The Knights Templar, a military order of monks answerable only to the Popehimself, were founded in 1118.
Their primary responsibility, at leastinitially, was to provide protection to Christians making pilgrimages to theHoly Land. They rose in power, both religious and secular, to become one ofthe richest and most powerful entities in Christendom. By the time of theirdisbandment in 1307, this highly secretive organization controlled vastwealth, a fleet of merchant ships, and castles and estates spanning theentire Mediterranean area. When the crusaders captured Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099, the Churchencouraged all faithful Christians to visit that holy city in order toaffirm their faith.
The area, however, was still subject to sporadic attacksfrom various non-Christian factions. A small group of knights, led by Hughde Payens, vowed to protect the pilgrims. The group was grantedquasi-official status by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, who allowed themquarters in a wing of the royal palace near the Temple of Solomon. It isfrom this initial posting that the order derived its name. They took thestandard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and were bound to the rulesof the Augustinian order. Upton-Ward 1 The order languished in near-anonimity for several years, despite generouscontributions from various European personages.
In 1126, Count Hugh ofChampagne, having donated his estates to Bernard of Clairvaux for use inbuilding a monestary for the Cistercian order, arrived in Jerusalem to jointhe Templars. This action indirectly obligated Bernard to support the newlychosen advocacy of his benefactor. He wrote to the count, “If, for God’swork, you have changed yourself from count to knight and from rich to poor,I congratulate you. ” Howarth 49 In the year 1126, King Baldwin found two reasons for wanting officialrecognition of the order. First, he had, perhaps prematurely, bestowed uponHugh de Payens the title of Master of the Temple. Second, the king had theopportunity to launch an attack on the city of Damascus, but he needed moreknights.
Papal recognition would allow open recruiting in Europe for theorder. King Baldwin sent a letter to Bernard of Clairvaux, the order’sprimary patron, later known as Saint Bernard, asking him to petition thePope for official recognition of the order. Howarth 50-51The King’sletter was hand-carried to Bernard by two loyal and trusted knights, Andrewde Montbard, maternally related to Bernard, and Gondemare. Upon theirarrival at Clairvaux, the two knights presented Bernard with Baldwin’sletter, which came right to the point. Upton-Ward 3 “The brothers Templar,whom God has raised up for the defence of our province and to whom he hasaccorded special protection, desire to receive apostolic approval and alsotheir own Rule of life … Since we know well the weight of yourintercession with God and also with His Vicar and with the other princes ofEurope, we give into your care this two-fold mission, whose success will bevery welcome to us. Let the constitution of the Templars be such as issuitable for men who live in the clash and tumult of war, and yet of a kindwhich will be acceptable to the Christian princes, of whom they have beenthe valuable auxiliaries.
So far as in you lies and if God pleases, striveto bring this matter to a speedy and successful issue. ” qtd. in Howarth 50-51 Bernard realized at once the genius of the proposal to combine religiousand military endeavors. Through such organizations, the borders ofChristendom could be extended and fortified. He immediately granted hisapproval of the plan and pledged his full support.
He petitioned PopeHonorius II for a special council to consider the matter, and he notifiedHugh of his actions. Howarth 51 The Council of Troyes convened on January 13, 1128, a bitterly cold SaintHilary’s Day, for the primary purpose of considering the request of theKnights Templar. Despite the delays of written communications, Hugh dePayens, accompanied by several brother knights, arrived from the Holy Landin time to attend the meetings of the Council. Howarth 51 William of Tyre wrote an account of the events: “Nine