The Knights Templar were a monastic military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land. Never before had a group of secular knights banded together and taken monastic vows. In this sense they were the first of the Warrior Monks. From humble beginnings of poverty when the order relied on alms from the traveling pilgrims, the order would go on to have the backing of the Holy See and the collective European monarchies. Within two centuries they had become powerful enough to defy all but the Papal throne. Feared as warriors, respected for their charity and sought out for their wealth, there is no doubt that the Templar knights were the key players of the monastic fighting orders.
Due to their vast wealth and surplus of materials the Templars essentially invented banking, as we know it. The church forbade the lending of money for interest, which they called usury. The Templars, being the clever sort they were, changed the manner in which loans were paid and were able to skirt the issue and finance even kings.
Perhaps because of this wealth or fear of their seemingly limitless powers, they were destined to be destroyed. The order met with a rather untimely demise at the hands of the Pope and the King of France in 1307 and by 1314, 'The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon' ceased to exist.
Although originally a small group of nine knights, they quickly gained fame largely due to the backing of Bernard of Clairvaux and his In Praise of the New Knighthood. Bernard at that time was often called the Second Pope and was the chief spokesman of Christendom. He is also the one responsible for helping to draw up the order's rules of conduct.
In European political circles, they became very powerful and influential. This was because they were immune from any authority save that of the Papal Throne. (Pope Innocent II exempted the Templars from all authority except the Pope.)
After the crusades were over, the knights returned to their Chapters throughout Europe and became known as moneylenders to the monarchs. In the process many historians believe they invented the Banking System. The Templars fought along side King Richard I (Richard The Lion Heart) and other Crusaders in the battles for the Holy Lands.
The secret meetings and rituals of the knights would eventually cause their downfall. The King of France, Philip the Fair, used these rituals and meetings to his advantage to destroy the knights. The real reason for his crushing the Templars was that he felt threatened by their power and immunity. In 1307, Philip, who desperately needed funds, to support his war against England's Edward I made his move against the Knights Templar.
On October 13th, 1307, King Philip had all the Templars arrested on the grounds of heresy, since this was the only charge that would allow the seizing of their money and assets. The Templars were tortured and as a result, ridiculous confessions were given. These confessions included:
- Trampling and spitting on the Cross
- Homosexuality and sodomy
- Worshipping of the '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 within a year. Whether he actually uttered the curse or if it is simply an apocryphal tale what remains as fact is that Clement died only one month later and Philip IV seven months after that.
The Hidden Treasures
The order was disbanded, and it was suggested that all European monarchies take steps to suppress the movement. On 19th March 1314, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake on an island in the middle of the River Seine in Paris. As theflames rose, it is claimed de Molay cursed King Philip and Pope threatening that they would both follow him within a year. They both did – Clement died a month later and Philip seven months after that. However, the Knights Templar themselves are said to have continued in secret, and before his death, de Molay had passed on his powers to a successor. Some of the Templars are believed to have taken refuge in Scotland during the intervening years, but the movement did not reveal itself again until 1705. Since then the order has had associations with Freemasonry and other secret societies, but the movement has flourished and they have had many high profile and influential members. In more recent years, following the Second World War, the cohesion of the entire international order has become somewhat fractured.
The meetings are still held in secret. Apart from fiercely guarded rituals and traditions, it would seem that there are few mysteries surrounding the order. But one question remains – why did the Parisian Templars not fight when arrested by Philip’s men? In the days leading to their capture, a heavily-laden cart was supposedly removed from their buildings. Philip never found all the riches in their offices that he wished to acquire, and it seems the knights submitted to his thuggery meekly, in order to let their great treasure escape.
So what was this treasure? The obvious theory is that it was gold and jewels taken from holy temples of Jerusalem and the biblical world during the Crusades. However, many have speculated that the reaction of the Templars suggested that it was something beyond material value, and may have been something of enormous spiritual importance, such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail. Others have considered that it may be secret Christian knowledge, such as the ‘bloodline of Jesus Christ’.
The treasure, whatever nature it takes, has never been found, and where it is hidden remains a mystery. Many Templar experts have considered it may have been the root of Bérenger Saunière’s mysterious wealth, and believe it was buried at the church of Rennes-le-Château. However, one of the most widely-held theories is that the surviving Templars hid it at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. If the order did manage to continue throughout its banished years, there is good reason to believe the secrets of the treasure are known to only a select few. To the rest of us, the Knights Templar are only modern day descendants of an historical mystery.
(Taken from many sources)