Aristocratic and monastic primacy in the 12th century County of Champagne, France

In his book The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300, Theodore Evergates sketches the administrative situation in the County of Champagne, France in the 12th century. Champagne is the birth place of the Cistercian monastic Order, and also played an important part in founding of the Knights Templar. Evergates summarizes the setting as follows:

"The area around Champagne remained a highly fragmented frontier zone between the French royal domain and the German Empire, extending from Burgundy in the south to Namur in the north. It remained independent because the surrounding counties around Reims, Châlons and Langres became episcopal principalities in the course of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Of the old episcopal cities in Champagne, only Troyes and its county remained under a firm lay hand of the counts of Champagne, a comital state from virtually independent lesser regional princes.

The county of Champagnes was in  fact a fusion of the old major counties of Meaux and Troyes, and a combination and adjacent lordships ruled by the family of Hughes Comte de Champagne (1093-1125) both before and after his rule. Hughes preferred the title Comte de Troyes over the broader title Comte de Champagne, Troyes being his primary residence, the most important and only episcopal town.

As all worldly rulers of those days, Hughes was most occupied by resolution of disputes regarding monastic property as is recorded by documents.These documents were drawn up and preserved by monastic scribes, Hughes lacking a proper chancery and clerics to write and record documents or maintain and archive his correspondence. Altogether perhaps 1000 documents survive from the first half of the 12th century, of which a quarter is held at the archives of Molesme Abbey, progenitor of the Cistercian Order.

Hughes abdicated in 1125 when he decided to join the Templar Knights, recently founded by one of his barons Hughes de Payns, and was succeeded by his uncle Thibault. Shortly after Thibault succeeded Hughes, he confirmed and sealed a document recapitulating count Hughes' grants to the monks of Molesme in 1097, 1104 and 1108. 

Thibault continued to develop the County, introducing immigrants to help develop the sparsely populated countryside. He enticed merchants to the new trade fairs in his own towns on the route between northern Europe and the Mediterranean, setting a model for protected and regulated places for trade.

As did Hughes, Thibault kept a lenient and collegial rule towards his barons in private affairs, except to protect the rights of religious communities and promote donation of fiefs to monasteries, whereas Thibault also allowed them to donate fiefs to the Templars. These examples were followed by other lords who also encourages their own knights, barons and notables to donate fiefs to monasteries. The pre-1150 charters illustrate a diverse and stratified class of proprietors and donators.

By the end of the 12th century the open-ended right of monasteries and Temple houses alike to receive fiefs was limited. The lords of those days did regulate and ratify alienation on an individual basis, but also contested alienation that had taken place without their explicit consent and even confiscated properties which had been taken without consent. They also tried to slow the rate of alienation by levying a 20 percent tax on the seller."

source The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300 (The Middle Ages Series)

The Templar's first task: highway police in peace time

According to recent research referenced in the source quoted at the bottom, after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 the Kingdom of the Franks did not endure a perpetual state of emergency, as the chroniclers and many historians wanted us to believe. Rather, the roughly ninety years leading to Saladin’s decisive victory over the Frankish army at Hattin in 1187, which put an end to the first Frankish kingdom, can be divided into a period of frequent military engagement between Franks and Muslims, a period of relative security, and a period of sustained Muslim offensive, which resulted in the creation of the Frankish frontier.

The first of these periods, which lasted from 1099 until 1115, was defined by the frequent incursions of Fatimid armies from Egypt and Seldjuk armies from the east into the kingdom of  Jerusalem. The second period, lasting from 1115 until 1167, witnessed a sharp decline in the number of orchestrated Muslim attacks and an increase in Frankish offensive campaigns. This coincided with the establishment and re-enforcement of numerous fortresses, particularly in the south-western part of the kingdom. The third period, which lasted from about 1167 until 1187, saw the crusader states put under increasing pressure from a united Muslim enemy under the charismatic leadership of Nur ad-Din and Saladin.

The chronology, even in its narrowest terms, suggests that the Order of the Temple was founded, and the Order of St John became military, in the second period, and thus at a time of relative peace and security. The frequency of Muslim attacks during that period was approximately twelve times less than during the first stage, from 1099 to 1115. What the founding brothers of the Order of the Temple would have been experiencing was, in relative terms, a period of peace and Frankish expansion.

The creation of the military orders was therefore also a response to a different kind of immediate threat, one that grew from within the newly created crusader states, albeit often with the support of, or influenced by, Aleppo, Damascus or Cairo. In the case of the Templars it is well documented that an important element of that perceived threat was the danger created by roaming bands of highwaymen, who preyed on pilgrims and other travellers using the old pilgrim roads. The road leading east from Acre to Rama was, according to the eleventh-century Persian traveller Nasir Kushraw, beleaguered by ‘disorderly men, who set upon anyone whom they saw to be a stranger in order to rob him of everything that he had.’ The same was true for a stretch of the road leading from Rames to Jerusalem, where travelers suffered from the attacks of nearby villagers who were eventually smoked out of their mountain hideouts and killed by Baldwin of Edessa.

The resulting picture concords with the traditional view that the original purpose of the Knights Templar was to provide protection on the roads of the Kingdom, but not against formal Muslims armies but against irregular tribal groups of different origin. Another blog will elaborate on the origin of these groups

With the intention of "fair use", this entry quotes freely from the paper by Jochen G. Schenk entitled: "Nomadic Violence in the First Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Military Orders",  published in  Reading   Medieval   Studies,  36  (2010): 39-55. Illustration source

Evrard des Barres - Templar Grand Master and Cistercian monk

Evrard des Barres was the third Grand Master of Knights Templar from 1147-1151. He entered Clairvaux near the end of the life of St. Bernard (died 1153). This again is an illustration of the close relationships that existed between the Knights Templar and the Cistercian Order.

Evrard was born at Meaux in Champagne around 1113 and rose rapidly through the Order of the Temple. By 1143, he was preceptor of France and on Easter of 1147 convoked the General Chapter of the Order in France that gave its support to Louis VII in the disastrous Second Crusade, preached by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Evrard accompanied Louis and Eleanor of Aquitaine to the Holy Land. After a successful march through Anatolia, he was given command of the entire French force by King Louis, who praised the Templars in a letter to Abbot Suger, his regent during his absence.

Once arrived in Antioch, Evrard arranged a loan for Louis, launching the Templars career as bankers to the French monarchy and, arguably, sowing the seed of the order’s downfall some 150 years later. He took part in the disastrous siege of Damascus and, after the ensuing debacle, returned to France with the king. He resigned his office and lived for more than 20 years as a monk of Clairvaux, dying in November 15, 1176.

Conspiracy theorists list Evrard as being Grand Master of the Priory of Sion from 1147 to 1150. Here we have yet another connection between the Cistercians and the grand plot to control the universe, and still Opus Dei gets all the credit. Maybe we’re just better at this hidden life business.

adapted from Dom Donald's blog, November 2010; Illustration coat of arms Evrard des Barres source wikipedia

Templars in Sweden?

People who read Jan Guillou's books on Arn Magnusson, the imaginary Swedish Knight Templar, often ask if there really have been Knights Templar as far up north as Sweden. It has of course been speculated that the noble man who appears in the relief on Forshems church, and who inspired Guillou, must have been a Knight Templar. Is there reason to believe this? No, not really. For several reasons.

Firstly, it is highly unlikely that a Templar Knight,  an elite soldier-monk,  should in person have taken the land and built a church in Sweden in the 1100s . The man who took the initiative for the building was in all probability a wealthy local landowner and his family, not a warrior monk.

Secondly, there is no written evidence for a single Knight Templar in these northern latitudes, although there is considerable evidence for the second Crusader. There were plenty of Knights Hospitaller in the Nordic countries (for example in Eskilstuna) and during the 13th and 14th century the Teutonic Knights held considerable estates in eastern Sweden. If the Templars were here, one would surely have heard of them too.

A third argument is that actually a North European variant of the Knights Templar was founded, the Fraters Militiae Christi (commonly known as "sword brothers" or "sword knights", the name coming from their white robe adorned with red insignia in the shape of a cross and a sword). During the first decades of the 13th century these knights had conquered most of present Latvia and Estonia. Their words were rule and their buildings resembled those of the Templars but instead were derived more directly from the buildings constructed by the fully monastic Cistercian order. If the Knights Templars themselves had been present in the Baltic Sea area, it would have been unnecessary to found the almost identical order of the sword knights.

The closest the Knights Templar are known to have come up to the north in the sense of land ownership or  permanent presence, was in Poland. Their influence there was short lived. It was limited to control of lands by the rivers Vistula and Bug in the mid 13th century.

translated from Swedish and adapted from

The Templars and Nostradamus - myth or truth?

In his book  Nostradamus and the Lost Templar Legacy (2003) Rudy Cambier presents the results of his decade long research and analysis of the verses of Nostradamus' 'prophecies'. He shows that  the language of those verses does not belong in the 16th Century, nor in Nostradamus' region of Provence, France. The language spoken in the verses belongs to the medieval times of the 14th Century, and the French-Belgian border.

According to Cambier the documents known as Nostradamus' prophecies were not written in ca. 1550 by the French 'visionary' Michel de Nostradame. Instead, they were composed between 1323 and 1328 by a Cistercian monk, Yves de Lessines, prior of the abbey of Cambron, on the border between France and Belgium. According to the author, these documents reveal the location of a Templar treasure. This key insight allowed Cambier to translate the 'prophecies'.

But rather than being confronted with a series of cataclysms and revelations of future events, Cambier discovered a possible even more stunning secret. Yves de Lessines had waited for many years for someone called 'l'attendu', the expected one. This person was supposed to come to collect the safeguarded treasures of the Knights Templar, an organisation suppressed in 1307. But no-one came. Hence, the prior decided to impart the whereabouts and nature of the treasure in a most cryptic manner in verses. 220 years later, this document was stolen from a library by Nostradamus, who would make the enigmatic texts world famous, claiming they were 'prophecies'.

The story, however, does not end here. The location identified in the documents and discovered by Cambier has since been suggested to indeed contain what Yves de Lessines said they would contain: barrels of gold, silver and documents. However, professional research on the proposed burial site has not yet been allowed and solid proof is still lacking.

In his latests book L'oeuvre du Vieux Moine : Volume 1, Le dernier chemin des Templiers (2013; for now only in French), Cambier elaborates further on this theory. A book that merits soon translation in English.

text adapted from

Back to the truth in sound sources

TemplarsNow seeks to collect and present the true story of the Knights Templar in north-western continental Europe. However, history is taken into consideration if it contributes to a better understanding of the original character of the Knights Templar which may still be of importance today. Historical items mainly focus on the early years of the Knights Templar and their partners and direct predecessors at the end of the 11th and the first half of the 12th century.

This work is hampered by much pseudo-information in books and on internet that is at least imaginative and at worst sensational. Such work is often characterized by repetition of earlier published information without presenting any or sufficient primary sources. Obviously, well documented information, based on sound historical research with ample professional references, preferably primary sources, is of the utmost importance for an objective picture of the Knights Templar, their origin and their impact then and, probably, now.

The following set of well annotated sources are sound and valuable introductions to professional literature on the Knights Templar. A useful collection of annotated primary sources is The Templars Selected Sources Translated And Annotated by Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate (2002).

The best introductions to the Templars are
* Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (1994, reissued 1996)
* Alan Forey, The Military Orders from the Twelfth to the Early Fourteenth Centuries (New Studies in Medieval History) (1992)
* Helen Nicholson, The Knights Templar: A New History, new ed. (2004).

The fall of the Templars is discussed in Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars, 2nd ed. (2012).

Templar myths are the subject of Peter Partner, The Knights Templar and Their Myth, rev. ed. (1990).

A full collection of books thought of by scolars as sound and reliable can be found on our special "Reliable Books" Page. 


Cluny Abbey - the islamic link to Christian France

Al-Khwārizmī  source
Islamic knowledge contributions to Medieval Europe were numerous, affecting such varied areas as art, architecture, medicine, agriculture, music, language, and technology. From the 11th to 13th centuries, Europe absorbed knowledge from the Islamic civilization.

In the course of the 11th century the works of Euclid and Archimedes, lost in the West, were translated from Arabic to Latin in Spain. The modern Hindu-Arabic numerals, including a notation for zero, were developed by Hindu mathematicians in the 5th and 6th centuries. Muslim mathematicians learned of it in the 7th century and added a notation for decimal fractions in the 9th and 10th centuries. Around 1000, Gerbert of Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II, c. 946 – 12 May 1003) made an abacus with counters engraved with Hindu-Arabic numbers. A treatise by Al-Khwārizmī on how to perform calculations with these numerals was translated into Latin in Spain in the 12th century.

Petrus Venerabilis source
Direct knowledge of islamic religion and belief gained strong momentum whith the activities of Petrus Venerabilis (“ Peter the Venerable”, c. 1092 – December 25, 1156), abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Cluny, Burgundy. He is well known for collecting sources on and writing about Islam. He took a long sabbatical journey to Spain to study with Islamic scholars of all ranks and published the first Latin edition of the Koran. His Talmudic contributions are tenuous and still under scrutiny.

Peter's true brilliance came to light between 1138-1142, especially after his translation of the Koran became required reading to the entire Benedictine world and for all preachers of the crusades. A proponent of studying Islam based upon its own sources, he commissioned a comprehensive translation of Islamic source material, and in 1142 he traveled to Spain where he met his translators.

The Arabic manuscripts which Peter had translated may have been obtained in Toledo, which was an important centre for translation from the Arabic. The project translated a number of texts relating to Islam (known collectively as the "corpus toletanum"). They include the Apology of al-Kindi; and most importantly the first-ever translation into Latin of the Arabic Qur'an (the "Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete") for which Robert of Ketton was the main translator. Peter of Toledo is credited for planning and annotating the collection, and Peter of Poitiers (Peter the Venerable's secretary) helped to polish the final Latin version. The team also included Robert of Ketton's friend Herman of Carinthia and a Muslim called Mohammed. The translation was completed in either June or July 1143. With this translation, the West had for the first time an instrument for the serious study of Islam.

Peter used the newly translated material in his own writings on Islam, of which the most important are the Summa totius heresis Saracenorum (The Summary of the Entire Heresy of the Saracens) and the Liber contra sectam sive heresim Saracenorum (The Refutation of the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens). In these works Peter portrays Islam as a Christian heresy that approaches paganism.

While his interpretation of Islam was basically negative, it did manage in setting out a more reasoned approach to Islam through using its own sources rather than those produced by the hyperactive imagination of some earlier Western Christian writers.

main source

Bernard de Clairvaux - 900 years at Citeaux

The ninth centenary of Bernard de Fontaine’s entry into the Abbey of Cîteaux (1112 or 1113?) is celebrated during the Vocations Year 2012-2013. After founding Clairvaux Abbey in 1115 Bernard became better known as Bernard de Clairvaux, the spiritual leader of the Cistercian Order and (after 1127) of the Order of the Knights Templar.

On this occasion Dom Olivier, abbot of present day Cîteaux Abbey, has asked to pass on the following invitation to all the members of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance O.C.S.O.. This request is relayed here in full.
"Our community is going to celebrate the ninth centenary of St Bernard’s entering of Cîteaux (1112 or 1113?). To mark the event, we are setting up a campaign of prayer for vocations, from 20th August 2012 to 20th August 2013. We invite you to join us with this prayer:


Most gracious Father,
in setting up the New Monaster your fathers followed the poor Christ into the desert.
Thus they lived the Gospel
by rediscovering the Rule of Saint Benedict in its purity.

You gave Bernard of Fontaine
the ability to make this new life attractive and appealing to others,
in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Grant that we today, after their example,
may live our charism deeply
in a spirit of peace, unity, humility,
and above all, in the charity which surpasses all other gifts.
May men and women of our time
be newly called to follow the Gospel in monastic life,
in the service of the Church’s mission,
and in a world forgetful of You.

Remember Lord, Cîteaux,
where Bernard arrived with his companions.
May the brothers there
continue to live in the enthusiastic and generative spirit of the founders.

Remember all who live the Cistercian charism.

Remember all Cistercian communities,
those which are aging and those newly-born,
in all parts of the world, north and south, east and west.

Let them not lose courage in times of trial,
but turn to her whom Bernard called the Star of the Sea.

Holy Father,
from whom we have already received so much,
grant us again your blessing
that our communities may grow in numbers,
but above all in grace and in wisdom,
to your glory,
who are blessed for ever and ever.

sources text and illustration

Troyes de Champagne - the jewish link

Rashi - source
A Hebrew school of great importance, directed by the highest rabbinical authorities and attended by numerous students from various lands, especially Germany and France, flourished at Troyes in the twelfth century. Several synods whose ordinances were adopted in foreign countries assembled at Troyes about 1160.

Among the most noted scholars of the city were jewish scolars of which Rashi is the best known. The name Rashi was an acronym from his full name RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki. Rashi (February 22, 1040 – July 13, 1104), was a medieval French rabbi and long highly esteemed as a major contribution Ashkenazi Jewry gave to Torah study. Rashi lived during the reigns of two local noblemen: Thibaud I who took part in the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and Hughes I, the first Earl of Champagne, well known protector of  the Cistercian reform of the Benedictine Order and of the Order of the Knights Templar.

The Jews also depended on the protection of the Earls and their quarter stood in the shadow of the chateau. They were regarded an important source of revenue, because they owned vineyards and other real estate. Therefore effort was taken to safeguard and sustain this source of income. At the end of the twelfth century and at the beginning of the thirteenth the Earls of Champagne and the King of France entered into an agreement by which the contracting parties bound themselves to surrender to each other all Jews who should quit the domains of the one and settle in the territories of the other. In 1204 all rights over the Jews who settled in Ervy were waived by the Seigneur d'Ervy in favor of Countess Blanche of Troyes; and in 1222 Thibaud, Count of Champagne, acknowledged the receipt for 160 livres given by the Jews of the city to Jacob, "Master of the Jews of Troyes."

page of The Stephan Harding Bible - source
The Jewish scolars were also highly regarded on matters of the old Hebrew books and consulted by local christian scolars. The Benedctine Siegbert of Gembloux, teaching at Metz about 1070, consulted with Jewish scholars with a view to establishing a more authentic text for his Latin translation of the Septuagint. The Cistercian Nicholas Maniacoria of Trois-Fontaines (Champagne region), although a Hebraist, likewise consulted the rabbis. He produced his own revision of the Bible based on the Paris text (although the original is lost), with the program of removing additions (especially from the Old Testament) and restoring original readings and arbitrarily deleted texts. In his Libe/us de corruptione et correptione Psalmorum, written about 1145, he also questions the principle that the longer text is automatically better.

Stephen Harding, first abbot of Citeaux and as such founder of the Cistercian order, made the first revision of the Cistercian Breviary in an attempt to clean up corruptions that had crept into Medieval chant. He also produced a new translation of the Vulgate by consulting the most ancient texts available and by conferring with rabbis on the trickier points of some Hebrew passages. The Stephen Harding Bible is considered a treasure of illumination and shows the workmanship that made the scriptorium of Citeaux famous in its early days before complex illumination was curtailed under the influence of Bernard de Clairvaux.

sources,, and

Templar and Cistercian family ties

In his book "Templar Families: Landowning Families and the Order of the Temple in France c 1120 - 1307" ( 2012 Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK) Jochen Schenk presents the following views.

"Through kindred the Order of the Temple maintained close ties with leaders of society(...) These relationships were mutually beneficial. Concentrating on the duchy of Burgundy, the county of Champagne, and mainly the area that is now commonly referred to as Languedoc in southern France, this book investigates how commonplace these ties, contested as they may have been, were in regions where the Order of the Temple demonstrably flourished and what it was that brought this about."

"What seems to have predisposed some knights and nobles to embrace the Order of the Temple as a new religious institution worthy of association and patronage, was the fact that they and their families were already heavily involved in the Order of Cîteaux (the Cistercian Order, TN) and were able to reconcile the concept of military religion with reform monasticism. This is one strand of influence that so far has not been given much attention and that this book aims to follow up."

"The first decades of the twelfth century not only witnessed the rise of the Templars in Burgundy and Champagne. It was also the time of rapid Cistercian expansion in the region, an expansion that was largely fed by benefactions and recruitment from the same families that one encounters in Templar charters and that benefited greatly from the support of the bishops of Langres. Sympathy for reformist ideas as expressed by the Cistercians (but also by Carthusians and others) and engagement with the Templars, in other words, seem to have gone hand in hand in many families and were also found in a number of senior ecclesiastics who often shared the social background of the knights and nobles among whom the Templars recruited most heavily."

The Cistercian key: birth of the Knights Templar 1118 - 1127

On his website "L'Orde du Temple" (in French) Philippe Vincent describes in detail ten key years of history of the Knights Templar: the years 1118 till 1127. This blog is a full translation of the publication by Philippe Vincent. This does not mean that TemplarsNow supports the claims and suggestions in the last few sections as historically accurat.

"We have seen in the overview, that the Order of the Temple was officially born in the Holy Land in 1118 (probably early 1119). However, we note that the official recognition of the Order in 1118 (probably early January 1120 at the Council of Nablus, TN) is only the continuation of a "mission" or "investigation" started nearly 10 years earlier ...

It has been demonstrated and accepted by all historians that Hugues de Payens has made at least two trips to the East after the First Crusade, in 1104-1105 and 1114-1115, both times in the company of Count Hugues de Champagne.

It is worth pausing for a moment on the person of the Count of Champagne. He is one of the leading feudal vassals of the French kingdom, about 4 to 5 times richer than the King of France himself! Very influenced by a religious mysticism, his links with Stephen Harding, abbot of Citeaux, who reformed Benedictine thought to form the Cistercian movement, were close. These links are so close that in 1115 Stephen Harding let come to Citeaux Abbey a Cistercian monk from the Abbey of La Chaise-Dieu, a specialist in Hebrew texts. In 1115, after the return from the East of the Count of Champage, right ...

The same year, the same Count of Champagne takes under his direct protection a young monk of Citeaux, Bernard, offering him an estate under his control at Clairvaux. After that Clairvaux Abbey and the thought of the future St. Bernard of Clairvaux reigns throughout all the Christian world during the twelfth century ...

In 1118, we find among the "new" founders of the Knights Templar a certain André de Montbard. He is no more or less than the uncle of Bernard of Clairvaux. It is worth recalling that the Council was held at Troyes, the birthplace of Hughes de Payens and the Count of Champagne, who will join the Templars in 1126 to put himself under the command of a former vassal after having abandoned his wife, children, wealth and power...

Bernard of Clairvaux who, if it is not established that he effectively directed the Council, did at least influence greatly the drafting of the rule of the Order, by introducing the concept of the soldier-monk in the strict line of his thought urging the nobility to give up private wars, to serve the faith instead.

Let's briefly recap the chronology:

1104-1105: Hugues de Payens and the Count of Champagne travel to the East on pilgrimage

1105-1114: It is unclear whether Hugues de Payens returns home with the Count of Champagne, but we are sure of his presence in France in 1110 thanks to a charter signed by him. In 1109, Stephen Harding is elected Abbot of Citeaux. His links with the Count of Champagne are close.

1114-1115: Both Hughes leave again for the East. Hugues de Payens stays there, that is certain. The Cistercian Abbey at Citeaux begins studying Hebrew texts. The Count of Champagne takes Bernard under his protection and gives him land at Clairvaux.

1119: The uncle of Bernard, (André de Montbard,TN) is with Hugues de Payens when the Patriarch of Jerusalem grants them for residence "Solomon's Temple" in 1118.

1119-1126: The black hole. We know only that the Templars conducted excavations beneath the Temple of Solomon. There is no evidence or disproof on new return trips between Jerusalem and Champagne. There are no combat achievements attributed to the Templars during these years.

1126: The powerful Count of Champagne divorces his wife and children, abandoned his wealth and power to join the Templars, under the command of Hugues de Payens, his former vassal.

1127: Return to Champagne of Hugues de Payens and five Knights Templar. They visit the Council of Troyes that, under the leadership of Stephen Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux, formalizes and grants the Order of the Temple its rule and its total independence from the secular clergy and temporal sovereigns.

Things are clearer now. The origin of the creation of the Knights Templar is pretty much a family affair and everything revolves around the Count of Champagne and of the Cistercian movement: the leading creators and their mentors are from the Comté du Champagne, their other companions originate form the house of the Princes of Flanders, crusaders and pilgrims of the first hour.Remains the motif, the purpose, the goal ...

The ubiquitous presence of Bernard of Clairvaux and Stephen Harding around the founding of the Order illuminates the religious foundation and even mystical origins of the Order. Do not be naive. Technically only nine knights could not protect the pilgrim roads that were in constant contact with the enemy. Even more so during 10 years without recruiting, what the fortune of the Count of Champagne could just permit. One of the richest princes of the kingdom of France does not abandon his riches and his family to monitor the roads under the orders of a vassal, even the deepest faith. There was something else.

They went looking for something in the East. Something essential for religion of Bernard and Etienne. Something that could be found only in the Holy Places. Something so secret that only the Pope after that controls the Order. Something so great that only blood relations of the founders can protect it...

Everything becomes clear. The scouting trips of 1104 and 1114. The study of Hebrew texts in 1115 at Citeaux. The excavations under the Temple of Solomon in 1118. In 1126 they found ... and the Count of Champagne abandons everything and joined the Order. In 1127 it is judged necessary to protect the secret. The Council of Troyes renders the Templars untouchable and transforms it into a defense army of the Holy Places.


The Holy Grail? Architectural secrets that would spread Gothic art form the twelfth century onwards? The Ark of the Covenant? Some esoteric knowledge related to Islam? Nobody knows and can be certain...One thing is certain. The creation of the Order of the Temple was not made for the the simple purpose of protecting pilgrims on the road. It responded to an instruction well considered to go on a mystical quest sponsored by the Cistercian monks Stephen Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux."

This blog is a full translation of the publication in French by Philippe Vincent. Illustration Hughes I de Champagne source

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The Templar workforce

"Whenever Templars appear in books or films, it is always the knights of the Order in their flowing white surcoats, hacking their way through the dust of battle. But to function properly, the Order needed more than squadrons of combat-hardened knights. It required armies of other men to undertake the hundreds of skilled tasks necessary to keep everything running.

Traditional monasteries faced an identical challenge, and many turned to the most obvious solution in addition to paid staff: two types of monks. ‘Choir monks’ were educated: trained to read, write, and chant. As the medieval period progressed, they were increasingly also ordained as priests, and the high-flying frequently had careers that took them to royal courts or the papal curia.

Medieval monasteries were like self-contained villages. To manage the hundreds of skilled tasks necessary to keep them functioning, many had ‘lay brothers’ (often called conversi). These lay brothers took the same monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as the choir monks, but instead of concentrating on theology, administration, or politics, they brought the vital practical abilities, knowledge, and experience necessary for the monasteries to function.The conversi were frequently masons, carpenters, glaziers, blacksmiths, farriers, cooks, butchers, bakers, millers, grooms, swineherds, gardeners, and all the other crucial craftsmen, artisans, and workers the monasteries required.

The Templars quickly adapted this two-monk model. Where monasteries had choir monks and conversi, the Templars had knights and sergeants. The sergeants took exactly the same vows as the knights, promising to become poor, chaste, and obedient monks. But where the knights focused on their military calling, the sergeants employed a wide range of skills to keep the Templars operational.

This 3D reconstruction of a Knights Templar commandery is based on discoveries made during the archaeological survey (1998) of the commandery at Payens in the French Departement Aube. Production: General Council of Département de Aube. Director: Okénite Animation. Length 6 minutes. Explanation in French.

Maintaining the Order was a vast logistical task. Aside from looking after the fabric of the buildings, managing the land and kitchens, maintaining the weapons and horses, and all the other necessary jobs, there was also the pressing economic need to raise money. The Templars had to arm and equip a vast number of troops and maintain hundreds of castles and commanderies worldwide. This took large resources, and raising the money was something many sergeants were experienced at.

Although the Templars’ larger commanderies in European cities were home to knights busy with the Order’s administration and political relationships, the hundreds of smaller commanderies and ‘granges’ scattered across the countryside lay at the heart of a vast international property and farming empire.These rural European commanderies were the domain of thousands of sergeants. When the sergeants were not attending services in the commanderies’ small chapels, they generated the rental incomes and rural produce (agriculture and livestock) to fund the resource-hungry war effort in the East. Thanks to widespread exemptions from many taxes, they were able to sell their produce easily and profitably. For example, the Templars had significant property in and around Roquefort in southern France, where they developed expertise in making and selling the famous blue sheep’s cheese that has since made the village’s name famous worldwide...

The ratio of sergeants to knights varied according to time and place. In Europe, many commanderies were staffed exclusively by sergeants. And in some Palestinian castles, sergeants outnumbered knights nine to one. On average, the ratio was around three to one. For instance, in the late 1200s, the Order had perhaps 2,000 sergeants and 600 knights in Palestine."

The illustration shows Templar sergeants in their black/brown habit source; The text quotes from this a publication by Dominic Selwood to be found here.

Women and the Knights Templar

Rule 70 and 71 of the "Primitive Templar Rule", originating from the Troyes council of January 1129,  are quite clear on the disadvantages of contact with women.

On Sisters

70. The company of women is a dangerous thing, for by it the old devil has led many from the straight path to Paradise. Henceforth, let not ladies be admitted as sisters into the house of the Temple; that is why, very dear brothers, henceforth it is not fitting to follow this custom, that the flower of chastity is always maintained among you.

Let Them Not Have Familiarity with Women

71. We believe it to be a dangerous thing for any religious to look too much upon the face of woman. For this reason none of you may presume to kiss a woman, be it widow, young girl, mother, sister, aunt or any other; and henceforth the Knighthood of Jesus Christ should avoid at all costs the embraces of women, by which men have perished many times, so that they may remain eternally before the face of God with a pure conscience and sure life.

Nevertheless, bonds of varying kinds were in fact established between women and military orders during the tweltth and thirteenth centuries. These links were of diverse kinds, and obviously in many instances brought no close involvement in the life and work of a convent. Many women simply entered into bonds of confraternity with a military order. In return for gifts their names were included in the prayers said in its chapels. In that way they were regarded as participants in the good works it performed. Some, especially widows, were placed under the protection of a military order Others were given material aid. In some cases this was provided only in times of hardship. In 1196 for example the Templars of the Catalan house of Gardeny promised to Nina of Talladeil that they would give assistance if she became poverly stricken. More commonly, however, orders provided regular allowances of food or money. Some women received maintenance, either occasionally or regularly, inside a convent. In 1176 the Aragonese provincial master of the Temple promised food to Dominic of Batizo and his wife Mary. As the couple lived in Pertusa., it is clear that they were merely being granted a right of hospitality which was to be exercised whenever they wished.

Templar sources provide a number of examples of women who associated themselves with the order and adopted a form of religious life. The Templar rule itself indicates that some had been admitted before 1129. It does not give precise information about their status, but the wording suggests that the bond was not just one of confraternity.’After 1129 some wornen who wished to withdraw from the world still turned to the Temple even though the rule forbade any further admissions of sisters. Finally, a memorandum written by the Templar Commander of Payns, Ponzard de Gizy, mentions thc admission of sisters who promised poverty, chastity and obedience. Thus, despite the prohibition in their early rue, the Templars accepted women who renounced their goods and took the normal monastic vows. This practice was apparently not occasioned by any decree issued by the central authorities of the Temple.

The French translation of the Templars’ Rule, datable to c. 1140, repeated the earlier Latin version which implied that the prohibition on the association of married couples was scrupulously observed, but the text was vague and there is no detailed information as to how far it was implemented. At the same time evidence shows that a simple consoror or donata could become a fully-professed soror. Proof is lacking so far that the sisters did take up arms, as did their brothers Knight Templar.
source rule, text. and illustration.

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Ordines Militares - Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders

The journal Ordines Militares Colloquia Torunensia Historica follows a fifteen-volume book series containing papers from international conferences devoted to the history of military orders “Ordines militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica”, which have been organized in Toruń every two years since 1981. Thanks to the research done by Professor Karol Górski and his students, the Institute of History of Nicolaus Copernicus University (created in 1945) became the most important Polish centre for research on the history of the Teutonic Order and the Teutonic State in Prussia.

The idea to create an international forum of researchers of military orders in Toruń resulted from the cooperation between Polish and German historians established during conferences organized since 1974 under the auspices of UNESCO, and devoted to the role of the Teutonic Order in history textbooks.

The founder of Toruń’s meetings of researchers of military orders and the editor of the first eleven volumes from the series “Ordines militares” was Zenon Hubert Nowak from the Institute of History and Archival Science of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. After his death in 1999 Roman Czaja from NCU and Jürgen Sarnowsky from the University of Hamburg took over the organization of conferences and the edition of the series.

The subject of the first volumes from the series “Ordines militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica” centred around the history of the Teutonic Order; however in the beginning of the 1990s the thematic scope started to include the history of the Hospitallers, the Knights Templar and orders set up in the Iberian Peninsula.

Both the thematic scope of the conference and the growing number of participants have contributed to the fact that the conferences from the series “Ordines militares” have become one of the most important forums for meetings of researchers of military orders from all over the world. The meetings of young researchers dealing with the history of military orders constitute an important element of Toruń’s conferences organized since 2003.

The growing academic prestige of the series “Ordines Militares. Colloquia Torunensia Historica” led to its being transformed into a yearbook devoted to the history of military orders. In keeping with tradition, each volume includes a definite thematic scope, which refers to the subject of a conference from the “Ordines militares” series. Moreover, articles, polemics, research surveys, source monographs and reviews concerning the history of military orders are published there in English, German and French.


Arn Magnusson - the imaginary Swedish Knight Templar

Arn Magnusson is the main character in the Crusades trilogy written in Swedish by author and journalist Jan Guillou. This fictional Swedish character from the Middle Ages is forced to become a Knight Templar. The series is an account of the life of Arn Magnusson, who becomes a witness as well as a catalyst to many important historical events, both in his homeland of Sweden and in the crusades against the Middle East.

The trilogy, dubbed the Crusades trilogy, consists of the following books:
book 1
book 2
book 3
DVD Blu-Ray

Guillou also wrote a follow-up novel about Birger Jarl, founder of Stockholm, entitled The Heritage of Arn (in Swedish Arven efter Arn) published in 2001. In Guillou's fictional universe, Birger Jarl is the grandson of Arn Magnusson.

The books were reworked to a film released in December 2007: Arn – The Knight Templar (In Swedish: Arn - Tempelriddaren, and its sequel Arn – The Kingdom at Road's End (in Swedish: Arn – Riket vid vägens slut), released August 22, 2008.

While the films are mostly in Swedish and most of the production was made in Sweden, the film is a joint production between the four Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland and Germany. With a total budget of around 210 million Sweidsh Krona (ca. 30 Million US$ for both films, it is the most expensive production in Swedish cinema.

Based on the detailed stories by Guillou, the question may be put forward: did the Knights Templar really live in Sweden? This question will be dealt with in another blog.

A Templar history in graphics

July 2013, a new 480-page graphic novel about the Knights Templar was published by Jordan Mechner. It is called Templar. A review is presented here.

The storyline: Martin is one of a handful of Templar Knights to escape when the king of France and the pope conspire to destroy the noble order. The king aims to frame the Templars for heresy, execute all of them, and make off with their legendary treasure. That's the plan, anyway, but Martin and several other surviving knights mount a counter-campaign to regain the lost treasure of the Knights Templar.

With gorgeous illustrations by LeUyen Pham and Alexander Puvilland and lush coloring from Hilary Sycamore, this 480-page, full-color, hardcover graphic novel by Jordan Mechner is itself a treasure.

On presents a 28-page preview, of which one sample page is presented here.