There is a lot of mystery surrounding the Knights Templar and what they did. Below is a potted history of the main events that made them the most famous Order of their kind.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
The Order of Knights Templar was founded in 1118 by Hugh de Payens, Geoffroy de Saint-Omer and seven other knights. It was consecrated to the defence of pilgrims and the protection of the Holy Land. The founding knights took monastic vows and were known as “the poor knights of Christ”.
King Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem (1118-1131) installed the order as part of his palace, on the site of Solomon’s temple, for their residence, stables and armoury, from which it took the name the Knights of the Temple or Knights Templar.
At the council of Troyes in 1128 the Order was confirmed by Pope Honorius II, who gave it the strict rule dictated by Bernard, a monk of the Cistercian order and first abbot of Clairvaux. The knights also received the white mantle as a symbol of their purity of their knightly life, to which in 1146 Pope Eugenius added a red cross.
The Orders battle honours in defence of the Holy Land were many. Following the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 the Templars withdrew to Acre. They remained at Acre under the Grand Master William de Beaujeu until 1291 when the city was captured and he was killed. The surviving Templars were the last to leave the city. The Order withdrew to Limassol in Cyprus and had its new headquarters at the temple in Paris.
It was not long before this, the by now rich and powerful order excited the envy and the greed of others. The principal malefactor being Philippe le Bel, King of France, who was financially indebted to the order. In 1307 Philippe arrested all serving Templars in France with the intention of sequestrating all the orders possessions.
Not in a position to judge an order answerable only to the Pope. Philippe set about coercing the Pope to suppress the order, but the Pope refused whereupon the King dismissed him and created his friend, the Bishop of Bordeaux, Pope Clement V, who readily issued a bull suppressing the order in 1312. Only in France were the Templars treated with any severity, with Grand Master Jacques de Molay and others burnt at the stake in March 1314.
In England, Edward II at first did not take any action against the Order, but finally, he allowed the inquisitors to judge the order at the church of All Hallows by the Tower. Edward then set about claiming English Templar lands and possessions, including the London Temple. After Edward’s actions the Templars sought refuge in Scotland where they were welcomed.
Prior to his martyrdom Jacque de Molay invested Jean-Marc Larmenius with his powers. Larmenius was recognised as Grand Master following de Molay’s death. He gathered together dispersed remnants of the order and in 1324 gave the Order the Charter of Transmission. This Charter is still one of the governing documents of the present order.
The Order continued in secret with an uninterrupted line of Grand Masters until 1705. In March of that year a number of French nobles held a convention of Templars at Versailles. They elected Phillip, Duke of Orleans and later Regent of France as the orders 41st Grand Master. Thus as regent of France and Grand Master of the Temple he provided an official renewal and legitimisation of the Order of the Temple as a secular order of chivalry with its right to resume the use of the word sovereign in its title.
Between 1818 and 1841 the Order expanded greatly with over 20 convents in France and Priories set up in Britain, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
In 1940 when France and Belgium were invaded by Nazi Germany. Emile Joseph Isaac Vandenberg, who lived in Brussels, was Grand Master. In order to safeguard and ensure the survival of the Order he handed over his rights to a Portuguese neutral, Count Antonio Campello Pinto de Sousa Fontes who became Regent pending an election of a Grand Master. Since then many Priories have claimed an Autonomous Status.