Who were the Templars?
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici), also known as the Order of Solomon’s Temple, the Knights Templar, or simply the Templars, was a military order of the Catholic faith, and one of the wealthiest and most popular military orders in Western Christianity.
It was founded around 1119 and existed for around 200 years.
They were founded circa 1119, headquartered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages.
It was formed to protect pilgrims traveling from Europe to Jerusalem.
There are many historical accounts of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Jesus Christ, or Knights of the Temple, more commonly referred to as Knights Templar. They were formed as a result of the Crusades doing battle with the Moslems and the capture of Jerusalem around 1099. Jerusalem fell and the Holy City belonged to the Crusaders and all Christendom rejoiced. Most libraries and bookstores have many volumes on the Crusades and the Knights Templar and these writings are easily understood. The Internet today has an almost endless amount of information on Knights Templar and those interested can become well informed of the different versions relating to their history.
Men, women and children pressed forward on their pilgrimage to the sacred city only to find that although Jerusalem was in Christian hands, the Moslems still controlled Palestine.
The highways and byways leading to Jerusalem were unprotected. The ferocity of the Moslems seemed to increase with the fall of the city, and mutilated bodies and bleached bones of pilgrims soon became a common site along the roadways. To add to the vulnerability of the pilgrims, thousands of the Crusaders, their primary objective accomplished, returned to their own lands leaving the countryside to the Moslems uncontested.
This was the circumstance that set the stage for Templary. A small band of Crusaders remaining after the conquest recognized the plight of the pilgrims and bound themselves in a holy Brotherhood in arms, entering into a solemn agreement to aid one another in clearing the highways, and in protecting the pilgrims through the passes and defiles of the mountains to the Holy City
In short, the Knights Templar were laymen who protected and defended Christians traveling to Jerusalem. These men took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and were renowned for their fierceness and courage in battle.
In 1118 A.D., nineteen years after the successful Crusade, these Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ, as they termed themselves, were officially recognized and sanctioned and were given for their headquarters, a building on Mount Moriah, the site of the former Temple of King Solomon. Consequently, they became known as the Knights of the Temple, or Knights Templar.
This was the era of chivalric ascendancy. Much as outstanding athletes receive the hero worship and admiration of the public today, so did those Knights of old capture the hearts and the wealth of the public of their period. Their fame spread like wildfire. Rulers hastened to be identified with Knights Templar and to present gold and property to the Order.
It is a matter of history that the warriors who fought for Christianity as Knights Templar had their vicissitudes with more downs than ups on the battlefield through the centuries. However, their wealth and their prestige remained undiminished. on the contrary their treasury became too large to escape the notice of some financially embarrassed rulers, especially Philip the Fair, King of France.
Philip the Fair with Pope Clement (who Philip pretty well influenced) arranged for Convocation of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques DeMolay, and his officers at Paris. The Convocation was held, but Grand Master DeMolay and his officers never left, at least not with their lives. In 1314 Jacques DeMolay was burned at the stake for alleged heresy and dozens of other accusations; all Knight Templar wealth was seized and Templary “moved underground.”
The Templars were a military monastic order.
The Templars were organized as a monastic order similar to Bernard’s Cistercian Order, which was considered the first effective international organization in Europe. The organizational structure had a strong chain of authority. Each country with a major Templar presence (France, Poitou, Anjou, Jerusalem, England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Tripoli, Antioch, Hungary, and Croatia) had a Master of the Order for the Templars in that region.
Members had to vow poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience. However, there were some that were married.
Initiation, known as Reception (receptio) into the order, was a profound commitment and involved a solemn ceremony. Outsiders were discouraged from attending the ceremony, which aroused the suspicions of medieval inquisitors during the later trials. New members had to willingly sign over all of their wealth and goods to the order and take vows of poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience. Most brothers joined for life, although some were allowed to join for a set period. Sometimes a married man was allowed to join if he had his wife’s permission, but he was not allowed to wear the white mantle.
It had at most 20,000 members at its height. Only a tenth of members were knights.
No precise numbers exist, but it is estimated that at the order’s peak there were between 15,000 and 20,000 Templars, of whom about a tenth were actual knights.
They had great financial power and is considered to be the first multinational corporation.
They were prominent in Christian finance; non-combatant members of the order, who made up as much as 90% of their members, managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom. They developed innovative financial techniques that were an early form of banking, building a network of nearly 1,000 commanderies and fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land, and arguably forming the world’s first multinational corporation.
They were the first to create an early form of international banking.
Accumulating wealth in this manner throughout Christendom and the Outremer, the order in 1150 began generating letters of credit for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land: pilgrims deposited their valuables with a local Templar preceptory before embarking, received a document indicating the value of their deposit, then used that document upon arrival in the Holy Land to retrieve their funds in an amount of treasure of equal value. This innovative arrangement was an early form of banking and may have been the first formal system to support the use of cheques; it improved the safety of pilgrims by making them less attractive targets for thieves, and also contributed to the Templar coffers.