One of the most powerful and mysterious military troops in the recorded history is Knights Templar. No matter how many years have passed, this military order has always evoked curiosity within the public. As the sources of information is overwhelming, I want to make a list of 14 major things that one should know when reading about the Knights Templar.
But before jumping into the first 7 things about Knights, we should learn in advance some of the basic things about this military troop. Their full name was the “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon” active in the times of medieval Crusades. Around the 13th century, the Knights had an incredibly well managed economic infrastructure in Christendom and they also helped to make some innovations for the banking system. But the mysteries about the Knights Templar were more than just that, to the point that many hated and envied them a lot.
From monks to warriors
The Knights Templar initiated their organization to defend the Christians from attacks. Many historians believed that their later material pursuits only developed as a reactionary measure while the original ideology revolved around religious warfare. In the aftermath of the First Crusade, some Christians warriors dropped their sword and took up the monastic lifestyle.
Along with the establishment of the Christians within the Holy Land, many pilgrims flocked to these new lands. And the more pilgrims showed up at Holy Land, Jerusalem, the more people there attacked the pilgrims. There appeared a French knight, Hugues de Payens, assembled eight more brothers and founded the Knights Templar vowing to defend their fellow Christians. And it was until 1120 AD, the Church officially approved the Templar Order.
Why Temple of Solomon?
You might notice the full name of this military order right? Their full name Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon linked this order with the Solomon’s Temple.
The Temple of Solomon was an ancient structure whose existence was in debate. The thing we know about the place of Knights was that, Jerusalem King, Baldwin II, gave them his palace inside the Al Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount.
And this Temple Mount was allegedly associated with the Temple of Solomon, physically. Living inside the temple, the Knights quickly became known as the Order of the Temple or the “Templars”.
Material pursuits and banking system in Holy Land
It was true that the original motive of the Knights was to protect their fellow Christians. But as time progressed, the Knights became involved in the political affairs. And gradually, they became more powerful. While flexing their military muscle, the Order was granted lands, farms, and even castles.
There they not only managed farms and vinyards but also manufacturing, importing, and ship building. They just established a commercial empire in Christendom.
One interesting thing that we have from historical source is that although their organization was wealthy, each Knight wasn’t. Each of them was sworn to poverty (right from the beginning). This built up a trustworthy “brand value” for the Knights. Knowing about this brand, the European pilgrims started to deposited valuables with the Templars before they went on a long journey to the Holy Land.
The Templars, then, prepared letters of credit saying the value of the deposits. So when the pilgrims reached the Holy Land, giving out the letters, they would be offered with the amount of treasure of equal value. So it was the early form of banking and quite successful I have to say.
Many historians believed that the Knights managed their assets in a feudalistic manner. The Knights divided their land into autonomous provinces that there would be a Grand Master ruled over each province. Each individual province would be divided into smaller commanderies administrated by a commander. Both Grand Master and commander came from the high social status.
As a reflection of the feudalism, a portion of the annual revenues would be given to the Grand Master who then transferred the income to the Templars headquarters.
The amount and requirements for the revenue would be discussed in the “chapter” meetings. There, the Templar brothers would assemble to negotiate and pass new rules and amendments.
Knights of the Templar Order
Many times, we assume that the Templars were the Knights Templar. But in practical scenario that was not the case. The knights only formed a small percentage in a chapter.
The statuses of the Knights Templar reflected the evolution of the knightly class as the political elite in Europe. The first medieval knight did not need to be the lord. Rather, he could come from lower class who came to join the political world through his strength in military.
The same thing happened in the Order. Originally, they were from the lower or mixed social classes. But a century after, most European knights achieved higher social standing. And toward the 13th century, a brother whose family was knightly class could enter the order as a knight.
The first thing about Knights armor was the padded jerkin, or haubergeon. It was worn beneath the main armor providing additional protection. Over the jerkin, the knight wore the mail hauberk, consisting of a long-sleeved mail shirt extending till the head – the mail coif. The hands wore mail mittens and their thighs cuisses.
The Knights also wore helms, initially open-faced but later closed-faced.
For the Knights, swords were the most important weapon. The historians believed that it was because of the similarity between the sword and the Christian cross. So with the assistance of the sword, the European believed they were assisted by their Lord and they fought for the glory of Lord, not for theirs. They also had daggers and “Turkish” mace to shatter the armor of their enemies. Crossbows were also in the list.