Templars: a two hundred years history

Crusades and Knights Templar

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.

Protecting pilgrims and maintaining a permanent army

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.

Agony and Fall

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.

Chronology of the Order

Birth of the order

1099 (July 15)

Siege of Jerusalem by the Crusaders. Foundation of the crusader states in the Middle East.

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1115

Bernard founded the Abbey of Clairvaux.

1119-1120

Hugues de Payns and Godefroy de Saint-Omer created the “militia of the Poor Knights of Christ”.

1120 (January 23 )

Council of Nablus. Foundation of the Order of the Temple. Hugues de Payns, elected master by the other knights, received from King Baldwin II his residence near the “Temple of Solomon” as a headquarters or headquarters.

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1125

The Count of Champagne Hugues I abdicated and joined the Knights Templar in Jerusalem.

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1127-1129

Return of Hugues de Payns to the West. Mention of Templar domains in Payns and Barbonne.

Writing of the eulogy of the new knighthood De laude novae militiae of Bernard de Clairvaux.

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1129 (January 13)

Council of Troyes. Approval and drafting of the Rule of the Temple.
Foundation of the Commandery of Troyes.

Development phase
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1130-1140

The first italian commanderies were established in Rome, Milan and many other cities.

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1135 (may)

Council of Pisa. Pope Innocent II presented the new order to the assembly and gave the Knights Templar a list of feasts and fasts to observe.

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1136 (May 24)

Death of Hugues de Payns, 1st great master of the Temple.

1139

Papal bull Omne datum optimum. The order of the Temple reported directly to the Pope. 

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1142

First mention of a Templar estate in Avalleur.

1187 (July 4)

Battle of Hattin. All the captured Templars are executed by Saladin, who seizes Jerusalem on October 2.

1191 (July 12)

Siege of Acre by the army of the Third Crusade.

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1238

Pope Gregory IX granted the Order of the Temple the Abbey of San Giustino di Arno, formerly owned by the Benedictine nuns, north of Perugia.

1250 (April 5)

Defeat of La Mansourah. Saint Louis was taken prisoner, 280 Templars were killed.

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1258

Foundation of the Church of San Bevignate in Perugia by the Templar monk Bonvicino.

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1284 (August 16)

Marriage of the Countess of Champagne, Jeanne de Navarre, with the one who became King of France in 1285: Philip IV the Fair.

Fall of the order

1291

Death in Acre of the great master Guillaume de Beaujeu on May 18.

Fall of Acre and end of the Eastern Latin States on May 28.

The Templars evacuated their fortress of Château-Pèlerin to the island of Cyprus (August 12).

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1305 (November 14)

Bertrand de Got is crowned Pope under the name of Clement V

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1307 (October 13)

Arrest of all the Templars of France by order of King Philip IV of France.

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1311 (October 16)

Opening of the Council of Vienna in charge of judging the order of the Temple.

1312 (March 22)

Papal bull Vox in excelso. Pope Clement V abolished the Order of the Temple.

1312 (May 2)

Papal bull Ad providam. Clement V attributed the goods of the Knights Templar to the Hospitallers.

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1314 (March 18)

Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Order of the Temple, and Geoffroy de Charnay, Commander of Normandy, were burned on the Isle of the Jews in Paris, after recanting their confessions.