At the end of 1128, Hugh de Payns made his way back from the tour of northern France, England, and Flanders to his birth-place in Champagne. Here he would at last receive official recognition of the Templars as a monastic order.
A church council convened at the town of Troyes on January 13, 1129.1 The pope, Honorius II, did not attend. Instead he sent his legate, Matthew, cardinal-bishop of Albano, who had been a priest in Paris. There were two archbishops, Renaud of Reims and Henry of Sens. There were also a number of abbots, four from the Cistercian order, among them Bernard of Clairvaux.2 There were also ten bishops and two “masters,” that is, scholars, Alberic of Reims and Fulger.3
Abbot Bernard supported the Templars but he doesn’t seem to have been eager to attend the council. He asked to be excused on the grounds of ill health.4 But there was no way he could get out of it. Even in 1128, Bernard had a reputation for wisdom and piety. His support was all important. And after the council, that support would coutinue.
The council heard Hugh tell the story of how he began the order and its mission. He asked the clerics for an official habit to mark the Templars as knight-monks and also a Rule to live by like that of other monks. The clerics deliberated and gave the Templars permission to wear a white habit, as the Cistercians did. They also provided a monastic Rule in Latin, based on that of other monastic orders.5
However, the clerics were not really prepared to make a monastic Rule for men whose main function was not to pray but to fight. Wisely, they asked the advice of men who understood the active life. Along with the clerics, Thibaud, count of Champagne and nephew and heir of Hugh of Champagne, and William, count of Nevers, were present. The secretary of the council, Matthew, explains the presence of these “illiterates” by saying that they were lovers of the Truth who carefully went over the Templar Rule and threw out anything that didn’t seem reasonable. “It was for this that they were at the council.”6
The Latin Rule made provisions for the needs of the knights. Unlike other monks, who ate fish and eggs, Templars were allowed red meat three times a week.7If they were too tired, they needn’t get up in the middle of the night for prayers.8 The Rule also allowed the knights to have horses and servants to maintain them.
The clerics did take the opportunity to come out strongly against current fashion. They forbade the knights to wear immoderately long hair and beards, shoes with long curling points, lacy frills, or excessively long tunics.9Obviously the average knight on the road was a bit of a dandy.
The noble pursuits of hunting and hawking were also forbidden, with the exception of lion hunting, “because he [the lion] is always searching for someone to devour and his strength is against all so all strength is against him.”10 This shows that not all the danger in a pilgrimage was from human attackers. However, the council may have been thinking of a biblical analogy here, of the lion falling upon the flock of faithful pilgrims.
Other sections of the Rule concern behavior at meals, caring for brothers who become ill, and other common customs of monastic life; for instance, all property was kept in common and prayers were said seven times a day. Since the knights were not expected to understand Latin, they were told to simply repeat the Lord’s Prayer at the correct times.
One subject that the council was extremely firm about concerned association with women. Knowing the reputation of knights for sexual conquests, two sections of the Rule make it clear that they were not even to kiss their own mothers or sisters. “We believe it dangerous for any man of religion to pay too much attention to the faces of women; therefore no brother may take the liberty of kissing a widow, nor a virgin nor his mother, nor his sister, nor his friend, nor any other woman.”11 This was taken for granted in most monastic houses, where the monks spent most of their time well out of sight of any female temptation. But it’s clear that the council worried that after a hard day of fighting Saracens , it might be difficult for a Knight of the Temple to remember that, while he could still pillage, rape was no longer an option.
While the Latin Rule soon proved to need a lot of editing and additions, for the present Hugh de Payns was satisfied with the results of the council. He returned to Jerusalem by 1131, with fresh recruits, donations, and a formal Rule for the Knights Templar to live by. They were now an accepted part of the religious life in the West as well as the East.
Older accounts give this date as 1128 but this was caused by confusion surrounding the fact that many people in the twelfth century started the New Year in spring, not the middle of winter.
Charles-Joseph Hefele and Dom H. Leclercq, Histoire de Conciles d’après les Documents Originaux Vol. V (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1912) p. 670.
Laurent Dailliez, Règle et Status de l’Ordre du Temple, 2nd ed (Paris: Éditions Dervy, 1972). Reprint of the Latin Rule from 1721, pp. 325-26. The bishops were from Chartres, Soissons, Paris, Troyes, Orleans, Chalons, Laon, and Beauvais, all roughly from the north and east of France. William of Nevers’s son, Raynald, died a prisoner of the Turks during the Second Crusade. William ended his days as a Carthusian monk.
Bernard of Clairvaux, Opera Omnia Vol. 1 (Paris, 1839) letter 21, col. 164-65. “Savientis siquidem acutae febris exusta ardoribus, et exhausta sudoribus.” That is, he had a fever that wore him out.
Dailliez, pp. 327-59.
Ibid., p. 326.
Ibid., p. 332, capitula 10.
Ibid., pp. 335-36, capitula 18.
Ibid., p. 340, capitula 29. “De rostris & laqueis manifestum est & Gentiles: & cum abominabile, hoc omnibus agnoscatur, prohibimus . . . capillorum superflitaten & vestium immoderatan longitudinem barbere non permittimus.”
Ibid., p. 348. “Quia ipse circuit, quaerens quem devoret, & manus ejus contra omnes, omniumque manus contra eum.”
Ibid., p. 359, capitula 72. “Periculosum esse credimus omni Religioni vultum mulierum nimis attendere, & ideo nec vicuam, nec virginem, nec matrem, nec sororum, nec amitam, nec ullam aliam foeminam aliquis Frater osculi praesumet.”