The Templar Knight

Continuity and change, but where’s the conflict?

Another academic study which strives to remove the element of conflict from history.  Here goes – So the English language of the Anglo-Saxons survived beyond the Norman Conquest and that…er…proves that there was peace and love between conquerors and conquered.  We’ve just gone through decades of historians arguing that the end of the Roman Empire was a tea party where Romans politely ceded power to the barbarians and then melded in to them….even though there’s plenty of contemporary writing which suggests otherwise.  And now the academics are trying the same trick for the Middle Ages.  It was all idyllic, invaders were terribly reasonable…it was a glorious multicultural paradise where all views were accepted.  Well, I’m not buying it.  In history, shit happens.  And plenty of it happened in the Middle Ages.  The Normans were an occupying power and look at how they rampaged their way across southern Italy and Sicily if you need further evidence.

Templars as an offshoot of the Masons

This chap has just become the Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of the Knights Templar in New York.  Not entirely sure what to make of these organizations but would be interested to know more.  Clearly they have little or nothing to do with the original medieval Order and it seems they act more like a social club cum Christian pressure group.  But I’m happy to concede I don’t know much about these groups.  All enlightenment welcome.  Read more about the Grand Commander here –

Did Islamic militants inspire the Templars?

Praying and training to be warriors in communities called Ribats, a certain class of muslim warrior could have been an influence on the founders of the Knights Templar.  Unless somebody wants to dispute this and please feel free.  But it’s certainly tempting to believe that knights who found themselves exposed to the influences of the Islamic world, adopted some of their practices.  They saw Ribat warriors effectively combining prayer with fighting and thought, hey – we’ll have some of that.

Pentagram symbol and the Templars

I’ve seen it with my own eyes so it’s true!  Templar churches sometimes have pentagrams.  Now, I’ve read one theory that the Catholic church with its numerological obsessions – 3, 5, 7, 12, 13 – has a perfectly good explanation relating, I think, to the wounds of Christ.  And it just may be that we only associate the pentagram with black magic because of Dennis Wheatley novels and Hammer Horror films.  But when you see a big pentagram carved above a church door, as I have, it does make you wonder if it’s a bit of a pagan hangover.  And if it is – what does it mean and why did the Templars use that symbol on their buildings?   I should point out that I’ve also seen the pentagram over the door of a Franciscan church built in the 1400s so the Templars don’t have the complete monopoly.  If anybody has any theories – I’m very, very curious.

Excommunication no barrier to being a Templar

If you want to get an idea on why the Templars may have made quite a few enemies early on, then their acceptance of excommunicated men in to the Order is a good starting point.  Some early sources say that the Order had to gain the permission of a local bishop to allow somebody who had been cast out of the church to become a Templar.  But even that requirement seems to have been junked as the Order blithely informed the “established” church that it answered only to the Pope.  So…it could admit anybody it wanted so long as the Holy Father, in far off Rome, didn’t raise any objections.  In the context of medieval Christendom, that does seem quite extraordinary.  It must have been angered and confused many prelates to see the Temple recruiting people who, one assumes for good reason, had been forbidden the holy sacraments and shut out from the Catholic church.  Yet it seems they could knock on the door at their local Templar preceptory and next thing, they were off to the crusades.  How did the Templars get away with this?

Crusaders who stopped eating pork

Here’s a strange story from a contemporary source during the crusades.  It seems that many of the first wave of the crusaders who invaded and slaughtered the good people of Jerusalem, once they had settled down, went a bit native.  So much so that they even stopped eating pork.  A story told by an Arab chronicler who went to dinner at the house of a “Frank” – their word for all crusaders – related that he boasted at having dumped all his old culinary habits and even hired some Egyptian cooks.  Pork never enters this home, he cried.  This disgusted many knights in the west who felt that their compatriots in the east had got a bit effete.   Why, they were probably feasting on dates and almonds every day.

Women in the Templars

So you thought that no women were allowed in to the Order of the Temple and this was an all boys’ club?  Well, it seems that money has always opened doors and the Middle Ages were no exception.  There are a few examples of wealthy ladies who gave themselves to the Order as ‘donatas’. In return for a portion of their fortune, they gained access to the knights.

There were also women handed over to the Order by benefactors as bondswomen.  And, heavens above, there was even a Templar convent at Muhlen. This was, however, the only example of a nunnery in the order.

What was definitely a men only area was the battlefield.  But away from the clash of sword against scimitar, there seems to have been a surprisingly ability for women to ingratiate themselves in to the Order’s company.  All that in spite of the misogynist ravings of Bernard of Clairvaux, the saintly abbot who was the religious mentor to the knights.

Templar historian Helen Nicholson notes that the Templars held female saints in special reverence that contrasted with the all-male atmosphere of daily life in the Templars and their vows of celibacy.

Did Templars build cathedrals?

main-lincolnThe Order of the Temple existed at the same time as a massive boom in cathedral building.  Throughout the twelfth and thirteenth century, Europe resounded to the striking of chisel against stone and yet, it all seems to have been the work of Benedictines and Cistercians.  The monastic warriors of the Temple were too busy channeling all that bullion to the crusades in the east.

So – does that mean no Templars were masons?  Well, section 325 of the Templar Rule intriguingly mentions masons being members of the Temple, but not as full knights.  Karen Ralls, a great Templar scholar, points out that mason brothers were the only Templars allowed to wear leather gloves apart from chaplains.  And it seems they were restricted to a kind of “associate” status.

But it seems hard to believe that if a cathedral was springing up near a Templar preceptory and it was all on hands on deck to get the thing built that the Templars would have just ignored and refused to get involved.  I’ve seen churches in Europe and the Middle East which almost certainly bear imagery one associates with the Templars.

Could it possibly be that these Templar masons lent a helping hand?  And left their mark?