A Christian military order from the Crusades. Their original job was to guard Solomon's temple in Jerusalem. They made tons of loot and were eventually accused of devil worship and suppressed by the King of France and the Pope. Their stuff passed to the Hospitalers.

Some think the Templars survived, and still guard the Holy Grail. For more, read Umberto Eco's book "Foucault's Pendulum".

ObGrail: "He's already got one!"
Founded in 1118 by Hugo de Payens to protect pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land.

They became incredibly rich from the tithe a noble paid to enter the order and their conquests in Outremer during the Crusades. Many had Muslim friends and learnt medicine and why you should bathe daily from them.

They only answered to the Pope and their Grand Master. Their secret rituals were strange. Their churches were invariably circular.

The warrior-priests of the Knights Templar are probably one of the greatest mysteries of medieval times. Nearly everything about them, from their inception to end, is shrouded in a veil of uncertainty.

The first mystery is their origins. According to most histories, they were formed by a group of nine knights in 1118 after the end of the First Crusade resulted in the capture of Jerusalem. Their first leader was Hugues de Payen, a nobleman from Champagne, France. But why were they formed? One rumor is that they started as treasure hunters during the First Crusade. After Jerusalem fell, they excavated Solomon's temple, and the order was formed to protect it.

That is only one version of their origins. Another rumor is that the Templars were actually formed as the military arm of the Prieure De Sion, a very secretive groups of monks that at various times (all after the Templars) was said to include people such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton. According to this theory, the knights were formed in 1118 after the Prieure de Sion cut them loose.

Well, one way or another, they were formed. By 1130, over 300 knights were part of the order. Over the years, until 1302, the Templars became known as fierce warriors, genius tacticians, and incredible engineers. They participated in every crusade, and even fought against Genghis Khan's troops (and lost miserably). Even though their battle record wasn't perfect, and even though they commited horrible acts just like the others in the crusades, they gained the reputation of the "best of the best" of the European knights, and were respected by the people, the nobles, and even the Pope.

For a while anyway.

King Philip IV of France became jealous of the Templars, he felt they had too much power. So, conspiring with the Pope, the Templars were accused of worshipping the head of a demon in their temples. Since outsiders were not allowed to view Templar ceremonies, the public never really knew the truth. It has been a subject of debate over the years whether the accusations were true or simply an excuse to do away with the Templars.

Whether it was true or not, Friday the 13th, August 1306, an arrest edict was issued against the templars, and some of them were rounded up. In 1310, 54 Templars were burnt at the stake. At this, all those who were not in captivity fled. An interesting note: when the master of the Templars came to be burnt, he called for their accuser, Pope Clement V to be judged before God. Within a month, he died.

In 1312 the Templars were formally abolished, and their possessions were given to the Knights Hospitaller.

Their story doesn't end there, however. Many of the order fled to Scotland and survived. Records have been found to show that they probably survived until at least the 1800s, and perhaps even later (perhaps even still). During this time they were completely an underground organization, to keep from being hunted.

One rumor of their activities after their flight from mainland Europe is the discovery of the Americas. It is said that they landed in what is now Canada many years before Columbus's voyage. The most interesting rumor is that they were behind the Oak Island Water Pit. It makes sense, given their reputation as brilliant engineers. So, if they were behind the Water Pit, what is buried at the bottom?

Why, the Holy Grail, of course.

(Researched from a variety of web sites. Do a search on Yahoo! for a list of sources.)
Best Templar web site (and most used when writing this): http://www.web-site.co.uk/knights_templar/

From an essay I wrote on the subject for my high school english class:

Knights Templar

Around the year 1099, the Crusaders captured the Holy Land of Jerusalem from the Moslems. Still, Moslems controlled some of the land around Jerusalem (Palestine), and Christians making a pilgrimage to the holy land through their territory were often attacked. After many of the Crusaders had returned to their homeland, pilgrimage was a very dangerous undertaking.

The few Crusaders that remained in Jerusalem saw the problem the pilgrims were facing. In response to Moslem attacks, they created the Knights Templar, a Christian brotherhood with the sole purpose of clearing the nearby roads of enemies and to defend pilgrims travelling to the city. The Knights Templar became well known for their courage and skill in battle. They took monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and called themselves “Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ”.

In the year 1118, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ were officially recognized by the Church after 19 years of service. They were assigned a headquarters at the former site of the Temple of King Solomon. They then became known as Knights of the Temple, from which their modern name, Knights Templar, is derived.

The Templar continued to draw the admiration of the public, and various rulers of the time made large donations to the group in order to be identified with them. In the coming centuries, they lost more and more battles, but gained more money. Kings became jealous of their wealth. In 1314, King Philip of France arrested Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, and charged him with heresy. He was burned at the stake and all the Templar’s property was seized by France.

After Jacques de Molay was killed, the Templar were forced to go underground. Some believe that the organization remained in existence but hiding until the 18th century, when it resurfaced as a branch of the Masonic Order. However, there is little proof to support these claims. The Knights Templar remain today primarily as a charity organization.

Most of the information above was gathered from <http://www.knightstemplar.org/>
Curious facts about the Knights Templar and the Grail quest:

The Templars were started by Hugh de Payens, cousin of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who founded the Cistercian Order of monks. The Cistercians would go on to write not only the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, aka the Vulgate Cycle, but also the White Book of Rhydderch in Wales, whose romance Peredur is another version of the Grail romance. Another member of the original knights was Fulk V, grandfather of Henry II of England, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Fulk V was also the last King of Jerusalem.

Henry's cousin Philip of Alsace is the man who supplied Chretien de Troyes with the material for Perceval, the story of the Holy Grail. More interesting, it was the Council of Troyes in 1128 or so that really established the order. A connection? When at least three of the early grail texts name the Templars as guardians of the grail...

Finally, the Knights also help build Oxford, and were there at the same time Geoffrey of Monmouth was busy writing his History of the Kings of Britain, the first major Arthurian work in Latin (excluding Welsh sources--their impact is still being debated).

Why were the Knights Templar sucessful at first?

The Templars were firstly a religious order, and secondly a fighting one. It was considered far more important that all the members should lead holy lives than that they should make up a deadly and efficient fighting force. For this path to be successful a huge number of rules were established that would help to save the men’s souls. It is my hypothesis that the initial success of the Templars was due to popularity and respect, as well as physical gains that they would not have got as a more secular order. This of course wouldn’t have been the only reason for success. The legitimacy and formality of the Templars as an order, as established by the Council of Troyes would have helped in this respect as well.

The sacrifices that they had to make were severe and comparable with any contemporary monastic order. Templar members couldn’t hold wealth and property, and they had to wear plain clothes and use unadorned bridles etc. This extended to their bodies as well, there being several regulations forbidding shaving etc. It could have been thought that the Templars were good because of this, and would not want to keep many acquisitions they made through their military actions. A feature that made the Templars more attractive than a monastic order is that to be a knight literacy was non-compulsory. The order thus attracted those of a less academic inclination. One of the original rulings that enabled people from any station to join the order encouraged the poor to join up. This ruling was later changed, so that only the son of a knight or a knight could become a Templar. Some practicalities were included in the rules to prevent the complete downfall of the knights as a fighting force, but it is obvious that religion was still more important. For example the Cistercian monks didn’t eat meat as it was supposed to corrupt the body, but the Templars were allowed it three times per week as a concession.

The Council of Troyes helped get the Templars started, and ensured that they received official recognition right from the start. This council and its results wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of Hugh of Payns the first Grand Master of the Templars. Bernard, the Abbot of Clairvaux was persuaded to back the order by Hugh of Payns and it may have been his great charisma and character that enabled the other members of the council of Clairvaux to approve the founding of the order. The harsh rules of the Templars, drawn up to ensure that godliness reigned within Templar walls, and discussed above would surely also have helped make the decision of the council what it was. The involvement of important men at this stage, as at others goes some way towards explaining why the Templars were able to acquire influence, as well as success.

After the Council of Troyes the authorities continued to be helpful to the Templars, and ensure their success. Of particular interest is the granting of a papal bull in 1139 from Innocent II. This would have gone well with the expansion of the order as chapter houses were set up in many locations around Europe, and fortresses in the Holy Land, as it enabled greater freedom, both in doings and financially. While the order was primarily founded to help the causes of Christian pilgrims it had diversified and become fairly well spread. The running costs of such an organisation would have been high. For example the order controlled its own stud farms to raise horses for the knights and the sergeants, so money had to be spent on food, and care, and equipment, just in this regard. The papal bull meant, among other things that while the Templars received tithes for land that they owned they would never have to pay them to anyone. The only authority that they would have to answer to after the bull was that of the Pope himself.

As well as financial and organisational success the Templars were not without it in a military sense. They took part in the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula, as well as many conflicts in the Holy Land. These, while not particularly impressive would have at least maintained some interest and support in the military capabilities of the order, and prevented accusations of incompetence for at least that period of time. They did not arise at a perfect time from the war waging point of view, but there was still continual conflict that enabled them to be useful.

To conclude, when all the facts are considered the success no longer seems that impressive, so it must be derived that they therefore account for the early success and influence of the Templar order.

Node your Homework:
This makes me level 2, after nearly a year, yipee.

The Knights Templar were a Militant Monastic order, that is, by the time they were chartered they had one and only one purpose, to liberate the holy land from "the infidel", (sic: Muslims). As many persons have stated, they were avid archeologists, and from humble beginnings, after a period of digging under the remains of Solomon's Temple emerged wealthy and powerful.

The organization of the order was quite sophisticated, in that there were a number of classes of members, both of the Knightly and peasant classes. The bulk of these members were military knight/monks, who had two avocations, literally: praying and fighting. Overseeing these individuals were the literate/clerical arm which was responsible for the administration of the various aspects of the order. To be a member of either of these groups, one had to be of the Knightly class. This was the basis of their allegedly incredible wealth. Pesants who entered the order became farm labourers and foot soldiers, or Sargents at Arms.

Typically, the persons who entered the order were the second sons of the European nobility, who were not in a position to inherit their family's lands and fortunes. Once a vow of poverty was taken, all of the individuals property became the property of the order. Curiously, if a member became eligible to inherit his family's fortune through the death of an elder sibling, that property passed to the order. Between this, the entry tithe, and grants paid by noble families over the two centuries or so of its existence, the order acquired substantial European holdings.

As their size and influence grew, and as the political climate in Europe changed, so the Templars changed. Eventually, as time went on, they lost the Holy Land, and their Mediteranean holdings. As a result, they became an army with out purpose, answerable only to the Pope.

Their downfall was a function of the changing political climate in Europe. The Papacy was unable to convince European princes to crusade on its behalf, and governments, chiefly Phillip II of France, were wary of their power, both military and financial. By the end of the fourteenth century, the Knights Templar had lost their raison d'etre, and were a liability to the Pope who could not afford them, and to Phillip II who owed them great sums of money.

There is great popular curiosity about the whereabouts of the Templar navy and fortune. It is apparent that the Templar Masters themselves had some forewarning of the consequences of the Paris meeting, on account of the disappearance of the Templar navy, and empty coffers. Where they went is a matter of speculation, that has kept scholars and enthusiasts occupied for years.

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