Who were the Knights Templar?

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The Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon is the full name of this powerful organization, which for several centuries was one of the richest and most influential in Europe. But they are better known by a simpler name-the Templars, or "templars". So they were nicknamed for the location of their residence in Jerusalem. 

However, contrary to a common mistake, this residence was not located in the Temple of Solomon itself (which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD) and not in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whose golden dome towers over the Temple Mount to this day. "Since they had neither a church nor a permanent refuge, the king gave them temporary residence in the south wing of the palace, near the Temple of the Lord," wrote the medieval chronicler Guillaume of Tyre, who described the Crusaders ' deeds in Palestine.


Thus, at the very beginning of its activity, the order was completely dependent on the mercy of the King of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. But very little time passed, and many sovereigns of medieval Europe were "in the first", or rather "in the purse" of the "poor knights of Christ".

Proud "beggar knights"

Military and monastic orders arose not only during the Crusades. But it was the three orders established in the Holy Land that proved to be the most celebrated and most influential in European history. The Order of St. John, or Hospitallers, was the first to appear in 1080. The second were the Templars.
Several knights under the leadership of the Frenchman Hugh de Payens began to serve on the protection of pilgrims on the roads from 1118. However, for quite a long time very few people knew about them. Only in 1128, at the Council of Troyes, the creation of a new military monastic order was officially announced, and the famous priest and preacher Bernard of Clairvaux was commissioned to develop its charter. At that time, very few people called them Templars — the humble name "beggar knights"was more in use. The theme of poverty was preserved in the symbolism of the order and later-on the seal of the Templars depicted two knights riding on one horse.

For ten years, the "beggar knights" were able to win considerable respect and fame. Therefore, after the official establishment of the charter, a flood of neophytes poured into the new order. It was then that it became clear that the founding fathers of the brotherhood were well-versed not only in the organization of road protection. In Europe, widespread propaganda was launched — everyone who was not indifferent to the fate of Christian shrines in the Middle East was called to join the order. Moreover, "joining" did not necessarily mean personal participation in military campaigns. No less (or even more) valuable were land or monetary donations. It is worth emphasizing that this was not unusual — so did the Hospitallers, and the Teutons who appeared even later. However, the Templars ' financial talents were the most outstanding. In a relatively short period of time, they significantly increased the welfare of their order.

If the Teutonic Order was considered "German", then the Order of the Temple very soon became considered "French". As if to confirm this status, King Philip II Augustus of France donated a huge sum of 52,000 gold coins to the order in 1222. However, the Templars were showered with honors and money not only in France. In England, they had a permanent seat in Parliament and had very strong positions. In London, they owned a whole block, in which a small round church was erected, called the Temple — after the Temple of Solomon.

Accountants in armor

The key to the Templars ' success was their enterprise. They did not just accumulate land and wealth, but always tried to use it as efficiently as possible. If you calculate it, it turns out that the land holdings of the Order of the Hospitallers were almost twice as extensive as the Templar ones. However, the Templars did not stand idle. Both land and money "worked".

It was the Templars who invented what we would today call bank checks.
Going on a pilgrimage to the holy places, the traveler could come to any European comturia of the order and make a contribution. After that, he would set off with a minimum of money and a piece of parchment that contained all the information about his contribution. Surprisingly, the Knights Templar even in the Middle Ages guessed to certify these financial documents with the depositor's fingerprint! Thus, travelers got rid of the need to carry with them huge amounts of money necessary for a long journey. Accordingly, they were not in danger of losing everything overnight due to a raid by robbers. You could cash the check again in any company, both in Europe and in Palestine. Naturally, the service was not free. But the templars took a small percentage, and therefore more and more pilgrims willingly resorted to their help. And the order's treasury grew.

The Templars ' financial genius was well matched by their diplomatic talents. Taking advantage of the Pope's favor ,the "beggar knights" obtained permission for usurious activities. Although in general, usury was considered unworthy of a Christian in the Middle Ages, and it was usually practiced only by Jews. They gave money at an average of 40 percent per annum. Such unfavorable conditions were explained by a high degree of risk — it was not considered a sin not to pay a debt to a Jew.
The Templars quickly got their bearings and lowered the percentage to 10. But they were repaid loans in any case — the authority of the organization was very high. And the Templars could put pressure on the "forgetful" debtor. But, as a rule, they preferred to act not by force, but by reason. Therefore, by the beginning of the 13th century, the Templars were firmly established as the best economists in Europe. They could compete even with famous Italian merchants and bankers.

In France, the financial authority of the Templars was so high that under the same Philip II Augustus, the treasurer of the order performed the duties of the Minister of Finance for a long time. This practice continued under his heirs.

Lost game

The Templars were not only brilliant financiers, but also excellent PR specialists. They spent a lot of money on charity. They fed the poor, built their own protected roads that would allow them to cross Europe without paying tolls, and built temples. But that didn't stop them from hating each other.

Some of the oldest and most consistent opponents of the Templars were the Hospitallers, who were extremely jealous of their influence and wealth. It wasn't just envy, though. The feuds between the two orders began in the Holy Land. As the Europeans lost their possessions in Palestine to the onslaught of the Muslims, they had to pursue an increasingly complex and complicated policy in order to keep something for themselves. This led to the monstrous occasion when, in 1241, the Templars formed an alliance with the Muslims of Damascus against the Egyptian Sultan al-Salih Ayyub. However, when they got involved in a quarrel between two Muslim rulers, they also turned their weapons against their own Christian brothers. They fought against the Hospitallers, and also drove the Teutons out of Acre (because they considered this city their own). However, two years later, in 1243, the Templars, Hospitallers and Teutons fought hand in hand against the same Sultan Ayyub. But the relationship between the knights with crosses on their cloaks was ruined forever.

By the 14th century, the Templars had made another powerful enemy — King Philip IV of France. Unlike his crowned ancestors, this monarch was extremely dissatisfied with the influence that the order had. Besides, this king apparently knew how to count money. And, having calculated how much the French crown owes to the "poor knights", I decided that the issue should be resolved radically.

For centuries, the main defender of the Templars was the Pope. However, Philip IV managed to subdue the spiritual ruler of Europe and even managed to move the pontiff's residence from Rome to Avignon in France. After that, with the support of the "pocket" Pope Clement V, he launched a powerful attack on the order. In 1307, mass arrests of Templars began, who were accused of heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, idolatry, debauchery and much more. The Knights were taken by surprise, and therefore could not put up an organized resistance.

What follows is well known and has been described many times. In 1314, Grand Master Jacques de Molay and many of the order's brothers ascended the pyre. The rest were scattered all over Europe. Many went on to other orders. As for the untold wealth of the order, it was divided between their main enemies: Pope Clement, Philip IV and the Hospitallers, who were now undoubtedly the most powerful order in Europe.

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Underground version

In the story of the defeat of the Order, many questions arise. First, the extraordinary ease with which such a powerful structure collapsed without offering any resistance to aggression. The second is how quickly the Templars of yesterday disappeared among the other orders. After all, according to the most daring estimates, no more than a couple of hundred people were burned. While the order at its height numbered tens of thousands of members at various levels of initiation. Finally, and third, the fate of the myriad Templar treasures is unclear. What went to Philip IV, the pope and the Hospitallers is clearly not comparable to what the "poor knights" who lent half of Europe should have owned.

There is a version that the Templars were well aware of the plans of Philip IV. But they decided not to engage in an open confrontation and used the situation in order to move to an illegal position. The Grand Master and other official hierarchs of the order actually sacrificed themselves, allowing the true leaders to lead the loyal knights underground. Before that, of course, safely hid the accumulated wealth from the greedy eyes.

Some researchers find traces of Templar gold in England. After all, there was practically no persecution of the order in this country. It is believed that the sanctuary of the templars gave the town of Baldock in the county of Hertfordshire in the southeast of England. Not far from this town is the famous Royston Cave, on the walls of which drawings have been found, indicating that in the Middle Ages it was used as a place of secret meetings. It is likely that underground knights gathered there for their councils.

Another "Templar" point in the British Isles is located in Scotland. At the beginning of the 14th century, it was ruled by King Robert I Bruce, who was on extremely bad terms with the papacy. The Pope even excommunicated him. So for Bruce, giving shelter to disgraced templars was a great way to once again annoy the hated pontiff.

There is much evidence to suggest that the Templars did not cease to have an impact on the political life of Europe after they went into the shadows. Only now did they act covertly, as they were well aware that it was too dangerous to play with the monarchs in the open. If so, then many secret societies that are credited with having secret power over Europe and even the entire world may have Templar roots. First of all-Freemasons, the first traces of which can be traced in Ireland and Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. By the 18th and 19th centuries, Masonic lodges had spread throughout Europe, and they included almost all people with power and influence.

And in the 17th century, the whole of Europe was covered with rumors about the mysterious brotherhood of the Rosicrucians, or "Order of the Rose and Cross". Everyone was talking about this secret mystical society, but almost no one could say exactly who it was and what exactly the Rosicrucians were doing. However, these "Knights of the Rose and Cross", which no one saw, had a significant impact on the development of European Renaissance philosophy and the Reformation of Catholicism. Were the Templars taking revenge on their once-betrayed mother Church?

Today, there are several organizations that explicitly claim descent from the Templar Order. However, it is almost impossible to check whether this is the case. It is quite possible that this is just another smoke screen released by the real Templars, who are secretly implementing another plan to strengthen their power over the world.

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