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In the process, they became far wealthier than most of the states they counted as their clients and invented the essentials of the modern banking system. The Freemasons are popularly believed to be the modern descendants of the Templars, and within the ranks of the roughly , Freemasons in England are about 30, Templar Knights. Having said that, there is some evidence that the Scottish St. Clair or Sinclair family may provide a link between the Templars and the Freemasons.

Gravestones at Rosslyn Chapel—built by the St. Clairs about years after the Templars were purged—display Templar-like effigies, and some of the carvings inside the chapel resemble Templar symbols. More pertinently, the St. The Temple Church still stands in London, you can embark on the Underground rail system at Temple station, and barristers belong to one of the four Inns of Court, two of which are the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. The names date back to the 12th century when the Knights Templar owned the land on which the buildings stand.

And throughout Britain are dozens of place names—among them Templecombe and Temple—that clearly illustrate the historic importance of the order. But those are just names and buildings. Old names and old buildings, granted, but without any direct relevance today to the order that spawned them.


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So are there any contemporary organizations that have an established and unbroken lineage that connects them to the original Knights Templar? Perhaps surprisingly, there are two. The second is the Military Order of Christ in Portugal. The Knights Templar order was disbanded by the Pope in But even before that, many Templar knights had left the country to escape persecution by the heavily indebted French king, Philip the Fair.

Eventually, the order was able to establish subsidiary centres in most of the states of western Europe, which became important sources of revenue and new recruits. Money may have poured in from all corners of Europe but there were high costs to be met, too.

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Maintaining knights, their squires, horses knights often had four each , and armour and equipment were all drains on the Templars' finances. The Templars also had a charitable purpose and were supposed to help the poor. One-tenth of bread produced, for example, was distributed to the needy as alms.

Finally, military disasters resulted in losses of both men and property in enormous quantities. The exact accounts of the Templars are not known, but it is more than likely that the order was never quite as rich as everyone thought they were.

Also operating in the Baltic crusades against pagans, by the 13th century CE the Knights Templar owned estates from England to Bohemia and had become a truly international military order with tremendous resources at its disposal men, arms, equipment, and a sizeable naval fleet. The Templars had established a model which would be copied by other military orders such as the Knights Hospitaller and Teutonic Knights. There was one area, though, in which the Templars truly excelled: banking. Regarded as a safe place by locals, Templar communities or convents became repositories for cash, jewels, and important documents.

The order had their own cash reserves which were, from as early as CE, put to good use in the form of interest-gaining loans.

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A Freemason's Guide to the Knights Templar in Scotland

The Templars even permitted people to deposit money in one convent and, provided they could show a suitable letter, transfer and then withdraw equivalent money from a different convent. In another early banking service, people could hold what today would be called a current account with the Templars, paying in regular deposits and arranging for the Templars to pay out, on behalf of the account holder, fixed sums to whoever was nominated. By the 13th century CE, the Templars had become such proficient and trusted bankers that the kings of France and other nobles kept their treasuries with the order.

Kings and nobles who embarked on crusades to the Holy Land, in order to pay their armies on the spot and meet supply needs, often forwarded large cash sums to the Templars which could be withdrawn later in the Levant.

The Knights Grand Cross of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem

The Templars even lent money to rulers and thus became an important element in the increasingly sophisticated financial structure of late medieval Europe. Recruits came from all over western Europe, although France was the largest single source. They were motivated by a sense of religious duty to defend Christians everywhere but especially the Holy Land and its sacred sites, as a penance for sins committed, as a means to guarantee entry into heaven, or more earthly reasons such as a search for adventure, personal gain, social promotion or simply a regular income and decent meals.

Recruits had to be free men of legitimate birth, and if they wished to become knights they had, from the 13th century CE, to be of knightly descent. Although rare, a married man could join provided his spouse agreed. Many recruits were expected to make a significant donation on entering the order, and as debts were a no-no, the financial status of a recruit was certainly a consideration. Sometimes recruits came late in life. An example is the great English knight Sir William Marshal d.

There were two ranks within the order: knights and sergeants, with the latter group including non-military personnel and laymen. Most recruits were for the second group. Indeed, the number of knights across the order was surprisingly few. There were perhaps only a few hundred full-brother Templar knights at any one time, sometimes rising to knights in times of intense warfare. These knights would have been greatly outnumbered by other soldiers used by the order such as infantry the sergeants or recruits from vassal lands and mercenaries especially archers , as well as squires, baggage bearers, and other non-combatants.

Mysteries of the Knights Templar

Other members of the order included priests, craftsmen, labourers, servants, and even some women who were members of affiliated nunneries. The order was led by the Grand Master who stood at the top of a pyramid of power. Convents were grouped into geographical regions known as priories. In troubled zones like the Levant, many convents were in castles while elsewhere they were established to control areas of land the order owned.

Letters, documents and news reports went back and forth between convents, all carrying the seal of the order - most commonly two knights on a single horse - in order to foster some unity between distant branches. There he was assisted by other high-ranking officials such as the Grand Commander and Marshal along with lesser officials in charge of specific supplies such as clothing. There were occasional meetings or chapters of representatives from across the order and chapters at provincial level, too, but there seems to have been a great deal of autonomy in local convents, and only episodes of gross misconduct were ever sanctioned.

Knights took vows on entering the order, much like in monasteries, although not so strict and without the restriction of always remaining inside their communal accommodation. Obedience to the Grand Master was the most important promise to be made, attendance at church services was compulsory, celibacy too, and communal meals a given which did, every odd day, include meat. Worldly pleasures were not permitted, and these included such quintessentially knightly pastimes as hunting and hawking and not wearing flashy clothing and arms which normal knights were famous for.

For example, belts were often a medium for decoration, but the Templars wore only a simple wool cord belt to symbolise chastity. Templar knights wore a white surcoat and cloak over their armour, as already mentioned, and carried a red cross on their left breast. This made them distinct from the Knights Hospitaller who wore a white cross on a black background and the Teutonic Knights who wore a black cross on a white background. Templar shields, in contrast, were usually white with a thick black horizontal stripe across the top.

Sergeants wore a brown or black mantle or cloak. Another distinguishing feature of Templars was that they all grew beards and had short by medieval standards hair. Brother knights could have their own personal property movable or fixed , unlike in some other military orders. Things were a little less strict in terms of clothing, too; the Templars being allowed to wear linen in spring and summer not just wool , a decision no doubt appreciated by members in warmer climes.

If any of the regulations of the order, known collectively as the Rule, were not followed, then members were punished which might range from a withdrawal of privileges to flogging and even life imprisonment. Skilled with the lance, sword and crossbow, and well-armoured, the Knights Templar and other military orders were the best trained and equipped of any members of a Crusader army.

For this reason, they were often deployed to protect the flanks, vanguard and rear of an army in the field. The Templars were particularly renowned for their disciplined group cavalry charges when, in tight formation, they blasted through enemy lines and caused havoc which could then be exploited by allied troops following up their advance. That being said, the order as a whole could prove difficult for a Crusade commander to keep check on, given that they were often the most zealous and eager troops to win honour and glory.

The Templars were frequently given the task of defending important passes such as at Amanus north of Antioch. They acquired lands and castles which the Crusader states were not able to maintain themselves for lack of manpower.

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They also rebuilt destroyed or entirely new castles to better defend the Christian East. The Templars never forgot their original function as a protector of pilgrims either, and they manned many small forts along the pilgrim routes in the Levant or acted as bodyguards. Although involved in many successes such as the siege of Acre in CE, Damietta in CE, and Constantinople in CE, there were some major defeats along the way, and such was their martial reputation, the Templars could usually expect to be executed if ever captured.

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More important members of the order, as was typical of the period were offered up for ransom. The Templar castle at Gaza had to be given up in order to gain release of the captured Master after the same battle. The vast network of convents, though, always seemed able to replenish any losses in resources and manpower. Largely a law unto themselves and a powerful military threat, western rulers became wary of the military orders, especially as they began to accumulate a huge network of lands and cash reserves.

Like other military orders, the Templars had also long been accused of abusing their privileges and extorting the maximum profit from their financial dealings. They were accused of corruption and succumbing to gross pride and avarice. Critics said they lived too soft a life and wasted money which could be better spent on maintaining troops for Holy War. They were accused of wasting resources to compete with rival orders, especially the Hospitallers. There was, too, the old argument that monks and warriors were not a compatible combination. Some even chastised the order for not being interested in converting Muslims but simply eliminating them.

Most of these criticisms were based on ignorance of the affairs of the order, an exaggeration of their actual wealth in real terms, and a general feeling of jealousy and suspicion. Then, from around CE, much more serious accusations against the Templars were circulated. It was said that they denied Christ as God, the crucifixion and the cross. There were rumours that the initiation into the brotherhood involved trampling, spitting, and urinating on a crucifix.