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.