Knights Templar (Poor Knights of Christ/Order of the Temple)
Knights Templar, also known as the Poor Knights of Christ
and of the
Temple of Solomon or more simply just the Order of the Temple, was
founded in the year 1119 CE by Hugues de Payen a French knight and was
formerly endorsed by the Catholic Church at the Council of Troyes in
Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was a monastic
order at first consisting of only Payen and eight other knights. It had
but a single goal and only the best of intentions, to provide much
needed protection for Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and other
Holy Places that had been conquered in the First Crusade of 1096 CE.
headquarters was made available on the Temple Mount in the Al Aqsa
Mosque, a religious structure believed to have been built over the
ruins of Solomon’s Temple. It was from this location that the
impoverished order took its name, their symbol two knights riding
tandem on a single horse.
were a hardy, rough and tumble bunch whose presence on the battlefield
often meant the difference between victory and defeat for the
Crusaders, warrior monks whose numbers and reputation grew quickly.
With success in battle came wealth and power and in 1139 the Omne Datum
Optimum, a papal bull, effectively placed them above the law, allowed
them to cross borders with impunity, exempted them from taxes and made
them answerable only to the Pope, privileges that enraged many in the
Catholic Church’s upper hierarchy.
Templars soon found themselves transformed into a medieval economic
powerhouse, whose assets included businesses, vineyards, farms,
castles, ports and a fleet of ships. A type of checking (promissory
note) that allowed travelers to deposit money with a preceptory
(community of Templars) in one location and retrieve it in another
(thereby making pilgrims a less tempting target for those intent on
nefarious misdeeds) proved to be a revolutionary idea and the once
“poor fellows”  eventually managing the treasuries of kings and
countries became the bankers of Europe.
for the Templars a series of military reversals beginning in the mid
1100s tilted the table so to speak. In 1187 the Saracens under their
leader Saladin took Jerusalem, forcing the Poor Knights to relocate
further north, a seeming trigger that soon had Christianity itself in
steady retreat as battles were lost and cities fell. In 1291 Acre,
Tortosa and Atlit were lost, then finally, after an abortive attempt at
invasion, even the garrison on tiny Arwad (Ruad) Island was withdrawn.
By the end of 1302 its last mainland foothold a memory and a military
alliance with the Mongols no longer feasible, the Order was reduced to
observing events in the Middle East from an offshore headquarters on
the island of Cyprus.
the Holy Land and their original reason for being a dead issue, the
Templars turned their attention to Europe, where with over 15,000
Templar Houses and a vast banking and business network they had become
an integral part of everyday life; unfortunately their military
setbacks translated into a loss of both influence and prestige, and the
European nobility many deeply in debt to the Order began conspiring to
also lessen their authority.
1252 the English king Henry III had suggested the Templars liberties
and possessions be both constrained and reduced. On Friday, October 13,
1307, the French king Philippe le Bel (Philip IV) went a step further
arresting a large number of Knights Templar including Grand Master
Jacques de Molay, he found the treasury at the Paris preceptory empty,
however, the Order having been warned in advance. On 22 November, that
same year, Pope Clement V, under pressure, issued a bull Pastoralis
Praeeminentiae; it instructed the Christian monarchs of Europe to
arrest all Templars and seize their assets.
Order was officially dissolved by Pope Clement at the Council of Vienne
in 1312, its assets for the most part turned over to the Hospitallers,
the debts of the nobility and others canceled.
arrested Templars were charged with heresy (while the majority of the
charges were undoubtedly fraudulent, some such as the Templar’s
association with the Assassins  did have a kernel of truth) and
tortured until they confessed to blasphemy many burned at the stake.
Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Poor Knights of Christ
and of the Temple of Solomon, was interred in the Chateau de Chinon in
the Loire Valley before being taken to Paris for execution. He was
burned alive on March 18, 1314, and even as the flames consumed him
allegedly called out that Clement and Philip would soon meet him before
God (within the year both notables had followed de Molay into the
Order as a legal entity was eradicated throughout mainland Europe, but
did it really cease to exist? On the Iberian Peninsula many members
simply transferred to newly created orders such as the Order of Montesa
and the Order of Christ, the latter destined to become a maritime
organization of some importance (the power behind the throne?) with
many noteworthy explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Christopher
Columbus sailing under its flag the Templar Cross. Others, following
their assets, joined the Knights Hospitaller, a military and religious
order originally founded in the 11th century to provide care for ailing
pilgrims, and it is suspected, though unproven, that a few fled to
countries beyond the Pope’s control such as Scotland where according to
some they were a factor in the founding of the Freemasons.
 Referring to
yet another Templar designation, the "Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ
and of the Temple of Solomon."
The Assassins, also known as Nizaris and followers of Hassan-i-Sabbah,
were an extremely radical and decidedly unorthodox Muslim order. They
are believed to have heavily influenced the early Knights Templar,
(both their internal infrastructure and their uniforms of red on white
were remarkably similar). Indeed the two groups seem to have embraced
each other on many levels, along with that old adage “The enemy of my
enemy is my friend.” It was a true marriage of convenience with the
Assassins at times allied with the warrior monks against a common foe,
at other times paying them tribute in order to avoid a military
are disputes over the origins of their name, some say it’s derived from
the Arabic word hashshashin (users of hashish) while others maintain it
comes from the Arabic word Assasseen or guardian. Whatever its
derivation it quickly became synonymous with fear, as operating from
fortresses in Persia and Syria they terrorized their enemies Christian
and Muslim alike.
they thought themselves the true masters of fear, however, they were
mistaken. Two centuries after their inception they crossed paths with
the Mongols and learned as did everyone who had stood against the
highly disciplined, ferocious and all conquering nomads just what the
true meaning of fear really is.
Mongols ravaged Persia, ruthlessly obliterating all opposition and
unfortunately for the Assassins this also included them. Their mountain
strongholds were destroyed one after the other, the defenders put to
death, their first and greatest fortress Alamut "Eagles Nest" finally
falling to the invaders in 1256 (a fate which would befall the Syrian
branch of the Muslim order less than two decades later this time at the
hands of Baybars the Egyptian Mamluk sultan). 
Baybars (also spelled Baibars) the great Mamluk general, later to
become sultan, had been instrumental in defeating the Mongols in 1260
at the battle of Ayn Jalut (or Ain Jalut), a first for any military
force opposed to the fierce Asian horsemen, the area encompassing Syria
and the Holy Land remaining, for the most part, beyond their reach.
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