What Do Templars Want?

What Do Templars Want?

The Knights Templar, one of history’s most enigmatic and intriguing orders, has captured the public imagination for centuries. With roots in the 12th century, the Templars have often been subject to speculation, conspiracy theories, and media dramatization. But what did the Templars truly want? What drove their decisions and actions during their nearly two centuries of existence?

Origins and Purpose of the Templars

The Order of the Knights Templar was founded around 1119 AD, shortly after the First Crusade. The purpose was twofold: to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land and establish a fortification network across these territories. As such, the Templars’ original intentions were tied to military service and the preservation of Christian sites and believers in a hostile environment.

Militant Christianity

At their heart, the Knights Templar were “warrior monks.” They took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, living ascetic lives akin to monks when not engaged in battle. Their martial prowess, combined with their holy mission, made them an intimidating force. Their primary motivation was to protect Christianity through active, armed engagement.

Economic Power and Influence

As their reputation grew, so did their wealth. The Templars began receiving donations of land and money, not just in the Middle East but across Europe. They developed a complex network of estates and a banking system, enabling them to lend money to kings, fund crusades, and wield substantial economic influence. While their fundamental motivation remained the defense of Christendom, it is undeniable that managing this wealth and power became an integral part of their role.

Bankers to the Kings

The Templars’ innovative banking system allowed nobles to deposit assets in their home country and withdraw the equivalent value in the Holy Land, providing an essential service in an age when carrying wealth physically was risky. It is fair to surmise that the Templars also wanted to protect and grow their financial network, as it became inextricably linked to their ability to fund their military pursuits.

The Templars and the Crusades: Knights on a Holy War

The Knights Templar were conceived in the crucible of the Crusades, and their existence was inextricably linked with these holy wars. They emerged shortly after the First Crusade, with their founding purpose to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the newly-conquered Holy Land.

Despite their initial defensive role, the Templars quickly became an offensive force in the Crusades. They fought alongside other Christian soldiers against Muslim forces, participating in many significant battles, including the legendary Battle of Hattin and the Siege of Acre. Their formidable military skills, coupled with their spiritual devotion, made them a unique and highly respected force on the battlefield.

As a standing army in the Holy Land, the Templars played a pivotal role in maintaining the fragile Christian states established in the region. They constructed and manned numerous fortifications, effectively becoming the first line of defense against Muslim reconquest. Their network of fortresses, from the formidable Krak des Chevaliers to the remote Templum Saphet, is a testament to their martial dedication.

Unfortunately, the Templars’ fate was intertwined with that of the Crusades, and the failure of these religious wars spelled the end for the order. Their final stand in the city of Acre in 1291, followed by their retreat to Cyprus, marked the beginning of their downfall.

The Crusades were the raison d’être for the Knights Templar – they were knights in a holy war, committed to the defense and expansion of Christendom. This critical chapter of their existence underscores the martial valor and religious zeal that defined the order.

The Templar Cross: Symbol of Faith and Ferocity

The symbol most closely associated with the Knights Templar is the distinctive red cross they wore upon their white mantles. This emblem, known as the Templar Cross, became a powerful symbol of their order, representing their genuine Christian faith and martial ferocity.

The Templar Cross is not the traditional Latin cross familiar to most Christians. It is often depicted as a symmetrical cross pattee, with broadening arms that sometimes curve slightly inward. This distinct design was said to symbolize the unique nature of the order, which merged the spiritual calling of the Church with the martial duties of knighthood.

The color scheme of the cross and the mantle was significant as well. The white of the mantle represented purity and chastity, reflecting the monastic vows taken by the knights. The red of the cross symbolized martyrdom and the Templars’ willingness to shed their blood in defense of their faith and their mission.

Beyond its symbolic importance, the Templar Cross was also a practical identifier on the battlefield. Templar knights, seen charging into battle with their red crosses visible against their white mantles, were easily recognizable, instilling fear in their enemies and hope in their allies.

Today, the Templar Cross endures as an iconic symbol that still carries the weight of its historical legacy. It embodies the dichotomy of the Knights Templar themselves: monastic yet militant, pious yet powerful, making it a lasting symbol of their faith and ferocity.

The Rule of the Templars: Disciplined Devotion

The Knights Templar lived by a strict rule of conduct known as the “Latin Rule” or “The Rule of the Temple,” a set of more than 600 precepts that dictated every aspect of their lives. Authored under the guidance of Bernard of Clairvaux, a key reformer in the monastic movement, it was adopted at the Council of Troyes in 1129, thus granting the Order official recognition from the Church.

This Rule highlighted the Templars’ disciplined devotion in a manner that merged militaristic commitment with spiritual austerity. It outlined the specifics of their vows, which encompassed poverty, chastity, and obedience, akin to traditional monastic vows. But it also contained provisions unique to their status as warrior monks, such as guidelines on their armaments, tactics, and the distinctive white mantles adorned with a red cross they wore.

Templars were prohibited from hunting, swearing, and engaging in frivolous talk as monks. They lived communally, eating in silence while listening to a reading from a sacred text, and their meals were simple and modest. Additionally, they were expected to attend daily Mass and numerous other canonical hours of prayer.

As knights, they were committed to rigorous training and always ready for battle. Despite their vows of poverty, they maintained a well-equipped, professional army, with individual knights often possessing three horses and a squire.

The strict observance of this Rule set the Templars apart from secular knights and other religious orders. This disciplined devotion was essential for maintaining order within their ranks and instrumental in projecting an image of righteousness and spiritual purity to the outside world. In a turbulent age of religious conflict, the Templars were a beacon of focused commitment to both martial and religious duty. Their Rule was the blueprint of their desire – a devotion to protect Christendom and uphold their spiritual principles.

The Mystery of the Holy Grail and Other Religious Relics

Throughout their existence, the Knights Templar were rumored to be the custodians of various holy relics, the most famous of which is the Holy Grail. However, historical evidence does not conclusively prove this claim. That said, the Templars did place great value on religious artifacts and the spiritual power they embodied. It could be interpreted that the Templars wanted to preserve and protect these sacred objects to inspire their followers and as tangible links to their holy mission.

The Quest for Divine Connection

Whether or not the Templars were indeed the guardians of the Holy Grail, their dedication to their faith was unquestionable. They believed that they were forging a direct connection to the divine through their service. This spiritual desire was a central driving force for the order, providing a sense of purpose and resolve in the face of considerable hardship and danger.

Accusations, Downfall, and Desire for Survival

The wealth and power of the Templars inevitably attracted envy and suspicion. In the early 14th century, French King Philip IV, heavily indebted to the Templars, began a campaign to bring down the order. False accusations of heresy, idolatry, and other crimes led to the arrest and torture of many Templars, culminating in the disbandment of the Order by Pope Clement V in 1312.

Resistance and Resilience

Despite their eventual dissolution, the Templars did not go quietly. Many denied the accusations against them and fought for the order’s survival. This resistance shows that the Templars wanted to preserve their order and continue their holy mission.

Successors of the Templars: Orders and Organizations in their Footsteps

With the fall of the Templars in the 14th century, a void was left in the realm of chivalric and religious orders. However, the idea of the Templars—knightly warriors devoted to religious service—lived on, inspiring the creation of various subsequent organizations.

Perhaps the most immediate successors of the Templars were the Knights of the Order of Montesa in Spain and the Order of Christ in Portugal. These organizations were founded to inherit and continue the Templars’ work, receiving substantial parts of the Templars’ properties and even adopting similar rules and symbols. Particularly, the Order of Christ played a key role in Portugal’s age of discoveries, reflecting the Templars’ spirit of exploration.

Many organizations claim spiritual or historical lineage from the Templars in the modern era, even though direct connections are often tenuous. These include certain branches of the Freemasons, known as the Masonic Knights Templar, which incorporate Templar imagery and rituals.

In the charitable sphere, the self-styled Order of the Knights Templar International operates as a politically conservative Christian organization, focusing on preserving Christian heritage and aiding persecuted Christians worldwide.

Though these modern orders vary greatly in their purpose and activities, they are bound by a common thread—inspiration from the Templars. To various degrees, they emulate the Templars’ ethos of martial prowess, religious dedication, and service to a greater cause. Yet, it is essential to discern their symbolic adoption of Templar heritage from the historical reality of the medieval order, understanding that these organizations are successors in spirit, if not in direct lineage.

Modern Perception of the Templars: Fact vs Fiction

In the centuries since their dissolution, the Knights Templar has evolved from historical figures into subjects of myth, legend, and pop culture. This transformation has led to a complex web of perceptions that often blurs the line between fact and fiction.

One common myth is the association of the Templars with the Holy Grail. While this is a compelling narrative, no historical evidence suggests that the Templars were custodians of the Grail or any other religious relics. The connection was popularized by Arthurian legends and cemented in popular culture by novels such as “The Da Vinci Code” and movies like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

Another popular belief is that the Templars discovered and protected significant wealth, including the supposed treasure of Solomon’s Temple. Still, while the Templars did accrue considerable wealth through donations, land ownership, and banking operations, there is no concrete evidence supporting the existence of such a treasure.

The modern view of Templars also involves associations with various secret societies, such as the Freemasons. While some Masonic rituals and symbols have similarities with Templar traditions, the connection is largely symbolic. The Freemasons themselves did not emerge until centuries after the Templars’ dissolution.

It’s crucial to recognize that the Templars were primarily monastic warriors devoted to the service of Christendom, not the clandestine adventurers often portrayed in popular culture. However, their secretive nature and dramatic downfall naturally lead to speculation and dramatization.

The enduring fascination with the Templars is a testament to their significant historical impact. Despite the distortions of fiction, their true story—of disciplined devotion, militant prowess, and complex economic operations—remains a compelling chapter in the history of the Middle Ages. As we engage with Templar-related myths and legends, we must continually strive to separate fact from fiction, appreciating the Templars as they were, not merely portrayed.

Conclusion: A Multifaceted Desire

The Templars’ desires were as multifaceted as the order itself. They sought to protect and uphold Christianity, secure and manage economic wealth and power, connect to the divine, and survive in the face of political and religious adversity. Although shrouded in myth and mystery, understanding these motives allows us to gain a clearer picture of what truly drove one of history’s most intriguing orders: the Knights Templar.