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.

source www.ordinesmilitares.umk.pl

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

Knights Templar in Belgium now

Media project made for Knights Templar Priory of Belgium. Designed to provide our Order with a first-contact video brochure for introducing OSMTH to prospective new members.