Were the Knights Templar illiterate?

English: Mongols_and_Templars_attacking_Jerusa...
Mongols and Templars attacking Jerusalem in 1299

I was quite surprised the first time I read that  the Knights Templars were illiterate.  It’s a claim that crops up over and over again but I’ve always found jarring.  So it’s good to read some writers challenging this.

The case against the Templars being wholly illiterate seems quite compelling to me:

– They operated an early banking system that required book keeping, accounting and the issuing of financial documents

– Templar estates were well run and highly productive, creating the agricultural wealth that funded their military endeavours in the Holy Land

– Like all monks, the Templars prayed at all hours of the day and were governed by a Rule written down by their great supporter Bernard of Clairvaux

– Templar masters had Saracen secretaries and appear to have had more than a passing interest in Islamic practice and belief, even if it was to know how better to defeat them

When I was taught medieval history at school, it was assumed that practically everybody was illiterate and people were pretty primitive until the Renaissance came along and made us all civilised.  Nobody believes that anymore.  Literacy was more widespread than is often realised, even outside the monasteries and there was a far higher degree of sophistication than has been assumed in the past.

Were the Templars more illiterate than anybody else?  I don’t see why they should have been.  The knights were from the higher echelons of society and combined the military life with that of a monk.  So how  has this very negative view of the Templars emerged – I’m curious to know.


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