Friday 13: Knights Templar
What does Friday the 13th have to do with Masonry? It’s a long twisted connection, and I’ll take a look at this today.
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), better known as the Knights Templar, was one of the most famous of the Christian military orders. It existed for about two centuries in the Middle Ages, created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096, to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed toward Jerusalem after its conquest.
The Knights and Islam
Fighting the Muslims was central to the Order's existence, since its purpose was to protect the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem. However, the Order knew that this was impossible by military means alone without also engaging in diplomacy, since the crusader states were sandwiched between rival Muslim sultanates. On at least two occasions, they entered treaties with Muslims: In 1172, they entered an alliance with the Assassins; in 1239, they allied themselves with Damascus against Egypt.
The Templars enjoyed a "sustained and sympathetic contact with Islamic and Jewish culture." They may even have attempted to reconcile Jews, Christians, and Muslims, they argue, linking this with their theory "if Jesus were acknowledged as a mortal prophet, as a priest-king and legitimate ruler of the line of David, he might well become acceptable to both Jews and Muslims." They also enjoyed the friendship and respect of Prince Usama of Shaizar, who "liked and respected the Templars," admired Frankish justice, but found their medicine primitive. Usama, says Fletcher, was a frequent visitor to the royal court in Jerusalem.
Money and the Templars:
Though individual members took vows of poverty, and their personal possessions were limited to the essentials, the order itself received donations of money, land and other valuables from the pious and the grateful. The Templar organization grew very wealthy.
In addition, the military strength of the Templars made it possible to collect, store, and transport bullion to and from Europe and the Holy Land with a measure of safety. Kings, noblemen, and pilgrims used the organization as a kind of bank. The concepts of safe deposit and travelers' checks originated in these activities. pilgrims deposited their valuables with a local Templar preceptory before embarking, received a document indicating the value of their deposit, then used that document upon arrival in the Holy Land to retrieve their funds. This innovative arrangement was an early form of banking, and may have been the first formal system to support the use of cheques; it improved the safety of pilgrims by making them less attractive targets for thieves, and also contributed to the Templar coffers.
Based on this mix of donations and business dealing, the Templars established financial networks across the whole of Christendom. They acquired large tracts of land, both in Europe and the Middle East; they bought and managed farms and vineyards; they built churches and castles; they were involved in manufacturing, import and export; they had their own fleet of ships; and at one point they even owned the entire island of Cyprus. The Order of the Knights Templar arguably qualifies as the world's first multinational corporation.
The Downfall of the Templars:
Oct. 13, 1307. He had many tortured to make them confess to charges of heresy and immorality. It is generally believed that Philip did this simply to take their vast wealth, though he may also have feared their growing power.
Philip had previously been instrumental in getting a Frenchman elected pope, but it still took some maneuvering to convince Clement V to order all Templars in all countries arrested. Eventually, in 1312, Clement suppressed the order; numerous Templars were executed or imprisoned, and the Templar property that wasn't confiscated was transferred to the Hospitallers. In 1314 Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Templar Knights, was burned at the stake.
The Legend continues