Foundation of the Hospitallers of Saint John at the end of the 11th century

"In the eleventh century, when pilgrimages to Jerusalem had greatly increased, some Italian merchants of Amalfi, who carried on a lucrative trade with Palestine, purchased of the Caliph Monstasser-billah, a piece of ground in the christian quarter of the Holy City, near the Church of the Resurrection, whereon two hospitals were constructed, the one being appropriated for the reception of male pilgrims, and the other for females.

Several pious and charitable Christians, chiefly from Europe, devoted themselves in these hospitals to constant attendance upon the sick and destitute.

Two chapels were erected, the one annexed to the female establishment being dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, and the other to St. John the Eleemosynary, a canonized patriarch of Alexandria, remarkable for his exceeding charity. The pious and kind-hearted people who here attended upon the sick pilgrims, clothed the naked and fed the hungry, were called “The Hospitallers of Saint John.”

On the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders (1199; TN), these charitable persons were naturally regarded with the greatest esteem and reverence by their fellow-christians from the west; many of the soldiers of the Cross, smitten with their piety and zeal, desired to participate in their good offices, and the Hospitallers, animated by the religious enthusiasm of the day, determined to renounce the world, and devote the remainder of their lives to pious duties and constant attendance upon the sick. They took the customary monastic vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and assumed as their distinguishing habit a black mantle with a white cross on the breast. Various lands and possessions were granted them by the lords and princes of the Crusade, both in Palestine and in Europe, and the order of the hospital of St. John speedily became a great and powerful institution."

source "The History of the Knights Templars, Temple Church and The Temple", by Charles G. Addison Esq (London 1842)

Papel bulls and the Knights Templar summarized summarizes the papal Bulls pertaining to the Knights Templar as follows:

"There are many important dates in the history the Middle Ages, but some notable ones were the issuance of the Papal Bulls and, in this instance, those issued for and against the medieval Knights Templar. A Papal Bull is a formal proclamation or order issued by the Pope and the use of "bull" is derived from the lead seal or "bulla" that is appended to the end of the order to authenticate it. Originally a Papal Bull was used for normal communications, but would evolve and used for formal and important occasions

The Knights Templar is said to have formed in 1118, but it did not have Papal recognition for another 2-decades. Initially the knights were received and formed by the permission of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. In 1128, by the efforts of Bernard of Clairvaux the Council of Troyes convened and the Catholic Church officially recognized the Knights Templar. Following the Council of Troyes, three Papal Bulls were issued which further endorsed the Templars and defined them.

Omne Datum Optimum, Latin for Gift," was a Papal Bull issued by Pope Innocent II in 1139 which endorsed the Knights Templar. It allowed the Templars to keep their spoils of war, placing donations directly under papal protection,and exempting them from paying tithing. This proclamation added a priest class to the hierarchy as well as making the members of order answerable to the Grand Master.

Milites Templi, Latin for "Soldiers of the Temple," was issued by Pope Celestine II in 1144 gave ecclesiastical protection of the Knights Templar and further endorsed them by advocating that the faithful donate to the cause of the Templars. This along with the Templars annual collections and with the next Papal Bull laid the base for the Orders famous wealth.

Militia Dei, Latin for "Soldiers of God," was issued by Pope Eugene III in 1145. This was somewhat controversial as it allowed the Templar priests to take tithes, build their own churches, collect property taxes from their tenants, and bury their dead in their own cemeteries. Some speculate that this gave the Order's priests to take confession, but others believe this is a false assumption as no language exists within this Papal Bull that allows for such liberties.

On Friday, the 13th of October, 1307, the Templar suppression began by the French King with support by the Holy See. The French King had the Templars charged with heresy and many other trumped-up charges, most of which were identical to the charges which had previously been leveled by Phillip's agents against Pope Boniface VIII. The first papal bull dealing with the fall and dismantling of the Templars wouldn't come for another month and would begin with Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, but would include 9 others.

Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, Latin for "Pastoral Preeminence," was issued by Pope Clement V on 22 November 1307. This bull was sent to all Christian monarchs and ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar and the seizure of all their properties. In spite of this request not all monarchs complied immediately; some did not believe the accusations and required more force by the Church for the arrests, confiscation, and investigation to occur in places like England.

Faciens Misercordiam, Latin for "Granting forgiveness," was issued by Pope Clement V on August 12, 1308. This bull called for the creation of an Ecumenical Council as a part of the trials against the Knight Templars, the creation of commissions who ran investigations into the charges leveled against the Templars, and established formal structures for the confiscation of Templar property and possessions. This council was asked to be held in 1310, but would not be held until 1311, and is important because it vested the fate of the Templars with the Papacy and not any of the monarchs.

Regnans in Coelis, Latin for "Reigning in Heaven," was the 15th Ecumenical Council which was held in Vienne located in Southern France. They met between 1311 and 1312, and its principle purpose was to formally withdraw the papal support given to Knights Templar as well as dealing with the massive properties that they had accumulated over the centuries. The Templars were allowed to have representatives at this council; the Grand Master was requested to attend, but was imprisoned in Paris by the French king. Those attending the Council were 20 cardinals, 4 patriarchs, around 100 archbishops and bishops, plus several abbots and priors.

Vox in Excelso, Latin for "A Voice from on High," was issued by Pope Clement V in 1312. This bull formally dissolved and removed all Papal support from the Templar Order, but did not wholly condemn the Templars which goes along with his actions of secretly absolving the Templar Order with the Chinon Parchment. "


Great Priory Knights Templar International, Paris, 2012

Video of the Great Priory of the Knights Templar International Chapter of France held in Paris, 16-18 March 2012 "Remembering the Grand Prior of Jacques de Molay".

Souce YouTube.

The Templar Seal - quotes

"The first seal that we are aware of is one of Grand Master Everard de Barres, a small wax seal from 1147 with the inscription “TUBE: TEMPLI: XPI. ....  Seals were used to validate letters, edicts and documents. With these seals, the authenticity of the document was validated.

Since at the time, the fabrication of a seal was quite labor intensive and difficult and a majority of the population were illiterate; the religious orders had their own seals and each one of them had its particular characteristics. There was a Templar seal with both inscriptions, on the obverse the two knights astride one horse and the reverse the Dome of the Rock, and, another one smaller in size with only the image of the Dome of the Boulder as it was referred to at that time. As time went on, special measures were taken to regulate its use and it was kept in a special chest that required three keys to open, one was in the Master’s possession and the other two were held by Templar officials of the utmost confidence.

As to the question of the Templar seal’s image having a connection to the Holy Sepulcher, one must only recall that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem was entrusted to the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, founded by the very same Godfrey de Bouillon during the First Crusade, finally in the year 1098. This military order participated in all of the battles of the Holy Land after 1123 and it is no folly to think that the Poor Knights of Christ and of Solomon’s Temple, would honor their very name and the place where their central command was located, through connection and for all the symbolic meaning of the place.

For all three faiths, the center, the alpha and the Omega is Jerusalem, and in the Holy City the center is, without a doubt, Solomon’s Temple. Although not being physically, there it still emanates that special magnetism, greater than any other Sacred Space. .... As stated earlier, all that remains is the Wailing or Western Wall, but its center is located precisely on the rock sheltered by the Dome. This reminds us in a subtle way that all radiates from that center and all returns to it. It is the way of the initiate and of the Templars or, a certain part of them, were knowing and guardians of that symbolic world that reminds us of that forgotten path, the way to our own center. This is the symbology of the seal of the Dome of the Rock, a reminder of what direction a Knight Templar must look, towards the center of his own heart."

This blog quotes from an article "The Templar Seal - Dome of the Rock" by Fuensanta Santos de la Rubia in the May 2016 OSMTJ Spain The Graal Magazine to be downloaded here. The text and interpunction was slightly improved source quote and illustration. 

Promo-video OSMTH Knights Templar Belgium

Knights Templar and Papal bulls: Militea Dei (1145)

Consecration of St Etienne Cathedral,
Châlons, by Pope Eugene III
"'Militea Dei’, the third of the papal bulls, issued by Pope Eugenius III in 1145, is very similar in both content and style to ‘Milites templi’. The bull begins with praise for the knights’ efforts for the eastern church, drawing attention yet again to important military task the Order was saddled with. The bull moves on, much like the bull before it, to compel the clergy again to gather resources for the Templars.

However, ‘Militea Dei’ is different to its predecessor in that it discusses specifically that the clergy provide priests for the Order to ‘furnish them with the solace they require’. This bull reinforces the message of the previous bull, while adding pleas for the recruitment of spiritual aid. Here it can be seen that the papacy was perhaps concerned about the knights’ spiritual wellbeing, possibly indicating that they were aware of how taxing the rigors of the Order could be. The bull goes on to say that the clergy should allow and aid the Order in having their own temples in which to worship, as ‘It is not fitting and indeed is almost fatal to the souls of religious brothers to mingle with crowds of men and to meet women on the occasion of going to church.’

This is an interesting comment. Firstly, it suggests that the papacy was aware that the Order faced temptation from worldly desires, such as women, and strove to stop the temptation where they could by providing a separate place of worship for the Order. This is a papal recognition of the hardships the Order imposed on itself, and is similar to the praise the papacy bestowed upon the Cistercians for their strict and rigorous worship of God. Secondly, it can be argued that this comment cements the Knights Templar as a fully-fledged monastic Order, as they now had their private place of worship.

Read makes an interesting point about the pope who issued the bull; when Eugenius III was elected as pope he was an abbot of a Cistercians house and also ‘had once been a monk at Clairvaux, drawn into the community by the magnetism of Bernard’. This connection to the Cistercians, and in particular, Bernard of Clairvaux, shows that the influence of the Cistercians on the Templar Order was absolutely pivotal in its founding and subsequent growth. It seems highly improbable at this point that without Bernard’s support and the subsequent support of the papacy that the Order would have ever been anything more than a small group of vagabond knights."

This blog quotes freely from the thesis by Lori Firth, Hull University (2012):  "A Comparison of the Cistercian and Knights Templar Orders, And the Personal Influence of Bernard of Clairvaux", to be found here. References in the source.

The Templar force counted

The number of Knights Templar during the 200 years of their existence remains open for debate. TenmplarsNow collects information on this issue. This paper (in French; quote translated bij TN) states the following:

"By counting the number of dead and missing in a battle, the researchers established the number of figthers present in the Orient. This gives between 300 and 400 for each of the three orders, the Templars, Hospitallers and TeutonicKnights. That is not much in the eyes of the opinion of the time, given their wealth. But the knight is never alone. He is assisted by grooms and valets without whom he can not be effective in the field. In addition, the heavy cavalry needs light cavalry, that is to say, foot soldiers,archers and crossbowmen. At every few hundred knights one must therefore add a few thousand auxiliaries.

A more accurate estimate is made when the Templars were repatriated to France, following the loss of Saint-Jean d'Acre in 1291. That's even why they so concerned about the royal power. With fifteen thousand lances, the order is a more powerful army that the royal army, and always available. One understands better why this gave King Philip grey hair...."

In his "The New Knighthood" Malcom Barber states:

"By the late twelfth century and during most of the thirteenth century the Order probably had about 6oo knights and 2,000 sergeants on active service in the east.... During the thirteenth century the Order may have had as many as 7,000 knights, sergeants and serving brothers, and priests, while its associate members, pensioners, officials, and subjects numbered many times that figure. .... By about 1300 it had built a network of at least 870 castles, preceptories, and subsidiary houses, examples of which could be found in almost every country in western Christendom. The extent of the Templar empire can be gauged from the fact that in 1318 pensions were being paid to former Templars in twenty-four French dioceses, as well as in York, London, Canterbury, Dublin, Tournai, Liège, Camin, Cologne, Magdeburg, Mainz, Castello, Asti, Milan, Bologna, Perugia, Naples, and Trani, in Nicosia in Cyprus, and in the kingdoms of Aragon and Mallorca. In turn this network sustained fighting forces for the holy war in Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, and Iberia, together with some of the most formidable and impressive casties ever built." (text rearranged bij TN)