The Master of the Temple - a review worth reading

On his website Gordon Napier published an elabroate and apparently well researched review of the Masters of the Knights Templar through the ages. This review was an adapted version of A to Z of the Knights Templar by the same author. The following text quotes in full the introduction to this review with some minor adaptations.

"The Grand Masters were the leaders of the Knights Templar. The Hospitallers were also under a Grand Master, as were other Military Orders (the alternative term Grand Prior was sometimes used by the Hospitallers, and the term 'General Master' was also used). The leader of the Teutonic Knights was called the Hochmeister. The Term 'Grand Master' does not appear in the Templars' original rule (only 'Master') but it s generally understood to refer to the Order's leader.

The Grand Master was the spiritual, political and military leader of the Order. He was chosen by a complex electoral system similar to that used in Venice to elect the Doge. The Preceptors in the Holy Land would usually choose a provisional leader until an electoral college, drawn from the international Order's chapters, could be established. Eventually after a whittling down process, the next Grand Master, who was in theory supposed to be an experienced, professed brother of the Order, and not a partisan outsider. The Grand Master was supposed to be beyond the influence of Kings, and to answer only to the Pope. The Grand Master presided from Jerusalem. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 the main town became Acre. After the fall of Acre in 1292 the Order was presided from Cyprus.

The Grand Master was normally installed for life, though there was precedent for a Grand Masters resigning. He did not quite have autocratic powers within the Order, despite the emphasis on obedience as a sacred duty. He could not access the Order's treasury on his own; one key was retained by the Commander of Jerusalem, who was also the Treasurer. He in theory ruled with the advice of a council, the Chapter, and rather as in an important monastic institution, important decisions were usually made at chapter meetings. The Chapter had to approve any decision to make war or to accept peace treaties. Moreover the Grand Master's power seems to have been limited when it came to appointing regional preceptors. The local brethren were able to have a say in this.

The Grand Masters frequently toured Europe seeking succour for the Holy Land from the western sovereigns, and also visiting regional Preceptories. In his absence, a deputy called the Visitor had the task of inspecting regional Templar establishments, to ensure they were maintaining standards and supplying the required men, money and provisions to the East. The Grand Master was a great and important figure during the heyday of the Order, afforded the honours due to a prince. The latter Grand Masters lived in a palatial residence in Acre and travelled with a host of servants and retainers. " 

Read the whole review by Gordon Napier here.

Virtual visit to a Cistercian monastery

As the research of TemplarsNow is progressing, proof of the direct relationship between the Cistercian monastic Order and the Order of the Knights Templar is mounting. It becomes clear that the origin and original aims of the Knights Templar cannot be understood without understanding the Cistercian movement at the time. The start of the Cistercian Order preceded that of the Knights Templar only a few decades, it stood at the same region in north-eastern France and held the same actors form local noble families, with a pivotal role for the court of the Earl of Champagne at Troyes. Therefore, information on the onset of the Cistercian order is regularly added to this site.

In an earlier contribution the basic plan of an 12th century Cistercian monastery was presented. This lay-out was applied in most abbeys. The present new contribution shows a YouTube 3D representation of the same. This allows for a virtual visit to an original Cistercian monastery.

"The Templar Revelation" reviewed by Theresa Welsh

Key quotes from the review by Theresa Welsh of  The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians Of The True Identity Of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince.

"In this ambitious and controversial work by Picknett and Prince we find much more on the legends of France concerning Mary Magdalene and her possible connection to Jesus and the Christian movement. The authors also delve into the mystery of Rennes le Chateau, the story which originally inspired Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh to do the investigation which led to their astounding theories. Since that time, other books have also questioned the standard story of Christian beginnings, and have even revived the idea that historical Jesus did not exist. The controversy surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls has only added to the confusion about who the early Christians actually were and what they believed." ....

"Controversy swirls around the fact that some of the material from the scrolls seems "Christian" but actually predates the Jesus movement. This, like the material in The Templar Revelation, seems to show that the central ideas of Christianity are not new. Other authors have shown that the "suffering savior" theme was present in many pagan religions of the era. Many of us have absorbed and accepted the idea that Christianity is not based on any new ideas." ....

"Picknett and Prince take the idea further and show that the roots of Christianity are in the Egyptian religion, especially the cult of Isis and Osiris. Osiris was killed on Friday and resurrected three days later by the power of his wife Isis, who then conceives their son, Horus. But even more parallels with Jesus can be found in the basic beliefs of the Isis religion, which emphasized repentance and confession. It was not Jesus who originally brought this message to the Jews, but another character who figures prominently in occult circles, John the Baptist. John is seen by the authors as a rival of Jesus who founded a substantial movement that continued to exist even though persecuted by Jews, Christians, and Moslems. John too took his ideas from Egypt, including immersion in water as a purification rite." ...

"While I find much of the material illuminating and believable, the authors ultimately fall short of pulling it all together in the magnificent way of Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh in The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail."

"The Templar Revelation adds to the overall picture of the suppression of truth down through the ages, but it does not reveal any Great Truth. It's major contribution to this endless and wonderful debate is the Egyptian origins of Jesus' teachings. I previously assumed that Christianity began as a cult within Judaism, but these authors show that this may be a misperception, one fostered by the Church to hide its true, pagan origins. The original "holy family" was Osiris, Isis and Horus."

Read the whole review at; illustration: Eqyptian madonna: Isis with Horus child (source wikipedia)

Knights Templar and Freemasonry today

The Knights Templar degree is one of several additional Masonic degrees and Orders in which membership is open only to Freemasons who profess a belief in the Christian religion.

The individual Orders 'united' within this system are principally the Knights of the Temple (Knights Templar), the Knights of Malta, the Knights of St Paul, and only within the York Rite, the Knights of the Red Cross. The Order derives its name from the historical Knights Templar, but does not claim any direct lineal descent from the original Templar order.

The earliest documented link between Freemasonry and the Crusades is the 1737 oration of the Chevalier Ramsay. This claimed that European Freemasonry came about from an interaction between crusader masons and the Knights Hospitaller. This is repeated in the earliest known "Moderns" ritual, the Berne manuscript, written in French between 1740 and 1744.

Knights Templar can exist either as part of the York Rite within Free Masonry or as an independent organization outside of Freemasonry. Though the York Rite and the independent versions share many similarities there are key differences which are described below.

As a part of the Freemason York Rite a Knights Templar commandery is traditionally the final body that a member joins in the York Rite after the degree of the chapter of Royal Arch Masons and a council of Royal & Select Masters. The York Rite orders are: 1) The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, 2) The Passing Order of St. Paul, (or Mediterranean Pass), 3) The Order of the Knights of Malta (or simply Order of Malta) and 4) The Order of the Temple.

For the Knights Templar as an Independent Body outside the York Rite, membership is by invitation only. Candidates are required to be Master Masons, and Royal Arch Masons, and to sign a declaration that they profess the Doctrine of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Three degrees are administered in this system: 1) The Degree of Knight Templar (Order of the Temple), 2) The Degree of Knight of St. Paul (incorporating the Mediterranean Pass) and 3) The Degree of Knight of Malta (Order of Malta).

Outside the Masonic York Rite, history and legend concerning the historical Knights Templar also play an important role in the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, notably in the Rite's 30th Degree, Knight Kadosh. Other Scottish Rite degrees sometimes styled "Templar Degrees" include the 28th Degree (Knight Commander of the Temple, formerly denominated the 27th Degree in the Southern Jurisdiction of United States), the 29th Degree (Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew), the 32nd Degree (Master of the Royal Secret), and the 33rd Degree (Inspector General)

Despite Freemasonry's general disclaimer that no one Masonic organization claims a direct heritage to the medieval Knights Templar, certain degrees and orders are obviously patterned after the medieval Order. These are best described as "commemorative orders" or degrees. Nevertheless, in spite of the fraternity's official disclaimers, some Masons, non-Masons and even anti-Masons insist that certain Masonic rites or degrees originally had direct Templar influence.

source text wikipedia . Top illustration source; Bottom illustration source

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William of Tyre's account of the foundation of the Order of Knights Templar

Baldwin II ceeding the location of the Temple of Salomon
to Hugues de Payns and Gaudefroy de Saint-Homer.
The fourth person is Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem. source wikipedia
William of Tyre (c. 1130 – 29 September 1186) was a medieval prelate and chronicler. As archbishop of Tyre, he is sometimes known as William II to distinguish him from a predecessor, William of Malines. He grew up in Jerusalem at the height of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which had been established in 1099 after the First Crusade, and he spent twenty years studying the liberal arts and canon law in the universities of Europe.

"In this same year,[1118] certain noble men of knightly rank, religious men, devoted to God and fearing him, bound themselves to Christ's service in the hands of the Lord Patriarch. They promised to live in perpetuity as regular canons, without possessions, under vows of chastity and obedience. Their foremost leaders were the venerable Hugh of Payens and Geoffrey of St. Omer. Since they had no church nor any fixed abode, the king, gave them for a time a dwelling place in the south wing of the palace, near the Lord's Temple.The canons of the Lord's Temple gave them, under certain conditions, a square near the palace which the canons possessed. This the knights used as a drill field. The Lord King and his noblemen and also the Lord Patriarch and the prelates of the church gave them benefices from their domains, some for a limited time and some in perpetuity. These were to provide the knights with food and clothing. Their primary duty, one which was enjoined upon them by the Lord Patriarch and the other bishops for the remission of sins, was that of protecting the roads and routes against the attacks of robbers and brigands. This they did especially in order to safeguard pilgrims. 

William of Tyre source
For nine years after their founding, the knights wore secular clothing. They used such garments as the people, for their soul's salvation, gave them. In their ninth year there was held in France, at Troyes, a council at which the Lord Archbishops of Reims and Sens and their suffragans were present, as well as the Bishop of Albano, who was the legate of the apostolic see, and the Abbots of Citeaux, Clairvaux, Pontigny, with many others. This council, by command of the Lord Pope Honorius and the Lord Stephen, Patriarch of Jerusalem, established a rule for the knights and assigned them a white habit. 

Although the knights now had been established for nine years, there were still only nine of them. From this time onward their numbers began to grow and their possessions began to multiply. Later, in Pope Eugene's time, it is said that both the knights and their humbler servants, called sergeants, began to affix crosses made of red cloth to their mantles, so as to distinguish themselves from others. They have now grown so great that there are in this Order today [William was writing c. 1170-74] about 300 knights who wear white mantles, in addition to the brothers, who are almost countless. They are said to have immense possessions both here and overseas, so that there is now not a province in the Christian world which has not bestowed upon the aforesaid brothers a portion of its goods. It is said today that their wealth is equal to the treasures of kings. Because they have a headquarters in the royal palace next to the Temple of the Lord, as we have said before, they are called the Brothers of the Militia of the Temple. Although they maintained their establishment honorably for a long time and fulfilled their vocation with sufficient prudence, later, because of the neglect of humility (which is known as the guardian of all virtues and which, since it sits in the lowest place, cannot fall), they with drew from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, by whom their Order was founded and from whom they received their first benefices and to whom they denied the obedience which their predecessors rendered. They have also taken away tithes and first fruits from God's churches, have disturbed their possessions, and have made themselves exceedingly troublesome."

source: original source: William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum,XII, 7, Patrologia Latina 201, 526-27, Translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee,WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 70-73. Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work.