Knights Templars

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Knights Templars:

see FreemasonryFreemasonry,
teachings and practices of the secret fraternal order officially known as the Free and Accepted Masons, or Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Organizational Structure
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Knights Templars

(tĕm`plərz), in medieval history, members of the military and religious order of the Poor Knights of Christ, called the Knights of the Temple of Solomon from their house in Jerusalem.


Like the Knights HospitalersKnights Hospitalers,
members of the military and religious Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, sometimes called the Knights of St. John and the Knights of Jerusalem. The symbol of the Order of St.
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 and the Teutonic KnightsTeutonic Knights
or Teutonic Order
, German military religious order founded (1190–91) during the siege of Acre in the Third Crusade. It was originally known as the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Teutons in Jerusalem.
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, the Templars were formed during the CrusadesCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade

In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
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. They originally had a purely military function. Founded when Hugh de Payens and eight other knights joined together c.1118 to protect pilgrims, the order grew rapidly. St. BernardBernard of Clairvaux, Saint
, 1090?–1153, French churchman, mystic, Doctor of the Church. Born of noble family, in 1112 he entered the Cistercian abbey of Cîteaux, taking along 4 or 5 brothers and some 25 friends.
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 of Clairvaux drew up its rules, and it was recognized at the Council of Troyes (1128) and confirmed by Pope Honorius IIIHonorius III,
d. 1227, pope (1216–27), a Roman named Cencio Savelli; successor of Innocent III. He was created cardinal in 1197 and was an able administrator of the papal treasury.
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Rise to Power

The Templars received gifts of estates and money, and the organization soon became one of the most powerful in Europe. By combining monastic privilege with chivalrous adventure, they attracted many nobles. The order, organized under a grand master and general council, had its headquarters at Jerusalem. It was directly responsible only to the pope and thus was free from the control of the secular crusading leaders. As Crusaders the knights were important both in fighting the Muslims (notably at Gaza in 1244 and later at Damietta, during the Fifth Crusade) and in the internal struggles of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (see Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom ofJerusalem, Latin Kingdom of,
feudal state created by leaders of the First Crusade (see Crusades) in the areas they had wrested from the Muslims in Syria and Palestine. In 1099, after their capture of Jerusalem, the Crusaders chose Godfrey of Bouillon king; he declined the title,
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). Although the Knights of the White Cross (the Hospitalers) were at first probably larger and richer, the Templars, who wore the red cross on a white ground, were greater warriors. In the later crusades the deadly rivalry of the three orders helped weaken the Crusaders' chances of success.

When Jerusalem fell to the Muslims (1187), the Templars operated from Acre; after its fall (1291) the order retreated to Cyprus. By that time the Templars had ceased to be primarily a fighting organization and had become the leading money handlers of Europe. From the beginning the knights aroused opposition because of their special privileges, their freedom from secular control, and their great military and financial strength. As their banking role increased—they served such kings as Henry II of England and Louis IX of France—and their landholdings grew, they aroused the hostility, fear, and jealousy of secular rulers and of the secular clergy as well.

Persecution and Destruction of the Templars

When the Crusades failed, the Hospitalers became a naval patrol in the East, but the Templars grew more worldly, more decadent, and more hated. In 1307, Philip IV of France, who needed money for his Flemish war and was unable to obtain it elsewhere, began a persecution of the Templars. With the aid of Pope Clement V, the king had members of the order arrested and their possessions confiscated. By 1308 the persecutions were in full process. The knights were put on trial and were tortured to extract confessions of sacrilegious practices. The pope at first opposed the trials but soon reversed his position, and at the Council of Vienne (1311–12) he dissolved the order by papal bull.

The Templars were completely destroyed by 1314. Much of their property, theoretically designated for the Hospitalers, was acquired by secular rulers. The leaders of the order, including the last grand master, Jacques de Molay, were tried by ecclesiastic judges and sentenced to life imprisonment, but after denouncing their confessions they were burned at the stake (1314) as lapsed heretics by civil authorities. It is impossible to evaluate fairly the Templars and their fate; the injustices of their final treatment have led some to consider them blameless, yet the charges against them were not entirely unfounded.


The literature on the Templars is vast. A defense of the order is C. G. Addison, The History of the Knights Templars (rev. ed. 1912). See also the studies by E. Simon (1959) and T. W. Parker (1963).

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Knights Templars

protected pilgrims to the Holy Land and fought the Saracens. [Medieval Hist.: NCE, 1490]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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