Omne Datum Optimum – the turning point for the Templars


Pope Innocent II
Pope Innocent II 

Twenty years after the founding of the Templar Order, the rebel ‘anti-popeAnacletus II had died and pope Innocent II was able to seize control of the church with the support of Bernard of Clairvaux and other senior clerics. There was no love for the late anti-pope who Bernard described as ‘the broken branch, the rotten limb’ and continued that ‘he, that wicked one who made Israel to sin has been swallowed up by death and has gone down in to the belly of hell’.

Critically for the Templars, Bernard was a massive advocate for the Templar order – and exercised a significant influence on Innocent.  This would signal a decisive turn for the warrior knights.

The first Grand Master Hugh de Payens had been a tireless promoter of the Templars around Europe and his successor Robert de Craon was better connected and ready to take the order to the next level.  He was more blue-blooded than Hugh and able to network to far greater effect.  As the First Crusade drew to a close, the confidence of the Templars and their numbers were increasing, as was their wealth and prestige.  What they needed was a massive dose of papal approval.

Robert made a bee-line for Innocent, who was now safely established in Rome at the Lateran Palace.  The Order wanted a degree of independence to be able to function more effectively.  In Jerusalem, they were pulled this way and that by the crusader king of Jerusalem and the Christian patriarch.  In the west, they wanted to be able to run their estates and manage the affairs of their preceptories without having to answer to local lords and bishops.

For a pope who’d had to struggle against many foes to get control of the church, the idea of having a military order of sword wielding monks being wholly loyal to his person alone must have been very appealing.  Never mind about the feelings of local bishops, the pope needed strong armed support and the Templars looked like just the ticket.

The perks he now showered on the Templar Order would ultimately prove to be its undoing and there were some grumbles at the time.  They could appoint their own chaplains, build their own churches, exempt themselves from taxes and tithes, ignore local prelates and bury their own dead.

The Templars would not have to pay homage to anybody on earth except the pope and nobody could force them to swear an oath – except the pope.  Robert de Craon wasted no time in making sure the world knew about this highly agreeable state of affairs.  To the chagrin of clergy and nobility alike, he put the papal bull in to practice with gusto.

Even to the point of pushing the newly translated Templar Rule (Latin to French) in to areas it’s doubtful Innocent could have approved of.   For example, the Rule now said that the Templars could recruit the excommunicated – those whom the church had rejected and punished with damnation.  Did the pope ever really intend that?  Doubtful. Most likely it was a way in which the Templars chose to use their newly found independence to do what would previously have been unthinkable.  Was this kind of boldness that would eventually rebound on them?

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One thought on “Omne Datum Optimum – the turning point for the Templars

  1. great post!

    “The perks he now showered on the Templar Order would ultimately prove to be its undoing”

    Exactly! As I wrote before: figure out how a certain organisation started and then you know why they ended.

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