Jews and the Knights Templar – a complex relationship


Last year, I visited a small synagogue in the Portuguese town of Tomar. Under Templar administration of the town, Jews had enjoyed a degree of protection. They had even flourished as a community.

But in the centuries that followed the crushing of the Templar order, the Jews faced the full horror of the Inquisition. The synagogue was turned into a prison for Tomar’s Jewish families. Eventually, a mournful curator told me, they were led into the public square and burned at the stake as heretics.

The blood libel myth

In the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries – when the Templar order was at its height – a number of children were alleged to have been murdered by the Jewish community in various towns in Europe. These accusations were certainly false and designed primarily to enable the seizure of the assets of prominent, wealthy Jews.

Hugh of Lincoln was one of the reported cases of a child being murdered in a so-called ‘blood libel’.   The child was supposedly killed in a way that mocked Christ’s crucifixion and the propaganda alleged that the blood was collected for Jewish rituals.  No real proof exists for any of this and modern scholars reject these accusations as baseless.

As in an earlier case involving a child called William of Norwich, Hugh of Lincoln was an innocent boy who simply disappeared.  It was later said that Koppin the Jew lured the boy in to his house where he was kept a prisoner for a month in the year 1255.  Eventually he was scourged and crucified.  According to Evelyn Lord in her excellent book ‘The Knights Templar in Britain’ – Koppin and 18 other Jews were arrested, tried and confessed to the murder.  They were then executed.

Jews forced into money lending in the medieval period

Due to various prohibitions put on Jewish people, they established a niche in medieval society as money lenders and this was how some became very rich.  Their clients included kings, bishops and princes and the sums involved were huge.

For Christians, the church ban on earning interest meant that this kind of money lending activity was strictly speaking sinful.  However, many cathedrals were built by taking out loans with the Jewish money lenders.  And many wealthy Jews made discreet donations to the church in the hope of currying favour and protection.

Officially, the kings of England did protect the Jews having brought them over with the Norman Conquest.  But that protection seems to have broken down from the time of King Stephen and a hundred years later under Edward I, the already hugely persecuted Jews were forced to leave England and did not return until the rule of Oliver Cromwell in the seventeenth century.

Templar relationship with the Jews


The Templars seem to have had a complex relationship with the Jews.  They certainly were not anti-semitic – or no more than most people at the time.  If we look at the case of the murder of Hugh of Lincoln, we can get an idea of how Templars and Jews interacted.

The Jews lived in houses in the centre of Lincoln many of which they rented from the Knights Templar.  Basically, the Templars were their landlords. It’s hard to say that the Templars would have been more sympathetic to the Jews than their very hostile neighbours though one could speculate that the intensified persecution of the Jews was commercially disruptive to the Temple.

The Order of the Temple was a going financial concern in its own right.  It operated a complex financial web across its thousand preceptories from England to Aragon to the Holy Land.  Credit notes could be taken from one preceptory – say in London – and cashed in at another preceptory – say in Acre.  Like the Jews, the Templars bankrolled church and state alike, particularly in France.  Indeed, the debts owed by the French king to the Temple undoubtedly led to their downfall.

The Jews also lent heavily to medieval monarchs.  Aaron, another Jew who lived in Lincoln, was one of the biggest money lenders in England in the twelfth century.  King Henry II, father of Richard the Lionheart, is estimated to have owed him £616 12s 8d.  When he died, the monarchy seized all his assets and this came to somewhere around fifteen thousand pounds – a vast amount in the Middle Ages.

The Templars were therefore landlords to many of these Jewish merchants, fellow money lenders (though operating differently) to kings and princes and in England, the Temple also was responsible for holding the taxes levied specifically on Jews.  These monies were placed in the London Temple.  This could have created some antagonism between the Jews and Templars.

Stories that the Templars were really Jews are nonsense

There is some wild online speculation that the Templars were Jewish because they were bankers – I hope nobody takes that kind of forced logic seriously.  Both groups in medieval society were engaged in finance at a very primitive level and for different reasons.

In England, both groups came under increasing levels of attack in the second half of the thirteenth century and the common cause was the need for finance on the part of the king.   They would eventually see their assets seized and in the case of the Temple, they would be snuffed out for all eternity.


12 Comments on “Jews and the Knights Templar – a complex relationship

  1. History is interesting in that many things we seem familiar with by certain names were called differently then, for example we are conditioned to think in terms of Egypt having a pharoah, when only the Bible uses that term, not the Egyptians themselves, the truth will be fully exposed by more ppl thinking outside these boxes made to contain our thoughts and ideas then we will be free, i mean there are so manyy examples of brainwashing our youth to keep them impressed with the Jewish God, the Bible , without explaining what Jesus actually thought about the system is just more indoctrination to their thinking. Just the fact that Jews were quite Greek should be common sense but that would be too down to earth for American pastors and not keep Jews on a pedestal as if we can’t worship God unless the Jews give him their seal of approval and not the other way around, am I right?

  2. The fact no one is willing to say its possible the blood libel was by a cult with in the jewish faith, kind of disturbs me. Like when zionists throw all this dirt on islam, but refuse to talk about the horrifying things in the talmud. I think the blood libel as a serial killer or some form of anti christian satanic group would be a good field of study. I dont want to see any one persecuted, but on the same token allowing undue influence of zionist groups is not good either. Best way to make sure every one is above board is transperancy and discussion.

  3. “If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.”
    – Napoleon Bonaparte

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    – Joseph Goebbels

    “If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered.”

    – Joseph Goebbels

    “Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Fesh, also got involved. He told Napoleon, “Sire, so you wish the end of the world to come with your Laws to give the Jews equality like the Catholics. Do you not know that the Holy Scriptures predict that the end of the world will happen when the Jews will be recognized as a corporate nation.”

    After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Holy Alliance was convened at the Congress of Vienna. At that time the laws permitting equality, liberty and fraternity were retracted and were not applied again until 1830, when the principles fixed by the French Revolution and the First Empire, were re-instated.
    Prussia retracted the liberal laws in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo. The worst setback was inflicted upon the Jews of the Papal states. It would almost seem as if Pius VII had taken revenge on the Jewish population of his territory for the humiliation he had suffered at the hand of Napoleon. He was not content with their confinement behind the walls of the re-erected ghetto but he obliged the Jews to wear the “Yellow badge” again. In Sardinia, the Jews were thrown back into ghettos and not allowed to build synagogues.

  4. The Templars beliefs were similar to those of the Cathars and the Merovingian Franks, also of King Arthur. They in turn stemmed from the Gnostics, Christ and John the Baptist, and the Hermetic Egyptian tenets which originated the Jewish Kaballah.
    The all seeing EYE of Isis and Horus runs through all these groups including the Freemasons and Rosicrucians who followed the Templars. Now the EYE symbol and sign is seen in use by celebrities such as Beyonce and Madonna but they use it at their peril since it has great power which can be used for good or bad.
    The new novel -The Royal Secret – traces the history of the Templars way before the crusades and up to the present day as they are still in our midst.

  5. Pingback: Medieval Templar Knights Templar Bishop Pen

  6. ok, the world hates jews and whether we can trust the jews aline with their gid ir ourselves to mock, that he do not talk to us non-jews like he does jews, we do not trust anyone to obey all he JHVH has for us to do. This is why we trust as a show in gods power, overrall, police, lawyers, judges,and imprisinment, fines, and wars as countries instead of single, domestic abuse.These organized parties are what give value ti iyr dusobeduence and lack if faith in and ti gid. . . If we give jews back all their privacy rights to practice their religion and keep them out as a support to their religious obligation to JHVH regardless of modern,foreighn cultures. We should not be a temptation to jews ir seek their corruption or works
    against their god as a commercial
    consumer products. . . that is agreeing
    to as we have subliminally, to penalize ourselves as if we are the jews god. itself
    Jewss can not be trusted with their
    religion because somewhere in our
    collective concious that they killed us;and demons, and Angels, and the
    truth, and children and maybe even the
    world . .Then why torment ourselves with comedy of,similitude, that only
    seduces them to more insular occultic
    mysticism. . . No one really wants to see the power that jews believe, exemplify itself as recordeded. . .So in modern siciety for Americans, Europeans, and blacks there is a liberty we can assert by not applying judausm as the standard. If i am fat i can not eat everything, so why would i use those foods to make system that torments me and those it was originally given to or who created it.JHVH says toych not my prophets do my annointed no harm That is where their god is angry with us. We took what is theirs. If there god kills us then at least let it be that example of his power not disputable as foreighn and superior and absolute. Ask god to punish or create poverty that is his and no one elses. Even if its not his judgement. Jews are
    not suppose to be settled no more than
    naked tribes known throughout Africa or
    the desert and tropics. .They are meant
    to live in tents,who are we to say that it
    is poverty, or corruption,or curse, or a
    mental illness. . .whose to say that if we
    need systaining and perpetual miracles
    or presence of god its because they will
    not go back to that work god called them
    to. . .God do not want to be in a house
    made with hands . . besides if JHVH called rocks with or without a christ conviction for submission then why are we so sick and poor and criminals and adulterated not to move out into their original houses, The Jews, houses. . . otherwise the world has no problems nowhere we know all we need to know and there is no poverty,or crime or pain, it is your choice not be chosen. . .

  7. The Templars’ secret goal was to rebuild the Temple right? That’s why they were knights of the Temple?

    • The Templars based themselves in what is now the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple mount – and believed the mosque to be Solomon’s Temple. Templar is a short abbreviation for ‘Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon’. They transformed the building into a Christian and Templar church – but it was converted back to a mosque when the crusaders lost Jerusalem to Saladin. One of the Templar buildings on the Temple Mount is now the women’s mosque!

  8. the Templars were jewish because Christians did not believe in usuary, the lending of money for interest

    • It’s true that Christians forbade usery though that didn’t prevent a banking system developing in the Italian city states in the Middle Ages leading to notorious banking dynasties like the Medicis. I’ve never found any evidence to suggest the Templars were Jewish but if you have any…

  9. According to your article, both groups imposed an equal financial burden upon the kings/monarchies of the time. The fundamental question is: WHY the Templars were forgotten until the eighteenth century or so but the Jews became dominant almost in all spheres of society until today?

    • If you look at the king who suppressed the Templars – Philip IV of France – he attacked both the Templars and the Jewish community…as well as Lombard merchants and even the Catholic church. Why? Well, he was short of money and always in debt. With the Templars though, he could go all the way and close down the Order. He couldn’t ‘close down’ the Jewish community.

      With the stroke of a pen, it was possible for the king and pope to end the Templars’ existence and seize all their assets – many of which were redistributed to the Knights Hospitaller. But the Jewish religion could not be abolished by the stroke of a pen – or any religion. Instead, medieval Jews just faced a whole load of persecution and in the case of England – they were expelled completely by king Edward I. From the 1290s to the 1640s, there was no Jewish community in England.

      I’m doing a lot of research on the role of Jewish moneylenders in England during the Middle Ages and I’m happpy to share on this blog if you want. Many thanks for your interest!

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