Origin of the Templars—The pilgrimages to Jerusalem—The dangers to which pilgrims were exposed—The formation of the brotherhood of the poor fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ to protect them—Their location in the Temple—A description of the Temple—Origin of the name Templars—Hugh de Payens chosen Master of the Temple—Is sent to Europe by King Baldwin—Is introduced to the Pope—The assembling of the Council of Troyes— The formation of a rule for the government of the Templars
“Yet ‘midst her towering fanes in ruin laid,
The pilgrim saint his murmuring vespers paid;
‘Twas his to mount the tufted rocks, and rove
The chequer’d twilight of the olive-grove:
‘Twas his to bend beneath the sacred gloom,
And wear with many a kiss Messiah’s tomb.”
THE extraordinary and romantic institution of the Knights Templars, those military friars who so strangely blended the character of the monk with that of the soldier, took its origin in the following manner:—
On the miraculous discovery of the Holy sepulchre by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, about 298 years after the death of Christ, and the consequent erection, by command of the first Christian emperor, of the magnificent church of the Resurrection, or, as it is now called, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, over the sacred monument, the tide of pilgrimage set in towards Jerusalem, and went on increasing in strength as Christianity gradually spread throughout Europe. On the surrender of the Holy City to the victorious Arabians, (A.D. 637), the privileges and the security of the Christian population were provided for in the following guarantee, given under the hand and seal of the Caliph Omar to Sophronius the Patriarch.
“From OMAR EBNO ‘L ALCHITAB to the inhabitants of ÆLIA.”
“They shall be protected and secured both in their lives and fortunes, and their churches shall neither be pulled down nor made use of by any but themselves.”*
Under the government of the Arabians, the pilgrimages continued steadily to increase; the old and the young, women and children, flocked in crowds to Jerusalem, and in the year 1064 the Holy Sepulchre was visited by an enthusiastic band of seven thousand pilgrims, headed by the Archbishop of Mentz and the Bishops of Utrecht, Bamberg, and Ratisbon.† The year following, however, Jerusalem was conquered by the wild Turcomans. Three thousand of the citizens were indiscriminately massacred, and the hereditary command over the Holy City and territory was confided to the Emir Ortok, the chief of a savage pastoral tribe.
Under the iron yoke of these fierce Northern strangers, the Christians were fearfully oppressed; they were driven from their churches; divine worship was ridiculed and interrupted; and the patriarch of the Holy City was dragged by the hair of his head over the sacred pavement of the church of the Resurrection, and cast into a dungeon, to extort a ransom from the sympathy of his flock. The pilgrims who, through innumerable perils, had reached the gates of the Holy City, were plundered, imprisoned, and frequently massacred; an aureus, or piece of gold, was exacted as the price of admission to the holy sepulchre, and many, unable to pay the tax, were driven by the swords of the Turcomans from the very threshold of the object of all their hopes, the bourne of their long pilgrimage, and were compelled to retrace their weary steps in sorrow and anguish to their distant homes.‡ The melancholy intelligence of the profanation of the holy places, and of the oppression and cruelty of the Turcomans, aroused the religious chivalry of Christendom; “a nerve was touched of exquisite feeling, and the sensation vibrated to the heart of Europe.”
Then arose the wild enthusiasm of the crusades; men of all ranks, and even monks and priests, animated by the exhortations of the pope and the preachings of Peter the Hermit, flew to arms, and enthusiastically undertook “the pious and glorious enterprize” of rescuing the holy sepulchre of Christ from the foul abominations of the heathen.
When intelligence of the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders (A.D. 1099) had been conveyed to Europe, the zeal of pilgrimage blazed forth with increased fierceness; it had gathered intensity from the interval of its suppression by the wild Turcomans, and promiscuous crowds of both sexes, old men and children, virgins and matrons, thinking the road then open and the journey practicable, successively pressed forwards towards the Holy City, with the passionate desire of contemplating the original monuments of the Redemption.* The infidels had indeed been driven out of Jerusalem, but not out of Palestine. The lofty mountains bordering the sea-coast were infested by bold and warlike bands of fugitive Mussulmen, who maintained themselves in various impregnable castles and strongholds, from whence they issued forth upon the highroads, cut off the communication between Jerusalem and the sea-ports, and revenged themselves for the loss of their habitations and property by the indiscriminate pillage of all travellers. The Bedouin horsemen, moreover, making rapid incursions from beyond the Jordan, frequently kept up a desultory and irregular warfare in the plains; and the pilgrims, consequently, whether they approached the Holy City by land or by sea, were alike exposed to almost daily hostility, to plunder, and to death.
* Elmacin, Hist. Saracen. Eutychius.
† Ingulphus, the secretary of William the Conqueror, one of the number, states that he sallied forth from Normandy with thirty companions, all stout and well-appointed horsemen, and that they returned twenty miserable palmers, with the staff in their hand and the wallet at their back—Baronius ad ann. 1064, No. 43, 56.
‡ Will. Tyr., lib. i. cap. 10, ed. 1564.
To alleviate the dangers and distresses to which these pious enthusiasts were exposed, to guard the honour of the saintly virgins and matrons,† and to protect the gray hairs of the venerable palmer, nine noble knights formed a holy brotherhood in arms, and entered into a solemn compact to aid one another in clearing the highways of infidels, and of robbers, and in protecting the pilgrims through the passes and defiles of the mountains to the Holy City. Warmed with the religious and military fervour of the day, and animated by the sacredness of the cause to which they had devoted their swords, they called themselves the Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ. They renounced the world and its pleasures, and in the holy church of the Resurrection, in the presence of the patriarch of Jerusalem, they embraced vows of perpetual chastity, obedience, and poverty, after the manner of monks.‡ Uniting in themselves the two most popular qualities of the age, devotion and valour, and exercising them in the most popular of all enterprises, the protection of the pilgrims and of the road to the holy sepulchre, they speedily acquired a vast reputation and a splendid renown.
* Omnibus mundi partibus divites et pauperes, juvenes et virgines, senes cum junioribus, loca sancta visitaturi Hierosolymam pergerent.—Jac. de Vitriaco. Hist. Hierosol. cap. Lxv
† “To kiss the holy monuments,” says William of Tyre, “came sacred and chaste widows, forgetful of feminine fear, and the multiplicity of dangers that beset their path.” —Lib. xviii. cap. 5.
‡ Quidam autem Deo amabiles et devoti milites, charitate ferventes, mundo renuntiantes, et Christi se servitio mancipantes in manu Patriarchæ Hierosolymitani professione et voto solemni sese astrinxerunt, ut a prædictis latronibus, et viris sanguinum, defenderent peregrinos, et stratas publicas custodirent, more canonicorum regularium inobedientia et castitiate et sine proprio militaturi summon regi. Jac. De Vitr. Hist. Hierosol. apud Gesta Dei per Francos, cap. lxv. p. 1083.––Will. Tyr. lib. xii. cap.7. There were three kinds of poverty. The first and strictest (altissima) admitted not of the possession of any description of property whatever. The second (media) forbade the possession of individual property, but sanctioned any amount of wealth when shared by a fraternity in common. The lowest was where a separate property in some few things was allowed, such as food and clothing, whilst everything else was shared in common. The second kind of poverty (media) was adopted by the Templars.
At first, we are told, they had no church and no particular place of abode, but in the year of our Lord 1118, (nineteen years after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders), they had rendered such good and acceptable service to the Christians, that Baldwin the Second, king of Jerusalem, granted them a place of habitation within the sacred inclosure of the Temple on Mount Moriah, amid those holy and magnificent structures, partly erected by the Christian Emperor Justinian, and partly built by the Caliph Omar, which were then exhibited by the monks and priests of Jerusalem, whose restless zeal led them to practise on the credulity of the pilgrims, and to multiply relics and all objects likely to be sacred in their eyes, as the Temple of Solomon, whence the Poor Fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ came thenceforth to be known by the name of “the Knighthood of the Temple of Solomon.”*
A few remarks in elucidation of the name Templars, or Knights of the Temple, may not be altogether unacceptable.
By the Mussulmen, the site of the great Jewish temple on Mount Moriah has always been regarded with peculiar veneration. Mahomet, in the first year of the publication of the Koran, directed his followers, when at prayer, to turn their faces towards it, and pilgrimages have constantly been made to the holy spot by devout Moslems. On the conquest of Jerusalem by the Arabians, it was the first care of the Caliph Omar to rebuild “the Temple of the Lord.” Assisted by the principal chieftains of his army, the Commander of the Faithful undertook the pious office of clearing the ground with his own hands, and of tracing out the foundations of the magnificent mosque which now crowns with its dark and swelling dome the elevated summit of Mount Moriah.†
This great house of prayer, the most holy Mussulman Temple in the world after that of Mecca, is erected over the spot where “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” It remains to this day in a state of perfect preservation, and is one of the finest specimens of Saracenic architecture in existence. It is entered by four spacious doorways, each door facing one of the cardinal points; the Bab el D’jannat, or gate of the garden, on the north; the Bab el Kebla, or gate of prayer, on the south; the Bab ib’n el Daoud, or the gate of the son of David, on the east; and the Bab el Garbi, on the west. By the Arabian geographers it is called Beit Allah, the house of God, also Beit Almokaddas, or Beit Almacdes, the holy house. From it Jerusalem derives its Arabic name, el Kods, the holy, el Schereef, the noble, and el Mobarek, the blessed; while the governors of the city, instead of the customary high-sounding titles of sovereignty and dominion, take the simple title of Hami, or protectors.
* Pantaleon, lib. iii. p. 82.
† D ‘Herbelot Bib. Orient, p. 270, 687, ed. 1697. William of Tyre, who lived at Jerusalem shortly after the conquest of the city by the Crusaders, tells us that the Caliph Omar required the Patriarch Sophronius to point out to him the site of the temple destroyed by Titus, which being done, the caliph immediately commenced the erection of a fresh temple thereon, “Quo postea infra modicum tempus juxta conceptum mentis suæ feliciter consummato, quale hodie Hierosolymis esse dinoscitur, multis et infinites ditavit possessionibus.” —Will. Tyr. lib. i. cap. 2.
On the conquest of Jerusalem by the crusaders, the crescent was torn down from the summit of this famous Mussulman Temple, and was replaced by an immense golden cross, and the edifice was then consecrated to the services of the Christian religion, but retained its simple appellation of “The Temple of the Lord.” William, Archbishop of Tyre and Chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, gives an interesting account of this famous edifice as it existed in his time, during the Latin dominion. He speaks of the splendid mosaic work, of the Arabic characters setting forth the name of the founder, and the cost of the undertaking, and of the famous rock under the centre of the dome, which is to this day shown by the Moslems as the spot whereon the destroying angel stood, “with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.”* This rock he informs us was left exposed and uncovered for the space of fifteen years after the conquest of the Holy City by the crusaders, but was, after that period, cased with a handsome altar of white marble, upon which the priests daily said mass.
To the south of this holy Mussulman temple, on the extreme edge of the summit of Mount Moriah, and resting against the modern walls of the town of Jerusalem, stands the venerable Christian church of the Virgin, erected by the Emperor Justinian, whose stupendous foundations, remaining to this day, fully justify the astonishing description given of the building by Procopius. That writer informs us that in order to get a level surface for the erection of the edifice, it was necessary, on the east and south sides of the hill, to raise up a wall of masonry from the valley below, and to construct a vast foundation, partly composed of solid stone and partly of arches and pillars. The stones were of such magnitude, that each block required to be transported in a truck drawn by forty of the emperor’s strongest oxen; and to admit of the passage of these trucks it was necessary to widen the roads leading to Jerusalem. The forests of Lebanon yielded their choicest cedars for the timbers of the roof, and a quarry of variegated marble, seasonably discovered in the adjoining mountains, furnished the edifice with superb marble columns.* The interior of this interesting structure, which still remains at Jerusalem, after a lapse of more than thirteen centuries, in an excellent state of preservation, is adorned with six rows of columns, from whence spring arches supporting the cedar beams and timbers of the roof; and at the end of the building is a round tower, surmounted by a dome. The vast stones, the walls of masonry, and the subterranean colonnade raised to support the south-east angle of the platform whereon the church is erected, are truly wonderful, and may still be seen by penetrating through a small door, and descending several flights of steps at the south-east corner of the inclosure. Adjoining the sacred edifice, the emperor erected hospitals, or houses of refuge, for travellers, sick people, and mendicants of all nations; the foundations whereof, composed of handsome Roman masonry, are still visible on either side of the southern end of the building.
* Erant porro in eodem Templi ædificio, intus et extra ex opere musaico, Arabici idiomatis literarum vetustissima monimenta, quibus et auctor et impensarum quantitas et quo tempore opus inceptum quodque consummatum fiierit evidenter declaratur… In hujus superioris aræ medio Templum ædificatum est, forma quidem octogonum et laterum totidem, tectum habens sphericum plumbo artificiose copertum. … Intus vero in medio Templi, infra interiorem columnarum ordinem rupes est, &c.—Will. Tyr. lib. i. cap 2, lib. viii. cap. 3. In hoc loco, supra rupem quæ adhuc in eodem Templo consistit, dicitur stetisse et apparuisse David exterminator Angelus. … Templum Dominicum in tanta veneratione habent Saraceni, ut nullus eorum ipsum audeat aliquibus sordibus maculare; sed a remotis et longinquis regionibus, a temporibus Salomonis usque ad tempora præsentia, veniunt adorare.—Jac. de Vitr. Hist. Hicrosol. cap. lxii. p 1080.
On the conquest of Jerusalem by the Moslems, this venerable church was converted into a mosque, and was called D’jamé al Acsa; it was enclosed, together with the great Mussulman Temple of the Lord erected by the Caliph Omar, within a large area by a high stone wall, which runs around the edge of the summit of Mount Moriah, and guards from the profane tread of the unbeliever the whole of that sacred ground whereon once stood the gorgeous temple of the wisest of kings.†
When the Holy City was taken by the crusaders, the D’jamé al Acsa, with the various buildings constructed around it, became the property of the kings of Jerusalem; and is denominated by William of Tyre “the palace,” or “royal house to the south of the Temple of the Lord, vulgarly called the Temple of Solomon.”‡ It was this edifice or temple on Mount Moriah which was appropriated to the use of the poor fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ, as they had no church and no particular place of abode, and from it they derived their name of Knights Templars.*
* Procopius de œdificiis Justiniani, lib. 5.
‡ Quibus quoniam neque ecclesia erat, neque certum habebant domicilium, Rex in Palatio suo, quod secus Templum Domini ad australem habet partem, eis concessit habitaculum.— Will. Tyr. lib. xii. cap. 7. And in another place, speaking of the Temple of the Lord, he says, Ab Austro vero domum habet Regiam, quæ vulgari appellationeTemplum Salomonw dicitur.—Ib. lib. viii. cap. 3.
James of Vitry, Bishop of Acre, who gives an interesting account of the holy places, thus speaks of the Temple of the Knights Templars. “There is, moreover, at Jerusalem another temple of immense spaciousness and extent, from which the brethren of the knighthood of the Temple derive their name of Templars, which is called the Temple of Solomon, perhaps to distinguish it from the one above described, which is specially called the Temple of the Lord.”† He moreover informs us in his oriental history, that “in the Temple of the Lord there is an abbot and canons regular; and be it known that the one is the Temple of the Lord, and the other the Temple of the Chivalry. These are clerks, the others are knights.”‡
The canons of the Temple of the Lord conceded to the poor fellow-soldiers of Jesus Christ the large court extending between that building and the Temple of Solomon; the king, the patriarch, and the prelates of Jerusalem, and the barons of the Latin kingdom, assigned them various gifts and revenues for their maintenance and support, § and the Order being now settled in a regular place of abode, the knights soon began to entertain more extended views, and to seek a larger theatre for the exercise of their holy profession.
Their first aim and object had been, as before mentioned, simply to protect the poor pilgrims, on their journey backwards and forwards, from the sea-coast to Jerusalem;** but as the hostile tribes of Mussulmen, which everywhere surrounded the Latin kingdom, were gradually recovering from the stupifying terror into which they had been plunged by the successful and exterminating warfare of the first crusaders, and were assuming an aggressive and threatening attitude, it was determined that the holy warriors of the Temple should, in addition to the protection of pilgrims, make the defence of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, of the eastern church, and of all the holy places, a part of their particular profession.
The two most distinguished members of the fraternity were Hugh de Payens and Geoffrey de St. Aldemar, or St. Omer, two valiant soldiers of the cross, who had fought with great credit and renown at the siege of Jerusalem. Hugh de Payens was chosen by the knights to be the superior of the new religious and military society, by the title of “The Master of the Temple and he has, consequently, generally been called the founder of the Order.
*Qui quoniam juxta Templum Domini, ut prædiximu in Palatio regio mansionem habent, fraters militiæ Templi dicuntur.—Will. Tyr. lib. xii. cap. 7.
†Est praterea Hierosolymis Templum aliud immense quantitatis et amplitudinis, a quo fratres militiæ Templi, Templarii nominantur, quod Templum Salomonis nuncupatur, forsitan ad distinctionem alterius quod specialiter Templum Domini appellatur.—Jac. de Vitr. cap. 62.
‡ In Templo Domini abbas est et canonici regulares, et sciendum est quod aliud est Templum Domini, aliud Templum militia. Isti clerici, illi milites.—Hist. Orient. Jac de Vitr. apud Thesaur. Nov. Anecd. Mariene, tom. iii. col. 277.
§ Will. Tyr. lib. xii. cap. 7.
** Prima autem eorum profession quodque eis a domino Patriarcha et reliquis episcopis in remissionem peccatorum injunctum est, ut vias et itiners, ad salutem peregrinorum contra latronum et incursantium insidias, pro viribus conservarent.––Will. Tyr. lib. xii. Cap. 7.
The name and reputation of the Knights Templars speedily spread throughout Europe, and various illustrious pilgrims from the far west aspired to become members of the holy fraternity. Among these was Fulk, Count of Anjou, who joined the society as a married brother, (A.D. 1120), and annually remitted the Order thirty pounds of silver. Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, foreseeing that great advantages would accrue to the Latin kingdom by the increase of the power and numbers of these holy warriors, exerted himself to extend the Order throughout all Christendom, so that he might, by means of so politic an institution, keep alive the holy enthusiasm of the west, and draw a constant succour from the bold and warlike races of Europe for the support of his Christian throne and kingdom.
St. Bernard, the holy abbot of Clairvaux, had been a great admirer of the Templars. He wrote a letter to the Count of Champagne, on his entering the Order, (A.D. 1123), praising the act as one of eminent merit in the sight of God; and it was determined to enlist the all-powerful influence of this great ecclesiastic in favour of the fraternity. “By a vow of poverty and penance, by closing his eyes against the visible world, by the refusal of all ecclesiastical dignities, the Abbot of Clairvaux became the oracle of Europe, and the founder of one hundred and sixty convents. Princes and pontiffs trembled at the freedom of his apostolical censures: France, England, and Milan, consulted and obeyed his judgment in a schism of the church: the debt was repaid by the gratitude of Innocent the Second; and his successor, Eugenius the Third, was the friend and disciple of the holy St. Bernard.”*
To this learned and devout prelate two knights templars were despatched with the following letter:
“Baldwin, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Jerusalem, and Prince of Antioch, to the venerable Father Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, health and regard.
“The Brothers of the Temple, whom the Lord hath deigned to raise up, and whom by an especial Providence he preserves for the defence of this kingdom, desiring to obtain from the Holy See the confirmation of their institution, and a rule for their particular guidance, we have determined to send to you the two knights, Andrew and Gondemar, men as much distinguished by their military exploits as by the splendour of their birth, to obtain from the Pope the approbation of their order, and to dispose his holiness to send succour and subsidies against the enemies of the faith, reunited in their design to destroy us, and to invade our Christianterritories.
“Well knowing the weight of your mediation with God and his vicar upon earth, as well as with the princes and powers of Europe, we have thought fit to confide to you these two important matters, whose successful issue cannot be otherwise than most agreeable to ourselves. The statutes we ask of you should be so ordered and arranged as to be reconcilable with the tumult of the camp and the profession of arms; they must, in fact, be of such a nature as to obtain favour and popularity with the Christian princes.
“Do you then so manage, that we may, through you, have the happiness of seeing this important affair brought to a successful issue, and address for us to heaven the incense of your prayers.” *
Soon after the above letter had been despatched to St. Bernard, Hugh de Payens himself proceeded to Rome, accompanied by Geoffrey de St. Aldemar, and four other brothers of the Order, viz. Brother Payen de Montdidier, Brother Gorall, Brother Geoffrey Bisol, and Brother Archambauld de St. Amand. They were received with great honour and distinction by Pope Honorius, who warmly approved of the objects and designs of the holy fraternity. St. Bernard had, in the mean time, taken the affair greatly to heart; he negotiated with the Pope, the legate, and the bishops of France, and obtained the convocation of a great ecclesiastical council at Troyes, (A.D. 1128), which Hugh de Payens and his brethren were invited to attend. This council consisted of several archbishops, bishops, and abbots, among which last was St. Bernard himself. The rules to which the Templars had subjected themselves were there described by the master, and to the holy Abbot of Clairvaux was confided the task of revising and correcting these rules, and of framing a code of statutes fit and proper for the governance of the great religious and military fraternity of the Temple.
* Reg. Constil et Privileg. Ordinis Cisterc. p. 447.