The order of the Templars has its roots in the context of the Crusades. For eleventh-century Christians, Jerusalem was the center of the world, the holy city housing the Tomb of Christ and the memory of great moments in his life. Pilgrimages had developed there since the year 1000, but they became increasingly threatened when the recently converted to IslamSeljuk Turks invaded Asia Minor.
From 1049, they dominated Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia. In 1071, they crushed the Byzantine army. Then, the road to Jerusalem was out of the Christian control of Byzantium. In 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II, a Champenois, appealed to the knights of the West to liberate Jerusalem. They enlisted en masse under the orders of different leaders, including Godefroy de Bouillon.
The crusaders conquer Antioch in 1098 and Jerusalem in 1099 then Caesarea in 1101, Acre in 1104, Tripoli in 1108 … While the vast majority of the knights have returned to their strongholds in the West, pilgrims continue to flock but, on approach from Jerusalem, their security remains threatened.
Initially the Templars were a small troop called the “Poor Soldiers of Jesus Christ” living religiously and in destitution, providing a road police, escorting pilgrims as they approach Jerusalem, especially in the narrow defiles between Caesarea and Haifa, or to emblematic places of the life of Jesus, such as the Jordan Lake.
At the request of the king of Jerusalem Baudouin II, after the council of Troyes, they constituted a permanent army in the Latin Kingdoms of the Middle-East, alongside the Hospitalars of Saint John of Jerusalem and the Teutonics Knights, the other two main religious and military orders. On the front line, in their fortresses, but also in the Iberian Peninsula, the Templars divide their lives between prayer and war, in silence and austerity, courage and discipline.
At the rear, within the commanderies which progressively mesh France but also England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Germany, Hungaria, Spain and Portugal, the Templars work to develop their agricultural domains, and in the urban commanderies, their commercial activities. The profits were redeployed to finance the Eastern campaigns and to supply their brothers with horses, weapons, cereals, dried meat, etc.
The Templars were divided into three groups: the knights, the serving brothers (or sergeants) and the chaplains who are the only Templars to be priests. They were all recognizable by the red cross sewn on their coats. That of the knights was white, that of the serving brothers, black or brown.
From its beginnings, the order of the Templars knew a strong expansion due to the vocations which it arouses and the numerous donations which were granted to it.
After the loss of Saint-Jean d’Acre, the last possession of the Latins in the Middle-East, the Templars established their headquarters in Cyprus to, from there, try to resettle in Palestine. But the initiatives of Jacques de Molay failed, particularly on the Rouad islet in 1302.
As part of his conflict with the papacy since Boniface VIII, the king of France, in search of absolutism, dreaming of being pope in his kingdom, orchestrated a campaign of slanders against the Templars, whose Order remained very powerful, depending exclusively on the sovereign pontiff. Then, with the complicity of the Inquisition although Clement V was not informed, he organized a gigantic police operation which resulted on Friday, October 13, 1307 in the arrest of all the Templars of the kingdom and the confiscation of their property.
Flabbergasted, imprisoned, brutalized, threatened or even really tortured, a large majority of the Templars questioned in Paris, and in particular all the dignitaries, made the confessions that the inquisitors await. They were accused of forcing new recruits to spit on the cross, forcing them to “obscene” kisses, inciting them to homosexuality and worshiping an idol, the Baphomet. The wave of arrests spread to all kingdoms in Europe, but was only followed by confessions where torture was used.
When, in France, in spring 1310, they regroup and denounce the conditions of their interrogations and their detention to retract their confessions and loudly proclaim the innocence of the order of the Temple, 54 brothers were, as an example , sentenced to the pyre for having confessed and burned the next day May 12, 1310 in Paris. The Templars then give up all resistance.
The order of the Temple was not condemned, but suppressed on March 22, 1312 at the Council of Vienne (Isère), by Clement V, who attributed all the possessions of the Templars to the order of the Hospitalars of Saint John of Jerusalem. There were two exceptions. In the kingdom of Valencia, the new order of Montesa recovered the property of both the Templars and the Hospitallers and in Portugal where King Denis I (1279-1325) obtained from the Pope in 1319 that the Order of the Temple, with men and possessions, become the order of Christ which he had created and placed under his protection.
In 1314, the great master Jacques de Molay and the commander of Normandy Geoffroy de Charnay were burnt in Paris, claiming the innocence of the order of the Temple.