The Templars were accused by their detractors of being soldiers for the anti-Christ – not for Christ as they claimed. Other more esoteric theories suggest the Templars may have indulged in Satanic rituals or followed Gnostic beliefs imbibed in the East.
So, who exactly is the Anti-Christ?
Anti-Christ is a concept that is hard for the modern mind to grasp. I’m not convinced everybody in the Middle Ages had a firm handle on the concept.
The gist is that Anti-Christ is a figure who comes to deceive mankind and in whom Satan has some kind of controlling influence – or even dwells actively within. Anti-Christ will come at the end of days pretending to be the saviour but being the complete opposite.
Anti-Christ could have been the Emperor Nero!
Anti-Christ may be a leading political figure or somebody who claims to be a force for good in the world. Or Anti-Christ may reveal himself as a complete psychopath. Either way, Jesus Christ will come along and vanquish him.
Some early Christians thought the Emperor Nero was Anti-Christ and with good cause – he blamed Christians for a huge fire in Rome during his reign. Then, according to one source, he burned Christians as street lamps at a private party on his large estate.
A complex mythology around Anti-Christ developed with him seizing power over the entire world from Jerusalem. Then two biblical figures, Elijah and Enoch, would bear witness to his falseness but be killed for their pains.
The evil one would then go insane killing every righteous person he could get his satanic hands on until the Lord overthrew him and raised the two witnesses to the truth from the dead.
It became rather convenient for Popes to identify some of their enemies as Anti-Christ – false preachers sent by Satan. Unfortunately, that could also backfire with popes being accused of being Anti-Christ and having risen themselves up to laud it over mankind. When there were rival popes and anti-popes, this accusation became all the more prevalent.
How do you spot Anti-Christ?
But how would you know the evil one? The problem with the bible is a lack of clarity on who exactly Anti-Christ is – there are several candidates – and what he/it would appear like. So medieval artists gave it their best shot using all manner of sources to guess the appearance of Anti-Christ.
You might recognise him because he would be riding both Leviathan and Behemoth. Well, riding the two giants of land and sea would be quite an entrance.
He normally looks human – sometimes resembling Jesus who he is trying to imitate. In other accounts, he is a bit easier to recognise. One story says he is twelve cubits high, two cubits wide, red crooked eyes, golden hair, green feet and two skulls. Well, you wouldn’t miss that Anti-Christ in a hurry.
More revoltingly, Hildegard von Bingen in the twelfth century had a vision of Anti-Christ being born – from the church which was kind of represented as a woman. I’ll spare some of the details here but out pops a black head with fiery eyes, donkey’s ears, a mouth like a lion, iron teeth, etc.
The creature is a like a hairy black parallelogram with teeth. Anti-Christ will stink apparently. It will then attempt to ascend in to heaven in a parody of Christ’s ascent and be cast down so violently its head will break open.