The Templars

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.

La Cara del Temple: su protección a los peregrinos y la defensa de los Santos Lugares, hizo que la Orden fuese el espejo donde se miraban todos los cristianos.

The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages. It was created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096, to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed toward Jerusalem after its conquest.

Officially endorsed by the church in 1129, the Order became a favored charity across Europe. It grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, easily recognizable in their white mantle with a distinct red cross, made some of the best equipped, trained, and disciplined fighting units of the Crusades.

Non-warrior members oftheOrder managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating many financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building numerous fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land.

La quema de los templariosThe Templars’ success was tied closely to the success of the Crusades. When the Holy Land was lost and the Templars suffered crushing defeats, supportfor the Order’s existence faded. Rumors about the Templars’ secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, began pressuring Pope Clement V to take action. On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip had many of the Order’s members in France arrested, tortured into “confessions”, and burned at the stake. In 1312, Pope Clement, under continuing pressure from King Philip, forcibly disbanded the entire Order. The suddendisappearance of a major part of the European infrastructure gave rise to speculation and legends, which have kept the name “Templar” alive in modern fiction.

Jacques de Malay, ultimo gran maestre de la OrdenLegacy.

With their military mission and extensive financial resources, the Knights Templar funded a large number of building projects around Europe and the Holy Land. Many of these structures remain standing today. Many sites also maintain the name “Temple” due to centuries-old association with the Templars. For example, some of the Templars’ lands in London were later rented to lawyers, which led to the names of the Temple Bar gateway, the Temple tube station, and many others.

Distinctive architectural elements of Templar buildings included images of the “two knights on a single horse,” representing the Knights’ poverty, and round buildings which were built to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Legends and Relics.

The Knights Templar have become associated with legends concerning secrets and mysteries handed down to the select from ancient times. Rumors circulated even during the time of the Templars themselves. Freemasonic writers added their own speculations in the 19th century, and further fictional embellishments have been added in modern movies and best-selling novels such as Ivanhoe, National Treasure, Foucault’s Pendulum, The Last Templar, and The Da Vinci Code.

The best known of the Templar legends are connected with the Order’s early occupation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and speculation about what relics the Templars may have found there, such as the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant. That the Templars were known to be in possession of some relics is certain. Even today, many churches display relics such as the bones of a saint, a scrap of cloth that a holy man once wore, or perhaps even the skull of a martyr. The Templars did the same. They were documented as having a piece of the True Cross, which the Bishop of Acre carried into battle with them at the disastrous Horns of Hattin. When the battle was lost, Saladin captured the relic, which was then ransomed back to the Crusaders when the Muslims surrendered the city of Acre in 1191. They were also known to possess the head of Saint Euphemia of Chalcedon. The subject of relics also came up during the Inquisition of the Templars, as several trial documents refer to the worship of an idol of some type, referred to in some cases as a severed head, and in some cases as Baphomet.

There was particular interest during the Crusader era in the Holy Grail myth, which was quickly associated with the Templars, even in the 12th century. The first Grail romance, the fantasy story Le Conte du Graal, was written in 1180 by Chrétien de Troyes, who came from the same area where the Council of Troyes had officially sanctioned the Templars’ Order. In Arthurian legend, the hero of the Grail quest, Sir Galahad (a 13th-century literary invention of monks from St. Bernard’s Cistercian Order), was depicted bearing a shield with the cross of Saint George, similar to the Templars’ insignia. In a chivalric epic of the period, Parzival, Wolfram von Eschenbach refers to Templars guarding the Grail Kingdom. A legend developed that since the Templars had their headquarters at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, they must have excavated in search of relics, found the Grail, and then proceeded to keep it in secret and guard it with their lives. However, there is no historical record of the Templars ever having the Holy Grail in their possession. In the extensive documents of the Templar inquisition, there was never a single mention of anything like a Grail relic, and most scholars agree that the story of the Grail was just that a fiction that began circulating in medieval times.

One legendary artifact that does have some connection with the Templars is the Shroud of Turin. In 1357, the shroud was first publicly displayed by the family of the grandson of Geoffrey de Charney, the Templar who had been burned at the stake with the Order’s last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, in 1314. The artifact’s origins are still a matter of controversy, but carbon dating indicates that the shroud may have been made between 1260 and 1390, a span that includes the last half-century of the Templars.

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