You are probably left scratching your head at all the strange terms from the Templar period. What, for example, is a Turcopole? Who were the Assassins in real life? What was the difference between the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller?
But don’t worry! A little help is at hand below with a list of common terms and what they actually mean.
Al-Andalus – the area of the Iberian peninsula under Muslim control from 711CE. Nearly all of modern Spain and Portugal were part of the Islamic caliphate until Christian kingdoms began to emerge in the north starting with Asturias and later Leon, Castile, Aragon and Navarre. They would eventually overwhelm the Muslim domains to the south.
Al-Kaid – the military governor of a city in Al-Andalus. The term Alcaide continued to exist in Portuguese and Spanish after the Reconquest designating the governor of a fortress. A variation on the word is used to mean ‘mayor’ in Spain.
Ark of the Covenant – an ornate chest, normally depicted as gold covered, that contains the two stone tablets on which are inscribed the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. A popular theory is that the Templars discovered this under the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Assassin – member of a murderous sect in the Templar period that assassinated both Sunni Muslim and Christian political leaders by knifing them to death. The deed was carried out by individuals some believe were under the influence of hashish, from which the term “assassin” derives. The Assassins were Ismaili Shia Muslims originally based in modern day Iran who clashed with the Templars. Their leader was a mystical figure referred to as the “Old Man of the Mountain”.
Assassin’s Creed – A video game series and movie franchise that depicts a centuries old battle between the Assassins and the Knights Templar. In this universe, the Templars are the bad guys seeking to control and direct human beings through an evil corporation called Abstergo. The Assassins, in contrast, fight for free will. The whole conflict stretches so far back it pre-dates humanity. That’s a highly condensed summary but the blog has described the plot in more satisfactory detail.
Byzantine – with its capital at Constantinople (modern Istanbul), the Byzantine empire was a Greek speaking, Christian realm that stretched from southern Italy down to Syria. It regarded itself as the inheritor of the eastern Roman empire and never used the term “Byzantine” – that description came a lot later. Its call for action sparked the crusades but there was mutual suspicion between Constantinople and the pope in Rome. Shamefully, in the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople would be devastated by crusaders in the year 1204, egged on by the Venetians.
Cathars – These were heretics who exercised a significant influence in southern France in the Middle Ages. So much so that the papacy spearheaded a violent crusade to crush them. Their core beliefs involved a rejection of the organised church, Gnostic and dualist beliefs, vegetarianism and abstaining from sex.
Chapter – the regular secret meetings held by Templars at a country level with the English or French Grand Master overseeing or at meetings where the overall Grand Master, based for a time in Jerusalem, had the final say.
Chinon Parchment – this is a document discovered in 2001 by Barbara Frale, a researcher at the Vatican Secret Archives. It purports to show that Pope Clement V absolved the last Knights Templar before their execution by burning at the stake. However, it does not exonerate them of their alleged crimes.
Copper Scrolls – in the 1950s, archaeologists uncovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, religious scripts written by a fanatical Jewish sect called the Essenes. One scroll was etched into copper and is believed to detail the hiding place of treasure from the second Jewish temple, destroyed by the Romans. It is assumed by some that the Templars had found another copper scroll and that might account for their sudden increase in wealth.
Crusades – Pope Urban II called for an overtly religious war in the year 1095. Officially, it was in response to a desperate plea from the emperor of the Christian Byzantine Empire (centred on modern Turkey), which was under threat from Muslim armies. What it turned into was a series of wars that resulted in several new Christian kingdoms being carved out of the Middle East.
Dar al-Islam – those lands that have accepted the revealed truth of the Prophet and where Muslims live by their laws
Dar al-Kufr – those lands that have not accepted Islam. A Muslim would rejoice when a land has been converted from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam
Franks – ‘Frank’ was a term used by the Saracens to refer to all Christian Europeans – or Firanji to be more precise.
Hattin – the Horns of Hattin was the site of a catastrophic defeat for the Knights Templar and the Christian crusaders in 1187 at the hands of Saladin – a Muslim ruler who had managed to unite Egypt and Syria and would eventually retake Jerusalem.
Holy Grail – definitions of what the Holy Grail is varies among historians and other commentators. It could be a vessel that was used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect blood from the dying Jesus as he hung on the cross. King Arthur and his knights embarked on a noble quest to find this most sacred item. In a specially dedicated page on this blog, I outline all the Grail connections to the Knights Templar
Holy Sepulchre – the holiest church in Christendom includes both the tomb and the place of crucifixion of Jesus and is located in Jerusalem. The Knights Templar modelled many of their churches on this circular building.
Jedi Templar – George Lucas reported considering calling his band of warrior monks in Star Wars – “Jedi Templars”. The combination of military prowess and spirituality appealed to Lucas. But he jettisoned the name while retaining the concept.
Johannite – In a nutshell, John the Baptist was the real Messiah and not Jesus, the man he baptised. The Knights Templar may have been influenced by Johannite beliefs as evidenced by the accusation at their trial that they venerated a head said to be that of the saint.
Knights Hospitaller – were another military order often viewed as rivals to the Knights Templar but equally worked alongside the Templars. By the start of the fourteenth century, the pope had suggested merging the two orders but the Templars were very resistant. When the Templar order was crushed after 1307, the Hospitallers acquired much of their property.
Medina – the main residential and commercial area of a Moorish or Saracen city that includes the markets, mosques and streets
Moors – a term used by crusaders in Al-Andalus to refer to the Muslims
Mozarab – Christians living under Moorish rule who largely adopted their Arab customs without converting to Islam. The reverse process happened in Castile and Portugal where Moors living under Christian rule were termed ‘Mudejars’.
Non Nobis Domine – is the first words of the Templar motto in Latin: Non Nobis Domine non nobis sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam – which translates as: Not Unto Us O Lord not unto us but to your Name give glory
Order of Christ – after the Templar order was crushed, the king of Portugal established a successor order that many see as a continuation of the Templars under a new name and with royal protection.
Outremer – this was a term used in the crusader period to refer to the collection of Christian states carved out of Muslim territory in the First Crusade. The oldest but hardest to defend was the sprawling County of Edessa. Then there was the Principality of Antioch, County of Tripoli and Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Priory of Sion – the existence of this secret organisation emerged as late as the 1950s in France. The priory is said to have created the Knights Templar to protect the blood line of Jesus from his marriage to Mary Magdalene. Descendants of Jesus had ruled France as the Merovingian dynasty but then been overthrown. One day they will return to establish God’s rule. But the established Catholic church is the sworn enemy of this plan as admitting Jesus had a bloodline threatens its position.
Qasba – the citadel in which the Moorish or Saracen nobility resided. Sometimes spelt Kasbah. The Portuguese spelling used today is Alcacova.
Qasr – This is the most fortified position within the Qasba in a Moorish or Saracen city. The Spanish translation is Alcazar and in Portuguese, it is Alcacer.
Royston – a town in England where there is a man made cave with masses of very odd carvings. These include hands bearing hearts, believed to be a sign of the Holy Grail. Possibly the work of Templars or others in the Middle Ages.
Rule – the Templar rule book in effect. Mainly the handiwork of Bernard of Clairvaux (later canonised as a saint) who saw the Templars as a new type of religious warrior. The rule was based heavily on the regulations governing the Cistercian order but modified so that Templars could operate effectively as knights. It was adopted at a major ecclesiastical meeting called the Council of Troyes.
Seneschal – this knight was basically the second in command to the Grand Master and his closest adviser. The hierarchy went something as follows: 1) Grand Master; 2) Seneschal; 3) Commander of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; 4) Commander of the City of Jerusalem; 5) Commander of Tripoli and Antioch; 6) Drapier; 7) Commander of Houses; 8) Commander of Knights; 9) Knight Brothers; 10) Turcopolier; 11) Under Marshal; 12) Standard Bearer; 13) Sergeant Brothers; 14) Turcopoles and 15) Elderly Brothers
Souk – the Arab market place. This is sometimes spelt ‘suq’ but I have opted for the most familiar anglicising of that word.
Taifa – Al-Andalus was a united caliphate ruled from Cordoba for over three hundred years from 711CE but in the eleventh century split into rival Muslim kingdoms ruled by Taifas. Badajoz was one of these kingdoms. Others included Seville and Valencia.
Temple of Solomon – When Jerusalem was taken in 1099, the Al Aqsa mosque was renamed as the Temple of Solomon. Its location on the Temple Mount and the presence of ancient stables led to the belief that it had once been part of the first Jewish temple built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians. The Templars were headquartered in the building, from which they took their name.
Templum Domini – was the name given by the crusaders to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem after being converted from a mosque into a church.
Teutonic Knights – were another military order with similar aims to the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller but with a Germanic focus. They were very active in the crusades undertaken in the Baltics against both pagans and eastern orthodox Christians.
Turcopole – was an auxiliary soldier in the military orders like the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller. Often Turkish or Syrian, they were ranked below the level of a serjeant.
Turin Shroud – the link between the Templars and the Turin Shroud has been hotly debated for decades. In 1979, British author Ian Wilson claimed the shroud had been in Templar hands, a view echoed by Vatican researcher Barbara Frale. The shroud, held at Turin cathedral, claims to show a miraculous imprint of the dead Jesus.
Zedekiah’s Cave – was an enormous limestone quarry used from biblical times to build the city of Jerusalem above. It’s named after the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, who revolted against his Babylonian overlord, Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians exacted a terrible revenge by destroying Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple. The Freemasons revere it as the place where the greatest mason of all, Solomon, got his raw materials. The Templar connection is that some believe it was used as an escape tunnel by the Templars to escape from Saladin’s invasion force in 1187.