Who were the Knights Templar ?
of reading - words
Who were the Knights Templar ? Were there several different orders among the Templars ? Let's try to understand more specifically why the Templar Order was created.
The Crusader era was one of the most troubled periods in history. Several European kingdoms came together to defend the Christian faith and to reconquer Jerusalem, which was under the rule of a Muslim caliphate.
In this article, we will talk about the origins of the most famous chivalry's order of the Middle Ages, the most powerful religious and military order of the Middle Ages.
The Christian Faith through the Knights Templar
Many men coming from various social classes left their homes and families in order to respond to the request of the Catholic churches. They went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These men dreamed of knowing the lands over which they had heard incredible stories and preaching in masses. Some were looking for wealthiness and the opportunity to receive noble titles.
Some were already descendants of noble lineages. These belonged to the most devastating force on the medieval battlefields, the cavalry, to protect their social status and their own interests. Several cavalry orders were created. Cavalry orders were composed of members who shared the same interests and ideals. Those orders had specific functions on the battlefields. The road from the European roads to Jerusalem was full of dangers. Violent groups of looters infested these regions. Many pilgrims ended up dying before seeing the Holy Land. To try to solve this problem, King Baldwin, the second of Jerusalem encouraged the creation of a new cavalry order. In 1129, the order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded, which became better known as the Order of the Knights Templar. The Order of the Knights Templar was founded by Hugues De Payns, a French nobleman. Together with only eight knights, he created one of the most famous military institutions in history. The initial objective of the Order of the Knights Templar was to protect the Christian pilgrims who were on their way to the Holy Land in search of religious comfort or to enlist in the armies of the Crusaders. With such a noble function, the Knights Templar received many financial donations from the European faithful and even from other cavalry orders. The Order of the Knights Templar grew rapidly in wealth and in the number of members who wanted to fight in the name of the Christian faith. The Knights Templar amassed immense fame and prestige. Pope Gregory the Ninth exempted the order from paying taxes. Considering that the role of this organization in the Crusades was extremely important because they were not obliged to pay taxes to the church and the crown, the order of the Knights Templar accumulated wealth without equal.
A. The Knights Templar on the battlefield
On the battlefield the Templars used chain mail protection. Often that protection went from the feet to the head. They also used strong helmets and a wide heavy sword capable of causing damage even when it lost its cutting edge. The Templars were easily recognized in battle by their white robes adorned with red crosses. They were the most feared group of knights in the Crusades. For all its fame, the Order of the Knights Templar was never numerous. At its peak, it had about 400 members. Against enemy armies, it was almost always outnumbered. The religious fervor and loyalty to the order in which they were part motivated the Knights Templar to organize almost suicidal attacks causing terror while they advanced fearlessly towards death through the enemy lines.
B. Their modest lifestyle
When they were not in battle, the Knights were ordered to lead a humble and modest life similar to the lifestyle of Catholic monks. They had a strict code of conduct that they would have to follow in their daily lives. Among the rules, they avoided eating meat on Wednesdays, spent many hours in prayer and asking for clemency for the use of violence, kept their vows of chastity and they were forbidden from eating the meat of their battle horses. Even if the animal died of natural causes.
Members of the order would also have to share the same bowl during meals and receive the same amount of food and wine regardless of their status. The Templars were also forbidden to hug or kiss any woman on the lips or on the cheek, even if that person was their own mother. This ideal of poverty was represented in the famous image of two writers riding the same horse, a sign of humility and rejection of one's pride. The Knights Templar order would also have to give a new opportunity to the Knights who had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. The excommunicated Knights would receive another chance to satisfy the divine will if they accepted the dogmas and virtues of the Knights Templar. In this way, they could participate again. In the social circles of Christians.
C. The hierarchy
In the Templar order, there were different hierarchies, members who proved their worth could reach new positions, such as treasurer who took care of finances or master of weapons to train new recruits. Each cavalry order was commanded by its leaders, usually members of the high nobility. The Order of the Knights Templar was commanded by a nobleman who held the title of Master of the Temple of Jerusalem, with the accumulation of victories in the fight against the Saracens. Many of these leaders nurtured new ambitions. Some cavalry orders became political rivals.
There were frequent debates about who have the right to keep the conquered lands and receive their taxes. The Templars were supposed to be obedient to the church only, but in some cases they acted on their own ambition, attacking caravans and even Muslim villages in search of objects of value. The Templars achieved many victories against the Saracens armies. But in 1087, the Battle of Hattan occurred. In that battle, a great army of crusaders, followed by Knights Templar, faced the Saracens troops commanded by Saladin. The battle was chaotic and brutal. The crusaders were defeated and lost to the city of Jerusalem. That event weakened the prestige of many Calvary orders.
D. The creation of a banking system
The wealth of the Knights Templar was so great that they began to lend money to kings and religious leaders throughout Europe as they charged no interest for their loans. They were well regarded by many lords and feudal lords. Commerce was another valuable source of Templar income. They sold goods produced on the various lands under their control, such as wheat and barley. The Order of the Knights Templar established itself as a banking entity. Some kings and popes deposited their money in the vaults of the Knights Templar, knowing that their money would be safe under the protection of the poor Knights of Christ.
E. The End of the Order
One of the kings who regularly borrowed from the Templars was Philip the Fair of France. Without being able to pay debts. Philip the Fair created alliances with other noblemen and with Pope Clement V to overthrow the Knights Templar order and confiscate all its wealth. The plan worked, the respected Knights Templar were accused of heretical crimes against the holiness of the church. Among the charges was the practice of obscure sex and the worship of pagan symbols. The Templars were persecuted, imprisoned and cruelly tortured. Some fled to distant lands of Rome, like Spain, Portugal and England. Still, many lost their lives while swearing to be innocent and defending the honor of the Templar Order. On March 22, 1312, Pope Clement, V, officially declared the order of the Knights Templar extinct. The last Templar leader was Jacques de Molay, who was executed at a pyre in Paris. Legend has it that before De Molay was burned to death, he cursed King Phillip the Fair and Pope Clement V, saying that both would be accountable to God within a year. And yes, the king and the Pope lost their lives within a year. The remains of the sordid King Phillip the Fair was stored at Poissy Convent. The site was then struck by lightning, which set fire to the convent, along with the remains of King Phillip the Fair.
There are many stories and legends about the Knights Templar Order. Most of its treasure was never found. It is still wanted these days. In antiquity, it was believed that the Knights Templar had found the Holy Grail chalice used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. In their secret vaults, they also kept the famous Ark of the Covenant, where the tablets of the Ten Commandments were among other sacred relics. It is also believed that the remaining members of the Templars created Freemasonry, preserving its secrets under the mantle of a new secret fellowship. However, Freemasonry was created only 400 years after the fall of the Knights Templar, making it difficult to connect with the original order of the Knights Templar. In 2007, the Vatican acknowledged the injustice committed against the order of the Knights Templar, absolving them of charges of witchcraft and other heretical practices against the Catholic Church. The history of the Knights Templar is a great example of the enormous power of faith in an ideal. And as greed can lead a king to commit acts of treason, the Templars will always be remembered in our history with admiration and reverence.