Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Knights Templars
TEMPLARS, Knights.Perhaps the most renowned of the three great military orders founded in the 12th century for the defence of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem is that of the Knights Templars (pauperes commilitones Christi templique Salomonici), though abolished long before its rivals. It differed from the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights in having been a military order from its very origin, inasmuch as its earliest members banded themselves together for the express purpose of giving armed protection to the numerous pilgrims who, after the first crusade, flocked to Jerusalem and the other sacred sites in the Holy Land. Walter Map has preserved the legendary story of their first achievements, from which it would appear that their earliest efforts were confined to the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and the memory of their original aim may perhaps be traced from fifty to seventy years later, when they conducted Henry of Saxony from their own quarters on Mount Moriah to the banks of Jordan, or when on the fall of the Holy City (1187) they protected the vanguard of the Christians on its way from Jerusalem to Tripoli. The three orders were distinguished from each other by their garb. The Hospitallers wore black mantles with white crosses, the Templars white mantles with a red cross, the Teutonic Knights white mantles with a black cross.
The Templars almost from their foundation had their quarters in the palace of the Latin kings, which had been the mosque of Mount Moriah. This palace was also known as Solomon's temple, and it was from this templum Salomonis that the Templars took their name.
About the year 1118 a Burgundian knight, Hugh de Paganis, bound himself and eight comrades by a vow to the patriarch of Jerusalem to guard the public roads, to live as regular canons, and to fight for the King of Heaven in chastity, obedience, and self-denial. Baldwin II. granted them quarters on Mount Moriah and recommended their cause to St Bernard. Under his patronage the papal legate, Matthew, bishop of St Albano, presided at the council of Troyes in January 1128 for the purpose of drawing up or confirming the statutes of the new order. The seventy-two statutes then drawn up met with the approval of Pope Honorius II. and the patriarch of Jerusalem, and became the groundwork of the later and more elaborate ‘Règle du Temple.” Long before St Bernard's death (1153) the new order was established in almost every kingdom of Latin Christendom. Henry I. granted them lands in Normandy. They seem to have been settled in Castile by 1129, in Rochelle by 1131, in Languedoc by 1136, at Borne by 1138, in Brittany by 1141, and in Germany at perhaps a still earlier date. Alphonso I. of Aragon and Navarre, if we may trust the Spanish historians, bequeathed them the third of his kingdom (Mariana, x. c. 9). Baymond Berengar, count of Barcelona, and Alphonso’s successor in Aragon, whose father had been admitted to the order, granted them the strong castle of Monçon (1143), and established a new chivalry in imitation of theirs. Louis VII. in the latter years of his reign gave them a piece of marsh land outside Paris, which in later times became known as the Temple, and was the headquarters of the order in Europe. Stephen of England granted them the manors of Crossing and Witham in Essex, and his wife Matilda that of Cowley, near Oxford. Eugenius III., Louis VII., and 130 brethren were present at the Paris chapter (1147) when Bernard de Balliol granted the order 15 librates of land near Hitchin; and the list of English benefactors under Stephen and Henry II. includes the noble names of Ferrers, Harcourt, Hastings, Lacy, Clare, Vere, and Mowbray.
After the council of Troyes Hugh de Paganis came to England and induced a number of English knights to follow him to the Holy Land. Amongst these was Fulk, count of Anjou, who would thus seem to have been a Templar before assuming the crown of Jerusalem in 1131. Hugh de Paganis died about the year 1136 and was succeeded by Robert de Craon, who is said to have been Anselm's nephew. Everard de Barris, the third master, was conspicuous in the second crusade. In the disastrous march from Laodicea to Attalia his troops alone kept up even the show of discipline; and their success prompted Louis VII. to regulate his whole army after the model of the Templar knights. In the French king's distress for money the Templars lent him large sums, ranging from 2000 silver marks to 30,000 solidi. When Conrad III. of Germany reached Jerusalem he was entertained at their palace (Easter 1148); and in the summer of the same year they took part in the unsuccessful siege of Damascus. The failure of this expedition was ascribed by a contemporary writer to their treachery,—a charge to which Conrad would not assent. This is the first note of the accusations which from this time were of constant recurrence.
Henceforward for 140 years the history of the Templars is the history of the Crusades (q.v.). In 1149 the Templars were appointed to guard the fortress of Gaza, the last Christian stronghold on the way towards Egypt. Four years later the new master, Bernard de Tremelai, and forty of his followers, bursting into Ascalon, were surrounded by the Saracens and cut off to a single man. William of Tyre has preserved the scandal of the day when he hints that they met a merited fate in their eagerness to possess themselves of the city treasure. Next year the rumour went abroad that they had sold a noble half-converted Egyptian prince, who had fallen into their hands, to chains and certain death for 60,000 aurei. In 1166 Amalric, the Latin king of Jerusalem, hanged twelve Templars on a charge of betraying a fortress beyond the Jordan to an emir of Núr al-Dín of Damascus. The military power of Núr al-Dín (1145–1173) was a standing menace to the Christian settlements in the East. Edessa had fallen to the prowess of his father (1144‒45); Damascus was conquered by the son (1153), who four years earlier had carried his depredations almost to the walls of Antioch, and in 1157 laid siege to the Christian town of Paneas near the sources of the Jordan. In the disastrous fight that followed for the safety of the fortress of the Hospitallers, Bertrand de Blanquefort, the master of the Templars, and Odo de St Amand, one of his successors, were taken prisoners. Bertrand was released later when Manuel was preparing to march against Núr al-Dín. The Templars do not seem to have opposed Amalric’s early expeditions against Egypt. It was Geoffrey Fulcher, the Templar correspondent of Louis VII., who brought back (1167) to Jerusalem the glowing accounts of the splendour of the caliph’s court at Cairo with which Gibbon has enlivened his great work. Nor was the order less active at the northern limits of the Latin kingdom. Two English Templars, Gilbert de Lacy and Robert Mansel, “qui Galensibus præerat,” starting from Antioch, surprised Núr al-Dín in the neighbourhood of Tripoli and put him bare-footed to flight. But jealousy or honour led the Templars to oppose Amalric’s Egyptian expedition of 1168; and the wisdom of their advice became apparent when the renewed discord on the Nile led to the conquest of Egypt by Asad al-Dín Shírkúh, and thus indirectly to the accession of Saladin, in 1169. In 1170 they beat Saladin back from their frontier fortress of Gaza; and seven years later they shared in Baldwin IV.’s great victory at Ascalon.
Meanwhile Saladin had possessed himself of Emesa and Damascus (1174‒75), and, as he was already lord of Egypt, his power hemmed in the Latin kingdom on every side. In July 1173 Amalric was succeeded by his son Baldwin IV., a boy of twelve. Raymond III., count of Tripoli, a man suspected of being in league with the Saracens, was appointed regent, although in 1176 the masters of the Templars and the Hospitallers united in offering this office to the newly arrived Philip of Flanders. The construction of the Templar fortress at Jacob’s ford on the upper Jordan led to a fresh Saracen invasion and the disastrous battle of Paneas (1179), from which the young king and the Holy Cross escaped with difficulty, while Odo de St Amand, the grand-master, was carried away captive and never returned.
During Odo’s mastership the Old Man of the Mountains sent to Amalric offering to accept the Christian faith if released from the tribute he had paid to the Templars since (according to the reckoning of M. Defrémery) somewhere about 1149. The Templars murdered the envoys on their return (c. 1172). Amalric demanded that the offenders should be given up for justice. Odo refused to yield the chief culprit, though he was well known, and invoked the protection of the pope. Amalric had to vindicate his right by force of arms at Sidon, and died while preparing to take stronger measures. The connexion between the Templars and the Old Man was still vital eighty years later when the two grand-masters rebuked the insolence of the Assassin envoys in the presence of Louis IX. Odo de St Amand was succeeded by Arnold de Torroge, who died at Verona on his way to implore European succour for the Holy Land. The power of Saladin was now (1184) increasing daily; Baldwin lV. was a leper, and his realm was a prey to rival factions. There were two claimants for the guardianship of the state,—Raymond III. of Tripoli and Guy de Lusignan, who in 1180 had married Sibylla, sister of the young king. Baldwin inclined to the former, against the patriarch and Arnold de Torroge.
There is something Homeric in the story of the fall of the Latin kingdom as related by the historians of the next century. A French knight, Gerard de Riderfort or Bideford, coming to the East in quest of fortune, attached himself to the service of Raymond of Tripoli, looking for the hand of some wealthy widow in reward. But on his claiming the hand of the lady of Botron he was met with a refusal. Angered at this, Gerard enrolled himself among the Templars, biding his time for revenge, and was elected grand-master on the death of Arnold. Baldwin IV. died (1185), leaving the throne to his young nephew Baldwin V., the son of Sibylla, under the guardianship of Raymond, whose office was not of long duration, as the little king died in September 1186. This was Gerard’s opportunity. The Templars carried the body of their dead sovereign to Jerusalem for burial; and then, unknown to the barons of the realm, Gerard and the patriarch crowned Sibylla and her husband Guy. The coronation of Guy was the triumph of Reginald of Châtillon, once prince of Antioch, and Saladin’s deadliest foe. It was at the same time the overthrow of Raymond's ambition; and both Latin and Arabic writers are agreed that the Christian count and the Mohammedan sultan now entered into an alliance. To break this friendship and so save the kingdom, the two grand-masters were sent north to make terms with Raymond. But the rash valour of the Templars provoked a hopeless contest with 7000 Saracens. The grand-master of the Hospitallers was slain; but Gerard made his escape with three knights to Nazareth (1st May 1187). In this emergency Raymond became reconciled with Guy; and Gerard placed the temple treasures of Henry II. at his king’s disposal. Once more it was the Templars’ rashness that led to the disastrous battle of Hittin (4th July). Gerard and the king fell into the hands of Saladin, but were released about a year later; Raymond of Tripoli made his escape through treachery or fortune; and 230 Templars fell in or after the battle, for the fight was scarcely over before Saladin ordered all the Templars and Hospitallers to be murdered in cold blood. One after another the Christian fortresses of Palestine fell into the hands of Saladin. Jerusalem surrendered on 2d‒3d October 1187, and the treasures of the temple coffers were used to purchase the redemption of the poorer Christians, part of whom the Templar warriors guarded on their sad march from the Holy City to Tripoli. Part of their wealth was expended by Conrad of Montferrat in the defence of Tyre; but, when this prince refused to admit Guy to his city, both the Templars and the Hospitallers from the neighbouring parts flocked to the banner of their released king and accompanied him to the siege of Acre (22d August 1189). In his company they bore their part in the two years’ siege and the terrible famine of 1190‒91; and their grand-master died in the great battle of 4th October 1189, refusing to survive the slaughter of his brethren.
On the fall of Acre Philip Augustus established himself in the palace of the Templars, who are, however, stated to have sympathized with Richard. This king sold them the island of Cyprus for 100,000 besants; but, unable to pay the purchase money, they transferred the debt and the principality to Guy of Lusignan. The English king consulted them before deciding on any great military movement; and in June 1192 they advocated the bold plan of an advance on Egypt rather than on Jerusalem. In the disputes for the Latin kingdom of the East the Templars seem to have supported Guy, and, like Richard, were credited with having had a hand in the murder of Conrad of Montferrat (April 1192). It was in the disguise of a Templar and in a Templar galley that Richard left the Holy Land. When Acre was recovered, the Templars, like the Hospitallers, received their own quarters in the town, which from this time became the centre of the order. On the death of Henry of Champagne (1197) they vetoed the election of Raoul de Tabarie; after the death of his successor Amalric they refused to renew the truce with Saladin's brother, Saif al-Dín, and led an expedition against the Saracens before the arrival of the new king, John de Brienne. Brienne, at whose coronation in 1210 William de Chartres, the grand-master, was present. Seven years later, with the aid of Walter de Avennis and of the Teutonic Knights, they commenced the building of their fortress of Castle Pilgrim, near Acre, on a rocky promontory washed by the Mediterranean on every side except the east. This wonderful structure, whose ruins are still to be seen, was fortified with a strong wall, founded on the substructure of a yet more extensive one running from sea to sea, and was flanked by lofty towers of huge squared stones. Within was a spring of pure water, besides fishponds, salt-mines, woods, pastures, orchards, and all things fitted to furnish an abode in which the Templars might await the day of their restoration to Jerusalem.
It was from this castle that in May 1218 the fifth crusade started for the expedition against Egypt. The Templars were the heroes of the siege of Damietta, at which William de Chartres was slain. ‘‘First to attack and last to retreat,” they saved the Christian army from annihilation on 29th August 1219; and when the city surrendered (5th November) the only one of its twenty-eight towers that had begun to give way had been shaken by their engines. On the other hand, it was largely owing to their objections that John de Brienne refused the sultan’s offer to restore Jerusalem and Palestine.
From the very first the Templars seem to have been opposed to Frederick II., and when he landed at Acre (7th September 1228) they refused to march under the banners of an excommunicated man, and would only accompany his host from Acre to Joppa in a separate body. They were accused of notifying Frederick’s intended pilgrimage to the Jordan to the sultan, and they were certainly opposed to Frederick’s ten years’ peace with Al-Kámil, the sultan of Egypt, and refused to be present at his coronation in Jerusalem. Frederick was not slow to avenge himself: he left Jerusalem abruptly, publicly insulted the grand-master, demanded the surrender of their fortresses, and even laid siege to Castle Pilgrim. He left Acre on 3d May 1229, and on landing in Apulia gave orders to seize the estates of the order and chase all its members from the land.
Long before the expiration of Frederick’s peace Europe was preparing for a fresh crusade against the now divided realm of the Ayyubids. Theobald of Navarre and his crusaders reached Palestine about August 1239. The Templars shared in the great defeat near Jaffa, an engagement which their temerity had done much to provoke (13th November 1239). If the king ever accepted the overtures of Ṣáliḥ of Damascus, he was supporting the policy of Hermann of Perigord, the grand-master, who towards the summer of 1244 wrote a triumphant letter to England, telling how he had engaged this sultan and Násir of Kerak to make an alliance against the sultan of Egypt and restore the whole of Palestine from the Jordan to the sea. Theobald, however, before leaving the Holy Land (27th September 1240), signed a ten years’ truce with Ṣáliḥ of Egypt. The Hospitallers seem to have been won over to his view, and when Richard of Cornwall arrived (11th October) he had to decide between the two rival orders and their opposing policies. After some hesitation he concluded a treaty with the sultan of Egypt, much to the annoyance of the Templars, who openly mocked his efforts. On his departure the three orders came to open discord: the Templars laid siege to the Hospitallers in Acre and drove out the Teutonic Knights “in contumeliam imperatoris.” They were successful on all sides. The negotiations with Damascus and Kerak were reopened, and in 1244 Hermann of Perigord wrote to the princes of Europe that after a “silence of fifty-six years the divine mysteries would once more be celebrated in the Holy City.”
It was in this moment of danger that the sultan of Babylon called in the barbarous Khárizmians, whom the Mongol invasions had driven from their native lands. These savages, entering from the north, flowed like a tide past the newly built and impregnable Templar fortress of Safed, swept down on Jerusalem, and annihilated the Christian army near Gaza on St Luke’s day (18th October) 1244. From this blow the Latin kingdom of the East never recovered; 600 knights took part in the battle; the whole army of the Tempars, 300 in number, was present, but only 18 survived, and of 200 Hospitallers only 16. The masters of both orders were slain or taken prisoners. Despite the admirable valour of the Templars, their policy had proved the ruin of the land. Jerusalem was lost to Christendom for ever; and, though the Khárizmians melted away in the course of the next three years, they left the country so weak that all the acquisitions of Theobald and Richard fell an easy prey to the sultan of Babylon.
Recognizing the fact that the true way to Jerusalem lay through Egypt, Louis IX. led his host to the banks of the Nile, being accompanied by the Templars. Their master, William de Sonnac, attempted in vain to restrain the rash advance of the count of Artois at the battle of Mansúra (8th February 1250), which only three Templars survived. St Louis, when captured a few weeks later, owed his speedy release to the generosity with which the order advanced his ransom-money. Shortly after his departure from Acre (April 1254) they consented to an eleven years’ truce with the sultans of Egypt and Damascus.
A new enemy was now threatening Mohammedan and Christian alike. For a time the Mongol advance may have been welcomed by the Christian cities, as one after another the Mohammedan principalities of the north fell before the new invaders. But this new danger stimulated the energies of Egypt, which under the Mameluke Beybars (see vol. vii. p. 755) encroached year after year on the scanty remains of the Latin kingdom.The great Frankish lords, fearing that all was lost, made haste to sell their lands to the Templars and Hospitallers before quitting Palestine for ever. In 1260 the former purchased Sidon and Beaufort; next year the Hospitallers purchased Arsuf. In 1267, by a skilful adaptation of the banners of both orders, Beybars nearly surprised Antioch. The Templar fortress of Safed surrendered with its garrison of 600 knights, all of whom preferred death to apostasy (June 1266). Beaufort fell in April 1268, Antioch six weeks later; and, though the two orders still made occasional brilliant dashes from their Acre stronghold, such as that to Ascalon in 1264 and that with Prince Edward of England to destroy Ḳáḳún in 1271, they became so enfeebled as to welcome the treaty which secured them the plain of Acre and a free road to Nazareth as the result of the English crusade of 1272.
But, though weak against external foes, the Templars were strong enough for internal warfare. In 1277 they espoused the quarrel of the bishop of Tripoli, formerly a member of the order, against his nephew Bohemond, prince of Antioch and Tripoli, and commenced a war which lasted three years. In 1276 their conduct drove Hugh III., king of Cyprus and Jerusalem, from Acre to Tyre. In the ensuing year, when Mary of Antioch had sold her claim to the crown to Charles of Anjou, they welcomed this prince’s lieutenant to Acre and succeeded for the moment in forcing the knights of that city to do homage to the new king. Thirteen years later (26th April 1290) Tripoli fell, and next year Acre, after a siege of six weeks at the close of which (16th May) William de Beaujeu, the grand-master, was slain. The few surviving Templars elected a new master, and, forcing their way to the seashore sailed for Cyprus, which now became the headquarters of the order. A futile attempt against Alexandria in 1300 and an unsuccessful effort to form a new settlement at Tortosa about the same time (1300–2) are the closing acts of their long career in the western parts of Asia.
For more than a hundred years the Templars had been one of the wealthiest and most influential factors in European politics. If we confine our attention to the East, we realize but a small part of their enormous power. Two Templars were appointed guardians of the disputed castles on the betrothal of Prince Henry of England and the French princess in 1161. Other Templars were almoners of Henry III. of England and of Philip IV. of France. One grand-master was godfather to a daughter of Louis IX.; another, despite the prohibition of the order, is said to have been godfather to a child of Philip IV. They are reported to have reckoned a pope (Innocent III.) among their members, and to have refused admission to a king and his nephew (Philip IV.). They were summoned to the great councils of the church, such as the Lateran of 1215 and the Lyons council of 1274. Frederick II.’s persecution of their order was one of the main causes of his excommunication in 1239; and his last will enjoined the restoration of their estates. Their property was scattered over every country of Christendom, from Denmark to Spain, from Ireland to Cyprus. Before the middle of the 13th century Matthew Paris reckons their manors at 9000, Alberic of Trois-Fontaines at 7050, whereas the rival order of St John had barely half the latter number. Some fifty years earlier their income from Armenia alone was 20,000 besants. Both in Paris and in London their houses were used as strongholds for the royal treasure. In the London temple Hubert de Burgh and the Poitevin favourites of Henry III. stored their wealth; and the same building was used as a bank into which the debtors of the foreign usurers paid their dues. From the English Templars Henry III. borrowed the purchase money of Oléron in 1235; from the French Templars Philip IV. exacted the dowry of his daughter Isabella on her marriage with Edward II. To Louis IX. they lent a great part of his ransom, and to Edward I. of England no less than 25,000 livres Tournois, of which they remitted four-fifths. James de Molai, the last grand-master, came to France in 1306 with 150,000 gold florins and ten horse-loads of silver. In the Spanish peninsula they occupied a peculiar position, and more than one king of Aragon is said to have been brought up under their discipline.
Such were the power and wealth of the Templars at the time when Philip IV. of France accused them of heresy and worse offences, had them arrested (13th October 1307), and forced them to confess by tortures of the most excruciating kinds. Five years later (26th May 1312) the order was suppressed by decree of the council of Vienne and its goods transferred to the hospital of St John.
The order consisted of (1) knights, (2) chaplains, and (3) men-at-arms (armigeri, clientes, and servientes). The knights were either bound for life or for a fixed period, and were the only members entitled to wear the white mantle. Married brethren were admitted; but no woman might enter the order. Each knight might keep three horses and one man-at-arms, who, like his master, might be bound for life or only for a time. Like Augustinian canons, they were to attend daily services; but the soldier outwearied with his nightly duties might on certain conditions absent himself from matins with the master’s consent. Two regular meals were allowed for each day; but to these might be added, at the master’s discretion, a light collation towards sunset. Meat might be eaten thrice a week; and on other days there was to be a choice of vegetable fare so as to suit the tenderest stomach. Brethren were to eat by couples, each keeping an eye on his fellow to see that he did not practise an undue austerity. Wine was served at every meal, and at those times silence was strictly enjoined that the words of Holy Writ might be heard with the closest attention. Special care was to be taken of aged and ailing members. Every brother owed the most absolute obedience to the master of the order, and was to go wherever his superior bade him without delay, “as if commanded by God.” All undue display in arms or harness was forbidden. Parti-coloured garments were forbidden; black or dusky -brown (burellus) was to be worn by all except the knights. All garments were to be made of wool; but from Easter to All Souls a linen shirt might be substituted for one of wool. The hair was to be worn short, and a rough beard became one of the distinguishing marks of the order. Hunting and hawking were unlawful; and the very allusion to the follies or secular achievements of earlier life was forbidden. A lion, however, being the type of the evil one, was legitimate prey. Strict watch was kept on the incomings and out-goings of every brother, except when he went out by night to visit the Sepulchre of our Lord. No letter, even from the nearest relative, might be opened except in the master’s presence; nor was any member to feel annoyance if he saw his relative’s gift transferred at the master’s bidding to some other brother. The brethren were to sleep in separate beds in shirts and breeches, with a light always burning in the dormitory. Those who lacked a mattress might place a piece of carpet on the floor; but all luxury was discouraged. The order recognized two governing bodies,—the first, a meeting for ordinary business, to which only the wiser members were summoned; the second, one for extraordinary affairs, such as the granting of lands or the reception of new members, on which occasions the master might summon the whole community. Even at these last assemblies the master seems to have decided on the final action (c. 59). A term of probation was assigned to each candidate before admission; and a special clause discouraged the reception of boys before they were of an age to bear arms. Lastly, the brethren of the Temple were exhorted to shun the kiss of every woman, whether maid or widow, mother, aunt, or sister.
renouncing his private property and dedicating his future life to the Holy Land. The order prided itself specially on the splendour of its religious services, the abundance of its alms, and its reckless valour for the Christian faith. At the time of its suppression it was calculated to number 15,000 members. Three MSS. of its ancient statutes, written in Old French, are still extant at Dijon, at Paris, and at Rome. Of these the first was transcribed about 1200, the last two from 1250 to 1300. They have been published by M. Maillard de Chambure (Paris, 1840).The general spirit of the Templar statutes remained unaltered to the end, though the increasing wealth of the order gave rise to a number of additional rules. The grand-master was always head of the society; his instructions were binding on every member, and the very laws were at his discretion. But he could not declare war, alienate the society’s estates, or even admit a member without the consent of his chapter. He as elected by thirteen brothers, chosen by a peculiar method of co-optation, and all, if possible, belonging to different nations. Next to him in dignity came the seneschal, on whom the duties of the absent master devolved. The marshal had charge of the steeds and accoutrements; he also commanded the knights and men-at-arms, the latter of whom seem in time of war to have been at the disposal of the turcopolier. The commander of the kingdom guarded the treasure-house, to which even the grand-master might not have a key; the commander of the city of Jerusalem had charge of the True Cross in time of war. There were twelve or perhaps more commanders or preceptors of the different provinces and kingdoms of Europe and Asia,—Jerusalem (kingdom and city), Acre, Tripoli, Antioch, France, England, Poitou, Aragon, Portugal, Apulia, and Hungary. No European preceptor could cross the sea without the grand-master’s leave; but all ought to be present at the election to this office. The privileges and duties of every member were strictly prescribed, from the number of horses he might ride and the amount of food he might eat to the colour of his clothes. The order seems to have owned a fleet, part of which, if not all, was under the authority of the commander of the kingdom. Besides the knights and men-at-arms, the society reckoned chaplains in its ranks; and it was the habit of confession to these priests that seems to have stirred the wrath of the Dominicans and the Franciscans, who played a very conspicuous part in the overthrow of the order, especially in England. For grievous offences, such as desertion to the Saracens, heresy, or losing the gonfalon, a Templar might he expelled (perdre la maison); for minor offences, such as disobedience or lowering the banner in battle, he suffered a temporary degradation (perdre son abit). By a mutual agreement the Templars and Hospitallers, despite their long and deadly feud, were bound not to receive ejected members of the rival order; and the Templar cut off in battle and defeat from all hope of rejoining his own ranks might rally to the cross of St John. As Acre was the headquarters of the order in the East, so Paris was its centre in the West (Matt. Paris, v, 478). Every member before admission must declare himself free of debt, sound of body, and affiliated to no other religious society; he must also take a vow of obedience and chastity, at the same time
A scheme for the union of the three great military orders into one had received the sanction of Gregory X. and Louis IX., of the order. Nicholas lV. and Boniface VIII. The recovery of the Holy Land was the dream of the last pope’s highest ambition; and when he died a prisoner in the hands of Philip lV. of France this king continued to advocate the plan for his own purposes. His gold or influence secured the election of Clement V. as pope (5th June 1305). According to a slightly later tradition, before consenting to the new pope’s appointment he exacted from him an oath to assist in carrying out six propositions, one of which he would not disclose as yet. This sixth condition, if it ever existed, must have been the suppression of the Templars; and, whether false or true, Villani’s story emphasizes a popular and almost contemporary opinion. It is known that Philip was urging Clement in this direction before the latter’s coronation at Lyons on 14th November 1305, and all through the two succeeding years. On 6th June 1306 the pope summoned the grand-master from Cyprus to France. James de Molai obeyed the call, and, hearing of the charges against his order, demanded a prompt investigation. In this demand he was supported by the leading Templars of the realm. Clement, who disbelieved the accusations, fenced with the question. But, though only a very short time previously Philip had spoken of his special love for the order, and though it had sheltered him from the fury of the Paris mob in 1306, he was now determined on its destruction. Its wealth would fill the royal coffers, and the rumours of the day afforded a ready engine for its overthrow.
For perhaps half a century there had been strange stories circulating as to the secret rites practised by the order at its midnight meetings. It was said that on his initiation each member had to disavow his belief in God and Christ, to spit upon the crucifix, to submit to indecent ceremonies, and to swear never to reveal the secrets of the society or disobey the mandates of a grand-master, who claimed full power of absolution. When the mass was celebrated the consecrating words ‘‘Hoc est corpus” were omitted; on Good Friday the holy cross was trampled under foot; and the Christian duty of almsgiving had ceased to ho observed. Even the vaunted chastity of the order towards women had, it was said, been turned into a sanction for more horrible offences. These evil practices were part of the secret statute law of an order which in its nightly assemblies worshipped hideous four-footed figures,—a cat or a calf. In England the very children at their play bade one another beware of a Templar’s kisses. Stranger stories yet were rife in this country and gravely reported before bishops and priests,—of children slain by their fathers because they chanced to witness the nightly orgies of the society; of one prior’s being spirited away at every meeting of the general chapter; of the great preceptor’s declaring that a single hair of a Saracen’s beard was worth more than the whole body of a Christian man. In France they were said to roast their illegitimate children and smear their idols with the burning fat.
 Of 140 Templars examined at Paris between 19th October and 24th November 1307, the experience of some of whom extended over nearly half a century, there is hardly one who did not admit the dishonouring of the crucifix at his reception. Very many confessed to other charges, even of the worst description, Clement V., although he suspended the inquisitors’ powers on 27th October (Loiseleur, 159), before the end of the next month wrote to Edward II. to arrest all the English Templars, who were accordingly seized on 10th January 1308. About the same time they were arrested in Sicily (24th January) and in Cyprus (27th May). As Clement did not move fast enough, Philip went to Poitiers with 700 armed men, and the pope was at his mercy. It was agreed that the prisoners, their lands, and their money should be nominally placed in the hands of Clement’s commissioners. The power of the inquisitors was restored (5th July); and the property forfeited was to be devoted to the recovery of the Holy Land. Clement now gave orders for fresh diocesan inquiries into the guilt of the Templars. He had already heard the confessions of seventy-two at Poitiers (29th June to 1st July). The grand-master and the three preceptors were re-examined at Chinon, and renewed their old confessions (20th August). Lastly, the bull Regnans in Cœlo summoned a great council at Vienne for 1st October 1310, when the question of the guilt of the order might be considered. The diocesan councils were only empowered to inquire into the conduct of individuals.For nearly two years Philip waited for Clement to fulfil his bargain. A certain Templar from the prisons of Toulouse now offered to put the king in possession of a secret that would be worth a realm. Acting on the evidence of this informer, Philip issued orders (14th September 1307) for the arrest of all the Templars in France on the night of Friday, 13th October. He seems to have written to the neighbouring princes urging them to act in the same way. James de Molai was seized with sixty of his brethren in Paris. On Saturday they were brought before the university of Paris to hear the enumeration of their crimes; and on Sunday the Paris mob was gathered in the royal gardens, where preachers were inveighing against the iniquities of the order. The inquisitors began their work at once; and inhuman tortures forced the most horrible avowals from the lips of many. In Paris alone thirty-six Templars died under torture.
The trial began on 11th April 1310. On 23d April Reginald de Pruino protested against the unfairness of the proceedings. On Tuesday, 12th May, fifty-four Templars were burnt by order of the archbishop of Sens, and a few days later four more. Next day the terror spread (19th May). Forty-six Templars withdrew their defence and the commissioners decided (30th May) to adjourn till November. The second examination lasted from 18th December 1310 to 5th June 1311. Meanwhile (c. April 1311) Clement and Philip had come to terms. The pope condemned the Templars. The council of Vienne met in October 1311. A discussion arose as to whether the Templars should be heard in their own defence. Clement, it is said, broke up the session to avoid compliance; and when seven Templars offered themselves as deputies for the defence he had them cast into prison. Towards the beginning of March Philip came to Vienne, and he was seated at the pope’s right hand when that pontiff delivered his sermon against the Templars (3d April 1312), whose order had just been abolished, not at the general council, but in private consistory (22d March). On 2d May 1312 he published the bull Ad Providam, transferring the goods of the society, except for the kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Portugal, and Majorca, to the Knights of St John. The order was never formally pronounced guilty of the crimes laid to its charge; its abolition was distinctly, in the terms of Clement’s bull Considerantes Dudum, “non per modum definitivæ sententiæ, cum eam super hoc secundum inquisitiones et processus super his habitos non possemus ferre de jure sed per viam provisionis et ordinationis apostolicæ” (6th May 1312).
The individual members of the order seem to have been left to the judgment of provincial councils. They were divided into three classes,—(1) those who confessed at once; (2) those who persisted in denial of the charges; (3) those who, having confessed at first, withdrew their confessions later on the plea that they had been extracted by torture. The penalties for the three classes were respectively (1) penitence, (2) perpetual imprisonment, (3) death by fire. The cases of the grand-master, the visitor of France, and the masters of Aquitaine and Normandy were reserved for the pope’s decision. Early in 1314 they were forced to make a public confession in Notre Dame, and had already been condemned to perpetual imprisonment when the grand-master and the preceptor of Normandy publicly proclaimed their entire innocence. The king, without consulting the church, had them burnt “in the little island” of the Seine “between the Augustinians and the royal garden.”
 In England, where perhaps torture was not used, out of eighty Templars examined only four confessed to the charge of denying Christ, and of these four two were apostate knights. But some English Templars would only guarantee the purity of their own country. That in England as elsewhere the charges were held to be not absolutely proved seems evident from the form of confession to be used before absolution, in which the Templars acknowledge themselves to be defamed in the matter of certain articles that they, cannot purge themselves. In England nearly all the worst evidence comes at second or third hand or through the depositions of Franciscans and Dominicans. Yet it can hardly be doubted that the "spuitio super crucem” did form a part of the initiation ceremony. Even the English Templars admitted that the statutes of the order were one and the same all the world over; and there is no setting aside the consistent evidence of almost every French Templar as to his guilt in this matter. Of the other charges the most revolting may have originated in the abuse and misinterpretation of a licence primarily intended for military emergencies. Such at least is the form it seems to take in the evidence of John Senand (ap. Mich., ii. p. 137). A debased mind might misinterpret this concession and translate it into coarser words, till (this part of the initiation ceremony being probably conducted in private, as, most certainly, was the spitting on the cross) there might be two formularies current in the order, of which the second was plainly immoral, whereas the first was perfectly harmless unless coupled with a sous-entendre. So too with regard to the spuitio. One Templar says plainly that he took it for a joke,—pro trufa; others regarded "it as an imitation of St Peter’s denial; a modern writer has suggested that the custom was intended as a symbol of absolute obedience (ap. Mich., ii. 260). There is little doubt that most members looked upon the ceremony with disgust. Some salved their consciences by the excuse that they were denying Jesus and not Christ; another when shown the crucifix denied his belief in the painted figure. Nearly all declared that they had spat near but not upon the cross, and denied Christ “non corde sed ore.” Men who could thus play with their own consciences at their initiation might well, when their lives were in peril, clothe a falsehood in the garb of truth by denying “spuitio super crucem” instead of confessing to “spuitio juxta crucem.”The opinion that the monstrous charges brought against the Templars were false and the confessions were only extracted by torture is supported by the general results of the investigation (in almost every country outside France), as we have them collected in Raynouard, Labbe, and Du Puy. In Castile, where the king flung them into prison, they were acquitted at the council of Salamanca. In Aragon, where they held out for a time in their fortresses against the royal power, the council of Tarragona proclaimed in their favour (4th November 1312). In Portugal the commissioners reported that there were no grounds for accusation. At Mainz the council pronounced the order blameless. At Treves, at Messina, and at Bologna, in Romagna and in Cyprus, they were either acquitted or no evidence was forthcoming against them. At the council of Ravenna the question as to whether torture should be used was answered in the negative except by two Dominicans; all the Templars were absolved,—even those who had confessed through fear of torture being pronounced innocent (18th June 1310). Six Templars were examined at Florence, and their evidence is for its length the most remarkable of all that is still extant. Roughly speaking, they confess with the most elaborate detail to every charge,—even the most loathsome; and the perusal of their evidence induces a constant suspicion that their answers were practically dictated to them in the process of the examination or invented by the witnesses themselves.
The other charges stand upon a somewhat similar footing. The power of lay absolution might easily be developed out of the harmless words with which the master or preceptor dismissed his chapter. The cordulæ which Templars were accused of wearing in honour of their idol take a very different appearance as the “zones of chastity” or “belt of Nazareth” worn in accordance with St Bernard’s precept. With regard to the charge of idolatry the evidence is very conflicting. In France and at Florence a large proportion of the members confessed to indecent kissing (oscula inhonesta) at their initiation ; but hardly a single English Templar admitted the charge, and one French witness suggested an almost ludicrous explanation of the rumour. Here also a simple ceremony of respect or humiliation seems to have been expanded into one of shamelessness; but the evidence is too strong to admit of its being explained away, at least in France.
Not a few witnesses confessed that they had been called upon to declare Christ a false prophet, who suffered for His own sins and not for the race, and to believe only in a superior God of the heavens (Deum cœi superiorem). One Florence witness admits that the idol was worshipped as God and Saviour. It was this head, according to one of the witnesses, that could make the order rich and cause the earth to bud and the trees to blossom. A Carcassonne Templar spoke of the idol (Raynouard, 241) as friend of God, who converses with God when he wishes. On such evidence M. Loiseleur holds that the Templars were members of a secret religion, which combined the heretical teachings of the Bogomilians and the Luciferians. The former, “the friends of God,” believed in a Supreme Deity, whose eldest son Satanael was the creator of our world after his revolt against his father, and whose younger son Jesus was made man to counteract the evil deeds of his brother. They did not venerate the cross, regarding it as the instrument of Christ’s passion. The Luciferians, on the other hand, worshipped the eldest son, who had power over all the riches of this world. M. Loiseleur has shown some remarkable coincidences, verbal and otherwise, between the creed of these two sects and that of the Templars, who, according to him, borrowed from the former their belief in the Supreme Deity and from the latter their devotion to the God of this earth. It seems, however, doubtful whether he is justified in combining the several items of such scattered evidence into a complete doctrinal system. His argument might be turned against himself; for, if these heresies were so widely spread in mediæval Europe, are they not for that reason those most likely to be ascribed to an unpopular order?
On the whole it may perhaps be admitted that the charges of “spuitio” and "osculatio inhonesta” were current, at least sporadically, for fifty years before the suppression of the order.  They may have become more general in the time of Thomas Beraud, the grand-master (who died 1273), according to the evidence of the preceptor of Aquitaine. On the death of William de Beaujeu (1291) there were two rivals for the office of grand-master,—Hugh de Peraud, the visitor of France, and James de Molai. The latter in 1291, at a general chapter, had declared his intention of extirpating certain practices in the order of which he did not approve; while, if we may trust the French witnesses, the most vigorous initiator according to the new method was Hugh de Peraud. This exactly fits in with the account  that the errors were introduced after William de Beaujeu’s death. In other words, it is probable that the party of Hugh de Peraud between 1290 and 1307 made a desperate effort to enforce the new ceremonies and the new doctrines throughout France and England. The custom of “spuitio,” at all events, was very ancient, and Hugh de Peraud devoted his energies to the propagation of the “osculatio inhonesta.” This would explain the omission of all allusion to the latter ceremony when the English Templars were absolved; for they would not confess to a practice of which they were innocent. This theory likewise goes a long way towards interpreting both the confession and the denial of James de Molai and the general acquittal of the Templars in nearly all the councils outside France. (t. a. a.)
- William of Tyre, xii. c. 7, viii. 3, xviii. 3-6; James de Vitry, Hist. Hieros., 60-67.
- Hist. Pontific., ap. Pertz, xx. 535-536.
- Michelet, Procès, i. 36; Gruelle, 35, &c.
- See the evidence in full ap. Loiseleur, pp. 172-212.
- See Mich., ii. 6-11.
- Mich., ii. 139, 247.
- Mich., ii. 132.