Where Did Knights Templar Start?

Where Did Knights Templar Start?

When it comes to the medieval period, no organization is as shrouded in myth and mystery as the Knights Templar. This order of warrior monks, officially known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, exerted significant influence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and their origins are as fascinating as the legends that surround them.

Origins in the Holy Land

The origins of the Knights Templar lie in the aftermath of the First Crusade (1096–1099). This brutal and bloody conflict had as its primary aim the recapture of the Holy Land, particularly Jerusalem, from Muslim control. In 1119, nearly two decades after the successful conclusion of the First Crusade, the Knights Templar was founded by two French knights, Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer.

They formed the Knights Templar to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem, a perilous journey fraught with bandits and hostile forces. To this end, they combined monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience with a martial code of conduct. The order was given its name because Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, gave the knights quarters in a wing of the royal palace, which was believed to be located on the site of the ancient Temple of Solomon.

What Countries Did the Knights Templar Come From? 

The Knights Templar was a pan-European military order that attracted members from many countries across the continent. Its genesis, however, can be traced back to France.

The order was founded around 1119 AD in the aftermath of the First Crusade, primarily by French knights. Hugues de Payens, a French nobleman from the Champagne region, and Godfrey de Saint-Omer, originally from the County of Flanders, now part of modern-day Belgium, were the principal founders. Other early members included André de Montbard, also from France. The first headquarters of the Templars was established in Jerusalem, but the leadership and much of the original membership hailed from Western Europe.

The order quickly gained the favor of the Catholic Church and the nobility across Europe, leading to an influx of members from various regions. As the Templars’ influence grew, so did their membership, drawing recruits from kingdoms such as England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and the Low Countries.

Though they established a notable presence in the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula, France remained the epicenter of Templar power throughout their existence. The order’s network of estates, known as preceptories, spanned the entire continent and beyond, reflecting the diverse origins of their members.

In essence, while the Knights Templar was primarily a French initiative at the outset, it quickly evolved into a truly multinational order, with knights hailing from nearly every corner of Christian Europe.

Who Were the 9 Original Templars?

The Knights Templar, one of the most influential and legendary orders of the Middle Ages, was initially composed of a small group of knights. The nine original members, under the leadership of Hugues de Payens, a French nobleman from the Champagne region, and Godfrey de Saint-Omer, a Flemish knight, formed the organization in 1119 AD.

Unfortunately, historical records are somewhat vague about the identities of all nine original Templars. While Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer are well-documented as the co-founders, the full roster remains uncertain. Still, some sources suggest that André de Montbard, a relative of the influential Bernard of Clairvaux, was also among the founding knights.

The small group of Templars initially dedicated themselves to protecting Christian pilgrims journeying through the Holy Land, particularly between the coastal city of Jaffa and Jerusalem. Despite their small number, they swore to live according to monastic vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and a commitment to violence only when absolutely necessary for the protection of the innocent.

Their unique combination of warrior and monastic lifestyles quickly attracted attention and support. By 1129, the Knights Templar received official endorsement from the Catholic Church at the Council of Troyes, aiding their growth into a formidable military, economic, and political force throughout Europe and the Levant. This remarkable journey, starting with just nine knights, underscores the powerful influence and enduring legacy of the Knights Templar.

Recognition by the Church

In 1129, at the Council of Troyes in France, the Church officially recognized the Knights Templar as an independent military and religious order. Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading church figure, played a significant role in the endorsement of the Knights Templar, which helped enhance their reputation throughout Christendom. The Templars were granted extraordinary privileges, such as exemption from local laws and taxes, and were only answerable to the Pope.

Expansion and Influence

Once recognized by the Church, the Templars began to grow in size and influence. European nobles donated land, money, and their sons to the order, seeing it as a noble cause that secured earthly honor and spiritual merit. The Templars became known for their white mantles adorned with a red cross, a symbol of their purity and martyrdom.

The Templars’ responsibilities also expanded beyond their original protective role. They developed a complex administrative structure to manage their properties across Europe and the Holy Land, effectively becoming a multinational corporation in the medieval world. Additionally, they pioneered early forms of banking, including loans and secure deposits, further adding to their wealth and influence.

How Did Templars Become Rich?

The Knights Templar’s rise to wealth is a fascinating story that illustrates their savvy not just in military endeavors but also in the realm of finance. When the Catholic Church officially recognized the order at the Council of Troyes in 1129, it received a significant boost in prestige, leading many devout and noble families across Europe to donate property and assets to the Templars, aiding their initial accumulation of wealth.

Still, it was the Templars’ pioneering role in the development of a primitive form of banking that truly secured their place as one of the wealthiest organizations in the Middle Ages. As a widely trusted group, pilgrims and crusaders would deposit their valuables with the Templars in exchange for a letter of credit. They could then travel unburdened by gold or other wealth, and upon reaching their destination, they could receive their equivalent assets from the local Templar establishment. This system was safer for travelers and gave the Templars control over substantial assets.

The order’s vast network of estates throughout Europe, the Middle East, and even North Africa, where they farmed, traded, and collected rents, further enhanced their wealth. This financial system was so effective that even some kingdoms, most notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem, entrusted their treasury to the Templars.

Therefore, through donations, innovative banking services, and effective resource management, the Knights Templar amassed an unprecedented amount of wealth, ultimately leading to their downfall in the 14th century.

The Fall of the Templars

Yet, the Templars’ influence and wealth also made them targets. As the Holy Land fell back under Muslim control in the late 13th century, the Templars’ original purpose became irrelevant, and their power threatened the secular rulers, particularly the French king, Philip IV. In 1307, Philip arrested the Templars en masse, accusing them of heresy, a pretext often used for political or financial gain. The Church dissolved the order in 1312 under pressure from Philip, and many Templars were executed, including the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay.

Who Killed the Templars?

The brutal end of the Knights Templar, once the most formidable military-religious order of the Middle Ages, came at the hands of King Philip IV of France, often known as Philip the Fair, albeit with the reluctant complicity of Pope Clement V.

By the early 14th century, the Templars had grown incredibly powerful and wealthy, a fact that didn’t escape the notice of the cash-strapped Philip IV. The king, already notorious for expelling Jews and debasing the French currency to solve his financial issues, saw in the Templars an opportunity to eliminate his debts to the order and seize their wealth.

On Friday, October 13, 1307, Philip IV ordered a secret and coordinated arrest of the Templars throughout France. The knights were charged with a litany of fabricated crimes, including heresy, idolatry, and even homosexuality. Under severe torture, some Templars confessed to these trumped-up charges, giving Philip the excuse to seize their assets.

Despite initial reluctance, Pope Clement V, under considerable pressure from Philip IV, disbanded the order officially in 1312. The last Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake in 1314, marking the violent conclusion of the Templar order. Thus, the combined actions of King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V led to the dissolution and ultimate destruction of the once-powerful Knights Templar

Legacy and Myth

The abrupt end of the Templars led to the creation of myths and legends, many of which persist today. Some suggest that the Templars discovered holy relics or secret knowledge, and their hidden treasures continue to be a topic of fascination. Although the Knights Templar officially ceased to exist in the early 14th century, they have left an indelible imprint on history and popular culture.

Is the Knights Templar Still Active?

The original order of the Knights Templar, recognized by the Catholic Church in 1129 and dissolved by Pope Clement V in 1312, is not active today. However, the name and symbol of the Templars have been adopted and repurposed by various groups throughout the centuries, fostering the misconception that the order still exists in its original form.

Several organizations, particularly in Europe, claim to be continuations of the original Knights Templar. These groups, like The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, primarily engage in charitable and ceremonial activities. Similarly, the Masonic Knights Templar, a Christian-oriented branch of Freemasonry, uses Templar symbolism and rituals but is not a direct descendant of the medieval order.

In addition, some self-proclaimed Templar orders capitalize on the mystery and mythology surrounding the original knights to promote ideologies that often relate to the Templars’ historical purpose or beliefs.

It’s important to note that none of these modern organizations have a verifiable historical connection to the medieval Knights Templar. The Catholic Church does not recognize any contemporary group as a continuation of the original Templar Order. The Knights Templar, as they existed in the Middle Ages — a unique combination of monasticism and militarism — ended in the early 14th century. Today, the Templars live on primarily in popular culture, where they continue to spark interest and inspire stories.

Can You Join the Knights Templar?

As a curious individual, you might be intrigued by the possibility of joining the Knights Templar, the legendary medieval order. Yet, the original Knights Templar — the monastic warrior order recognized by the Catholic Church and famed for their role in the Crusades — was disbanded in 1312 and no longer exists in that form today.

That said, modern organizations have taken the Templar name and adopted aspects of their symbolism and ethos. One of the best-known is the Masonic Knights Templar, a Christian-oriented fraternal organization within the sphere of Freemasonry. To join this order, one must typically first be a Freemason and profess the Christian faith.

Another organization, The Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, draws inspiration from the original Templars and focuses on charitable and humanitarian causes. However, it’s important to stress that these contemporary groups are not direct continuations of the medieval order but organizations inspired by the Templars’ history and mystique.

Before joining any such group, it’s crucial to research carefully and ensure it aligns with your personal beliefs and values and adheres to principles of charity, tolerance, and goodwill, which align with the noblest ideals of the historic Knights Templar.

Final Thoughts 

The Knights Templar started as a modest band of warriors with a noble cause in the Holy Land. They quickly rose to prominence, becoming one of the most powerful organizations of the medieval period. Their religious piety, military prowess, financial acumen, and tragic end make them one of history’s most compelling phenomena. Even centuries later, the Templars continue to intrigue historians and enthusiasts alike, a testament to their enduring allure.