Templar churches and chapels

Chapelle d'Avalleur
According to some authors the religious Templar churches and chapels were built in a way specific to the Order and arranged for the exercise of secret and mysterious rites. Hence the existence of a Templar architectural symbolism, the famous "Templar architecture", whose models would be octagonal buildings or rotunda, like the rotunda of the Temple of Paris.

If the actual existence of an architecture specific to the Temple is doubtful, it is none the less true that it is permissible to perceive in the use of certain forms or dispositions a symbolic content related to the conception of the spirituality of the Templars. But in its outline and its order, this architecture is inspired by the monastic architecture of the time, especially Cistercian style and references.

Let us remember that every sacred building rests on an articulated set of formal and other symbols whose purpose is to put in permanent relation the sacred, but nevertheless terrestrial, built site with the divine world, the symbols serving to express this relationship materially.

"crochets" source

Two types of sacred buildings were favored by the Temple: the church and chapel with rectangular or basilica plan, of early Christian origin, with the shape of a long square, generally oriented towards Jerusalem. The building has a nave, often with one and sometimes with three aisles. There is no break between the nave and the choir, which is closed by a  semicircular dome with in the wall three narrow windows or triplet of Romanesque or Gothic style, according to time. 
The back of the facade is often pierced by a single narrow window. 

This simplicity is also found on the outside openwork facade of the simple portal, sometimes decorated with small columns, and a middle window on the first floor, which is topped with a bell-tower arcade. Often,this is replaced by a more traditional bell tower leaning against one of the side walls of the building. Both inside and outside,  the decoration is discreet and uniform, though regional differences exist, and limited to foliage, some animal figures or hooks ("crochets") based on the Cistercian model. 

First illustration and text (translated from French and slightly edited) from a blog on Templar symbolism on templiers.org.free.fr

Making the Crusades possible: the agricultural revolution

A series of revolutions in economic and political life transformed Northern Europe. Technology (tools) drove the process, and it was the entrepreneurial spirit of inventive farmers, craftsmen, and what we call today business that triggered change. The monastery as an economic enterprise provided central direction upon reflection and quickly adopted the technologies to enhance the productivity of the monastery. The Cistercian Order under Saint Bernard is found in the middle of the process. 

The soil of northern Europe was too dense and damp to be plowed efficiently with the scratch plows of the day to produce much past subsistence. In order to cut the heavy soil, the heavy plow was invented which included a cutter, plowshare, and wheels and was initially drawn by oxen. The need for speed and horse power, as horses pulled two hours longer and faster, lead to the invention of the horse collar which solved the problem of the oxen yoke which choked the horse. The hooves of horses did not fare well in the damp earth, unlike oxen, which lead to the use of horse shoes. 

Oxen could survive largely on hay, but horses needed vegetable protein such as from grain and legumes (beans). The additional protein in farmers diets lead to increased energy in the people in the area. Since legumes contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia, they were found to restore nitrogen to farmland. Crop rotations changed from fallow and wheat to fallow, wheat, and legumes, a change to three crop rotation which also extended the productive use of the land.

This text consists of slightly edited quotes from the blog The Cistercian Connection by Gordon S Fowkes. The illustration is from the same source.