They reined from 1129-1312, starting off as heroic warrior-monks, like superstars waging war against evil. Sadly at the end they were accused of heresy, magic and savagery and were imprisoned , tortured and burnt to death.
To understand the beginnings of the Knights of Templar we need remind ourselves of the upheaval and wars that were happening in the Holy Lands around this time. The Byzantine and Roman empires around the middle east were under constant and severe threat from the rising power of Islam. Egypt, Lebanon and much of Iberia ( Spain and Portugal), all Christian countries. were conquered. Further, Pilgrims and travellers to the Holy sites were harassed and often slaughtered.
This led to the start of the crusades to repel the thrusts of the Muslims into the Christian Byzantine Empire. The Pope asked the Princes of Europe to launch a Holy War into the Holy Lands. The first crusade was launched in 1095 but it took 4 hazardous years travelling across Europe on horse and foot. Not for the feint hearted.
In 1119 Hugues de Payens and 8 fellow knights established the order of the Knights Templar with the mission to fight evil, protect pilgrims and travellers and visit Holy places. 300 knights were billeted at the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Temple Mount. There were a further 1000 sergeants and a considerable number of mercenaries. The Knights were of noble birth but apparently illiterate but looked splendid and fearsome in their armour, white garb and with shield red cross on white. The sergeants were educated but wore black to differentiate them from the Knights. The Templars lived in a state of total abstinence, ate in silence and were denied worldly comforts. It was not all bad. In 1139 Pope Innocent 11 gave them the power to pass freely from country to country and pay no taxes. The Knights became trusted and reliable bankers for every throne in Europe and were able to arrange safe and efficient movement of money .The Knights grew in numbers and power throughout Western Europe. The order had numerous Preceptors ( or HQ’s for the knights) across Europe, including 10 in Yorkshire!!. They built their own churches with consecrated graves with the most famous in the UK being the Temple Church in London with its circular knave.
All this power was amassed at a time when the Order was involved in fighting in the crusades to regain lost Christian lands. Deeds of bravery, heroism and sacrifice are legendary. The Muslims may have been critical of the Order’s medical practices and they ridiculed their justice system but they respected the military power of the Knights.
It could not last. The public started to question whether men of the church should carry arms. They criticized their lack of accountability and focused more and more on their failures. On Friday, 13th October 1307 all Templar brothers in France were imprisoned and accused of heresy and engaging in magic. Phillip IV with the Pope’s support that all Templar s across Europe should be imprisoned. King Edward 11 of England insisted they had committed no crime and refused. The Pope gave Edward the choice arrest or be excommunicated. 172 Templars were arrested in England, Scotland and Ireland, tortured and burnt to death The Pope and Phillip 1V died shortly afterwards. Strange coincidence or what!
Pat’s talk was fascinating on the Knights Templar whose memory lives on in legend and myth — Da Vinci Code, Turin Shroud, Mary Magdalene and treasures found in Newfoundland !!