Were the Knights Templar really monks?


Templars burned at the stake.
Templars burned at the stake

The Knights Templar are routinely referred to as ‘warrior monks’.  But were the Templars really monks in the accepted sense.  In her book ‘The Templars – The Secret History Revealed’, well respected author Barbara Frale makes the point that strictly speaking, they were not.  Why?  Well – let’s start with one basic point – the Templars were never actually ordained as priests.

The knights went through some form of initiation and took the monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  But they did not have the powers of a priest to administer the holy sacraments.  A Templar knight could not give communion for example.  One reason for this was that priests were not allowed to go in to battle and kill – which obviously Templars did routinely.

Pope Innocent II (1130-1143) reigned during the early formative years of the Templar order.  He ruled that the Templars needed ordained chaplains who had received holy orders before joining a Templar house.  They could minister to the Templars’ religious needs but under no circumstances could they take to the field of battle.

Frale believes that by the early 1300s, the number of chaplains in Templar preceptories had collapsed.  Given that under the Rule set down by Bernard of Clairvaux, the Templars had to pray nine times a day – they must have had trouble guaranteeing the presence of a chaplain to minister to their needs.  It was Bernard who said the Templars had to be “meek as lambs and, at the same time, as ferocious as lions”.  They were supposed to be intensely prayerful but also ready to raise their sword high and slay the Saracen.

Meek monks and courageous warriors but not properly ordained.  Little wonder that some in the church did not regard them as part of the club and even a little suspect.

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2 thoughts on “Were the Knights Templar really monks?

  1. Monks are not priests anyway. They live the contemplative life and pray multiple times daily – but no monks – medieval or modern – are ordained as priests. They have priests attached to the order for priests were not allowed to fight. Monks cannot hear confessions nor administer the sacraments, so the arguement that the Templars were not monks because they were not ordained as priests does not hold water.

    1. You make a completely valid point and I doff my proverbial hat to you. This rather shoots down the point raised by this historian. It’s almost a non-point. I’ll keep the post up though to show the argument and its refutation. Many thanks!

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