The Demise of the Templar Knights

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (also known as Knights of the Order of the Temple or Templar Knights) established in 1118 were monastic knights who practiced and vowed celibacy, humility, and poverty in the name of their Lord. They held high standards, but also they were knights who took up the sword to defend the truth and help protect and expand their Christian disciples (William of Trye). Clairvaux records:

They are seen [to be] both more gentle than lambs, and more ferocious than lions, that I almost doubt what I should prefer them to be called, namely monks or knights, unless I should call them in fact most suitably by both [names], in whom neither is known to be lacking, neither the gentleness of the monk nor the strength of the knight (qtd. in Menache, 3).

The first knights held their white mantles high, protecting weary, Christian pilgrams. Achieving endorsement by the Catholic Church around 1129 A.D. the order grew in power defending with prowess in the crusades for the church. The order established and maintained commanderies in every state in Europe, including France which inclueded 42 strongholds. One such example was Castle Pilgrim which offered cavalry/barraks  as well as chapels to the knights ( Moeller). The Order later answered only to the church and was ratified from obeying any laws except for the Pope’s. Soon the Templars amassed large amounts of monetary support and estates,  achieving “innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking” (Wikipedia).

Templars being burned at the stake. Illustration From the Creation of the World until 1384. Out of Copyright in the United States.

As the Arabic world unified under Saladin, the Templars noble order, after time degraded and entropy set in. Its noble deeds and chivalric esteem was lost or rather abandoned. William of Trye observed with a critical eye,

in the same year, certain noble men of knightly rank, religious men, devoted to God and fearing him, bound themselves to Christ’s service in the hands of Lord Patriarch. They promised to live in perpetuity as regular canons, without possessions, under vows of chastity and obedience…Although the kings now had been established for nine years, there were still only nine of them. From this time onward their number began to grow and their possession began to multiply…It is said today that their wealth is equal to the treasures of kings…Although they maintained their establishment honorably for a long time and fulfilled their vocation with sufficient prudence, later,  because of the neglect of humility (which is known as the guardian of all virtues and which, since it sits in the lowest place, cannot fall), they with drew from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, by whom their order was founded and from whom they received their first benefices and to whom they denied the obedience which their predecessors renders. They have also taken away tithes and first fruits from God’s churches, have disturbed their possessions, and have made themselves exceedingly troublesome.

This troublesomeness was an array of sinful and treacherous deeds against the Catholic Church and secular associations including the crown. These deeds included: Greed, bribery of the enemy and betrayal of the Crusade, drinking, profanity, sexual sins (including sodomy), disavowing Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, and having graven images (Menache).

The abolition of the Templar Knights by Pope Clemet V occurred around 1312 A.D. Menache suggests, society of the time disdained their deeds, but perhaps even more so because of their monastic vows. Although the Templars were not held in high esteem by noble or common folk, King Philip IV may have had more than moral or religious reasons for disbanding the Order. King Philip focused on religious propaganda rather than the treachery against the crown to persuade society in favor of the king and against the order. Philip wanted control over the financial assets which grew within the order from its infancy. Ramifications against the order included both Spiritual and temporal penalties (12-13). Another reason might include that the order was protected and controlled by the Church.

Despite the unfavorable opinion held by the public, the members of the order in France could only be convicted by confession. The French King cunningly employed torture as a means to indict them (some in-front of the Pope) (Moeller). Ultimately, the Pope divided its assets into the Order of Hospitallers and many of the  innocent Templar knights were taken in by that order.

Works Cited

Bibliothèque Municipale, Besançon, France. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild:Templars_on_Stake.jpg de:Benutzer:Lysis Eingescannt aus: Louis Crompton, Homosexuality & Civilization. Cambridge, Mass.; London 2003. S. 196. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

“Knights Templar.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundations. Apr. 2 2011. Web. Apr 5 2012.

Menache, Sophia. “The Templar Order: A Failed Ideal?.” The Catholic Historical Review, Vol 79, No. 1 (Jan. 1993). pp. 1-21. via < http://www.jstor.org.hal.weber.edu:2200/stable/25023942&gt;. JSTOR. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

Moeller, Charles. “The Knights Templars.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 7 Apr. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14493a.htm&gt;. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XII, 7, Patrologia Latina 201, 526-27, Trans. Brundage, James.  The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 70-73. Web. Accessed 5 Apr. 2012. from Medival Sourcebook: The foundation of the Order of Knights Templar via <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/tyre-cde.html#templars>.

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