BRIEF ON THE HISTORY OF THE MEDIEVAL KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
The medieval Knights Templar, best known to us today as the famed warriors of the Crusades, were a devout military religious Order that uniquely combined the roles of knight and monk in a way the Western medieval world had never seen before. Originally they were known as the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or, more simply, as the Knights Templar. In a famous letter written in the 1130s, In Praise of the New Knighthood, St Bernard of Clairvaux elevated the Templar Order above all other Orders of the day, establishing the image of the Templars as a fierce spiritual militia for Christ. He regarded them as a "new species of knighthood, previously unknown in the secular world..." To him, they were a unique combination of knight and monk; to later historians, they were the first military order, soon imitated by the Knights Hospitaller, by several Spanish orders and, by the end of the 12th century, by the Teutonic Knights. As a holy militia fighting for Christ, the Templars were willing to put aside the usual temptations of ordinary secular life for an arduous, dedicated life of service. Ever since then, the legacy of the Templars has been –first and foremost - the concept of service.
The Templars officially originated in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1118 A.D., when nine knights, mainly French, vowed to protect pilgrims on the dangerous roads leading to Jerusalem. These courageous knights gained the favor of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem who granted them part of his palace for their headquarters, which was located in the southeastern part of the Temple Mount, called "Solomon's Temple". Encouraged by King Baldwin II and Warmund of Picquigny, Patriarch of Jerusalem, they were generally seen as complementary to the Hospitallers (recognized as an Order of the Church by the papacy in 1113, but not militarized until the 1130s), who cared for sick and weary pilgrims in their convent in Jerusalem.
The Templars' services were welcomed and greatly appreciated. But it is important to realize that at this early juncture when they were based at the Temple Mount area, the Templars were not yet an official monastic Order - the protagonists were seculars imbued with a desire to fulfil the biblical injunction to love thy neighbour, but they were not yet a monastic Order. During the first nine years of the Order (1119-28), contrary to assumptions often made today, the Templars would not have been wearing their trademark white mantles, as they began wearing them after the church Council of Troyes in 1129 when they were given a religious Rule and a white mantle. The famous Red Cross on their mantle was added later when Pope Eugenius III (1145-53) allowed them to wear it as a symbol of Christian martyrdom.
With only nine knights at their inception, scholars acknowledge that it seems as though no major efforts were made to recruit any new members until around 1128, when most of the original knights had returned to France and the Council of Troyes began (Jan. 1129) and they became officially recognized by the papacy. By the 1170s, there were about 300 knights based in the Kingdom of Jerusalem itself and more in other areas, and by the 1180s, there were at least 600 knights in Jerusalem alone. After 1129, the Order grew exponentially with many thousands of knights and it then became increasingly powerful.
At the Council of Troyes in Champagne, the status of the Templar Order underwent a dramatic change. Thanks to the significant contribution of Bernard of Clairvaux, the knights were then officially accepted by Matthew of Albano, the papal legate. This recognition was quite extraordinary for the times, as for such a tiny Order of only nine men to get this type of recognition was rather unusual, as many other Orders of the day had to wait much longer to achieve a similar status. At the Council of Troyes, the Templars were given a proper Rule, written in Latin, which ran to 72 clauses. The impetus given by papal approval and the extraordinary publicity generated by the visits of the leaders to France, England and Scotland in the months before the council ensured that the "New Knighthood" would long outlive its founders.
Papal recognition at Troyes was followed by the issue of three key bulls, which established the Temple as a privileged Order under Rome. Omne Datum Optimum (1139) consolidated the Order's growing material base by allowing spoils taken in battle to be retained for the furtherance of the holy war, placing donations directly under papal protection, and granting exemption from payment of tithes. It also strengthened the structure of the Order by making all members answerable to the Master and by adding a new class of Templar priests to the existing organization of knights and sergeants. The Templars could now possess their own oratories, where they could hear divine office and bury their dead. Milites Templi (1144) ordered the clergy to protect the Templars and encouraged the faithful to contribute to their cause, while at the same time allowing the Templars to make their own collections once a year, even in areas under interdict. Milita Dei (1145) consolidated the Order's independence of the local clerical hierarchy by giving the Templars the right to take tithes and burial fees and to bury their dead in their own cemeteries.
As these privileges indicate, during the 1130s, the fledging Order had attracted increasing numbers of major donors, for it proved to be especially popular with that sector of the French aristocracy which held castles and estates and could mobilize vassals, albeit on a modest scale. In fact, the scale of this sudden, unprecented rise was extraordinary, something hardly seen before or since. The rulers of Aragon and Portugal, confronted directly with the problems of warfare on a volatile frontier, realized their military value more quickly than most others. The Templars began to accumulate a substantial landed base in the West, not only in Francia, Provence, Iberia and England, where they were first known, but also in Italy, Germany and Dalmatia and, with the Latin conquests of Cyprus from 1191 and of the Morea from 1204, in those regions as well. By the late 13th century they may have had as many as 870 castles, preceptories and subsidiary houses spread across Latin Christendom. During the 12th and 13th centuries these properties were built into a network of support which provided men, horses, money and supplies for the Templars in the East.
The development of a role as bankers arose out of these circumstances, for they were well placed to offer credit and change specie through their holdings in both east and west. It was a short step to move into more general finance, unconnected to crusading activity by the 1290s their house in Paris could offer a deposit bank with a cash desk open on a daily basis and specialist accountancy services of great value to contemporary secular administrations. Thus, the Templars became the bankers to nobles, kings, and Popes as well as to pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem and other holy sites. Our familiar "traveller's check" today is a modern-day example of using a 'letter of credit' –just as the Templars did in the 12th century, in medieval times. The Templar structure was cemented by effective communications including its own Mediterranean shipping. They had many galleys and like the Hospitallers, took part in naval warfare at times, too. They even had their own Admiral by 1301.
Together with the Hospitallers, the Knights Templar became the permanent defenders of the Latin settlements of the East, increasingly entrusted with key castles and fiefs. By the 1180s, there were approximately 600 knights in Jerusalem, Tripoli and Antioch, and perhaps three times that number of sergeants. No major battle took place without their participation. In the 13th century, the Order was the only institution capable of building great castles like Athlit (Pilgrims' Castle) (1217-21) on the coast to the south of Haifa and Safed (early 1240s) dominating the Galilean Hills. Such military and financial power, together with the extensive papal privileges, gave them immense influence in the Latin East and, at times, led to conflict with other institutions.
The Latin Rule of 1129, which had been influenced by a monastic establishment with little experience of practical crusading, soon proved inadequate for such an expanding organization. New sections, written in French, were added, first in the 1160s, when 202 clauses definted the hierarchy of the Order and laid down its military functions and then, within the next twenty years, a futher 107 clauses on the discipline of the convent and 158 clauses on the holding of chapters and the penance system. Between 1257 and 1267, 113 clauses set out case histories which could be used as precedents in the administration of penances'. The existence of a version of the Rule in Catalan, dating from after 1268, shows that efforts were made to ensure that its contents were widely understood within the Order. Although the Order never underwent a thorough internal reform, these indicate that the Templars were not oblivious to the need to maintain standards. developments.
The Templar Order's administration was structured hierarchically. The Grand Master was based at the Order's headquarters in the Holy Land, along with the other major officers, each of whom had their own staff. The Seneschal was the Grand Master's deputy; in ceremonies he carried the famed beauseant, the Templars' black-and-white banner. Like the Grand Master, the Seneschal had his own staff and horses. The Marshal was the chief military officer, responsible for the individual commanders and the horses, arms, equipment and anything else involving military operations. He also had authority in obtaining and ordering supplies, which was critically important at the time of the Crusades. The Commander of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was the treasurer of the Order and was in charge of the strong room. He shared power with the Grand Master in a way that prevented either from having too much control over funds. The Draper issued clothes and bed linen and could distribute gifts made to the order. He was not only keeper of the famed white mantles but also ensured that every brother was dressed appropriately.
These four, along with the Grand Master, were the major officers of the Order, although there seems to have been some local variation where needed. Under these main officers were other Templar commanders with specific regional responsibilities, such as the commanders of the cities of Jerusalem. Daily administration of the Order's regional houses was governed by various officials called bailies, and the officer in charge was called the baili. So, the Templar Order consisted of members in a variety of positions performing many different functions. It even hired some assistants from outside the Order, and, contrary to popular belief, only a minority of members were actually full-fledged Knights.
The loss of Acre in 1291 and the Mamluk conquest of Palestine and Syria have often been seen as a turning-point in Templar history, for the Order was apparently left without a specific role in a society still profoundly imbued with the idea of its own organic unity. Indeed, the failure of the military orders to prevent the advance of Islam had attracted criticism since at least the 1230s with the loss of the Christian hold on the mainland, opponents were provided with a specific focus for their attacks. The more constructive of these critics advocated a union of the Temple and the Hospital as the first step in a thorough reassessment of their activities, although the Orders themselves showed little enthusiasm for such schemes.
There was, however, no suggestion that either order be abolished. In fact, the Templars continued to pursue the holy war with some vigor from their based in Cyprus for they did not see the events of 1291 as inevitably presaging the decine of crusading. The attack on them by Philippe IV, King of France, in October 1307, ostensibly on the grounds of "vehement suspicion" of heresy and blasphemy, therefore owes more to the potent combination of a king afflicted by a morbid religiosity on the one hand and an administration in severe financial trouble on the other, than it does to any failings of the Templars. In fact, the Templars (unlike the Hospitallers) had never previously been accused of heresy. In the end, neither the limited intervention by Pope Clement V nor an energetic defense by some Templars, could save the Order, which was suppressed by the papal bull Vox in excelso in 1312. Its goods and properties were then transferred over to the Hospitallers. Although the Order itself was suppressed, many of the knights fled and went underground, or joined other Orders. Their extraordinary legacy and memory still live on today, nearly nine centuries later.
Timeline of Some of the Key Medieval Templar Order Events
1118-9 Official beginnings and emergence of the Order of the Temple; nine knights, led by Hugh de Payns, the first Templar Grand Master, present themselves to King Baldwin II in Jerusalem
1119-28 First nine knights remain in the Holy Land
1128 By this time, the early Templars return from the Holy Land; beginning of the Order's unprecedented rise and influence
1129 Jan Council of Troyes; Rule of the Templar Order established
1130 Bernard of Clairvaux completes In Praise of the New Knighthood
1139 Templar Castles in the Holy Land completed Baghras, Darbask, Destroit, La Roche, de Roussel, Port Bonnet
1149-50 Gaza granted to the Templars
1153 Death of Bernard of Clairvaux
mid-1160s Hierarchical statutes added to the Templar Rule
late-1160s Statutes on daily monastic life, chapter meetings, and penances added to Rule
1191 Templar headquarters in the Latin East moved to Acre
1191-2 Templars occupy Cyprus
1217-21 Building of Atlit (Pilgrims' Castle), a major Templar fortress in the Holy Land
1257-67 Additional penances added to the Templar Rule
1291 Aug Acre falls to the Mamluks; Templars evacuate Atlit and Tortesa
1307 Oct 13 Dawn raid and arrests of the Templars in France
1307 Oct 27 Pope orders all Christian kings to arrest the Templars
1308 Templars questioned and imprisoned in various areas
1309 Aug Papal commission begins in France
1310 Templar trial procedures begin
1311 Council of Vienne; Templar Order formally dissolved by Pope's first bull, Vox in excelso, but charges against the order are "not proven"
1312 Pope's second bull, Ad providam,transfers Templar property to the Hospitaller Order.
1314 Mar Last Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and Preceptor of Normandy, Geoffroi de Charney, burned at the stake.
IDEALS OF KNIGHTHOOD
To provide an opportunity for the practice of ecumenical Christianity.
To encourage and promote Christian humanitarian work and charity generally, but especially in support of people in the Middle East.
To promote the spiritual and moral strengthening of mankind in accordance with the first great principle of the Order embodied in the motto: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory."
To support the precepts of Christian Chivalry.
To investigate and emulate the historical ideals of the ancient Order.
To form and administer establishments, councils, associations, centers or other subordinate bodies to facilitate the work of the Order in all geographical areas.
To maintain contact and develop collaboration with kindred Orders and bodies.
To establish and maintain libraries and museums, and to collect works of art and objects of historical interest to the Order.
The Larmenius Charter and the legitimacy of Modern-Day Knights Templar
Notwithstanding what mainline historians say (they are only quoting what the old Roman Church of the Crusade period wants everyone to believe), the Knight Templar Order did NOT end with the 7-year-long persecution by the Church ending with the burning at the stake of Jacques DeMolay. This was simply what we of the Modern Era call the end of the "First Phase" of the Order... that being the Crusade-period Order, from its inception in 1118 (some believe actually as early as 1114) to the death of DeMolay in 1314.
Approaching his death (DeMolay knew that, once he recanted his confession to the Inquisition, he was doomed), DeMolay verbally transmitted. the Grand Mastership of the Order (through remaining underground Brethren of the Order in Paris) to his NoTwo Man, that being the Palestinian-born Christian and Knight Templar Seneschal, Johannes Marcus (French: Jean-Marc) Larmenius. Larmenius at the time was fairly aged himself, and was holding the last of the remaining Templar Order together on Cyprus.
Larmenius held the Grand Mastership of the Order from the death of DeMolay in 1314 until 1324, when, in February of that year, Larmenius caused a document to be written, now historically referred to as The Charter of Larmenius, but which is actually entitled the Charter of Transmission.
In this document, Larmenius states that he has grown too old to continue the rigors of the Office of Grand Master of the Order, and further transmits his Grand Mastership, with the approval of the General Council of the Order, to the ranking Templar next in line, Franciscus Theobaldus.
Theobaldus at that time was the Prior of the Order at the Priory of Alexandria in Egypt. Theobaldus accepted the assignment, and signed the document as such. Since then, up until 1804, each Grand Master or controlling General Council Secretariat Official has signed the document.
The Charter was written in a well-known Knight Templar Codice (coded writing) of the time, an alphabet based on positioning of portions of the Templar (Maltese quad-triangled) Cross. When decoded and translated, The Charter has proven to be 13-14th Century Latin... still, some few naysayer historians claim the document is a hoax.
This document is also referred to as the .Charta Transmissionis... the Charter of Transmission, as its sole function was to transmit the Grand Mastership of the Order under the then-dire circumstances, to safely maintain the integrity of the continuation of the Order itself, and to legitimize the historical lineal descendency of the Knight Templar Order into the future.
It is the written verification giving credence to the belief that the greater portion of the Order had gone into hiding in France and around the rest of the world, after being secularized by the Papal Bull Vox in Excelso of 1312, issued by Clement V, the puppet Pope of the evil French King, Phillippe IV (Phillip the Fair).
The Order came into semi-public view in Versailles, France in 1705, when a Convent General of the Order elected the Philippe, Duke of Orleans, later Regent of France, to the Grand Mastership of the Order. However, there is no known reference to the existence of the Larmenius Charter from those proceedings. But, there normally
would be no public mention of the document any way.
The document's existence was later publicly revealed in 1803-04 by the then-Grand Master, Bernard Raymond Fabre-Palaprat, a French Doctor close to the Court of Napoleon, well-after the French Revolution. Palaprat revealed the history of the document also.
Since then, the Order flourished predominantly in France. In the mid-1800's, the Grand Mastership went to Britain, then to Belgium, where there was not an elected Grand Master, but the Office of such was held in Regency. by the Council General and Grand Secretariat of the Order, at that time in office in Brussels.
It is historical fact that the German Army under Adolf Hitler invaded Belgium in World War II. One of the first things he did after the invasion was to send the Gestapo (Secret Police) to seek out the Offices of the General Secretariat of the Order of the Temple in Brussels.
This was in 1942 Hitler believed he might find, through the records of the Order, the secret location where, supposedly, the Templars had hidden the Ark. It was believed by various historians that the Templars had excavated under the Temple of Solomon while quartered there during the Crusades, found the Ark and other Treasures, and secreted them out of Palestine and back to Europe.
An interesting point: If you study further, you'll find that the story-line behind the modern movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was mostly true history... Hitler believed the Ark had magical powers as claimed historically in the Bible that could help him rule the world... or at least, a good part of it.
It is a bit of our Order's historical lore that, on the night before the Gestapo showed up, then-General Secretary and Regent and Guardian of the Order, Emile Clement Vandenburg, gathered up all the records of the Order, and secreted them out of Belgium, across France, across the Pyrenees Mountains, across Galicia (North-western Spain) and into then-wartime-neutral Portugal. He presented the records he had and conferred the Regency of the Order to the then-Marshall (equivalent to a Grand Prior) of Portugal, a Portuguese nobleman, Don Antonio Campello Pinto Pereira de Sousa Fontes.
Prince Regent Dom Antonio Fontes kept the Regency and Guardianship of the Order throughout World War Two (he was never elected the Grand Master), and continued to hold such after the war was over.
Some complaining historical naysayers that have caused trouble within our Order say that, supposedly, Vandenburg demanded the return of the records and the Regency to Belgium after the War. Again supposedly, Dom Antonio Fontes refused, stating that Vandenburg had confirmed to him upon its transfer that the transmission of the Regency and Guardianship was complete, and that the transfer was permanent.
As the story goes, the old Belgian group was going to try to file a civil court case in Portugal, or try .by whatever means, to get Dom Antonio Fontes to return the records and give up the Regency and Guardianship. However, right at that point, Vandenburg was killed in a car accident in Belgium, and no one ever pushed the issue on Fontes after that.
Fontes continued to build the Order around the world, until his death in February, 1960. Then, something else unusual happened at this point: Don Antonio willed the Regency and Guardianship of the Order to his son, then-30-year-old Don Fernando Campello Pinto Pereira de Sousa Fontes. Apparently this was considered a willable holding under Portuguese Law, hence the action.
Don Fernando assumed the Regency and Guardianship of the Order at that point (February, 1960), and took over leadership of the Order. This is another point our historical naysayers have complained about: Not only would Dom Antonio not return the records of the Grand Secretariat to Belgium, but now, after his death, supposedly the Convent General (the general membership at large) of the Order was supposed to convene, and elect a new Regent, or take the further step to elect a Grand Master (according to its Statutes and just as in the old Templar Rule of the ancient Order).
The naysayers (as I call them) were wrong, however. Don Fernando's Regency and Guardianship of the Order was confirmed by a subsequent Convent General.
Then, yet another element: Don Fernando introduced an amendment to the Statutes that set up for the following factor: If a Grand Master was not elected by the Convent General within (I believe) 6 months after the close of the previous Convent General, the Regent of the Order would automatically assume the Office of Grand Master, and the Regent would hold, effectively, the combined Offices of Prince Regent and Grand Master.
The six months (or whatever time frame) passed, and the Office was passed to Dom Fernando. It is my understanding that the next Convent General held confirmed Don Fernando in this position of combined Offices... and today, he is the Grand Master and Prince Regent of the Order.
Some of the dissidents of the Order in Spain split off from the legitimate Order under Don Fernando back sometime in the 1970.s or early 1980.s under the leadership of (another!) Fernando... a Spaniard named Fernando Toro y Garland, and set up their own Order, stealing the same title of the International Order, the coat of arms, the Cross, etc., etc., and "sub-titled" their Order the International Federated Alliance.. This group of dissidents is generally referred to as the IFA group. Another schismatic coup by dissidents in the United States, Britain, Germany, and a part of a few other European countries happened back in 1995, when a group of military egotists broke away and attempted to steal the Order. This was a coordinated effort by some senior former military members and a couple of civilians who were also members of the Order a Brit, a German, a Scot, and most of the Grand Priory of the USA.
The USA group separated themselves further through a trumped-up Federal Court Civil Lawsuit claiming "trademarks violations" against another group formed directly by Grand Master Fontes in the USA.
This turned out to be the largest split in the Order to date. Since then, these schismatic groups have since gone off and formed their own organizations, again stealing the Order's title, Cross, etc., and claiming their own supposedly-elected Grand Masterships.
The Loyalists are the ones who carry on the legitimate historical lineal descendency of the Knight Templar Order through the history of the Larmenius Charter.
The schismatic groups, by their dissident actions, have cut themselves off from this lineal descendency, thereby rendering themselves illegitimate.
In this contest the Civil and Military Order of Knights Templar one of the oldest Templar Organizations in existence in the world aims to keep well stirred away from this quarrels.
Sigillum Militum Xpisti
The Chancellor of the Order