History and mysteries of the Knights Templar

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Templar 

The Sigillum of the Knights Templar, a symbol of brotherhood.

 

Introduction

The order of the Pauperes commilitones Christi templique Salomonis (Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) was born in Holy Land during the bloody wars between Christians and Muslims, started with the beginning of the first Crusade. The Council of Clermont in 1096, called by Pope Urban II, had established that Church should reconquest Jerusalem. This city surrounded just three years after and became a Christian settlement in the Middle East. Nonetheless, there was a serious situation of instability that needed the defense of the holy places in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, scholars estimate thousands of pilgrims came from Europe to the Holy Land every year. They moved along the Via Francigena and embarked towards the city. Early, the defence of them represented an important exigency for the Pope. For this reason, the first Jerusalemites monastic orders were born, such as the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights or the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, founded by the famous Godfrey of Bouillon.

 

The foundation of the Templar Order

Least but not last, the Order of the Temple in Jerusalem was founded, whose members were called Templars. Historiography identifies as founders of this congregation some French knights who participated at the First Crusade. Among them, Hugues de Payns and Godfrey of Saint-Omer.

 

Templar

  The Beauceant, the coat of arms of Templars, with a Cross Pattée on the upper side.

 

Today, there is a debate about the date of foundation of the Knights Templar, due to the lack of the historical sources. Simon of Saint Bertin, in his Deeds of the Abbots of Saint-Bertin [1], told about some knights who “converted to the Lord Temple” in 1099 yet, about 19 years before what the official history says (1118). This date is stated by the Archbishop of Tyre, William [2]. Truly, we have to specify another peculiarity: William of Tyre wrote his work around 50 years after. Otherwise, Simon of St. Bertain lived during the birth of the Order.

 

The controversial Amarelli codex

There is a discussed letter [3], kept in Rossano (Calabria), that could support the hypothesis that the Knights Templar were founded in 1099. This letter is incredibly signed by a man called Ugo de Paganis. The text is called the Amarelli codex, by the name of the noble family who own it. It would reveal historical details that, whether confirmed, will be clamorous. The name Ugo de Paganis is the Italian translation of the French Hugues de Payns: in fact, his parents would be Italians coming from Basilicata. Sigilberto and Emma, these the names, would be born in Forenza, suggesting the Order of the Templars has an Italian origin. It is difficult to state what hypothesis is true. Furthermore, there are doubts about the autenticity of the Amarelli codex.

 

The Mount of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Knights Templar

In 1118 the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin, gave to the Pauperes commilitones some buildings near the rests of the Temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Roman general Tito in 70 AD. For this reason, the name of the Order turned into “Knights Templar”. The headquarter was located near the present al-Aqṣā mosque on the Temple Mount.

 

 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and the monastic rule

The date of the monastic rule is 1129, it was approved during the Council held at Troyes [4] and inspired by the work of the Cistercian, Saint Bernand of Clairvaux.

Ten years after a bull by Pope Innocent II, Omne Datum Optimum, established the political independence of the Order of the Temple, especially concerning the taxes payments. This allowed the Knights Templar to keep enormous richnesses, coming mostly from donations. Otherwise, there is someone who suggests the Knights Templar would have found treasures buried inside the Mount of the Temple in Jerusalem: holy relics, once kept in the Temple of Solomon, like the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail.

Hugues de Payns died in 1136 and, according to the historicist Marco Antonio Guarini, it would be buried inside the church of Saint Jack in Ferrara.

 

The end of the Crusades and the period of instability of the Church

The Knights Templar, instead, continued their military activity for about two centuries. Their richnesses were used for constructing religious buildings or castles in Europe and the Middle East. In 1291 the last Christian settlement in Holy Land was Acre. After a siege of 43 days, it surrounded. This event determined the fail of the crusaders in Middle East, and subsequently of the mission of the Knights Templar too.

For these reasons, the Church faced a great instability that lead to the moving of the Holy See to Avignon (1309). This historical period, that last until 1377, is known as the “Avignon Papacy”. It was a political choice. The Pope Boniface VIII exacerbated the relationships with the noble Roman families, among them the Colonna and the French king, Philip the Fair. Tensions with the Colonna family culminated in the episode known as the “Anagni’s slap”; 34 days after Boniface VIII died, leaving the Church in a big instability.

 

The end of the Knights Templar and the legend of Jacques de Molay

In the meanwhile, Philip the Fair decided to side against the Pope, threatening to declare Boniface VIII as a heretic and occultist, and even to generate a schism of the French Church. Pope Clemens V chose to solve the tensions, establishing a compromise with the French King. Clemens accepted to dissolve the Knights Templar in 1307 in order to not proceed against Boniface VIII. Two years later, he decided to move the Holy See to Avignon. Templars were declared heretical and were dissolved between 1312 and 1314. The whole richness of the Order was moved into the French state fund.

The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned upon a scaffold in Paris, in an island of the Seine, near the Notre Dame cathedral. A legend tells that, before expiring, Jacques de Molay announced that Clemens V and Philip the Fair will be died in a year. Incredibly, the Pope really died in the month of April of the same year, whilst the King died six months later due to a brain stroke.

 

The Baphomet and the real causes of the excommunication

It is historically confirmed that the accusations of heresy to the Templars, like the insinuation of orgiastic rites or worshipping of a pagan idol, the Baphomet, were totally unfounded. Someone admitted the contested acts only after torture. The excommunication by Pope Clemens V and the subsequent damnatio memoriae may be considered as a political action, since Philip the Fair had many debts with the Order of the Temple in Jerusalem. Any way, the dissolution of the Knights Templar was the needed solution to avoid the bankrupt of the French Kingdom. 

 

The Chignon Parchment: Are the Knights Templar survived?

Recently [5] a parchment, known as the Chignon Parchment, was found in the Vatican archives. It demonstrates that in 1314 the Pope Clemens V wanted to withdraw the excommunication to the Templars, acquitting them of the accusation of heresy.

This lead to imagine that some Knights Templar may survived. In particular, someone suggests that it would have occurred in Scotland, since during those years the country was not under the Pope jurisdiction.

Whether the Knights Templar found refugee in a country where they were not persecuted, it would be Scotland. Here, the Knights Templar would have taken a part of the legendary treasure accumulated during the years, like the Holy Grail. Today, this would be protected under the Rosslyn chapel, near Edinburgh, which would contain many Templar symbolisms. In 1450 the building would have been constructed by descendants of the Order, as the Count William Sinclair. The legend and history merge without discerning when the first starts and the last finishes.

 

Samuele Corrente Naso (translations by Daniela Campus)

 NOTE

1. While he [Godfrey] was reigning magnificently, some [of the crusaders] had decided not to return to the shadows of the world after suffering such dangers for God’s sake. On the advice of the princes of God’s army they vowed themselves to God’s Temple under this rule: they would renounce the world, give up personal goods, free themselves to pursue purity, and lead a communal life wearing a poor habit, only using arms to defend the land against the attacks of the insurgent pagans when necessity demanded. [Simone di san Bertino, “Gesta abbatum Sancti Bertini Sithiensium”, ed. O. Holder-Egger, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores].

2. Guilelmus Tyrensis – Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum.

3. Book which demonstrates the nobility of the ancient Amarelli family of the Noble City of Rossano

4. Nos ergo cum omni granulazione, ac fraterna pietate precibusque Magistri Hugonis, in que prӕdicta militai sumpsit exordium, cùm Spiritu Sancto intimante ex diversis ultramontanӕ provinciӕ mansionibus, in solemnitates S. Hilarij, anno 1128 ab incarnato Dei folio, ab inchoatione prӕdictӕ militiӕ nono, ad Trecas, Deo Duce, in usum convenimmo, et modum, et observantiam Ordinis Equestris per singola Capitula, ex ore ipsius prӕdicti Magisteri Hugonis audire meruimus, ac iuta notitiam exiguitatis nostrӕ scientiӕ, quod nobis videbatur bonum, et utile, collaudavimus. [Dalla regola dei Templari, 1129].

5.Barbara Frale. Il Papato e il processo ai Templari. L’inedita assoluzione di Chinon alla luce della diplomatica pontificia, Viella, 2003