Knights Templar

John Florens | Sep 16, 2023

Table of Content


The Order of the Temple is a religious and military order of medieval Christian chivalry, whose members are called the Knights Templar.

This order was created on the occasion of the Council of Troyes (opened on January 13, 1129), from a militia called the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (from the name of the Temple of Solomon, which the Crusaders had assimilated to the al-Aqsa mosque, built on the remains of this temple). He worked during the 12th and 13th centuries to accompany and protect pilgrims to Jerusalem in the context of the Holy War and the Crusades. He actively participated in the battles that took place during the Crusades and the Iberian Reconquest. In order to carry out its missions and, in particular, to ensure their financing, it constituted a network of monasteries called "commanderies" throughout Western Catholic Europe, based on land donations, and provided with numerous privileges, notably fiscal. This sustained activity made the Order a privileged financial interlocutor of the powers of the time, even leading it to make non-profit transactions with certain kings, or to have custody of royal treasures.

After the definitive loss of the Holy Land following the siege of St. John of Acre in 1291, the Order fell victim in France to the struggle between the Avignon papacy and the French king Philip the Fair. It was dissolved by the French Pope Clement V, the first of the seven Avignon popes, on March 22, 1312, when Clement V issued the bull Vox in excelso, formalizing the dissolution of the Order of the Temple, following a trial for heresy. The tragic end of the Order in France has given rise to many speculations and legends about it. Elsewhere, the Templar knights were generally not condemned, but transferred (along with their property) to other orders of pontifical right, or returned to civilian life.

Religious and politico-military context

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the renewal of Christian monasticism saw the foundation of numerous religious orders, notably the converses who favored manual labor, and the renewal of canonical life which adopted the rule of Saint Augustine, canons (Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem) or monks (Order of Saint John of Jerusalem) engaging in hospital activities or in parish life. It is in this religious context that the Catholic Church encouraged the knights of the century to become milites Christi, in other words "knights of Christ" wishing to fight the infidels in the Holy Land.

Pope Urban II preached the first crusade on November 27, 1095, the tenth day of the Council of Clermont. The pope's motivation to see such a military expedition take shape came from the fact that Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem were regularly victims of exactions and even assassinations.

The Pope asked the Catholic people of the West to take up arms to help the pilgrims and the Christians of the East. This crusade had as its rallying cry "God wills it!", and all those who took part in the crusade were marked with the sign of the cross, thus becoming crusaders (a term that did not appear until the Council of Lateran IV in 1215: see the vocabulary of the crusades and the Reconquista). This action led on July 15, 1099 to the capture of Jerusalem by the Christian troops of Godfrey of Bouillon.

Hugues de Payns, future founder and first master of the Order of the Temple, came for the first time to the Holy Land in 1104 to accompany Count Hugues de Champagne, who was on a pilgrimage at the time, and then left in 1114, placing himself under the protection and authority of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, along with their knights, who worked to defend the possessions of these Canons and to protect the tomb of Christ.

Premises of the Order of the Temple

After the capture of Jerusalem, Godfrey of Bouillon was appointed king of Jerusalem by his peers, a title he refused, preferring to bear the title of avoucher of the Holy Sepulchre. He established the regular canonical order of the Holy Sepulchre, whose mission was to assist the patriarch of Jerusalem in his various tasks. A number of men-at-arms from the crusade then placed themselves at the service of the patriarch to protect the Holy Sepulchre.

A similar institution of knights called Knights of St. Peter (milites sancti Petri) had been created in the West to protect the property of abbeys and churches. These knights were laymen, but they enjoyed the benefits of prayer. By analogy, the men charged with protecting the property of the Holy Sepulchre and the community of canons were called milites sancti Sepulcri (knights of the Holy Sepulchre). It is highly probable that Hugues de Payns joined this institution as early as 1115. All the men charged with the protection of the Holy Sepulchre stayed with the Hospitallers at the nearby hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

When the Order of the Hospital, recognized in 1113, was charged with the care of pilgrims coming from the West, an idea was born: to create a militia of Christ (militia Christi) which would only concern itself with the protection of the community of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre and the pilgrims on the roads of the Holy Land, which were then prey to local brigands. Thus, the canons would take care of liturgical affairs, the order of the Hospital of the charitable functions and the militia of Christ of the purely military function. This ternary division of tasks reproduced the organization of medieval society, composed of priests and monks (oratores, literally those who pray), warriors (bellatores) and peasants (laboratores).

This is how the Order of the Temple, which at that time was called militia Christi, came into being, with the ambiguity that this monastic community brought together oratores and bellatores from the start.

Foundation of the Order of the Temple

It was on January 23, 1120, during the Council of Nablus, that the militia of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (in Latin: pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Salomonici) was born, under the impetus of Hugues de Payns and Godefroy de Saint-Omer: its mission was to secure the journey of the pilgrims who had flocked from the West since the reconquest of Jerusalem, and to defend the Latin States of the East.

At first, Payns and Saint-Omer concentrated on the Athlit Pass, a particularly dangerous place on the pilgrim route; later, one of the largest Templar strongholds in the Holy Land was built there: the Pilgrim Castle.

The new order thus created could only survive with the support of influential people. Hugues de Payns succeeded in convincing the King of Jerusalem Baldwin II of the usefulness of such a militia, which was quite easy given the insecurity prevailing in the region at that time. The knights took the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They received from the patriarch Gormond de Picquigny the mission of "guarding roads and ways against brigands, for the salvation of pilgrims" ("ut vias et itinera, ad salutem peregrinorum contra latrones") for the remission of their sins, a mission considered to be a fourth customary vow for religious military orders.

King Baldwin II granted them a part of his palace in Jerusalem which corresponds today to the al-Aqsa mosque, but which was called at the time "Solomon's temple", because, according to Jewish tradition, it was located on the site of Solomon's temple. It was this "Temple of Solomon", in which they set up their quarters (notably the former stables of the Temple), which later gave the name of Templars or Knights Templar. Hugues de Payns and Godefroy de Saint-Omer were not the only knights to have been part of the militia before it became the Order of the Temple. Here is the list of these knights, precursors or "founders" of the order:

The first gift (of thirty Angevin pounds) received by the Order of the Temple came from Foulque, Count of Anjou, who later became King of Jerusalem.

Search for support

The fame of the militia did not spread beyond the Holy Land, so Hugues de Payns, accompanied by five other knights (Godefroy de Saint-Omer, Payen de Montdidier, Geoffroy Bisol, Archambault de Saint-Amand and Rolland), embarked for the West in 1127 in order to carry a message to Pope Honorius II and Bernard de Clairvaux.

With the support of King Baldwin and the instructions of Patriarch Gormond of Jerusalem, Hugues de Payns had the following three objectives:

The western tour of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon began in Anjou and then passed through Poitou, Normandy, England where they received many donations, Flanders and finally Champagne.

This move by Hugues de Payns, accompanied by these five knights and supported by the king of Jerusalem, followed two unsuccessful attempts that had been made by André de Montbard and Gondemare, probably in 1120 and 1125.

Council of Troyes

Arriving at the end of his tour of the West and having brought the message of the King of Jerusalem to Bernard of Clairvaux to help the Templars obtain the agreement and support of the Pope, Hugues de Payns took part in the Council of Troyes (so named because it was held in the cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Troyes).

On January 13, 1129, the council opened in the presence of many religious personalities whose names are given in the prologue of the primitive rule of the Temple: Cardinal Matthew of Albano, papal legate in France, the archbishops of Rheims and Sens, as well as ten of their suffragan bishops, four Cistercian abbots (those of Cîteaux, Clairvaux, Pontigny, and Troisfontaines), two Cluniac abbots (those of Molesmes and Vézelay), two canons, two masters, and a secretary.

In addition to the religious, there were lay people: Thibaut IV of Blois, count of Champagne, André de Baudement, seneschal of the county of Champagne, Guillaume II, count of Nevers, Auxerre and Tonnerre.

The council led to the foundation of the Order of the Temple and gave it its own rule. This rule was based on the rule of St. Benedict (the Cistercians Bernard of Clairvaux and Stephen Harding, founder of Citeaux), with some borrowings from the rule of St. Augustine, which was followed by the Holy Sepulchre, alongside whom the first Templars lived. Once the rule was adopted, it still had to be submitted to Stephen of Chartres, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Praise for the new militia

The Praise of the New Militia (De laude novæ militiæ) is a letter that St. Bernard of Clairvaux sent to Hugues de Payns, whose full title was Liber ad milites Templi de laude novæ militiæ and which was written after the defeat of the Frankish army at the Siege of Damascus in 1129.

Bernard underlines the originality of the new order: the same man devotes himself as much to spiritual combat as to combat in the world.

"It is not so rare to see men fighting a bodily enemy with the strength of the body alone that I am surprised; on the other hand, to wage war against vice and the devil with the strength of the soul alone is not something as extraordinary as it is praiseworthy; the world is full of monks who fight these battles; but what, for me, is as admirable as it is obviously rare, is to see the two things combined. (§ 1) "

Moreover, this text contained an important passage where Saint Bernard explained why the Templars had the right to kill a human being:

"The knight of Christ gives death in complete safety and receives it in even greater safety. When he kills a malefactor, he is not a homicide but a malicide. The death he gives is the benefit of Jesus Christ, and the one he receives, his own."

But for this to happen, the war had to be "just". This is the subject of § 2 of L'Éloge de la Nouvelle Milice. Bernard is aware of the difficulty of such a concept in practice, for if war is not just, wanting to kill kills the assassin's soul:

"Whenever you march to the enemy, you who fight in the ranks of the secular militia, you have to fear killing your soul with the same blow with which you give death to your adversary, or receiving it from his hand, in body and soul at the same time. the victory cannot be good when the cause of the war is not good and the intention of those who make it is not right. (§ 2) "

Bernard therefore praises the New Militia, but not without nuances and precautions... All of his § 7 & 8 (in chap. IV) draw a deliberately ideal portrait of the soldier of Christ, in order to give him as a model that will always be to be reached. The first to criticize St. Bernard was the Cistercian monk Isaac de Stella, who saw in the confusion of the Indo-European tripartite functions ("those who pray" (oratores), "those who fight" (bellatores) and "those who work" (laboratores)) a "monstrosity", but the contradicts remain a minority.

This praise allowed the Templars to meet with great fervor and general recognition: thanks to St. Bernard, the Order of the Temple grew significantly: many knights enlisted for the salvation of their souls or, quite simply, to lend a hand by illustrating themselves on the battlefield.

Pontifical recognition

Several papal bulls formalized the status of the Order of the Temple.

The Bull Omne datum optimum was issued by Pope Innocent II on March 29, 1139 under the control of Robert de Craon, second master of the Order of the Temple. It was of capital importance for the Order since it was the basis of all the privileges enjoyed by the Templars. Indeed, thanks to it, the brothers of the Temple had the right to benefit from apostolic protection and to have their own priests.

A new category emerged in the community, that of the friar chaplains who would officiate for the Templars. Moreover, this bull confirmed that the Order of the Temple was subject only to the authority of the pope. The bull also created competition for the secular clergy (which the latter often resented). Many conflicts of interest arose between the Templars and the bishops or parish priests.

The privileges it granted being often questioned, the bull Omne datum optimum was confirmed twelve times between 1154 and 1194, and it is for this reason that it was not easy to find the original.

The Bull Milites Templi (Knights Templar) was issued on January 9, 1144 by Pope Celestine II. It allowed the chaplains of the Temple to conduct the service once a year in forbidden regions or cities, "for the honor and reverence of their knighthood", without allowing the presence of excommunicated persons in the church. But this is really only a confirmation of the bull Omne datum optimum.

The Bull Militia Dei (Knighthood of God) was issued by Pope Eugene III on April 7, 1145. This bull allowed the Templars to build their own oratories, but also to have complete independence from the secular clergy through the right to collect tithes and to bury their dead in their own cemeteries. In addition, apostolic protection was extended to the Temple's familiars (their peasants, herds, goods...).

Complaints were made by Templars to the pope that the clergy was taking one third of the bequests made by those wishing to be buried in the Order's cemeteries. The bull Dilecti filii consequently ordered the clergy to take only one quarter of the bequests.

Rules and regulations

After the Council of Troyes, where the idea of a rule proper to the Order of the Temple was accepted, the task of writing it was entrusted to Bernard of Clairvaux, who himself had it written by a cleric who was surely part of the entourage of the papal legate present at the Council, Jean Michel (Jehan Michiel), on proposals made by Hugues de Payns.

The rule of the Order of the Temple borrowed from the rule of St. Augustine, but was based for the most part on the rule of St. Benedict followed by the Benedictine monks. It was, however, adapted to the kind of active, mainly military life that the Templar brothers led. For example, the fasts were less severe than for the Benedictine monks, so as not to weaken the Templars called to fight. Moreover, the rule was adapted to the bipolarity of the order, so that certain articles concerned both life in the West (conventual) and life in the East (military).

The primitive rule (or Latin rule because it was written in Latin), written in 1128, was annexed to the minutes of the Council of Troyes in 1129 and contained seventy-two articles. However, around 1138, under the mastery of Robert de Craon, second master of the order (1136-1149), the primitive rule was translated into French and modified. Subsequently, at various dates, the rule was expanded by the addition of six hundred and nine withdrawals or statutory articles, notably concerning the hierarchy and justice within the Order.

Neither at its foundation, nor at any time during its existence, did the Order adopt a motto.

Reception in order

One of the roles of the commanderies was to ensure the permanent recruitment of brothers. This recruitment had to be as broad as possible. Thus, lay men from the nobility and the free peasantry could apply to be received if they met the criteria required by the Order.

First of all, entry into the Order was free and voluntary. The candidate could be poor. Above all, he gave of himself. It was necessary that he be motivated because there was no trial period during the novitiate. The entry was direct (pronouncement of the vows) and definitive (for life).

The main criteria were:

The candidate was warned that in case of a proven lie, he would be immediately dismissed:

"...if you lie about it, you will be perjured and may lose the house, which God forbid."

- (from article 668)

Territorial organization

Like any religious order, the Templars had their own rule and this rule evolved in the form of withdrawals (statutory articles) on the occasion of general chapters. It is article 87 of the rule's restatements that tells us the initial territorial distribution of the provinces. The Master of the Order designated a Commander for the following provinces:


The Templars were organized as a monastic order, following the rule created for them by Bernard of Clairvaux. In each country, a master was appointed to head all the commanderies and dependencies, and all were subjects of the Master of the Order, who was appointed for life and supervised both the Order's military efforts in the East and its financial holdings in the West.

With the high demand for knights, some of them also committed themselves to the order for a predetermined period of time before being sent back to secular life, such as the Fratres conjugati, who were married friars. They wore the black or brown mantle with the red cross to distinguish them from the brothers who chose celibacy and who did not have the same status as the latter.

The servant brothers (casalier brothers and trade brothers) were chosen from among the sergeants who were either skilled merchants or unable to fight due to age or infirmity.

At any given time, each knight had about ten people in support positions. Only a few brothers were involved in banking (especially those who were educated), as the Order was often trusted by participants in the crusades with the safekeeping of precious goods. However, the primary mission of the Knights Templar remained the military protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land.

The term "Grand Master" to designate the supreme leader of the Order appeared at the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries in late charters and in the acts of the Templar trial. It was then taken up and popularized by certain historians of the 19th and 20th centuries. Today it is widely used.

This rank did not exist in the Order and the Templars themselves did not seem to use it. However, in late texts the terms "sovereign master" or "master general" of the Order appear. In the rule and the withdrawals of the Order, he is called Li Maistre and a great number of dignitaries of the hierarchy could be called so without the addition of a particular qualifier. The preceptors of the commanderies could be designated in the same way. It is therefore necessary to refer to the context of the manuscript to know who is being referred to. In the West as in the East, the high dignitaries were called masters of the countries or provinces: there was thus a master in France, a master in England, a master in Spain, etc. No confusion was possible since the Order was directed by only one Master at a time, who lived in Jerusalem. To designate the supreme leader of the Order, it is appropriate to say simply the Master of the Order and not Grand Master.

During the 183 years of its existence, from 1129, when Pope Clement V issued the bull Vox in excelso, formalizing the dissolution of the Order of the Temple, the Order of the Temple was led by twenty-three Masters.

The term cubicular (cubicularius) was used in the Middle Ages to designate the person who was also called the "chamberlain", i.e. the person in charge of the pope's bedroom (cubiculum). He should not be confused with the camerlingue (camerarius), who at the time was in charge of the finances and temporal resources of the papacy. These originally distinct functions were grouped together in the early modern period under the term cubiculum, before being divided again into several categories of camerlain.

The cubicularii, initially simple servants of the pope, also had ceremonial functions, stewardship and close personal guard. They were given increasingly important functions over the centuries.

The first knights of the Order of the Temple to hold this position are mentioned by Malcolm Barber to Pope Alexander III, without their names being mentioned.

It is especially from the middle of the 13th century that the Templars succeeded each other in this position, some of them several times, such as Giacomo de Pocapalea, or Hugues de Verceil, and sometimes in duplicate as under Benedict XI. The last Cubicular Templars under Clement V were Giacomo da Montecucco, master of the province of Lombardy, arrested and imprisoned in Poitiers in 1307, from where he escaped in February 1308, to take refuge in northern Italy, and finally, Olivier de Penne from 1307 to 1308, also arrested and sometimes confused with Giacomo da Montecucco by some historians. The latter became the Hospitaller Commander of La Capelle-Livron after the dissolution of the order.

Protection of pilgrims and custody of relics

The vocation of the Order of the Temple was the protection of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. This pilgrimage was one of the three most important in medieval Christianity. It lasted several years and the pilgrims had to travel nearly twelve thousand kilometers round trip on foot, as well as by boat across the Mediterranean Sea. The convoys left twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. Generally, the pilgrims were disembarked in Acre, also called St. John of Acre, and then had to walk to the holy sites. As men-at-arms (gendarmes), the Templars secured the roads, especially the one from Jaffa to Jerusalem and the one from Jerusalem to the Jordan River. They also guarded certain holy places: Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Mount of Olives, the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Jordan River, the Hill of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

All pilgrims were entitled to the protection of the Templars. Thus, the Knights Templar took part in the crusades, armed pilgrimages, to act as the close guard of the Western sovereigns. In 1147, the Knights Templar lent a hand to the army of King Louis VII, which was attacked in the mountains of Asia Minor during the Second Crusade (1147-1149). This action allowed the expedition to continue and the king of France was very grateful. During the Third Crusade (1189-1192), the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers provided the vanguard and rearguard, respectively, of Richard the Lionheart's army in the fighting on the march. During the Fifth Crusade, the participation of the military orders, and thus the Knights Templar, was decisive in protecting the royal armies of St. Louis before Damietta.

The Order of the Temple exceptionally helped kings in financial difficulties. On several occasions in the history of the crusades, the Templars bailed out royal coffers that were momentarily empty (Louis VII's crusade), or paid the ransoms of kings taken prisoner (St. Louis' crusade).

In the East as in the West, the Order of the Temple was in possession of relics. They sometimes transported them on their own behalf or transported relics for others. The Templar chapels housed the relics of the saints to whom they were dedicated. Among the most important relics of the order were the cloak of St. Bernard, pieces of the crown of thorns and fragments of the True Cross.

Templar seals

The word seal comes from the Latin sigillum meaning mark. It is a personal seal that authenticates an act and attests to a signature. There are about twenty known Templar seals. They belonged to masters, high dignitaries, commanders or knights of the order in the 13th century. Their diameters vary between fifteen and fifty millimeters. The French Templar seals are kept in the seal department of the French National Archives. The most famous Templar seal is that of the masters of the order sigilum militum xristi which represents two armed knights riding the same horse.

There is no established consensus on the symbolism of the two knights on one horse. Contrary to an often repeated idea, it would not be a question of putting forward the ideal of poverty since the order provided at least three horses to each of its knights. The historian Georges Bordonove expresses a hypothesis that can be supported by a document of the period with Saint Bernard in his De laude novæ militiæ.

"Their greatness is undoubtedly due to this quasi-institutional duality: monk, but soldier. This duality is perhaps expressed in their best-known seal, which shows two knights, with helmets on their heads and lances lowered, on the same horse: the spiritual and the temporal riding the same mount, basically fighting the same battle, but with different means.

Alain Demurger explains that some historians have believed that the two founders of the order, Hughes de Payns and Godefroy de Saint-Omer, could be recognized in it. However, he retains another explanation: the seal would symbolize the common life, the union and the devotion.

Chapter Holdings

A chapter (Latin: capitulum, diminutive of caput, primary meaning: "head") is a part of a book which gave its name to the meeting of religious in a monastery during which passages from the sacred texts as well as articles of the rule were read. The custom comes from the rule of St. Benedict, which required the frequent reading of a passage from the rule to the whole community assembled (RB § 66, 8). By extension, the community of a monastery is called the chapter. The room specifically built to accommodate chapter meetings is also called the "chapter hall," "chapter room," or simply "chapter. The meeting is held behind closed doors and participants are strictly forbidden to repeat or comment outside what was said during the chapter.

In the Order of the Temple, there were two types of chapter meetings: the general chapter and the weekly chapter.

Maritime transport

The link between the East and the West was essentially maritime. For the Knights Templar, the term "overseas" referred to Europe, while "beyond the seas", and more specifically the Mediterranean Sea, represented the East. In order to transport goods, weapons, brothers of the Order, pilgrims and horses, the Order of the Temple had its own ships built. It was not a large fleet, comparable to those of the 14th and 15th centuries, but a few ships that left from the ports of Marseille, Nice (county of Nice), Saint-Raphael, Collioure or Aigues-Mortes in France and other Italian ports. These ships went to the oriental ports after many stops.

Rather than financing the maintenance of ships, the Order leased out trading ships called "nolis". Conversely, Templar ships were leased to Western merchants. It was financially more advantageous to have access to ports exempt from taxes on goods than to own ships. The commanderies located in the ports therefore played an important role in the Order's commercial activities. Templar establishments were located in Genoa, Pisa and Venice, but it was in southern Italy, especially in Brindisi, that the Mediterranean Templar ships spent the winter.

The Templars of England were supplied with wine from Poitou from the port of La Rochelle.

There were two kinds of ships, the galleys and the naves. Some of the large ships were nicknamed bailiffs because they were equipped with rear or side doors (huis), which allowed them to carry up to a hundred horses, suspended by straps in order to ensure the stability of the ship during the voyage.

Article 119 of the withdrawals of the Rule states that "all the sea vessels that are of the house of Acre are in the command of the commander of the land. And the commander of the vault of Acre, and all the brothers who are under his command are in his command and all the things that the vessels bring must be returned to the commander of the land."

The port of Acre was the most important of the Order. The Acre Vault was the name of one of the Templars' establishments in the city, which was located near the port. Between Rue des Pisans and Rue Sainte-Anne, the Acre Vault included a keep and conventual buildings.

Here are the names of the ships of the Temple:

Men of all origins and conditions made up the body of the Templar people at each level of the hierarchy. Various texts allow us today to determine the appearance of the brother knights and sergeants.


The recognition of the Order of the Temple was not only through the elaboration of a rule and a name, but also through the attribution of a particular dress code specific to the Order of the Temple.

The Templar mantle referred to that of the Cistercian monks.

Only the knights, the brothers from the nobility, were allowed to wear the white cloak, a symbol of purity of body and chastity. The sergeant brothers, coming from the peasantry, wore a cloak of bure, without it having a negative connotation. It was the Order that issued the habit and it was also the Order that had the power to take it back. The habit belonged to him, and in the spirit of the rule, the mantle was not to be an object of vanity. It says that if a brother asked for a nicer habit, he was to be given the "worst" one.

The loss of the habit was pronounced by the justice of the chapter for brothers who had seriously violated the rules. It meant a temporary or definitive dismissal from the Order.

In his bull Vox in excelso abolishing the Order of the Temple, Pope Clement V indicated that he was suppressing "the said Order of the Temple and its state, its habit and its name", which shows the importance that the habit had in the Order's existence.

Red Cross

The Templar iconography presents it as simple Greek, anchored, floriated or patté. Whatever its form, it indicated the Templars' membership in Christianity and the color red recalled the blood shed by Christ. This cross also expressed the permanent vow of crusade in which the Templars committed themselves to participate at any time. It should be noted, however, that not all Templars participated in a crusade. There were many kinds of crosses for the Knights Templar. It seems that the red cross pattee was not granted to the Templars until late, in 1147, by Pope Eugene III. He would have given the right to wear it on the left shoulder, on the side of the heart. The rule of the Order and its withdrawals made no reference to this cross. However, the papal bull Omne datum optimum named it twice. It is therefore safe to say that the Templars were already wearing the red cross in 1139. It was therefore under the mastery of Robert de Craon, second master of the order, that the "gules cross" officially became a Templar insignia. It is highly probable that the Templar cross was derived from the cross of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, to which Hugues de Payns and his fellow Knights had belonged.

Templar face

In his homily (1130-1136), called De laude novæ militiæ (In Praise of the New Militia), Bernard of Clairvaux presents a physical and, above all, a moral portrait of the Knights Templar, in contrast to that of the knights of the century:

"They cut their hair short, knowing from the Apostle that it is an ignominy for a man to care for his hair. You never see them combed, rarely washed, their beards shaggy, stinking of dust, stained by the harnesses and by the heat..."

Although contemporary with the Templars, this description was more allegorical than realistic, as St. Bernard never went to the East. Moreover, Templar iconography is thin. In the rare paintings depicting them in their time, their faces, covered with a helmet, an iron hat or a camail, are not visible or appear only partially.

In article 28, the Latin rule specified that "the brothers must have short hair", for reasons both practical and hygienic, which St. Bernard did not mention, but above all "in order to consider themselves as recognizing the rule at all times". Moreover, "in order to respect the rule without deviating, they must have no impropriety in the wearing of beards and moustaches." The chaplain brothers were tonsured and shaved. Many of the miniatures depicting Templars at the stake are neither contemporary nor realistic. By this time, some had even shaved to show their disengagement from the Order.

Finally, the official painters of the 19th century imagined the Templars in their own way, mixing idealism and romanticism, with long hair and big beards.

Daily life

"For of our life you see only the bark that is on the outside. For the bark is such that you see us having beautiful horses and beautiful dresses, and so it seems to you that you will be at ease. But you do not know the strong commandments that are within. For it is a great thing that you, who are sire of yourself, should become the serf of another."

- Excerpt from section 661 of the rule.

The rule of the Order and its retreats give us precise information about the daily life of the Templars in the West and in the East.

This life was divided between times of prayer, collective life (meals, meetings), military training, the accompaniment and protection of pilgrims, the management of the goods of the house, trade, the collection of taxes due to the Order, the control of the work of the peasants on the lands of the Order, diplomacy, war and combat against the infidels


An order of chivalry does not go without a horse. Thus, the history of the Order of the Temple was intimately linked to this animal. To begin with, a nobleman who was received into the Order could donate his steed, a fighting horse that the squires held in the dexter hand (i.e. the left hand). After 1140, there were many donors from the nobility who bequeathed weapons and horses to the Templars.

To equip its army, the Order of the Temple provided three horses to each of its knights, whose maintenance was ensured by a squire (articles 30 & 31 of the rule). The rule specifies that the brothers could have more than three horses, when the master authorized them to do so. This measure was undoubtedly intended to prevent the loss of horses, so that the brothers would always have three horses at their disposal.

These horses were to be harnessed in the simplest manner expressing the vow of poverty. According to the rule (article 37) "We totally forbid that the brothers have gold and silver in their bridles, stirrups and spurs". Among these horses was a steed that was trained for combat and reserved for war. The other horses were summers or beasts of burden of the Comtoise or Percheronne breed. They could also be mules called "bêtes mulaces". They were used to transport the knights and their equipment. There was also the "palefroi", more especially used for long trips.

According to the withdrawals, the hierarchy of the Order was expressed through the regulatory allocation of frames. The restatements begin with the words: "The master must have four beasts..." indicating the importance of the subject. Moreover, the first three articles of the Master of the Order (articles 77, 78 and 79) dealt with his entourage and the care of the horses. We thus learn that the horses were fed in measures of barley (an expensive cereal and giving much more energy to the horses than the simple ration of hay) and that a farrier was in the entourage of the master.

Among the horses of the master was a Turkoman, pure Arabian blood, which was an elite war horse and of great value because it was very fast.

Four horses were provided to all the high dignitaries: seneschal, marshal, commander of the land and kingdom of Jerusalem, commander of the city of Jerusalem, commanders of Tripoli and Antioch, draper, commanders of the houses (commanderies), turcopolier. The sergeant brothers such as the sub-marshal, the gonfanonier, the cook, the blacksmith and the commander of the port of Acre were entitled to two horses. The other brother sergeants had only one horse. The turcopoles, Arab soldiers in the service of the Temple order, had to provide their own horses.

It was the marshal of the Order who saw to the maintenance of all the horses and equipment, weapons, armor and bridles, without which war was not possible. He was responsible for the purchase of the horses (article 103) and had to ensure that they were of perfect quality. A restive horse had to be shown to him (article 154) before being removed from service.

The steeds were equipped with a "croce" saddle, also known as a saddle with a saddle tree, which was a mounting saddle for warfare and which allowed the rider to be held in place during the charge. The commanderies of the South of France, but also those of Castile, Aragon and Gascony, were specialized in the breeding of horses. These were then transported to the Latin states of the East by sea. For this purpose, they were transported in the holds of the Templar ships and delivered to the caravan of the Order's marshal who supervised the distribution of the animals according to need. When a Templar died or was sent to another state, his horses were returned to the marshal (article 107).

Representations of the Templars are rare. However, a mural painting of a knight of the Temple charging on his steed has come down to us. It is a fresco from the chapel of Cressac in Charente, dating from 1170 or 1180.

Military equipment

The nobleman of the 12th - 13th centuries had to have a complete set of equipment (clothing and weapons) made in order to be knighted. This equipment, essentially requiring metals, was worth a large sum of money which could imply taking out a credit or a loan. Templar knights and sergeants were required to have such equipment.

The protection of the body was ensured by a shield, a haubert (chain mail) and a helmet or an iron chapel.

The underwear consisted of a linen shirt and braies. The protection of the body was reinforced by the wearing of possibly padded socks made of fabric or leather and attached by straps, as well as by a "gambison" or "gambeson" made of padded fabric and covered with silk. Finally, the surcoat, worn over the cotte, is also called petticoat of weapon, cotte of weapon or "tabard". It was sewn with a red cross, insignia of the order, in front and behind. It allowed the Templar fighters to be recognized on the battlefield as well as in all places. The harness, worn around the loins, was a special belt that allowed the sword to be hung and the surcoat to be kept close to the body.

According to the rule (see, among others, the works of Georges Bordonove), the Templar received a sword, a spear, a mace and three knives as weapons when he joined the Order.

The swords followed the western fashion of the time. They had straight, double-edged blades, wielded with one hand at the creation of the Order, since two-handed models would only appear later (at the end of the 12th century). The spear is a cavalryman's weapon, intended to charge "with a prone spear" at the enemy. The weapon's mass is made up of a short shaft (depending on the model, from 40 to 80 cm) and a head made of iron or entirely made of iron with possible protuberances. The sword was accompanied, according to the fashion of the time, by a knife that was aesthetically matched to it, 30 to 40 cm long. The other two knives were general purpose tools, used for menial work, for the maintenance of the body, the horse and for nutrition.


The flag of the Order of the Temple was called the baucent gonfanon. Baucent, which means two colors, had several spellings: baussant, baucent or balcent. It was a vertical rectangle composed of two stripes, one white and one black, cut in the upper third. It was the rallying sign of the Templar fighters on the battlefield, protected in combat by a dozen knights. The person in charge of it was called the gonfanonier. Depending on the circumstances, the gonfanonier designated a bearer who could be a squire, a turcopole soldier or a sentry. The gonfanonier rode in front and led his squadron under the command of the order's marshal.

The gonfanon had to be visible at all times on the battlefield and therefore it was forbidden to lower it. This serious breach of the rules could be punished by the most severe sanction, i.e. the loss of the habit which meant the dismissal from the Order.

According to historian Georges Bordonove, when the main gonfanon fell because its bearer and his guard had been killed, the commander of the knights would unfurl a relief standard and take over the charge. If this one disappeared in turn, a squadron commander had to raise his black and white pennon and rally all the Templars present.

If the Templar colors were no longer visible, the surviving Templars had to join the Hospitaller banner. If the Hospitaller banner had fallen, the Templars had to join the first Christian banner they saw.

The baucent gonfanon is represented in the frescoes of the Templar chapel San Bevignate in Perugia, Italy. The white band is located in the upper part. It is also drawn in the chronica majorum, the Chronicles of Matthew Paris in 1245. In this case, the white band is in the lower part.

Patron saint

St. George was a highly venerated saint by military and religious orders, but the Templars considered Mary their patron saint.

Templars seen by their enemies

The Crusaders as a whole were perceived by the Arabs as ignorant barbarians, sometimes even accused of cannibalism, as in the capture of the city of Ma'arrat al-Numan during the First Crusade, and were later sometimes referred to as the cannibals of Maara. In the early twelfth century, the Templars proved to be the most formidable fighters the Arabs faced. However, outside of the battlefield, they were noted for a certain religious tolerance. In 1140, the Amir and chronicler Osama Ibn Munqidh, who was also ambassador to the Franks, went to Jerusalem. He used to go to the ancient al-Aqsa mosque, "the home of my friends the Templars". The Amir told an anecdote in which the Templars openly defended him during the prayer. While the Muslim way of praying was both unknown and misunderstood by the newly arrived Franks in the East, the Knights Templar enforced this cult, even if it was called infidel.

A few years later, in 1187, during the battle of Hattin, the Muslim leader Saladin had nearly two hundred and thirty Templar prisoners beheaded with a sword in his presence. Saladin's private secretary concluded by talking about his master: "How many ills he cured by putting to death a Templar". On the other hand, the Arab military leaders spared the imprisoned masters of the Order because they knew that as soon as a master died, he was immediately replaced.

Main battles

In military action, the Templars were elite soldiers. They showed courage and proved to be fine strategists. They were present on all the battlefields where the Frankish army was present and joined the royal armies as early as 1129.

The siege of Damascus having been a big defeat for the king of Jerusalem, Baldwin III, he decided to launch an attack on Ascalon.

The master of the order, Bernard de Tramelay, supported the king's advice and the attack was launched on August 16, 1153. It was a massacre for the Templars who entered the city behind their master, forty in number. Indeed, they were all killed by the Egyptian defenders of the city and their bodies hung on the ramparts.

This episode gave rise to much controversy, as some claimed that the Templars wanted to enter the city alone in order to appropriate all the goods and treasures, while others thought that they wanted, on the contrary, to mark the Order with an act of arms.

However, the city of Ascalon fell on August 22, 1153 and the Order of the Temple elected a new master: André de Montbard. He accepted this appointment to counter the election of another knight of the Temple, Guillaume II de Chanaleilles, son of Guillaume I (one of the heroes of the first crusade alongside the Count of Toulouse Raymond IV, known as Raymond de Saint-Gilles), who was a favorite of the King of France Louis VII and who would have allowed the King to control the order.

This battle, fought on November 25, 1177, was one of the first of the young king of Jerusalem Baldwin IV, then sixteen years old. The king's troops had been reinforced by eighty Templars who had come from Gaza by forced march.

This alliance of forces defeated Saladin's army at Montgisard, near Ramla.

After the death of King Baldwin V, Guy de Lusignan became king of Jerusalem through his wife Sibyl, sister of King Baldwin IV.

On the advice of the Temple (then commanded by Gerard de Ridefort) and the Hospital, Guy de Lusignan prepared the army. As the weather was particularly dry and the only water source was at Hattin, near Tiberias, the king sent his troops in that direction.

On July 4, 1187, Saladin surrounded the Franks. Almost the entire army was taken prisoner (about fifteen thousand men), as well as the king himself. Saladin had a particular dislike for the Templars, so they were all executed by beheading (along with all the Hospitallers). Only one Templar was spared, the master himself: Gerard de Ridefort.

After the fall of Jerusalem, a third crusade was launched from Europe. Richard the Lionheart was left alone after the withdrawal of the majority of Frederick Barbarossa's German troops (after the latter drowned in a river) and the return of Philip Augustus to France. The Templar master Gerard de Ridefort was captured and executed on October 4, 1189 in front of Acre, and was replaced in his position two years later by Robert de Sablé, a great friend of King Richard, having spent nineteen years at his court. Richard marched his army along the sea, which enabled him to remain in communication with his fleet and thus to ensure the continuous supply of his troops. Formed as a huge column, Richard's army had as its vanguard the Templar corps led by the new Master of the Order of the Temple, Robert de Sablé, followed by the Bretons and the Angevins, Guy de Lusignan with his fellow Poitevins, then the Normans and the English, and finally the Hospitallers as a rear guard.

In the early stages of the battle, Richard suffered from Saladin's initiative but took control of the situation and finally routed Saladin's army with two successive charges of Frankish chivalry, despite the premature start of the first charge.

The Knights Templar were particularly active with the sovereign James I of Aragon, both in preparing the battle and in leading it. They played a decisive role in the management of the conquered lands, in their settlement and their lasting attachment to the crown of Aragon.

Count Robert I of Artois, disobeying the orders of his brother King Louis IX, wanted to attack the Egyptian troops in spite of the protests of the Templars who advised him to wait for the bulk of the royal army. The Frankish vanguard entered the city of Mansourah, scattering in the streets. Taking advantage of this advantage, the Muslim forces launched a counter-attack and harassed the Franks. It was a real slaughter. Of the Templars, 295 perished. Only four or five survived. Robert I of Artois himself, the instigator of this unordered attack, lost his life.

Saint Louis regained the advantage that evening by wiping out the troops that had just exterminated his vanguard. However, the Templars had lost almost all their men in the meantime. This indecisive battle resulted in the heavy defeat of Fariskur in April of the same year and the capture of Louis IX, who was released for ransom. The news of this capture was disastrous because no one imagined the defeat of such a pious king.


The Knights Templar had to carry out economic, commercial and financial activities to pay the costs inherent in the operation of the order and the expenses of their military activities in the East. However, this economic and financial activity should not be confused with the more sophisticated activity of Italian bankers at the same time. Usury, that is, a transaction involving the payment of interest, was forbidden by the Church to Christians and, moreover, to religious.

As the Old Testament says (Deuteronomy, 23:19):

"You shall not demand from your brother any interest for money, for food, or for anything that is lent at interest.

The Knights Templar lent money to all sorts of people and institutions: pilgrims, crusaders, merchants, monastic congregations, clergy, kings and princes... The amount of the repayment could sometimes be higher than the initial sum thanks to a currency exchange. This was an accepted way to avoid the prohibition of usury.

During the crusade of Louis VII, the king of France, upon arriving in Antioch, asked the Templars for financial aid. The master of the order, Évrard des Barres, did what was necessary. The king of France wrote to his steward, referring to the Templars, "We cannot imagine how we could have survived in these countries without their help and assistance. We notify you that they lent us and borrowed in their name a considerable sum. This sum must be returned to them. The sum in question was two thousand silver marcs.

Bill of exchange

The Order's financial activity provided for individuals to deposit their belongings when they went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela or Rome. The Knights Templar invented the deposit voucher. When a pilgrim entrusted the Knights Templar with the sum needed for his pilgrimage, the brother treasurer gave him a letter on which the amount deposited was written. This handwritten and authenticated letter became known as a bill of exchange. The pilgrim could thus travel without money on him and was more secure. When he arrived at his destination, he could collect his money in local currency from other Templars. The Knights Templar developed and institutionalized the service of money exchange for pilgrims.

Treasury of the order

It was a locked safe in which money, jewels, but also archives were kept. This safe was called a hutch. The Master of the Order in Jerusalem kept the accounts before they were transferred to the treasurer of the Order at the end of the 13th century. Three articles of the Rule of Withdrawals give us information on the financial functioning of the Order. The Master could authorize the loan of money (without interest) with or without the agreement of his advisors, depending on the size of the sum. The income from the Western commanderies was given to the treasury of the Order's headquarters in Jerusalem.

All silver donations of more than one hundred besants were concentrated in the Order's treasury. The commanderies in Paris and London served as depositories for France and England. Each commandery was able to operate with a treasury kept in a safe. At the time of the Templars' arrest in 1307, only one important chest was found, that of the Visitor of France, Hugues de Pairaud. The money it contained was confiscated by the king and immediately joined the royal coffers.

That the suppression of the Order by Philip IV the Fair was aimed at recovering the Templars' treasure is a disputed hypothesis, however, because the Temple's treasure was far less than the royal treasury. The king in fact compensated for his financial difficulties by trying to establish regular taxes, by heavily taxing the Jews and the Lombard bankers, sometimes by confiscating their goods and by practicing currency devaluations.

Guard of royal treasures

It began in 1146 when Louis VII, on his way to the Second Crusade, decided to leave the royal treasury in the custody of the Temple of Paris. This practice, which in no way mixed the financial activities of the Temple with those of the Crown, ended during the reign of Philip IV the Fair.

Later on, this developed to such an extent that many rulers trusted the treasurers of the Order. Another great personality, Henry II of England, left the custody of his kingdom's treasury to the Temple. In addition, many Templars of the House of England were also royal advisors.

The Order of the Temple had two main types of built heritage: monasteries called commanderies located in the West and fortresses located in the Near East and in the Iberian Peninsula.

Jerusalem Temple House

The Temple House in Jerusalem was the central headquarters of the Order from its foundation in 1129 until 1187, when the holy city was taken over by Saladin. The central headquarters was then transferred to St. John of Acre, a port city in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Following the loss of the city to the Christians in 1291, the headquarters of the Order was again transferred to the nearest Christian land, the island of Cyprus. It was in Cyprus that Jacques de Molay, the last Master of the Order, lived before he returned to France to be arrested. The headquarters of the Order was never established in the West.

Eastern fortresses

To compensate for the weakness of their numbers, the Crusaders began to build fortresses in the Latin states of the East. The Templars participated in this process by building new castles for their needs. They also undertook to rebuild those that had been destroyed by Saladin around 1187 and agreed to occupy those that the lords of the East (or of Spain) gave them because they could not maintain them. Some of them were used to secure the roads used by Christian pilgrims around Jerusalem. Serving as a military, economic and political establishment of the Order, the stronghold represented a center of Christian domination for the Muslim populations. The Templars occupied a greater number of strongholds in the Iberian Peninsula during their participation in the Reconquista.

In the 12th century, after the fall of the city of Jerusalem to the forces of Saladin in 1187, the Templars managed to hold out for a few months in some of their strongholds but gradually lost most of them.

It was not until the end of the third crusade, led by the kings of France, England and the emperor of Germany, that the Templars reconstituted their military presence in the Holy Land.

In the 13th century, in the kingdom of Jerusalem, the Templars possessed four fortresses: the castle of Pilgrim built in 1217-1218, the fortress of Safed rebuilt in 1240-1243, the castle of Sidon and the fortress of Beaufort, both ceded by Julian, lord of Sidon in 1260.

In the county of Tripoli, they had the castle of Tortosa rebuilt in 1212, Arima and Chastel Blanc.

To the north, in the principality of Antioch, the Templar strongholds were Baghras (Gaston) recovered in 1216, as well as Roche de Roissel and Roche-Guillaume which they still held, Saladin having given up trying to conquer them in 1188.

Iberian fortresses

As early as 1128, the Order received its first donation in Portugal from the hands of the reigning Countess of Portugal, Theresa of León, widow of Henry of Burgundy: the castle of Soure and its outbuildings. In 1130, the Order received 19 landed properties. Around 1160, Gualdim Pais completed the castle of Tomar, which became the headquarters of the Temple in Portugal.

In 1143, Raimond-Berenger IV, Count of Barcelona, asked the Knights Templar to defend the Western Church in Spain, to fight the Moors and to exalt the Christian faith. The Knights Templar accepted, not without reluctance, but limited themselves to defending and pacifying the Christian frontiers and colonizing Spain and Portugal. A new Christian population had settled around the castles given to the Knights Templar, as the region was pacified. The Reconquista was a royal war. As a result, the orders of chivalry were less autonomous than in the East. They had to provide the royal army with a variable number of fighters, proportional to the scale of the military operation in progress.

Thus, the Spanish Templars took part in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, the reunion of Mallorca with the kingdom of Aragon in 1229, the capture of Valencia in 1238, Tarifa in 1292, the conquest of Andalusia and the kingdom of Granada. In Portugal, the Templars took part in the capture of Santarém (1146) and Alcácer do Sal (1217).

The action of the Order of the Temple in the Iberian Peninsula was therefore secondary, because the Order wanted to give priority to its activities in the Holy Land. However, it had many more strongholds in the Iberian Peninsula than in the East. In fact, there are at least seventy-two sites in Spain alone and at least six in Portugal (there are only about twenty strongholds in the East). It is also in this area that we find the buildings that have best withstood the test of time (or have benefited from restoration), such as the castles of Almourol, Miravet, Tomar and Peñíscola.

Fortresses in Eastern Europe

Unlike the East and the Iberian Peninsula, where the Templars faced the Muslims, Eastern Europe, where the religious-military orders were also established, confronted them with paganism. Indeed, the territories of Poland, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, but also Lithuania and Livonia formed a corridor of paganism, made up of wild lands that had not yet been cleared, caught between the Catholic West and Orthodox Russia. Borusses (Prussians), Lithuanians, Lives or Coumans, still pagan, resisted the advance - slow but inexorable - of Christianity for several centuries. The Catholic Christianization, which interests us here, was initiated by the papacy but with the support of the converted Germanic princes (who saw the opportunity to enlarge their earthly possessions and at the same time to increase the chances of salvation for their souls) and with the support of the bishops, especially that of Riga, who held strongholds in pagan territory.

After the demise in 1238 of the Dobrin order (officially recognized by Pope Gregory IX as the "Prussian Knights of Christ"), which had carried out the first conversions, the Knights Templar were formally invited to gain a foothold in Eastern Europe. For this purpose, the Order was granted three villages along the river Boug as well as the fortress of Łuków (which they were entrusted with in 1257, along with the mission of defending the Christian presence in this region). Throughout the 13th century, the presence of the Knights Templar in Eastern Europe grew and there were as many as fourteen settlements and two Templar fortresses.

However, the Templars (like the Hospitallers, who were also present in Eastern Europe) soon gave way to the Teutonic Order in the fight against the paganism that dominated these remote regions. Both orders were reluctant to open a third front in addition to those in the Holy Land and the Iberian Peninsula, while the primary idea behind this move to the frontiers of Christianity was to diversify sources of income in order to finance the continuation of the Order's main activities in the Holy Land.

Another region of Eastern Europe, but more southern, Hungary, like Poland, had to face the devastating invasions of the Mongols around 1240. The Knights Templar were also present there and sent information to the Western kings, but they were not able to alert them enough to launch a voluntary and effective reaction.


A commandery was a monastery in which the brothers of the order lived in the West. It served as a rear base to finance the activities of the order in the East and to ensure the recruitment and the military and spiritual formation of the brothers of the order. It was constituted from land and real estate donations. The term "preceptory" is used incorrectly: "It is therefore absurd to speak of "preceptory" when the correct French word is "commanderie"; and it is moreover ridiculous to distinguish two different structures, preceptory and commandery".

In the first years of its creation, land donations allowed the Order to establish itself throughout Europe. Then, there were three major waves of donations from 1130 to 1140, from 1180 to 1190 and from 1210 to 1220. First, it can be noted that all men who entered the Order could donate part of their property to the Temple. Secondly, the donations could come from all social categories, from the king to the laity. For example, King Henry II of England ceded the fortified house of Sainte-Vaubourg and his right of passage over the Seine at Val-de-la-Haye in Normandy to the Temple. Another example is the donation made in 1255 by Canon Étienne Collomb of the cathedral of Saint-Étienne d'Auxerre of a tax levied in the town of Saint-Amatre.

Although the majority of gifts were made of land or land-related income, gifts of annuities or commercial income were not negligible. For example, in 1143-1144, Louis VII ceded an annuity of twenty-seven pounds established on the stalls of the moneychangers in Paris.

The donations could be of three different kinds:

After receiving these gifts, it remained for the Order of the Temple to organize and assemble the whole into a coherent whole. In order to do this, the Templars proceeded to a number of exchanges or sales in order to structure their commanderies and to gather the lands to maximize the income that could be drawn from them. The process of consolidation can be seen as parallel, at least in terms of the grouping of lands around or under a commandery.

In essence, all the countries of the Christian West in the Middle Ages can be cited as lands of establishment of the Order of the Temple. Thus, there were Templar commanderies in the following countries today: France, England, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Likewise, there were commanderies in the East.

According to Georges Bordonove, the number of Templar commanderies in France can be estimated at 700. The quality of these vestiges is very diverse today. Very few have been able to keep their buildings in their entirety. Some commanderies have been totally destroyed and only exist in an archaeological state, which is the case, for example, of the commandery of Payns in the fief of the founder of the Order. In France, three commanderies open to the public present a complete set: in the north, the commandery of Coulommiers, in the central region is the commandery of Arville and in the south the commandery of La Couvertoirade.

Only archival documents and in particular the cartularies of the Order of the Temple can attest to the Templar origin of a building.

The fall of the Order of the Temple is also the subject of controversy. However, the reasons why the Order was eliminated are much more complex and those outlined below are probably only part of it.


On May 28, 1291, the Crusaders lost St. John of Acre after a bloody siege. Christians were forced to leave the Holy Land and religious orders such as the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers did not escape this exodus. The order's leadership was moved to Cyprus. However, once expelled from the Holy Land, with the near impossibility of reconquering it, the question of the usefulness of the Order of the Temple arose, as it had originally been created to defend pilgrims going to Jerusalem to the tomb of Christ. Having lost the Holy Land and thus the very reason for their existence, part of the Order became perverted.

For several decades, the people had perceived the knights as proud and greedy lords who led a disorderly life (the popular expressions "drinking like a Templar" or "swearing like a Templar" are revealing in this respect): as early as 1274, at the second council of Lyon, they had to produce a memorandum to justify their existence.

A quarrel also opposed the king of France Philippe IV le Bel to the pope Boniface VIII, this last having affirmed the superiority of the pontifical power on the temporal power of the kings, by publishing a papal bull in 1302, Unam Sanctam. The response of the king of France came in the form of a request for a council to depose the pope, who in return excommunicated Philip the Fair and his entire family with the bull Super Patri Solio. Boniface VIII died on October 11, 1303, shortly after the attack of Anagni. His successor, Benedict XI, had a very brief pontificate since he died in turn on July 7, 1304. Clement V was elected to succeed him on June 5, 1305.

Following the fall of St. John of Acre, the Templars withdrew to Cyprus and then returned to the West to occupy their commanderies. The Templars possessed immense wealth (some lived in ostentatious luxury even though they had taken a vow of poverty), increased by royalties (octroi, tolls, customs, banalities, etc.) and the profits from the work of their commanderies (livestock, agriculture, etc.). They also possessed a military power equivalent to fifteen thousand men, including fifteen hundred knights trained in combat, a force entirely devoted to the pope: such a force could only prove to be an embarrassment for the power in place. It should be added that the royal legists, trained in Roman law, sought to exalt the power of royal sovereignty; but the presence of the Temple as a papal jurisdiction greatly limited the power of the king over his own territory.

The attack of Anagni is one of the reflections of this fight of the legists to ensure a power as little limited as possible to the king. The position of the legists, in particular Guillaume de Nogaret, as advisors to the king, surely had an influence on Philip the Fair.

Finally, some historians attribute responsibility for the loss of the Order to Jacques de Molay, Master of the Temple elected in 1293 in Cyprus after the loss of St. John of Acre. Indeed, following this defeat, a crusade project was once again born in the minds of certain Christian kings, but especially in the mind of Pope Clement V. The pope also wanted a merger of the two most powerful military orders in the Holy Land and made this known in a letter he sent to Jacques de Molay in 1306. The Master replied that he was opposed to the idea, fearing that the Order of the Temple would be merged with that of the Hospitallers, without being categorical. However, the arguments he put forward to support his own views were very thin. Finally, Jacques de Molay lacked diplomacy in refusing to allow the king to be made an honorary knight of the Temple.

Today, the involvement of the Pope in the arrest of the Templars is a matter of debate. Some historians speak of three meetings between Philip the Fair and Clement V, spread out from 1306 to 1308, during which the fate of the Templars was discussed.

However, these historians rely on an Italian chronicler by the name of Giovanni Villani, who is the only contemporary source to indicate a meeting in 1305 between the king and the pope, which, according to him, was to address the question of the suppression of the Order. Some other historians believe that this source is questionable, because the Italians had a strong resentment against Clement V, the French pope. The same historians attest to a meeting between the king of France and the pope in May 1307, a few months before the arrest. The royal lawyers will invoke, one year later, this meeting by affirming that the pope had then given his authorization to the king to carry out this arrest.

In 1308, with the bull Faciens misericordiam, Clement V appointed pontifical commissions to investigate the Order, on the sidelines of the secular proceedings initiated by the King of France, Philip IV the Fair.

Arrest of the Templars

The idea of destroying the Order of the Temple was already present in the mind of King Philip IV the Fair, but he lacked the evidence and confessions to initiate proceedings. This was done thanks to a major asset unearthed by Guillaume de Nogaret in the person of a former renegade Templar: Esquieu de Floyran (also known as "Sequin de Floyran" or "Esquieu de Floyrac"). According to the official story, Esquieu de Floyran (a bourgeois from Béziers or prior of Montfaucon) was imprisoned for murder and shared his cell with a Templar condemned to death who confessed to him the denial of Christ, the obscene practices of the rites of entry into the Order and sodomy.

Esquieu de Floyran, having failed to sell his rumors to James II of Aragon, succeeded in 1305 with the king of France, Guillaume de Nogaret subsequently paying Esquieu de Floyran to spread among the population the ideas of "denial of Christ and spitting on the cross, carnal relations between brothers, obscene kisses practiced by the knights of the Temple. Philip the Fair wrote to the Pope to inform him of the contents of these confessions.

At the same time, Jacques de Molay, aware of these rumors, asked for a papal investigation. The Pope granted this request on August 24, 1307. However, Philip the Fair did not wait for the results of the investigation, and prepared to arrest him at the abbey of Notre-Dame-La-Royale, near Pontoise, on the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross. On September 14, 1307, he sent messengers to all his seneschals and bailiffs, instructing them to seize all the Templars' movable and immovable property and to arrest them en masse in France on the same day, Friday, October 13, 1307. The purpose of this action was to take advantage of the fact that the Knights Templar were scattered throughout the country and to prevent them, alarmed by the arrest of some of their brothers, from regrouping and becoming difficult to arrest.

On the morning of October 13, 1307, Guillaume de Nogaret and his men-at-arms entered the walls of the Temple of Paris, where the Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, resided. When they saw the royal decree justifying the roundup, the Templars allowed themselves to be taken away without any resistance. In Paris, 138 prisoners were taken, in addition to the Master of the Order.

An identical scenario took place at the same time throughout France. Most of the Templars in the commanderies were arrested. They offered no resistance. A few managed to escape before or during the arrests. The prisoners were locked up for the most part in Paris, Caen, Rouen and the castle of Gisors. All their possessions were inventoried and entrusted to the custody of the Royal Treasury.

Those who, in 1306, had taken in Philip IV the Fair during the Paris riots were now incarcerated awaiting trial.

Since all the Templars in the kingdom of France had been arrested, Philip IV the Fair enjoined the European rulers (Spain and England) to do the same. All refused because they feared the Pope's wrath. The king of France was not discouraged and opened the trial of the Templars.

However, the Order of the Temple was a religious order and as such could not be subjected to secular justice. Philip the Fair therefore asked his confessor, William of Paris, who was also the Grand Inquisitor of France, to interrogate the one hundred and thirty-eight Templars arrested in Paris. Thirty-eight of these knights died under torture, but the process of "confessing" had been set in motion, resulting in accusations of heresy and idolatry. Among the most frequently confessed sins, the Inquisition recorded the denial of the Holy Cross, the denial of Christ, sodomy, the "foul kiss" and the worship of an idol (called the Baphomet). Three Templars resisted torture and did not confess to any obscene behavior.

In an attempt to protect the Order of the Temple, Pope Clement V issued the bull Pastoralis preeminentie, which ordered European sovereigns to arrest the Templars residing in their countries and to place their property under the administration of the Church. In order to gain legitimacy in the name of the people and to impress the Pope, the king convened the 1308 Estates General in Tours, which approved the condemnation of the Order, even though the Pope had interrupted the royal procedure initiated by Philip the Fair. In addition, the Pope asked to hear the Templars himself in Poitiers. However, since most of the dignitaries were imprisoned in Chinon, King Philip the Fair claimed that the prisoners (seventy-two in all, selected by the king himself) were too weak to make the trip. The pope then delegated two cardinals to go and hear the witnesses in Chinon. The Chinon manuscript or parchment that deals with this indicates that Pope Clement V gave absolution to the leaders of the Order on this occasion.

The first pontifical commission was held on November 12, 1309 in Paris. Its purpose was to judge the Order of the Temple as a legal entity and not individuals. To this end, it sent a circular to all the bishoprics on August 8 to bring the arrested Templars to appear before the commission. Only one brother denounced the confessions made under torture: Ponsard de Gisy, preceptor of the commandery of Payns. On February 6, 1310, fifteen out of sixteen Templars claimed their innocence. They were soon followed by most of their brothers.

The king of France then wished to gain time and had an archbishop appointed to the archbishopric of Sens who was totally devoted to him, Philippe de Marigny, half-brother of Enguerrand de Marigny.

On May 12, 1310, he sent to the stake fifty-four Templars who had denied their confessions made under torture in 1307 and were therefore relapsed. All the interrogations were completed on May 26, 1311.

Council of Vienna

The Council of Vienna, which took place on October 16, 1311 in the cathedral of St. Maurice in Vienna, had three objectives: to rule on the fate of the Order, to discuss the reform of the Church and to organize a new crusade.

However, during the council, some Templars decided to present themselves: there were seven of them and they wanted to defend the Order. The king, wanting to put an end to the Order of the Temple, left for Vienna with his men-at-arms to put pressure on Clement V. He arrived there on March 20, 1312. On March 22, 1312, the Pope issued the bull Vox in excelso which ordered the definitive abolition of the Order. As for the fate of the Templars and their property, the Pope issued two other bulls:

However, the fate of the dignitaries of the Order of the Temple remained in the hands of the Pope.

Fate of the dignitaries

A pontifical commission was appointed on December 22, 1313. It was made up of three cardinals and representatives of the king of France and was to rule on the fate of the four dignitaries of the Order. Before this commission, they reiterated their confessions. On March 11 or 18, 1314, the four Templars were brought to the square in front of Notre-Dame de Paris to have the sentence read to them. It was there that Jacques de Molay, Master of the Order of the Temple, Geoffroy de Charnay, Preceptor of Normandy, Hugues de Pairaud, Visitor of France, and Geoffroy de Goneville, Preceptor of Poitou-Aquitaine, learned that they had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay claimed their innocence. They had therefore lied to the judges of the Inquisition, were declared relapsed and handed over to the secular arm (in this case, the royal justice). Here is the description given by Guillaume de Nangis, a chronicler of the time, in his Latin Chronicle: "But just as the cardinals thought they had put an end to this affair, suddenly and unexpectedly two of them, the grand master and the master of Normandy, stubbornly defended themselves against the cardinal who had given the sermon and against Philippe de Marigny, the archbishop of Sens, retracting their confession and everything they had confessed.

The next day, Philip the Fair convened his council and, ignoring the cardinals, condemned the two Templars to the stake. They were taken to the Isle of the Jews to be burned alive. Geoffroi (or Godefroi) of Paris was an eyewitness to this execution. He wrote in his Metrical Chronicle (1312-1316), the words of the Master of the Order: "I see my judgment here, where to die suits me freely; God knows who is wrong, who has sinned. God knows who is wrong, who has sinned. Soon woe will befall those who have wrongly condemned us: God will avenge our death." Proclaiming his innocence and that of the Order to the very end, Jacques de Molay referred to divine justice, and it was before the divine court that he summoned those on earth who had judged him. Jacques de Molay's legendary curse, "You will all be cursed until the thirteenth generation," was later coined by esotericists and historians and inspired Maurice Druon's Les Rois maudits. The two condemned men asked to turn their faces towards Notre-Dame Cathedral to pray. They died with the utmost dignity. Guillaume de Nangis added: "We saw them so determined to undergo the torment of fire, with such a will, that they aroused the admiration of all those who witnessed their death...".

The royal decision had been so swift that it was realized afterwards that the small island where the stake had been set up was not under royal jurisdiction, but under that of the monks of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The king therefore had to confirm in writing that the execution in no way infringed on their rights to the island.

Giovanni Villani, a contemporary of the Knights Templar, but who did not witness the scene, added in his Nova Cronica that "the king of France and his sons were greatly ashamed of this sin", and that "the night after the aforementioned Master and his companion had been martyred, their ashes and bones were collected as sacred relics by the friars and other religious people, and taken to consecrated places". This testimony, however, is subject to suspicion, since Villani is a Florentine and wrote his work between one and two decades after the events.

Absent by the pope

The original Chinon parchment was found in 2002 by historian Barbara Frale in the Vatican Apostolic Archives and published in 2007 along with all the documents related to the trial.

It indicates that Pope Clement V finally secretly absolved the leaders of the Order. Their condemnation and burning at the stake was therefore the responsibility of King Philip the Fair and not that of the Pope or the Church, contrary to a widely held misconception. The four dignitaries who confessed were all absolved, but only the two who later denied their confessions were executed.

The dissolution of the order at the Council of Vienna and then the death of Jacques de Molay marked the official end of the Order of the Temple. The Templar goods, in particular the commanderies, were transferred by the papal bull Ad providam for the most part to the Hospitallers of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. However, not all Templar knights, brothers and servants were executed, many of them returned to civilian life or were taken in by other religious orders.

Templars in France

The order was declared extinct in 1312, and Pope Clement V ordered that all the Templars in the provinces be summoned and tried by provincial councils. If they were absolved, they could be given a pension from the Order's assets. In Catalonia, for example, the final word was given by the Archbishop of Tarragona, Guillem de Rocabertí, who pronounced the innocence of all Catalan Templars on November 4, 1312. The Mas Deu commandery, which had become a hospital possession, paid pensions to the knights, but also to non-nobles and servant brothers.

In December 1318, Pope John XXII wrote to the bishops of France to warn them that some brothers of the former Order of the Temple "had resumed their secular vestments" and asked them to withdraw pensions from brothers who did not comply with this warning.

Since Philip the Fair wanted to get his hands on some of the Templars' property, the Hospitallers did not cease to enforce the papal decisions, and ended up obtaining almost everywhere where the devolution of the Templars' property was decided.

Templars of the Kingdom of Aragon

In the kingdom of Aragon, the Knights Templar were divided into different orders, mainly into the Order of Montesa, created in 1317 by King James II of Aragon, from the branch of the Knights Templar that was found innocent in the 1312 trial in France. The assets of the Temple were transferred to it in 1319, but also to the Order of St. George of Alfama, created in the same period by the merger of the Order of Calatrava and the Knights Templar of France who had taken refuge in Spain.

As for the property of the Templars, in the kingdom of Aragon and the county of Barcelona, it will go to the Hospital when the Templars had not already sold it to trusted persons, and in the kingdom of Valencia, the Templar property and that of the Hospitallers will be merged into the new Order of Montesa.

Templars of Portugal

In Portugal, they passed to the Order of Christ. The "legitimate" successor of the Temple, the Militia of Christ was founded in 1319 by King Denis I and Pope John XXII. The property of the Templars was "reserved" at the initiative of the king, for the Portuguese Crown from 1309, and transferred to the Order of Christ in 1323. Many influences of the Order of Christ can be found from the beginning of the Portuguese "Great Discoveries", of which we will see the cross on the sails of the ships of Vasco de Gama during the passage of the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 (while the sails of the ships of Christopher Columbus during his crossing of the Atlantic in 1492, more likely bear the cross of the Order of Calatrava).

Templars of England

In England, King Edward II initially refused to arrest the Templars and seize their property. He summoned his seneschal of Guyenne and asked him to give an account, whereupon he wrote letters to the pope and the kings of Portugal, Castile, Aragon and Naples on October 30 and December 10, 1307. He defended the Knights Templar and encouraged them to do the same. On December 14, he received confirmation from the Pope to arrest the Templars. On January 8, 1308, he ordered that all members of the Order present in his country be seized and placed under house arrest, without resorting to torture.

A tribunal was set up in 1309, which finally absolved the repentant Templars in 1310. The transfer of the Templars' property to the Hospitallers, ordered by the papal bull of Clement V in 1312, was not carried out until 1324. It was on this date that the Temple Church, the headquarters of the Knights Templar in London, was transferred to the Hospitallers, before reverting to the English crown in 1540 when King Henry VIII dissolved the Hospitaller order, confiscated their property, and appointed the priest of the Temple Church "the Master of the Temple.

Templars of Scotland

In Scotland, the order of Clement V to confiscate all Templar property was not fully implemented, especially since Robert I of Scotland had been excommunicated and no longer obeyed the pope. William de Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrew, granted protection to the Knights Templar in Scotland in 1311. In 1312, they were even absolved in England and Scotland by Edward II, and reconciled in the Church. Then in 1314, the Templars helped Robert of Bruce win the battle of Bannockburn against the English, but their presence in this battle is hypothetical. On the other hand, many Templar traces were left in Scotland well after 1307, in the cemetery of Kilmartin for example, or in the village of Kilmory.

In the Germanic world

In Central Europe, the Order's property was confiscated and redistributed, some to the Hospitallers and some to the Teutonic Order. But few arrests were made in this province, and no Templars were executed.

Many of the German princes, secular and ecclesiastical, had sided with the Templars. The Order, feeling supported by the nobility and the princes, seems to have cared little for this judicial apparatus: the synod of the ecclesiastical province of Mainz dismissed all those in its district. The synod of the province of Trier was convened, and after an investigation, also pronounced a sentence of absolution. Emboldened by these two judgments, the Templars tried to maintain themselves on the banks of the Rhine, in Luxembourg and the diocese of Trier, and probably also in the duchy of Lorraine.

Remaining under the protection of their families and local lords, many of the knights were given life annuities, and large indemnities had to be paid by the Hospitallers to compensate them for the confiscated property, so much so that they sometimes had to resell the property that had been given to them.

The historian and archbishop William of Tyre wrote the Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum from 1167 onwards, a work in which he was initially favorable to the Templars, but became increasingly critical of them as they grew in power (pontifical privileges such as exemption from tithes and excommunication, the right to make collections in churches, and the obligation to render accounts exclusively to the Pope). Little by little, he says, the members of the Order became arrogant and disrespectful towards the ecclesiastical and secular hierarchy: William of Tyre is thus at the origin of the first legends about the Knights Templar, sometimes apologetic (the legend of the nine knights who remained alone for nine years), sometimes critical, accusing them in particular on several occasions of betraying the Christians for money

The tragic end of the Templars has contributed to generate legends about them. Among others, their supposed quest for the Holy Grail, the existence of a hidden treasure (such as the one envisaged at Rennes-le-Château for example), their possible discovery of documents hidden under Herod's Temple, certain hypotheses of their links with the Freemasons. Moreover, certain groups or secret societies (such as the Rosicrucians) or certain sects, such as the Order of the Solar Temple (and its survivors, such as the Militia Templi or the Ordo Templi Orientis) would later claim to be related to the Order, asserting their filiation by relying on the secret survival of the Order, without being able to prove it, or even by producing false documents.


: document used as a source for the writing of this article.


  1. Knights Templar
  2. Ordre du Temple
  3. a b c d et e « À partir d'une minutieuse analyse des documents existants, Rudolf Hiestand a proposé une autre date pour le concile de Troyes et, en conséquence, une autre date pour la fondation de l'Ordre. Les chartes du nord-est de la France sont alors datées dans le style (florentin) de l'Annonciation, qui fait débuter l'année non pas le 1er janvier, comme dans notre actuel calendrier, mais le 25 mars. L'année 1129 commence donc le 25 mars de notre année 1129, mais jusqu'au 24 mars les hommes d'alors vivaient toujours en 1128. Le concile de Troyes, réuni le 13 janvier 1128 selon les textes de l'époque, s'est donc tenu le 13 janvier 1129 de notre actuel calendrier. […] La démonstration a convaincu et la correction de date proposée pour le concile de Troyes est désormais acceptée par les historiens[1]. »
  4. ^ Solo l'Ordine dei canonici del Santo Sepolcro era sorto prima, nel 1100. In de Gennes, 2004, p. 189.
  5. Burman, p. 45.
  6. Barber, "Supplying the Crusader States" dice: En tiempos de Molay, el Gran Maestre presidía sobre 970 casas, incluyendo comandancias y castillos en el este y el oeste, asistido por un número de miembros que se estima no era menor a 7000, con la exclusión de empleados y dependientes, los cuales debieron haber sido siete u ocho veces ese número.
  7. Barber, Malcolm. The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-42041-5.
  8. Тамплиеры оказывали финансовые услуги паломникам в Святую землю, чем заложили практические основы банковского дела в христианском мире.

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