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Knights Templar history goes back to the success of the first Christian crusades to the Holy Land. A knight by the name of Hugh de Payens offered up himself and his group of nine to the Patriarch of Jerusalem as a protective force. Given a mandate to protect the Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, the group that became the Knights Templar flourished.

Myths and Mystery

Knights Templar History

Shrouded by secrecy, the origins, actions, and mission of the Knights Templar has been the subject of great speculation throughout history. Among the acts attributed to the Knights Templar are:

  • The founding group numbered nine and maintained that number for years
  • The Templars kept their number small to hide their treasure seeking
  • The aesthetic lifestyle of the Templars discouraged new members
  • Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux promoted the knights with his praise
  • The Templars received much in the way of land and treasure as tithes to their cause
  • Templar Knights were not permitted to own anything -- all personal property went to the order when a Knight joined
  • They were among the wealthiest and most powerful of Christian crusading orders
  • Most European monarchs showed them praise and favor
  • Their wealth went to purchasing supplies and military arms for the Crusades
  • Jealousy on the part of the King of France led to the destruction of the Order
  • Malicious tales of corruption led to execution orders for Templar Knights
  • Superstitions about bad luck on Friday the 13th were developed because October 13, 1307, is the day the Templars were arrested, tortured, and, in some cases, executed in a bloody coup

Power and Greed

It is generally accepted that the Knights Templar were a wealthy and powerful faction in medieval Europe. Their military feats were the stuff of legends despite having lost as many battles as they won. The devotion of the Templars to their order, their wealth, and the deference shown to them by much of the ruling class led to intense jealousy on the part of King Phillip IV of France.

King Phillip accused the Knights Templar of multiple acts of heresy. Once arrested, the Templars were tortured to force confessions of spitting on the cross, idolatry, and homosexual behavior. Historians generally agree that it was Phillip's desire to seize the Templar's wealth and holdings that led to his actions. Under the cloak of faith, he decimated their reputations to protect himself from future reprisals.

By the year 1312, Pope Clement V dissolved the Knights Templar officially and revoked their mandate. The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned at the stake in 1314 despite having recanted his confessions.

A new chapter was entered into their history when the Vatican released documents describing the absolution of the Knights for their heresy.

Apocryphal Knights Templar History

Author Stephen Dafoe founded TemplarHistory.com to promote the exploration of Knights Templar history. According to the site, it is widely accepted that the Grand Master cursed both King Phillip IV and Pope Clement V with death as he burned. The story, widely accepted as fact, entered into the legends of the Knights Templar when both the King and the Pope did indeed die within a year of the 1314 burning.

Knights Templar and Pop Culture

In the Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code, the history of the Knights Templar received a modern day makeover, inciting interest in the order and adding to their legend. According to Brown's fictional novel, the Knights Templar was an order founded to guard the Holy Grail Mary Magdalene and her children, the children of Jesus Christ.

In the novel, a war was waged through the centuries between a shadow council within the Catholic Church and the Knights Templar over the secret that Christ was a man and not a God. Brown's treatment of the Knights Templar and their history remains a source of numerous documentaries at the dawn of the 21st century.

Nearly 700 years since the demise of the order, their legend persists.