The Knights Templar lived by a strict rule book written in part by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. It governed their lives laying out how they should dress, conduct themselves, fight in battle and how often they prayed every day. The Templar rule had to be strictly adhered to but what did it actually state? Let’s take a closer look!
- Somebody who claimed they wanted to be a Templar had to wait a while in order to see if they were genuine. Even once they were admitted, the Templar master would have the option of chucking them out if they weren’t going to make the grade
- An initiation ceremony was held in complete secrecy where the Rule was read out to the new member
- If you were too young, you might be barred until you were older. Then you could join in order to “wipe out the enemies of Christ from the Holy Land”
- The Templars had permanent and temporary memberships. They also had a special class of membership for men who were married. But married men joining the Templars could not wear the sacred white mantle which indicated pureness and chastity
- Obedience to superiors within the Order was non-negotiable. There was no room for individual action unsanctioned from above. The Templars acted as a united whole and nothing else. Those who were disobedient were compared to a “diseased sheep” that had to be removed from the flock
- Battle armour had to be plain and simple with no gold and silver or colourful insignia or materials like silk. There was even a clause condemning “pointy shoes” – a fashion item in the Middle Ages
- Hair and beards were to be kept short
- The Templars prayed at several times during the day and ate together twice. Aside from reciting their prayers, silence was encouraged as in most monastic orders. And there was strong disapproval of laughter and jokes. If knights wanted something during dinner, they were encouraged to use hand signals instead of speaking
Some of the points in the Rule seem very odd to us now. Templars were not allowed to talk about their own faults or somebody else’s faults between each other. I assume this was to stop gossip or self-pity or bitching. Popular activities among secular knights like falconry and hunting were completely forbidden.
Any Templar expressing a wish to have the good things in life was to be given the worst:
If any permanent brother on account of a fault or on account of a feeling of pride shall desire to have beautiful and excellent things, for such a presumption he, without a doubt, deserves the most vile things.
Knights Templar were also forbidden to communicate with their parents unless they had permission. And any letters had to be read out loud to superiors. Associating with women was also frowned upon:
It is dangerous to befriend women because the old enemy has cast out many people from the right path of paradise by female companionship.
And if a Templar broke the rules, they would receive a light penance if they admitted their sin. But woe betide a Templar whose errors were uncovered by another brother and made known to the master. Then they would expect “severe discipline and correction”. One common punishment for transgressors was to be made to eat alone.
So intertwined were the knights that being told you had to have dinner away from your comrades was a terrible fate indeed!