Knights Templar – your Google search terms reviewed!

I’ve been looking at the Templar Google search terms you typed in before discovering this blog. WordPress gives me access to this data and I get amazing insights into what’s going on in your heads!

So, I thought to myself, why not answer directly some of the questions I’ve seen popping up in the Google search terms. These are real searches so hopefully reflect the kind of things you want to now but were ashamed to ask.

No question is too silly. Here we go with your Google search terms in recent days:

Templar Google Search Term: “Did the Templars invade Iran?”

Excellent question – and very topical right now! In the first century of the Knights Templar’s existence, what we now call Iran was part of the Seljuk empire. The Seljuks were a Turkic people. That doesn’t they came from what we now call Turkey – which confusingly was then mostly part of the Byzantine empire (a Christian, Greek speaking realm).

The Seljuks originated on the western Steppe near the Caspian and Aral seas. They had been used as paid mercenaries but then invaded Iran and merged with the local Persian people over time to create the Great Seljuk Empire. The Templars fought the Seljuks in all the early Crusades.

The Templars also crossed swords with a Shia Muslim cult called the Assassins. This group of zealots had their own castles and leader inside Iran. Their notoriety was derived from the assassinations they carried out of both Muslim and Christian leaders, allegedly under the influence of hashish.

While the Templars didn’t invade Iran, they did battle the Assassins. In fact, they fought them so successfully that the Assassins ended up paying the Templars tribute to leave them alone.

The answer to the original question though is no, the Templars did not invade Iran.

Templar Google search term “Was there a Templar named Landry?”

Landry is the main protagonist in the History channel’s Templar drama series Knightfall. He is played by the brooding actor Tom Cullen. From the first episode, we meet a ferocious and hot blooded knight who is secretly breaking his vow of celibacy with the queen of France. He is loyal, impetuous and handsome. But…did he actually exist?

There are other characters in Knightfall who were real enough. Pope Boniface was an extremely corrupt pope who fell out spectacularly with the king of France.  King Philip the Fair of France was definitely real and issued the arrest warrants for all Templars in his kingdom. William De Nogaret was the king’s adviser and leading henchman. He made sure the Templars came to a sticky end.

But Landry? No, I’m afraid he’s not a real character. Though, executive producer Dominic Minghella says the knights depicted in Knightfall are based on a real fraternity of very brave warriors. However – just to be pedantic – Landy is still a work of fiction.

Templar Google search term: “Where was the Grand Master when the Templars were captured?”

This is a really fascinating question. Jacques de Molay was the last Grand Master. After the fall of Acre (modern Akko in Israel) to the Egyptian Mamluks in 1291, the Templars retreated to Cyprus.

On that island, they seemed to become embroiled in two lines of activity. One was the poisonous politics of Cyprus and the other was planning yet another crusade to retake the lost possessions in the Middle East. By 1291, all the crusader kingdoms that had once ruled modern Lebanon, Israel and Jordan had been invaded by Muslim forces.

Jacques de Molay hoped to get support from Christian kings in Europe for another crusade. This would involve hooking up with the Mongols, who had invaded a massive swathe of territory from China through to the fringes of central Europe. The dream was of a joint force of Christians and Mongols to retake the Syrian city of Tortosa.

But, frankly, Europe was suffering from crusade fatigue. And De Molay was ordered to return to France by the pope, who was then living in Avignon, exiled in effect from Rome. Pope Clement V ordered the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller to merge. But De Molay wasn’t keen.

He hot footed it back to Paris. There, he lobbied hard for a new, big crusade and for Templar independence. And it seems to have come as a genuine shock to discover the king of France, Philip, was plotting the downfall of the Templars and seizure of their assets on trumped up charges. Only days before his arrest, De Molay attended a royal funeral and even carried the coffin.

Templar Google Search Term: “Did the Templars protect Jews?”

This is an interesting question. Let’s start by looking at what was happening in France just before the Templars were arrested in 1307.

King Philip of France expelled France’s Jews and seized their money in 1306. This didn’t yield the dividend he was expecting and so he had to find another source of revenue. The French treasury had become very depleted because of the crippling cost of the king’s wars. And so Philip went after the Templars, more than aware of how much bullion they were sitting on.

Philip was relatively late in attacking the Jews. Edward I of England had already expelled his Jewish population a decade before. The Jews had been important to medieval monarchs as money lenders and financiers of building projects and wars. But as other sources of finance began to emerge, their importance waned.

Those sources included the world’s first banks as we understand them, which emerged in northern Italy. And of course, there were the Templars. Their financial operations became increasingly lucrative and they were able to extend lines of credit to princes and popes.

With such a commercial mindset, they would have understood the kind of business that Jewish people were involved in – because the Templars were also money lenders and pawn brokers to the wealthy. Whether or not they had a special empathy with Jewish people is open to question. But they wouldn’t have shared the widespread hatred and contempt of those engaged in money lending because they were doing it themselves.

Templar Google Search Term: “Present day Knights Templar loyal to the Roman Catholic church”

The Knights Templar today come in all shapes and sizes. The most important distinction is between those who are Freemasons and those who sit under the Roman Catholic church. Most of these organisations do not claim direct descent from the Knights Templar, but a small number do.

The most significant Catholic leaning organisation is the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. You will often see it referred to online as the OSMTH – an acronym formed by the Latin translation of its name: Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani. Less often, you will the SMOTJ acronym derived from its English title.

There are about 5,000 “Knights and Dames” worldwide. It claims to be the largest Knight Templar body in the world today. Its declared focus is on human rights and “religious freedom”. OSMTH has been accredited by the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation with “Special Consultative Status”. As a result of that, it’s able to have missions within the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

There is a much smaller traditionalist Catholic organisation called the Ordo Militia Templi. Its membership is several hundred around the world who live by Templar vows. Both men and women can join. My understanding is that they oppose reforms within the Catholic church dating back to the Vatican II council in the early 1960s. So, for example, they prefer to celebrate the Catholic Mass in Latin.

Templar Google Search Term: “Arn Magnusson”

It’s fascinating that one of the top Google searches for my blog regards information on the fictional Swedish Templar knight Arn Magnusson. Born in 1150 and raised by monks, the handsome Arn is destined for a life of prayerful seclusion in a monastery. But then he falls in love with Cecilia.

The monks don’t take too kindly to that. And so Arn is packed off to join the Knights Templar. In the Holy Land, he experiences all manner of adventures before returning to his native Sweden.

I have blogged in more detail on Arn so use the search button to get more details. Interestingly, I was told by Templar academic Professor Helen Nicholson that there was no Templar presence to speak of in Sweden.

Templar Google Search Term: “Who was the patron saint of the Templars?”

There isn’t really a patron saint as such of the Knights Templar. But there were saints who meant a lot to the knights. Though in all honesty, these saints were widely venerated such as Saint Barbara and John the Baptist.

You could argue that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – champion of Templar interests to the pope – was their patron saint. But he wasn’t a saint at the time and certainly not worshipped as such by the Templars.

I’ll keep looking at your Templar Google Search Terms and on my travels – find answers to your many questions!

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