Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hugues de Payens - founder of the Knights Templar

There is no contemporary biography in existence and no later writers cite one that is still extant. Information is therefore extremely scanty and any embellishments often rely on people writing decades or even centuries after De Payens' death.
He was probably born at Château Payns, about 10 km from Troyes, in Champagne around the year 1070. Hugo de Pedano, Montiniaci dominus is mentioned as a witness to a donation by Count Hugh of Champagne in a record dated to 1085-90, indicating that the man was at least sixteen by this date—a legal adult and thus able to bear witness to legal documents—and so born no later than 1070. His name appears on a number of other charters up to 1113 also relating to Count Hugh, indicating that De Payans was almost certainly part of the Count's court and allowing speculation that he was related to the Count.
Within this period he also married, to a woman recorded as Elizabeth de Chappes (or by later chroniclers as Catherine St. Clair), and fathered at least one child—Thibaud, later abbot at La Colombe.

Some sources suggest the Count Hugh of Champagne went on the First Crusade in 1096, other sources do not. If he did it is reasonable to believe De Payans accompanied him and therefore it is likely that Hugues served in the army of Godfroi de Bouillon during the Crusade.
Count Hugh did make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1104-07 and visited Jerusalem for a second time in 1114-16. It is probable that he was accompanied by Hugues, who remained there after the Count returned to France as there is a charter with "Hugonis de Peans" in the witness list from Jerusalem in 1120 and again in 1123. In 1125 his name appears again as a witness to a donation, this time accompanied by the title "magister militium Templi".
In 1118 De Payens approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem with eight knights, two of whom were brothers and all of whom were his relatives by either blood or marriage, in order to form the first of the Knights Templar.

In 1128, after the by Saint Bernard-inspired Council of Troyes in which the Church officially recognized the Templars as a religious and military order, De Payens became the first Grand Master. He led the Order until his death in 1136, helping to establish the Order's foundations as an important and influential international military and financial institution.
He died in Palestine in 1136, May 24.

adapted from wikipedia

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