Monks


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Monks Essay, Research Paper

The Knights Templar, a military order

of monks answerable only to the Pope himself, were

founded in 1118. Their primary responsibility, at least

initially, was to provide protection to Christians making

pilgrimages to the Holy Land. They rose in power, both

religious and secular, to become one of the richest and

most powerful entities in Christendom. By the time of their

disbandment in 1307, this highly secretive organization

controlled vastwealth, a fleet of merchant ships, and castles

and estates spanning the entire Mediterranean area. When

the crusaders captured Jerusalem from the Muslims in

1099, the Church encouraged all faithful Christians to visit

that holy city in order to affirm their faith. The area,

however, was still subject to sporadic attacks from various

non-Christian factions. A small group of knights, led by

Hughde Payens, vowed to protect the pilgrims. The group

was grantedquasi-official status by King Baldwin II of

Jerusalem, who allowed themquarters in a wing of the royal

palace near the Temple of Solomon. It isfrom this initial

posting that the order derived its name. They took

thestandard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and

were bound to the rulesof the Augustinian order.

[Upton-Ward 1] The order languished in near-anonimity

for several years, despite generouscontributions from

various European personages. In 1126, Count Hugh

ofChampagne, having donated his estates to Bernard of

Clairvaux for use in building a monestary for the Cistercian

order, arrived in Jerusalem to jointhe Templars. This action

indirectly obligated Bernard to support the newly chosen

advocacy of his benefactor. He wrote to the count, "If, for

God’s work, you have changed yourself from count to

knight and from rich to poor,I congratulate you." [Howarth

49] In the year 1126, King Baldwin found two reasons for

wanting officialrecognition of the order. First, he had,

perhaps prematurely, bestowed uponHugh de Payens the

title of Master of the Temple. Second, the king had

theopportunity to launch an attack on the city of Damascus,

but he needed moreknights. Papal recognition would allow

open recruiting in Europe for theorder. King Baldwin sent a

letter to Bernard of Clairvaux, the order’sprimary patron,

later known as Saint Bernard, asking him to petition the

Pope for official recognition of the order. [Howarth 50-51]

The King’sletter was hand-carried to Bernard by two loyal

and trusted knights, Andrewde Montbard, maternally

related to Bernard, and Gondemare. Upon theirarrival at

Clairvaux, the two knights presented Bernard with

Baldwin’sletter, which came right to the point.

[Upton-Ward 3] "The brothers Templar,whom God has

raised up for the defence of our province and to whom he

hasaccorded special protection, desire to receive apostolic

approval and alsotheir own Rule of life … Since we know

well the weight of yourintercession with God and also with

His Vicar and with the other princes ofEurope, we give into

your care this two-fold mission, whose success will bevery

welcome to us. Let the constitution of the Templars be such

as issuitable for men who live in the clash and tumult of

war, and yet of a kind which will be acceptable to the

Christian princes, of whom they have beenthe valuable

auxiliaries. So far as in you lies and if God pleases, striveto

bring this matter to a speedy and successful issue." [qtd. in

Howarth 50-51] Bernard realized at once the genius of the

proposal to combine religiousand military endeavors.

Through such organizations, the borders ofChristendom

could be extended and fortified. He immediately granted

hisapproval of the plan and pledged his full support. He

petitioned PopeHonorius II for a special council to

consider the matter, and he notifiedHugh of his actions.

[Howarth 51] The Council of Troyes convened on January

13, 1128, a bitterly cold SaintHilary’s Day, for the primary

purpose of considering the request of theKnights Templar.

Despite the delays of written communications, Hugh

dePayens, accompanied by several brother knights, arrived

from the Holy Landin time to attend the meetings of the

Council. [Howarth 51] William of Tyre wrote an account

of the events: "Nine years after thefounding of this order,

the knights were still in secular garb. They woresuch

garments as the people, for salvation of their souls,

bestowed uponthem. During this ninth year, a council was

held at Troyes in France. Therewere present the

archbishops of Rheims and Sens, with their suffragans;

thebishop of Albano, the Pope’s legate; the abbotts of

Citeaux, Clairvaux,Potigny; and many others. At this

council, by order of Pope Honorious and ofStephen,

patriarch of Jerusalem, a rule was drawn up for this order

and ahabit of white assigned them." [qtd. in

Burman/Templars 27] Although referred to in William’s

account by the generic title Abbott of Clairvaux, Bernard,

in actuality controlled the proceedings of the council.There

was little doubt Bernard’s request would be met with

approval; he waswell known for his successes in reforming

monastic life. He was held in theutmost respect by religious

and lay leaders alike; in many circles he wasreferred to as

the second pope. In fact, many of the popes were supplied

bythe mendicant orders. [Robinson 66-67] At a time when

monks were more highly regarded than priests, and

consideredcloser to God because of their ascetic life-styles,

Benard said, "The peoplecannot look up to the priests,

because the people are better than priests."[Robinson 67]

Bernard’s offer to personally assist in the formulation of the

Rules of theorder was gratefully accepted by all. Bernard

based his Rule of the Templarson that of his own Cistercian

order, which was itself based on the olderBenedictine Rule.

[Robinson 67] The Rule of the Templars was a strict and

complex system of 686 writtenlaws, meant to cover every

possible aspect of daily life. As an example,Rule 25, On

Bowls and Drinking Vessels, states: Because of the

shortage ofbowls, the brothers will eat in pairs, so that one

may study the other moreclosely, and so that neither

austerity nor secret abstinence is introducedinto the

communal meal. And it seems just to us that each brother

shouldhave the same ration of wine in his cup. [qtd. in

Upton-Ward 26] In 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a Bull,

titled Omne Datum Optimum,declaring that the Knights

Templar were under the direct and sole control ofthe Pope.

This freed the Knights to operate throughout Christendom

and theLevant unencumbered by local ecclesiastical and

secular rulers. Thisunprecedented autonomy was due, in no

small part, to the personal petitionsof the new Grand

Master, Robert the Burgundian. While Hugh had been an

excellent warrior, Robert was an ideal administrator who

understoodpolitics. [Howarth 80] The Order was

authorized to have chaplain brothers, who were authorized

tohear the confessions of their fellow brothers, and thereby

absolve them oftheir sins. There were, however, five

specific crimes for which granting ofabsolution was

reserved by the Pope. These were: "the killing of a

Christianman or woman,; violently attacking another

brother; attacking a member ofanother order or a priest;

renouncing holy orders in order to be received asa brother;

and entering the order by simony." [Upton-Ward 5] It was

also during the mastership of Robert that the Rules were

translatedfrom Latin into French. Church documents were

normally in Latin only, butsince most of the Knights were

soldiers rather than educated clerics, theywere unable to

read Latin. In 1147, the Knights were authorized to wear

ared cross upon their white mantles, despite rule 18, which

forbade anydecorations on their clothing. [Upton-Ward

12] As the Knights Templar gained political and economic

strength, they foundthemselves involved in many aspects of

secular life. They established thefirst truly international

banking service; travelers not wanting to travelwith large

sums could deposit their monies at any Temple and collect

a likeamount at their destination. [Burman/Templars 85]

The Templars were the primary bankers for the Holy See.

Since the order was a papal creation whichwas

administered directly by the Pope himself, their significance

as papalbankers is understandable. Less obvious is the

Templars’ function as royalbankers for several of Europe’s

royal houses. The two greatest Templesoutside the Levant

were located in Paris and London. These two

Templesoffered a full range of financial services to the royal

houses, includingcollecting taxes, controlling debts and

administering pension funds.[Burman/Templars 87-88] The

treasury of the King of France was kept safelywithin the

vault of the Temple of Paris. [Sinclair 36] The Templars

owned a great fleet of merchant ships with which to convey

allmanner of goods, e.g., pepper and cotton, as well as

pilgrims, betweenEurope and the Holy Land. People

wanting to make a pilgrimage to the HolyLand, but lacking

the resources to do so, were allowed to assign rights totheir

houses and property, upon their death, to the Templars in

exchange forpassage on a Templar ship. To avoid

accusations of usury, this procedure waslegitimized by the

papal bull Quantum Praedecessores, issued by

PopeEugenius II in 1145. [Burman/Templars 75-78] The

Holy Land was divided into four Crusader States:

Jerusalem, Antioch,Tripoli and Edessa. Shifting alliances,

complicated by the plotting ofindependent Arab emirates,

posed a complicated and often confusing backdropfor the

Knights’ military operations. Their first action was in the

northernsector of the Principality of Antioch. They captured

the March of Amanus,which formed a natural barrier

between the city of Amanus and Asia

Minor.[Burman/Templars 50] The Knights Templar

frequently fought side-by-side with their counter-parts, the

Knights Hospitaller, another military order, founded to

provideshelter to sick, wounded or destitute pilgrims.

Together, these two warriororders afforded the Holy Land

a formidable fighting force. Although somehistories allude

to a deep and bitter rivalry between the two, it is morelikely

that they cooperated well during the battles, keeping any

suchpettiness for the monotonous weeks between actions.

[Upton-Ward 6-7] The first military action of the Templars

was in the northern sector of theHoly Land. In 1131, they

captured the March of Amanus in Antioch. It was anatural

barrier between the city and Asia Minor, which afforded

control oftwo roads into Antioch. The same year, King

Fulk, Baldwin?s successor,travelled to the site and granted

ownership to the Templars. [Burman/Templars 52] Control

of the various areas of the Holy Land see-sawed back and

forthbetween the Crusaders and the Arabs, with neither

side enjoying a decisivevictory. Then the balance of power

began to change with the rise of thegreat Arab leader

Salah-ad-Din Yusuf ibn-Aiyub, known to westerners

asSaladin. Descended from a long line of military heroes,

he was born in 1138in Baalbek, Syria, where his father

was military governor. He began todevelop his warrior

skills by accompanying his father and uncles on

variouscampaigns. [Burman/Templars 98] Saladin’s rise to

power was rapid and successful. His adherance to

theorthodox Sunni faith caused him to initiate dramatic

changes in his Shi-itearmy. Upon his ultimate rise to the

position of Sultan, he declared a’jihad’, or holy war, against

the Crusaders. This intense re-focusing of theMoslem effort

began a gradual shift in power. Christian strongholds fell

inincreasing numbers, creating a domino effect. By the

middle of 1187, Saladin had captured Acre, Nablus, Jaffa,

Toron, Sidon, Beirut and Ascalon.Jerusalem fell on 2

October, 1187. [Burman/Templars 108] The fall of

Jerusalem was a disaster from which the Crusades

neverrecovered. Among Saladin’s prisoners were the King

of Jerusalem and Raynaldde Chatillon, commander of the

fortress at Moab. After entertaining the twoin his tent,

Saladin had Raynald killed. The King saw his fellow

prisonerexecuted and thought he was surely next, but

Saladin had him brought back into his tent and told him, "It

is not the habit of kings to kill kings."Saladin’s victory was

complete. [Payne 223-4] In the disarray that followed, the

orders began to disperse. TheHospitallers removed their

headquarters, first to Rhodes and then to Malta;and, with

the ultimate fall of Acre in 1291, the Templars lost their

base ofoperations and relocated to Cyprus. In effect, the

orders had lost theiroriginal reason for existence.

[Upton-Ward 9] As the Knights had their policital patrons,

so had their enemies. In 1305,Philip IV of France, known

as Philip the Fair, seized control of the HolySee and

relocated the papacy to Avignon. From there, he initiated a

seriesof papal decrees, ostensibly issues by Pope Clement

V, a puppet pope underhis absolute control. Eyeing the

vast fortunes and resources of theTemplars, he conceived a

plot of treachery against them. Since he also controlled the

Inquisition in France, he had no difficulty leveling a whole

laundry list of horrible, but adsurd and largely

unsupportable, crimesagainst the Knights.

[Burman/Inquisition 95] The role of the Inquisition, under

the auspices of Chief InquisitorGuillaume of Paris, was to

obtain confessions and conduct trials. On Fridaythe 13th of

September, 1307, the warrant was issued for the arrest of

theKnights and seizure of their property. Many of the

Temples were ‘tipped off’by the local sheriffs about the

impending sweep, but Grand Master Jacques deMolay and

his associates were arrested in their bed clothes.

Theinterrogations, aimed at soliciting evidence of any

wrongdoing with which to prove the allegations against the

order, dragged on for years. Ultimately,the Grand Master,

along with other high-ranking Templars, were executed

byburning in March, 1314, on an island in the Seine.

[Howarth 17] The years between the arrest of Templars

and the order’s final dissolutionafforded plenty of time for

knights on the lam to become absorbed by

theunderground. Knights in England were never pursued,

due largely to a riftbetween the King and the Church, and

many were thought to have participatedin the war between

Scotland and England, on the side of Robert the

Bruce.[Robinson 150-51] The vast fleet of Templar

merchant ships was never found. There is norecord of the

18 Templar ships which had been based at La Rochelle on

theFrench coast, nor any of the various Templar ships

normally anchored in theThames or other English seaports.

There is some speculation that the BarbaryPirates, who

gained worldwide noteriety by plundering European

shipping wellinto the 19th century, were founded by

seagoing Templars with revenge ontheir minds. Many of the

order’s ships were galleys, which were particularlysuited for

piracy. [Robinson 165] One of the more mysterious tenets

of the Freemasons can be found in the initiation of a Master

Mason. The initiate is told his degree "will make youa

brother to pirates and corsairs." [Robinson 165-66] In

1813, a merchant ship, captained by a Freemason, was

captured andboarded by pirates. In desperation, the

captain rendered the Grand HailingSign of Distress of a

Master Mason. The pirate captain apparently

recognizedthe secret sign and allowed the merchant ship to

proceed unharmed. [Robinson166] The destruction of the

Knights Templar by Philip the Fair was due to whathe saw

as wealth, arrogance, greed and secrecy on the part of the

order.Even Philip’s lawyer admitted "perhaps not all of

them had sinned." It tookmore than suspicion of guilt to

bring about the downfall of such a powerfulentity as the

Knights Templar. The final blow, however, was

probablythree-fold: a general unpopularity of the order

among the Europeanaristocracy, due in part to jealousy; a

chronic shortage in the Frenchtreasury, despite heavy

taxation; and Master de Molay’s refusal to considera

merger of the Templars with the Hospitallers, as suggested

by the Pope.The fact remains, however, that no evidence

of heresy was ever found.[Burman/Templars 180] An

order founded by nine knights in Jerusalem came to amass

great wealthand power, which speaks well of their integrity

and discretion. They becamethe "shock troops" of the Holy

See. When they lost their original mission ofprotecting

pilgrims upon the fall of Jerusalem, their downfall

becameinevitable. [Sinclair 37]

4f4

:Burman,

Edward. The Inquisition. New York: Dorset, 1984.–. The

Templars. Rochester, VT: Destiny, 1986. Howarth,

Stephen. The Knights Templar. New York: Dorset,

1982.Payne, Robert. The History of Islam. New York:

Dorset, 1987.Robinson, John J. Born in Blood. New

York: Evans, 1989.Sinclair, Andrew. The Sword and the

Grail. New York: Crown, 1992.Upton-Ward, J. M. The

Rule of the Templars. Suffolk: Boydell, 1992.

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