These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure

Trista - November 8, 2018

The Knights Templar were one of the first recorded secret societies. Ever since their demise in the early fourteenth century, they have been the subject of much speculation and the source of numerous conspiracy theories. Every generation seems to have its interpretation of the Knights Templar, their secret rituals, and purported “treasure.” Read on to find intriguing facts about the Knights Templar, and draw your conclusions about what the Crusade’s warrior monks mean to modern society.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Illustration depicting the Knights Templar in battle, based on a fresco in the Chapel of the Templars in Cressac sur Charente, France. DeAgostini/Getty Images.

16. The Order Began During the Crusades

The mysterious group began as the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon about 23 or 24 (sources vary) years after the Crusades started in 1095 AD. The First Crusade had ended with a decisive victory for the European Christians, who took over Jerusalem and established the so-called “Kingdom of Jerusalem.” Christians flooded the roads to Jerusalem to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. However, the journey was dangerous, as it was not only long but consisted of treacherous routes through foreign territory. Bandits frequently waylaid travelers. Additionally, there was a need to protect merchants traveling to and from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, because they helped to supply the Christians there with the goods that they needed to survive.

A knight from France, known as Hugues de Payens, created the order with the expressed intent of protecting Christian pilgrims and crusaders who were traveling to the Holy Land. Some doubt that that was the real reason for his new organization, mainly because it was far, far too small to have the means to establish itself outside of Jerusalem. De Payens became the first Grand Master of the order, which was depicted in iconography with an image of two men riding the same horse because they had no money. However, the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon did not stay poor for long.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
The Knights Templar were warrior monks. ancient-origins.

15. The Knights Templar Had Nine Founding Members

When Hugues de Payens first created the organization, it was more of a small fraternity than a mighty fighting force. In fact, other than himself, there were only eight members. Each of the members was related by either blood or marriage, a fact that lends itself to the secrecy surrounding the group’s origins. These nine knights were actually all knights before joining the order. They traveled to Jerusalem, supposedly to protect it. However, a band this small was probably far too tiny to provide any meaningful protection to the city. The original intention may have been different than what was explicitly expressed.

The patron of the organization was Bernard of Clairvaux, an abbot who later was beatified as a saint. Bernard was a monk, a reformer of the Benedictine form of monasticism and one of the founders of the Cistercians. Perhaps Bernard’s influence on the organization is why they were viewed as monks, though they did not partake of the traditional monastic lifestyle. Whatever the case may be, this small fighting force arrived in Jerusalem and disappeared from the records for nearly a decade. What they did during this time is a source of massive speculation and has also led to numerous conspiracy theories.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. autocarhire.

14. The Headquarters in Jerusalem Was the Temple Mount

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is arguably the holiest and bloodiest location in the entire world. Its designation comes from the fact that the Temple of Solomon, built about a thousand years before Christ, was on that location. It was also believed to be the site where the patriarch Abraham nearly sacrificed his son and where Jesus Christ was buried. Muslims believe that Muhammed ascended to heaven from there. As such, the site is sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three religions have structures on it: Jews have the Western Wall, one of the only surviving remnants of the Temple of Solomon; Christians have the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they believe Jesus was buried; Muslims have the al-Aqsa Mosque.

It should come as no surprise that the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, later referred to as the Knights Templar, would set the Temple Mount as their headquarters. In fact, there is archaeological evidence, such as spurs and chainmail that may have belonged to them, that they may have dug tunnels underneath the Temple Mount. Once again, the purpose of those tunnels is the subject of much speculation and controversy. Perhaps they were fortifying their stronghold; maybe they were looking for treasure.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Knight on horseback. anonymousradioshow.

13. After the Knights Templar was Founded, They Disappeared for Several Years

So Hugues de Payens gets the blessing of Bernard of Clairvaux to form a monastic order that would protect pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. He develops a ragtag band of nine knights, who travel to the Holy Land and set up camp at the Temple Mount. And then, nothing. For the next seven or eight years, the historical record is silent as to what was happening among the Templars. Numerous theories abound, but the organization was unusually secretive, so we can’t really know what happened.

Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, believes that they found documents relating to the holy bloodline of Jesus Christ through Mary Magdalene. This theory, however, has widely been certified as false. Some believe that they were looking for treasure, particularly relics. After all, the Temple Mount is sacred to three major religions, and some think that it has peculiar energy or power connected with it. Others believe that they were doing what they claimed they set out to do: help protect Christian pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support many different ideas; in fact, there is such a profound lack of proof that what does exist could be taken to help just about any theory except for Dan Brown’s.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Artist depiction of the Holy Grail. ribbonfarm.

12. Rumors Circulated That They Found Holy Relics

Western Europe during the Middle Ages was mainly Roman Catholic, but not the form of Roman Catholicism that you might recognize today. Following religious and political earthquakes like the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church underwent profound transformations. The Church of the Crusaders was the one that sold indulgences so that people’s sins could be forgiven if they gave enough money to the church, and that told people that they would go to heaven if they died fighting in the Crusades. Of particular importance to the Roman Catholics of Europe at the time were relics, holy objects connected to biblical stories, and these relics were believed to possess spiritual power.

Rumors claimed that the Knights Templar had found some of the most essential, sought-after relics in all of Christendom. These included the spear of destiny, which was used to pierce Jesus in the side after He died; wood from the cross; the Ark of the Covenant; and, perhaps most importantly, the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail was, well, the Holy Grail of relics. It was believed to be the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, and the Crusade period was when stories about the Grail began to flourish.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Artist depiction of the Arc of the Covenant. Esteban Castillo 2011 / joelokojie.

11. Some Speculate They Dug for Treasure

The Temple of Solomon was destroyed in 587 BCE when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. It was rebuilt by King Herod, a Roman leader who had control of the area once known as Israel, which was inhabited by the Jews who had returned from their exile in Babylon. Herod’s temple was ruined in 70 AD when the Roman military destroyed Jerusalem following a series of revolts by the Jewish people. From that time onwards, the Jews have not had a central temple to carry out the rituals specified in the Hebrew Bible (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament).

There are numerous stories that before the destruction of Herod’s temple, the Jews hid some of their treasures in there. These might include things such as gold from the original temple, scrolls that document their history and religious beliefs, and other vital artifacts and relics. Some even claim that the Ark of the Covenant was buried in there. Speculation about the treasures that may have been hidden in the Temple Mount, coupled with speculation about the nature of the tunnels that the Templars dug, has led to theories that they were actually looking for these treasures. However, these ideas cannot be substantiated.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
The Knight Templar film movie set with actors portraying knights. blogspot.

10. Noblemen Granted Large Chunks of Land to the Knights Templar

After their seven or eight years in obscurity, the Knights Templar rode back to France, where they quickly amassed great wealth and prestige. The group had previously been so obscure that most Europeans had never even heard of them. Now, however, noblemen granted them large chunks of land. Of particular importance was that King Alfonso of Aragon granted them large tracts in Spain. Some believe that the area was given to them in return for promised military favors or so that people could buy their way into heaven for supporting the group. Others believe that the land grants were more insidious than they appear.

What is clear is that by 1129, just ten years after the group’s founding, it had jumped from obscurity to notoriety. Some believe that they had become wealthy from whatever it is that they found under the Temple Mount. Others think that they were granted hush money to remain silent about secret writings that they had seen, which might contradict the teachings of the church, though nothing on the scale of The Da Vince Code. Not only did the group become wealthy, but it also began to attract thousands of noblemen who wanted to join the order.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Artist depiction of the Knights Templar in battle. jennicontrisciani.

9. They Protected Christian Pilgrims En Route to Jerusalem

The Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon were founded on the idea that they would protect Christian pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem. However, that probably didn’t happen in the group’s early years, seeing as, if nothing else, they were far too small to serve any purpose. The route from France – where they were initially from and where many pilgrims came from – to the Holy Land was thousands of miles long, and there were only nine of the knights. They probably didn’t leave Jerusalem much in their early years.

However, once they began amassing their power and prestige, they had the means to do what they had initially said they would do. They set up command posts all along the route, where Christian pilgrims could find refuge and rest from the long journey. They also guarded the road, which was known for bandits and robbers. After all, they weren’t just treasure hunters who may or may not have been digging under the Temple Mount for treasure. They were warriors, and the warrior enterprise turned out to be quite lucrative, as the order became immensely wealthy off of the money that the knights made from the services that they provided.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Knights Templar Cross. Wikimedia.

8. The Knights Templar Were the Delta Force of the Crusades

Ragtag armies of peasants primarily marked the Crusades. The First Crusade was fought mainly by criminals – rapists and thieves – who were promised heaven as a reward for their fighting. Leaders such as Peter the Hermit amassed a fighting force of farmers and serfs, most of whom had probably never even considered wielding a weapon or engaging in armed combat. But the pope had them convinced that they were fighting in the way of God, so they were willing to beat their plowshares into swords so that they could gain heaven as a reward. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t fight fiercely – the streets of Jerusalem ran with blood, as the ragtag Christian armies mercilessly slaughtered Muslims, Jews, and even other Christians who had resided there.

The Knights Templar were one of the only trained militias of the Crusades. In fact, they were probably the first standing army since the fall of the Roman Empire. They were trained in combat and could carry out missions that the peasant soldiers could not dream of completing. When the regular peasant armies of the Crusades found themselves in trouble, the Knights Templar could be called upon to come to their rescue. On more than one occasion, just a few dozens of the knights defeated hundreds, if not thousands, of Saladin’s opposing troops.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
An image of gold coins. buffalocoin.

7. The Knights Templar Formed One of the First Known Banks

But what is the purpose of becoming one of the most powerful forces in the world if you aren’t going to make money off of your skills? Historically, many trained soldiers have made money by offering their services as mercenaries, essentially soldiers for hire. But the Knights Templar weren’t for hire. They were fighting for the sake of Christendom, defending the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Christian pilgrims who wanted to visit its holy sites. They figured out how to make money by beginning a system that we would today recognize as an international bank.

Here’s how it worked. Command posts were set up throughout Europe, all the way to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Noblemen who wanted to embark on a pilgrimage could deposit a large sum of money, sometimes including the deed to their property, at one of these command posts. In return, he would receive a document detailing how much money he had deposited. The report was written in a cipher, the secret of which was known only to the Knights Templar. As he passed various command posts along the way, he would present the document, and funds for the things he needed to procure, including protection, would be deducted. When he reached the Holy Lands, he would display the final document and be presented with his remaining funds.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
A knight of the Knights Templar with the emblem on his shield. pinimg.

6. The Knights Templar Were Warrior Monks

But make no mistake, the Knights Templar were by no means white-collar bankers. They were warrior monks who had been training in armed combat and warfare since the age of seven. To be initiated into the order, you had to be a knight already. And the order was an order of monks. This idea is quite peculiar, seeing as things like poverty and chastity traditionally characterize a monkish lifestyle. The concept of a monk riding a horse into combat, decked out in chainmail and bearing a double-edged sword, runs counter to how many people think of monks.

What is particularly surprising is that these monks were not just soldiers; they were vicious. If you were faced with an entourage of Knights Templar, mounted on horseback and carrying their weaponry, your best option would be to run in the other direction. They were characterized by the brutality that far exceeded that of the peasant armies. One way that they might be recognized as monkish, however, is their poverty. Even though the order itself was incredibly wealthy, to join, a knight had to sell the order all of his possessions. The knights themselves had no belongings. However, as members of the Knights Templar, they had everything.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Temple Church, London, resting place of many of the Knights Templar. melitahotel.

5. They Followed a Strict Code of Conduct

Knights in the Middle Ages were sworn to chivalry, which dictated how they were to behave both in their personal and private lives. The Knights Templar were also bound by a code known as the Latin Rule, which began when the founder, Hugues de Payens, consulted with Bernard of Clairvaux. The Latin Rule specified that the knights were never to leave a battle until the order’s flag was waving over the battlefield; they were to die instead of retreat. They were never to be taken captive so that ransom money could never be paid for them; instead, they were to commit suicide. Ultimately, the reward was heaven.

Knights became bound by the Latin Rule when they were first initiated into the order. However, as it was a secret society, little is known about what the initiation rites were. Some believe that it involved worship of the head of John the Baptist or homosexual acts. The order came to be viewed as a “church within a church,” due to its autonomy, so some speculate that the initiation rites included mystical rituals that would be seen as adverse by the church. Whatever the case, members of the Knights Templar were to never, ever break the Latin Rule.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Pope John Paul II waves to the wellwisher 28 April 1989 upon his arrival in Antanarivo at the beginning of a 10-day Africa tour. DERRICK CEYRAC/AFP/Getty Images

4. The Knights Templar Were Accountable Only to the Pope

The Knights Templar were arguably not only the first international bank but also the first multinational corporation. Multinational corporations are notorious for having more power, functionally speaking, than the national governments. Consider Apple, which dared to tell the federal government that it would not provide the key to unlocking its phones, even as part of a shooting investigation. Historians argue that functionally, the Knights Templar existed as not only a church within a church but also as a state within a state, meaning that they had more power than the kings.

To solidify that power, in 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a papal bull, an authoritative statement from the Vatican, that claimed that the Knights Templar were accountable only to the pope. Some believe that this bull was a form of “hush money” to keep them silent on secrets about the church that they had uncovered. They could travel freely across international borders and would not have to pay any taxes on the money that they earned. They were also immune to local laws, though the Latin Rule prohibited them from engaging in egregious conduct. However, their wealth and power proved to be a threat to some kings and ultimately led to their demise.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
Artist depiction of Saladin. Wikimeida.

3. Saladin Eventually Defeated Them

Salah al-Din, known to the Christian Crusaders as Saladin, was a sultan from Egypt who led his forces against the Crusaders in the attempt to liberate the Holy Land from the Christians and return it to its prior Muslim rule. The Knights Templar had defeated Saladin’s army on several occasions, but in July of 1187, Saladin’s forces were victorious at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin. They surrounded the Knights Templar, who were far outnumbered, and massacred them. This decisive victory was the beginning of the end for the Kingdom of Jerusalem. A Third Crusade was launched to try to reclaim it, but it was unsuccessful.

The Knights Templar in the Holy Land, who was headquartered at the Temple Mount and protected pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem, was ultimately finished. However, they continued their activities throughout Europe, including banking. Their banks had made them so wealthy that they were offering loans to kings. They moved their headquarters to Paris, France, which later came under the kingship of Philip IV, also known as Philip the Fair. Philip the Fair became heavily indebted to them, and because his father had pretty much bankrupted France through his military expenditures, he had no money to pay them back. Their wealth would prove to be their undoing.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
King Philip IV. constructionlitmag.

2. They Were Systematically Rounded Up on Friday the 13th

In the year 1307, King Philip IV of France was in a genuine crisis, owing large amounts of money to the Knights Templar and having inherited a ruined economy from his financially inept father. He would not be able to pay them the money that he owed, so he came up with a plan. He had an order sent out to his soldiers, which was not to be open until Friday the 13th. The letter gave orders to raid all of the command houses of the Knights Templar in France and imprison its members. They were then subjected to the Inquisition.

The Inquisition was a feature of the Vatican that was designed to weed out heresy, or false beliefs, through the use of torture. Though the Vatican had long been friendly with the Knights Templar, the pope at the time was unable to provide any assistance to them. Approximately 138 of the knights were faced with cruel torture, under which they confessed to crimes such as urinating on the cross, denying Jesus, and worshiping the devil. Many of them either died under torture or were burned at the stake. To this day, Friday the thirteenth is considered to be unlucky because of what happened to the Knights Templar on that fateful day.

Ultimately, though, the actions of Philip IV towards the Knights Templar did not provide the economic boon that he had hoped. He was only able to recover enough of their land to pay for the torture and imprisonment that he subjected to. There were vast rumors about an immense treasure that the knights had, which he may have hoped would enrich both his personal treasury and his kingdom, but the wealth was nowhere to be found. In fact, there is evidence that many of the Knights Templar’s documents were burned shortly before Friday the thirteenth, and any treasure that they may have had was whisked away in ships that very morning.

These 16 Mysterious Facts About The Knights Templar Will Have You Searching for Buried Treasure
The Oak Island “money pit”. mysticablog.

1. Many Treasure Hunters still Seek the Legendary Treasure of the Knights Templar

The Knights Templar gain cultural prominence in every generation. They were the subject of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when the rogue archeologist embarked on a quest for the Holy Grail. Many believe that they were the predecessors of the Freemasons, who continue to hold their secrets, which they used to construct the democracy of the United States. But what most interests Knights Templar enthusiasts is the legendary treasure, possibly from the Temple of Solomon, that they supposedly hid.

Only about 10% of the Knights Templar were subjected to the imprisonment and tortures of King Philip IV. Many of them lived outside of France or received word of what would happen and fled. All told, there may have been thousands who survived the events of 1307. However, they no longer had a leader and would have to fend for themselves. And any treasure that they may have had – the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, wood from the real cross, documents, gold, or anything else – would have to be kept secret.

Some believe that the Knights Templar may have traveled to the New World. The evening before Friday the thirteenth in 1307, there was a fleet of 18 ships belonging to the order docked at a harbor in France. The next day, the fleet had disappeared, and there is no documentation as to what happened to them. Circumstantial evidence suggests that a group of knights may have carried their treasure onto the ships and set sail for shores beyond mainland Europe. Many of them had descended from the Vikings, so the theory suggests that they first sailed to Iceland, then Greenland, and finally to the New World, long before Columbus. Some believe that the purported treasure at Oak Island in Nova Scotia is of Templar origin, seeing as there is Templar iconography around the site.

Others believe that the treasure may be buried somewhere in the crypts of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Scotland was excommunicated from the Catholic Church at about the same time as the order fell in 1307 when its king, Robert the Bruce, killed one of his opponents in a church. It may have been seen as a haven for those fleeing the church. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they may have come into contact with the Sinclair family, the proprietors of Rosslyn Chapel, where they buried their treasure. Some have even tried to engage in a rogue excavation of the crypt, but they were met with legal resistance.

Whatever the case may be, nothing keeps a good story going like a modern treasure hunt. So we still enjoy reading and theorizing about the Knights Templar today.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Secrets of the Knights Templar.” Documentary by The History Channel.

“Who were the Knights Templar?” by Elizabeth Nix. The History Channel. October 17, 2012.

“Hugue de Payens.” Wikipedia.

“Bernard of Clairvaux.” Wikipedia.

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