The Knights Templar were among the most notable knightly orders which were created in medieval Christendom, primarily as a part of Christian struggle for control over the Holy Lands. The Order was created in 1119 and maintained its earliest headquarter at the Temple Mount.
It was believed that the Temple Mount stood atop the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, and over time this association earned Knights Templar additional esteem. Because of this association, the Order also came to be called the Order of the Solomon’ Temple.
Knights Templar and the Temple of Solomon History
The control of Jerusalem fell to the Christendom in 1099 during the First Crusade. However, Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land from Europe were exposed to attacks by bandits on their way. Knights Templar was originally created in 1119 in order to protect these pilgrims.
The Knights Templar received official recognition from the Papacy in 1129, making it a very esteemed and powerful knightly order. It rose in fame as a vital body of troops during Crusades, valiantly fighting Muslim armies.
By later 12th century, Jerusalem was lost to Muslim invaders and the Templars declined in power. Although it remained very powerful until the 14th century, the Order came into conflict with the French King Philip IV who had the Order’s leaders arrested in 1307 and disbanded the organisation.
Knights Templar Origins
The Knights Templar order was created in 1119 through the efforts of the French knight Hugues de Payens. Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and requested the creation of the Order in order to protect the Christian pilgrims.
Baldwin agreed and allowed the Templars to take the Temple Mount as their headquarters. The Order came to be called the “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon”. The Order was initially very poor but in 1129 it received approval from the Church. This made the Knights Templar a veritable Order which the nobility eagerly joined and donated to, making it the most powerful and rich Order of the time.
Role in the Crusades
The Knights Templar had a very important role in Crusades during which it acted as the front troops of combat. Templar knights usually came from noble families, were very well-trained in combat and donned a solid armour. They rode at the head of the army and attempted to break open the frontlines of the enemy forces.
At the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, a few hundreds knights of the Order proved decisive in defeating Saladin’s army. They had the reputation of being fierce warriors who acted by the knightly codes of chivalry and fought bravely in the battlefield.
This role diminished following the Battle of Hattin in 1187 where Saladin decisively routed the Christian army and the Templar knights couldn’t do much to turn the tide.
Knights Templar as Financial Organisation
Apart from its military and ecclesiastical role, Knights Templar also served as a very efficient financial organisation and is considered one of the oldest banks to have existed.
The knights of the order themselves were sworn to poverty and were frequently given large donations as well as control of estate by the nobility to look after. This brought large holdings under Templar control.
Since the Order directly dealt with Christian pilgrims, the Templars began issuing letters of credit in 1150, allowing pilgrims to deposit their funds at one place and withdraw them at another Templar location.
By the 13th century, the Order had a vast financial network, a fleet of ships and owned the entire island of Cyprus, being actively involved in many businesses, upkeep of estates and other financial activities.
Knights Templar Decline
Following the end of Crusades, the original purpose of the Knights Templar had come to an end. However, given the vast financial structure that it overlooked, the Order continued to exist and command a lot of authority.
It had a huge amount of assets under its control, was one of the wealthiest organisations in Christendom and operated with political immunity in different European territories. This led to an animosity between the Order and the European rulers, which eventually culminated in the end of the Order.
The End of Knights Templar
King Philip IV of France held animosity towards the Knights Templar Order, probably because he owed a huge debt to the Order. He pressured his relative Pope Clement V to bring down the Order. Seizing on a rumour of Order’s corruption, Philip IV ordered the arrest of Order’s Grand Master and other leading members in 1307.
King Philip made claims that the Order was involved in unreligious, heretical and criminal activities. To add to this, Pope Clement V issued a “papal bull” outlawing the Order in 1312 and dissolving it in 1312.
In 1314, the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at stake. Before the end of the year, both the King and the Pope met their deaths as well.
Knights Templar Code of Conduct
The members of the Order were required to strictly adhere to a code of conduct which came to be called the Latin Rule. This required the knights to wear a white surcoat with a red cross on the chest and to wear this garment at all times. They were required to eat in silence, never eat meat more than thrice in a week and severe all connections with any women.
The Knights Templar were an Order was established in early 12th century in order to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. The Order proved a formidable force during the early battles of the Crusades and was critical in helping Christian armies secure their victory.
Over time, Knights Templar grew into a vast organisation with immense resources under its control and political autonomy in many matters. It continued to exist and operate after the Crusades but came to an end when French King Philip IV launched an inquisition against the Order in early 14th century. Backed by the Papal authority, Philip had the leading members of the Order burnt at the stake and the assets of the Order seized.