A Question I Was Asked:

Who Were 'The Knights Templar'?

Who Were 'The Knights Templar'? In view of all the often silly and fanciful hype, is there now any hope of separating myth and legend from truth about these people?

UK Apologetics Reply:

I fear, very little. This group seem to crop up in numerous conspiracy theories. But what do we actually know? I mean from hard, substantial evidence? Probably only the following:

The 'Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon,' commonly known as the 'Knights Templar,' or the 'Order of the Temple' (French: Ordre du Temple or Templiers), or simply as Templars, were among the most successful, wealthy and powerful of the Western Christian military orders which existed in the Middle Ages. The group are especially interesting because of their involvement in the area of Christian finance. The organisation actually existed for between two and three centuries, so it was far from a mere 'blip' in time.

Originally endorsed and supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the Order became a quasi militaristic/charitable and financial organisation throughout much of French Christendom and they grew rapidly in membership, power and prestige. The Templar knights, commited to chivalric standards of behaviour, usually wore a distinctive white mantle with a red cross, and were always regarded as among the most skilled fighting men during the Crusades. But it is believed that the group also had a large non-combatant section and it was this division which managed a large economic infrastructure, initially within France, but later throughout Christendom, and it is widely believed that they established, and successfully run, an early form of banking.

The Templars' existence was tied closely to the Crusades; when the Holy Land was lost, support for the Order tended to fade. Eventually rumours about the Templars' secret initiation ceremonies, and questions of their true allegiance started to create mistrust. Finally, King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, eventually took advantage of the situation and decided to launch a surprise attack on the Templars. So, in 1307, many of the members in France were arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and some of them burned at the stake. Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V officially disbanded the Order in 1312. In all of this, there is a strong suspicion of plain jealousy being the root cause of these problems, especially regarding the Templar's success in financial matters. With the disappearance of this Order, the economy of France took a real buffeting which the country took several years to recover from.

It has more recently been claimed (mainly as the result of sensationalist claims within various books and at least one Hollywood movie), that the Templars were only wealthy because they plundered the Temple at Jerusalem, but this is almost certainly pure fiction, just good stuff for a movie! Certainly their vast underground vaults were eventually searched and little was found there. Their wealth seems far more to have been based on very wise financial practices which they upheld for over a hundred years. It has also been claimed that the Templars eventually morphed into the Freemasons, again, nothing like solid evidence exists for this, although the freemasons may well have derived certain practices from them.

One may be pretty sure that 90% of the stories, plots, conspiracies and intrigues concerning The Knights Templar are pure fiction. The truth would appear to be that they were a thoroughly fine and chivalrous organisation which sought to maintain and further Christianity wherever they could. This, however, does not mean one would support all of their deeds today, but it does appear that the pure jealousy of Philip IV of France, especially in financial matters, was the cause of their final demise. In deciding to attack and outlaw them, the French king also effectively cancelled his huge debts to them.

Robin A. Brace. October 3rd, 2014.