Knights Templar

Facts about the early History of the Medieval Knights Templar fraternity

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Facts about the early History of the Knights Templar

Facts about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Legend states that Helena, the mother of Constantine, about three hundred years after the death of Christ, discovered the Holy Sepulchre and her son - the first Christian emperor of Rome had built the magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the sacred spot. For hundreds of years a steadily increasing tide of pilgrims travelled to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as Christianity gradually spread throughout Europe.

The Holy City falls to the Saracens
When in A.D. 637 the Holy City was surrendered to the Saracens, the caliph Omar gave guarantees for the safety of the Christian population. Because of this pledge pilgrimages to Jerusalem still continued to increase. In the year 1064 the Holy Sepulchre was visited by a total of seven thousand pilgrims, led by no less than an archbishop and three bishops.

Facts about the Holy City and its fall to the Turcomans
In the year 1065 Jerusalem was taken by the Turcomans, who massacred three thousand citizens. Terrible oppression of the Christians in the city followed; the Patriarch of Jerusalem was dragged by his hair over the sacred pavement of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and cast into a dungeon for ransom. Extortion, imprisonment, and massacre were suffered by the people of the Holy City.

Facts about the Crusades
So bad were the conditions in Jerusalem, that they aroused a strong indignant spirit throughout Christendom, Christendom soon channelled their feelings into a wild enthusiasm for crusades. In 1099 Crusaders led by Godfrey of Bouillon took Jerusalem back from the Turcomans. The zeal for the pilgrimage increased further.

 Facts about the Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ
Although Jerusalem was safely delivered, the route through Palestine was still fraught with danger, it fact it was just as hazardous for pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem as it had been before within the City itself. To reduce the dangers to which the pilgrim were exposed, to guard the honour of female pilgrims, and to protect the venerable palmers, nine knights formed a holy brotherhood in arms, and entered into a solemn contract to aid one another in clearing the highways of dangers, and in protecting the pilgrims through the passes and mountains on the route to the Holy City. Warmed by the religious and military fervour of the day, and empowered by the sacredness of the cause to which they had devoted their swords, they called themselves the "Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ."

Facts about the Knights Templar Vows
The Knights renounced the world and all its pleasures, and in the Holy Church of the Resurrection, in the presence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, they embraced vows of perpetual chastity, obedience, and poverty, in the manner as monks. It combined the two most valued qualities of the age: devotion and valour. And the Knights exercised them in the most popular of all enterprises, the protection of the pilgrims and of the road to the Holy Sepulchre. They soon acquired a vast reputation and a splendid renown.

Facts about the Knighthood of the Temple of Solomon
At first  Knights had no church and no particular place of to live, but in 1118, nineteen years after the freeing of Jerusalem by the crusaders, they had given such good service to the Christians that Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, granted them a place to live within the sacred enclosure of the Temple on Mount Moriah, amid the holy and magnificent structures, erected by the Christian emperor Justinian and the caliph Omar, which were at that time exhibited by the monks and priests of Jerusalem as the Temple of Solomon, consequently the "Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ" became  colloquially known as "the Knighthood of the Temple of Solomon."

A Bigger Purpose
The first aim and object had been simply to give safe passage to pilgrims on their journey from the coast to Jerusalem and back; but as the hostile tribes of Mussulmans, who surrounded the kingdom, gradually recovered from their war with Godfrey of Bouillon's crusaders, they began assuming an aggressive and threatening posture, it was decided that the knights of the temple should, in addition to the protection of pilgrims, make the defence of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, of the Eastern Church, and of all the holy places a part of their duty.

Facts about the Leading members of the Knights Templar fraternity
The two most distinguished members of the fraternity were Hugh de Payens and Geoffrey de St. Aldemar (Omer), two valiant soldiers of the cross, who had fought with great valour during the siege of Jerusalem.
Hugh de Payens was chosen by the knights to be the superior of their new religious and military society, known by the title "the Master of the Temple"; and he has, consequently, been generally called the founder of the order.

The Word Spreads
The name and reputation of the Knights Templars quickly spread throughout Europe, many illustrious pilgrims of the Far West aspired to become members of the holy fraternity themselves. Among these was Fulk, Count of Anjou, who joined the society in 1120 as a married brother, and annually donated thirty pounds of silver to the Order. Baldwin, King of Jerusalem, perceived great advantage with the increase of the power and numbers of the Templars, consequently he vigorously supported the extension of the order throughout all Christendom, so that he could keep alive the holy fervour of the West, and gain military support for both his throne and kingdom from the warrior races of Europe.

Facts about St. Bernard the Abbot of Clairvaux
St. Bernard, the holy abbot of Clairvaux, was a great admirer of the Templars. In 1123 He wrote a letter to the Count of Champagne, on his entering the order, praising the act as one of eminent merit in the sight of God; based partly on this, it was determined to enlist the powerful influence of the abbot in favour of the fraternity. By a vow of poverty and penance, and the refusal of all ecclesiastical dignities, the abbot of Clairvaux had become the oracle of Europe, and founded one hundred and sixty convents. Princes and pontiffs trembled at the freedom of his apostolical censures; France, England, and Milan consulted and obeyed his judgment in a schism of the Church; the debt was repaid by the gratitude of Innocent II; and his successor, Eugenius III, was the friend and disciple of the holy St. Bernard."

Two Knights Templars delivered this letter to St. Bernard:

  • "Baldwin, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Jerusalem and Prince of Antioch, to the venerable Father Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux; health and regard."

  • "The Brothers of the Temple, whom the Lord hath deigned to raise up, and whom by an especial providence he preserves for the defence of this kingdom, desiring to obtain from the Holy See the confirmation of their institution and a rule for their particular guidance, we have determined to send to you the two knights, Andrew and Gondemar, men as much distinguished by their military exploits as by the splendor of their birth, to obtain from the Pope the approbation of their order, and to dispose his holiness to send succor and subsidies against the enemies of the faith, reunited in their design to destroy us and to invade our Christian territories."
  • "Well knowing the weight of your mediation with God and his vicar upon earth, as well as with the princes and powers of Europe, we have thought fit to confide to you these two important matters, whose successful issue cannot be otherwise than most agreeable to ourselves. The statutes we ask of you should be so ordered and arranged as to be reconcilable with the tumult of the camp and the profession of arms; they must, in fact, be of such a nature as to obtain favor and popularity with the Christian princes."
  • "Do you then so manage that we may, through you, have the happiness of seeing this important affair brought to a successful issue, and address for us to Heaven the incense of your prayers."

Facts about Hugh de Payens meeting Pope Honorius
Soon after the letter had been despatched to St. Bernard, Hugh de Payens proceeded to Rome, accompanied by Geoffrey de St. Aldemar as well as four other brothers of the order: namely, Brother Payen de Montdidier, Brother Gorall, Brother Geoffrey Bisol, and Brother Archambauld de St. Armand. They were received with great honour by Pope Honorius, who warmly approved of the objects and designs of the holy fraternity. St. Bernard had, in the mean time, taken the affair greatly to heart; he had negotiated with the pope, the legate, and the bishops of France, and obtained, in 1128, the convocation of a great ecclesiastical council at Troyes, which Hugh de Payens and his brethren were invited to attend. The council consisted of several archbishops, bishops, and abbots, last but not least was St. Bernard himself.

Facts about New sanctioned Rule from the Ecclesiastical Council
The rule to which the Knights Templars had subjected themselves was described by the master, and to the Holy abbot of Clairvaux who was given the task of revising and correcting these rules, and of framing a code of statutes fit and proper for the the great religious and military fraternity of the Temple.

The Rule of the Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, arranged by St. Bernard, and sanctioned by the holy Fathers of the Council of Troyes, for the government and regulation of the monastic and military society of the Temple, was principally of a religious character. It is divided into seventy-two chapters, and is preceded by a short prologue addressed to:

  • "all who disdain to follow after their own wills, and desire with purity of mind to fight for the most high and true King,"

The rule exhorted them to put on the armour of obedience, and to associate themselves with piety and humility for the defence of the Holy Catholic Church; and to employ a pure diligence, and a steady perseverance in the exercise of their sacred profession, so that they might share in the happy destiny reserved for the holy warriors who had given up their lives for Christ. The rule contains severe devotional exercises, self-mortification, fasting, and prayer, and a constant attendance at matins, vespers, and on all the services of the Church:

  • "that, being refreshed and satisfied with heavenly food, instructed and stablished with heavenly precepts, after the consummation of the divine mysteries, none might be afraid of the Fight, but be prepared for the Crown. If unable to attend the regular service of God, the absent brother is for matins to say over thirteen pater nosters, for every hour seven, and for vespers nine. When any Templar draweth nigh unto death, the chaplains and clerk are to assemble and offer up a solemn mass for his soul; the surrounding brethren are to spend the night in prayer, and a hundred pater-nosters are to be repeated for the dead brother. Moreover, say the holy Fathers, "we do strictly enjoin you, that with divine and most tender charity ye do daily bestow as much meat and drink as was given to that brother when alive, unto some poor man for forty days."

  • "The brethren are, on all occasions, to speak sparingly and to wear a grave and serious deportment."
  • "They are to be constant in the exercise of charity and almsgiving, to have a watchful care over all sick brethren, and to support and sustain all old men. They are not to receive letters from their parents, relations, or friends without the license of the master, and all gifts are immediately to be taken to the latter or to the treasurer, to be disposed of as he may direct. They are, moreover, to receive no service or attendance from a woman, and are commanded, above all things, to shun feminine kisses."

The Templars receive Gold and Silver
In the same year, Hugh of the Temple came from Jerusalem to the King in Normandy, and the King received him with  honour and gave him gold and silver, and sent him to England, and Scotland, in both countries he was given a great sum in gold and silver to take to Jerusalem.
Grants of land, and of money, were at the same time made to Hugh de Payens and his brethren, some of whom were shortly afterward confirmed by King Stephen on his accession to the throne in 1135.
Among these was a grant of the manor of Bistelesham made to the Templars by Count Robert de Ferrara, and a grant of the Church of Langeforde in Bedfordshire made by Simon de Wahull and Sibylla his wife and Walter their son.

Facts about the Knight Templars in England
Hugh de Payens, before leaving England, placed a Knight Templar at the head of the order in England, who was called the prior of the temple and was the procurator and vice-regent of the master. It was his duty to manage the estates granted to the fraternity, and to transmit the revenues to Jerusalem. He was also delegated with the power to admit new members into the order, subject of course to the directions of the master, he was also to provide transport for newly-admitted brethren to the Far East, enabling them to fulfil their duties. As the houses of the Temple increased in number in England, sub-priors were appointed, and the superior of the order was then called the "Grand Prior," and afterward Master, of the Temple.

Facts about Joining the Knights Templar Fraternity - it was not easy
Would be candidates, before they were admitted, had to make reparations for any damage done by them, at any time, to churches, public and private property.
Many illustrious knights from the best families in Europe tried to join, but, however high their rank or standing, they were not allowed in to the centre of the fraternity until they had proved themselves by their conduct worthy of such a fellowship.
When Hugh d'Amboise, who was known to have harassed and oppressed the people of Marmontier unfairly, and refused to submit to the judicial decision of the Count of Anjou, tried to enter the order, Hugh de Payens refused to admit him until he had humbled himself and given satisfaction to all the people he had treated unfairly.

Christendom enthuses over the Knights Templar
An astonishing enthusiasm for the Templars soon existed throughout Christendom; princes and nobles, sovereigns and their subjects, competed with each other in heaping gifts and benefits on the Templars, and the will of almost anybody of importance would leave something to the Templars.
Many important people took the vows on their death-beds, so that they could be buried in the habit of the order; some sovereigns, even gave up their kingdoms, enrolling themselves in the holy fraternity, bequeathing even their kingdoms to the master and the brethren of the temple.

Facts about the Count of Barcelona and how the Provence abdicates
Raymond Berenger, Count of Barcelona and Provence, in 1130, abdicated, and pronounced his vows before the prior of Barcelona temple, Brother Hugh de Rigauld. His advanced age did not allow him to proceed in person to Jerusalem, so he sent vast sums of money instead, he remained in a small cell within the temple in Barcelona, there undertaking religious duties until his death.

Facts about how Emperor Lothair names the Knights Templar as his heirs
Also in 1130, the emperor Lothair gave the Knights Templar order a substantial part of Supplinburg; and the following year Alphonso I, King of Navarre and Aragon, and self-styled Emperor of Spain, declared in his will that the Knights of the Temple were to be his heirs and successors to the crowns of Navarre and Aragon, a few hours before his death he had his will ratified and signed by the majority of the barons of both kingdoms.
The validity of the will, was disputed, and the claims of the Knights Templar were successfully resisted by the nobles of Navarre; but in Aragon they obtained, in compromise, lands, castles and dependencies, a portion of the customs and duties levied throughout the kingdom, and the contributions raised from the Moors.

In Praise of the New Chivalry
To increase the popularity of the Knights Templar, and increase their number with the best and bravest of the European chivalry, St. Bernard, at the request of Hugh de Payens, wrote on their behalf in a famous discourse, In Praise of the New Chivalry, the holy abbot set down, in eloquent and enthusiastic terms, the spiritual advantages and blessings enjoyed by the military friars of the temple over all other warriors.
He described the relative situations and circumstances of the secular soldiery and the soldiery of Christ, and explained how different in the eyes of God were the bloodshed and slaughter of the one compared to the other. The extraordinary discourse was written with great spirit; it was addressed "To Hugh, Knight of Christ, and Master of the Knighthood of Christ," it contained fourteen chapters, starting with a short introductory prologue. It clearly illustrates the spirit of the time. The Holy Abbot pursued his comparison between a soldier of the world and a soldier of Christ, the secular, and the religious warrior:

  • "As often as thou who wagest a secular warfare marchest forth to battle, it is greatly to be feared lest when thou slayest thine enemy in the body, he should destroy thee in the spirit, or lest peradventure thou shouldst be at once slain by him both in body and soul. From the disposition of the heart, indeed, not by the event of the fight, is to be estimated either the jeopardy or the victory of the Christian. If, fighting with the desire of killing another, thou shouldst chance to get killed thyself, thou diest a manslayer; if, on the other hand, thou prevailest, and through a desire of conquest or revenge killest a man, thou livest a manslayer...."

  • "O unfortunate victory! when in overcoming thine adversary thou fallest into sin, and, anger or pride having the mastery over thee, in vain thou gloriest over the vanquished...."
  • "What, therefore, is the fruit of this secular, I will not say militia, but malitia, if the slayer committeth a deadly sin, and the slain perisheth eternally? Verily, to use the words of the apostle, he that plougheth should plough in hope, and he that thresheth should be partaker of his hope. Whence, therefore, O soldiers, cometh this so stupendous error? What insufferable madness is this - to wage war with so great cost and labor, but with no pay except either death or crime? Ye cover your horses with silken trappings, and I know not how much fine cloth hangs pendent from your coats of mail. Ye paint your spears, shields, and saddles; your bridles and spurs are adorned on all sides with gold and silver and gems, and with all this pomp, with a shameful fury and a reckless insensibility, ye rush on to death. Are these military ensigns, or are they not rather the garnishments of women? Can it happen that the sharp-pointed sword of the enemy will respect gold, will it spare gems, will it be unable to penetrate the silken garment?"
  • "As ye yourselves have often experienced, three things are indispensably necessary to the success of the soldier: he must, for example, be bold, active, and circumspect; quick in running, prompt in striking; ye, however, to the disgust of the eye, nourish your hair after the manner of women, ye gather around your footsteps long and flowing vestures, ye bury up your delicate and tender hands in ample and wide-spreading sleeves. Among you indeed naught provoketh war or awakeneth strife, but either an irrational impulse of anger or an insane lust of glory or the covetous desire of possessing another man's lands and possessions. In such cases it is neither safe to slay nor to be slain.... But the soldiers of Christ indeed securely fight the battles of their Lord, in no wise fearing sin, either from the slaughter of the enemy or danger from their own death. When indeed death is to be given or received for Christ, it has naught of crime in it, but much of glory...."
  • "And now for an example, or to the confusion of our soldiers fighting not manifestly for God, but for the devil, we will briefly display the mode of life of the Knights of Christ, such as it is in the field and in the convent, by which means it will be made plainly manifest to what extent the soldiery of God and the soldiery of the World differ from one another...."
  • "The soldiers of Christ live together in common in an agreeable but frugal manner, without wives and without children; and that nothing may be wanting to evangelical perfection, they dwell together without property of any kind, in one house, under one rule, careful to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. You may say that to the whole multitude there is but one heart and one soul, as each one in no respect followeth after his own will or desire, but is diligent to do the will of the Master. They are never idle nor rambling abroad, but, when they are not in the field, that they may not eat their bread in idleness, they are fitting and repairing their armor and their clothing, or employing themselves in such occupations as the will of the Master requireth or their common necessities render expedient. Among them there is no distinction of persons; respect is paid to the best and most virtuous, not the most noble. They participate in each other's honor, they bear one anothers' burdens, that they may fulfil the law of Christ."
  • "An insolent expression, a useless undertaking, immoderate laughter, the least murmur or whispering, if found out, passeth not without severe rebuke. They detest cards and dice, they shun the sports of the field, and take no delight in the ludicrous catching of birds (hawking), which men are wont to indulge in. Jesters and soothsayers and story-tellers, scurrilous songs, shows, and games, they contemptuously despise and abominate as vanities and mad follies. They cut their hair, knowing that, according to the apostle, it is not seemly in a man to have long hair. They are never combed, seldom washed, but appear rather with rough neglected hair, foul with dust, and with skins browned by the sun and their coats of mail."
  • "Moreover, on the approach of battle they fortify themselves with faith within and with steel without, and not with gold, so that, armed and not adorned, they may strike terror into the enemy, rather than awaken his lust of plunder. They strive earnestly to possess strong and swift horses, but not garnished with ornaments or decked with trappings, thinking of battle and of victory, and not of pomp and show, studying to inspire fear rather than admiration...."
  • "Such hath God chosen for his own, and hath collected together as his ministers from the ends of the earth, from among the bravest of Israel, who indeed vigilantly and faithfully guard the Holy Sepulchre, all armed with the sword, and most learned in the art of war...."
  • "There is indeed a temple at Jerusalem in which they dwell together, unequal, it is true, as a building, to that ancient and most famous one of Solomon, but not inferior in glory. For truly the entire magnificence of that consisted in corrupt things, in gold and silver, in carved stone, and in a variety of woods; but the whole beauty of this resteth in the adornment of an agreeable conversation, in the godly devotion of its inmates, and their beautifully ordered mode of life. That was admired for its various external beauties, this is venerated for its different virtues and sacred actions, as becomes the sanctity of the house of God, who delighteth not so much in polished marbles as in well-ordered behavior, and regardeth pure minds more than gilded walls. The face likewise of this temple is adorned with arms, not with gems, and the wall, instead of the ancient golden chapiters, is covered around with pendent shields."
  • "Instead of the ancient candelabra, censers, and lavers, the house is on all sides furnished with bridles, saddles, and lances, all which plainly demonstrate that the soldiers burn with the same zeal for the house of God as that which formerly animated their great Leader, when, vehemently enraged, he entered into the Temple, and with that most sacred hand, armed not with steel, but with a scourge which he had made of small thongs, drove out the merchants, poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables of them that sold doves; most indignantly condemning the pollution of the house of prayer by the making of it a place of merchandise."
  • "The devout army of Christ, therefore, earnestly incited by the example of its king, thinking indeed that the holy places are much more impiously and insufferably polluted by the infidels than when defiled by merchants, abide in the holy house with horses and with arms, so that from that, as well as all the other sacred places, all filthy and diabolical madness of infidelity being driven out, they may occupy themselves by day and by night in honorable and useful offices. They emulously honor the temple of God with sedulous and sincere oblations, offering sacrifices therein with constant devotion, not indeed of the flesh of cattle after the manner of the ancients, but peaceful sacrifices, brotherly love, devout obedience, voluntary poverty."
  • "These things are done perpetually at Jerusalem, and the world is aroused, the islands hear, and the nations take heed from afar...."

St. Bernard then goes on to congratulate Jerusalem on the advent of the soldiers of Christ, and declares that the Holy City will rejoice with a double joy in being rid of all her oppressors, the ungodly, the robbers, the blasphemers, murderers, perjurers, and adulterers; and in receiving her faithful defenders and sweet consolers, under the shadow of whose protection "Mount Zion shall rejoice, and the daughters of Judah sing for joy.

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Knights Templar Early History

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