Mystery of the Knights Templars: Protectors or Treasure Hunters on a Secret Mission?
The Knights Templars were a secret society whose true purpose remains a mystery or is at least vigorously debated among scholars and historians to this day. The Templars left behind many clues of their actions which have been passed down through generations, hidden in ancient manuscripts and discovered by archeologists in the modern era. Their story is one that has captured the fascination and curiosity of people throughout the ages – were they sent to the holy land in Jerusalem to protect Christians on pilgrimages, or were they sent there on secret missions by higher authorities in order to unearth lost artifacts and buried treasure under temples and sacred holy sites?
Artist’s impression of a Templar Knight ( Wikimedia Commons )
The Knights Templars were members of a religious military order of Christian knighthood founded around 1118-1119 in Jerusalem by the French knight Hugh des Payens. For nearly two centuries this organization was the most powerful order in the medieval world. They were the first standing army in Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire and by the time they reached their pinnacle of power in 1300, it is said they numbered in the tens of thousands. In the beginning, there were a total of nine founding knights who made up the organization and were all related to one another through blood or marriage. As both monks and soldiers, they were a paradox without precedent since there had never been praying priests who took up arms who also took vows of poverty, obedience and celibacy. Knights Templars did not surrender unless they were outnumbered three to one and believed that since they were fighting for God they would be immediately sent up to heaven upon falling in battle.
BaldwinII ceeding the location of the Temple of Solomon to Hugues de Payns and Gaudefroy de Saint-Homer. The fourth person is Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem. ( Wikimedia Commons ).
Today in Europe, there are hundreds of former templar sites scattered across the continent showing how influential they were centuries ago. At their peak, there were approximately 15,000 Templars houses with a network stretching from England to Egypt with the center of power situated in the then heart of the medieval world, France. Conventional history says the Knights Templar’s purpose was to protect travelers traveling along the coast of the Mediterranean to Jerusalem. In the middle ages, pilgrimages were made by westerners who had been guaranteed their safety in the city and templars protected them through the passes and mountains. In addition to protection of the pilgrims, Templars also defended the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem and other holy sites as part of their duty.
- The intriguing carvings of the impressive Rosslyn Chapel.
- Walking the Camino de Santiago - Retracing the footsteps of our ancestors.
Crusades and Escort Service
For two hundred years, the Crusades were fought in the name of God and were considered to be a clash of civilizations. Enemies were formed between the Christian west and Muslim east, which have endured to this day. In 1065, Jerusalem was taken by the Turks and the Christians were treated badly enough to where, throughout Christendom, people were stirred to fight and recapture the city. Another reason for the Crusades stems from the Church‘s desire to block any Islamic incursion into Christian lands. On November 27th 1095, Pope Urban II gave a speech in which he exhorted Christians to rise up against Muslims in the Holy Land. At this point in time, Muslims controlled Spain and parts of Eastern Europe. Thousands responded to the call and took up the sword but only around 1,000 ever made it to Jerusalem. The western Christians united with the Byzantines in the east and in 1099, the Crusaders, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, captured Jerusalem back from the Turks after a five week siege. When the holy sites were in Christian hands, Westerners began traveling to the area in record numbers. Outside the city walls, life was dangerous and there became a need for an escort service which is when the first Knights Templars came forward.
Pope Urbanus ll preaching the First Crusade. ( Wikimedia Commons ).
Banking Back Home
During the third crusade, the Christians were decimated at the battle of Hattin. It was the single worst military disaster in the holy land and one of the worst defeats for Christianity. The Templars were all put to the sword by their Muslim conquerors who would go on to take the city of Jerusalem a few months later. Subsequent crusades by later generations would come to be known as failures. When they returned home after the first crusades in 1128, the Templars were rich and influential and answered to no one but the pope. They also did not have to pay taxes and were allowed to cross through the borders of European countries unrestricted. From 1150 on, they stopped guarding the road to Jerusalem. Instead they devised a system which allowed pilgrims to travel without cash and valuables that might otherwise make them targets. The Templars entered into the banking business and the Temples (local lodges) were established throughout Europe, drawing deposits of massive wealth. The services the templars offered became the model for today’s banking system, money transfers, pension plans and traveler’s checks. Their wealth made them the prominent bankers of their age and the first western multi-national corporation. The most controversial service the Templars offered was the issuance of high profile loans. Princes and commoners alike banked with the Templars, and many states became indebted to them. The church, adamantly against usury at this time, looked the other way.