Contemporary views of the Knights Templar - Part 3

What did medieval contemporaries think of military orders? Helen Nicholson investigates.

"Despite their extensive possessions, the Templars and Hospitallers were always claiming to be poverty- stricken. They sent out alms-collectors on a regular basis, to collect money from lay-people and clergy for their work in the Holy Land. Matthew Paris was probably expressing a widely-felt discontent when he wrote around 1245: "The Templars and Hospitallers receive so much income from the whole of Christendom, and, only for defending the Holy Land, swallow down such great revenues as if they sink them into the gulf of the abyss ..." Whatever did they do with all their wealth? Some Europeans concluded that they must be using their resources very inefficiently...

The charge that the Order of the Temple encouraged the brothers to acquire property fraudulently and to win profit by all possible means clearly reflects these complaints against the Templars and Hospitallers. For at least 150 years contemporaries had accused the military orders of lying and cheating because of their greed for wealth. In 1312 the same old criticisms against the Hospitallers arose again at the Council of Vienne, as the pope planned to bestow on them the former property of the Templars.

Interestingly, no critic before 1300 accused the Templars of immorality. In the mid-thirteenth century an English poet, writing in Anglo-Norman French, surveyed the whole of society and accused most of the clergy of womanising, even dropping hints about the Hospitallers. But he exempted the Templars, who were too busy making money to have time for sex: "The Templars are most doughty men and they certainly know how to look after themselves, but they love pennies too much; when prices are high they sell their wheat instead of giving it to their dependants."..."

Quotes from a paper by Helen Nicholson, Published in History Today Volume: 44 Issue: 12 1994, source text; source illustration

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.

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

Contemporary views of the Knights Templar Part 2

What did medieval contemporaries think of military orders? Helen Nicholson investigates.

"However, 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...

Chroniclers tended to be critical, for they wished to draw a moral from contemporary events for the edification of future generations. In other forms of literature, romance, epic or farce, the Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights appeared as brave knights of Christ combating the Muslim menace, or as helpers of lovers, or as good monks. It is interesting that although monks and parish priests came under heavy criticism for their immorality in the 'fables' or farces, the military orders were not criticised. Obviously they were not regarded as womanisers.

Between the Second and Third Crusades of 1148-49 and 1189, the generous donations of money and privileges to the Templars and Hospitallers became a major cause of resentment. This was hardly surprising. All religious orders aroused complaints about their privileges, and the Templars and Hospitallers never attracted such severe criticism as the Cistercians and friars."

Quotes from a paper by Helen Nicholson, Published in History Today Volume: 44 Issue: 12 1994, source; 
illustration: coins Knights Templar France, Philip IV Le Bel, 1268-1314 AD, source

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books 

Contemporary views of the Knights Templar Part 1

What did medieval contemporaries think of military orders? Helen Nicholson investigates.

"In October 1307, by order of Philip IV of France, all the Knights Templar within the French domains were arrested. In November, Pope Clement V sent out orders for the arrest of the Templars throughout Europe. The brothers were accused of a variety of crimes, which were said to be long-established in the order... During the trial of the Templars witnesses claimed that the order's abuses had been notorious far 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. Just what were the accusations made against the Templars before 1300, and were these related to the trial? What did contemporaries think about the other military orders, such as the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights?

The Order of the Temple was a military order, a type of religious order....The concept of the military order was a natural development from the concept of the crusade. Rather than taking up weapons for a short period to defend Christ's people, the members of a military order did so for life. In return, they expected to receive pardon for their sins and immediate entry into heaven if they died in action against the enemies of their faith.

In western Europe, far from the battlefield, some of the clergy were doubtful whether a military order could be a valid religious order. Around 1150, the Abbot of Cluny wrote to Pope Eugenius III that he and many of his monks regarded the brothers of the Temple as only knights, not monks, and believed that fighting the Muslims overseas was less important than suppressing bandits at home. Letters written to encourage the early Templars also hint at this sort of opposition. But the bulk of the surviving evidence is warmly in praise of the Templars, and clergy and knightly classes alike welcomed the new order with generous donations. In fact the Hospital of St John seems to have attracted more donations as it became more of a military order. By 1200 the military orders had become part of the religious establishment and criticism of the concept ceased. "

Quotes from a paper by Helen Nicholson, Published in History Today Volume: 44 Issue: 12 1994 source

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

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

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

First, it was not the first time European Christian soldiers fought Islamic opponents, as that was begun by the Almoravid invasion of Spain in the eighth century and continued well past the crusades. The Iberian conflict influenced Europe in significant ways, but it was not an overwhelming obsession, showing that Europe as a whole was not driven by any sort of desire to stamp out Islam as a rival religion.

The second problem with portraying the crusades as the beginning of religious animosity between Islam and Christianity is that this view puts the motivation of the war squarely in the differences in the two belief systems. When looking at the writings of the day, men like Pope Urban and Bernard never refer to any specific belief espoused by Islam, simply labeling their enemies as pagans or infidels. It is important that this point is emphasized. At no time did any Pope in the decades prior to the crusade, or even Bernard after the crusade, focus their energy on the Muslim nations."
"... The specifics of the Islamic religion was not the reason behind their attacks, but rather the simple fact that they were not Christian, thus fighting them was not seen in the same way as fighting and killing fellow Christians. This may seem like a rather self-serving idea, but it was a simple way to mitigate violence between the people of the church, tell them to fight those not under the protection of God. This is a callous turn of phrase, but it does emphasize that the target of the crusades was not chosen for their specific religious beliefs, but rather that they simply were not Christian, which shows the focus of the crusade was not an anti-Muslim holy war, but a move to stop violence between Christians."

source text: "Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar: The New Knighthood as a Solution to Violence in Christianity" by Nicholas A.Boysel (2009); illustration source

The origin of The Knights Templar through early 11th century eyes

In his Masters Thesis (2009) Nicholas A. Boysel elaborates on the Knights Templar as the New Knighthood which was a solution to violence in Christianity.This blog quotes freely from this work.

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.

Viewing the order’s origin with its ending in mind is in a sense anachronistic, as it can taint what the historian sees as motives for the order with what the order evolved into. Examining the original charters and rules of the order, the fact that it would later become a massively wealthy and powerful organization was never even conceived of, let alone set out as any sort of goal for the order. The order at its ending was virtually unrecognizable from its much more humble roots.

Another interpretation of the creation of the order assumes that it was a natural progression of the contemporary attitude toward the crusade. It is sometimes argued that the crusades were a logical manifestation of the society of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and that the order was a simple evolution of that sentiment. This idea ignores the fact that the speech given by Pope Urban II was viewed with total astonishment by his contemporaries, igniting a new idea of redemption in the knights.

Assuming that the eventual creation of several orders means that the idea was common before they were created is not taking the original motivations into account, or the mindset of the first founders. Looking at the words of Bernard in his "Praise of the New Knighthood" and the length of time needed for the founders of the order, Hugh and Godfrey, actually to receive papal support for their order suggests that the church had no idea how to handle such a unique idea. It took the eloquence of men like Bernard and Peter the Venerable of Cluny to make the idea more palatable for the church authorities, and even then the order did not in any way become a sort of standard form of knighthood.

source: "Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar: The New Knighthood as a Solution to Violence in Christianity" by Nicholas A.Boysel (2009)

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 - quotes

"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 death of Henry II put the English troops under the command of Richard the Lionhearted. Richard ... joined King Philip of France and Leopold V of Austria, who were embroiled in the two-year-long Siege of Acre. Richard's siege machines started destroying the walls. The residents of Acre sent appeals to Saladin to help them, but he could not defeat the Europeans. Acre had no choice but to surrender. Richard was to deal with Saladin and establish a treaty after Acre.

Richard and Saladin showed great mutual respect for each other's military prowess. A temporary halt to hostilities was declared so they could come to terms.  At one point, when Richard became ill, Saladin sent him fruit that was chilled with snow brought from the mountains, and offered his personal physician. Also, Saladin sent two horses as replacements for Richard's.

An attempt was made to join East and West by the marriage of Richard's sister, Joan (1165-1199), to Saladin's brother, Al-Adil (1145-1218), who was currently administrator of Egypt. Joan had been married to King William II of Sicily, but he had died in 1189; later she would become Countess of Toulouse by her marriage to Raymond VI. The plan was for Jerusalem to be their wedding gift, and would therefore pass into the hands of a dynasty that joined Western Europe (or, at least, England!) to the Muslim world. Negotiations fell through, however.

The two commanders did agree on a three-year truce. In summer 1192, the Treaty of Ramla determined that Jerusalem would remain under Muslim control, but Christians would be allowed safe passage. Also, the Crusaders would give up lands they had invaded except for a narrow coastal strip that extended from Tyre to Jaffa. Neither leader was wholly pleased, but each had reason to wish a swift end to the conflict. Richard had troubles at home due to his brother John. Saladin was losing control of his army because of his failure to re-take Acre or to route Richard's forces in their many engagements.

Saladin died of yellow fever in 1193. While his heirs fought over the succession, Western Europe was told tales of Saladin's military prowess and chivalrous actions toward the invaders. There is an anecdote that, in April 1191, a Frankish woman on pilgrimage had her baby stolen and sold into slavery. According to Saladin's biographer, Saladin bought the baby back with his own money and returned it to the mother, then ordered a horse to take her back to her camp. Poems were written in praise of him. Richard declared him the greatest leader in the Islamic world.

And the punchline? All the negotiations and gifts between Richard and Saladin were made by proxies. The two men who so praised and respected each other never met face-to-face."

Slightly adapted from two blogs on the subject by Tim Shaw (2012).; Illustration from this source 

Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books


The Knights Templar, a solution to violence in Christianity - quotes

Bernard Preaching the Second Crusade source
In his Masters Thesis (2009) Nicholas A. Boysel elaborates on the Knights Templar as the New Knighthood which was a solution to violence in Christianity. This blog quotes freely from this work.

"This thesis examines the origins of the crusader ideology and how the Knights Templar were formed from this mindset. Using writings from Bernard of Clairvaux and other religious and secular writers of the time, this thesis examines how 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.

The duty of a knight was to kill his enemies and fight in the name of his lord. The duty of a Christian was to love his neighbor as himself, and to turn the other cheek when confronted with aggression. This basic contradiction was a conflict that the people of medieval Europe had a very difficult time resolving, be they men in arms or intellectuals.

Over the centuries, there were many attempts to justify either the way of the knight, or to condemn this manner of living as sinful and evil. When Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux (1090-1153) in the Cistercian order and noted scholar, was asked to write about the newly formed knights Templar, he went out of his way to condemn the normal life of the knightly class of his time, while exalting the idea of knights who fought for God alone. In this new order, Bernard saw a way of escaping the evils of the military life, and a worthy aim that would not only further the cause of the Church and of God, but would also serve as a way of redemption for the many sinful soldiers that would enter the order."

source: "Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar: The New Knighthood as a Solution to Violence in Christianity" by Nicholas A.Boysel (2009)

October 13, 1307

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 1128 venture out on a fund-rising trip to the West.

He started in France. First he went to a an important wedding in Le Mans. It was de wedding of the daughter of King Henry I of England Matilda to the son of Count Fulk of Anjou, Geoffrey of Anjou. Fulk later became King of Jerusalem (1131-1143). Fulk went on crusade in 1119 or 1120, and became attached to the Knights Templar. He returned, late in 1121, after which he began to subsidize the Templars, maintaining two knights in the Holy Land for a year. 

In the summer of 1128 Hugh went on to England and Scotland. During his trip to Scotland, Hugh visited Roslin near Edinburgh, and was given land by Henri de St. Clair, Baron of Roslin, to build a Preceptory (Commanderie) in the Scottish village now known as Temple.

In mid September 1128 Hugh returned to Cassel in Flanders. There, together with Godfrey of Saint Omer, he received grants of Count Thierry of Flanders and his vassals.

The climax of Hugh’s fund-raising tour was his appearance before the Council of Troyes in January 1129, at which his new Order was granted a Monastic rule to govern it. This later called "Latin Rule” was written by Bernard Abbot of Clairvaux and inspoired by the Cisterian Rule. It consisted of seventy-two clauses.

Early in 1129 Hugh returned to Jerusalem, only to depart northward to assist the siege of Damascus. The lack of logistic support during the long siege inspired him to think about how he could use the lands his Order had been given in the West to improve its fighting ability. He decided to set up a regular support network in western Europe to provide a steady flow of new Knights, money, food, clothing, and arms. In 1130 he sent one of his Brother founder-Knights, Payen de Montdidier, to England, where King Stephen granted him the right to build a whole string of new Preceptories.

Mainly adapted from Turning the Templar Key. Illustration Temple Church at Temple, Midlothian, Scotland. source

Muslim science in de Middle Ages

Jabir ibn Hayyan, "the father of Chemistry"
source Wikipedia
The crusades brought the European elite in contact not only with muslim warfare technology, but also with muslim science. What did the "Franks" encounter?

From the preservers and compilers of the learning of the ancient civilizations they had conquered in the early centuries of expansion, Muslim peoples - and the Jewish scholars who lived peacefully in Muslim lands - increasingly became creators and inventors in their own right. For several centuries, which spanned much of the period of Abbasid rule (750-1258 AD), Islamic civilization outstripped all others in scientific discoveries, devising new techniques of investigation, and in the innovation and dissemination of technology. Their many accomplishments in these areas include major corrections to the algebraic and geometric theories of the ancient Greeks and great advances in the use of the concepts of the sine, cosine, and tangent that are basic to trigonometry.

Among numerous discoveries in chemistry, two that were fundamental to all subsequent investigation were the creation of the objective experiment and al-Razi's scheme of classifying all material substances into three categories: animal, vegetable, and mineral. The sophistication of Muslim scientific techniques is indicated by the fact that in the 11th century al-Biruni was able to calculate the exact specific weight of 18 major minerals. This sophistication was also manifested in the astronomical instruments and observations made through the cooperation of Muslim scholars and skilled craftsmen.

Muslim technicians greatly improved devices, such as the astrolabe and armillary sphere, for measuring and mapping the position of celestial bodies. Muslim astronomers devised the names, which we still use today, of many of the constellations and individual stars. Their astronomical tables and maps of the stars were in great demand among scholars of other civilizations, including those of Europe and China.

As these breakthroughs suggest, much of the Muslims' work in scientific investigation had very practical applications. This practical bent was even more pronounced in a number of other fields. In medicine, for example, Muslim cities, such as Cairo, boasted some of the best hospitals in the world. Doctors and pharmacists had to follow a regular course of study and pass a formal exam before they were allowed to practice and Muslim scientists did important work on optics and bladder ailments.

Muslim traders and crafpsmen introduced into the Islamic world and Europe many basic machines and techniques - namely, paper making, silk weaving, and ceramic firing - that had been devised earlier in China. Muslim scholars made some of the world's best maps, which were envied and copied by geographers from Portugal to Poland.

Muslim travelers, such as Ibn Khaldun and al-Biruni, wrote ethnographic and historical accounts of the lands they visited, which remain to the present day some of our fullest and most accurate sources on these regions. The Arab dhow was one of the finest sailing vessels of its day, and its hull and sail design later greatly influenced the shipbuilders of Italy and Iberia who would pioneer European overseas exploration from the 13th century onward. As these achievements testify, despite continuing political instability, Islamic civilization remained vibrant, receptive, and highly creative through much of the era of Abbasid decline and the political fragmentation of the Muslim heartlands.

based on

Cistercian architecture

The Cistercians, a Roman Catholic religious order of enclosed monks and nuns, was founded by a group of Benedictine monks from the monastery of Molesme in 1098, with the goal of more closely following the Rule of Saint Benedict.The Order was, by family links, closely related to the founding families of the Knights Templar in Champagne and Flanders.


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.

Theological Principles

Cistercian architecture was based on rational principles. In the mid-12th century, the prominent Benedictine Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis had united elements of Norman architecture with elements of Burgundinian architecture (rib vaults and pointed arches respectively), creating the new style of Gothic architecture. This new "architecture of light" was intended to raise the observer "from the material to the immaterial" – it was, according to the 20th century French historian Georges Duby, a "monument of applied theology. " Cistercian architecture expressed a different aesthetic and theology while learning from the Benedictine's advances. Although St. Bernard saw much of church decoration as a distraction from piety, and the builders of the Cistercian monasteries had to adopt a style that observed the numerous rules inspired by his austere aesthetics, the order itself was receptive to the technical improvements of Gothic principles of construction and played an important role in its spread across Europe.
This new Cistercian architecture embodied the ideals of the order, and in theory was utilitarian and without superfluous ornament. The same "rational, integrated scheme" was used across Europe to meet the largely homogeneous needs of the order. Various buildings, including the chapter-house to the east and the dormitories above, were grouped around a cloister, and were sometimes linked to the transept of the church itself by a night stair. Usually Cistercian churches were cruciform, with a short presbytery to meet the liturgical needs of the brethren, small chapels in the transepts for private prayer, and an aisle-edged nave that was divided roughly in the middle by a screen to separate the monks from the lay brothers.

Engineering and Construction

The building projects of the Church in the High Middle Ages showed an ambition for the colossal, with vast amounts of stone being quarried. This was also true of the Cistercian projects. Foigny Abbey was 98 meters (322 ft) long; Vaucelles Abbey was 132 metres (433 ft) long. Monastic buildings came to be constructed entirely of stone, right down to the most humble of buildings. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Cistercian barns consisted of a stone exterior, divided into nave and aisles either by wooden posts or by stone piers. The Cistercians recruited the best stone cutters. As early as 1133, St. Bernard was hiring workers to help the monks erect new buildings at Clairvaux. It is from the 12th century Byland Abbey, in Yorkshire, that the oldest recorded example of architectural tracing is found. Tracings were architectural drawings incised and painted in stone, to a depth of 2–3 mm, showing architectural detail to scale.


The Cistercian abbeys of Fontenay in France, Fountains in England , Alcobaça in Portugal, Poblet in Spain and Maulbronn in Germany are today recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

source illustration Fountains France from wikimedia and text:

The Templars of Nieuwpoort (Flanders, Belgium)

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

In 1239, a lady Ogilve, widow of Gilles Quathar (which makes one think of the French Cathars), bequeathed to Molensteen Willard, Commander of the Temple House of Yper, some property situated in the territory of Nieuwpoort.

At the time the Templar tower of Nieuwpoort, also known as Devil's Tower (or Tour Saint-Laurent), was attached to the church of St Lawrence. The church, a possession of the Templars, was destroyed by fire in 1913. The tower also served as a beacon to indicate the port entrance to the sailors. She was also one of the most important astronomical stations in Belgium.

The Templar Tower was destroyed in 1941 by the four giant guns of the battle ship Tirpitz of the German army. The ruins of the tower are visible at the Willem de Roolaan (lane), a few tens of meters from the Nijverheidstraat (street).

Demolition in 1819 of a staircase inside the tower revealed ancient murals. A paper entitled "Notes on an ancient painting discovered at Newport" by J.L. Kesteloot noted the historical ties between Nieuwpoort and the Templars. It also referred to the animosity between the Templars and the King of France, Philip the Fair. These lead to the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, during which the Flemish militia, supported by contingents of Wallonia and the Templars themselves, defeated one of the most powerful armies in Europe 

Charles Saint-André

Illustration and translated text from source. A list of Flemisch Templar sites can be found here and here..  

 Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patrontipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books


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

 Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patron, tipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

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.

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

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

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.’ (...)