Following the victory of the First Crusade a group of knights, led by Hugues de Payens, offered themselves to the Patriarch
of Jerusalem as a military force.
This proposed military force had the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims who were en route to the Holy
Land In the year 1118 AD King Baldwin II granted the Templars quarters on the Temple Mount.
For the first nine years of their existence, the order consisted of nine knights. Speculations of treasure
hunting aside, one of the reasons for the limited number of members may have been the reluctance to take Templar vows. Chastity,
poverty and obedience were hardly a lifestyle greatly sought after.
In the year 1127 the Cistercian abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote a rule of order for the Templars that
was based on his own Cistercian order's rule of conduct. Additionally, Bernard did a great deal to promote the Templars.
Perhaps Bernard's greatest contribution to the order was a letter that he wrote to Hugues de Payens, entitled
De laude novae militae (In praise of the new knighthood.)
This letter swept throughout Christendom with the result being that many men, of noble birth, joined the
ranks of the Templar Order. Those who were unable to join often gifted the Templars with land and other valuables.
While it is true that the Templars were not permitted, by their rule, to own much of anything personally,
there was no such restriction on the order as a whole. As such the gifts of land were accepted and put to immediate use by
From humble beginnings of poverty in 1118, when the order relied on alms from traveling pilgrims, the Order
quickly grew to have the backing of the Holy See and the collective European monarchies.
In the process, the order became wealthy. Aside form the gifts showered upon them, they were experts in commerce
and free from the taxation and tithes imposed on other orders.
However, in less than two centuries, the Templars would meet their demise perhaps because of their wealth
or fear of their seemingly limitless powers. It is generally agreed that Philip IV was envious of the Templar's wealth and
sought to secure it for himself.
Regardless of the motivation, the order was taken down at the hands of the Pope and the King of France in
On October 13, 1307 Philip had the Templars arrested on grounds of heresy; since this was the only charge
that would allow the seizing of their money and assets.
The Templars were tortured and confessions were given. These confessions included:
- Trampling and spitting on the cross
- Homosexuality and Sodomy
- Worshipping of an idol named Baphomet
Philip was successful in ridding the Templars of their power and wealth and urged all fellow Christian leaders
to do the same thing.
On March 19th, 1314 the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake.
De Molay is said to have cursed King Philip and Pope Clement as he burned, asking both men to join him in
death within a year.
Whether the story is an apocryphal legend or a matter of historical fact depends largely on one's point of
However, Pope Clement V died only one month later and Philip IV seven months after that.
By Stephen Dafoe