Who were the Templars?
The Knights Templar was a powerful military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land. They were a monastic order – part warrior, part monk – banded together they took monastic vows and fought to the death for the preservation of Christianity. The Order began humbly, surviving on donations from travelling pilgrims, but soon grew to become the most powerful business organization in all of Europe. Feared as warriors, respected for their charity and sought out for their wealth, the Templar knights were the key players of the monastic fighting Orders.
In European political circles, they became very powerful and influential. In 1139 AD, Pope Innocent II exempted the Templars from all authority except the Pope. This meant they answered to no local or state lead authority and instead, reported directly to the Pope. They were untouchable and their power grew quickly unchecked.
After the crusades were over, the knights returned to their Chapters throughout Europe and became known as moneylenders to the monarchs. Wealthy leaders in countries all over Europe, donated land and properties to the order and in return, the Templars protected the assets of the dignitaries. Due to their vast wealth and surplus of materials the Templars essentially invented banking, as we know it. The church forbade the lending of money for interest, which they called usury. The Templars, however, changed the manner in which loans were paid and were able to charge service fees.
At the height of their power, the Templates numbered well over 20,000 knights. They were divided into four classes: knights, sergeants, chaplains, and servants. Only the knights class wore the Templars’ distinctive regalia, a white rcoat marked with a large red cross. The Templars’ order was headed by a grand master, and each temple, or subsidiary (local) branch, of the order was ruled by a commander who owed obedience to the grand master.
Each individual Templar took vows of poverty and chastity in highly secretive ceremonies. The secret meetings and rituals of the knights would eventually bring about the downfall of their order. The King of France, Philip the Fair used these rituals and meetings to his advantage to destroy the knights. Historians now believe that the real reason for King Phillips crusade against the Templars was that he felt threatened by their power and immunity. In 1307, Philip, who desperately needed funds to support his war against England’s Edward I, made his move against the Knights Templar. The Church, which was involved in revolution ad highly disorganized, were in a severely weakened state and could do little to protect their beloved Templars.
Rules and Punishment within the Order
Expulsion from the order was the highest form of punishment a Templar Knight could face. Upon expulsion from the order, the Templar was required to join the Cistercian order (founded by Templar supporter St. Bernard of Clairvaux). It was believed that joining the Cistercian order would save the expelled Templar’s soul. Below are the infractions to cause such expulsion.
• Murdering a Christian
• Divulging the Chapter’s meetings
• Committing acts of sodomy
• Committing an act of heresy or denouncing the Christian faith
• Conspiring or making false charges against a brother
• Leaving the Temple house for more than two days without permission
• Fleeing the enemy during battle while the Beauseant was flying or without permission of the Marshall
The second harshest form of punishment for infraction of their rules was losing their coat or rank. This was a penance of shame to a Templar Knight. Taken from guilty brother were his coat, weapons and horse. This penance befell any that committed these infractions:
• Fought with another brother
• Lost or murdered a slave
• Killed a pack animal or lost their horse due to their own neglect
• Told untruths about themselves
• Injured any Christian person out of anger (not by accident)
• Had sex with a woman
• Sexual intercourse with a man was a much more serious Templar infraction see above
• Threatened to join the Saracens (usually out of madness or anger)
• Leaving the Commandeer at night in anger
• Throwing their Templar coat to the ground in anger
• Loaned any Temple assets without permission of the order
It is important to note that the strict rules the Templars were required to live by are in stark contrast to the accusations and confessions that were eventually obtained.
The Demise of the Templars
On October 13th, 1307, King Philip had all the Templars arrested on the grounds of heresy. This was the only charge that would allow the seizing of their money and assets. The Templars were tortured and as a result, atrocious confessions were obtained. These confessions included:
• Trampling and spitting on the cross
• Homosexuality and Sodomy
• Worshipping of idols
Shortly thereafter, the Pope arrived to conduct his own independent investigation. The Pope during this period was one of the weakest Popes the Church had ever experienced. Many believe he was nothing more than a puppet for King Phillip. The Pope’s investigation, which surly did not included torture, produced the same confessions of heresy. Strangely though, the Pope forgave the Templars and in effect, dropped all charges against them. But King Phillip still wanted the Templar fortunes. He threatened to split the church if the Pope did not concede. It was at this time that the Templars withdraw their confessions but alas, it was too late. They were sentenced to die.
After disassembling the Templar Order, King Phillip immediately moved into their domains, castles, offices, and meeting places located all over the country. His men were instructed to collect their assets and return them to the King. When the men arrived, they found little more than empty buildings. The Templars, presumable received forewarning that they were about to be disassembled and their assets seized, fled the land in their massive fleet of ships. Their treasure was never located and in fact, the entire Templar fleet seemed to have disappeared from the face of the Earth.
On March 19th, 1314 the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake. De Molay is said to have cursed King Philip and Pope Clement, as he burned, asking both men to join him within a year. Whether he actually uttered the curse or if it is simply an apocryphal tale; what remains as fact is that Clement died only one month later and Philip IV seven months after that.