Clairvaux Abbey, major site for Cistercians and Knights Templar - 900th anniversary

The Cistercian Abbey of Clairvaux was the home of Saint Bernard of Crairvaux, founder of this Cistercian Abbey and spiritual supporter of the Knigths Templar during their early years.

Included on the calendar of national commemorations in 2015 of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the 900th anniversary of the Abbey of Clairvaux was elected cultural theme of 2015 by the General Council of the Aube Department, France

Conducted in partnership with the state and the Renaissance association Clairvaux, "Operation Clairvaux 2015" invited to visit the heart of the Cistercian adventure:
  • opening of a new visiting track at the Abbey of Clairvaux as from June, with in particular the of the monks' refectory newly restored by the State; exhibition-event at Troyes: Clairvaux, the Cistercian adventure (early June / mid-November), conducted by the General Council of Aube Department. First exhibition of this scale on the monastic, political, economic, artistic and intellectual life of Clairvaux, during the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Presentation of over 150 original documents, manuscripts and unpublished collected from all over Europe. Reconstruction of the abbey in 3D;
  • publications (BD, catalog), putting  on line the Abbey kept at the departmental archives of the Aube and at the library of the Grand Troyes (library of 1472, classified Memory of the World by UNESCO);
  • series of manifestations across the Aube Department and beyond (concerts, conferences, seminars, shows, etc.). Find the whole program here.
Many actions allowing to discover much more of the exceptional history and heritage of this abbey founded in 1115 by St. Bernard. It shone in Cistercian Europe, before becoming the largest prison in France in the nineteenth century.

source of text (translated from French to English and slightly corrected). Illustration source

The Knights Templar still exist in Côte d’Or Region, NE France

More than eight hundred years after the execution of Jacques de Molay (Last Master of the Knights Templar), the Templars leave the shadows.

A report on this discreet society between Burgundy and Franche-Comté (North-Eastern France).

The affiliation between the Templars and the Crusades today remains very difficult to define. Yet in 2014, they take up again the symbols and much of the code of chivalry to try to bring a contemporary application thereof. All over the globe, they meet to find ways to raise their consciousness. In practice, their rituals often intersect those of Freemasons. The crucible seems similar, yet both entities want to mark their difference. The costumes, vocabulary, symbols and even the organization of the rites are not alike.

In contrast to the discretion and the path to initiation, the two secret societies are on the same wavelength. The Templars of the  twenty-first century apply the same medieval organization: mainly bailiffs and commanderies. But today, the mesh spans the planet.

Chapter Day

Sunday, December 14, 2014 it was Chapter Day, the meeting of the Commandery André de Montbard. For the occasion, the Templars came from the Vosges, Alsace, and also the Paris region. The locals come from Burgundy or Franche-Comté.

The meeting place takes place in a big ancient building, garded by two very nice doggs, one a young Leonberger, the other an Austrian Shepard. They support their big heads on the thick grid. They seem harmless and wag their tails when they see someone looking at them. 

Regrettably, the entrance to the hall where the cermony will take place is just in front of the grid. A gentle slope leads to a double wooden door. The meeting is held in what was to be a sort of old above-ground cellar. In any case, the arched and narrow look of the room quickly cuts the feeling of time. The meeting itself will strengthen that feeling.

Sounds of swords ...

Just behind the entrance, the room opens. Much longer than wide, everything is in barren stone. Some lights illuminate the room with a diffuse yellowish light. On the left, the white coats of arms are hanging on the wall; right they are black. A stone platform is surmounted by an altar with a dagger, a Bible, and several leaves are arranged. At the foot of the altar, two stones. One bearing chisel marks, the other smooth. Masonic symbols? "We are not at home ..." apologizes a Templar. "We rent the site which is usually a temple for the Freemasons. "Behind the altar, a curtain protects the entrance to another room from which the sounds of swords sliding back in their sheaths are heard.


The first knights appear. They wear the long white cloak of the Knights Templar, with on their sleeves a large Lorraine cross. Some wear this cape with a small chain ending with two clips representing the shells of pilgrims of Saint Jacques de Compostela. Under this cape, a tunic, also white, also wearing an eight-pointed Lorraine cross. A leather belt completes the costume. Neither helmet nor chain mail, and of course, no horse either. The purpose of the Templars today is not to go to war against a people or another religion.

Besides, the wearing of the sword is also folklore because they are neither sharp nor strong enough to take the shock in a real fight. One member even said that a market highly specialized, develops around the Templars accessories. "The swords can be bought between 250 and 300 euros. Mine, I found it on the internet for 90 euros!" Although the weapons are different, the knowledge of good financial management comes with the Templars all through the ages. During the Middle Ages this order of soldier monks developed a real banking network which had significantly increased their power, but also envy. It is this tremendous success that feeds even today the legend of the Templar treasure. Enough with the warlike tendencies, time for reflection.

Symbolic and dissertations

The chapter can be divided into two distinct parts: a symbolic side with all the rituals, the other part with essays with the presentations of the research expressed in the "parchments" (name given to the exercise). These cover topics that may appear abstruse like "candle", or "the standard". Just as important as the work of mixing philosophy and esotericism: respect for rituals. Everything is standardized. The place of the participants, for example, is governed according to their rank. Thus, the novices, wearing a black dawn, sit down. They do not participate in the exchange following the presentation of a "parchment". They keep quiet and listen. "It's quite a holy lsson in humility" says one of them.

Another important symbol: the nine candles. They represent the nine founding knights of the order. Before lighting each candle, the name and a brief biography of the knight are read by participants. Similarly, before the opening of the chapter, the Templars formulate an oath touching the handle of a sword presented to them: "Silence, obedience, and loyalty." Other symbols are borrowed from Catholicism to mark the origins of their history. Thus, before the opening of the session, incense is burned. Similarly, a sort of communion is practiced with the sharing of bread and wine. Other religious reference: the Bible, which is set before the altar.

Chain of Love

The chapter ends with a round where participants hold hands. The Templars call it a love chain. Before, they crossed their swords, always standing in a circle. Once these rituals have been performed, the chapter ends. The members take off their mantles and put away their swords. Another tradition awaits: lunch after chapter.

Leaving their temple, the real motivations that inspire people to participate in this kind of event remain mysterious. The pleasure of wearing a period costume? Satisfy the desire to belong to a discrete society? Find a path for personal development? Or simply the taste of living history? In any case, once outside, the two dogs did not move from their observation post and remain close to the gate to beg a caress. Whatever the time, some situations do not change.

This blog is a translation from a publication in French in on December 24, 2014. Regrettably the link to this publication is lost. illustration

Knights Templar and Switserland

Twin Castle Valere and Tourbillion in Sion Switzerland
Twin Castle Valere and Tourbillion
in Sion Switzerland

"The current Knights Templar Headquarters are in Geneva.  This country befits and holds similar many of the most common and closely guarded values of the original Knights Templar.

The oldest abbey established in Switzerland is Sion, in the Valais Canton. There is a twin peaks overlooking the town, meaning new Jerusalem or holy place in the Alps.  The twin mountains house the cathedral of Sion and the Castle Tourbillion.  These date back to the beginning times of Swiss Confederation formation around 1291.  A time when the Templars were known to be looking to establish a European mainland stronghold outside of the Holy Land as they were being pushed out of the Levant by the Muslims and the Christians had lost their stomach to fight on any longer.

Castle Chateau Valere Sion Switzerland
These are suggestions that certain historians and conspiracists alike deem to be true that suggest that the Knights Templar did in fact form Switzerland.  The evidence and likelihood seem pretty plausible to me. The county of Valais in the city of Sion has a particular Templar tie in the founding history. Rumors have always floated that this is where the Templars originally set up shop after their flight from France.
  • In the history of the first Swiss Cantons there are tales of white coated knights mysteriously appearing and helping the locals to gain their independence against foreign domination.
  • The founding of the early Switzerland pinpoints exactly to the period when the Templars were being persecuted in France by King Philip IV of France.
  • Switzerland is directly to the east of France and would have been particularly easy for fleeing Templar brothers from the whole region of France to get to.
  • The Templars were one of the earliest known banking systems in early day Europe. King Phillip in fact was deeply in debt to the Templars.
  • Not only were the Templars big into banking, but also in farming, engineering, and clock making (of an early type). These same aspects can be seen as importance to the commencement and gradual forming of the separate states that would eventually be Switzerland.
  • The Swiss don’t really know the ins and outs of their earliest history (or suggest that they don’t.)
  • They are famous for being secretive and independent as were the Templars.
  • The famous Templar Cross is incorporated into the flags of many of the Swiss Cantons. As are other emblems, such as keys and lambs, that were particularly important to the Knights Templar.
  • The Swiss were and are famous for their religious tolerance – and so were the Templars"

Text and illustrations from

Contemporary views of the Knights Templar - Part 5 - quotes

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

"There were many other complaints against the military orders before 1300. Perhaps the most significant were the divided opinions over their record of fighting the Muslims (and other non-Christians). Many complained that they were not sufficiently enthusiastic about defending Christendom and winning back lost territory, while others complained that they were too eager to fight those who could be won to Christ by peaceful means...

Many accusations that the military orders were unwilling to attack the Muslims arose from a misunderstanding of the true situation in the Holy Land. The Templars were criticised for refusing to help the Third Crusade besiege Jerusalem in 1191-92, but the brothers believed that the city could not be held after the crusaders had returned home, and that the security of the holy places was better served by attacking Egypt...

Other critics felt that the military orders were too eager to fight. Thirteenth-century literature depicted the ideal knight as one who only fought when necessary. The military orders' self-sacrifice for Christ seemed rash and irrational. Some of the clergy believed that the orders' love of violence and domination impeded or prevented conversions. This accusation was made against the Templars in the 1180s by Walter Map, Archdeacon of Oxford, and against the Teutonic order by some unknown critics and around 1266-68 by Roger Bacon, an English Franciscan friar imprisoned in Paris for his unorthodox views...

The Templars had a special position in the defence of the Holy land. According to Jacquemart Giélée, the brothers claimed to be sole 'Defenders of the Holy Church'. They were depicted as principal defenders of the Holy Land by the Parisian poet Rutebuef in 1277, Templars were mentioned in chronicles and literature in general more than other military orders. They were invariably listed first whenever anyone thought about military orders. They had been the first military order, and were one of the richest and most far-flung. Yet this particular prominence also left them particularly vulnerable when they failed in their duty.

When the city of Acre finally fell to the Muslims in May 1291, several reports of the disaster depicted the Templars as chiefly responsible for the defence of the city. The chronicler of Erfurt, writing in the summer of 1291, depicted the Templars dying like true knights of Christ, fighting to the last. Thaddeo of Naples, a priest, praised the courage of the brothers of the military orders who died, and portrayed the death of the master of the Temple, William of Beaujeu, as the decisive blow which led to the loss of the Holy Land. For after Acre fell, the remaining Latin Christian possessions in the East surrendered to the Muslims..."

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

French fresco from the Middle Ages shows Knights Templarpursuing a fleeing enemy. Photograph: Alamy; source

Contemporary views of the Knights Templar - Part 4 - quotes

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

"But the Templars and the Hospitallers caused particular annoyance because their houses were so widely scattered. Their legal privileges were especially resented. In 1236 Pope Gregory IX wrote to the Templars and Hospitallers in western France ordering them not to abuse the privileges granted to them by the papal see.

The brothers had been summoning their legal opponents to courts in far-off places which they had no hope of reaching by the specified day, so that they were then fined for failing to appear. The brothers had also been taking annual payments from clergy and laity in return for allowing them to share their legal privileges"

Quotes from a paper by Helen Nicholson, Published in History Today Volume: 44 Issue: 12 1994. Illustration: Cressing Temple in the UK, source