Mystery of the Knights Templars: Protectors or Treasure Hunters on a Secret Mission?
Crusader coins of the kingdom of Jerusalem, Denier in European style with Holy Sepulchre. British Museum, 2007. ( Wikimedia Commons ).
Decline of the Templars
With the fall of the Holy Land to the Muslims in 1187, the Templar order lost its founding purpose and became a target for unhappy debtors. With the failure of the crusades and subsequent closures of the passage to the holy land, there no longer became a reason for the Knights Templars to exist. Imagine a standing army roaming Europe that answered to no one and with no battle to fight. This attracted attention and due to the wealth and political power the Templars had, they were seen as a threat to the power structure. During the early 14th century, the order experienced a sudden decline. In 1302, King Philip IV of France came into conflict with the pope. Needing cash for his wars, he waged a vicious and skillful campaign aimed at suppressing the Templars, gaining their wealth while simultaneously, striking a blow against the papacy.
On Friday October 13, 1307, all the Knights Templars in France were arrested by agents of King Philip and he ordered any still residing in the country to be thrown into prison where they were tortured until confessing to accusations of heresy, homosexuality, and dishonest business activities. They were charged with capital offenses and their properties seized. More than likely, many of the confessions were meaningless but following these admissions, a Papal command was issued by Pope Clement V to all Christian sovereigns in 1312 which ordered that all Knights Templars be disbanded. The order of the Templar Knights went underground and their movements have been shrouded in mystery ever since. Friday the 13th is linked with this historical event.
Execution of the Templars in the presence of Philip ‘the Fair’. Bedford Master 1415-1420, France. ( Wikimedia Commons ).
After Clement’s edict in 1312, the Templars virtually vanished from the pages of history. Of the hundreds, possibly thousands of Templars who were not arrested, there is little record of what happened to them. There is documentation that their large fleet of ships vanished and it’s possible that they fled to Scotland since the country was something a Templar stronghold at the time. They might have gone to Switzerland or hidden in the Alps which bordered southern France (its endless mountain range would have been a perfect hiding spot for treasure). Some survivors of the Templar order can be traced and they simply changed their name becoming the Knights of Christ in Portugal for example.
But of all the mysteries surrounding the Knights Templars, the most puzzling one concerns their time spent in Jerusalem. The Templars literally disappeared there for nine years and what they did in their time there remains mostly unknown. There were nine middle aged monks who were hardly in a position to protect travelers coming in and out of Jerusalem. There also doesn’t seem to be a written account of any pilgrims being guarded by the Templars. In 1867 a clue came to light when a British archaeological team excavated under the site of the temple mount in Jerusalem. There, they uncovered tunnels extending vertically from a mosque for some twenty five meters which fanned out horizontally under the dome of King Solomon’s temple. Templars spurs and various pieces of armaments were found as proof that the tunnels had been used by them. A prevailing theory is that the Knights Templars were digging under the Temple for treasure left there by the Jews after the invasions by the Romans in 70 AD. Other theories suggest the knights were guarding the Holy Grail and in possession of major treasures. The biblical temple of Solomon once housed the Ark of the Covenant and Ten Commandments. There are early masonic writings in the 1800’s citing documents which allegedly link the Templars with the arc of the covenant and treasure buried in the Temple of Solomon. Regardless of which theory is the right one, when they emerged again in Europe they were more wealthy, powerful and influential than ever.
Featured image: Image of the Templar Knights ( brother-servant, brother and brother-knight priest). Ukraine, 1870. ( Wikimedia Commons ).
1.) Wasserman, James. "Secret Societies: The Knight Templars and the Assassins." Secret Societies: The Knight Templars and the Assassins . N.p., 8 Dec. 2006. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. < http://jameswassermanbooks.com/templar-lecture.html>.
2.) Timbers, Alex. "Knights Templar." Knights Templar . N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. < http://morrischia.com/david/portfolio/boozy/research/knights_20templar.html>.