Contemporary views on Templar wealth

"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?

Templar spirituality illustrated in Montsaunès Chapel, France - quotes

"In fact, the clearest evidence that the Templars were not all they seemed is largely unknown, even among Templar experts. But it is potentially extraordinarily important. It takes the form of an original Templar building, still standing, nestled in a quiet corner of green countryside. Inside, it contains an enigma that may yet cause experts to revisit the entire question of the Templars’ religious beliefs.  It is not Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, which has no Templar connections at all, having been built a century and a half after the Order was suppressed. Instead, it is a small mid-12th-century chapel in the village of Montsaunès, set in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, on one of the principal medieval highways leading from France into Spain.... Montsaunès was on a strategic defensive line. Surviving medieval charters prove beyond doubt that the chapel was unquestionably built by the Templars, then occupied and maintained by the Order for 150 years. It was the heart of one the Order’s great European commanderies (fortified monasteries), although nothing else of it survives.

The reason for its importance to the question of Templar spirituality is immediately apparent the moment you enter the ancient building. The whole interior is painted, as most medieval churches and cathedrals were. But the Templars’ chosen decorations for this particular chapel were not saints, bible scenes, and the usual range of religious imagery. The surviving frescoes are a bizarre collection of stars and wheels, rolling around the walls and ceiling in some mysterious, unfathomable pattern. Interspersed among them are also grids and chequer-boards, painted with equal precision – but also with no apparent sense or meaning. There is nothing remotely Christian about it. The overall effect is calendrical and astrological, with a whiff of the Qabbalistic. It is like some strange hermetic temple, whose meaning is obscured to all except initiates.

The conclusion of the few experts in medieval art who have looked at the frescoes is that they are unlike anything else they have ever seen. They are "unknown esoteric decoration". Anyone studying the startling paintings quickly realises that they transcend the small French commune where they remain unnoticed, 850 years on. They demand answers. What did they mean to the Knights Templar? Why did they paint them so meticulously? And what prompted them to put them in their chapel, the building at the heart of their spiritual life, which they entered to pray in nine times a day?

We simply do not know the answers. But the chapel at Montsaunès is proof, in its own enigmatic way, that the religious life of the Templars was not as straightforward as we have perhaps come to believe.... The little-known chapel at Montsaunès reminds us that there is much we still do not know about the Templars, who increasingly baffle us the more we discover about them."

View this video on Montsaunès Chappel. Many more pictures of the frescos are presented here:

Text and illustration from a publication by on December 19th, 2013.

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Contemporary criticism of the Knights Templar

"Criticism arose which tended to fluctuate with events. During a crusade, while crusaders wrote home with accounts of the military orders' courage and self-sacrifice, criticism was overlooked. Between crusades, as Europeans received news of territorial losses to the Muslims, they forgot the military orders' heroism and concluded that these defeats were God's punishment for sin. For surely God would not allow godly men to suffer such set backs...

Contemporary clerical views of the Knights Templar

"In October 1307, by order of Philip IV of France, all the Knights Templar within the French domains were arrested. (...) During the trial of the Templars witnesses claimed that the order's abuses had been notorious for many years and under interrogation, including torture, many brothers confessed to at least some of these crimes. In March 1312, Pope Clement dissolved the Order of' the Temple, giving its property of the Order of the Hospital, and assigning the surviving brothers to other religious orders. Despite this, the question of the order's guilt has never been settled. (...) What did contemporaries think about the other military orders, such as the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights?

The Crusades: not anti-Muslim but to stop internal Christian violence?

"A key area where historians focus their attention on the crusades is at the origin of the religious conflict between Islam and Christianity. This is problematic for two key reasons.

The origin of The Knights Templar through early 12th century eyes

"Few scholars have approached the Knights Templar from the beginning, examining their creation in terms of where the order originates and why it was created. This makes this area largely unique and untouched, and the motivation of Bernard of Clairvaux’s (the founder of the Cistercian Order) for helping form the order has been largely overlooked.

Knights Templar investiture, The Netherlands, September 2011

source (© antoine janssen)
Information on present day Knights Templar in The Netherlands are scarce. This web-entry reports on a Knights Templar investiture in St John's Cathedral, Den Bosch, The Netherlands on September 4, 2011. A translation of the original Dutch text reads as follows:
Gathering of Order of the Knights Templar

On Saturday September 4, 2011, 130 Knights of the Order of the Temple, men as well as women, gathered at Saint John's Cathedral (at Den Bosch, the Netherlands). It was the yearly meeting of the order, which this time took place in The Netherlands. At St John's mass was consecrated and during the Investiture 10 kandidates were knighted. There was a moment of contemplation and all present sang, in their own language, "Thine be the Glory". Afterwards the knights posed on the St. John's square for a ceremonial photograph.
Pope Innocent III founded the Order of the Templars in 1112. The Pope gave the first nine knights the name Knighthood of God". The purpose of the order was to protect pilgrims who were on their way to the Höly Land, now Israël. It was the time of the Crusaders. Den Bosch also has a local Commandery, as they say, that of St. Norbert.





source Dutch tekst and illustrations (pictures © antoine janssen)

Muslim-Christian relations during the early crusades

"The Second Crusade (1145-49) had put a great deal of the Holy Land under European rule, but Saladin (Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, 1138-1193) had re-conquered much of that territory, prompting several kings of Europe to agree to another crusade. The Third Crusade (1189-92) was unsuccessful in putting the Holy Land under Western European control. It did, however, open up a dialogue between the east and west in unforeseen ways.

The Crusades, a solution to violence in Christianity

"The crusades were originally meant to redeem Europe from its violent nature, not to extend that violence. In this way, the crusades were intended to be a military pilgrimage of penance for the men who participated, a way of channeling the evil of their violence into a godly purpose. It was this idea that Bernard latched onto when he aided in the forming of the Templar order.

October 13, 1307

source
At dawn on Friday, 13 October 1307 (a date sometimes spuriously linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition) King Philip IV ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested.

The arrest warrant started with the phrase : "Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume" ["God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"].
Claims were made that during Templar admission ceremonies, recruits were forced to spit on the cross, deny Christ, and engage in indecent kissing. Brethren were also accused of worshiping idols, and the order was said to have encouraged homosexual practices. The Templars were charged with numerous other offences, financial corruption and fraud, and secrecy. Many of the accused confessed to these charges under torture, and these confessions, even though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris.

Relenting to Phillip's demands, Pope Clement then issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae on 22 November 1307, which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. Pope Clement called for papal hearings to determine the Templars' guilt or innocence, and once freed of the Inquisitors' torture, many Templars recanted their confessions. Some had sufficient legal experience to defend themselves in the trials, but in 1310 Philip blocked this attempt, using the previously forced confessions to have dozens of Templars burned at the stake in Paris.

Source: wikipedia

Hughes de Payens promotion tour - 1128-1129

Hugh de Payens, the first grandmaster of the Knights Templar, did in 1127 venture out on a fund-rising and recruitment trip to the West that lasted until mid 1129.

Muslim science and technology in de Middle Ages

The crusades brought the European elite in contact not only with muslim warfare technology, but also with muslim science. What did the "Franks" encounter?

Cistercian architecture

"
Cistercian architecture is considered one of the most beautiful styles of medieval architecture. Cistercian architecture has made an important contribution to European civilization. Because of the pure style of the Cistercian monasteries and churches, they may be counted among the most beautiful relics of the Middle Ages. Cistercian institutions were primarily constructed in Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles during the Middle Ages; although later abbeys were also constructed in Renaissance and Baroque.

The Templars of Nieuwpoort (Flanders, Belgium)

Only few things remain of the Templar presence in Nieuwpoort, a coastal city of the Belgian province of West Flanders.

Political geography of the Low Countries 1000-1500

The second half of the medieval period, which may be termed the later Middle Ages, consists of the High Middle Ages (ca. 1000-1300) and Late Middle Ages (ca. 1300-1500). The primary powers of the later Middle Ages were the Holy Roman Empire, France, and England. Paris was the cultural and scholarly heart of the period.

The High Middle Ages (ca. 1000-1300) are distinguished by a vibrant economic and cultural recovery throughout Western Europe. Urbanism, agriculture, trade, and technological progress were all revived. The busiest medieval shipping routes lay in the Mediterranean (where trade links with eastern civilizations yielded luxury goods) and Baltic (where links with northern and eastern Europe yielded raw materials). The growing power of the West did not go unnoticed by the Byzantines, who called for aid against the Islamic Turkic powers to the east.

The Late Middle Ages (ca. 1300-1500), on the other hand, were stricken with famine, recession, and heightened conflict. These miseries were vastly compounded by the Black Death, which remains the deadliest disease outbreak in history. Arriving from Central Asia, the Black Death swept across the European continent, killing up to half its population in a matter of years.

The region known as the Low Countries is one of the main areas of research on this blog. It spans roughly present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The medieval Low Countries featured several small, prosperous states, with economies based on manufacturing (chiefly textiles) and trade. The greatest was Flanders; others included Brabant and Luxembourg. 

Following the splintering of the Frankish kingdom, this region remained largely independent throughout the later medieval period, despite being officially added to the territory of external powers on several occasions (most famously Burgundy, toward the end of the Middle Ages). Low Countries independence finally ended ca. 1500, when the region was firmly acquired by the Holy Roman Empire.

Text adapted from this source; illustration shows Map of the political situation in the Netherlands around 1350. source

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The different profiles of Templars and Hospitallers

When were the Orders of Hospitallers and Templars born? What was their original purpose and how did this develop?  Medievalist Alain Demurger elaborates on the different profiles of the Templars and the Hospitallers.

The Templars amongst the other people of Outremer

When were the Orders of Hospitallers and Templars born? What was their original purpose and how did this develop. Medievalist Alain Demurger elaborates on the role of the soldiers of the Holy Land and their presence among the Crusaders, the Franks, the Christians of Outre Mer (the Orient) and the Muslims.

The Foundation of the Order of Knights Templar according to William of Tyre

William of Tyre, in his Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, gives a detailed account of the foundation of the Order of the Knights Templar. It goes as follows.

The socio-economic system of the 10th to 12th century

For a better understanding of the origin of the Medieval military Orders in general and the Knights templar in particular, it is necessary to understand the socio-economic system in the 9th to 12th century. What was it like?

Croatian President Josipović Receives Delegation of the Templar Order

11 April 2014

The President of the Republic of Croatia, Ivo Josipović, received a delegation of dignitaries of the templar order O.S.M.T.H. who are participating in an international meeting of the Grand Magistral Council of the Order in Zagreb.

The Meeting assembled high-ranking representatives of the Order from over 20 countries of the world. Representatives of the Order informed the President of the Order’s rich history and operations in the world today. They made known to him endeavours and efforts for international peace, the Order’s humanitarian activities, as well as the promotion of intercultural and interreligious links and human rights. The Grand Master of the Order, General Patrick Rea, highlighted Croatia’s contribution in disseminating understanding and cooperation among peoples, which is one of the primary goals of the Order. President Josipović stressed the importance of building peace and bridges among peoples and cultures, and wished them success in their further work.

source text http://predsjednik.hr

March 18, 2014 - 700th Commemoration death of Jaques de Molay

On March 18, 2014 we commemorated the 700th anniversary of the death of the last official Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. De Molay, born in 1244 was put to death in Paris by the King of France on 18 March 1314. He was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the Order from 20 April 1292 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1307.

Though little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his last years as Grand Master, he is the best known Templar, along with the Order's founder and first Grand Master, Hugues de Payens(1070–1136). Jacques de Molay's goal as Grand Master was to reform the Order, and adjust it to the situation in the Holy Land during the waning days of the Crusades.

As European support for the Crusades had dwindled, other forces were at work which sought to disband the Order and claim the wealth of the Templars as their own. King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Templars, had De Molay and many other French Templars arrested in 1307 and tortured into making false confessions. When de Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him executed by burning upon a scaffold on the Paris Ile des Juifs in the River Seine on 18 March 1314.

Death-site plaque of Jaques de Molay on Isle des Juifs, Paris
source text and illustrations wikipedia.org

Birth of the Knights Templar - a summary

After the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem on June 15, 1099  "pilgrims were never safe once they were outside the walls of Jerusalem, as attacks by bands of Saracen robbers were frequent. Even as early as 1106, there were reports of trouble.A Russian abbot by the name of Daniel wrote of his visit to the tomb of St George at Lydda that year: ‘And there are many springs here; travellers rest by the water but with great fear,for it is a deserted place and nearby is the town of Ascalon from which Saracens sally forth and kill travellers on these roads.There is a great fear too, going up from that place into the hills.’ (...)