"Despite their extensive possessions, the Templars and Hospitallers were always claiming to be poverty- stricken. They sent out alms-collectors on a regular basis, to collect money from lay-people and clergy for their work in the Holy Land. Matthew Paris was probably expressing a widely-felt discontent when he wrote around 1245: "The Templars and Hospitallers receive so much income from the whole of Christendom, and, only for defending the Holy Land, swallow down such great revenues as if they sink them into the gulf of the abyss ..." Whatever did they do with all their wealth? Some Europeans concluded that they must be using their resources very inefficiently...
The charge that the Order of the Temple encouraged the brothers to acquire property fraudulently and to win profit by all possible means clearly reflects these complaints against the Templars and Hospitallers. For at least 150 years contemporaries had accused the military orders of lying and cheating because of their greed for wealth. In 1312 the same old criticisms against the Hospitallers arose again at the Council of Vienne, as the pope planned to bestow on them the former property of the Templars.
Interestingly, no critic before 1300 accused the Templars of immorality. In the mid-thirteenth century an English poet, writing in Anglo-Norman French, surveyed the whole of society and accused most of the clergy of womanising, even dropping hints about the Hospitallers. But he exempted the Templars, who were too busy making money to have time for sex: "The Templars are most doughty men and they certainly know how to look after themselves, but they love pennies too much; when prices are high they sell their wheat instead of giving it to their dependants."..."
Quotes from a paper by Helen Nicholson, Published in History Today Volume: 44 Issue: 12 1994, source text; source illustration