The Templars

The Knights Templar. Seldom in history has such an organisation evoked so many different feelings in so many people. Since the early 12th century, stories of these warrior monks have captivated the minds of the penitent Christian. From their heroic deeds in battle to rumours of lost treasures, accounts of these riders in white have inspired many fabulous creations in art and literature. Perhaps none more famous than Wolfram von Eschenbach’s, Parzival, whose mystical tale has forever imprinted their image as the guardians of the most sacred object known to Christendom. The Holy Grail.

Their name alone is synonymous with legend. Yet making up that legend are many complex strands. Strands that, when pieced together, tell a story not always easy to understand. Like many of history’s great enigmas, our understanding of the knights has changed over time. During the last thirty years, there has been a significant revival in the level of interest in Templar history and folklore, leading to the influx of a great many different texts, concerning a great many topics. In doing so, the line between the past and legend has become blurred, bringing with it a wealth of issues that makes understanding the real history of the order difficult.

Having undertaken my own quest to understand the truth behind the knights in white, I have often found, like the grail knights, the more I learn, the less I know. Without question, the last thirty years has proven a significant time for Templar researchers. However, it is equally valid that some aspects of new research have not always been accurate or undertaken for the right reasons. While I certainly believe that there is more to the Templars than traditional history teaches us, for me stories of the order’s connections with hidden priories should never be regarded as anything more than fiction: they are to entertain, not necessarily to enlighten. Nevertheless, the work of many Templar researchers, both mainstream and freelance, has been invaluable, and brings us ever closer to a complete picture of the order, not just the Knights of the Crusades.

Understanding the problems that exist in undertaking any serious investigation into the history of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, this website is divided into sections. This section includes what is definitely history and can be largely accepted as a known fact. Included in the section titled Templar Mysteries will be a series of articles concerning the wealth of information at our disposal, including several of my own observations, that need further investigation. In particular, evidence that the Templars sailed to the New World before the voyage of Columbus is given close attention. I have, hopefully for obvious reasons, steered clear of themes known to be false. To accept such notions as fact is in no way a fulfilling step and brings with it only confusion. Also, included in the Robin Hood section will be information on the Templars in England, notably Yorkshire, and, as I believe my own research shows, how the fall of the Templars in Yorkshire went a long way toward establishing another of history’s great enigmas.


According to the history books, the Knights Templar were a Christian religious, military society established in 1118 by nine knights inspired by the vocation of protecting Christian pilgrims travelling the notoriously dangerous roads leading to and from the Holy Land. Led by a French nobleman, Hugues de Payens, this humble group of committed Christians were welcomed to Jerusalem by King Baldwin II and accommodated in the palace of the king, situated on the alleged site of the former Temple of Solomon. In the early years the order led a relatively quiet existence. However, this began to change after their mission received official sanction at the Council of Troyes in 1129. Although the members were individually poor, and the new order itself survived on the alms and generosity of Baldwin, over the coming decades their influence expanded following official endorsement by Pope Innocent II. Among their privileges, the church excused them from paying taxes while also permitting them to receive their own tithes on properties they owned and keeping spoils of war from battles against the Moslems. Despite the order’s humble beginning, these privileges, supplemented by regular donations from grateful pilgrims and wealthy Christian noblemen who endorsed the order, resulted in the Templars becoming increasingly prosperous. While the Templar Rule forbade them from using the wealth for personal gain, the order strengthened its position by using the new fortune to build several fortifications throughout Europe and the Holy Land. In later years the Templars used their wealth to build their own churches, castles, vineyards, farms et cetera throughout Europe. Eventually, they began to loan money to the monarchs of Europe, earning extra cash from charging deposit fees.

As their influence increased, the Templars grew in number. Dedicated Christians, initially only those of noble birth and unmarried, were granted permission to join and willingly consent to uphold vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty while remaining wholly devoted to the Christian cause. In time, Christians of lower status were also permitted to join. In keeping with their vows of poverty, recruits were required to sign over their lands and possessions to the order, further adding to the Templar’s overall assets.

The Templar influence in the Holy Land reached its height in the 1170s. However, this declined significantly after defeat in the Battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1187. Despite the subsequent loss of Jerusalem, the order maintained a presence in the Holy Land until the city of Acre was taken in 1291, the last major incident of the Crusades.

At the height of their power, the Templars owned vast swathes of property across Europe and were collectively wealthier than any European monarch. Their military strength, estimated at 20,000 throughout Europe at its peak, all of whom were ardently committed to the Christian cause and highly trained in the arts of war, was unrivalled by any other army at that time. Their tradition never to leave a battlefield until outnumbered three to one developed their reputation as being feared by their enemies. Their contributions to banking and unique architecture has had a lasting effect on European culture and, despite their controversial demise, the Templars remain famed for the piety and discipline they displayed throughout their 200-year history.

Origin of the Knights Templar

Following the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, the city was placed in the control of Geoffroi de Bouillon. Celebrated as one of the most fearless crusaders, de Bouillon was installed as ‘Defender of the Holy Sepulchre’ the nearest title to being king of the new kingdom of Jerusalem. The kingdom was known as Outremer in Europe, translating to ‘land beyond the sea.’ De Bouillon died a year later and was replaced by his younger brother Baldwin, henceforth the King of Jerusalem. At the time, the new kingdom of Outremer was effectively a collection of several minor territories, mostly ruled by European allies.

Even before the taking of Jerusalem, the holy sites were still a popular destination for pilgrims of Christian faith. The conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusader forces was successful in reducing the risks faced by the pious pilgrim. Yet, the new kingdom led to a new influx of visitor, many of whom were murdered before reaching the walls. By 1119 the problem had escalated. At Easter of that year, as many as 300 pilgrims were murdered on the road to the River Jordan. At least as many also suffered violent attacks. The plight of the pilgrims weighed heavily on the mind of the new king Baldwin II, cousin of the first king, and soon after a potential solution presented itself.

Plagued by the difficulties encountered by their fellow brethren, Hugues de Payens, a Frenchman of noble status, travelled to Jerusalem with eight of his kin to offer their lives in protection of the travellers. Among his number were Geoffrey de St Omer, Payen de Montdidier, Archambaud de St Agnan, Andre de Montbard, Geoffrey Bisol, one unnamed knight and two others known only as Rossal and Gondamer.

On receiving these men, Baldwin II welcomed them and allowed them to set up their headquarters on the south-eastern side of the Temple Mount, in the location used by the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to tradition, this was the same place once used as the stables of the Biblical King Solomon, who built a Temple on the site chosen by his father, King David, recognised by the Jews as where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac, and later used as the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Due to the location of their headquarters, the knights became known as ‘The Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon’ or more famously ‘The Knights Templar’.

For the first nine years, the new order seem to have lived a reasonably inactive existence. Yet, this changed in 1129 following their official endorsement at the Council of Troyes. Among their supporters was the leading Cistercian monk St Bernard of Clairvaux, nephew of Andre de Montbard. In 1125 Clairvaux wrote to Pope Calixtus II informing him of the need to have regular soldiers on service in Outremer to counter the threat posed by the Saracens. Hugues de Payens had previously written to Clairvaux asking for his sponsorship of the order, an act that would prove decisive in their later rise to power.

The New Knighthood

Before the Templars’ formation, the concept of a fighting monk was unprecedented. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in some scepticism from elements of the church. When questioned by an assembly of Churchman, including the Pope, at the Council of Troyes, Hugues de Payens provided the first insight into the exact purpose of the Templars and the Rule that had previously governed them. Up to that point, Templar life had been surprisingly frugal for men used to the life of nobility. Influenced by Clairvaux, the council drew up a series of regulations, now known as the Latin Rule. The Rule contained 73 clauses, each one dictating the way the order, both individually and collectively, would operate. The requirements largely mirrored those of the Cistercian order. They were, however, granted permission to fight in battle. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote of the new order that:

‘A Templar Knight is a truly fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armour of faith, just as his body is protected by the armour of steel.’

Universal Fame

As the Templar mission grew, Pope Innocent III extended their influence by issuing the Omne Datum Optimum, a Papal Bull declaring that the order be excused from taxes, permitted freely to cross borders and be subject to the authority of no one monarch. The Bull also confirmed the Templar status as ‘Poor Knights of the Order of the Temple of Solomon’ and validated the Templar Rule. The Bull was also significant in that it allowed the Templars to keep the spoils of war and also permit them to collect tithes themselves, on condition they be presented as a gift rather than an act of requirement.

Papal approval was a significant aspect of the Templar’s ability to grow as an order. According to Rule, each man was required to adhere to vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and piety. For men of noble status, this often required relinquishing large amounts of money or property that henceforth would be used for the good of the order.

The Omne Datum Optimum was the first of three Papal Bulls issued in the first half of the 12th century helping enforce the Templar’s status. In 1144 Pope Celestine II published the Milites Templi, which was soon followed by the Militia Dei by Eugenius III a year later. The new Bulls extended the Templar’s privileges even further: including collecting taxes once a year and being allowed to build their own churches.

Though controversial, their new wealth allowed the order to develop as a military institution. At the height of their power, their military reputation was formidable, embodied by their custom that they should only surrender when outnumbered three to one. Gifts of money and land were used to establish fortifications at key pilgrimage points, which extended their influence geographically. As the order’s expansion continued, they were also presented the opportunity to establish new trade links.

The Templar Grand Masters

The role of the Grand Master differed little from any other society at the time. As the head of the Templars, the Grand Master was based in Outremer and carried out the duties set out according to Rule. Unlike a monarch, the Templar Grand Master was a democratic appointment that usually continued till death.

According to the Templar Rule, each recruit was required to pledge total obedience to the Grand Master. Many Templar Grand Masters acted as advisors to the most powerful monarchs of Europe, and following the issue of the Omne Datum Optimum each Templar Grand Master was answerable only to the Pope.

1118-1136 Hugues de Payens
1136-1146 Robert de Craon
1146-1149 Everard de Barres
1149-1153 Bernard de Tromelai
1153-1156 Andre de Montbard
1156-1169 Bertrand de Blanchefort
1169-1171 Philip de Milly
1171-1179 Odo de St Amand
1179-1184 Arnold de Toroga
1185-1189 Gerard de Ridefort
1191-1193 Robert de Sable
1193-1200 Gilbert Erail
1201-1208 Philip de Plessiez
1209-1219 William de Chartres
1219-1230 Pedro de Montaigu
1231?-1244 Armond de Perigord
1245-1247 Richard de Bures
1247-1250 William de Sonnac
1250-1256 Reynald de Vichiers
1256-1273 Thomas Berard
1273-1291 William de Beaujeu
1291-1293 Tibaud de Gaudin
1293-1314 Jacques de Molay



The highest rank in the Templar hierarchy was the Grand Master, who was responsible for the command of the entire order. The majority of Templar Grand Masters were French, the nation in which the order was founded. In addition to administration, the Templar Grand Masters were formidable warriors and often killed in battle.

A Grand Master was entitled to:
1 Chaplain Brother
1 clerk with 3 horses
1 Sergeant Brother with 2 horses
1 gentleman valet to carry his lance and shield, with 1 horse
1 farrier
1 Saracen scribe
1 turcopole
1 cook
2 foot soldiers
1 turcoman (war horse)
2 knight brothers as companions


The second most crucial role in the Templars was the Seneschal, effectively the deputy. The Seneschal’s responsibilities included acting as an advisor to the Grand Master and dealing with administrative duties.

Many Templar Grand Masters served as Seneschals earlier in their careers.


Every nation had its own Templar Master, subject to the authority of the Grand Master


The Marshal’s role was predominantly military-based, effectively in charge of the battle. His entourage included:

2 Squires
1 Turcoman
1 Turcopole
1 Sergeant
4 Horses


Responsible for footmen and equipment.


In control of squires.


The draper was a role of some fame in the Templar order, and was valued above that of an ordinary knight. The draper was responsible for the members’ garments and linens. His title entitled him to

2 Squires
1 brother in charge of pack animals
4 horses
Several tailors


The commanders were in charge of the administration of their regions, such as Jerusalem, Antioch and Tripoli. Their duties involved mainly castles, churches, farms and Templars houses. Their retinue entitled them:

2 Squires
2 Foot soldiers
1 Sergeant
1 Deacon
1 Saracen scribe
4 Horses
1 Palfrey (packhorse)


Responsible for day to day running of estates: the position was usually filled by a knight, though sometimes a sergeant. Knights were allowed 4 horses, sergeants 2.


Governors of western provinces, though largely required for dealing with recruiting new men.


Knights were usually of noble birth, and their primary purpose was fighting in battle. The knight was famous for adorning the white mantle and red cross. The retinue included 1 squire and 3 horses.


Sergeants were men of lesser birth, and wore black or brown mantles rather than white. Sergeants often performed various skilled and unskilled tasks such as seeing to horses or acting as blacksmiths. Sergeants were entitled to 1 horse in battle.

The First Bankers

The Templar ability to accumulate vast amounts of wealth, coupled with the obligation of poverty for individual members, proved to be of pivotal significance to their future success. By using their received donations for investment, the Templars accumulated even greater wealth and became, in a sense, the first multi-national bankers.

The Templar ethos of being skilled and trustworthy was of vital significance to their future success. The concept of banking at the time was primitive by contrast, yet they provided a useful service to both monarchs and ordinary people alike. At their height, they lent money to every major monarch in Europe, and, controversially, even some Moslem rulers. The Kings of France, in particular, preyed on Templar wealth, eventually bringing the order to the verge of bankruptcy.

In addition to loans to kings, their broad base of preceptories throughout Europe allowed them to arrange transfers of money for those who had deposited funds with them, effectively inventing the concept of the cheque. The creation was invaluable, as pilgrims previously had little choice but to carry money and possessions through dangerous locations without protection. Though forbidden from charging interest rates, the order sidestepped the problem by charging deposit fees, providing a further source of income. The evolution of banking extended to the creation of deposit boxes.

Building and Architecture

In addition to their ability as soldiers and bankers, the Templars also left a more tangible effect on the world.

Granted extended privileges by the Popes, the Templars became skilled builders and built hundreds of structures, including churches, castles, farms, stables and even entire towns and villages.

Templar building practices and designs differed little from that of the Cistercians, who sought functionality over ostentation. The majority of their early constructions were stone-built and comparable to the architecture of the Normans. Most Templar castles were quadrangular in shape, flanked by stone towers and protected by deep moats surrounded by double walls.

Templar churches were usually circular. A good example is the church in Cambridge, modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most were small and undecorated and rectangular, in keeping with the ethos of Bernard of Clairvaux. In later churches, knights were buried with effigies.

It is also possible that the Templars were involved in the financing of the gothic cathedrals built in Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Relations with other orders


The Knights Hospitallers, or the Order of St John of Jerusalem, had started as a small group of men attached to a hospital in Jerusalem, founded by Blessed Gerard in 1023. On the taking of Jerusalem in 1099, the order became a military and religious order under its own charter, taking a particular concern in the wellbeing of the sick. Like the Templars, the Hospitallers’ primary care was the crusades, and they too were exempt from tithes and owned considerable property.

Despite their common goal, relations between the two orders was often fraught with difficulty. At the end of the Crusades, the Pope had hoped to merge the two orders. This, however, failed to materialise. When the Templars were disbanded, their members were permitted to join the Hospitallers, many of whom agreed.


The Order of the Teutonic Knights was formed in 1197 when German crusaders newly arrived in Outremer joined a field hospital set up by merchants from the same country to care for the sick and wounded. The first base was the coastal port at Acre. Soon after, the crusaders formed an order of knights that adopted the Templar Rule and adorned a similar white mantle though with a black cross replacing the red of martyrdom.


Besides those two, several smaller orders existed. They included: The Hospital of St Lazarus, a hospital for lepers; The Knights of Our Lady of Montjoie, later the Order of Trufac, was founded by a Spanish Knight; The Hospitallers of St Thomas of Canterbury, a hospital for Englishmen founded in the 1190s.

The Arrests

In 1303, King Philip sent a force of French soldiers to Rome intending to kidnap Pope Boniface VIII. The charges against the pope were unfathomable, ranging from heresy and sodomy to the murder of the previous pope, Celestine V. The mission failed, thanks mainly to the presence of Hospitallers and Templars, but the pope died shortly after, allegedly in shock at the French king’s slanders.

Boniface’s successor, Benedict XI, lasted less than a year. Following this, he was replaced by Raymond Bertrand de Got, a childhood friend of Philip, who took up the name Clement V. Following his inauguration in 1305, the new pope wrote to the heads of both the Templars and the Hospitallers of their views regarding a further crusade and the possibility of merging the orders. De Molay replied in the summer of 1306, stating his negativity regarding the merger and that any new campaign should number at least 20,000. In June, Clement summoned both men to council at Poitiers, though the meeting was delayed on several occasions, eventually taking place in May 1307. Leader of the Hospitallers, Fulk de Villaret was even further delayed, making it impossible to resolve any matters. As a result, talk moved onto other issues, including accusations by former Templars regarding the order’s initiation ceremony. De Molay had already spoken with Philip about the charges, and had been partially reassured.

Clement’s health had deteriorated early in 1307 and was suffering again later in the year, delaying his investigations into charges against the order. While Clement maintained any studies should wait until his health picked up, Philip acted to the contrary. In September he sent out instructions to secret agents that mass-scale arrests of the order would take place on 13 October. The day earlier, de Molay was in Paris, attending the funeral of the king’s sister in law, Catherine of Courtenay, and even served as a pallbearer. Based on indications given, de Molay was unprepared for what came next. The following dawn, a series of raids throughout Paris saw de Molay and sixty fellow Templars arrested on charges of sodomy, heresy, defacing the cross, and denying the crucifixion. The beginning of the warrant read:

Dieu n’est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans la Royaume: effectively translating: God is not content, there are enemies in the kingdom.

Throughout Europe, the reaction was of utter shock, though partial scepticism due to the similarity of the charges presented against Boniface VIII. The Italians, writing at the time of the arrests, were entirely convinced the accusations were concocted for Philip’s gain, particularly at a time when he was severely indebted to the Templars to fund his wars. Philip confiscated what was located at the Paris Temple, but interestingly little of value was found. The lack of wealth has convinced many authors and historians that the Templars were aware of the arrests in advance and that the ageing de Molay was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the order.

Trials and Excommunication

Following their arrests, the Templars in Paris were kept in solitary confinement. The Templars were read the charges placed against them and were instructed admission was the only possible chance of liberty, whereas denial would mean certain death. Evidence available suggests the Templars faced torture on the rack before the inquisition was active.

De Molay faced the inquisition on 24-25 October at the University of Paris. During that time, he confessed before a large assembly that he denied Christ and spat on the cross during the initiation ritual. Under further pressure from Philip, Clement V issued a papal bull, the Pastoralis Praeeminentiae, on 22 November ordering the arrest of Templars throughout Europe and seizing of their assets. Arrests occurred on a limited and delayed basis, though confessions were nonexistent as torture was forbidden.

The Pope’s insistence that any confession made by the Templars be subject to Papal Inquisition led to a further Papal Committee being set up on Christmas Eve. De Molay and his senior Templars were all present, all of whom withdrew their confessions as they were no longer under threat of torture. The Pope brought proceedings to a halt in February. Following this, Philip took the case against the order to doctors at the University of Paris. The lack of momentum in the case against the order was slow. When Clement arrived in Poitiers in June, Philip ordered his men to close off the town, leaving Clement isolated. By August the Pope reluctantly agreed to participate in convictions and persecution of the order. This led to individuals being judged by himself and the order as a whole by the king. Another Papal Bull, the Fasciens misericordiam, brought proceedings to a long-awaited beginning. In late 1308 a council met at Vienne, set up to decide the future of the order.

The Pope questioned de Molay at Chinon, though still in the presence of agents of the king. De Molay admitted his guilt. After another year in prison, the Papal Commission for the Kingdom of France began its hearings. De Molay spoke that he would speak for the defence of the order. It has often been argued that the Templar Rule, forbidding its members from being literate, contributed massively to de Molay’s inability to mount a defence, regardless of the order’s abilities in other areas.

In total, 127 charges were made against the order in France. In 1310, the commission resumed with over 600 Templars coming forward to defend the order. In reality, the situation was beyond hopeless. Most of those who defended the order had already confessed to the charges under torture. In May 1310, 54 Templars were executed at the stake, as punishment for defending the order. Further military pressure from Philip saw Clement release an additional series of Papal Bulls, including the Vox in excelso, at the Council of Vienne in 1312, officially dissolving the order. Another, the Ad providam, issued their remaining assets be transferred to the Knights Hospitallers.

Death of de Molay

In March 1314, two years after the dissolution of the order, three cardinals sent as envoys of the pope sentenced de Molay and 3 Templar dignitaries, Geoffroi de Charny, Geoffroi de Gonneville and Hugues de Pairaud to life imprisonment. Gonneville and Pairaud both accepted their sentences, whereas de Charny, Preceptor of Normandy, and the Grand Master both retracted their statements and contested that they were still innocent. On 18 March 1314, over six years after his arrest in Paris, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charny were taken to the Isle des Juifs in the River Seine and executed. Rather than being burned at the stake, the two men were, in fact, cooked over a slow fire, prior to which the soles of their feet had been cut and bathed in oil. Many legends have grown up regarding his execution. According to one account, the doomed Grand Master requested his hands remain free so that he could continue to pray in the direction of Notre Dame. It was recorded that during his execution de Molay called out to the king and pope:

‘Dieu sait qui a tort et a pëché. Il va bientot arriver malheur à ceux qui nous ont condamnés à mort’ meaning ‘God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death’.