Cults and Secret Societies: Knights Templar cover

Cults and Secret Societies: Knights Templar

By


The Knights Templars supposedly came to a sudden and violent end on a bleak March day in 1314 when the ancient order’s Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral.
King Philip the Fair of France had orchestrated the annihilation of the once powerful organization to seize its considerable wealth and pressured the then Pope Clement V to outlaw the Christian soldiers.


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Cults and Secret Societies: Knights Templar

An Orchestrated Annihilation

The Knights Templars supposedly came to a sudden and violent end on a bleak March day in 1314 when the ancient order’s Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral.

King Philip the Fair of France had orchestrated the annihilation of the once powerful organization to seize its considerable wealth and pressured the then Pope Clement V to outlaw the Christian soldiers.

But the Templars dying leader remained defiant, calling out to his tormentors from the flames: "God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.”

Templars Burned at the Stake

Templars Burned at the Stake

Public Domain

A Secret Society

Pope Clement was dead within the month and King Philip died in a hunting accident before the year was out.

But while scores more Christian knights were tortured and murdered, while others were forced to flee and their wealth seized, many historians believe the order lived on – driven underground as a secret society that has been pulling strings in the corridors of power to this day.

Freemasonry has its roots in the order, as do a number of other secretive groups seeking to burnish their image and sense of mystery through a connection with the medieval Templars.

Guarding A Sacred Relic

The original organization’s early occupation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Crusades has given rise to speculation through the years that the knights discovered the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant and have a sacred duty to safeguard the relics, a theory given fictional credence in books from Wolfram von Eschenbach’s ‘Parzival’ in the 12th century right through to Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in 2003.

Whatever the truth, the Templars’ emblematic red crosses and white tunics have captured the imagination of countless generations.

Seal of Templars

Seal of Templars

Public Domain

The Irony Of It All

Initially called the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the order, which was officially endorsed by the Catholic Church around 1129, existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages.

Ironically, for a group that insisted on its members giving up all worldly goods – its mascot was two knights riding a single horse to underline their poverty – they collected more money than most countries, and indeed owned the island of Cyprus for a while.

Vows To God

They pioneered an early form of banking, managed a large economic infrastructure across Europe and the Holy Land –

effectively acting as the world’s first multi-national corporation – and accumulated a financial empire that brought with it power and influence.

But the Knights Templar was first and foremost a religious military order and was primarily identified with the Crusades.

The nine founding knights took the vows of monks to follow lives of poverty, chastity and obedience. But their fourth vow was very different to their brothers in God – it was to police the roads of the Holy Lands and protect the pilgrims who had become easy prey to robbers and brigands.

The Storm Troopers Of The Crusades

The nine soon became 30 and the “storm troopers of the Crusades” were given a wing of a palace on the site of the Temple of Solomon as a headquarters.

Knights could pass freely through all borders, didn’t have to pay any taxes and were only answerable to the Pope. Although the Holy Land was eventually lost – marking the beginning of the end of the Templars – their bravery won some famous victories including the Battle of Montgisard in 1177 when about 500 knights helped several thousand infantry beat Saladin’s army of more than 26,000.

Templar Building At Saint Martin Des Champs, France

Templar Building At Saint Martin Des Champs, France

Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY 3.0)

First Use Of The Check

At one point, noblemen were so enthusiastic about joining the cause they would deposit their valuables with a Templar official before embarking for the Crusades and were given a document indicating how much it was worth.

When they arrived in the Holy Land they used that same document to retrieve treasure of equal value, the first formal use of a “check.”

There were as many as 20,000 members of the order at its height, although about one tenth were knights and the rest were support staff, bureaucrats and chaplains.

The Last Master

Deeply in debt to the Templars from his war with the English, King Philip saw the order’s weakness following the collapse of the Crusades –

and its secret initiation rites - as the perfect opportunity to strike against them. He ordered the arrest of knights who confessed under torture to trampling and urinating on the Crucifix, secret rites of obscene kisses, sodomy, usury, treason, idolatry and heresy.

Seven years of inquisition followed, prompting hundreds of public executions. The death of de Molay, the last Master of the Knights of the Templar, was supposed to be the defining act that killed off the order for good.

Battle of the Horns of Hattin

Public Domain

Battle of the Horns of Hattin

Battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187, the turning point in the Crusades.

A Testament To Secrecy

Since the 18th century, the Freemasons have incorporated Templar symbols and rituals and the society is reputed to first date back to fourteenth century Scotland where some of the fleeing Templar knights may have settled beyond the reach of the papacy because the then King Robert the Bruce had been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church.

For many historians, it was simply too much to expect such a powerful organization to crumble to ashes. It is a testament to the secrecy of the Knights Templars that we are still unsure just how deep its tentacles reach into the pillars of power in the 21st century.