Medieval Templar liturgy: standardized or patchwork?
Scientific research suggests, that it can no longer be assumed that the Templars followed a uniform liturgy. Instead, the evidence supports the argument that Templar commanderies in the East followed the liturgy of Jerusalem but distanced themselves in their liturgy from the holy city after it had been lost.
Western Templar commanderies ceased to follow the Jerusalem liturgy entirely and adopted local rites instead. These could be monastic, canonic or mendicant in character, depending on the foundation date, location, size and social composition of the Templar commandery under scrutiny. Understandably, the observation that western Templar houses adopted local liturgical rites has in turn serious implications on how we can assess Templar religion, since different rites allowed for different degrees of lay participation in the liturgy.
The Templar Rule and statutes are also only of limited help when it comes to establishing what went on within the walls of Templar churches. (...) The rule paints at best a very idealistic picture of Templar devotional life, as it was once envisaged by the Order’s founding brothers operating in the spiritual context of the Augustinian chapter of the Holy Sepulchre and the council fathers at Troyes in 1129. As such it offers a framework for Templar religious engagement; but it does not explain religious realities in local contexts. (...)
The documentary evidence that captures the patchwork nature of Templar religion best is found in the Templar inventories drawn up, for the most part, shortly after the Templars’ arrests in 1307–1311. Buried in them are snippets of valuable information relating to Templar liturgy, pastoral care and devotion usually not mentioned in the order’s normative texts and numerous other documentary sources.
Drawing on unpublished and published inventories and estate records from the National Archives of the UK, Helen Nicholson has argued that, far from revealing irregularities, these records show that the Templars’ beliefs were entirely orthodox. However, although the chapels of their major houses were sumptuously equipped, those at smaller, more remote houses contained little equipment and must have relied on the services of hired priests. Nicholson also conludes that such reliance on outside spiritual services meant that the Templars’ religious practices must have been closely linked to those of the society in which they operated. This is oin accordance with the findings of Schenk.
Quotes adapted from: The Documentary Evidence for Templar Religion by Jochen Schenk (2017), In: Borchardt, K., Döring, K., Josserand, P. and Nicholson, H. (eds.) The Templars and their Sources. Series: Crusades - Subsidia (10). Routledge, pp. 199-211. ISBN 9781138201903; illustration by TemplarsNow©, Lamaids Templar Church, Allier, France.