in Prussia[19] and the Knights Hospitaller were doing inRhodes.[27]

Arrests, charges and dissolution[edit] Edit

In 1305, the new Pope Clement V, based in Avignon, France, sent letters to both the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the Hospitaller Grand Master Fulk de Villaretto discuss the possibility of merging the two orders. Neither was amenable to the idea, but Pope Clement persisted, and in 1306 he invited both Grand Masters to France to discuss the matter. De Molay arrived first in early 1307, but de Villaret was delayed for several months. While waiting, De Molay and Clement discussed criminal charges that had been made two years earlier by an ousted Templar and were being discussed by King Philip IV of France and his ministers. It was generally agreed that the charges were false, but Clement sent the king a written request for assistance in the investigation. According to some historians, King Philip, who was already deeply in debt to the Templars from hiswar with the English, decided to seize upon the rumors for his own purposes. He began pressuring the church to take action against the order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts.[28]

Convent of Christ Castle in Tomar, Portugal. Built in 1160 as a stronghold for the Knights Templar, it became the headquarters of the renamed Order of Christ. In 1983, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[29]

At dawn on Friday, 13 October 1307 (a date sometimes linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition)[30][31] King Philip IV ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. The arrest warrant started with the phrase: "Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume" ["God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"].[32] Claims were made that during Templar admissions ceremonies, recruits were forced to spit on the Cross, deny Christ, and engage in indecent kissing; brethren were also accused of worshiping idols, and the order was said to have encouraged homosexual practices.[33] The Templars were charged with numerous other offences such as financial corruption, fraud, and secrecy.[34] Many of the accused confessed to these charges under torture, and these confessions, even though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris. The prisoners were coerced to confess that they had spat on the Cross: "Moi, Raymond de La Fère, 21 ans, reconnais que [j'ai] craché trois fois sur la Croix, mais de bouche et pas de cœur" (free translation: "I, Raymond de La Fère, 21 years old, admit that I have spat three times on the Cross, but only from my mouth and not from my heart"). The Templars were accused of idolatry and were suspected of worshipping either a figure known as Baphomet or a mummified severed head they recovered, amongst other artifacts, at their original headquarters on the Temple Mount that many scholars theorize might have been that of John the Baptist, among other things.[35]

Relenting to Phillip's demands, Pope Clement then issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae on 22 November 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets.[36] Pope Clement called for papal hearings to determine the Templars' guilt or innocence, and once freed of the Inquisitors' torture, many Templars recanted their confessions. Some had sufficient legal experience to defend themselves in the trials, but in 1310, having appointed the archbishop of Sens, Philippe de Marigny, to lead the investigation, Philip blocked this attempt, using the previously forced confessions to have dozens of Templars burned at the stake in Paris.[37][38][39]

With Philip threatening military action unless the pope complied with his wishes, Pope Clement finally agreed to disband the order, citing the public scandal that had been generated by the confessions. At the Council of Vienne in 1312, he issued a series of papal bulls, including Vox in excelso, which officially dissolved the order, and Ad providam, which turned over most Templar assets to the Hospitallers.[40]

Templars being burned at the stake.

As for the leaders of the order, the elderly Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who had confessed under torture, retracted his confession.Geoffroi de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy, also retracted his confession and insisted on his innocence. Both men were declared guilty of being relapsed heretics, and they were sentenced to burn alive at the stake in Paris on 18 March 1314. De Molay reportedly remained defiant to the end, asking to be tied in such a way that he could face the Notre Dame Cathedral and hold his hands together in prayer.[41]According to legend, he called out from the flames that both Pope Clement and King Philip would soon meet him before God. His actual words were recorded on the parchment as follows : "Dieu sait qui a tort et a péché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort" (free translation : "God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death").[32] Pope Clement died only a month later, and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the end of the year.[42][43][44]

With the last of the order's leaders gone, the remaining Templars around Europe were either arrested and tried under the Papal investigation (with virtually none convicted), absorbed into other military orders such as the Knights Hospitaller, or pensioned off and allowed to live out their days peacefully. By papal decree, the property of the Templars was transferred to the Order of Hospitallers, which also absorbed many of the Templars' members. In effect, the dissolution of the Templars could be seen as the merger of the two rival orders.[45] Some may have fled to other territories outside Papal control, such asexcommunicated Scotland or to Switzerland. Templar organizations in Portugal simply changed their name, from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ.[46]

Chinon Parchment[edit] Edit

Main article: Chinon Parchment

In September 2001, a document known as the "Chinon Parchment" dated 17–20 August 1308 was discovered in the Vatican Secret Archives by Barbara Frale, apparently after having been filed in the wrong place in 1628. It is a record of the trial of the Templars and shows that Clement absolved the Templars of all heresies in 1308 before formally disbanding the order in 1312,[47] as did another Chinon Parchment dated 20 August 1308 addressed to Philip IV of France, also mentioning that all Templars that had confessed to heresy were "restored to the Sacraments and to the unity of the Church". This other Chinon Parchment has been well-known to historians,[48][49][50] having been published byÉtienne Baluze in 1693[51] and by Pierre Dupuy in 1751.[52]

The current position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the medieval persecution of the Knights Templar was unjust, that nothing was inherently wrong with the order or its rule, and that Pope Clement was pressed into his actions by the magnitude of the public scandal and by the dominating influence of King Philip IV, who was Clement's relative.[53][54]

Organization[edit] Edit

Main article: List of Knights Templar

Templar chapel from the 12th century in Metz, France. Once part of the Templar commandery ofMetz, the oldest Templar institution of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Templars were organized as a monastic order similar to Bernard's Cistercian Order, which was considered the first effective international organization in Europe.[55] The organizational structure had a strong chain of authority. Each country with a major Templar presence (France,Poitou, Anjou, Jerusalem, England, Aragon, Portugal, Italy, Tripoli, Antioch, Hungary, and Croatia)[56] had a Master of the Order for the Templars in that region.

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. The Grand Master exercised his authority via the visitors-general of the order, who were knights specially appointed by the Grand Master and convent of Jerusalem to visit the different provinces, correct malpractices, introduce new regulations, and resolve important disputes. The visitors-general had the power to remove knights from office and to suspend the Master of the province concerned.

No precise numbers exist, but it is estimated that at the order's peak there were between 15,000 and 20,000 Templars, of whom about a tenth were actual knights.[2][3]

Ranks within the order[edit] Edit

Three main ranks[edit] Edit

There was a threefold division of the ranks of the Templars: the noble knights, the non-noble sergeants, and the chaplains. The Templars did not perform knighting ceremonies, so any knight wishing to become a Knight Templar had to be a knight already.[57] They were the most visible branch of the order, and wore the famous white mantles to symbolise their purity and chastity.[58] They were equipped as heavy cavalry, with three or four horses and one or two squires. Squires were generally not members of the order but were instead outsiders who were hired for a set period of time. Beneath the knights in the order and drawn from non-noble families were the sergeants.[59] They brought vital skills and trades such as blacksmithing and building, and administered many of the order's European properties. In the Crusader States, they fought alongside the knights as light cavalry with a single horse.[60] Several of the order's most senior positions were reserved for sergeants, including the post of Commander of the Vault of Acre, who was the de facto Admiral of the Templar fleet. The sergeants wore black or brown. From 1139, chaplainsconstituted a third Templar class. They were ordained priests who cared for the Templars' spiritual needs.[45] All three classes of brother wore the order's red cross.[61]

Grand Masters[edit] Edit

Main article: Grand Masters of the Knights Templar

Templar building at Saint Martin des Champs, France

Starting with founder Hugues de Payens in 1118–1119, the order's highest office was that of Grand Master, a position which was held for life, though considering the martial nature of the order, this could mean a very short tenure. All but two of the Grand Masters died in office, and several died during military campaigns. For example, during the Siege of Ascalon in 1153, Grand Master Bernard de Tremelay led a group of 40 Templars through a breach in the city walls. When the rest of the Crusader army did not follow, the Templars, including their Grand Master, were surrounded and beheaded.[62] Grand Master Gérard de Ridefort was beheaded by Saladin in 1189 at the Siege of Acre.

The Grand Master oversaw all of the operations of the order, including both the military operations in the Holy Land and Eastern Europeand the Templars' financial and business dealings in Western Europe. Some Grand Masters also served as battlefield commanders, though this was not always wise: several blunders in de Ridefort's combat leadership contributed to the devastating defeat at the Battle of Hattin. The last Grand Master was Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake in Paris in 1314 by order of King Philip IV.[39]

Behaviour, clothing and beards[edit] Edit

Representation of a Knight Templar

Bernard de Clairvaux and founder Hugues de Payens devised the specific code of behaviour for the Templar Order, known to modern historians as the Latin Rule. Its 72 clauses defined the ideal behaviour for the Knights, such as the types of garments they were to wear and how many horses they could have. Knights were to take their meals in silence, eat meat no more than three times per week, and not have physical contact of any kind with women, even members of their own family. A Master of the Order was assigned "4 horses, and one chaplain-brother and one clerk with three horses, and one sergeant brother with two horses, and one gentleman valet to carry his shield and lance, with one horse."[63] As the order grew, more guidelines were added, and the original list of 72 clauses was expanded to several hundred in its final form.[64][65]

The knights wore a white surcoat with a red cross and a white mantle also with a red cross; the sergeants wore a black tunic with a red cross on the front and a black or brown mantle.[66][67] The white mantle was assigned to the Templars at the Council of Troyes in 1129, and the cross was most probably added to their robes at the launch of the Second Crusade in 1147, when Pope Eugenius III, King Louis VII of France, and many other notables attended a meeting of the French Templars at their headquarters near Paris.[68][69][70] According to their Rule, the knights were to wear the white mantle at all times, even being forbidden to eat or drink unless they were wearing it.[71]

One of the many reported flags of the Knights Templar

The red cross that the Templars wore on their robes was a symbol of martyrdom, and to die in combat was considered a great honour that assured a place in heaven.[72] There was a cardinal rule that the warriors of the order should never surrender unless the Templar flag had fallen, and even then they were first to try to regroup with another of the Christian orders, such as that of the Hospitallers. Only after all flags had fallen were they allowed to leave the battlefield.[73] This uncompromising principle, along with their reputation for courage, excellent training, and heavy armament, made the Templars one of the most feared combat forces in medieval times.[74]

Although not prescribed by the Templar Rule, it later became customary for members of the order to wear long and prominent beards. In about 1240, Alberic of Trois-Fontaines described the Templars as an "order of bearded brethren"; while during the interrogations by the papal commissioners in Paris in 1310–11, out of nearly 230 knights and brothers questioned, 76 are described as wearing a beard, in some cases specified as being "in the style of the Templars", and 133 are said to have shaved off their beards, either in renunciation of the order or because they had hoped to escape detection.[75][76]

Initiation,[77] known as Reception (receptio) into the order, was a profound commitment and involved a solemn ceremony. Outsiders were discouraged from attending the ceremony, which aroused the suspicions of medieval inquisitors during the later trials. New members had to willingly sign over all of their wealth and goods to the order and take vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience.[78] Most brothers joined for life, although some were allowed to join for a set period. Sometimes a married man was allowed to join if he had his wife's permission,[67] but he was not allowed to wear the white mantle.[79]

Legacy[edit] Edit

See also: List of places associated with the Knights Templar

Temple Church, London. As the chapel of the New Temple in London, it was the location for Templar initiation ceremonies. In modern times it is the parish church of the Middle and Inner Temples, two of the Inns of Court, and a popular tourist attraction.

With their military mission and extensive financial resources, the Knights Templar funded a large number of building projects around Europe and the Holy Land. Many of these structures are still standing. Many sites also maintain the name "Temple" because of centuries-old association with the Templars.[80] For example, some of the Templars' lands in London were later rented to lawyers, which led to the names of the Temple Bar gateway and the Temple Underground station. Two of the four Inns of Court which may call members to act asbarristers are the Inner Temple and Middle Temple.

Distinctive architectural elements of Templar buildings include the use of the image of "two knights on a single horse", representing the Knights' poverty, and round buildings designed to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.[81]

Modern organizations[edit] Edit

Main article: Knights Templar and popular culture

The story of the persecution and sudden dissolution of the secretive yet powerful medieval Templars has drawn many other groups to use alleged connections with the Templars as a way of enhancing their own image and mystery.[82] There is no clear historical connection between the Knights Templar, which were dismantled in the Rolls of the Catholic Church in 1309 with the martyrdom of Jacques de Molay, and any of the modern organizations, of which, except for the Scottish order, the earliest emerged publicly in the 18th century.[83][84][85][86]There is often public confusion and many overlook the 400-year gap. However, in 1853, Napoleon III officially recognised the OSMTH. The order operates on the basis of the traditions of the medieval Knights Templar, celebrating the spirit of, but not claiming direct descent from the ancient order founded by Hugues de Payens in 1118 and dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312.

The 19th Century German Templers did not claim any direct or indirect descent from the medieval knights, their name having a completely different origin.

Freemasonry[edit] Edit

Main article: Knights Templar (Freemasonry)

Since at least the 18th century,[5] Freemasonry has incorporated symbols and rituals of several medieval military orders in a number of Masonic bodies, most notably, in the "Red Cross of Constantine" (derived from the Military Constantinian Order), the "Order of Malta" (derived from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and the "Order of the Temple", the latter two featuring prominently in the York Rite. One theory of the origins of Freemasonry claims direct descent from the historical Knights Templar through its final fourteenth-century members who took refuge in Scotland whose King, Robert the Bruce was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church at the time, or in Portugal where the order changed its name to Knights of Christ, other members having joined Knights of St. John. There have even been claims that some of the Templars who made it to Scotland contributed to the Scots' victory at Bannockburn. This theory is usually deprecated on grounds of lack of evidence, by both Masonic authorities[87] and historians.[88]

The penalty of excommunication for joining the Masonic Lodge was explicit in the 1917 code of canon law (canon 2335), and it is implicit in the 1983 code (canon 1374). Because the revised code of canon law is not explicit on this point, some drew the mistaken conclusion that the church's prohibition of Freemasonry had been dropped. As a result of this confusion, shortly before the 1983 code was promulgated, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement indicating that the penalty was still in force. This statement was dated 26 November 1983 and may be found in Origins 13/27 (Nov. 15, 1983), 450.[89]

Modern popular culture[edit] Edit

Main article: Knights Templar in popular culture

Based on Freemasonic speculation and popular literature since the 19th century, the Templars and associated "legends" or "mysteries" have become a common trope in modern pop culture.

Beginning in the 1960s, there have been speculative popular publications surrounding the order's early occupation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and speculation about whatrelics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant,[90] or the historical accusation of idol worship (Baphomet) transformed into a context of "witchcraft".[91]

The association of the Holy Grail with the Templars has precedents even in 12th century fiction; Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival calls the knights guarding the Grail Kingdomtempleisen, apparently a conscious fictionalisation of the templarii.[92]

Modern fictionalisation of the Templars begins with Ivanhoe, the 1820 novel by Walter Scott, where the villain Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert is a "Templar Knight".

The popular treatment of the Templars as a topic of esotericist "legend" and "mystery" begins in the later 20th century. The historical novel series Les Rois maudits (1955–1977) by Maurice Druon depicts the death of the last Grand Master of the Order, and plays with the legend of the curse he laid on the pope, Philip the Fair and Guillaume de Nogaret. Esotericist treatments become common in the 1980s. Among them, the 1982 The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail would prove most influential.

The 1988 novel by Umberto Eco Foucault's Pendulum satirizes the presentation of the Templars in esotericist or pseudohistorical conspiracy theories. A revival of the 1980s themes took place in the 2000s due to the commercial success of The Da Vinci Code, the 2003 novel by Dan Brown (adapted into a film version in 2006).

The Michoacán-based Mexican criminal organization of The Knights Templar Cartel are named after the order and have based some of their iconography on it, including the appearance of medieval knights on the cover of their manifesto and code of conduct.

In the video game series Assassin's Creed, the Templars are the antagonists who have waged a war against an organization called the Assassins. Some of the Templar grand masters, such as Robert de Sablé and Jacques de Molay appear in the games while some other historical figures such as Pope Alexander VI, Laureano de Torres y Ayala andFrançois-Thomas Germain are depicted as templar leaders.They are antagonists for most of the series but they are the main protagonists in Assassin's Creed Rogue.

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