When it comes to secret societies, or at least societies that are full of legend and myth, the Knights Templar are one of the highest ranking. More legends abound about them that movies and books have made fortunes off of them. If it wasn’t a legend before, entertainment makes it one. But what is the truth about the Knights Templar? Are they really what we think they were?
The beginnings of the Knights Templar help create the romantic and legendary image of the group. Created in the early 1100s during the Crusades by Hugues de Payens, they were known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. Their purpose was to help protect those travelling to Jerusalem and also to help protect the new kingdom under new leadership, that of European descendants.
These were religious knights. They did not rise up to take advantage of a financial situation. They were soldiers who saw a need and felt a pull to be protectors. In essence, they become monk knights. They took vows of poverty and chastity. As they took their vows, their property and wealth were handed over to the order which in time grew to be very rich.
As time went on, the papacy wanted to combine the forces of the Knights Templar with that of a similar order called the Hospitallers. Pope Clement V saw an advantage to combining these orders which had been rivals over the years. The Knights Templar leader, known as the Grand Master, expressed concern over the possible merger. Rumors of heresy arose as the papacy pushed for the merger and the order pulled away. Eventually in 1312, the Council of Vienne dissolved the order. All known members were arrested with the majority executed.
If all had been left as it, the history of the Knights Templar would have just been a part of the history books. Instead, the rumors that began of heresy spread to rumors of survivors. When a rumor starts, it can grow into something completely unmanageable.
The heresy rumors involved desecration of the cross and unchristian beliefs that were practiced in private where the world could not see. This led to the rumors of members escaping arrest and continuing the society secretly underground. From there, they were to control many of the world’s banks and governments. No historical evidence really exists of this, but history is full of the rumors that have been accepted as fact by many.
Rumors became even more widespread as the founding of the Freemasons had numerous traditions and symbols of the Knights Templar adopted and carried forward. This much have meant that the underground Knights Templar had resurrected to the surface of society as the Freemasons, right? That is what many since the 1800s have believed.
Movies and book have perpetuated these legends and even added many over the years. Rumors have given the order of the Knights Templar its place on the list of secret societies. History gives them a memorial in 1312. Time will only tell which one is true or if the truth lies somewhere in the middle of what we know and what we wish had happened.