The Knights Templar had an unparalleled reputation on the battlefield. One reason for this was because they believed that dying in combat was a great honor. They believed that if a man died in combat he would be assured a place in heaven. Therefore, it became part of the code of the Knights Templar to never surrender on the battlefield.
It developed into one of the cardinal rules of the Knights Templar that a knight should never surrender unless the Templar flag had fallen. If the Templar flag had fallen it was the duty of a Knight to join up with any other Christian order. If the flags of all Christian orders had fallen only then were they allowed to leave the battlefield.
There was a similar view on prisoners who were captured by the enemy. If an enemy attempted to ransom a Knight Templar they would only get knives and belts. The knives and belts symbolized that the Knights were fighters and fighting was their only ransom. Any true Knight would rather die than have his ransom paid. By the late 13th century this policy changed somewhat and some high-ranking members of the order were successfully ransomed.
Because of the devotion of the Knights Templar to the battlefield and combat, they were unmatched in their skill. Even through there is very little in the rules of the Templars about military training or weapons, all of the Knights of the order were highly skilled. There was also some emphasis on non-traditional weapons like crossbows in order to get the upper hand.
Templars Were Tortured Until They Admitted to Crazy Secret Rituals
One of the things associated with the Templars is the idea that they were a secret society with plenty of crazy rituals. The Templars were an order of rules and tradition but none of them went against their religious values. The Templars and especially the Knights followed a strict code that always had honoring their religion at the forefront.
By the 14th century the Templars were so wealthy and influential that they were even loaning money out to Kings. King Phillip IV of France was deeply in debt to the Templars and had no way to repay them. In 1307 Pope Clement V wrote to King Phillip IV to ask him for help regarding criminal charges made by an ousted Templar. Both Pope Clement V and the Templar leaders knew the charges to be false and wanted the help of the King to investigate and disprove the charges.
Instead of helping the investigation to prove the Templars innocent, King Phillip IV decided to use them to start an inquisition against the Templars. He realized that getting the Templars dissolved would be a way to clear to his debt. He started an investigation that supposedly proved the charges true and began pressuring the church to take action against the order. Hundreds of Templars were arrested and tortured until they were willing to admit to numerous offences. They claimed that during initiation ceremonies they were forced to spit on the cross, deny Christ, sodomize other men and worship idols.
None of the claims were made without torture and King Phillip IV did not stop there. He forced the Templars to admit to corruption, fraud and secrecy with their immense amount of wealth. The inquisition against the Templars worked and in November 1307, Pope Clement issued a papal bull to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. In 1310, Pope Clement called for papal hearings to prove the innocence of the Templars but King Phillip IV blocked the attempt. He then threatened the church with military action if the Templars were not disbanded and the Pope agreed. From then on, the bizarre confessions and rituals that the Templars confessed to were associated with the order.
The Templars had a lifestyle that was completely devoted to God and their religion. In addition to always having to wear their mantle in order to display their devotion to God and the order, they had a number of rules that they had to adhere to. There were 72 clauses that described the specific code of behavior for the Templar Order and these became known as the Latin Rule. As the order progressed there were more clauses added to the list and it would eventually include several hundred different rules regarding the behavior of men in the order.
Men were expected to be free of pride and arrogance. There would be no finery or fur added to any of the dress of the Knights and any man who requested a better habit than his brothers would be given the worst. Clothes and bed sheets were given to men only upon the discretion of the master. It was believed that only a mattress, a bolster and blanket was needed for the comfort of a man in the order and anything more was at the Master’s discretion.
Talking too much was believed to be a sin and therefore there were restrictions on speaking. There was no speaking when eating. There was also to be no speaking in the evening after the men had come out of compline. If there was a matter that needed to be addressed during meals or after compline a man was to speak softly, quietly and with submission. If an emergency arose that could not wait until morning or after meals it would be up to the discretion of the master the members of the order could speak.
The Knights were bound by strict obedience to their Master. Members were not to leave the Templar house and go into the town without the permission of the Master. There were also rules against lockable purses or bags. Letters from relatives or friends were also forbidden unless under the permission of the Master who would then read the letters to him.
The Knights Were Not Created to be a Secret Organization
The Knights Templar were originally a very open organization with nonmembers being allowed to enter the Templar homes and the Templars were known to do good in the towns and cities that they inhabited. The restrictions and the traditions of the order were widely known by those who were interested and prior to the 14th century there were few rumors about secret initiations or dealings of the Templars.
That changed once the Templars came under attack by King Phillip IV. The members of the Order suddenly had to find ways to hide who they were in order to avoid arrest and torture. Many of them shaved their trademark beards though it was not enough to evade detection. While having a beard was not part of the rules of the order the trademark mantle was.
Once Pope Clement V dissolved the order in 1312 there were many rumors that the Templars found a way to exist out of the public eye. The papal orders required that much of the Templar holdings be turned over to another Christian order, the Knights Hospitaller. However, some Templar organizations changed their name to the Order of Christ. Some credited the Knights Templar as being too powerful to be shut out even by the Pope and the King, which is why rumors persisted as to their existence underground.
The rumors were helped by what happened at the execution of Grand Master De Molay in March 1314. As he was being burned at the stake he maintained his innocence and devotion to God. He loudly proclaimed “God knows how is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.” Pope Clement V died a month later and King Phillip IV died in a hunting accident before the year was out.
They Began With Just Nine Knights Trying to Protect Pilgrims
In 1119 Hugues de Payens was a French nobleman from Champagne. He realized that the pilgrims traveling to visit Holy Places faced dangers and had little means to protect themselves. In order to protect the pilgrims, he gathered 8 of his knighted relatives and began the Order.
The nine knights approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and informed the King of their quest. He allowed them to set up headquarters in the Temple Mount. The Templars were allowed to stay at Aqsa Mosque which was believed to stand where in the same place where Solomon’s Temple once existed. Due to the prestige of their location they incorporated it into the name of their order. They became the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of the Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. It would eventually be shortened to the Knights Templar.
The first Knights to join Hugues de Payens were Godfrey de Saint-Omer, Payne de Monteverdi, Archambaud de St. Agnan, Andre de Montbard, Geoffrey Bison and two men who were recorded only as Rossal and Gonadmer. There is much speculation about who could have been the ninth knight. Some suggest that it might have been Count Huge of Champagne but the records show that he returned to France in 1116 and did not join the Order until 1125.
For nine years, there was very little written or recorded about the Order. In 1129 they started to rise to prominence after they were officially sanctioned by the church at the Council of Troyes. With the sanction of the church they started to collection donations of money, land and noble-sons to join the order. With the promise a spot in Heaven in return for a donation, the Knights Templar quickly became wealthy and powerful throughout Europe.
When the Knights Templar came under accusations of heresy many of them were to be brought before Pope Clement V at his residence in Poitiers, France. Many of the highest-ranking Knights of the order were called, including Grandmaster Jacques de Molay. However, many of them were not well enough to travel and therefore envoys were sent to Chinon to speak with the Knights in order to obtain their testimony.
What occurred at the meeting between the Knights and the cardinals at Chinon was recorded on the Chinon Parchment. All of the confessions of the Knights was written on the parchment as well as the verdict put down by the Cardinals and the Pope. The meeting took place in 1308 but the Chinon Parchment was not uncovered in the Vatican archives until 2001. The discovery of the parchment led to a much greater understanding of the Knights Templar and the persecution they underwent in the 14th century.
The Chinon Parchment absolved the Knights Templar and found that their practices were not heretical. There was no instance of sodomy among the Knights. While there may have been kissing on the lips it was done as a sign of respect and only during initiation. Accusations of denouncing God or spitting on the cross were never confirmed and seemed as more of a training to be able to resist pressure from captors.
The parchment is said to be an attempt by Pope Clement V to save the Knights Templar from King Phillip IV but his attempt largely failed. It did absolve all Knights who had confessed to heresy and it restored to them the Sacraments and the unity of the Church. While the parchment did little to save the Knights Templar in France it did allow the Knights in order countries to escape with far less bloodshed. After the Knights Templar were dissolved, they were able to join other religious orders.