Highgate

Thursday

Knights Templar

"No downfall was to be so complete and spectacular as that of this arrogant order of monastic knighthood. Formed during the crusades to be the sword arm of the church in defense of the holy land, the Templars had moved from ideals of asceticism and poverty to immense resources and an international web of power outside the regular channels of allegiance. They were not known for charity and unlike the knights of st. john, supported no hospitals. With 2,000 members in france and the largest treasury in northern europe, they maintained a headquarters in the "Temple", their formidable fortress in Paris.
Not only their money but their existence as a virtually autonomous enclave invited destruction. Their sinister reputation, grown from the secrecy of their rituals , supplied the means. In a pounce like a tiger's leap, Philip seized the Temple in Paris and had every Templar in France arrested on the same night.
To justify confiscation of the Order's property, the main charge was heresy, in proof of which the King's prescecutors dragged into the light every dark superstition and fearful imagining of sorcery and Devil-worship that lay along the roots of the medieval mind. The Templars were accused by suborned witnessses of bestiality, idol-worship, denial of the sacraments; of selling their souls to the Devil and adoring him in the form of a huge cat; of sodomy with each other and intercourse with demons and succubi; of requiring initiates to Deny God, Christ and the Virgin, to spit three times, urinate, and trample on the cross, and give the "kiss of shame" to the prior of the Order on the mouth, penis and buttocks.
To strengthen resolution for these various practices, they were said to drink a powder made from the ashes of dead members and their own illegitimate children."
- excerpt from "A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century"
by Barbara W. Tuchman Pages 42-43. (Amazon)

A complete history of the Knights Templar (link)

12 comments:

Eva the Deadbeat said...

are you going to post an excerpt with the bloody tortures? thumb screws and anal probing and what not!? fun stuff!

The Le Duo said...

i've been giving the 'kiss of shame' to 'the man' for years

c.l.miller said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
c.l.miller said...

Some thoughts... Though understandably clouded by the mists of time, it seems quite clear from the available evidence that the downfall of the Knights Templar had very little to do with their "sinister reputation" and everything to do with the greed of the rapacious Philip IV and his genuinely sinister counsellors, such as Guillaume de Nogaret.
The Knights Templar's reputation does NOT appear to have included the almost standardized accusations of Mohammedism (from whence "Baphomet")/idolatry and witchcraft which were levelled against them prior to their arrest in 1307. Pope Clement V, well aware of Boniface VIII's fate at the hands of Philip's minions (he was kidnapped, humiliated and tortured and died within a month of his release) capitulated to Philip IV's demands for a blanket condemnation of the order, though it is notable that it took him five years to do so. No evidence, beyond the forced confessions of the Templars themselves, all of which were later recanted, has ever surfaced to support any of the accusations.
So what was Philip's motivation?
Philip was hugely in debt. At the dawn of the 14th Century he was engaged in two major international conflicts one against England (allied to Scotland) and the other against the Townsmen and merchants of Flanders, to say nothing of the internal conflicts and power struggles against his own barons.
Most of his money was owed to two parties, the Jews and the Templars (there wasn't a lot of choice in those days, usury was TECHNICALLY forbidden to Christians). He needed more money to keep fighting and to maintain his position as monarch.
The Jews were an easy, even perennial, target, and in 1306 Philip seized their accounts and property, declared all debts owed by Christians to be void and expelled them from the country. Taking down the Knights Templar, a project which began in 1307, was a more ambitious project, but one which had likely been contemplated since 1291 when the order had essentially lost its raison d'etre with the fall of Acre. With no Christian holy land to protect, the knights still maintained vast holdings and resources throughout Europe, particularly in France. Being an international organization, they order itself had become intimately involved in international trade, and even provided credit to various merchants, princes and monarchs, Philip was one of them. Seizing the Templars treasure (rumored to be immense) and their lands was irresistable for Philip. Overall, it worked out well for him, and the French monarchy was able to maintain its stranglehold on the papacy (the "Avignon" or "Babylonian" captivity) for almost 70 years.

c.l.miller said...

A few other thoughts... the text you've quoted may give the impression that the Knights Templar took their name from the "Temple" in Paris. The order actually took its name from the (then presumed) temple mount in Jerusalem, where the knights originally made their headquarters under Baldwin II.
Tuchman also appears to criticize the knights for their lack of charity and for not supporting hospitals, which seems odd. The Knights Templar were founded as a military order dedicated originally to escourting Christian pilgrims in the holy land and later adopting a more general mission of protecting Christians and Christian holdings in the middle east. The knights may have taken monastic orders which, among other things, allowed them to answer directly to the papacy rather than being beholden to a secular lord, but their primary focus was military.
The comparison with the Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John) is also a bit unfair, for it implies that the Knights Hospitaller were somehow superior for their support of hospitals. This is misleading. If anything, the hospital should be said to support the knights, and that was only true in the early years of their existence.
The Knights Hospitaller have their origins in the Benedictine brothers who served the hospice built on the site of a monastery dedicated to St. John, HOWEVER, the MILITARY order of the Knights Templar was organized around the armed escorts of that hospice. Clear divisions existed between the military branch of the Hospitallers and those who cared for the sick and injured. By the time Clement V dissolved the Templars (incidentally, the Hospitallers bought most of the ex-Templar holdings in France) the Hospitallers were an almost entirely military organization whose primary focus was conquest. In 1309, two years after Philip IV had the Templars arrested, the Hospitallers conquered the island of Rhodes and shifted their attentions away from the protection of pilgrams and towards the protection of merchants. Specifically, they took to combating the Barbary pirates.

The Le Duo said...

holy smart response batman

casey said...

Hey Chris!

According common KT mythology, there were supposedly only a handful of Templars set to the task of protecting this "holy highway" and its travelling mendicants.

What the kids REALLY want to know is: When and how did the order blossom into the most financially endowed and well staffed religio-military orders all time? (Al Queda and Sea Org excepted, of course.)

PS: Olsen posted some dark "truths" today:

http://www.ibrecords.com/journal/entry.php?id=930

c.l.miller said...

Templar mythology says a lot of things it shouldn't, that's what makes it mythology rather than history.

c.l.miller said...

Sorry, that was a bit flippant.
The Knights Templar grew so rapidly and became so successful for a number of reasons. The order existed at a time when donating money and property to the church was an obligation of the nobility. By donating to the Templars nobles could not only gain kudos for giving to the church, they also fulfilled a practical need to shore up the Christian defenses of the holy land and could essentially be regarded as a crusader by proxy. The Templars also received property from monarchs eager to share out holdings within their lands to a semi-stable, reliable and INDEPENDENT organization rather than contribute to the wealth and power of the fueding nobles under them.
On top of this, the knights drew their members from the nobility itself, and as part of joining up, these nobles were required to donate all of their (often considerable) worldly goods to the order on taking their vows.
The order's aforemention ability to provide credit, essentially inventing checking, was also a major factor; the journey to the holy land was a dangerous one and many of the pilgrims who banked with the Templars never returned home.
As for only a handful of knights guarding the "Holy Highway"... that depends on what you mean. Yes the order started out as an escort service (as did the Hospitallers) and no, that didn't last long in the strictest sense, but the Templars essentially adopted all of Outremer as being under their protection from the Muslims; They died by the hundreds if not thousands at Hattin and Acre.

Molly said...

Insert obtuse 'escort service' joke and snide comment along the lines of 'dude, you have too much time on his hands' here.

If I ever meet Dan Brown I'm going to bite out his throat.

If I ever meet C.L. Miller I'm going to hug him.

Tmoore said...

i know his true identity. But he still won't let me hug him... rats.

casey, looks like Cooley's been reading R.A.W.

casey said...

Fnord!