The Knights Templar was founded in 1119 on the principles of charity, obedience, and poverty. These were basically the same requirements for religious monks at the time. The new order, however, was founded to protect Christian pilgrims travelling from the coast of present day Israel east to Jerusalem. Protection was needed because these pilgrims were often set upon and murdered by Islamic Arabs living in the area. Pilgrimage was a huge feature of Western Christendom, at the time, and thousands made the trip from Europe to the Holy Land. The ultimate objective of the pilgrims was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—the site of the crucifixion, entombment, and reserrection of Jesus Christ.
A French Count, Hugh of Payns, set up the order and became its first Grand Master, the title of its leader. The order was originally called the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon. Poor they certainly were, living off the charity of the Knights Hospitallers, who had set up medical facilities and, at the time, were not engaged in military activities. Hugh returned to France seeking manpower and financial support and found his chief enthusiastic supporter in Bernard of Claervoux—the future St. Bernard. His support paid off handsomely and men and wealth flooded into the Templars’ coffers. Through Bernard’s support, the Order was given papal authorization and recognition by Pope Innocent II on March 29, 1139, placing the Templars “under the protection and tutelage of the Holy See for all time to come.” Unfortunately for the Templars, this protection didn’t last two centuries. Though the Templars were gone within two-hundred years, their feats became legendary and are still with us to this day.
Jones’ book examines the path of the Templars through their historic journey and, while thoroughly researched and detailed, it is written in an easy to read narrative style. The book is essentially divided into four parts.
The first part titled “Pilgrims” describes the Templars’ origins.
The second part, titled “Soldiers,” describes the Templars’ transition from a road protection of travelling Christian pilgrims to an elite military unit, who were fierce fighters in battle. This resulted in immense prestige, honor, and huge amounts of loot, all of which the papal protection allowed them to keep. Their reputation also garnered gifts from kings and commoners alike in Western Christendom.
Part three is titled “Bankers.” The Knights Templar developed into an institution that combined military skills with great success in business, enabling the order to accumulate great wealth and establish their own system of Middle Ages banking. For example, pilgrims in Europe, before setting out for the Holy Land, could deposit their valuables with the local Templars Order to receive letters-of-credit specifying the value of such deposits. These letters could then be redeemed in the Holy Land at Templar sites, enabling the pilgrims to lessen the risk of having to carry valuables on their pilgrimage. This became a very successful form of early banking. The growing Templar wealth, however, ultimately contributed to their downfall, the final part of Jones’ book.
Part four of Jones’ book, titled “Heretic,” describes the coming destruction of the Templar Order. Two figures are central to their demise: French King Phillip IV and Pope Clement V.
Phillip IV was a vile, vain, vicious, and murderous French monarch who would command the imprisonment, torture, or death of anyone who crossed him for any reason, summoning the government’s administrators, the ‘deep state’ of their time. [In modern terms, he would make the Clintons look like virtuous angels.] Phillip was also heavily in debt to the Templars for their loans to finance his wars with England. Since France was bankrupt at that time, the King had no way of repaying the debt to the Knights Templar. The solution, in the King’s mind, was to do away with the Order; no Order, no debt, he reasoned. To accomplish this evil deed, Phillip had to so damage the Order that it would force the papacy to rescind its authorization and, therefore, its protection, assuring its end.
Phillip and his minister William of Nogaret, a 14th century combination of Christopher Steele and Robert Mueller, spent more than a year interviewing disgruntled former Templars and compiling a dossier, (French for “a collection of documents concerning a particular person or matter”) of scurrilous, vile, fabricated accusations that would make today’s Steele dossier, seem like a work of everyday non-fiction. This Nogaret dossier set up a Manafort-like Friday, October 13 pre-dawn raid in complete darkness on every Templar possession in France, rounding up all the Templars throughout the country. This Black Friday 13 incident, according to many, is the origin of the of the present-day Friday the 13th “bad luck” superstition.
The Templars rounded up in these raids were turned over to the French Inquisition, which after long periods of extreme torture, led to confessions of the alleged acts in Nogaret’s dossier. The Inquisition’s witch hunt had determined the Order was a corrupt nest of heretics. Now, the only obstacle to Phillip’s plan of destruction was the papal protection of the Order.
The Pope at the time was the weak Clement V. Using Nogaret’s fictitious “Steele-type” dossier, and the fact that Phillip’s army was camped outside the city where Clement was “investigating” the Templars via a papal council – the handwriting was on the wall. But even then, when the council voted to repress the Templars, it was passed by a narrow vote. On March 22, 1312, Pope Clement V issued a papal directive suppressing the Templars and ending the organization, but perhaps the Templars had the last bitter laugh.
Two years later, on the evening of March 18, 1314 Jacques de Molay, the Templars’ last Grand Master, was burned at the stake in Paris on a small island in the River Seine. With his last words, de Molay put a curse on both Clement and Phillip, exclaiming: “God knows who is in the wrong and has sinned. Soon misfortune will come to those who have wrongly condemned us: God will avenge our death.” By the end of the year both were dead.
The Knights Templar, protectors of the Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages, fought the occupying forces of Islam where Jesus lived and died only to succumb to the French King’s conspiracy and their ultimate destruction.
The Templar Order may have ceased to exist, but its deeds and legends are still with us today. Jones’ book illustrates why that is so. It is must reading for all who are interested in truth