Ten accusations made against the Knights Templar

Templar artworkIn 1307, the Knights Templar were rounded up, imprisoned and tortured under secret orders issued by the King of France. The trials of top Templars would last for years and lead to many being burnt at the stake including the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. He was incinerated in public in front of Notre Dame cathedral.

A string of scandalous accusations were made against the Knights Templar to justify smashing the order. I recommend Malcom Barber’s detailed account of The Trial of the Templars if you want to learn a lot more.

MolayHere were some of the most noteworthy charges:

  1. New entrants to the Templar order had to deny Christ, the Holy Virgin and the saints
  2. Templars were told that Christ was a false prophet and there was no hope of receiving salvation through belief in him
  3. Knights were ordered to spit on a crucifix and even urinate or trample on it
  4. The order worshipped a head of some description, possibly that of a cat or with three faces or an idol called Baphomet
  5. This idol was encircled with cords, which the Templars then wore around their waists
  6. The Knights Templar rejected the sacraments of the Catholic church
  7. It was thought that the Grand Master and other leading Templars could absolve sins even though they were laymen and not priests
  8. New entrants were kissed on the mouth, the navel, the stomach, the buttocks and the spine and homosexuality was encouraged
  9. The Templars were only interested in financial gain and pocketed donations for their own use
  10. Chapter meetings and initiations were held in strictest secret with only Templars present and those that revealed any details to people outside of the order would be punished with imprisonment or death

A short film from the Smithsonian includes a reenactment of what the alleged initiation ritual looked like.

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Were the Knights Templar really monks?

Templars burned at the stake.
Templars burned at the stake

The Knights Templar are routinely referred to as ‘warrior monks’.  But were the Templars really monks in the accepted sense.  In her book ‘The Templars – The Secret History Revealed’, well respected author Barbara Frale makes the point that strictly speaking, they were not.  Why?  Well – let’s start with one basic point – the Templars were never actually ordained as priests.

The knights went through some form of initiation and took the monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  But they did not have the powers of a priest to administer the holy sacraments.  A Templar knight could not give communion for example.  One reason for this was that priests were not allowed to go in to battle and kill – which obviously Templars did routinely.

Pope Innocent II (1130-1143) reigned during the early formative years of the Templar order.  He ruled that the Templars needed ordained chaplains who had received holy orders before joining a Templar house.  They could minister to the Templars’ religious needs but under no circumstances could they take to the field of battle.

Frale believes that by the early 1300s, the number of chaplains in Templar preceptories had collapsed.  Given that under the Rule set down by Bernard of Clairvaux, the Templars had to pray nine times a day – they must have had trouble guaranteeing the presence of a chaplain to minister to their needs.  It was Bernard who said the Templars had to be “meek as lambs and, at the same time, as ferocious as lions”.  They were supposed to be intensely prayerful but also ready to raise their sword high and slay the Saracen.

Meek monks and courageous warriors but not properly ordained.  Little wonder that some in the church did not regard them as part of the club and even a little suspect.